Life After Conservative Evangelical Christianity—Hope For Those Who Hurt

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Many are those who have been hurt and harmed by conservative Evangelical Christianity. A walk through the haunted woods of right-wing religious America can be a painful, faith-stripping, and life-sucking experience. For some, it’s an alarming set of events that must transpire before their eyes are opened to the religious deceptions and evils they have endured, adopted, or perhaps have even empowered. Many within and outside of conservative Evangelical Christianity can attest to the victim or victimizer they have become as a result of the faith and practices of much of religious right-wing America.

For those who have been deceived into befriending or becoming the religious evils of conservative Evangelical Christianity—there is hope. For those whose lives have been devastated, their faith disillusioned, and their dignities raped at the hands of these same religious evils—there is hope.

Raise your head, open your heart, awaken your soul—there is sure and certain hope.

There is Grace Instead of Conditions- There is a Gospel that is devoid of fiery judgement, religious condemnation, guilt-trips, “to-do” lists, and people shaming. There is a Gospel where everyone is deemed equal, affirmed, included, and eternally loved and valued. There is a Gospel absent of an angry, vengeful God who requires the murder of His Son and the proper religious responses of His creation in order to forgive and save humanity. There is a Gospel where God loves unconditionally because that’s who He is and can do no other. There is a Gospel that stands against all violence, abuse, and idolatry, and yet, in all these things, is no less biblical. This Gospel is not a fad, a new theology, or some wayward heresy–it’s a person, and that person is Jesus who is pure Grace.

There is Jesus Outside of Church- There is a Jesus who is everywhere and in all things. He is not exclusive to any one location, nation, group, orientation, gender, skin color, tradition, ideology, political party, or even faith system—He is all and in all, nowhere can He be found missing. He is not in public schools only if the people within them are praying or the Bible is being read. He can’t be summoned, controlled, or enticed into favoritism. As much as one may encounter Him in Church, they can encounter Him anywhere and in all things—if they have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that is willing. Jesus isn’t just in Church or into Church people, nor a building, or a service—He’s in everyone, everywhere, and everything. He’s into all humanity.

There is Community Beyond a Congregation- Where church congregations are largely organized around agreed beliefs, values, preferences, and purpose, true community is found deeper where all beliefs are honored, love is most highly valued, and purpose is centered on mutual respect, compassion, and human service—diversity is prized, not feared. People love, not out of religious obedience or faith obligation, but because it is who they are and the full essence and nature of the God they worship. No greater form of community is found than at the Jesus-table that extends far beyond the confines of many a congregation into the realm where people simply intersect with people—anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. The planet becomes our sanctuary, loving people becomes our worship service, and all humanity our congregation—no one is excluded, no walls needed.

There is Love without Restriction or Restraint- No more sizing people up or pre-qualifying expressions of Grace. No more wondering and fearing that you could love too much—if that ever could be a thing. No more conditions, fine-print, or exemptions. No more relational distancing out of religious obligations. No more “hate the sin, love the sinner” in order to desensitize your soul and justify condemnation and hate. No more saying “no” when everything in your spirit is saying “yes.” No more separating “truth” and “love” because your heart has been awakened to the revelation “the Truth is Love and Love is the Truth”—one in the same of the blessed Trinity. No more holding back, shrinking back, or turning back—only giving back as God has first given love to you—without restriction or restraint.

There is Freedom above Conformity- There is a spiritual growth that knows no limits and has no bounds. The goal is not conformity to a set of beliefs and convictions, but effortlessly becoming all that you already are by the Grace of Jesus. It’s founded on a trust and declaration that God is bigger than our best thoughts, ideas, conclusions, behaviors, and confessions. His desire is not that we land in a place of determined theological correctness, but that we open our sails to the Spirit to take us wherever Grace might lead us. That we listen to His voice speaking with fresh revelation fills His heart with delight far more than to see our heads buried in pages and verses. You are a free-living, free-thinking, free-aspiring creation and God loves to see you embracing freedom fully.

There is Safety and Strength In Divine Affirmation- You have no one to fear nor owe anyone an explanation. God perfectly loves you and embraces you completely. He affirms you no less than His gaze into a mirror—you are the image of the Divine Creator. Your value and worth have been predetermined. His love, approval, and acceptance or irrevocable and unchanging. That He created you is more than enough to hug you with an embrace that is eternally unbreakable. No ones opinion, voice, declaration, proof-text, or sermon should even begin to matter compared to the ultimate statement of God on your behalf, “it is finished.” God’s love for you—done deal. God’s delight in you—done deal. God’s affirmation of you—done deal. God’s salvation for you—done deal. As is, whoever you are. All is Grace, one and done—you are an unstoppable force of the Father. You are the revival God is bringing to the earth.

There is Forgiveness For The Enemy- To take the highroad and live to love again is not only the cry of your soul but the empowerment you become—free from all that is religious. Never becoming the evil done against you while standing firm to your truth is the beautiful balance centered upon your heart. No longer can one drag you into meaninglessness nor bring out in you a person foreign to grace and graciousness. Even the worst of that done against you is gleaned of its lessons but neutered of its power to possess. Confronted by and collided with a forgiveness that is unlimited compels you to free yourself from the shackles of unforgiveness, that you might never become your own worst enemy. What the evils of religion have stolen from you will become your mandate to no longer give them headspace nor power through being imprisoned to their hate. You refuse to hold onto bitterness, the desire for revenge, or the expectation of change. Those who forgive freely are those who are truly free and show themselves to be fully rescued out of the shadows of conservative Evangelical Christianity.

