It’s late and I can’t sleep — another week in mid-2020, so it’s the ideal time to write about how I feel about the state of the world in this little blog I’ve called Deliver Us From Bad Theology. I put these words together early last year, while in deep concern for not only North America, but all of the world, that identifies as adherents of Christianity. A bold name for a column, book and organization. Overachieving on that last word? Perhaps.
While deciding during this winter to bring these 5 words into the light of public viewing, I knew full well I would be opening myself up for scrutiny, criticism, ridicule, attempted rebuking (so far, I am decently buffering) and finger pointing. ‘Who does she think she is? Who made her the expert in theological interpretation? Why would I listen to what she has to say?’ Please note, that part of what I am saying in the title, is the “Us”. I need to be delivered from bad theology, just like everyone else does. This brief study in looking at good theology vs bad theology is very purposeful for me to discuss, since I feel it’s significant to explain why I’m doing any of this. It may produce a few headaches, but deliverance is messy work. Furthermore, I hope to convey what I believe needs to happen — for restoration amongst so many broken individuals I see everyday, as their souls are opening up on social media platforms and other social distancing mediums.
During my last year of high school in the late 80s, I was intending on moving away from home to attend a Bible college. For me, it was the closest I knew to a place on earth being the “promised land” (Humble brag: I’d been in the actual promised land of Israel, touring the holy sites while on a junior high school trip 4 years earlier). Still, the brochures and promotional materials about Eastern Pentecostal Bible College were the biggest draw for me …. my promised land. All the cool future pastors I knew went there and naturally, that was where I wanted to go, too.
I wasn’t interested in going to university for general studies or in pursuing a career that didn’t involve reaching the lost (people who didn’t know Jesus). “Reach the lost, at any cost!” The day of salvation was at hand! I needed to participate in bringing in the harvest, because I felt called. That sense of being ‘called’ is a powerful, gripping, dutiful awareness. I felt like God’s daughter, ready to help raise up an army for the kingdom of God. My youth group was called C.A.’s (Christ’s Ambassadors) and I was a leader, ready for the front lines of ministry — (deep pause) — until I wasn’t. Shockingly, I became the dreaded word I’d heard hundreds of times: a backslider.
How could this have happened to this zealous, extroverted, on-fire-for God teenager?! There had been a gradual shift happening in my sheltered existence, while I was making new friends at my part time grocery store job. That was the culprit — exposure to the world! I was to be in the world, but not of it. Yet, the 18 year old version of me was feeling tired of the sheltered life. I began rejecting my persona as the good church girl from the Christian school, who didn’t party like everyone else did. Even though I always loved secular music, it was frowned on (I especially enjoyed new wave, anything from U2, Bowie, and knew everything about the charts on American Top 40). Yet, we had our own version of popular music — CCM! Christian Contemporary Music was everywhere in my circles, except amongst the people at my place of employment.
I still remember the first night I went out after work, to a club. I felt so out of place, like I’d wandered onto a bizarro-world film set. So much loud, pulsating electronic dance music, brightly coloured lights, cigarette smoking in the too-close air (not by me, thankfully I didn’t pick up the habit), unintentionally rubbing up against alcoholic bingers, late night street meat, etc. Such were the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the infamous George Street in St. John’s, late 80s — early 90s. To be honest, I still have really fond memories of that time and location, yet for many years I thought I needed to despise everything about that stage of my life. I was away from God, after all, “piercing myself with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:11b), living amongst the depraved, ungodly youth of my city for 3 years. The most impressionable memories remain with me, good and bad.
Fast forward — at 22 years of age, I was once again captivated by the dream of leaving my home province to relocate to Ontario (the mainland!). I was heading back into loving-the-bible territory, where I now had recent misadventures as a backslider. A soul-firing conversion happened at the beginning of 1993 and once again, I was saved. (I apologize if some of the terminology seems hard to follow, such as “saved”, “harvest”, “conversion”, “backslider”, etc. Easily understandable words for everyone with a similar upbringing as mine, however.) Within days after renewing my salvation, I had an EPBC application in my hands again and this time, I filled it out (including admitting things that made my candidacy for ministry training less appealing), was able to get a referral from my family’s senior pastor and a few weeks later, got my acceptance letter. I was unstoppable and definitely running the race.
