The demonic that is being manifest in America right now has been here since the beginning. But these spirits are uniquely acting out. Perhaps the best thing we can hope for, in such dark times, is that these are the convulsions of a spirit that, now that it is in the open, can yet be exorcised from our collective consciousness.
(Reblog) Misrepresentations about the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
I would like to write a few words this morning about the denomination in which I am ordained: the Presbyterian Church (USA). Like all mainline Protestant churches in this country, we have had no small share in controversy, conflict, and schism. The current hot-button issues are the ordination and marriage of non-celibate LGBT members in our churches. Partly because of these issues, but mostly because of the theological and exegetical differences that underlie their discussion, some members, pastors, and churches in the PC(USA) have felt led to separate from our denomination and align themselves with another one (i.e. the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) or the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO)).
Those who know me or read this blog probably already know where I stand, but just in case there are any first-time visitors, here it is again:
- I am a theologically liberal Christian who wholeheartedly supports the full recognition of equality in ordination and marriage for LGBT Presbyterians.
- I wholeheartedly support the right of individual Christians and congregations to discern the will of God for themselves, even if that discernment leads them to leave the PC(USA).
As I’ve said before: It’s not my job to take anyone’s Bible (or Church) away from them; I simply desire the same right for myself. As such, I encourage the establishment of “Gracious Dismissal” policies in our presbyteries that will allow departing congregations to maintain control over their buildings and investment accounts. Such policies, I believe, will help us sow seeds of reconciliation for the future and preserve the integrity of the public witness of the Church by eschewing open conflict in a court of law. The Church is bigger than any one denomination. We would do well to remember this part of our ecumenical heritage.
That being said, I think that some of those who are leaving have, in their anger, overstated their case against the PC(USA) and misrepresented the denomination in their literature (some of which is distributed to churches whether they want it or not). They claim that the PC(USA) is being run by liberal heretics who care nothing for the authority of scripture, the historic faith of the church catholic, or the Reformed tradition. I believe this is patently untrue.
Why do I believe this? Because I am a liberal and I have just as many problems with current theological and political trends in our denomination as many of my evangelical brothers and sisters do. I wish there was a liberal agenda in play on the General Assembly level, but there isn’t much of one that I can see. Honestly, I think that’s probably a good thing. The Church is bigger than any one institution or theological viewpoint (including my own).
I don’t think I’m the kind of pastor who should be forming and shaping policy for the whole denomination. That task should be left to more conciliatory voices like that of our current Moderator: Rev. Dr. Neal Presa. His is a job that I don’t want. Liberals like me represent one prophetic wing of the Church, just as our evangelical colleagues represent another. I hope that both voices will continue to be heard in the PC(USA) by those who make policy.
The document linked below has been produced by our denomination to address some of the misrepresentations currently being propagated by some. I find it well worth reading. Submitted for your edification:
Reblogged from pcusa.org:
The Office of the General Assembly has had an increase in the number of inquiries about printed materials from outside of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), being distributed within congregations, that ascribe to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) beliefs and standards which are meant to show that the church is no longer worthy of support. Over the past years the list of these misrepresentations have varied little and most have been answered in detail in the religious press, study papers adopted by the church or by specific action of the General Assembly. Whenever possible, the Office of the General Assembly directs those who inquire about specific conclusions drawn by these papers to resources which give a broader understanding of the issues.
Typically the materials being circulated focus on four broad areas of concern, each of which speaks to the core of who we are as a denomination and a covenant community. In response to these recent inquiries, we remind the church about who the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is both historically and in our current ministry.
(Reblog) When God Is Your Therapist
Another great article from TM Luhrmann.
Reblogged from the NY Times:
I saw that the church implicitly invited people to treat God like an actual therapist. In many evangelical churches, prayer is understood as a back-and-forth conversation with God — a daydream in which you talk with a wise, good, fatherly friend. Indeed, when congregants talk about their relationship with God, they often sound as if they think of God as some benign, complacent therapist who will listen to their concerns and help them to handle them.
(Reblog) How seminaries and the ordination process leave theologically “liberal” Christians behind
This article makes a good and true point, although the empathetic part of me suspects that evangelical candidates for ordination face a similar fear of rejection by their committees.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that mainline Protestant denominations are neither conservative/evangelical nor liberal/progressive in their theological orientation (much to the chagrin of conspiracy theorists on both sides), but are trying to hold both perspectives together under the umbrella of their true agenda: maintaining the survival of the institution.
