I often joke that maybe I shouldn’t have written a memoir of my faith journey, because now everyone knows me by the theology I had circa 2012. While still holding to core doctrines, I’ve changed my mind on other things I wouldn’t want to be known for now.
This happens to all Christians eventually. But lately, many Christians I know are speeding toward one extreme or the other: either to progressiveness that’s so far from orthodoxy it’s practically universalism, or from followers of Christ to worshipers of Donald Trump, with conspiracy theories as the new gospel.
Insofar as social media posts reveal (which is all there was to go by during the pandemic), the number of nuanced, in-between Christians I knew – neither conservative nor liberal, but merely seekers of the truth – appeared to be shrinking.
I saw Christians I long admired turn vicious in their posts, appearing to imitate the president they claimed to vote for just for his stance on abortion…but over time, the meaner he got, the more they seemed to love him, and the more his mannerisms started seeping into their own interactions with others. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good look. And their witness suffered for it.
On the flip side, there were Christians who were rightly dismayed by all this, but abandoned any sense of truth in their demonstrations of grace. “Love is love” and “Live your truth” became the new gospel, without any acknowledgement that biblical love isn’t really love if there’s no call to sacrifice or repentance.
And I watched this unfold from behind my screen, and wondered who I was close enough to in order to check in and ask about their journey, and who I had lost to years of radio silence and moves across the country and marriage and kids, where contacting them out of the blue to ask about something personal would be inappropriate. I wondered if I was acting in love by saying nothing.
But then, when I experienced my own “dark night of the soul” after seminary, how many people checked in on me? Did I even want them to? I couldn’t remember. So I opted for prayer instead, that people would find their way to Christ amidst the confusion that affects us all.
I’m not arrogant enough to believe that my understanding of the gospel is perfect, putting me in the place to educate others. No one is asking for my opinions, so I’m reluctant to share them beyond the constraints of my own social platforms – and even then, I try to be careful. I don’t want my reactionary words leading anyone astray.
The more complicated life gets, the more I realize I need a God who is the same yesterday and today, and will be the same tomorrow, whose standards are not based on arbitrary feelings but a truth that doesn’t mold with changing cultural trends. Perhaps I have no right to feel betrayed by someone else’s changing beliefs, because it has nothing to do with me at all.
There’s a fine line between cultivating community and accountability (which is a non-negotiable part of Christian life), and making idols out of people whose faith I admire. The fact that I feel betrayed in any sense suggests I put the wrong kind of faith in people: the kind that should be reserved for Christ alone.
The Christians who inspired me yesterday may disappoint me today. I’m positive I’ve also been that Christian who disappoints. Perhaps we’re all doing the best we can with the knowledge that we have.