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I’m Done with the Evangelical Church

March 27th, 2014 | Posted by Lana Hope in Fundamental/Evangelical | Missions | Politics | Progressive Christianity

One of my favorite bloggers, Benjamin at Formerly Fundie (note: best blog on patheos), wrote a piece called The Day Evangelicalism Died. As most of you know from the news, earlier this week when the Christian relief organization World Vision announced that they would hire gay Christians to work for them, the internet exploded with negative comments, and over 2000 people dropped their sponsorship of children overseas. The evangelical church went mad, sending out emails to their congregations, and posting nasty comments on the Internet. Because of the bullying, World Vision took back their stance.

And somehow I agree with Benjamin. This is the end of the evangelical church as we know it.

I have really tried to make this relationship with evangelicals work. See, unlike many progressives, I have tried to offer grace to the evangelical church. There’s many reasons for this. Some of this is I just have a lot of mercy. I’ve seen that I don’t know it all, and I don’t expect evangelicals to know it all either. I also value peace. Those who peacefully disagree with me, I will peacefully disagree back. That was why I was excited to see World Vision agree that gays could work for them. WV said they valued peaceful disagreements, and the evangelicals and progressives could actually work together to offer relief to children in other countries.

Another reason I have patience with evangelicals is that I do missions work. I’ve been in grad school the last six months, and I’ve got another semester of classes and a thesis before I’m finished. But I’m far from finished with missions. And I kind of need the church to work with me. I can get by without financial supporters.

But I need the evangelicals on the field. We need each other. We need to share rides to the refugee camps; we need to do outreaches together. We need to work together to make homeschooling and education better for our missionary kids. We need each other when we get lonely, and we need to discuss what works and does not work. And quite frankly, I cannot avoid them. When I lived in Asia, my foster kids socialized with the missionary kids in our village/neighborhood. We went swimming and bumped into missionary kids. We went out to eat and ran into missionaries.

I could not have survived three years on the field alone. Here are two things most people don’t know about missionaries. First, its exotic and fun and that we have it better than most people in the  world (or so is our opinion). Secondly, the stress level is high, high, high. The humidity most days is 80% , the weather over 90 degrees, and we have no AC in our homes. The kids need a lot of love and attention (which is fine, but draining), and we feel isolated from North America. Holidays pass, and we will not know it. Re: One time we gathered for worship, and one missionary asked what holiday it was. We looked at each other and said, “I don’t know. Is it Easter?”

And that’s why I’ve sought to get along with evangelicals. I need their fellowship and their support. We don’t exist in a bubble, and when it comes to daily life, what goes on in twitter offers little support. When I’m back in Asia, I’ll be 15 hours ahead of my friends in North West Canada, I’ll be eating street food, and twitter debates about city and government regulations will be out of my reach because I’ll be living in a country where regulations either don’t exist or are not enforced. Instead of reading stories of kids who were abused on the internet, I’ll be driving past the exploited child selling flowers in the hot heat, and as  happened before, I’ll need to run straight to church to get prayer  after I see a dead person laying in the street.

But, after what happened with World Vision, my soul dropped, and I can’t go forward. I can’t do this hate group anymore. I cannot work with them. It’s over.

Somebody within the evangelical tribe needs to wake the evangelical church up to the reality that we have a hate problem. Sometimes I get comments from my readers who say that homophobia is not real. “Nobody is scared of gays,” they say. But evidence shows to the contrary.

The evangelical church drew hard lines in the sand. They not only said that they do not think gays should work for a Christian umbrella organization, but they also said that LGBTQ equality is not a matter of doctrinal difference. It’s a matter of the gospel to them. In essence, what the evangelical church said was this: if you are a Christian who affirms LGBTQ equality, we don’t want you apart of our tribe.

And that is why I am finished. I’m tired of fighting for a place at the table, and quite frankly, I’m not sure I want to be at that table anymore.

My heart is still in Asia, but God will have to find another community to replace what I’ve lost.  I don’t know where that will be. I admit, I’m lonely, and scared shit. But I will say this, I’m not completely alone in the missions world. Marilyn at A Life Overseas wrote a great story about her daughter asking about the salvation of a close family friend. And Jamie the Very Worst Missionary gets it. And Laura Parker at a Life Overseas also gets it.

My hope is that progressive Christianity grows on the missions field. I hope that one day, there will be this new vib there – that it won’t be all evangelical. And I hope that I will get to be one of those voices. I hope eventually people beyond just homeschoolers and ex-fundies will notice my writing, and offer me a platform in the missions world, and I hope one day you will find my book and missions story on the self of a book store, with my full name on it!

