I’m one of those old guys who posts on TikTok. My content there has a lot of consonance with the content we publish on Faith on View. The other day, I posted about being received into the Episcopal Church. Now, I’m a little weird here in that despite now being an Episcopalian, after a lifetime of being a Baptist, I still consider myself an evangelical. But, another TikTok user, Dan Ferren, told me about a letter he had written breaking up with evangelicalism. He sent me the letter and while I may nuance some of it differently, it resonates strongly with me. Dan graciously allowed me to publish his letter. I hope you find it informative and meaningful.
Dear Evangelical Christianity,
I suppose the best thing to do is to come straight to the point. I’m breaking up with you. And it’s not me, it really is you. It’s probably only fair that I tell you why, so I’ll list the reasons.
In the first place, there are just too many inconsistencies and unanswered questions, and I realize I just can’t live the way you ask me to live with them anymore. And I’m not talking about questions like “Did Noah’s ark really exist?” I’m talking about deeper, theological questions. For instance, when I asked you, “If going to heaven requires confessing your sins and accepting Christ, what happened to all those millions of people throughout history who never heard the name of Jesus or understood the idea of sin and redemption?” The answer you gave me was heartfelt and well thought out. It even made me feel ok for awhile and quieted my doubts, but there was absolutely no Biblical foundation for it.
Or how about the time I asked you to somehow rectify God telling the Israelites to kill every man, woman, and child in numerous towns… Kill innocent people just because they weren’t Israelites, yet God loves everyone and doesn’t want anyone to perish. The answer you gave made sense, sort of, and I accepted it, because the person who gave the answer on your behalf was a person who should have known the answer if anyone did. But again, there was no Biblical foundation for it, I was just supposed to accept it.
Then there are the inconsistencies. You insist on viewing the Bible as literal and inerrant, yet there are many situations and scriptures that just don’t add up and seem to contradict one another. Your insistence on taking the Bible literally, while ignoring context and culture, has caused so much harm to so many people. And to all of this, you tell me I just need to have faith and believe.
That’s another thing, I’m just supposed to shut my mind off. Questions, doubts, concerns; those are all off limits and are a sign of a weak faith. Why? Shouldn’t we welcome questions? Wasn’t Jacob actually blessed because he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord? What are you so afraid of? Oh yeah, that you’ll have to deal with your own doubts and fears.
On a more personal level, you’ve really hurt me. Our relationship has been very one-sided. You’ve promised so many good things, but only ever really brought me pain. For all your sermonizing and singing about joy, I never knew it personally. And boy, talk about grace and mercy and love. Those are the bedrock of your belief system. I can’t tell you how many times you spoke to me in word and song and story about those concepts. The sad thing is, I’d come away from our time together and only feel guilt, shame, and fear.
If I had an uncharitable thought, failed to be selfless enough, wrestled with temptation, or even just wanted to stay home from church, I somehow felt like a failure because I wasn’t living up to the impossible expectations and standards you set for me. I prayed the sinner’s prayer over and over and over well into my 20’s because I just felt like I wasn’t forgivable. You talked a good game about grace, but you never showed it to me. I didn’t love myself and couldn’t trust myself because my will was sinful, and my life was broken by sin.
You always said that God loved me unconditionally, but you had a funny way of showing it in practice. Your rules and dogma and control were anything but unconditional. What I always felt was that God tolerated me, at best – and that only because the Bible said He had to.
No, Evangelical Christianity, I can’t be with you anymore. I can’t live with guilt and fear and shame. I deserve better.
Then there was Trump. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
You see, all my life you told me that saying certain words was wrong because we had to care for our witness, and uncouth speech would tarnish it. You clicked your tongue and shook your head whenever anyone got divorced and were quick to quote, “God hates divorce.” You warned that there were no little white lies, a lie is a lie and just as much a sin as murder. You pounded into my head that how we live our lives is a direct reflection of the condition of our heart, a tree will be known by its fruit. I was to love my neighbor as myself, and as much as it depended on me, to live at peace with everyone. So many times you spoke the praise and worth of humility, citing Jesus Himself as our example, and condemning pride and arrogance as a vice making a person no better than the drunk lying in the gutter. All of this and more you held up as the way to live, the sign of a true Christian. Charity, forgiveness, humility, honesty, love.
But somehow (and I still scratch my head over this), you decided to throw all of these out with the trash and plant your support behind a man who represented everything you ever spoke or preached against. This was utter hypocrisy on a grand scale. You winked at his crass behavior, overlooked his infidelity, pardoned his misogyny, excused his racist attitudes, and completely ignored his lies. To say nothing of your acceptance of his pride, arrogance, and self-exaltation. In fact, you applauded him, praised him, call him friend, and champion him as your savior.
All of this only served to reveal the truth. Your true concern was never about the salvation of souls, but about staying in power and suppressing those you see as your enemies. And you’d do it any way you could. And don’t go spouting about abortion. You don’t care about life. If you did, you’d do something about hundreds of children held in cages at the US/Mexico border, separated from their families. You’d do something about homeless veterans. You’d do something about black people shot and killed.