There is Purpose in the Pain- Standing, resisting, crying out in fierce solidarity. Giving voice to the voiceless, listening where no ears have been willing. Defending and proclaiming the sacred value of all the discarded. Living with a bravery of epic proportions that only a heart captured by Grace could compel. Shouting for equality where there is none. Ranting for justice where there is none. Chasing evils out of their shadows where they have long resided unchallenged. These are the places where one finds the deepest purpose in life—to be fully yourself and fight on behalf of those who know not that joy. Taking the pain of your oppression and the story of your plight that it might empower another to overcome and discover true life.

Don’t give up.

Don’t give in.

There is always hope.

There is always righteous resistance.

There is always the awakening to a new day and a new way.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

12 Comments

  1. Chris,
    Beautifully expressed, impeccably written, full of soul and grit and truth. Truly something I will read again and again whenever I feel alone with this experience. Your best yet, in my humble opinion.

  2. This is truly a manifesto to be lived beyond conservative evangelical Christianity! This IS the Gospel my precious brother!

    • ckratzer

      July 13, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Paul, you and I know the path of moving forward all too well. Your friendship encourages me and gives bravery to my spirit!

  3. This is a confusing sentence: “He is not in public schools only if the people within them are praying or the Bible is being read.”

    • ckratzer

      July 13, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Chad, the sentence is referencing the conservative notion that God/Jesus has been taken out of schools when prayer etc. is not allowed.

  4. Rebecca Kennedy

    July 13, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    I left fundementalim at age 16 and became episcopal. Two weeks ago, I had a stroke. I could not speak but I was sobbing. I thought I was dying and was going to hell because I am lesbian. I realized the damage left from my youth. When I’m able to speak and write again, pledge to Christ (now) that I will show LBGTQS Christ’ unending love for my sisters and brothers.

    • ckratzer

      July 13, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      Wow Rebecca, what a powerful experience and I am so honored and grateful that you have shared it here. You are beautiful and brave! I hope we can stay connected, I would love to hear more of your story!

  5. I have little use for the “christianity” (small-letter-c) of folks like Pat Robertson, and Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz, and the late Jerry Falwell. They preach an ugly, hateful, hate-filled, power-and-money-hungry version of the gospel (small-letter-g), and people, both Christian (large-letter-C) and not, should find them revolting. Neither should anyone give a pass to the blind hypocrisy of the believers who condemn homosexuals, while praising and worshiping and giving glory-and-honor to the hateful, hate-filled, adulterous, bully they helped elect to the White House.

    But from what I’ve seen and what I came to understand, first as a believer, and later as an unbeliever, is that your god’s gift is not given out to all humanity. It’s there for whoever wants it, true, but there are conditions attached, one of them being that a person must accept not simply Salvation, but Christ’s Lordship as well.

    Maybe I’ve misread what you’ve written, but increasingly I’m getting the impression that your belief is more along the lines of the Eastern-Mysticism of “All-Paths-Lead-To-God”. It’s kind of hard to not believe this when you’ve written, “There is a Gospel absent of (a) God who requires the murder of His Son … in order to forgive and save humanity”. It seems that either there was a Crucifixion or there wasn’t. It seems that either there was a Resurrection or there wasn’t. It seems that either you believe in both or not. And it seems that if you don’t believe in either, you can write all you want about the evils of “conservative, evangelical Christianity”, but in the end, you’re only going to reach the already converted.

    My editing of your comment about an “angry vengeful God” and “proper religious responses of His creation in order to forgive and save humanity” was deliberate. As I said, the problem that I have with your writing isn’t that you address the terror of believers who are perpetually hunched over in fear of not doing “The Right Thing” ™. It is, as I wrote above, that you seem to discard the basic underpinnings of Christianity.

    So I ask again. What, precisely, do you believe?

    • ckratzer

      July 13, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      Gerry, thanks for your thoughtful comment. My belief in the all-inclusiveness of the Gospel is not a new belief, but one founded early in the history of Christianity. It declares that salvation in Christ is complete for all, faith is simply effortlessly awakening to all that Jesus has already done. It is not a religious response that makes it effectual, it is a faith response of realizing it has always been effectual long before belief ever happened. I am not a “universalist” in the sense that all roads lead to God. Jesus is the source and security of humanity’s inclusion in the Trinity. Yet, I see within all beliefs a sense of the Divine. Penal substitution is one way of theologically understanding the cross, but it is not the only biblical one. My friend Benjamin shares a thoughtful article regarding this issue. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/problems-penal-substitution-theology-atonement/ Thanks again for your comments!

  6. This is the most unbiblical post I’ve ever read! Repent and believe the true Gospel!
    God is good, but more importantly, He is Holy and Just, and because He is Just, He must punish sin.
    This post sounds touchy-feely and nice, but is false and wicked. If you follow what this post says, you will spend an eternity in Hell, because you don’t know the God of the Bible.

  7. Beautifully written. especially the paragraph about grace instead of conditions. I can’t think of much that Jesus spent more time on than this simple but difficult-to-attain ideal.

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