This post was triggered by this outstanding paragraph by Frank Schaeffer, son of one of the most famous evangelicals of the 20th century. In other words, the big guys said it. So did my family.
I grew up in a reformed Calvinist missionary household where the dirtiest word in the English language was “compromise.” The Schaeffer family was a holy nation of six—Mom, Dad my three sisters and me. We and we alone stood for truth. Dad had left several denominations over issues of theological compromise. In the 1980s one of my brothers in law, who had given his life to Dad’s ministry of L’Abri Fellowship, was forbidden to teach in the work any longer because his view of the Bible was no longer trusted as sufficiently in favor of an “inerrant” Word of God. Dad was willing to push out his favorite and most liked son in law to avoid theological compromise.
As a kid I was taught the no compromise paradigm. If there’s one set of belief’s that almost wrecked my life forever, it’s this one. I was taught that faith would be diluted if I compromised. Compromise looked like this.
Joe watches TV. Lana does not watch TV. If Lana marries Joe, she has compromised.
Truth is, I hate the idiot box, but I don’t think it’s some cardinal sin to marry TV-box-er. Maybe naive, though, I dunno.
The list of non-compromisers was insanely long. It also counted for everything in life from friendships to the church to personal habits. Wearing a skirt that goes to the knees? You are compromising your own dang standards.
I can remember reading the wisdom booklets (just our fundie curriculum) as a family, about how whole businesses would crashed because owners compromised. God wouldn’t bless us when we compromised our moral standard in order to succeed.
You might say sometimes God does tell us not to compromise. Example, maybe you are selling alcohol in your store, realized some folks are about beating their wives over it, and stop selling it as a result. Fair enough.
But this is called integrity. I believe in integrity. I don’t believe in lines on the sand about everything.
As I said, I about lost my insanity forever over the no-compromise crap.
I was 19, a pianist at a reformed Calvinist church. We had an issue between a couple of people over whether or not oneness Pentecostals go to heaven or hell. One guy said they did. My friend said they could not since they don’t believe in the Trinity. We ended up battling it out, I left the church, and sent an email out to the whole dang church about the whole compromise. “Pastor is compromising the Trinity because of one financial giver.” I said.
You might think I’m the most heartless person on the face of the planet. Basically I was. I was taught to be heartless. It was my JOB as a SOLDIER for Christ to be heartless. We are rescuing the gospels. We are protecting it. Don’t compromise, ever.
(Yes, I thought I had protected the gospel. I wanted to vomit over being a jerk, but I had to be that jerk because Jesus called me to be one.)
That wasn’t the only time I threw out the non-compromise crap. It was the worse, though. After that, I broke down. I did not go back to church the rest of my university years and let my head clear of all the crap. I watched the rest of my fundamental peers make a laughing fool of themselves in front of the other university students, but I stayed out.
One day I sat in the music hall with one of my long-skirts-don’t-cut-girls-hair-ever homeschool friends from childhood. She had seen one of my blog posts where I was disgruntled at the church and her mom sent me a xanga message begging me to go to her daughters church. I did, it had made me about vomit (a brethren church, one of those where her grandma can’t request a song, but her four-year old brother can).
So there we were together in the music hall. “What did you think?” she pried. And then the next moment…..
“Lana, all the churches in America are compromising. The Bible says women can’t speak in church. That means don’t speak ever, ever. The reason you don’t like church is because they have compromised.”
For a moment, I’m not gonna lie, what she said made sense to me. The problem with the church was it had compromised. It was a duh moment, but not enough to convince me into a church that made we put a veil on my head while we prayed.
Then we all did travel study in Europe. I don’t know what I did. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t have sex. I didn’t even date. But my friend was beyond disappointed in me. I didn’t hold up the faith. I sat there and watched a friend drink. I didn’t obey all the rules. My friend had a different standard for me. She was cool with the others slipping, but she wanted me to hold strong.
I was too weary to hold strong.
