Monday, March 27, 2017

When a Slippery Slope Changed Our Faith:


As a family, we have grown together over the past four years in our faith dialogue.  There have been growing pains for sure.  For instance, Phil and I started our first year of homeschooling as Old Earth Creationists and interpreted the Genesis story fairly literally.  Now we accept evolution in its entirety--all the way down to the shared genes with primates.  Our kids have watched and listened as we shifted and changed our direction over the years.  They’ve been a huge part of the story.  I like that they have walked it with us.  We’ve explored hard things together, re-shaped our limited literal view of the bible, and talked openly about hard topics (abortion, sexuality, other faiths-- all of it).  

I remember at the beginning of the shifting, someone telling us to be careful about the ‘slippery slope.’  It supposedly started with gender-role equality in church and marriage, problems with inerrancy, then the evolutionary science in which you no longer see Adam and Eve as historical figures, an acceptance of homosexuals, and finally you just give up on Jesus.  Because you’ve messed with the bible so much, you can no longer figure out which parts are eternally true and which parts are antiquated storytelling.  

The words “slippery slope” are thrown around in Christian circles usually with little understanding of the actual processes involved in the so called ‘sliding.’  The short sighted assumption is that one or two small shifts in belief lead to a tremendous descent into a very unbiblical spirituality.  The term keeps us in check because it instills fear.  We want to have a valid faith, so we stay away from the cliffs.  We want to be poster Jesus followers, so we do not play by the edge.  The funny thing is that Jesus lived his life at the bottom.  Over and over, he is creating space in the low places and then saying, “This is where I’ll be.”  I like to think most religious people 2,000 years ago watched and listened to Jesus and thought, that guy is on the slippery slope. 


As my own faith started painfully shifting, I hoped I could allow some alterations, but remain secure on the summit of faith…that I could adjust my sails a little (like be a Jesus feminist or accept evolution), but I would not slide down to the bottom (accept homosexuality or consider the possibility that other faith traditions are honored by God).  Little by little, even as I dug my heels in and tried scratching my way back to higher places, I could feel the descent.  I hate rollercoasters and I detest the freefall rides.  I involuntarily curse a lot on these things.  My kids count the curses and tell me afterwards how many times I said ‘shit.’  God has heard me curse a lot over the last four years, too.  

The reality is that I cannot invalidate or deny that some progression occurs-- all things are connected in some way.  My favorite word in the whole English vocabulary is ‘sonder’.  It is defined as follows:  n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.  When I was a kid, and we were driving in the dark of the evening, my mom would always comment how she loved to peek in the windows of the houses we passed.  The lights were on, window curtains pulled back.  And sometimes the old house we saw a hundred times before, the one that looked only semi-cared for or maybe a little broken down, would come to life.  People would be sitting around a table.  Walls were filled with photos, candles twinkled.  I looked forward to certain houses, because I knew they were alive inside.  Glowing.  I am learning to start here with myself and others—assume that we are all a complex mix of story, experience, and light and not a mere structure of mostly correct or terribly incorrect thinking, that we all have truth to offer.  

A few years ago, I found a blogpost that didn’t just critique the slippery slope, but formulated a better shape and understanding of it.  The graph was specifically addressing inerrancy, but I think it offered me a sigh of relief at the time.  Since then, I picture the “slippery slope” as a soundwave.  My faith has a frequency, a heartbeat.  Some days I live in the valleys and feel more like an atheist or agnostic than a Christian.  I’ve tried holding on to certain narratives or doctrines I thought were untouchable or somehow validated my faith before others, but eventually my stubborn fingers relent, my hands open, and I’m left with what feels like emptiness in this place.  But, I’ve learned through it all, this is never the end.  Something far more rich and wide is always given back to me.  And my faith swells and deepens-- and then I find myself rising again.  Valleys and mountaintops.  Darkness and light.  Doubting and trusting.  

I listened to a podcast this week where Rob Bell talked about pinning down a butterfly.  By the time you’ve got the thing pinned still, it’s already dead.  I’m not trying to pin down my beliefs anymore.  I feel safe to live in freedom.  I believe in a God big enough to love me even when I’m wrong or still figuring things out.  


So as we have moved and talked as a family unit, all while our individual hearts shift and beat inside us, we do not fear the ‘descent.’  It is where we have met God.  Two weeks ago, Niamh sat in the truck with me, and somehow homosexuality came up.  We talked about different viewpoints, our own consciences, and that we should believe first in a good, loving God.  She told me “I’ve never really thought about it as bad, mom.  I think there are really good families who have two dads or two moms.”  And I exhaled a little.  We are okay with our kids treading these places now.  Working out their faith.  Owning their belief system.  I’m thankful for a daughter who believes in goodness and grace and thinks through nuances and complexities rather than seeing the world in black and white.  She will offer tired souls a safe place.  She will see people and not labels or stereotypes.  She will know that as you turn the prism of a life, you see a million hues and a spectrum of light-- and we are not structures only, but unfolding stories, too.  