During my 4 years of theological study, I made great friendships, participated in outreach missions, prepared sermons (and preached a few of them, poorly), sang a lot (solos, ensembles, choir and took 3 semesters of vocal training), prayed with petitions and supplications, tried to follow the college rules (often failing spectacularly) and wept often. So many reasons for tears, while preparing for a life of demonstrating principles and piety. Yet, I didn’t follow through with my pastoral goals. Instead, I graduated and settled for employment opportunities that had nothing to do with the profession of my dreams. I was getting married to a worship leader with great pastoral giftings. I assumed I didn’t need to develop my own calling anymore because I was a helpmate, a cheerleader, and was ready to submit as a good Christian wife, should. While other friends either pursued masters degrees at seminaries, took local church jobs or went overseas on important (yet dangerous) missionary work, I was just …. me. My inspiration for full-time ministry was still there, but it was wrapped up in my significant relationship. As time went on, my unfulfilled passion for pastoral work, essentially became dormant. I entered the stage of motherhood at age 29, which quickly became the most rewarding experience of my life. 3 more children were added to my collection and the joys of parenting became my redirected focus. I was living the mommy dream.
There were unfortunate situations in my marriage that I am not in a position to speak of, however, that led to a lengthy separation and divorce process. I emerged from that season of life, emotionally and spiritually wounded. I was described as a “shell of my former self” and I cannot disagree. Despite visiting with multiple therapists and counsellors, I lacked all the vitality from the age of 22, when I was previously ready to begin my new life as an enthusiastic preacher-girl. Instead of healing properly from my broken marriage, I started a new one. More therapists and counsellors followed. Marriage #2 didn’t really thrive, due to incompatibilities, numerous sorrows and personal baggage. It all makes complete sense now, but I had to contend with more heartache, loss, feeling like a failure, losing more time with my children, more consequences for making decisions that ultimately were more harmful than helpful, etc. After running on empty for a lengthy period, I sank into a deep depression, almost losing my life.
One big reason why I held on during my darkest days and nights of the soul (besides needing to keep going for my children), was that I still felt like God was watching over me, and even calling out to me. I somehow maintained a deep reverence and appreciation for my salvation, even when my heart was bruised and I was barely surviving in the midst of situational ruins. While the life was being sucked out of me and I wondered if I had become more of a liability than an asset to my family, I felt something new was coming alive in my spirit. I was being warmed on the inside — essentially thawing out. There were factors contributing to this much needed upswing, such as finding appropriate, spiritually uplifting reading material, inspiring podcasts, self-help YouTube videos, dismantling toxic beliefs, etc.
That last example of a factor in my gradual rejuvenation, involved shedding ideas that were not at all doctrinally correct. This brings me back to the title I chose for my blog. Theology has always been in my life, in different capacities. Educated in the church and at my Christian school, I heard about God everyday. I didn’t doubt that God loved me (even during my darkest times) and never expressed disbelief in the existence of a loving Creator. Most of the songs and hymns we sang in church made reference to heaven and the rapture (which was imminent, to my listening ears). There was always the possibility that Jesus could come back today / tomorrow / later that year…. yet, despite all the emotional pleas, “Lord, please come soon!” was a sentiment I’d heard often. It isn’t wrong to believe in eschatology, but being consumed by it can affect your present life in such a way that it can reduce a person’s aspirations into “no earthly good”, as the saying goes.
My youthful years turned into young adult seasons and now I’m still claiming midlife (despite the half century number coming for me soon). The desire to minister is currently white-hot in my soul. It feels like the awakening I’ve needed since I was half my current age. This is primarily why I have the itch to write, share and pour out what I have been experiencing in my life (while knowing when to limit my vulnerability). I really have nothing to gain, other than spiritual relief. There is no ‘services rendered’ invoice for expressing myself, at least not at this point. I want to offer this as a public ministry, that God can use to open up hearts and minds, that are stuck in outdated ways of processing relational, doctrinal, spiritual and philosophical God-consciousness. I went through personal humiliation (more than once) and a complete re-evaluation process, in finding who I need to be, now. It is indeed the now, that matters. Being preoccupied with the past isn’t helpful to you or anyone. Learn the lessons, especially the hard ones and treasure the wonderful memories. Maybe some devastating experiences crushed you — let them go. Do the work of healing, even if you have to return to the wounds to repair what has been holding you back from thriving. If someone has hurt you, find a way towards reconciliation, even if the offender doesn’t want to apologize or make things right. That is not your problem, so be released. Look forward to the future, with hope, because you have earned the ability to rise above your circumstances. This, defines my current moment. I am no longer willing to feel bad for myself, nor think I deserve to be disadvantaged or shamed.