That was the last time we were friends. My crime was that I failed to be that warrior for God. This time I didn’t stop the piano and send out an email. I was a failure.
Yet I still had not fully learned my lesson. I still thought there had to be a list of nonnegotiables worth defending. This is how I approached marriage candidates as you will.
Low and beyond, now I’m the one who has compromised the gospel. Now I know what it feels like to be the outsider. People don’t understand this. Nobody asked me crap if I wanted to stop believing in hell or the inerrant word of God. It was slapped in my face. When I meet atheists who tell me, “I didn’t want to stop believing. But my Santa Clause faith just stopped,” I want to scream on the roof top, “Heck, I believe you in my utmost DNA.”
But alas, none of this matters to a fundie. The fact is I compromised my faith. “Lana doesn’t believe in the same Jesus I do,” I hear from a friend of a friend. Or I hear gossip about my sister or whatever. And I just want to beat my heart against the wall. It hurts like hell.
It’s like look, I still believe Jesus is God, that he rose from the dead, yada, yada, but I compromised the dang gospel.
Now I do believe oneness Pentecostals go to heaven, ya know?
You might think I’m a silly person just complaining over the internet about my old community who thinks I’m going to hell. Who cares what the dang community thinks, right? Well, that does hurt. It hurts a ton. But I could live with that.
But you know what sucks? I will never be accepted again by evangelicals because of two stupid beliefs, one on hell and the other on whether or not Mark got all his facts straight. This means I can never join missionary blog groups or missionary support groups because bad missionaries compromise the Bible. This means I can never teach Sunday school in the church because bad Christians think a fact is wrong in the Bible. This means I can never get backing from my old church again because I’m a bad Christian now.
This means every time I visit a church, I have two options, put on a pretend face, or spill out the beans. You might say, “go to another church.” But what if this church is down the road, or if it has a better graduate student ministries than any other church (<–I’m facing right this second), or what if I’m more comfortable here than say, in an Eastern Orthodox.
A couple of weeks ago pastor preached a sermon. He said everyone was welcome, even doubters and atheists. I was still waiting to hear what he said about gays (I had already found out they had women pastors). But then he put up this graph. It was a linear line of baby/immature Christians on one end, and mature and leader Christians on the other. And I almost ran out of the building and straight to therapy. I seriously thought we were past the enlightenment age.
Basically the implication was because I’m a doubter – and God knows I doubt well – I’m immature. That sucks. Thank God for Kierkegaard who criticized those folks for keeping their head in the clouds and not throwing themselves into the struggle. I’m not one to criticize them. If your faith is all rational, go for it. But there is also something to be said to those who throw themselves into the struggle, don’t have all the answers, question God to death, and like Jacob, come out with a broken limb. In the Bible God rewards those kinds of people, and he never calls them immature.
Now you might say people in church are allowed to ask questions. The best way I know how to explain this is what Foucault says. Basically a system allows for some change, and indeed, the system demands some change, but especially so, it’s already decided what it will allow in and spit out. Questions make the church sound smart. Ask the right ones, and you will be on their team. Ask the wrong ones, and you will either be spit out, or you will be welcomed as an immature Christian.
Thankfully the next generation is going to compromise over our split souls. The rest of the folks are going to continue to complain. And I’ll make it back to Asia, I’ll continue to support the evangelical outreaches, and stand on the outside. I’ll love my neighbor hard, and that will be enough.
But if you are reading this, gosh, I beg you, don’t be the jerk I used to be. It’s just wrong. God needs people who love a heck of a lot more than he needs an army to protect the gospel. God can handle the gospel, but if we don’t love well, we will tear down the church with our own dang hands. Then we will be standing on the sidelines while everyone mocks us for pointing fingers at millennials.
As I said, I shudder at those I hurt. I did apologize to the old church a long time ago, and they forgave me and understood my incredible indoctrination. Thankfully, I don’t think they’ve found this blog because I ran into the pastor and family last summer, and they thought I was a good Christian.