[deep breath] You can do this, Rebeca. Just open your mouth, crack your knuckles, and put the words out there.
In 2016, as I sat at the breakfast table doing my daily Chronological Bible reading, I ran across a passage that I had made myself ignore every single year. It was text that required me to explain away a problem with scripture…a contradiction within itself. And, being in the Old Testament, it came on the heels of other verses and stories that were requiring an increasing level of explaining away in order to hang on to the fundamental evangelical faith to which I’d subscribed since age 6.
I couldn’t do it anymore.
I closed the Bible and set it aside.
I did not want to excuse what I was reading any longer, even just to myself. It felt dishonest and I was exhausted with the need to argue internally.
I let myself think what I authentically thought.
And then I gave myself permission to do this for an entire year. (I don’t know yet if I’ll let loose all the journaling I did during that time. It’s filled with anger, sadness, confusion…but ultimately peace, calm, excitement, and freedom.) I decided if the Bible was the infallible, unerring, God-breathed text that my faith required I believe it to be, it could withstand one little human’s scrutiny and doubt.
I am no longer a fundamental evangelical Christian.
If you are one, then those words need no definition. If you aren’t, then I’ll tick off a few of the main parts that I know to be true:
- Belief that the Bible is 100% correct, true, historical, God’s word and unchanging
- Sincere effort to apply all the words of the Bible to your daily life
- Presence in church every week (three times per week if you’re Southern Baptist)
- Preference for Christian-created products (films, music, television, fast food)
- Adoption of an “us vs. them” mentality where “them” is the “world” or “worldly” things
- Prioritization of relationship with Jesus over all other things (including relationship with yourself, your family, or your friends)
- Relationship with Jesus begins at the point of praying The Sinner’s Prayer (confessing your sins, asking Jesus for forgiveness, placing yourself under submission of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit as your Lord and Master).
- Engaging in politics
- Belief in Israel as God’s chosen people
- Belief that Jesus will one day return (the Rapture) to gather all the believers to Himself to live in Heaven on streets of gold, leaving everyone else behind to endure the torture of a dying Earth
There are many more bullet points, but those are a good start.
It was the requirement to believe the Bible is 100% correct, true, and that every word within it is unchanging, direct from God, and applicable to modern life that sparked me setting down the fundamental evangelical descriptor.
I withheld knowledge of my questioning journey from nearly every human being I know, except for my husband. Midway through, I let a couple of very close confidantes know a small amount about where I was spiritually and mentally. Lately, I’ve let a couple more know. Until I publish this piece, though, the number of people who know anything about my journey since 2016 can be counted on less than two hands.
I did not want to upset the applecart if there was a hope that I’d one day take it up again. I wrestled hard with this during the long months of questioning. It felt false to not say anything, but I didn’t know yet what was true to say. So, silent I stayed.
And then, I knew I was out and not going back.
Initially, I resisted coming out of the evangelical closet. My entire life – personal and professional – was wrapped up in it and still is, to some extent. I’ve had a lot of fear – heaps upon heaps – about the relationships I’ll lose by saying these words out loud. However, that fear is now less than the excitement I have about finding others on this same kind of honest journey. I don’t want to pretend I’m believing in and a part of a community that I don’t identify with. So, I’m not going to anymore.
I spent 34 years in the fundamental evangelical Christian community. Prayed the Sinner’s Prayer in first grade at Calvary Baptist Academy. Won Bible Drills and Speakers Tournaments to earn scholarships to a Southern Baptist university. Painted Bible verses on t-shirts that I wore to high school so other students would be exposed to The Word. My cd collection was filled with Amy Grant, Michael W Smith, The Newsboys, and DC Talk. (And, when I was feeling a need to show my edgy side, Petra.) I sang and did drama with the youth group, raised my hands and swayed with thousands at Dawson McAllister conferences (yesteryear’s version of Catalyst and Passion), and re-dedicated my life to Jesus in high school. I went on a mission trip and led Backyard Bible Clubs and Vacation Bible Schools for inner city children. In college, I did my fellowship at the conservative political think tank The Family Research Council with Gary Bauer as its president. I worked at a crisis pregnancy center (today we call them pregnancy care clinics or medical clinics). I helped launch a fiction line for the largest Christian publishing house in the country (Thomas Nelson Publishers) and then formed a firm that launched two more fiction lines for other Christian publishing houses and provided PR for key fiction titles of every major Christian publishing house in the nation. I’ve worked with the power players in U.S. Christendom, taught at the conferences, started a women’s ministry, led my littles to accept Jesus as their Savior, and devoted my entire life to furthering the Gospel.
Leaving it feels momentous enough to require a public declaration.
This is mine.