When I was in High School, I got called into the principal’s office. My principle was deeply troubled by my behavior. It wasn’t sex or drugs or even rock-and-roll, it was a book I was reading. Now let your imagination run wild for a minute. Was I reading The Happy Hooker? Was I found with a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook? Nope, I was reading The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry by Henri Nouwen. My Principle expressed two very grave concerns. First, the book was written by – – – A Catholic! Second, the book dealt with the spiritual disciplines of solitude, silence, and prayer. Now prayer was OK, but the other two disciplines were very “New Age.” I was warned that this kind of reading could cause damage to my faith and the spiritual practices I was experimenting with could lead to possible demonic possession. I read the book anyway.
My senior year in High School, I was called into the academic counselor’s office, and he asked if I would be attending Biola University with my fellow classmates. I informed him I would be going to a local community college to save money. He was horrified. He said that if I went to a secular school, my faith would be under constant attack. He warned me about philosophy classes; he warned me about biology classes; he warned me about geology classes. He warned me about the liberal atheist professors who roamed the halls of academia seeking young Christians like myself to destroy their faith. I signed up for Introduction To Philosophy my first semester.
Teachers and Pastors were always warning me of the dangers to my faith. I came to think of my faith as something that was so fragile that almost any exposure to anything non-Christian could destroy it. I knew that even though I was a twice-a-week-church-going-retreat-attending-burned-my-Queen-albums Christian, I was a rebellious backslider. I even read books by — Martin Borg! Underneath my respectable Fundagelical façade I was a reader and my faith hung by a spider’s thread over the very pit of hell.
Why were my Fundamental-Evangelical elders so worried about my faith? It’s because faith, to them, means adherence to a set of beliefs. I was a Christian if I said the “sinner’s prayer,” and believed the five fundamentals. These beliefs became an acid test of who was in and who was out; who was a Christian and who was not. Of course, to really be an insider I also had to be a pre-tribulation dispensationalist. To avoid losing my faith, I needed to be careful what I read; I needed to be careful where I went to school and most important I must never question what I had been taught.
In High School, chapel speakers shared their testimony of how they had been beguiled into believing in evolution and secular humanism, and after falling prey to these dangerous beliefs, they fell into sex, drugs, Satanism and PG-rated movies.
I was taught to adhere to a set of beliefs. I was trained to fight for these beliefs; I had to be ready to be martyred for these beliefs; I had to suffer the persecution of someone disagreeing with my beliefs. The problem was that these beliefs didn’t make any sense. I was fighting for an incoherent and inconsistent set of doctrines that often contradicted themselves. The problem was I wanted Jesus, and these beliefs were excess baggage that had to be left behind.
I went rogue. I was raised as a culture warrior to fight for God in the evil anti-Christian society we live in, but I went AWOL. I made a decision to trust in Jesus rather than a set of beliefs. I gave up fighting the culture wars and decided to love humanity as Jesus does. What a crazy idea right? Suddenly, there were a lot more people in the Kingdom of God. Going AWOL from the manufactured culture wars resulted in peace breaking out and a sense of wellbeing. Who’d of thought it? Now I am a rogue fundagelical; I go around declaring peace and helping other people escape from the culture wars. In a friendly voice, I tell them something radical and provocative: God isn’t mad at you; God is on your side.
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I am one of many people who are thankful that you went “rogue.” Thank you for stepping out, and for stepping up. You are helping all of your silent readers feel less alone and supported.