Theology

Why progressive and conservative Christians don’t like me

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These days, telling people “I’m a Christian” doesn’t mean much of anything. Saying, “I’m Anglican” narrows it down a little bit, but still leaves room for lots of questions.

I chose my church because it best reflects how I understand the Christian faith. I believe that all the essential principles of Christianity are summed up in the Apostles’ Creed (including a literal resurrection, which is the foundation of our greatest hope).

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GK Chesterton once said, “Original sin is the Christian doctrine that’s the easiest to prove,” and I have to agree. The overwhelming number of “good Christians” who support the Trump administration confirmed this for me. There are no “good people.” Any good we do is because of God, not our own merit.

That being said, the fact that humans are sinners and thus “miss the mark” of God’s perfect standard does not mean I believe we are inherently depraved, either. I believe we are made with inherent worth and dignity. Why would Jesus have chosen to die for us otherwise?

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I believe that God cares more about the heart than whether or not you have “correct” theology — which isn’t to say that theology doesn’t matter (it does!). Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that all of us will get things wrong from time to time, despite our best efforts to understand (and there’s grace for that). I try to live with a teachable heart, always humble and open to constructive rebuke (though this is not always easy).

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I believe that anyone who is in heaven got there through Jesus — he is the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13). But I don’t necessarily believe that someone has to have prayed the “Sinner’s prayer” while living on Earth to get to heaven, as this leaves out people in remote parts of the world, those who only saw bad examples of Christianity, or anyone who lacks the cognitive ability to understand what it’s about.

I believe that God, in his grace and mercy, has his ways of reaching people (Romans 1:20) and thus gives everyone a fair chance to hear the gospel. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share our faith, though. Christians should talk about Jesus because of the hope and abundant life he promises — we follow Jesus for much more than “fire insurance.” Speaking of which…

I believe that eternal separation is real – but whatever “hell” is, I reject the notion that it is eternal conscious torment. Ancient Judaism did not believe in such a thing, and believers in a loving, merciful God shouldn’t either. I affirm the doctrine of annihilation.

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I believe the Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant in the way it conveys God’s plan for salvation and redemption. I don’t believe that the Bible should inform matters of science or medicine, as that is not what it’s meant for.

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I believe in evolution. Some Christians believe that if Adam and Eve were not the first official humans, then there couldn’t be Original Sin, and thus there is no need for Jesus. But sin clearly exists (simply read the news to be affirmed of this fact). I share the Catholic Church’s belief that Adam and Eve were the first created beings to have souls and experience spiritual death.

Some rabbis teach that the first few chapters of Genesis are not simply a step-by-step explanation of how the world was made at all, but rather, a statement of monotheism — God is the sole creator — in a society that worshiped multiple gods. I find that pretty compelling.

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For some reason, abortion and homosexuality have become the two issues of our time that determine salvation (or so it seems that way). So I’ll outline briefly where I stand on those.

First, Psalm 139 (“For you knit me together in my mother’s womb”) is a poem about God’s omnipotence, not a scientific consensus about when personhood begins (and no rabbi I’ve met interprets it that way). I consider myself personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice — which means I believe the policies of pro-choice politicians do more to lower abortion rates than their opponents’. I believe abortion is a complex, nuanced topic that is more gray than black and white.

After studying the historical and cultural contexts of all the anti-gay “clobber verses,” I’m not convinced that homosexuality is a sin. From what I understand of these verses (and I fully admit that I could be wrong about this), they are written in the context of lust and/or pagan worship — but nothing is said about homosexuality as an orientation, which was not understood within a psychological framework until relatively recently in history. Furthermore, the English word “homosexuality” did not exist in the English language until the last century.

Additionally, Jesus said we can judge the health of a tree by its fruit, and the fruit of anti-LGBT rhetoric has proven time and again to cause immense harm in the form of bullying, suicide, murder, parents abandoning their LGBT children, and more. There is no doctrine on sex that wreaks havoc on people’s lives like this one does.

No matter where Christians fall on these issues, I believe they are areas where there is room for disagreement. I don’t think they are as “clear” as many Christians seem to think they are.

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I believe marriage is the ideal context for sex, as it is an act that represents a covenant. Some people find it contradictory that I can be LGBT-affirming and pro sex-only-in-marriage, but they are two different subjects — and I think Scripture has more to say in favor of the latter than in opposition to the former.

I am a feminist (though I have some concerns about projecting modern ideas of feminism onto Jesus). I believe women can and should be able to preach. It is no accident that Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrection, and the one who went and told the [male] disciples about it.

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I belong to the Anglican church, but not all Anglicans think alike. Thankfully, God is bigger than all of that. I seek to use good exegesis and the Holy Spirit — not my emotions or feelings — as my guides. Wherever I’ve erred in my interpretation, I rely on grace.

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