Coming Out of the Evangelical Closet

HidingI’m sorry; I just forget.

I run with a lot of free thinkers and I forget what a lot of you are going through in your churches. But the recent, ridiculous Gungor flap has brought it all back home to me.

For those who don’t know, Dove-award winning Christian artists Michael and Lisa Gungor made the mistake of sharing their inability to take all the Bible’s stories literally—and they’re paying the price. The instant backlash has been deafening and vehement; venues and promoters have been dropping their concerts like they’ve converted to Islam.

I forgot about the high cost associated with transparency and honesty—even though I just wrote about this issue less than eight months ago in a post titled Christianity and the Spiral of Silence.

The evangelical closet is enormous, deep, and full of people struggling with biblical inerrancy and various doctrinal issues—but a lot of them are afraid to say anything. Too often there is a litmus test that isn’t about loving God or loving others, but it’s about views on creation, gay marriage, how literally you take the story of Noah’s Ark, etc. Because honesty often equals isolation, these closeted individuals are afraid to be open about their struggles.

What’s incredibly heartbreaking is that they have no idea that they’re not alone. This dark closet is packed with family and friends who feel the same way.

I just wanted to write a message to those who struggle and to the fundamentalists.

To the fundamentalist

I have no desire to argue with you about what is or is not true. I love you and spent many years, just like you, believing and encouraging others to believe that the Bible was 100% literally true. I’ve been where you are, and I get it.

So this isn’t about changing your beliefs. I don’t know any struggling with biblical inerrancy who are trying to convert others. They’re too busy sorting out what they believe.

Please make community a safe place for people to work through what they believe. And I don’t mean to just back off and give them a certain amount of time come around and tow the party line. I mean support them, even when you don’t understand them.

I talk to the people in your churches all the time, and trust me . . . you have no idea how many people are struggling. They won’t tell you because they don’t trust you.

Think about it like this: A husband may be able to intimidate his wife into agreeing with him, but he hasn’t won her heart. Unbeknownst to him, she has developed a secret internal life that he knows nothing about—and she resents him. He may win the battle by forcing her to tacitly and quietly agree, but he is losing the war, and quite possible her.

Because you draw a straight line from believing in a six-day creation to believing the Bible at all, you are forcing an all-or-nothing, zero-sum game. Do you understand what I’m saying?

It’s your rigidity that’s costing people their faith because you have created a game of biblical Jenga where the whole of a person’s faith hinges on the correct placement of every piece.

This doesn’t have to be a slippery slope argument. I understand that it may be for you, but you don’t have to project that upon others.

Please, I beg you, please lighten up. It’s pretty likely that someone can believe in, be redeemed by, and follow Jesus without believing in the Tower of Babel.

To those who struggle

I know it’s hard. I remember sharing with my wife that I just couldn’t believe certain things anymore, and it was incredibly difficult. At the time, she saw it as a betrayal of my marriage vows.

But this could be your spouse, kids, co-workers, pastor, people in your small group . . . admitting that your system of belief is evolving is hard and it can feel like you’re taking a beating every time you share your deepest feelings with others.

I have seen Christians cut off friends and family for the most benign admission of doubt.

Whatever you do, don’t go along to get along. I know it’s hard, but don’t fake it to fit. Life’s too short to walk around feeling like a phony. And I know to many people who have started down that road and walked away from the church entirely because it gets too hard to fake.

The other people in the closet need your courage. They need to see that there is transcendent life on the other side of their disbelief. Model transparency at all costs.

You’ll be surprised how many will understand where you’re coming from. And I can promise you, there is a more exciting and fulfilling experience of Christ when you entertain your doubts and give them a voice.

For the sake of those who have struggled like you do, please leave a comment and share some encouragement!


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