Given what I post here the title above probably sounds like sacrilege to you. But in many ways being an Evangelical was just easier than taking my spiritual life seriously. I was an Evangelical for twenty-five years so there had to be something that kept me going back.
Here are the things that I miss about being an Evangelical:
The Conservative Evangelical Church is primarily a happy club
Primarily the Evangelical Church is a belonging system. It is a club with restrictive membership made up of people who think alike, or at least publically vowed to think alike. The pitch-in suppers as well as the weekly after church brunches were great. Good food and lots of smiles. We even hosted several of the annual picnics. Fun was had by all. It was a great little country club atmosphere.
It’s easier to view the world in black and white
It is easy to put everything in one of two columns. Shades of gray do not exist for long in an Evangelical church. The two columns are labeled “good” and “bad”. It was just so easy to go along with the pastor than to dare say that things aren’t that simple in the “real” world. I managed to go along for too many years.
It’s much easier to take the Bible literally than to view it critically.
You were told to believe that the Bible was 100% inerrant, true, applicable to the ages and written by God through those he had total control over. I, like so many other middle-class, middle-aged people, had a pretty hectic life outside of church. I spent many hours at work in the corporate world. It was nice to just lay back on Sundays and go along and keep my mouth shut. I always had serious doubts about some of the biblical text, but just kept them to myself. Until I didn’t…
The “Get Out Of Jail” card was super convenient.
Most Evangelicals fixate to one particular Bible verse that says your salvation is a gift from God and NOTHING, but maybe reciting a few words, was necessary to get that happy eternal life card. Live your current life however you want and don’t worry about the afterlife. It will be guaranteed to be much better than this one. Anything you did had no consequences because you were a sinner with a free pass into heaven.
The trouble with all these pleasantries is that even though they are easy, the weak logic behind them are not very convincing to those who want to follow the words of Jesus and take their spiritually seriously. It was fine for twenty years, and then I started to publically question too much about just how easy I was told it was. I could no longer pick and choose a couple of verses and call that “doing God’s will.
Yes, the club was nice but while the food was filling the atmosphere was not fulfilling. I would soon discover that all those smiling faces would quickly abandon me when the pastor informed me that I didn’t believe the “right” things anymore and needed to leave. I have barely heard a peep out of anyone who I thought were lifelong friends in the nine years since I left.
After I retired from the corporate world I spent four years looking seriously at the Bible and particularly at the words of Jesus. That would prove to be my downfall with my Evangelical “friends”. I probably read more than 50 books during that period that exposed me to a very different spiritual worldview. As a result, the “Get Out of Jail Free” card was replaced by among many other things the Epistle of James. He told me that faith without works was meaningless. I would hear that idea again and again during this self study. My spirituality grew to the point that I simply could no longer swallow the idea of the“nothing required” card.
I knew at some point I had to recognize that the spiritual world is just not black and white any more than the rest of the world was. It has become obvious in that four years that black/white is a very destructive way to look at anything. Black/white spurns the idea of friend/enemy or maybe superior/inferior and that mentality came very close to destroying the USA. In fact, it just may have destroyed the church for too many young people today. They say that 75% of Gen-z once they get free of their parents no longer consider themselves religious.
I miss the above easy-peasy things about Evangelicals, but I am now much more at peace with myself by finally throwing off their mentality than any other thing I have done in my life. I am now determined to be part of freeing the followers of Jesus from the constraints of this tainted version of organized religion. I am only sad that I didn’t take up the task of throwing off my conservative Evangelical roots much earlier than I did.
I have found being a follower of Jesus in its truest form to be personally life-giving and imminently satisfying. But sometimes I do miss that easy going social atmosphere I left behind.