As Benjamin said, unfortunately the music has died, but maybe the bells are ringing in other places. Maybe they are ringing on our blogs, and in underground churches, and in refugee camps. Maybe they are ringinging on the plains and in the jungles and in the slums.

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20 Responses

  • Ahab says:

    I hope that someday, World Vision recognizes its cowardice and makes amends for its homophobic mistake. Until that day, until it recognizes that it must resist bigotry while fighting poverty, it will alienate believers.

    • Lana Hope says:

      And it’s absurd. Part of poverty is bigotry. Think of all the homeless gay teens, and I can guarantee that there are kids in other countries living on the streets for the same reasons. I am not saying WV does not take care of gay kids, but just the absurity of it all.

    • sgl says:

      you might read this bit of insiders info:
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2014/03/27/lets-talk-about-what-happened-yesterday-at-world-vision/

      personally, i don’t think world vision is at fault. “principles” are things that people with options have. they didn’t have too many good options.

      according to the above link, they started the changing their policy due to change in washington state law, and weren’t planning on making a big deal about it, until they were ‘outed’ so to speak, to christianity today magazine. so they gave an exclusive interview, which they got slammed by, and a bunch of big donors behind the scenes called them on the carpet for changing, and threatened to stop supporting them. real food in real bellies was/is at stake.

      so i don’t think it’s fair to call them cowardly. they knew and know exactly what’s at stake. think of solomon threatening to cut the baby in half — the real mother is going to abandon “principle”/ownership and be a realist and keep the baby alive by giving the baby to the other mother.

      • I have to agree with you, sgl. It seems like they were making the best of a bad situation.

      • Lana Hope says:

        SGL,

        Not arguing with you because you are right that they backed down because of money. But I hate the power that large donors and financial founders have over an organization.I’ve had in the back of my mind for the longest time to found a center that combines animal rescue in Asia with a mentor program for troubled teens/teens rescued from the sex industry . . animals provide good therapy. But it would require donars, and before long, I’d lose the effect I was trying to do. But of course, we are human and I’m sure no chairty program is built without humans.

        • sgl says:

          well, it’s also true that a few large donors that are more progressive could support an organization even when the majority of small donors does not.

          in this case, the story is still playing out. there’s the potential for many conservatives to still leave and not come back. and there’s the potential for many progressives to leave and not come back. and there’s the potential for many highly trained personnel at world vision to leave and not come back too. meanwhile, conservatives and progressives that leave will sometimes (hopefully often) be moving the same money to another charity doing similar work. so at the margin, more conservative and more progressive charities will grow slightly.

          seems to me that the trend is definitely towards more equality. and despite a few rearguard skirmishes like duck dynasty and chick-fil-a, it looks like it’ll happen. while there’s a brief flurry of support, i don’t know how much longevity it all has. i doubt they’re getting too many new converts to their bigotry, and they’re continually losing some at the margin, and people losing the energy to fight publicly for their bigotry even if they are still personally bigoted, because they’re starting to get public ridicule and resistance to their views, which were mainstream a decade or so ago.

          but you’re right, at the end of the day, every charity, every business, needs a pool of people that support the organization as employees, donors, customers, vendors, etc. and when your base of supports isn’t unified behind some action you take, you’re going to take a hit. human nature.

          and this is why it’s really hard to change organizations, and why very often they don’t change, they just get replaced by something new that grows up. the entrenched interests at any organization will fight to maintain their privilege, and various stakeholders at the margin will shift their support to other organizations instead.

          and historically, i think we (the US and western countries) are going thru a whole bunch of turbulence right now. gay marriage, peak oil, too-big-to-fail banks, political parties owned by vested interests, etc etc. most groups are going to be scrambling to maintain their privilege, not doing what’s right in the face of new challenges. i suspect it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

          • Lana Hope says:

            Do you think it’s changing in the evangelical Christian world? It’s harder for me to tell because I am from the south where it’s very conservative. But it seems to me that it’s not changing – that chickfilla is the majority of evangelicals. I do think in 40 years time when the baby boomers are no longer around, or in their last years, that it may shift with the evangelicals, but I’m not sure we are anywhere near that. After all, the evangelicals have not stepped down on their fight for abortion. (And I can understand why one would still believe it is wrong to have an abortion; however, there is a place to not fight it at the government level and instead focus on helping women, etc. And evangelicals have not gotten to that point yet.)