Theologically, this means trying to occupy the Barthian-Niebuhrian middle ground that dissatisfies evangelicals and liberals alike. Evangelicals fear that the denomination is pandering to political correctness at the expense of gospel truth. Liberals fear that the denomination’s appeasement of cantankerous reactionaries is blunting the edge of prophetic witness.
My experience of the process left me with the sense that my committee and examiners just wanted to know that I was able to articulate that middle-ground perspective using the language of our denomination’s polity and historical confessions.
I think the main thrust of this article is true, but it could equally apply to our sisters and brothers on the evangelical end of the spectrum.
Reblogged from Crystal St. Marie Lewis:
“Many denominations require candidates to obtain a graduate degree involving work in the areas of theology and philosophy. In those graduate programs, professors spend countless hours training students to think outside the theological box, only for their ordination committees to demand that they put God (and their capacity for exploration) back inside the box. Seminaries are often free and open spaces where people are encouraged to draw their own conclusions about sacred matters. Yet, students endure rejection after the academic stage of their ordination processes–ironically for drawing unapproved conclusions.”
Romancing the Book (Follow-up Video)
This was a video that I meant to include in the previous post, Romancing the Book: Evangelical Lessons for Liberal Christians.
It was produced by Fr. Matthew Moretz, an Episcopal priest and classmate of my wife’s at Davidson College. He does a great job of discussing the Bible in this installment of his enlightening and hilarious series: Fr. Matthew Presents…
You can see them all on YouTube!
Romancing the Book: Evangelical Lessons for Liberal Christians
This is part 2 of 3 in a series of posts called Evangelical Lessons for Liberal Christians. Evangelicals, much maligned among liberals, nonetheless possess an impressive array of gifts and skills that can benefit the larger Christian community, including those who do not share their beliefs and biases. Liberal Christians are so quick to self-identify as “not evangelical” or “not that kind of Christian” that we have developed a nasty habit of tossing babies out with the bathwater. I’m suggesting that we all go outside and recover these babies from the muddy ground outside (although we may have to give them another bath before we bring them back into our house).
Wow… I’m really stretching that metaphor.
In my first post, entitled God Has No Grandchildren, we talked about how evangelicals have done an amazing job of taking personal ownership of their spiritual lives. For them, Christianity is not a set of dogmas, morals, and rituals to which one defaults by accident of birth. For them, it is a whole-hearted commitment of one’s self to an ongoing relationship with the divine.
In today’s post, I want to talk about the Bible.
As far as religious communities go, none have had a more passionate love affair with the Bible than have evangelicals. They tend to take it with them wherever they go: church, work, school, and vacation. They sometimes refer to it as their sword (a source of strength) and other times as their love letter from God. Most of the time, they simply call it the Word of God. They have confidence that the voice of the Holy Spirit is able to reach, comfort, and guide them through these words on a page. Like newlyweds in the bedroom, evangelical encounters with the Bible are intense and frequent (if a bit messy and awkward). They tend to devour it, even though they don’t understand much of what they’re reading.
Liberal Christians, on the other hand, tend to relate to the Bible like an older couple in a long-term relationship. In place of the young lovers’ passion, they have developed a deep respect for its mystery and complexity. They let those old, familiar words wash over them and anchor them to all time and eternity. There are still some things they don’t like about the Bible, but they’ve learned how to accept those things and still appreciate the Bible for what it is.
Liberal Christians, while they tacitly accept the appellation “Word of God” as applied to the Bible, tend to cringe at notions of inerrancy and infallibility. For us, the Bible is not a magical book that was somehow “beamed down” from heaven without flaw or error. Why then do we still refer to them as the Word of God? I love the answer given in the Catechism found in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (1979):
We call them (the Holy Scriptures) the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible.
