Following Jesus Out of the Evangelical Church

In Episode 41 of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, Steve Austin talks with David P. Gushee, author of the brand-new book, Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism. Tony Campolo says, “Still Christian takes us on the journey of a Christian leader who endeavors to maintain his integrity while navigating his way from a rigid fundamentalism with its right-wing political agenda into a progressive worldview.” Listen now at AskSteveAustin.com or on your favorite podcasting app!

A piece of my journal from March of 2016 says this:

I’m too liberal for the Republicans and too conservative for the Democrats. I’m a 30-something Southerner, born and raised in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I was dunked by the Baptists, spoke in tongues in the Assemblies of God, went to a Church of God college, returned to my Baptist roots as a youth pastor, became a Methodist, and now agree with about 80 percent of the Catholic Church’s teachings. I attended George W. Bush’s first inauguration as a senior in high school but have voted Democrat in the last election. I study the King James Bible with a concordance but I read The Message on my iPhone for enjoyment, while having a glass of wine and smoking a cigar.

I’m a walking contradiction.

Maybe there was once room for people like me. Maybe everyone is like me, if we’re all honest with each other. But our culture no longer allows contradictions. I run from discussions with other Christians because it almost always ends poorly. A loss of friendship, a loss of faith, a loss of fervor. I’m tired of being burned.

When many people of faith force it to be an either/or battle of choosing sides, how do you find your voice without losing your soul? This is what today’s episode with David Gushee, author of Still Christian, is all about.

Some questions from today’s conversation:

  • What’s it like to become a born-again Christian in 1978, during the Presidency of Jimmy Carter and the formation of the Religious Right?
  • How has stepping away from American Evangelicalism impacted the way you pastor and parent?
  • What is life like for you, as a pastor or Christian leader, when church life in America seems to be on the decline?
  • Do you have any advice for folks like me, who are in the midst of a personal deconstruction of faith…on how to hold onto their faith, while not abandoning their intellect or ignoring the questions?
  • Is the Bible literally true?
  • How similar were the religious wars of the 1980’s to whatever we’re experiencing today with the marriage of President Trump and the Religious Right?
  • If we look at life through the lens of American Christianity, politics, and culture in 2017 – when do we compromise, and when we do we stand our ground?
  • Do you have any advice for Evangelical Christian pastors who feel stuck, Sunday after Sunday, with the obligation to support their family pressing right up against their secret affirmation of the LGBT community, or their support of women, or their disdain of the President?
  • You have been described as “every liberal’s favorite evangelical” and you have also been described as “every liberal’s least-favorite evangelical”. Which one would you rather be, and why?
  • You are an anti-torture, pro-environment, LGBTQ-affirming, academic…and yet you seem to still consider yourself a Baptist? If so, how and why?
  • After all that you’ve been through, how is this not just a book about a disillusioned ex-Christian?

Favorite quote? “I’m disillusioned. But I’m not an ex-Christian.”

Music: BenSound.com

“Hey Jesus” by Trey Pearson

You can also listen on iTunes.

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How Can I Be Gay, and Call Myself a Christian?

#FaithfullyLGBT

A friend of mine started this hashtag, that many people use in solidarity, as we proclaim our faith, and also proclaim our sexuality.

That same friend also is the President of an organization called Faith In America, whose ultimate goal is “to end decades and centuries of using religious teachings to justify marginalizing and discriminating against others.”

We want Christians to stop calling homosexuality a sin. We want people to understand what kind of damage has been in done in millions and millions of people’s lives. People have not understood how harmful this is, and we want to see the world change.

So how can I be gay, and call myself a Christian?

I cannot tell you how many people have asked me, and are continuing to ask the question, of how to reconcile their faith with who they are as an LGBT person, or in wanting to support people in their lives, that are LGBT.

This is a huge hurdle in our time and culture, and it is one that we must continue to address to see change, although it is not the first hurdle we have had as a people of faith.

