My former pastor unfollowed me on twitter. I’m not sure when exactly he unfollowed me, but I noticed it last week. I’ve been slowly dipping my toes in the political world and slowly venting my frustrations with the evangelical community on twitter, which really is probably not the best platform, but it’s my home for it.
Anyway I know we don’t see eye to eye, this pastor and me. I suspect due to the nature of my departure, he does not have the highest opinion of me. But I didn’t think we were at the opposite ends of the spectrum, politically and spiritually, yet here we stand.
I started listening to Rob Bell again.
He was once highly respected in the evangelical church in which I grew up, but now is *obviously* a heretic. We even held an entire Sunday school class which was devoted to explaining all of the reasons why Rob Bell was a heretic.
Well, I like Rob Bell. Sorry not sorry. I enjoy his commentary on scripture and his insights on how to become more human, in the best way possible. I also enjoy that he allows for grey in a world that I had always been told was black and white.
The black and white way of life is not working for me anymore. Where my former congregation would have panicked, Bell encourages us to be at peace with uncertainty; to learn and grow from it.
And I am learning. I am growing. Perhaps it’s taking a different route than my former congregation expected, but today I am a more loving, more peaceful person than I was a year ago. That has to count for something.
Most importantly, at a time I most need to hear it, I am learning to break free of a lie that I have been taught: That modern evangelicals have learned the proper way of understanding God and scripture, and that because I have left the church, I am lost. The evangelical church was an exclusive club–with acceptable reading material from only certain commentators, certain acceptable political parties or ways of dressing and speaking.
I’m learning a lot from Rob Bell, and not just him. Rachel Held Evans, Johnathan Merrit, Julie Rodgers, Vicky Beeching, Matthew Vines and others. A mixed bag of people who are wrestling in the gray world, just like me. They’re published authors, people with their own convictions and ways of seeing the world. I’m not sure I agree with all of them and that’s okay.
Some (my former pastor, I believe) will accuse me of trading one batch of commentators for another (who are, by the way, heretics). The difference is that people I choose to follow never claim to have it all right. Their statements and writings may be based on personal convictions, life experience, a word from God, who knows. But they accept that everyone is bringing something slightly different to the table and act accordingly.
The commentators I grew up reading had no sense of humility. Their statements and writings contain a matter-of-fact tone. ‘I know this, based on the Bible.’ This has never sat well with me. By that model, we should see the commentators as gods, or at very least, prophets. What makes their brain better than mine? What makes their interpretation of scripture any better than Julie Rodgers’? What makes them so special that we’ve chosen to elevate their words alongside the Bible?
Here’s the thing– we don’t worship the commentators.
Since when are the writings of John Piper given the same weight as the words of the Apostle? Since when did we stop admitting that Piper is not perfect? Even John Calvin was just a human.
With commentators, you can pick and choose what you believe. If we’re accepting of shortcomings, accepting of humanity, then we should be comfortable sifting through what thoughts we do and do not subscribe to. To pretend that any one human on this earth has it completely correct is delusional. If God wasn’t somewhat of a mystery, he wouldn’t be God.
It’s a good thing I worship God, and not the commentators. And the last time I checked, that was all that was required of me.