My spiritual doppelgänger is (sigh) evangelical

I’m not a resident of Facebook, which means I miss out on 93.72 percent (I did a study and the math… well, no I didn’t. That’s a lie) of everything that is going on with my family and friends. Happily I might add. Note my T-shirt:

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From afar I hear so much drama, strife and angst of Facebook insult and intrigue I remain blissfully unaware of all but 6.28 percent.

But one degree of separation — in that 6.28 percent — I saw an article that I can’t help but think might have been just a little teensy bit intended for me. My brother, a true champ of a brother and genuine friend, couldn’t help but sense the connection when he posted this story about his colleague on Facebook. (Well, in actuality it may have just been because in his job as a Veep at Fuller Seminary he posts everything in the magazine and he never gave me a thought, but I like to believe big brother was thinking of me. I’ll stick with that.)

The point? Is there one now 172 words into this blog? Simply this: I never knew it but my spiritual doppelgänger is an evangelical. She’s also a woman, and she’s also pretty cool in my brief reading of her story, and she’s also a whole lot of other things that frankly remind me of … me (yes, I am one of the cool kids, at least in my own mind). Aside from apparently missing out on my scandals, alcoholism, rehab and general bottoming out, Erin DuFault-Hunter is, like me, a liberal-Catholic-turned Anabapist. She even had an older brother who helped her see the life-changing nature of a relationship with Christ.

We are truly both Generation Xers it seems.

“Given my strong inclination to independence and perhaps even idolatrous desire to be ‘unique’ and authentic, I am not naturally a joiner. After all, I was born in the 60s and now I live in the age of selfies,” she writes.

I can relate to Dufault-Hunter’s admission of her cringing association with some aspects of evangelicalism. I think my evangelical friends believe this is why I am no longer counted among them. It is in part. The brand is so tarnished I see it doing more harm than good.

But like Dufault-Hunter, I can readily admit less noble reasons for my shirking the evangelical label.

“I also hoped I could be hip—rather than merely another religious moralistic freak. At bottom, I often still crave affirmation and belonging more than I want an abundant life that costs me, even if that cost is merely embarrassment,” she writes.

She gets it. I haven’t met my spiritual doppelgänger, but I connect with her story. In some ways I could have been her had I better learned the staying power of discipline doused with a tad more morality. I was accepted to go to Fuller’s doctoral program in 1989, after all.

But as much as I think folks want to think the cringe factor is the obstacle between me and my past evangelicalism, all I can say is I wish it were. My neurotic fixation on feeling misunderstood flares here most. If my objections were just lifestyle things I wouldn’t have them, I’m certain. I had those same objections for years. While an evangelical I felt wholly outside the sweet spot of orthodoxy. I never put good wood on the ball.

Only later, much later, when the fall was so great and the destructive ruin of my life so apparent did I realize that I did not fail despite of my evangelicalism but in part because of it.

Evangelicalism, with all its certitude, fostered a hubris within me that left me unprepared for life’s realities. It’s like the photo on this blog, all neatly headed in one direction, with guide rails to keep you on the “narrow” road, but in the end are we so sure it doesn’t just fall off into an ocean with us all casting about?

Evangelicals don’t think so, at least not how I was taught. It helped set a false standard and helped establish a belief system of morality that proved insufficient when challenged. I don’t blame evangelicalism. Like many schools of thought, it offered a framework.The blame is all mine.

The flaw is not the belief system, but the certitude in which it is expressed. It requires loyalty in the method that I can not adhere to myself, much less pass on to others. That is the rub: to be an evangelical is to in some sense accept the need to evangelize. No thank you.

Here’s the greater rub I think: Can I both cling to a lifesaving exchange with T
he Christ of cross and then not expect everyone else to experience God in the same way?

That guided prayer changed my life because I met a living God who would love me enough to follow me into the gutters of my coming failures. What followed, my introduction into the dogma of evangelicalism is when things slowly ventured down an errant road.

My reading of Scriptures calls us to serve, not sell. When I serve, I find my best me. When I serve, I know God better and see Her interact with others in a way I couldn’t conjure up no matter who hard I’d try.

When Jesus says the wages of sin are death, he means right here, right now. Just look all around you. So my focus is on the here now– on Earth, as it is in Heaven. God seems to have heaven wired. My help is not needed there. I’ll stick to Earth.

We are called to enter into a loving relationship  with the divine. How we do this, I suspect, we will spend this lifetime — a relatively brief glimpse of the life ahead — figuring it out to the best of our humble abilities. I can’t be an evangelical because I can’t offer anything other than love. But I am confident the more I do just that, the more God will fill in the gaps.

Which is why I’m completely OK that my spiritual doppelgänger is an evangelical (albeit a reluctant one, who like it or not is one of us cool kids, I suspect). In fact, I like it. Because in the end we both may be right. Wouldn’t that be great?

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