I think there are many families who hold hands and cross, together, the lines that neatly defined their faith years ago.  It is a sacred thing to do with children-- navigate the hard places in freedom and grace.  I believe in it.  Too many millennials are leaving church because in their youth they were given a box that contained a statement of faith, some creeds, and God himself.  Eventually, life, experience, and the secular world shakes the box apart, and we realize it only housed a God we had made for ourselves: easy, safe, and obvious.  But I get super excited over this place—the messy, ‘slippery slope’, upended faith place.  If we celebrated these parts of the faith journey, people could be included not excluded.  Loved, not judged.  Safe, not dangerous.  I love a wandering heart because it is the vehicle through which I fell in love with God again, and I know it is an opportunity to deconstruct some structures and assumptions.  Instead of rebuilding with rigid framework and impenetrable walls, we find that our faith is better for the wild freedom of soft lines and fluidity.  


Science is my very favorite place to sit with new ideas and challenges to our faith and bible.  I grew up loving science, but fearing it too.  As I began to accept evolution as an adult, I worried that I would be forced to leave my faith behind.  As I pressed in, evolution offered this exquisite, beautiful story about life and a God of process and deep time.  It stood in contrast to a 6-day creation (which surely speaks to God’s power) in that it revealed incredible investment and artistic integrity.  While I do not think it matters AT ALL what we believe about creation regarding our faith, I do think our learning posture in it sets the stage for how we dialogue across the gamut of faith conversations.  Evolution in its entirety caused a chain reaction in much of what I held tight; but the gift is that I no longer fear science—or the bible.  I can embrace life on other planets (it’s out there in some form— get used to the idea), neanderthals (the amount of time I’d spent worrying over those guys is.just.weird.), an evolving universe (instead of a fallen-from-perfection universe), the deeply beautiful humanity of the scriptures (differentiated from seeing them as mostly or fully divine), and all the tensions and different theologies that make up our bible (the writers and editors of scripture were on individual and collective faith journeys, too).  One of our biggest obstacles as parents has been the lack of resources for our children in this.  However, we’ve learned that the answer is not in a meshing of God and secular science— like no book or curriculum is going to give five neat bullet points for kids on to how to love Jesus and accept evolution.  Is there a better way to embrace emerging science that speaks to multiple universes (quantum mechanics will likely provide the next biggest obstacle to a literal bible viewpoint in the very near future) and life emerging from non-living matter (why do we equate purpose with instantaneous life)?  For us, the best way forward has been in safe conversations, embracing science, and loving God.  And not fearing that one excludes the other.


One direction I’d like to take this blog is helping other people create good dialogue in this area for their families.  Questions are a good way forward.  Story is a good way forward (knowing someone’s story softens the heart immediately).  Trusting that God loves you even if you have a few things wrong— that is a good way forward.  I’ve written this post over and over; I’m still deep within my own learning and figuring-it-out stages.  (Pretty sure this will last my whole life!)  But I figured a rainy Monday is as good a day as any to share my heart and start somewhere.  I hope to publish a monthly blog dedicated specifically to navigating science and faith conversations within the context of a family unit (including children)— questions, resources, books, links to people who lead well in this area, and our own continuing story through it all.  Mostly, I want people who are knee-deep in it to know that there are others already waiting for you at the bottom of the hills.  We love Jesus.  We believe in a loving God.  We sit with our bibles and read the Psalms.  We have a deep, rich faith too.  The Gospel lies perhaps the most alive within the valleys we tread.  

"When someone in vulnerability tells you everything they’ve known has fallen apart, 
the correct response is not to quote scripture, 
the correct response is not biblical apologetics, 
the correct response is a hug. 
The correct response is to say, I love you. 
They have to encounter an impossible love.
It’s the only way the gospel comes to life.” 
~Mike  McHargue

9 comments:

  1. A beautiful post! I truly believe that God would much rather we explore, question, rant, scream, ponder, and all of those other multitude of learning/developmental emotions than sit and blindly follow. How else will we grow? Yes, it's scary at times. But oh, the wonder!!! And the marvelous places He will take us, not to mention the absolutely amazing people we will come to know! :)

    I would much rather take the risk of loving everyone than reach the end of my life and discover that I have made the tragic mistake of missing out on abundant blessings He had in store for me if I had just shown a bit more compassion. But then again, the greatest blessing is to share His love with others!

