I thought salvation [meant] having the right opinions about God and that fighting the good fight of faith [required] defending those opinions at all costs. I was a fundamentalist because my security and self-worth and sense of purpose in life were all wrapped up in getting God right – in believing the right things about him, saying the right things about him, and convincing others to embrace the right things about him, too.
– Rachel Held Evans, Faith Unraveled
I’ve dedicated my entire Christian life to the pursuit of correct doctrine. I’ve made unimaginable sacrifices and mistakes in my search for what’s “right” and held myself apart from all I believed was “wrong.” Christianity—at least the particular fundamentalist/right wing/evangelical flavor I marinated in for almost 20 years—has been, for me, a religion based on fear and avoidance, its guiding principle: “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.” And now, I feel I’m standing at the edge of a precipice and the slightest step could result in the destruction of everything I’ve ever known or believed to be true. I must allow myself to fall. I must leave that which has been most important in my life. I must leave my Christian faith.*
Christianity taught me to do everything within my power to interpret the passages of the bible correctly. Now I must dismantle everything I’ve ever known, tearing it all down in order to build an authentic faith.
Christianity taught me to fear experiences that are central to other religions as “portals” to the demonic. Now, I must open myself to instruction outside my own faith in order to discover a God without borders and limitations.
Christianity formed my identity as the lens through which I see the world and also the narrative through which I define myself. Now, I must remove this raiment, although I’m not sure who I am without it, in order to discover the truth of my identity.
Christianity taught me that its particular brand of salvation could be lost. Now, I must be willing to lose it in order to walk an exceptional path.
Stripped of everything except the very core of my beliefs, I am left with:
- I believe God loves me and every one of the fallible, messed-up human beings who has ever walked this planet unconditionally.
I believe salvation is a gift. While I do not fully understand what salvation is or how it works, I do believe that it is NOT contingent upon my behavior or my knowledge of correct doctrine.
I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and none of us interpret it 100% correctly.
I believe the Trinity is made up of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, (not “Holy Bible”) and it is the Spirit who gives direct revelation. This means if I experience God in a way not mentioned in the bible or get revelation from Him that seems to contradict the bible, my interpretation of the bible must be subject to change.
I believe many religions outside of Christianity have done a better job practicing and defining certain principles present in Christianity (ie. meditation) and we can and should glean wisdom from these religions.
I believe God’s love compels Him to fellowship with us and that He does not limit His fellowship to one small population of the world (ie the Jews and Christians.) While I believe God made Himself known most comprehensively through Jesus, I believe He also makes Himself known in other ways and through other spiritual practices. I believe that members of other religions can know God just as well as – and in some cases better than – those who claim Christianity.
I believe God has made provision for the salvation of those who do not know Jesus. As CS Lewis wrote: “We know that no man can be saved except through Christ. What we do not know is that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” I believe there is far more about salvation that we don’t know than we do.
I believe that if all these beliefs are correct, salvation cannot be “lost.” Even if I walk away from the Christian faith, and even if this journey leads to a place of disbelief in Jesus, I can still be saved. Not by doctrine, but by the love of Him who knows me and has set me on this path.
I believe that I must take this journey seeking nothing but love. I don’t feel I can move forward seeking “God” because there’s too much baggage associated with that word. But I believe that “God is love” and I believe that if I seek love—the love of a “Being” without boundaries and interpretations, the love of others and the love of myself—I will be drawn deeper toward the truth. I believe that in seeking to know and experience “holy” love (a term I know entirely too little about,) I will come to know God more as He is than who we’ve made Him to be.
It is from this place I must move forward.
*Please note that I have written that I will leave “MY Christian faith” and not “THE Christian faith.” My Christianity is being reformed into something new. I do not know where this journey will end, only that I am compelled to take it.