In addition to semi-regular articles for Earth & Altar, Red Letter Christians, and Faithfully Magazine, I’m working on a book proposal titled Inward Apocalypse: Uncovering a Faith for the Common Good. This book is a memoir meets theological discussion of what is wrong with American Christianity speaking to the question of what do those who leave evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity do when they can’t make sense of their faith but they still want to believe in God and don’t know how to do that any more. I’m using my own story as a back-and-forth conversation with theological insights.
Inward Apocalypse: Uncovering a Faith for the Common Good expands on the ex-evangelical narrative by including concise theological reflection. Inward Apocalypse goes beyond personal experience to excise the heart of what is wrong with American Christianity and point readers towards a faith they can still believe with implications towards building a world where everyone can thrive.
When I was a little girl and was afraid of the dark, I would ask Jesus to come sit on my bed and hold my hand while I fell asleep. I’d lay there with my hand outstretched firmly believing that he was right there in the dark with me. Even as I grew older, I used to believe that God spoke to me directly and cared about all the little details of my life. I would pray for answers to all kinds of things from parking places for class to major life decisions. Somewhere around my first crisis of faith, I stopped doing this. By the time I reached what I could define as a dark night of the soul, I’d stopped praying all together as there didn’t seem to be a point. My prayers felt like they stopped at the ceiling and I no longer had a sense that Jesus was sitting with me in the dark.
And yet God didn’t stop finding ways to get my attention. At least, it seems that way, but I prefer to stay somewhat agnostic about it all. That being said, after having the same conversation with multiple people within a year’s time, I thought maybe something was trying to get my attention.
The conversation goes something like this: “I used to be a Christian. I was raised ______ [fill in the blank with some evangelical to fundamentalist church or tradition]. But I don’t believe any of that anymore.”
Then there’s usually a pause. Sometimes I would murmur something about understanding feeling that way because I’ve been there too. And then the person would turn to me and say something along the lines of “but I wish I could still believe in God, I just don’t know how to do that any more.”
I had a conversation with my friend Alexandra as the first draft of this book was being birthed and she told me that she too was writing a book. And she’d prayed about it, but instead of asking for permission, she’d just said, “Okay God, I’m doing this and I need your help.” She’d listened to a video from Glennon Doyle about how to know when you’re a writer and something clicked. Glennon I’m pretty sure would say that Alexandra had found her knowing. And see, I think that the knowing is God.
If we are created in God’s image, then learning to listen to our knowing is learning to listen to God and we can trust that.
This will probably set off some inner speech for folks because it’s directly opposite to what we–especially women–have been taught for most of our lives by the church and by society, but it’s the wounds of the church in this regard that often hurt the most.
But if you’re up for the task of learning to question everything and then probably question it all again, I’ll tell you the tale of my two crises of faith, three dark nights of the soul, and finding a faith I could still believe in on the other side. And more than a faith that I could believe for myself, the faith I came back to is a faith for the common good: a faith that points to total thriving and well-being for everyone and how we can build that world together, a concept Lisa Sharon Harper calls the very good gospel.
My hope is along the way you’ll start to tell your own story as well because our stories have so much power in them. Perhaps you’re already there and that’s why you picked up this book: your questions and doubts have built to a crescendo and refuse to be ignored. It’s dark; it’s scary; and it seems endless right now. However, I am firmly convinced the way to freedom lies in peeling back all the layers of bad theology and finding what it means to pursue God’s shalom.
Ready? Here we go.