Monday, November 21, 2011

31 Reasons I Left Evangelicalism and Became a Progressive But Not a Liberal

Okay, in the spirit of Rachel Held Evans' blog post on 13 Things that Make Me a Lousy Evangelical (and a Lousy Progressive and a Lousy Feminist), I've come up with my own list of 31 reasons I left evangelicalism and became a progressive (for lack of a better term) but not a liberal. So, here we go:

1. I'm allergic to contempary Christian music.
2. I never believed in the inerrancy of the Bible (and think it's rather obvious it's not inerrant) and got tired of hiding that fact.
3. I realized biblicism (the notion that the Bible is infallible, internally consistent, universally applicable, contains all the truth we need, and makes us certain about most everything) is intellectually hallow and dishonest (see The Bible Made Impossible).
4. I think it's not only fine to try to ascertain what Jesus meant or what Bible authors meant, in the original culture, but more importantly, if we don't, we're not taking the Bible seriously. We love tradition over truth.
5. I think it's perfectly acceptable to pick and choose what one thinks is inspired and true in the Bible. After all, that's how the Bible was composed. Someone else picked and chose and copied and translated, so why can't we? Why do we have to take it on faith and they get to decide? How does one do that you ask? Have an open mind, look at objective biblical scholarship, use some common sense, and let the Spirit speak to your heart. What? You think that's crazy? If accepting everthing at face value works, then why does evangelicalism have a thousand denominations and opinions about what the Bible teaches?
6. Despite 2-5 above, I think much of the Bible is inspired by God.
7. After studying the historical and cultural context of the Bible and learning how it has sometimes been miscopied, and frequently mistranslated and misinterpreted (by people who care more about tradition than truth), I find it a remarkably progressive book--okay, okay, minus that stuff about genocide and killing women and children, etc.
8. I might be called to love him, but I don't like Rick Warren, and especially those Hawaiian shirts he wears.
9. R.C. Sproul defending Mark Driscoll makes me a bit nauseous. Okay, a lot nauseous.
10. I not only think believing in The Rapture is delusional, but also believing we live in the end times too.
11. I believe Jesus already returned (figuratively) in the first century (you gotta read my book).
12. I believe the Bible teaches the good guys get left behind (again, it's in the book).
13. I sometimes agree with R.C. Sproul. For example, he actually pretty much believes #11 too.
14. Going to a U2 concert is a spiritual experience for me.
15. I no longer believe evolution is the enemy.
16. I think intelligent design is a grand idea that needs to be seriously considered.
17. I think one can be a practicing gay or lesbian and still follow Christ.
18. I'm a microbrew enthusiast and love to talk theology over a couple of brews.
19. Rick Perry makes me really nervous (but not as much as Sarah Palin).
20. I hate sexual exploitation but find some erotica perfectly acceptable for adults.
21. I think the evangelical church is sex-negative (okay, there are a few good evangelical marriage sex manuals out there, but that's the only exception).
22. I think Charlize Theron is hot and I'm not afraid to admit it.
23. I voted for Barak Obama. I still support him but see a lot of things he could do better.
24. I hate it when Republicans accuse Obama of doing or proposing things that George W. Bush (increased the deficit by $5 trillion) and Ronald Reagan did (raised taxes 11 times).
25. I think what evangelicals call "church" is a non-biblical, man-made construct (back to my book, and yes, these are shameless plugs!).
26. I think nine times out of ten spiritual disciplines (praying, fasting, time in the Word, worship, going to cutting-edge, spiritual conferences, and following the latest, trendy book -- think Purpose Driven Life) becomes a legalistic treadmill.
27. After studying the issue and examining the historical and biblical evidence, I became a Universalist.
28. I think the emergent "conversation" is good (and I really like Brian McLaren), but wish they'd come to a concluson once in awhile. Just for grins.
29. I often disagree with Bishop Spong, but sometimes I do agree with him.
30. I like Bishop Spong way more than Rick Warren or Mark Driscoll.
31. I think the truth is embodied in a composite of Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Please comment, challenge me, and share your own lists of where you're at!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hope for Forgotten Prisoners

This year, there were at least two prisoners who caught our attention in the media: Troy Davis and Amanda Knox. Davis spent 20 years on death row for murder--a crime for which recent evidence strongly supported his innocence. Despite an Amnesty International petition signed by a million people worldwide to commute his sentence and other pleas by politicians, Davis was executed by lethal injection in September. "I know you're still convinced [of my guilt]... but I am innocent... I am so sorry for your loss. I really am," he said to the victim's family in his final words.

Then there was American student Amanda Knox from Seattle, held for four years in Italy on murder charges and finally found innocent and released on appeal last month. Knox, along with Raffaele Sollecito, was a victim of a miscarriage of justice by an Italian court. Despite their ordeal, compared to prisoners of conscience in corners of the world out of the spotlight, they were the lucky ones.

Today, hundreds of forgotten prisoners languish in detention, some in the most squalid conditions, for crimes they did not commit, and often for merely defending human rights. Because of the work of Amnesty International, there is hope for these prisoners. Next month, Amnesty is holding their Global Write for Rights initiative to get people involved to shine a light on these forgotten souls.
I helped organize two events last year and know from experience how effective they are. When you simply write a letter to a prisoner or a government official on behalf of a prisoner, a lost soul is encouraged, prison conditions improve, and sometimes the deluge of letters help to get people released. "I am alive today, after 34 arrests, because members of Amnesty International spoke out for me," said Jenni Williams, human rights defender in Zimbabwe. And there are many more successes.

I encourage you to get involved in a local write-a-thon (or just do it individually) and see how this small, strategic gesture--writing a handful of letters to several of the 14 cases highlighted this year--can help change the world and shine a light of hope to the oppressed. I'm helping to organize another event in Seattle with a local Amnesty chapter. Come join us.