I love this answer’s dual emphasis on inspiration and continual speaking. Liberal Christians believe that the divine Word is speaks to us “in, with, and under” (a phrase I’m borrowing from Luther’s sacramental theology) the human words on the page. For those of us in the Reformed (and always reforming) tradition of Protestant Christianity, we identify Christ as the true and Living Word of God. The scriptures, as we have them, constitute a witness to that Living Word. In other words, the early disciples experienced something extraordinary in the person of Christ and spend the rest of their lives wrestling with what it meant. The Christian churches have continued to wrestle with that mystery for almost two millennia. These days, we are less certain than ever about our particular answers, but more convinced than ever about the overall importance of what we’ve found.
In our less glorious moments, liberal Christians have tended to abandon this treasure of the faith to those who would abuse it and co-opt it for their own selfish ends. Our respect for the complexity and mystery of the Bible has sometimes led us to throw our hands up in despair that anyone could ever know what this crazy book is talking about. We despise trite and easy answers taken from text on a page, which leads us to sometimes give up hope of finding any guidance at all. In our very worst moments, we tend to cut and paste the parts we like and throw out or ignore the parts we don’t. My favorite example of this kind of project is the famous Bible produced by my American forbear, Thomas Jefferson. He didn’t like the idea of supernatural miracles, so he just cut those parts out. These days, many liberal Christians have a tendency to cut out the parts about judgment and sex, as if the Bible had nothing valuable to say about these topics. To be fair, many evangelicals do the same thing. They underline their favorite verses about individual salvation and “the pelvic issues” while they ignore the passages that emphasize the importance of social justice or suggest the possibility of universal salvation.
The tendency toward idolatry is a human universal, not unique to evangelicals or liberals. We all have an instinctual urge to recast Jesus as an advocate for our own personal ideology. We all tend to hear our own voices, rather than God’s speaking to us in the text of the Bible. Anne Lamott once wrote, “You can safely assume that you’ve made God in your own image when she hates all the same people you do.”
I was speaking with a colleague once at a pastor’s retreat on Christian spirituality. I was talking about the central role that the Bible plays in shaping our spirituality. He asked, “Does it have to be through the Bible?” I responded that it doesn’t have to be through the Bible, but it gets to be. As Christians, we have the privilege of conducting our collective faith-journey in dialogue with this cacophonous chorus of voices from the past. I see the Bible as a library, rather than a book. It’s a messy collection of stories, poems, and letters that chronicle our ancestors’ relationship with God. They stretched to describe the indescribable. They failed to capture the essence of the divine in their writings, but they did leave a number of helpful signposts. I love the scriptures for their messiness. It gives me hope for myself. God never gave up on Abraham, Israel, or Peter, so I have every reason to trust that God will not give up on me.
The exercise that has most helped me recover the Bible as a tool for my spiritual growth is a practice developed by monks over a thousand years ago. It’s called Lectio Divina, which is Latin for “Divine Reading.” Here’s how it works:
- Sit down with a short passage of scripture (e.g. Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15). Read it slowly. Out loud, if you can. Maybe even stopping at every verse or sentence.
- Pay attention to any words or phrases that “jump out at you” or seem to touch your life in some significant way.
- Take a moment to process what that word or phrase means to you right now, in this moment. You’re not looking for once-and-for-all absolutely authoritative interpretations. You’re listening for what God is saying to you today through this passage. God might be saying something completely different to someone else through those same words. God might say something completely different to you tomorrow through those same words. The Spirit blows where it wills…
- Craft a prayer of response to what you think you’ve heard. This can be a prayer of thanksgiving, a request for help, or a dedication of oneself to service.
- Sit still for a period of extended silence while you contemplate God’s presence within and around you. It might help to focus your attention on the normally unconscious act of your breathing or perhaps pick a special word to guide and focus your meditation.
- Close by reading the passage slowly once more. Be thankful for what you have encountered in this process.
I think that liberal Christians have an opportunity to re-engage with the Bible in a passionate way. We can begin our “second honeymoon” with this old partner and rekindle in ourselves the romance we admire in our evangelical brothers and sisters.
God Has No Grandchildren: Evangelical Lessons For Liberal Christians
It’s been an interesting year for me as I’ve consciously completed a theological shift that began almost a decade ago. In many ways, it feels a lot like a return to a trajectory I was on before I immersed myself in the subculture of fundamentalism during high school and college. As I’ve stated elsewhere, the years I spent in that subculture pretty much ruined me for evangelicalism, even in its more moderate, intelligent, and compassionate expressions. This blog represents one attempt on my part to think out loud and publicly about the theological implications of my current trajectory.