          • sgl says:

            re: changing in evangelical world?

            not entirely sure. however, i think i’ve seen stats that show that for the under 30 age group of the usa, the majority support gay marriage. support among baby boomers and gen x have risen about 5-10% over the last decade. so the real sea change in the country has been among the young. also, 50-70% of kids stop attending church about college age, and only about 1/2 come back when they start having kids. not sure which denominations they go back to, ie, the same one or a different one. and the support by the under 30 age doesn’t appear to be abstract, it appears to be because they personally know people who are gay, and they are friends with them and like them. so, i strongly suspect that it’s a done deal, altho exactly how long it takes to come to full fruition i don’t know.

            re: abortion and evangelicals

            i’m a cynic. i think the politicians are playing the evangelicals, and have been for 40 years. the republicans have had had numerous chances to do something about abortion, and the most they did was impose gag rule here and there. but every election cycle, the republicans get their base all riled up as if this is the election that is absolutely must-win, or the devil himself will take over. and it keeps working, so they keep doing it. in the last election, my sense was that the public was quite turned-off by the whole deal, until that yahoo republican made his “legitimate rape” comment, and then the bases of both parties went ape-shit, acting as if this was a critical election for their side. keeps everyone from focusing on real issues, and gets them emotionally charged so they don’t pay attention. theatre and propaganda, nothing more.

            but all this is hard to predict, because i think we’re heading into “a shitstorm of epic proportions.” with massive changes in politics, economics, and social structure. on the scale of the great depression and WWII. on the scale of the american civil war. on the scale of the american revolution. my view of this is due to multiple sources using different techniques from different backgrounds all point to similar conclusions.

            eg, in economics, during the great depression, the soviet economist Kondratieff observed that capitalist economies move thru semi-predictable waves, every 50-70 years or so, but they recover, and he was banished to siberia for his insights. people that follow his theories say we’re in a Kondratieff winter phase now, that just started.

            or the book fourth turning, written by two sociologists (?) in 1998, predicted that a major crisis would occur beginning about 2008. they based their work on reading the letters of people written during the earlier generational turnings, and recoginizing similar patterns occur about every 60-80 years. haven’t read the book, but you can get the gist of their theory from the summaries and excerpts at their web site: http://www.fourthturning.com/

            also, there’s others, like orlov, the russian guy, who observed the collapse of russian in 1989, and observes many of the same signs of collapse in the usa today.

            what seems to happen is, all the stresses and tension in society that aren’t resolved build up, and are papered over with a growing economy, until suddenly all those stresses fracture and all hell breaks lose, and everything begins to change very rapidly at once, with the exact outcome very difficult to predict, since it becomes non-linear at that time.

            but you can already see the outlines of the fault lines. within the usa, we have racial factures, political fractures, economic fractures, religious fractures, etc.

            and worldwide, we have some pretty severe stresses also. you can see that the usa has been supporting japan poking at china over the last several years. and the usa has been poking at russia as well, including the usa supporting the folks that started the revolution in georgia, and more recently the usa ambassador phone call re: ukraine overthrow.

            also, the usa supported many of the upstarts in the arab spring, yet at the same time supported the repression of any uprisings in the arab countries that do what we want, such as saudi arabia.

            you can also see it in the bailouts of greece, ireland, spain, etc, which we you really look at what’s going on, it’s paying off the german and french banks that made poor loan decisions by making the greek and irish and spanish citizens take on the debt, and suffer from austerity.

            also, the cyprus bank “bail-in”, where depositors lost a lot of money, was done by the international bankers to screw over the many russians who had deposits there. however, many of the politically connected big players withdrew their money in the couple weeks before the bail-in was done.

            meanwhile, we also have peak oil, where oil production peaked about 2005, and is declining in many major fields. mexico’s biggest field, cattarell (sp?), has been declining about 10% per year, with a significant impact on mexico’s gov’t revenue, which will eventually cause further problems with the gov’t there, and likely have spillover issues with the usa, since we have so many mexican immigrants, and when the economy there sufferes we get new waves of immigrants, and the social tensions that come from that.

            the usa has 5% of the worlds population, but uses almost 25% of it’s energy. we’ve spent the last 50 years building out suburbia, and mortgage securities based on suburban homes, and a stock market based on big-box retailers, and a pension system dependent on an ever-rising stock market, all utterly dependent on cheap oil to work. reducing oil consumption by rebuilding public transit, stores and offices closer to people’s homes, and rebuilding a rail system instead of interstate hiways and airports, will take a massive amount of capital that simply isn’t there.

            also, city, state, and local gov’ts have not fully accounted for their pension obligations, so they have all reserved too little money. furthermore, their assumptions of stock market returns are grossly too high and are virtually impossible to meet, so they’ll be even further underfunded in the future. the stock market has “gone nowhere in a very interesting way” for the last 15 years, and that will likly continue for another 5-10 years at least, perhaps longer. and social security funds have been used for general gov’t uses, and the economy simply can’t pay out on it’s promises.

