Molting Part 3
The Duck Dynasty Defense may have been the last straw, but truthfully, this has been a long process of molting. I’ve been shedding this American evangelical skin for some time now. But last month that old withered dead skin finally fell away, and I find myself walking in freedom, feeling fresh, supple and alive.
I no longer identify as an American evangelical. To me American evangelicalism has become synonymous with:
conservative Republican politics,
with willful racial ignorance,
with the thinly veiled subjugation of women,
with evangelization that is imperialistic and patronizing.
American evangelicalism has an identity problem. They think it’s an image problem. It’s not. This goes much deeper than a spiritual skin affliction. It cannot be remedied with rockin’ worship or hipster clothing. It cannot be cured with churches in bars or tattoos or occasional profanity.
This identity crisis is not a marketing or messaging problem. It’s the message itself. And I’m not talking about the message of Jesus or the message of the Bible, because the message of American evangelicalism is decidedly not the message of Jesus. It is decidedly not the story communicated in the Bible.
The message of Jesus is love. The story of the Bible is one of the human race maturing toward love. Somewhere along the way American evangelicals let go of this message of love, this story of our evolving understanding of our God of love, and fear crept in.
Fear God, otherwise you’re going to hell.
Fear sin, or else you won’t inherit the kingdom of God.
Fear Satan, or you’ll be swindled by him.
Fear your very own heart, because it’s the most deceitful part of you.
Fear the liberals, because they’re leading our country away from God’s blessing.
Fear the gays, because they, well, they have the power to cause natural disasters, disintegrate our social fabric, and destroy everything we hold dear with something they keep insisting is love.
Fear the immigrants, because they are diluting what has made our country great, whiteness.
Fear Islam, because we all know the Islamists are its true leaders (never mind the Crusades or colonialism or Westboro Baptist Church).
Fear the feminists, because they hate everything, and by “everything” we mostly mean: Men. And unborn babies.
Fear evolution and atheists, because they want to destroy everything, and by “everything” we mostly mean: Adam and Eve and the 6,000 year old Earth.
I don’t know when it happened, but the current and deeply held identity of American evangelicalism is
Maybe 9/11 galvanized this fear. Maybe the Republican party ruthlessly and cynically used this visceral event to weave a message of fear into the fabric of our religion. Maybe the evangelical leaders foolishly hedged their bets against evolution or Islam or liberalism to rally the flock behind an enemy. Whenever and however it happened, the current reality is an American evangelical mindset rooted in fear. And you know what the Bible says:
Fear and love cannot coexist.
If perfect love drives out fear, can perfect fear drive out love? I believe it can, and I believe it has.
It’s baffling to me how afraid American evangelicals have become, and it seems their biggest fears are directed toward love and grace. If love and grace get too much air time, then all hell will somehow break loose and we’ll all become incubators of hedonistic debauchery and selfishness. But how can this be?
Love and grace are not welcome in hell. Love and grace are foreign and offensive to the minions of hell. Love and grace make evil impotent and hate nonexistent.
But fear? Fear plays right into the hand of hell.
Fear brings suspicion and the need for control. Fear divides between us and them. Fear accuses and antagonizes. Fear lies and cheats and steals, and its most coveted spoils are love and grace.
I’m tired of being taught to place more trust in fear than in love.
When I began this journey of shedding my American evangelical skin, the first few steps were fraught with, you guessed it… fear. In walking away from this Christian culture, I was afraid I’d be walking away from Jesus, too. But now I realize the only thing I’ve lost is all that fear. I realize it was fear that kept me in the fold, and in overcoming the perfect storm of fear that is American evangelicalism, I’ve found love, perfect love.
It’s true that perfect love drives out fear. I just never expected it would drive out my religion.
[1 John 4:18]