The past few weeks have presented me with an unbelievable diversity of reactions from folks in the evangelical camp. At one point, things got so bad that my wife asked me if I was “a lightning rod for angry fundamentalists.” At another point, I was being thanked for my words by evangelical members of my own denomination.
[Side note: Before I continue, it bears noting that I do not use the related terms evangelical and fundamentalist synonymously. All (Protestant) fundamentalists are evangelical, but not all evangelicals are fundamentalists. I would once again recommend the many fine books of folks like Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, N.T. Wright, and Tony Campolo. I would describe all of the above authors as non-fundamentalist evangelicals. And this list is by no means exhaustive. Most of my evangelical friends tend to identify themselves with Martin Luther and John Wesley rather than William Jennings Bryan and John Gresham Machen. End side note.]
With all of this activity going on, it seems like a good time for me to list the things that I value from my evangelical upbringing. These are the gifts of this tradition that I hope to carry with me and use to “brighten the [theological] corner” where I now find myself. There are three such gifts, which I will label as follows: Spirituality, Bible, and Mission. The first two I came up with through my own reflection but later found in Jack Rogers’ book, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality (WJK: 2006). The third gift is one that Rogers listed and I missed in my initial assessment. These gifts are not unique to evangelicalism, but represent distinct theological emphases that the movement has embodied and enacted in a particularly effective way. I will discuss each of these gifts in separate blog posts.
“God has no grandchildren.”
This particular turn of phrase came to me from my mother and I love it. To me, it speaks of taking personal ownership of one’s spirituality. In an effort to respect diversity in church, liberal Christians have too often shied away from being very public about their personal relationship with God. Such reticence has led many unsympathetic outsiders to presume that we don’t have one (which is not true). We tend to do such a bad job at this that our own children can grow up in our churches and leave without coming to an awareness of the spiritual depth that is there. A few of them find their way to evangelical churches but most simply abandon church altogether.
The necessity for taking personal ownership of one’s spirituality is one thing that evangelicals do extremely well. They intentionally provide an access portal to the divine that allows their adherents to engage with faith and grow in a way that is energetic and dynamic. While I hate it when people bash the term religion (a beautiful word that needs rescuing these days), I can appreciate what evangelicals mean when they say that, for them, Christianity is “a relationship, not a religion.”
I think it’s high time that liberal Christians got more vocal about our personal relationship with God. We need to build one another up with the stories of our encounters with the divine. We need to let our children (and the world) know that there is a vast and deep reservoir of power and love in which we live, move, and have our being. This reservoir is available to any and all who desire to drink from its living waters. Respecting diversity does not mean watering down our spirituality to the lowest common denominator. Consciously embracing the life of the spirit does not necessarily make us into fanatics. In fact, it has the effect of empowering us in our ministries of compassion and justice. Too often, I’ve seen well-meaning activists burn out and lose hope in the struggle for justice. They have a desperate need for enthusiasm in its most literal sense (“God-full-ness“).
I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s famous “kitchen table” experience where he found himself exhausted and at the end of his rope late one night after a threatening phone call. He sat with a cup of coffee at his kitchen table and contemplated giving up the fight for justice and equality. In prayer, he confessed his weakness and asked for help. And, just then, he felt like he heard an inner voice saying to him (I paraphrase), “Stand up for righteousness and I will be with you.”
Liberal Christians need to start sharing stories like this one with one another. Too many folks inside and outside our churches assume that, because we don’t talk about our relationship with God, we don’t have one. Many (unfairly and erroneously) call us “dead churches.” It’s time to show them how wrong they are. Gone are they days when speaking openly about spirituality was taboo. Provided that we maintain respect for those whose spiritual experience is different from our own, we carry within ourselves the capacity to feed ourselves and one another with our stories. The light that is within us can help to illumine the path for those around us. Let’s not hide that light under a bushel! Liberal Christians, let it shine!
You Can Go Your Own Way (or, Why I’m Not Afraid of Schism)
It’s been a rough half-century for folks in the mainline Protestant denominations. The numbers are undeniable. We are smaller than we were in the 1950s and 60s. Everybody seems to have a pet theory about why this is happening.
