Thursday, November 09, 2017

My Spiritual State in 2017


I don’t think I’ve accumulated and articulated where I’m at spiritually in the past several years, and this facebook post from Mike Duran seemed like a good springboard for doing so.  

Mike Duran:
Why is it that SO MANY Christian creatives -- musicians, novelists, filmmakers, artists -- drift from orthodoxy to religious progressivism?
Nowadays, it's becoming a rarity to find a Christian creative who believes that Adam and Eve were not a myth, that the Bible is God's Word and speaks authoritatively to all aspects of our lives (for example, they don't argue that Paul was a misogynist and his commands about women were culturally conditioned, etc.), that personal feelings and social mores should not take precedence over Scriptural Truth, that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven, that Christ was actually God and was born of a virgin, that He actually walked on water (and an assortment of miracles typically disavowed by secularists), that marriage between a man and woman is God's ideal, that Hell is real, that the Devil is real, that homosexuality is a sin, that human life is sacred and begins at conception, that traditional roles of men and women are rooted in God's design, that there is such a thing as heresy and apostasy, and that the heart of the Gospel is about sin and salvation and NOT social justice.
Sadly, conservative, historically orthodox, Christian creatives are becoming a rarity.
Why is this?


I think it's a wider cultural trend.  I don't know if creatives are more prone to it or not.  I have theories about the association of creativity and liberal tendencies, but I'm just a guy and I don't have a way to test or verify them.  But I think it's hard to deny that "openness to new ideas" is a prominent trait of a liberal mindset, (not that conservatives can't or don't ever share this) and if one is TRULY open (not simply giving lip service to the idea) then drift is inevitable. (unless they happen to be that one lucky person who stumbled into believing every. single. fact. of the universe. From the start.

There are some things I can point to in the above comments from my own journey that might be helpful if your goal is to combat what you see as a problem.  The idea that creatives drift because they don't know their Bible, want to sin with no consequences, dislike rules, or can't express themselves in the Christian community all ring false to me.  I was an avid Christian apologist for a decade.  I know ALL the books by all the apologists from C. S. Lewis to Josh McDowell to Chesterton.  My Dad drilled me on Bible memorization throughout my teens and I have many chapters of the Bible memorized.  I've read through the whole Bible multiple times.  I am a part of my church's creative team and meet with my pastor (I go to a Foursquare -traditional evangelical- church) where we go over sermons and come up with artistic and creative ways to emphasize his messages.  I've taught kids sunday school where I came up with tons of fun art projects.  I also like rules.  I want to do what's right to the best of my abilities.  This is such a passion to me that I spent a lot of time developing and articulating the values that animate me and came up with a ceremony to pass them along to my kids.  (I'll post a video below.)

I'm saying these things because I think it's important for my conservative brethren and sistren to engage with the actual people who they consider to have 'fallen', rather than a bundle of stereotypes and assumptions.  Mike, I'm glad that you phrased this post as a question, rather than merely a rant against 'those people'; one of which is me.  So I'm doing my best to answer you from 'this side'.

I don't know how typical I am as a representative of a conservative Christian creative who has become a liberal Christian creative.  But here's my one point of data for what it's worth.  My journey began with the breaking of a formula.  Whether this formula was pure or corrupted, I had imbibed the idea from my church upbringing that if I did all the right things God would bless me and my family.  Fast forward through a youth group sweetheart married at 18 who literally became a crack addict a decade later, and a terrifying series of events wherein my two sons were taken to drug dealer's houses, exposed to weapons, pornography, etc.  Fast forward through two years of crying on my face before God that he would restore my wife and marriage.  I was taken to the point where I had to make a stark decision.  Stay with my 'promise' of standing-by with nothing but prayers, or actively seek a divorce to protect my children from being taken to drug dens.  The sacrifice was profound to me, because back then I thought at the point I did that, all future romantic life potential was dead.  I would never be aloud to look at women that way again.  But my fatherly instincts prevailed and I got the divorce and throughout several years and many thousands of dollars managed to get full custody.

At this point, my former-conservative-brain would have latched on this part of the story and said: "A-ha!  He drifted from orthodoxy because he had a flawed theology which lead him to disappointment with God and now he's bitter and just wants to walk away."  However, that's not at all what happened.  Instead, after my 'shameful' divorce I had the most vibrant renaissance of my spiritual life.  I felt closer to God than ever.  I recognized that my former theology was an immature primal "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" relationship with a pale version of the same kind of god that mankind has attempted to propitiate since time immemorial.  If anything, the experienced brought me much closer to orthodoxy.  So while my emotional state was very enmeshed with my traditional evangelical orthodoxy, the fact that it happened after the breaking of a formula (as immature as I know believe the formula was) is what I believe set me on my current trajectory.  I didn't find myself in the shame and sorrow I imagined must come after something that 'must have broken God's heart'.  In fact, my life had never been better, more rich with joy and love (remarriage to the most amazing human on the planet helped) more zeal for God and my church community, etc.

So it was this simple idea that 'got me': If my formula had been so wrong... how many OTHER formulas had I gotten wrong?  How many Truths where out there, hidden from view by my lack of perspective, experience, intelligence, or just plain bull-headedness?  This lead me to what is my current modus operandi: Does something seem ridiculous, terrible, stupid, gross, wrong, etc?  If so, RESEARCH it.  Find the very best arguments for it.  Find people who live it and connect with them as humans rather than as plague-carriers.  While this process has certainly lead to plenty of 'dead ends', meaning: no matter how hard I research I can NOT find a way to accept it, I've also found such a depth and breadth of human experience that it became untenable to apply my former filters (orthodoxy) to them all in a way that doesn't turn into cartoonish caricatures or disrespectful arrogance on my part.

THE reason I can't still be a conservative orthodox Christian is because my epistemology changed.  I lost all confidence in my own interpretive faculties.  I used to think my adherence to orthodoxy was humble submission to God.  I now perceive that adherence as an exaltation of my ability to parse reality.  I no longer think that highly of myself.  What this leads to is not some shiny new set of alternate beliefs.  I’ve seen that in many people.  They go from being zealous evangelists of one creed to feeling they were SO STUPID to have believed it, but NOW they found the TRUTH, and they become zealous evangelists for some different creed.  In that case, their epistemology didn’t change at all.  Only the nouns they attach to their worldview.  Not so with me.  I am not arrogantly saying I’m too smart to ‘believe your pedestrian doctrine’ because I’ve learned so much and got so smart and wise, and learned this other set of Truths.  No.  I simply no longer have beliefs in anything.  I’m more -or less- convinced of things.  (More convinced that my hand is real than that bigfoot is real.)  But even for the things of which I am most convinced: I am still open to being wrong about them.  This may or may not obliterate faith, depending on your definition.  But the trajectory of my life has me still clinging to many of the tenets of Christianity, but rather than collecting those in a Faith bucket, they are in a Hope bucket.  God may damn me for my lack of faith, but He’s got a funny way of warning me.  I’ve never been at such peace, so full of joy and Love, so motivated to spread Agape Love to the world around me using the creative gifts I have.

Hopefully this helps in some small way.  Take it for what you will.  :)  If any conservative Christians want to pick my brain, I’m available.  Ask Me Anything!



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