Living in between worlds is a great way to talk about this strange place of deconstruction. It's not like everyone in our family had the same insights and changes in belief at the same time. Johannah, for instance, was deeply troubled when we left the church when she was 13 and 14. Noah, on the other hand, felt liberated to truly be himself. The younger ones were, well, younger. They didn't grasp why we stopped going to church and had church at home for two years (more on that in another post).
Still, as the years have gone forward, each family member has maintained some tie to our evangelical roots and relationships. How could we not? Those years and relationships are still vital and precious to us. Leaving beliefs behind doesn't mean jettisoning friends and family. The Baby and Bath Water cliche works well here. We have kept as many babies as will have us!
Most of my friends and online connections and most of Jon's business and local relationships come from our 25 years as evangelicals. My business is in the homeschooling world and my clients are mostly Christians of some variety. Jon's email publishing business is more than fifty percent related to our relationships and networks through missions and the Vineyard. Nearly all of our friends (college, early adulthood, 10 years in California, current 8 years in Ohio and online) as well as half of our families are practicing Christians. And these are just our relationships. We're also involved in Christian communities all over the place.
This week Jon is speaking at the Off the Map conference in Seattle. His good friend Jim Henderson originated Off the Map with Jon here in Cincinnati at the local Vineyard about 7 years ago. They've remained good friends. Jon, who is even more disaffected with evangelical doctrine than I am (that story still yet to be told on the blog), was invited to speak about social intelligence. Despite not going to church, despite the fact that he no longer shares the same doctrinal outlook as evangelicals, Jon still thinks church has the potential to be a socially powerful tool in local communities. So he said yes. Of course. No animosity, but also no hypocrisy. He'll share what's on his heart and listen to what they say back. And he's rubbing elbows with lots of our old friends at the same time.
The rest of the family is also still a part of Christian gatherings and groups. Caitrin spent last weekend at the fall retreat with the Vineyard junior high group. I'm at our old church every Sunday while she's in Sunday school. When they teach about Satan as though he's real, I get a little cross-eyed. But that doesn't keep me from supporting her in her choice to go. She's also involved in outreaches and learning about things like being kind to people she might otherwise overlook.
Johannah attends a college Bible study sponsored by the Vineyard in Columbus. Jacob met the Christians at his high school on "See You At the Pole" during the first week of school. They all prayed for the school year together. I teach at a Christian homeschool co-op every week and speak to the local Christian homeschooling support groups. Jon and I have been homeschool camp counselors for years. Even Noah took New Testament Greek a couple years ago. Liam might be the only one who isn't actively related to any form of the faith.
As you can see, our lives are inextricably bound with our evangelical loved ones and friends. Despite my criticisms of the doctrines and culture, I in no way want to imply that we have disdain for Christians or what they are doing well. We feel deeply connected to that world despite living a different worldview. Sometimes I think it's harder for others to know what to do with us than it is for us to know how to interact with them.
What I'd like to do on this blog is to use this space to examine how evangelical (conservative Christian, orthodox Christian) culture and beliefs need a make over and why I think so. The reevaluation process doesn't have to end in disdainful or hostile scientific atheism. It doesn't have to end in confession of the Nicean Creed either. I really do think there is another way.
Continuing this intimate relationship with evangelicalism combined with my graduate studies and seven year deconstruction process means I feel I have a valid role in the redefinition of what it ought to mean to be Christian, or at least, what it ought not to be.
I'll write the second installment on marriage and falling away next. I just felt that this little overview was important since it keeps coming up - why do I care when I've walked away? Uh, that's the trouble. I haven't really walked all that far. It's like I moved next door, not across the country. So we're still in the neighborhood, related to it, care about it. And so I write.