As I have tested the writing waters in the past year or two, I have made several discoveries about myself and the ways I have changed. One discovery has surprised me the most: there are certain publications for which I have nothing suitable to submit. It surprises me because these are publications that I used to read and organizations that used to be quite in line with my thinking and believing. But, now I find I simply have nothing to say to them or for them.
I am no longer capable of writing in a way that makes me or my readers feel comfortable or satisfied with their own status quo. I cannot write in a way that communicates clear-cut, clean, blanket ideas. I cannot write in a way that falsely portrays me as strong or certain. I cannot write in this way because I am no longer capable of living in this way.
The gate is wide, the road is paved in moderation
The crowd is kind and quick to pull you in
Welcome to the middle ground
You’re safe and sound and
Until now it’s where I’ve been
I know I am being vague here, but if you’ve read even of a little of my writing, I think you know what I’m talking about. When I hear the Nichole Nordeman song, “Brave” (which I’m quoting throughout this post), I picture a clean, pretty, large church full of well-dressed people filling in blanks on a sermon outline (probably about financial plans or marital communication). In Sunday School, they tell their children they are following Christ when they don’t associate with sinners and when they question most everything their science teacher says (but never what their pastor says). On the way out the door, they shake an associate pastor’s hand, who smiles vaguely but hardly makes eye contact as an intern stands by and clicks to count how many people attended that day. Faith is equivalent to morality (and/or Scripture memorization), and if you meet the standards this particular church has decided to stand by, you’re all good.
Yes, this description focuses narrowly on certain aspects of these churches I am describing, and I am only speaking from my own experience. I am not discounting these churches and the people who are part of them (see Recognizing Sincerity Even While Doubting Reliability
), nor do I claim to be telling the whole story (theirs, ours, or anyone else’s). At the same time, just typing that description just now brought back twinges of a familiar feeling of slow suffocation.
Why did I
Take this vow of compromise?
Why did I
Try to keep it all inside?
Blogger Zach Hoag recently posted an excellent piece that summarizes the disconnect between what many mainline churches promote and defend as Christianity and the way Jesus lived his life. Here’s the full piece: Go and Learn What This Means: I Desire Honesty, Not Christianity
. I highly recommend reading the entire piece, but here’s an important snippet: “When it comes right down to it, no matter how majestic the theology and pristine the Christianity, if faced with a choice, I’ll choose basic human honesty every time. I’ll side with those who are suffering, who are wronged, who are oppressed, who are struggling, who are standing for what’s right.”
The way it always was is no longer good enough…
Strangely enough, as I’m weaving Nichole Nordeman’s song through this piece (which you can listen to in whole below), I keep leaving out the lines that include the title word, “brave.” I think I’m edging around the word because throughout most of this transition, I have felt anything but brave. I have felt confused, desperate, angry, and hurt. I have rarely felt enough focused surety to be brave about anything. Perhaps bravery looks different at different times. But I can say that my writing has provided a way for me capture those moments that I do feel strongly and passionately. Those are moments that I can communicate what I’m pondering without worrying (too much) about what other people think or about making a mistake.
In a few weeks, the newest issue of PRISM Magazine
will be out. It includes my newest published piece, “Christianity: Now in Living Color and 3D,” which describes in more detail this shift I’m experiencing towards a Christianity of depth and color (as opposed to two-dimensional black-and-white). For me, it’s a direct continuation of my first piece for PRISM, The Dangerous Lie That We Tell
. I’m excited about it, and I hope you’ll read it. Maybe we can help one another be brave.