Monday, January 21, 2013

Help Me! I Think I'm Becoming Liberal!

That blog post title probably got your attention, huh?

A friend of mine at work the other day playfully said to me, "Mike, by the sound of some of your Facebook posts lately, I think you might be turning into a liberal." My friend, by the way, is quite liberal and got quite a kick out of ribbing me.  

But he may have a point. 

Today has been quite an emotional roller-coaster for what would otherwise be a typical day-off from work, and the issues are mostly theological ones, but they are issues that affect me very deeply; issues that motivate me and inform me of 'who I am'.  

It started with a random post I read on Facebook on my daughter's boyfriend's wall.  His name is Jeff. I enjoy bantering with Jeff.  He's more of an agnostic/quasi-atheist guy, with a great big heart of gold. He has friends of many different religious views, and occasionally he likes to post the random controversial statement or topic point just to sit back and watch the conversational sparks fly on his Facebook wall.   

This morning I saw a post on his wall, directing him to check out a video about "Deconversion".  Naturally I was curious, so I watched the video, and the five subsequent videos, to see what it was about.  Turns out its the personal story of a young man who was radically born-again in high school, was ardently involved in Christian ministry all through his college years, only to begin having a true, gut-wrenching internal struggle with faith, "knowing Jesus", and many other theological/psychological/life-application issues with his Christian beliefs.  The videos ultimately chronicle his turn to or acceptance of atheism/humanism and how he found peace and contentment.  He's come to believe what he was taught in fundamental Christianity is wrong, and not only wrong, but dangerously so, to the point he felt crushing pain at the thought of leading others into a life he felt was damaging and deceitful.

The problem is, I found my self not only commiserating with the young man at times, but actually identifying and empathizing with him at many points.  His journey is not unlike my own; I've just take a different path, and I am still working on refining that path. 

As I watched, I felt admiration, happiness, concern, joy, and sorrow for the young man. I have asked many of the same questions at times in my faith journey.  My road took a different turn than his, but I can see his pain.  I felt conflicted and saddened that the faith I embrace caused this young man so much pain, pain to the point he thinks Christianity is damaging and evil.

This should never be. But sometimes, I know, that's how Christianity is perceived.

Later I read a chapter in a dynamic book I'm reading, entitled "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" about the concept of justice (Its a great book, and I suggest you read the author's blog at to learn more). Justice, she says, has more to do with a lifestyle than a single instance of making something right.

Micah 6:8 says that the Lord wants us to "to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

Other versions, like the NLT, says to "to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

In this chapter, Rachel (the author) examines what "doing right" in a Biblical sense might mean to a married, rural Tennessee couple trying to "do right". She examined some issued like buying fair trade foods, giving to poor, etc.  Then she was invited by World Vision to go on a trip with other bloggers to Bolivia to see a World Vision project up close and personal.  The women she met down there, women of valor taking care of their families in the face of adversity the likes of which most American's will never know, touched her heart and my heart as I read their stories.  She showed in a small way how the decisions I make, here in the USA, actually do effect the life and livelihood of those in countries where American companies do business.

I was touched in my soul at the thought that I could help make a difference in another person's life in some small way, and I have been recalcitrant to do anything because to do so would affect my lifestyle. (I think my daughters Lindsey and Cameron will choke on their coffee when they read this, because we just talked about this at length at the dinner table last night, and I was on the, shall we say, right side of the discussion.)

I don't often cry when I read books, but I did when I read this chapter. I cried because I saw in Rachel's heart and story a cry for exactly what the Kingdom of God is all about - carrying for the poor and needy, and helping to free the oppressed, wherever we can have influence to do so, no matter how small.

Then, after reading this, I was surprised to see the funeral procession for slain police officer Kevin Tonn pass by me on Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights. To see literally hundreds of police cars, fire trucks, and other emergency equipment pass by in solemn honor to their fallen comrade was moving, to say the least. I do not know Kevin Tonn at all, but I know some who did, and by all accounts he was a fine man and an good police officer.  He died as a servant to his community.

Servant.  The Bible says he who would be greatest in the Kingdom of God should be the servant of all.

I don't know anything about Kevin Tonn's spiritual life, but I see in his service, and in the service of just about every law enforcement officer, shadows of the Kingdom.  I see shadows of the Kingdom values in lives devoted to more that just selfish gain.  I see shadows of Kingdom values in lives given in service to others, and for that service I am grateful.

So, if feeling compassion for a tortured soul struggling with and losing his faith in God, crying for the oppressed and poor in another country struggling to make a living so that I can have a cheap cup of coffee or inexpensive chocolate, and seeing the Kingdom in the service of a fallen police officer moves my "cred" scale a little to the left, then so be it.

I'm convinced more than ever that "the truth" - the answer to life, the universe and everything - lies not at the left or right fringes of life, but in the great middle where we all come together and overlap and agree on the great things of life. On the left and right fringes are found judgement and intolerance. I'd rather search for consensus and peace.

I'm finding that I cannot base my faith on the "correctness" of what I believe.  My faith and my world is always being challenged, and I am always learning new things.  If my faith is overly enmeshed in how correct I think I am about what I believe, then one day when what I believe is challenged and shaken, my faith model will fall apart.

That 'faith model' is not faith. Finding my life meaning and value in how correct what I think I know is, is shaky ground. It's idolatry, making an idol out of how correct I am. I can't let that faith model stand.

I find that my faith should lie only in God.  Jesus revealed to us God's character. I'm learning new things about God's character every day. If I'm trusting only in God and not what I think of God, then each new thing I learn about God grows me instead of shakes me.

I'm growing a little to the left.  I'm finding the soil over there is not as barren as I thought.  In fact, as I mix a little left soil in with my right soil, I'm finding its pretty fertile soil in which to grow.