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O Rebel, Where Art Thou

 For the next few weeks,
David and I will be sharing weekly posts in a series on rebellion– to quote him, “this is about those of us who perpetually find ourselves questioning leadership and
established norms. We’ve come to accept it’s part of who we are, and we
think it can be a good thing. We want those who find themselves in this
position to know how to find their place in their churches, and how those churches can benefit from having rebels in their pews.” 

Today, a bit of our histories so you know whence we speak on these things…  as two people with sometimes-strangely-similar pasts, there are a million stories we could share with you of the road to realizing we are prone to question and the journey toward learning it’s okay.  And we’re both prone to stories… long stories.  We’ve agreed to keep these short though, and exercise one in that is these introductions:  I’m over on his blog today; he’s right here.*    

Briefly describe your church history.

I
was raised in classic fundamentalist evangelical churches during the 80s
and 90s. I had a very low view of church by the time I left for
college. My wife and I started attending another evangelical church
before we were married 10 years ago. For the first 5 years we lined up
pretty well doctrinally with the church, while often feeling like
outsiders from a cultural standpoint. Then we became Reformed for a
brief stint, and then my head exploded from that and for the last 3-4
years I have been “emerging”, traveling down the road of progressive
Christianity. We still attend the same church, and this has led to some
tension, but also growth.

When was the first time you disagreed with a church leader?
I
got in epic arguments
with my Bible teacher in junior high. He was a first time teacher, full
of zeal for sharing the life-changing good news of Fundamentalism. He
has since become a fantastic guy, but at the time he held to some pretty
frustrating convictions. I did not make class time easy on him. Part of
this was just because I had an attitude problem and wasn’t very
respectful. Part of it was because even at 13 I knew the reasons we were
being given for not listening to Christian rock (let alone, gasp,
secular music) didn’t make any sense. Neither one of us handled it well.
We’ve both grown up a lot since then.

When did you first realize you were a church rebel?
Some
time in my teenage years. I came of age just as much of evangelicalism
was starting to come out of its shell culturally, allowing music and
clothing and movies it had never allowed, etc. My age group was at the
forefront of this, and there was definitely kickback from
leaders at our church and Christian school. As a young adult, I was
always questioning norms and reevaluating why things were done or
believed the way they were. I didn’t have a big theological argument
with an authority figure till my senior Bible teacher tried to teach us 5
point Calvinism (well, 4 1/2 point). The arrows on the chalk board
showing God picking stick figures for heaven while the rest drifted on
merrily to hell were not helpful.

What is the most frustrating experience you have has as a church rebel?
About
5 years ago we were friends with a young woman who got pregnant and
decided to place her child for adoption. Her home life was toxic and the
three of us decided it would be best for her to move in with us for the
final months of her pregnancy. To our surprise and hurt, the leadership at the church we were at did not approve, at least initially, and I had to appear
before the entire elder/pastor team to account for our
decision and listen to warnings about how I was at considerable risk
for having an affair with this girl if she lived with us. It was neat.
To their credit, they came around in the end, but it was extremely
frustrating, and made me realize that as good-hearted as the people were
we would probably never fully fit in there.

What is the most encouraging experience you have had as a church rebel?
Our
pastors and friends at the church we just left, all firmly in the
Reformed/Calvinist camp, have been incredibly caring and loving toward
us over the last few years, even as they have watched us leave that
theological system and adopt views they definitely find troubling. They
have spoken their minds, but have always loved us as individuals rather
than viewing us abstractly as doctrinal points. To be honest, all of the
Reformed believers I personally know have been loving individuals, even
if their convictions have led them
to decisions I have found frustrating or hurtful at times.

How has your current church handled you as a rebel?

Gracefully
and patiently. We’re in the process of searching for a new church for
other reasons, but there are ways in which this church has given me the
space to grow and learn how to harness my outside-the-box thinking. I
would like to see more open-minded dialogue about new ideas at times,
but I have never felt shunned or unloved as a result of my propensity
for questioning.

*(What’s that? You want to stalk him and want suggestions on where to start on his blog?  I’m here for you…  I suggest this one for those of you who have spent more than 5 minutes with small children, this one if you actually have a few minutes to breathe and be, and this one that almost makes me want to move to Ohio… almost.)  

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