I have a few words of caution as you read today's column. First, I didn't pick the title. My original title was too long and it read: What's a Smart Girl Like You Doing in a Belief Like That? The new title is a bit stronger than I intended.
Evangelicalism gets a black eye in today's column. I felt the need to expose the unnerving experience of losing confidence in my faith... My anger and frustration and even embarassment are a lot more common than many of the "still faithful" would like to believe.
My goal in the next several columns is to take an unflinching look at how evangelicalism creates a loyal following even while expecting adherence to outrageous beliefs. There are brilliant people who are evangelicals. I'm not saying that evangelical Christians aren't smart. I am also not saying that all evangelicals hold identical views about the stories recorded in the Bible (not all evangelicals believe in six day creationism, for instance).
On the other hand, most evangelicals are pressed to adopt beliefs after conversion in order to retain "membership" in their communities. These beliefs do not develop through personal discovery, but through systematic teaching combined with powerful community. In the end, this combination leads to unreflective belief-ism rather than thoughtful evaluation of doctrines. This is the key weakness in evangelical conversion and subsequent discipleship, in my humble opinion.
It is this tendency to expect adherence to doctrines without the natural process of inquiry which leads to later-in-life rejection of faith and consequent anger by most ex-evangelicals. Their leave-taking of the faith is usually dismissed as anger at individuals or at church politics or God rather than accepting that the ex-evangelical is angry at a system that coerced her into beliefs that she never seriously evaluated in the first place.
All that to say: read ahead with caution if you still hold fond feelings towards your evangelical heritage.