One thing I’ve been confronted by during this personal and spiritual growth season, is that as bad as I have felt about my own hardships, others have had it so much worse. The horrifying stories of discrimination, injustice, cruelty and untimely deaths have been inescapable. I have heard of many “come to Jesus” moments in recent weeks, as the divine source of comfort continues to be a revered beacon of goodness, healing, reconciliation and wholeness in the world, in particular, the United States. Many of the famous faces and voices of modern evangelical Christianity, however, are nothing like the Jesus I follow. It is essentially, a different religion.
The supporters who are rallying around Donald Trump to get him re-elected, do not appear to be Christians, at all. Instead, they are promoting this self-interested opportunistic man, who pretends (unconvincing, I will add) to care about the bible and the words inside of it. His enablers don’t realize it, but they are putting bad theology on display, ignoring the teachings of Jesus Christ. Many of my discussions on social media are with likeminded individuals, who also recognize the urgency in pushing back against the hypocrisy and poor exegetical explanations for standing beside this man, who is anything but righteous and suitable as a world leader. The effects of this gross dysfunction are being felt all over the planet. As a Canadian, I grieve for America and wish I could do something to help steer the ship back towards safety and fill in the holes.
I am not saying any of these words to puff myself up or suggest I’m smarter than anyone else in the room. I can share what I know. I have learned many painful right vs wrong lessons and I know a sham when I see one. The evangelical Christians who are still respecting Donald Trump’s bid for re-election are operating under a false gospel. They have been manipulated. I was once also fully engulfed in the end times “prophecies”, but I allowed God to show me another way to process scripture. I deconstructed my belief structure and have been gloriously reconstructing. This is why I am putting myself out there. I’ve been at what appeared to be the end of myself and the gratitude in my soul is being offered back to God. I don’t think He wants me to be silent anymore, so I’m adding my voice to countless others, calling for a dismantling of the prosperity gospel / sect of the evangelical church, that prides itself on being Donald Trump’s base. It is ungodly, repugnant and not what Jesus came to earth for.
Just like when I was a young woman wanting to help reach the lost, I am back on the mission. This time, the Christians are the lost ones. If you identify as a Trump supporter, you need to detox your system from the effects of this false gospel, just as racists need to change their thinking towards prejudices. You can’t have it both ways. Either you follow the example and teachings of Jesus (which makes you a Christ follower) or you are outside of the safety, wellness, beauty, peace that passes all understanding and unspeakable joy that is only found from choosing to have the mind of Christ. Everything else is a distraction, of varying deteriorating levels.
Again, there is nothing in this for me, other than getting out the urgency for deliverance. I’ll end off this essay/sermon with a prayer that is coming directly from my soul.
Dear Lord of compassion, beauty, strength and every good gift in heaven and on earth, I offer this message of concern to my brothers and sisters who have beliefs that are not in alignment with the people you have called us to be. We are not to promote or perpetuate evil. We are to live humbly, as we give our attention to causes that bring you glory and help to restore your provision to the earth. Please forgive us for stepping away from your guidance. As I have drawn near to you in seeking the words to express in this publication, I ask with sincerity and reverence for you to expose the sin that so easily entangles, from me and my fellow sojourners. For my friends, extended family members and others I’ve not met personally (that find this prayer), please pour out endless wisdom, discernment, grace, strength, mercy, courage and renew all of us within the spirit of reconciliation, as it is your will to reconcile. Your covering of love for all of humankind will be our banner and our shield, as we resist the schemes of the enemy of our souls.
In the name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.