So where do I start? I start with what I think is the biggest problem in Western Evangelical Christian culture, today: Worshipping the Bible. I believe one of the biggest mistakes Christians have made throughout history, which has led to most of our troubles, has been worshipping the Bible as much, if not more, than we worship Jesus.

The Bible is beautiful… but the Bible is messy.

A beautiful way to see this big, collection of books, is to understand that it is something put together by different writers, over thousands of years, in different times and places, as they have understood God to move throughout history. There is so much to learn from that. A beautiful way to see the Gospel stories is to see the stories of Jesus, and how people witnessed The Divine move. That is what we have chosen to follow, and put our faith in.

Putting our faith in thinking that something put together hundreds, to thousands of years after each letter was written, or put together, was somehow done by God, inerrant, or infallible, is a terrible way to look at the Bible. In fact, it’s a whole different leap of faith, and different thing to put your faith into, which has nothing to do with what it means to be a Christian. A follower of Jesus.

You have to jump through a lot of hoops to try to pretend that there aren’t contradictions all through the Bible.

You have to jump through a lot of hoops, and take a huge leap of faith, to believe that God wrote every word in the Bible, and put it together the way it was.

But that is how most of us were raised in the church, and it has probably done more to push people away from the church, than anything I can think of. It has been the cause of what has torn apart families, and destroyed so many lives.

I think about what kind of effect it has had on me, and how hard it has been to be able to accept myself.

We probably all know stories, whether it came down to homosexuality, or something else, of how this Bible worship has torn apart friends and family.

I don’t believe that makes it any less beautiful. I actually believe this makes it feel a lot more real. They could have done a lot better job at swaying us against slavery, for or against predestination, etc., if the point was having the Bible be written by God, or without error.

But we have to start there before we are ever going to be able to fully understand why we have had so much trouble accepting LGBT persons in the church, condemning slavery, or believing that women were equal to men. I could go on…

For the sake of this in particular, from here, we will use homosexuality. Having Google as a tool now, anyone who is interested, can find out rather quickly that homosexual wasn’t a word until the late 1800’s.

So why is it that the Bible we were given, that was written thousands of years before that, is telling us that God calls it an abomination.

Starts to get confusing, doesn’t it?

The quick answer is that what those writers were talking about then, is not what we are talking about now, when we talk about committed, loving relationships between 2 people of the same sex.

Jesus never talks about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0octwSCwFFE

But if you were to ask Paul in his time and culture, I don’t know if he would have been for that. I don’t know if he would have understood enough to have had an insightful answer. But I also don’t believe, from his writings, that he understood why slavery was an abomination, or that women were equal to men. I still love Paul. I believe Paul was a huge advocate for the message of Jesus, and I believe we can gain a lot of wisdom from his letters, that we now deem Scripture.

If I would have understood this when I was growing up, I could have understood more about myself, been able to accept myself, and I would have been able to keep from making such a mess of relationships in my life. I truly believe we are hurting people by the toxic theology of condemning same-sex relationships, and I believe we have a chance to change this.

With all of that said, I’m still in love with Jesus. I love the stories of Jesus, and I love putting my faith into believing they are true. There is, of course, no proof. But I hope. I believe. I believe in his message. I believe that loving God and loving your neighbor are the 2 most important commands we have been given. I believe, as Paul said, that in loving your neighbor, you are fulfilling the commandment to love God with everything you have. That is my belief as a gay man, and as a Christian.

Grace & Peace, Trey

Originally posted at TreyPearson.com - Republished with permission.

Can't get enough of Trey Pearson's story? Want to hear some of his awesome music? Click the "play" button below for the latest episode of The #AskSteveAustin Podcast!

Why I Believe Love is Love

It's who you are that counts. Your worship to God is the way you live. A few years ago, I would have ignored, shunned, and been disgusted by the scene that unfolded that night at the gas pump. The journey toward authentic faith became real for me in that moment. The most effective way to destroy prejudice is by sharing tangible love, one opportunity or person at a time. If my Sunday morning song service doesn't match my response to a gay guy at the gas pump, I'm in trouble.

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