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.