    I really believe that we too often forget that God is so much bigger than we give Him credit for. He is still relevant, still performing miracles, still creating. He can not be defined by our human perspective, so we must stop trying to. We need to let Him be God and do His thing. ;)

    I look forward to your upcoming blog posts! Kudos to you & your family for living your faith and doing the hard stuff. I will keep you in my prayers. All my love to you!

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    1. Thanks for always offering words of encouragement. It means so much! <3

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  2. Hi Krista, I had to read this twice, you've written it so well and although I'm not even on the periphery of understanding where you're talking from, I still totally understood what you were saying: I don't know if that makes sense tbh!? I'm very interested to read more about this and your journey. Please do continue to blog about this, i'll be along for the ride x

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    1. <3 Thanks for being willing to stick around for this! It's my favorite topic of conversation-- and I love to hear where others are at, too! Hugs, friend.

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  3. I am probably one of the most unlikely people to have read your post and felt the need to comment as I would classify myself as an atheist. But I am also a child of one of those really good families with two dad's. All too often I feel I walk an inner tightrope, afraid to read a blog post like this because it may tell me that my family is wrong or damaging. But I love the way you write and your message is always so genuine that I feel compelled to read- mostly because I've never felt that it was a place 'not meant for me' even if we have different beliefs. Instead it's a window into another lovely world that, although may not be mine, is intriguing, interesting and a place to learn a new perspective. Thank you for always making your posts open and inviting- I feel a kindred sort of spirit where no conversation is too uncomfortable to be important and the world would be a better place if we could just listen and explore with love in our hearts. Thank you for sharing your journey in a way that is truly open to all, I look forward to future posts.

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    1. What a wonderful and beautiful comment to read. As one who grew up in a stoically 'Christian' household, my faith was shaken and sent to the bottom of the hill when the eldest of my brothers came out. He's one of the kindest, gentlest, most genuine men I know, who has a husband he loves dearly and a happy life which includes a lot of caring for others. The church offered me no comfort or acceptance around this time, only judgement and demands, which resulted in my husband and I walking away from the church we grew up with. We have found the friends along our journey who remained in the church to be narrow minded and judgemental, allowing for no crisis of faith or room for exploring our faith, so I read Krista's blog with a bruised heart and find just a glimmer of hope, that there are others out there like us, who believe in a God who loves us, just as he made us, who wants us to know the full expression of joy in our lives, not to struggle and suffer through narrow beliefs and paradigms. One of my best friends is Muslim, not because that's the religion she consciously chose, but because the geography of her life, saw her parents born in Bangladesh and that was the religion of that place. I believe religion has a lot more to do with Geography than choice. We learn what we are exposed to. She has more community conscience and love for her fellow man, than most Christians I've known in my life. So I have walked some interesting lines, and learnt some interesting lessons. One of the greatest truths I carry with me always, and it informs my view on life, is 'Judge not, lest ye be judged', who am I, who are we, to judge another's path, another's walk, another's choices, our eyes should be on our own horizon, our own journey, if we sit in judgement of others, we will miss the beauty of our own journey. Anyway, a long-winded way of saying thanks for your sharing and your honesty in your comment and to Krista, you know I love reading your journey, I love the way you are with your kiddos, the way you are unafraid to ask the hard questions, to test your faith, yet hold true to what matters to you. Thank you, for baring a little of your soul each time you write. It glows. Hugs, Wends xoxo

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  5. Hi Krista,
    a long bogpost there, but I made it through ;-) Your daughter obviously has a kind spirit, and I trust you and your husband will learn a lot from her in the years to come.
    My cousin was a Salvationist until he could no longer accept that he should live without love; thus when he came out, he was no longer welcome to serve in the Salvation Army.. Long story short; he and his husband (yes, Norway has been allowing equal gendered marriage for quite a few years now) have two boys (born by a lesbian). These two boys are incredibly fortunate; they had at one time four - 4 - parents showing up at parental meetings at school :-) Can you imagine all this love ? Not to say; can you not accept this ? I think God will embrace also these lovely people bringing so much love to others.<3
    I wish you and your family still a fabulous journey, and I will be sure to pop by now and then to see how you are doing. Wishing you all nothing but the best.
    Much love,
    Turid

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  6. As always....inspiring. I just read Faithfully Religionless by Timber Hawkeye, it's a beautiful read. I also read his 1st book Buddhist Camp, it's more about his life and how he came to peace with life. I've come to realize that belonging to a church is not necessary, it's what you believe in your heart. To be kind to yourself and to others. You can't make other people happy, but you should be in control of your happiness and that will come through to others.

    Can't wait to read your next adventure :o)

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