Today, we continue our discussion by listening to the personal perspective of someone who feels caught in the midst of the battle between a more conservative evangelical faith and a more mainline progressive faith. As part of her excellent post, “Liberal Christianity, Conservative Christianity, and the Caught In-Between,” Rachel Held Evans wrote the following about her “in-between” status.
I’m interested in getting your feedback on how she feels.
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Meanwhile, I feel totally caught in between.
For one thing, I don’t “fit” in the conservative evangelical church:
- I believe in evolution.
- I vote for democrats.
- I doubt.
- I enjoy interfaith dialog and cooperation.
- I like smells, bells, liturgy, and ritual—particularly when it comes to the Eucharist.
- I’m passionate about gender equality in marriage and church leadership.
- I’m tired of the culture wars.
- I want to become a better advocate for social justice.
- I want my LGBT friends to feel welcome and accepted in their own churches.
- I’m convinced that the Gospel is about more than “getting saved” from hell.
But I don’t “fit” in the progressive, Mainline church either.
- I love a good Bible study.
- I think doctrine and theology are important enough to teach and debate.
- I think it’s vital that we talk about, and address, sin.
- I believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus.
- I want to participate in interfaith dialog and cooperation while still maintaining a strong Christian identity.
- I want to engage in passionate worship, passionate justice, and passionate biblical study and application, passionate community.
- I’m totally down with a bit of spontaneous, group “popcorn” prayer, complete with hand-holding and references to the Holy Spirit “moving in this place.”
- I’m convinced that the Gospel is about more than being a good person.
These objections represent generalizations, of course (and, it should be stated, this whole conversation is unique to Western—particularly American—Christianity). I know plenty of evangelicals who embrace the science of evolution, and I know plenty of mainliners who are passionate about both social justice and theology. But the reason I struggle to go to church on Sunday mornings is because I generally feel like I have to choose between two non-negotiable “packages.” There are things I really love about evangelicalism and there are things I really love about progressive Protestantism, but because these two groups tend to forge their identities in reaction to one another— by the degree to which they are not like those “other Christians”—Sunday morning can feel an awful lot like an exercise in picking sides. And often, when I find myself actually sitting in the pew, the pastor or priest will at some point in the service, either subtly or overtly, speak of the “other side” as an enemy.