I’m no longer the same person I was when I wrote Confessions a Prodigal Daughter, yet it continues to be my best-selling book. There was a purpose for the journey I had made up until that point, and I’m grateful that it still speaks to people today.
But back then, my belief system was as rigid as it was fundamentalist:
I wasn’t LGBT affirming.
I didn’t believe in evolution of any kind (though to my credit, I did take a course on it just to be informed. It was way over my head, and I think I earned a C).
I would have been embarrassed to be called a feminist.
I believed that hell was a literal, physical place, and you needed to have Correct Theology in order not to go there.
Long story short, there was hardly a conservative Christian talking point I didn’t embrace. Today, I’ve made a complete 180-degree turn from those beliefs, though that didn’t happen overnight. It was a process that involved lots of reading, asking questions, hard conversations, and more reading.
To paraphrase Jane Austen, I’m an obstinate, headstrong girl who doesn’t change her mind very easily. And when I do, it’s nice when people know and respect me well enough to know that it wasn’t without serious contemplation. So any time I voice my opinion on anything, whether in real life conversations or somewhere on the Internet, it’s frustrating to told,
You’re just following secular culture, not God
You just want to be popular and well-liked
You’ve been brainwashed just like all the other millennials.
I think it should go without saying that any person raised in a secular Jewish home, who goes and studies at an even more secular (and liberal!) college, where she eventually becomes a Christian — knowing exactly how her family would feel about it — is anything but “brainwashed,” or overly concerned with what people think about her. You don’t risk losing family and close friends to be “cool.” You certainly don’t go and write a book about it, knowing your opinionated family members will read it!
Still, it sucks to be misunderstood. What helps keep me sane is knowing that if you never change your mind about anything, ever, you probably aren’t growing. You’re not learning anything new. And that’s a problem.
In some groups, I appear to lean right. In others, I’m the token “liberal.” But I’m the same person in both settings. Labels aren’t quite the threat they used to be because I’m confident that every one of my beliefs was formed through research and, above all, prayer.
I have prayed many times to separate my personal biases from biblical texts I find challenging or downright unpleasant. That doesn’t mean my interpretations are perfect, but that I can be confident about them because I believe God knows where my heart was in that process.
It’s not always easy to gauge yourself and know for sure if your beliefs are a product of a thorough investigation, or your environment. For most of us, it’s a little of both, but that’s no excuse to stop seeking.