Religious Chess and Watering Down Christianity – On Being A Liberal Evangelical

I am a liberal.  I love to see females leading churches, I am enamoured with the social justice movement, I aspire to be a hippie, and I call God Mother.  I want to see the church becoming more progressive and less exclusive.  I don’t like Dr. James Dobson, I like Pat Robertson even less.  I believe in a greater transcendence, though I also love hearing interfaith dialogues and I respect deep ecumenicity.

I just so happen to also be an evangelical.  Not the kind who hands you tracts as you walk down the streets of downtown Toronto, and not the kind who preaches fire and brimstone to pre-school children making them accept the Gospel based on fear, I’m not that kind of evangelical.  I don’t feel that definition of evangelicalism really lines up the Bible.  But, I am an evangelical nonetheless.  One who takes it a step further than just living missionally and one who preaches the Kingdom of God at any cost even when it is offensive or gets me into trouble.

You see, one year I had my own personal awakening.  I was volunteering at a largely Jewish nursing home being asked by residents directly about my Christian faith.  I never wanted to offend any of them so I really watered down the Gospel and told them that as long as they were sincere in what they believed it didn’t really matter what I believed.  Yet, one of the residents in particular, Golda, kept asking me over and over about Jesus.  Was He really the Son of God and why did the Jews reject this?  She said she thought that maybe He was.  I was told by the organization that I could talk about my own faith in personal ways, but I was never to impose it on anyone else.  I still believe in this clause.  I still believe that it is not my place to shove down theology on anyone, but I also believe that Golda had a point.  In many ways she was calling me to step up to the plate and to really articulate what I believed without worrying about her or anyone else. 

One night I had a dream.  I’m not one for super charismatic experiences, although I have had a few.  But anyways, in my dream, I saw a bunch of floating heads.  I could not see their bodies, only smoke around them.  They were calling out to me telling me that they were trapped in this place and asking me why I never told them the truth.  No, I did not see any flames.  I’ve long since done away with the concept of hell I was introduced to in childhood.  But I did see their exasperated expressions and their hopelessness.  From that day on I resolved that I would not be ashamed of sharing my faith with others.

It was during this year that I read a book called “One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven” by Mark Cahill.  In this book, Cahill says that the one thing you can’t do in heaven is to evangelize because everyone in heaven is already a Christian.  Cahill also talked about how no one knows the day or hour that they will die and since we could die at any time we have no idea how old or young we really are for age is relative.  It is for that reason that you could be talking to a 20 year old who is relatively old or a 70 year old who still has so much life left in them.  This is one of the great mysteries of faith.

These experiences coupled with my own personal experience of coming to a real living-breathing faith in Jesus taught me that there actually is something to evangelizing.  I’m all for doing good works and I’m all for including everyone and being accepting.  At the same time, I’ve come to believe that good works alone do not save anyone.  I remember many a night in my college dorm room before truly coming to faith in Christ wrestling with whether I had done enough good things that day.  My heart physically throbbing inside of my chest and my anxious thoughts keeping me from sleep.  After talking with my roomates and reading the book of Ephesians, I finally came to believe that faith in Christ is what ultimately saves me.  As a Christian, God still calls me to do good to others and to love them.  She still calls me to serve as her hands and feet and emulate Christ wherever I go, but this is done as a thank offering.  As a way of showing my gratitude and love, not as a debt that is owed in order to tip the scales and imbalance all the injustices and grief I have caused.  This realization caused me to start doing things for the right motivations – out of love not servitude.

After I had this experience, I told myself that I wanted to reach out to others who have doubts and struggles.  Others who feel their heart throbbing in their chest wondering if they have really done enough.  I decided that I wanted to encourage kids not so much to pray the sinner’s prayer as to actually believe that there is a way to get to heaven and that way is through Christ.  I’m all for the church being open-minded, but to say that whatever one wants to believe is fine and that all paths are equal in my opinion does not hold much of an argument.  I’m all for discerning the truths of Scripture in community, but I also believe that the Bible does have authority and that doctrine does not simply rest on my own opinion which constantly changes.  I believe that there is more to life than just being a nice person and loving others. 

I do not want to engage in a game of religious chess.  My point is not to prove someone else’s theology as erroneous and false.  My goal is also not to water down my faith in order to not offend others.  I find the Gospel to be offensive at times and I think that I am called to do the same, at times. 

I love liberal Christianity.  I am a pretty deeply rooted liberal – I believe in new monasticism, intentional communities, that those who choose to engage in a vegan lifestyle are honouring God, and that community gardens and skate parks are great ways to build community.  I also happen to be an evangelical.  Not an evangelical who bashes homosexuals, who hates feminists, or who goes on mission’s trips to evangelize rather than to build relationships – I actually think all of these things are wrong.  But an evangelical who passionately pursues the way of Christ and encourages others to do the same, sometimes in ways that are more than just missional living. 

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