Extremists on one side are convinced that this decline in numbers is caused by fanatical adherence to superstitious dogmas that have been rendered irrelevant by philosophical, scientific, and technological advancement. Extremists on the other side are convinced that the wrath of God is smiting our denominations with death because they have bowed down to the heresies of the modern world. I want to say the same thing to extremists on both sides:
“Shut up and sit down. This kind of talk isn’t helpful.”
While these voices tend to be the loudest, I find more often that they are in the minority. Most folks in our churches identify themselves as moderates who tend to lean to one side of the spectrum or the other.
In spite of rampant conspiracy theories to the contrary, I find that most moderates on both sides are compassionate and intelligent believers who are essentially saying the same thing:
“I want to stay faithful to the core values of my faith, but I’m afraid that my denomination is becoming a place where I won’t be able to do that.”
We’ve all been through this before. American mainline Protestant churches have split over the abolition of slavery, biblical literalism, the ordination of women, and (most recently) same-sex marriage.
My own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), which I will abbreviate as PC(USA), is currently wrestling with the recent creation of a group that calls itself the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO). ECO is a group that has come together out of its founders’ desire to have a denominational community with shared theological values and a commitment to evangelical mission in the world outside the walls of the church. They believe the PC(USA) has drifted from its core theological roots and become too inwardly and institutionally focused. They see the PC(USA)’s recent decision to allow for the ordination of non-celibate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people and this summer’s upcoming vote on same-sex marriage as symptoms of the larger and deeper theological problem.
Just to be clear about where I stand, let me lay all of my cards out on the table. Those who know me or follow this blog will already know this, but I’ll say it again for the sake of any newcomers and first-time readers. I identify as a theologically liberal Presbyterian. I am a vocal advocate for LGBT equality in church and society. I am not a part of ECO. In fact, I probably represent much of what they think is wrong with the PC(USA).
The PC(USA) itself does a fairly good job at holding the middle ground in this debate. They follow the example of Karl Barth and other Neo-orthodox theologians of the 20th century. How do I know the denomination does this? Because it frustrates folks on both sides. Liberals think it’s too conservative and conservatives think it’s too liberal.
Liberals and conservatives have their own unique ways of vying for greater power in the decision-making process. Liberals tend to invest in taking hold of regional and national positions of authority in the councils (formerly known as governing bodies) of the denomination. They, in the tradition and spirit of historic liberalism, tend to put their trust (too much trust, I would say) in the amendment of large-scale human institutions. The heroes of this bunch tend to be Moderators of our General Assembly and professors at our denominational seminaries. In science-fiction terms, they see themselves as the United Federation of Planets (Star Trek).
Conservatives, on the other hand, love to cast themselves in the role of the oppressed underdog. They see themselves as heirs of the American Revolution and the Protestant Reformation. Their heroes tend to be the pastors of large and wealthy congregations. They tend to idolize their pastors and demonize the denomination. As one elder screamed (yes, screamed) during a recent meeting in our area, “The PC(USA) just wants more of our money so they can keep spreading their lies!” In science-fiction terms, they see themselves as the Rebel Alliance, fighting the Sith-dominated Galactic Empire (Star Wars).
In reality, both sides are delusional. The PC(USA) is not the United Federation of Planets and ECO is not the Rebel Alliance. It’s pretty obvious to me that we’re essentially dealing with two different religious traditions under the roof of one denomination. This leaves us with two options. We can either: (A) Organize our denominational life together in such a way that leaves room for both parties to coexist, or (B) Peacefully part ways in a spirit that is consistent with our highest shared values.
As a liberal, I will primarily direct my critical comments toward the members of my own party. But before I do that, I want to invite any conservatives and evangelicals to listen in and witness one liberal who is not a demon-possessed heretic that wants to invade your church, seize your building, fire your pastor, and force you into compliance with my wicked homosexual agenda. Are you ready? Let’s go.
I am a liberal who supports the creation of ECO. My reasons for doing so are primarily biblical in nature. I was reading Genesis 13 the other day, where the nomadic caravans of Abram and Lot are traveling together through the Promised Land, but have achieved critical mass in regard to the land’s ability to support both groups. Conflict began to brew. Abram then takes the moral high ground,
Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.
Abram even lets Lot have his first choice of the land. There is a recognition that division is necessary, but a complete rejection of backbiting and contentiousness. Here is an example of a person of faith who can declare “Separate yourself from me” and “we are kindred” in the same paragraph.
