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Photo: Google Images via Creative Commons

Photo: Google Images via Creative Commons

In my early twenties I experienced a relational separation akin to a divorce, child emancipation, and death of a friend all rolled into one. I’d been part of a small, incredibly close spiritual community for five years. When I came into this community at fifteen years old, I was a raging liberal, pseudo academic, feminist, and was well on my way to becoming quite the little activist. Entering the world of conservative evangelicalism was a bit of a shock, to put it mildly. I found out that my beliefs on sexuality, women’s rights, the environment, human worth (to name a few) were all wrong in the eyes of the God of that world. Because the people in that community loved me so well, were so kind and faithful and sincere and caring, I assumed that they did in fact know better than me regarding the things God thought. So I set about removing all evidence of the heathen girl I’d been, intellectually, relationally, even materially. I still remember the night my close friends from youth group came over to my house with a box of large black garbage bags to purge my bedroom. We ended up with seven bags filled to bursting with books, CDs, posters, clothes, journals, even jewelry. This was meant to represent my turning from all of those evil ways and toward a path of right living following Jesus.

Turns out that inner transformation wasn’t as easily executed as the bedroom cleanse. Eventually questions began to surface in my mind. Why, exactly, was homosexuality such a loathsome affront to God? Why weren’t Christians more involved in preserving the earth we so firmly believed God miraculously created? On that same front, why were we so terrified of every new scientific discovery regarding the origin of life? How did following Jesus line up with patriotism and capital punishment? Was the abortion “issue” more complicated than sexual ethic, maybe involving other issues like poverty and women’s health care and repressive sexual morality taught in churches that equated women with the status of their hymens? Were we maybe responsible for more than right belief on these things – should we be helping create solutions?

These questions crossed a line I didn’t know existed in my church. I became a problem to be dealt with, no longer a loved and protected part of the collective but rather a threat within to be removed. Eventually I was told that there really wasn’t a place for me there any longer. I wandered out into the world feeling like the red-headed step-child in the kingdom of God. I knew Jesus was real and was worth following. I believed God loved me. His people just had no place for me. I was grateful to sit at his feet under the dinner table gathering the crumbs that fell from the plates of better Christians than myself.

Then I found Cornerstone. For many people, this was just a Christian music festival in Middle-of-Nowhere, Illinois that happened during the most hellishly hot week of the year. For me, it became home. I found myself there, in the seminars and late night conversations, and in the music of Madison Greene. The lead singer of the band also wrote much of the music, and he had an unbelievable insight into my soul. A few songs in particular I felt literally gave me permission to be a Christian again. I clung to every word for several years, placing every scrap of faith I had in the hope that the words he sang were true. Eventually I found my way back to the table. Well, a very different section of the table, but one where tattoos and queer folk and women and even Republicans could all eat and laugh together. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude for that place, for the people of JPUSA, or for Madison Greene and Mike Blair.

What I described as a desert in my twenties transformed into an ash heap in my thirties. I have no more Cornerstone to run home to. My spiritual community is full of the most amazing, sincere, honest, cynical, hopeful people I’ve ever known. But we are all drowning a bit, unsure of how to find a breath amidst all the deconstruction.

Then I picked up a book. Some Irish postmodern philosopher was set to come speak at our church, so I picked up his first book to get a feel for what to expect. I’d been struggling to muddle through some pretty simple, basic books on faith over the past six months. I’d read the guy’s blog a few times, and based on the density of the content therein I didn’t have a lot of faith that I had the mental energy to get much from the book.

I was wrong. Somehow the only frequency to pierce through my mental fog for years now is Irish postmodern philosophy. When past authors had affirmed postmodern thinking as an element of the emergent church, Rollins actually presented the content of such thinking. And it’s been reverberating in my skull ever since I started the first book.

This section of the blog is going to be devoted for a bit to processing what I’m percolating as I read through his work. He’s giving me language to build a bridge between what I think and what I believe. He’s helping me acknowledge some truths I’ve been afraid to face in my faith. He, like Cornerstone, like Mike Blair, is giving me permission to be a Christian again. His words are giving me hope that I’m not done with this thing yet.

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