Yes, I know I’m saying some hard things, but there’s no easy way to say it. Sometimes the truth hurts if you have ears to hear it.
I have felt betrayed, confused, and angry. Evangelical Christianity, I’ve been with you my whole life, I know how you are. And while there are some very good things you’ve done over the years, I’ve also seen the inherent racism, xenophobia, and homophobia that exists in you. I’ve come to learn that in many places, if you don’t look like us, think like us, and act like us, you’re not one of us. And because you believe the Bible supports your views, you will never be forced to look at your heart and deal with the hatred you find there. Like the Pharisees, you load burdens onto people’s backs but don’t lift a finger to help them. Very few are your churches that don’t fit that description.
No, Evangelical Christianity, we’re done. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. In fact, it’s slowly been building to this for about the past two years at least. And I fully expect that your members will look at me and condemn me as a heretic, or as lumping everyone in one basket and they’re not all like that or say that my mind has been clouded by the devil and I’ve gone astray. I may even be ‘backslidden’. But I guarantee you, nothing is further from the truth. You know me. You know how I was raised, how I was trained, I have served in your churches all my life. I haven’t made this decision lightly.
I simply cannot be with you anymore. I believe in my heart that you are broken and cannot be fixed. The only way forward is to leave you. I am learning to love myself, and I am shedding the guilt, shame, and fear. This doesn’t mean that I’m agnostic or atheist. It means that I’m learning to be a Christian without your rules and dogma. I’m learning what it means to be a Christian that really looks like Jesus in the world.
I really do wish you all the grace and mercy God has to offer. Heaven knows you need it.
Me, an Exvangelical
We all start out as children, and then we learn to think like a man. It appears that you really did grow up in a Biblically starved setting because this whole diatribe is, ME, ME, ME. Hope you wander toward a deeper theology.
Doesn’t an uncharitable response like this only serve to underscore the author’s point? Shouldn’t a deep theology feed his mind, lead him toward shalom not pain, and support leaders of character? If an abused woman comes to your church and says, “He hits me, hurts me, lies to me.” Do you then retort, “This whole diatribe is, ME, ME, ME.” What I have seen among many, certainly not all, who are deconstructing is that deep theology has led them to question the church, because so much of the church is not reflective of Christ. Years ago I started saying “The Church is not the Church.” By that, I mean the institution and the ecclesia are not the same. Depending on the context, moving closer to God can lead one away from a particular institution. I’m sure when Martin Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by scripture and reason” some in the Church of his youth thought, “Martin, this whole diatribe is, ME, ME, ME. Hope you wander toward a deeper theology.”
Hi Rondall, I don’t know you and I don’t know Dan…I wish I knew you both. I am sorry for your pain and Dan’s. I want you to know that I have been in the Evangelical Church all of my life. I have been a pastor at several churches. I have done camp ministry at the largest Christian Camp in the world. I have been on the leadership teams of two Christian Universities. This has been my life. I have a Doctorate in Leadership and currently teach at the largest Christian University in the CCCU. I want you to know that everything that Dan wrote is NOT my experience of ministry, the church, the university setting, or camping ministry. I have worked with some of the most loving, gracious, joy-filled, righteous, holy, and inspiring people in the world. Has there been hardships and trials…Yes! Has there been misunderstandings and a lack of biblical leadership…Yes? People are human and marked by the fall. I think theologically, we must understand that God’s character is both loving and righteous. He is 100% grace and 100% just. We are trying to figure out how to live our daily lives in the beauty of both Grace and Truth at the same time; however, we often do not do it well. Dan is asking good questions, we should welcome such questions. If we believe that the Bible contains all Truth for living then we don’t have to fear questions. I also believe there are some great answers to Dan’s questions. Oh, some things we won’t know on this side of eternity and Yes, it does take faith. However, as Paul states, “We do see through the glass darkly.” We can know God, but will not know Him fully. How can the created fully understand the Creator? However, I do believe there are satisfying, if not exhaustive answers to most of Dan’s questions. I’d love to speak with him, if given an opportunity. I also want you to know and all who reads your post…Dan’s experience is not my experience. I wish Dan could experience the Church as I have experienced the Church. Jesus loves the Church and so do I. The Church is the Bride of Christ and I have been blessed to be part of some amazing churches that bring God glory and honor and in turn are used by God to see lives transformed for the Kingdom of God! My current job is to train the next generation of pastors. I love my job. I work with some of the best students and churches in the world. I have hope for the Church today and the Church tomorrow. I pray and hope we will see another Reformation in our lifetime. Thanks for sharing this story! It has me fired up to help the next generation of pastors to be more Christ-like as they lead the church!
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I also resonate a lot with what you write. I’ve been in both good and bad churches and seen both good and bad parts of evangelicalism. I’ve also worked at evangelical colleges that are healthy and not healthy. So I resonate with some of the challenges that Dan notes in his piece but also some of the positives that you note. One problem I see is a problem for both sides. Those who are critical of evangelicalism often only want to legitimize the problems and those who are supportive only want to look at the good parts. If you are interested, I would be interested in publishing an essay on this subject from your perspective. Thanks!