In the same way, our denominational landscape is being strained in the attempt to support both liberals and evangelicals. It is clear that there are many among us who no longer wish for our caravans to sojourn together. As heirs of Abram’s covenant, why can’t we do with each other what Abram did with Lot? Who among us will take the moral (i.e. relational) high ground?
In this moment, I would call upon my fellow liberals to step up to the plate. You have invested much energy in securing positions of power for yourself at the presbytery and General Assembly levels. Use the power afforded you by those positions to walk like Jesus, who said,
You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.
I would venture to say that we should support the creation of ECO, let these congregations and presbyteries go their own way, and find a way to send them off with a parting blessing: their buildings, investments, and pensions. Let’s leave a legacy that will provide an open door for reconciliation in some future generation.
Institutional division is not necessarily a church schism. We can part ways and remain true to each other on multiple levels. After Abram and Lot part ways, the relationship between them continues to grow faithfully. Abram fights for Lot, rescues him from danger, and prays earnestly for his well-being. Let’s learn how to do the same for each other. Enough of all this backbiting crap.
Listen, we don’t really need their numbers and their money. Their presence will not hold back the tide of mainline decline. We are still shrinking, no matter what. This is a subject for another blog post, but I see mainline decline as a good thing.
My point is that we might best guard the “peace, unity, and purity of the church” by allowing people to go their own way, even if we happen to disagree with where they are going. We made a vow to guard the “peace, unity, and purity” of the church, not necessarily the denomination. We should be careful to distinguish between the two.
Liberal Presbyterians: be ye not afraid of ECO. Support its creation. Send them off with a blessing. Like Abram and Lot, let there be no strife between them and us; for we are kindred.
When God Talks Back
Here is a link to a really interesting article on NPR.
Well worth a read:
‘When God Talks Back’ To The Evangelical Community
I want to read this book now.
Why Liberal? The Confession of a Recovering Evangelical
Several months ago, I put up a post on Common Sense Liberalism, where I intentionally began an effort to reclaim the term ‘liberal’ from its pejorative captors in the political and religious realms. It’s all part of my personal effort to explore what it means to be a ‘liberal’ Christian in ways that transcend the polarizing animosity that is currently ripping our churches and state capitols apart.
If that’s the case, one might argue, then why not abandon the dualistic liberal/conservative language altogether? There may well be a valid point in that. However, I’ve chosen to self-apply this particular moniker, instead of the more current buzzword ‘progressive Christian,’ for three reasons. First of all, it is used an insult. Commonly accepted group labels like Quaker, Methodist, Unitarian, and Christian had similar origins as insults. Personally, I don’t mind plucking this term from the landfill of language and bringing it back to life. I’m a liberal Christian. Double insult. “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.” (Jesus, John 15:18)
Second, I don’t think working toward peace, unity, and purity in church and society necessitates the elimination of all distinctions. I think it involves holding those distinctions differently. I don’t want to be a watered-down, lukewarm, non-committal, middle-of-the-roader. I want to be a liberal Christian who understands what respect, decency, and amicable compromise mean in the midst of controversy.
Finally, I’ve chosen to retain the word liberal for personal reasons related to my own journey. I wrote a Facebook post recently where I compared my relationship to evangelicalism to the relationship between a recovering alcoholic and social drinking. Some people can be evangelical Christians and live sane, healthy, and balanced lives. But, for whatever reasons, I cannot. I’ve spent many years blaming evangelicalism itself for the spiritual wounds I obtained in my late teens and early twenties. But I think it’s time that I also take responsibility for the ways in which I intentionally chose to sustain an unhealthy relationship with my theology. I tend to give myself wholly to the things I care about, sometimes pushing past the point of reason. In a subculture that supported biblical literalism, I pushed it to the extreme. My friends and pastors supported me in this because they thought I was just “on fire for Jesus.” They probably had no clue that I was actually nursing a pathological obsession that eventually bordered on the psychotic. I still think there are many aspects of evangelical culture and theology that are worth criticizing. However, it’s time that I stop casting them as villains and myself as victim in this story. It’s time that I own my part in it. I’m a recovering evangelical, not because evangelicalism is evil, but because I can’t handle it responsibly.