            so, the system is being primed for a hard reset, one way or another. predicting problems, tension, chaos, etc, is pretty easy. predicting exactly what the world looks like on the other side, ~20 years from now, in a semi-stable state, is a much much harder task.

            i’d say there’s a pretty good chance of world war 3, a pretty good chance that one of the major political parties in the usa disappears, and way too high of a chance than i’m comfortable with that a demogog like hitler comes to power while the other parties fiddle over minutia.

            domestically, every different group hold some other group as the scapegoat, which will likely play out in political rhetoric and public riots and such. often, the moderates in the middle are the first to go, as they get attacked by both extremes. and the politicians seem bent on starting world war 3, and blaming the problems on foriegn powers.

            so, within all this change, i suspect that fundamentalism has mostly painted itself into a corner and has run it’s course, but that’s as much hope as analysis. it all depends on what sort of decisions millions of people make, in terms of which people/groups they identify with, and which politicians they support, etc. since these changes aren’t linear, it’s hard to say. and these minor groups tend to become extremely loud once the moderates leave, only the hard-core believers are left, and they’re desparate to hold onto some scrap of power. but that’s just one strand of a very complex and messy landscape that i think we’re going to see over the next 20 years, a process that we’re only about 5 years into (since the financial crisis started it all off.)

            well, enough of my cheery optimism ;)

          • Lana Hope says:

            Yea, I try to stay more optimistic than that, probably because I grew up with a lot of conspiracy. But I’m not necessarily arguing with you. I think most people under 30 are for LGBTQ equality, Christians or atheist, and I think a lot of atheist incorrectly characterize this as a exculsively Christian issue. There are a lot of baby boomer non-religious people against equality, including some of my extended relatives. But I’m still not sure the evangelical church will change. I am not sure what will happen to those of us in our 20s. Will we never go back, or will we regroup and start another movement? Stats have snown that have of gen-x went back when they had kids Gen-Y’s kids are still by and large pretty little. So we will see.

          • sgl says:

            re: “But I’m still not sure the evangelical church will change.”

            i guess my general comments were about gay marriage becoming legal, rather than specifically how it’s viewed in the evangelical church.

            as you saw where you grew up, even tho racism is illegal, you still saw racism when that preacher told the black couple at the revival to leave, and no white people said anything.

            and historically black churches are still against gay marriage. can’t remember what hispanics think about it, but i don’t think they’ve changed their views much either.

            so i suspect that gay marriage will become legal, and it will be harder and harder for evangelicals to publicly state their views, and harder for them to legally discriminate in their organizations. there will be a few holdouts, and more organizations will give up the fight and mutter under their breath, or discriminate in more subtle ways to make gays unwelcome.

            but also, i think evangelical organizations will shrink, not just to this issue, but for a variety of reasons. i suspect they’ve done all the growing they can do over the last 30 years, and converted all the people likely to agree with them, and now their facing a backlash from the public, and the young leaving in droves. so i think the 20-30-somethings will end up somewhere else. maybe the “emergent” church, or maybe some other movement out there. maybe they’ll even go back to mainline churches.

            so, while legality will likely occur first, social acceptance will probably lag a couple more decades. similar for how divorce was viewed, or racism, and how they’ve changed over the last 50 years. there will be various organizations leading the change, and others that lag way way behind.

            so i suspect the 20-30 year old will be the trendsetters on this. watch where they go, and that’s where the new growth is likely to be. and they’re the ones having kids, so that’s where the growth is going to be. the evangelicals will either adapt or die, based on what the young’uns do.

  • anonymous says:

    Lana,
    My husband’s favorite aunt spent decades overseas as a nurse for CARE. She left Afghanistan at 73 only because she had to–the Soviets had invaded and all Americans were evacuated. You can do God’s work–being the hands of Jesus–through a secular organization very well and you can find support for your work in wonderful people who don’t identify as evangelical Christians.

  • Well said. *standing applause.*

  • Totally agree. I thought I could be evangelical and maybe I disagree with others about some things but it’s okay, we’ll peacefully discuss them and accept each other’s differences. Now I see there’s none of that to be had.

    Just curious- I’ve seen a few blogs that said 2000 people cancelled their child sponsorships- where are people getting that number from? I keep hoping it’s not true. :(

  • I think the thing that hurt the most with this was that I’ve never rejected the evangelical church, but this episode made it clear that the evangelical church has rejected me. It’s like a resounding confirmation that if people had known who I really am, all of me, when I was a missionary, I would have been soundly rejected because none of what I did could ever be good enough. That hurts.

    I had hope for the evangelical church, that it could change, that there would be a place for me, but I’m tired of fighting.

  • Pingback: We Did Not Reject the Church; the Church Rejected Us | Wide Open Ground




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