Don't you dare tell me I'm not Evangelical

I was planning to write today about Margaret Atwood's famous phrase:

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum!

It means, roughly, in butchered Latin:

Don't let the bastards get you down.

Which I had been lately. Letting the bastards get me down, I mean.

I'd been burning it on both ends, taking two research/family trips to Texas and Missouri last month; writing three book chapters, preaching three times at my church, attempting to re-potty-train Josh, getting the boys to share a bedroom and convert our disaster of a hanging rack into something resembling a closet in our master bedroom that used to be the garage.

A tree branch crushed our garage, which has been covered with a tarp since early July, and our remodeling plans kept getting stalled by insane prices that we could never, ever afford.

Earlier this week I sat at Jacob's swim lesson - just barely awake - and his friend's Dad and I were talking about our weekends.

"We did some geo-caching and got pizza," he said. "And we did a family bike ride. It was really fun."

I thought about my weekend. Friday night I wrote at the coffee shop until close at 10 p.m. Saturday night I preached and the boys went to Costco. Sunday morning I preached two services, and my parents watched the boys and we painted two bedrooms. When I say "we" I mean my husband and my dad.

I realized we'd taken what was once an admirable work ethic and turned it into a nonstop onslaught of responsibilities, causing me to lose patience with Josh's potty training woes, lie awake at night thinking about book edits or sermon slides, and neglect a lot of the things that make summer so great.

So last night I said let's stop the insanity, and we decided to make dinner together and then clean up and take the family for a bike ride to the lake and ice cream. Which we were about to leave for when the kitchen faucet broke in half in my husband Ben's hands, and he started disassembling it and I figured we'd better go to Home Depot. Again.

But Jake was dying to bike. At age 5, he could barely ride without training wheels and I wasn't sure what to expect. Still, we went out to our broken garage and wheeled our bikes - and bike trailer for Josh - out the side door. Ben helped, and ultimately I said: "Just come along. The faucet will wait."

I started down the road and I heard this voice behind me:
This is so great! I feel the sun on my back! I love bike riding! This is awesome! Can we go tomorrow?

It was Jake. Who else? He'd miraculously figured it out, and he was loving every minute. He was enthralled with the sun and the lake and the path and, everything, and Josh echoed him from behind me in the bike trailer.

Mommy! Look at that!

Ben and I picked a faucet on his phone while standing by the playground, and after ice cream Ben went to Home Depot alone and put his plumbing engineering design skills to the test, and actually completed the work he so often designs in high-rise and large-scale construction.

The boys fell asleep in their shared bedroom, and even as I lay awake, thinking about who knows what I thought that was that.

Stay back te bastardes. 

I will rise.

Life is rough. Eat ice cream with your family.

And then Wednesday happened, which is my usual day for hospital visits and home visits and calls for people at the church, followed by our family night outdoor worship and communion.

I thought about this incredible and awful job of being a Pastor. I thought about the buoyancy of the Spirit, the way it could lift me up even in the face of all the injustice and hurt and sorrow in this world.

In this job, and in your life too I'm sure, there are incredible highs and lows.

Sometimes you hug the mom of a toddler who was just baptized, and in her face you see reflected the glory of the Holy Spirit that was just unleashed again - through the water that became holy in the words and in the deeds and in the love that surrounded that place. And what once felt archaic: church and baptism and water and promises - is again made new through the promise of resurrection, love and new life in living water.

Sometimes you hold the hand of a mom who, like you, has two kids under 7: full of attitude and spite and emotion and unfailing love. She tells you about Kindergarten and about working from home; and she tells you about cancer and about how everything was normal until it wasn't and suddenly they're talking about options and hospitals and timelines and fear - and the things we held onto without realizing we held them seemed to slip away.

Sometimes you see the love of a couple: old or young - the quiet strength of a man who loves his family: a stoic strength and selflessness that does not have to be faked or forced, it simply is, and then he lets you see the way he loves them, and it is priceless and perfect.

You see the unstoppable force that is a mother's love. The undeserved forgiveness from a child who had to endure. The unendurable pain of loving and losing.

I realize in these moments - the highs and the lows - how desperately I must cling to Jesus. To humble me when I grow haughty or intolerant; to lift me up when despair and depression beckon; to give me hope in the face of unremitting sin and sadness.

And I do cling desperately to Jesus.

I do pray for miracles and believe they are possible. I do believe Jesus is essential, no, imperative - for every single person in the world. I believe the Holy Spirit is alive and active and present, and working in our midst for goodness, love and grace.

I believe Jesus was crucified on the Cross, died, and rose again three days later.

I believe He will come again to save the living and the dead.

With this desperation I cling to Jesus, knowing that it is only the Gospel of resurrection that can save a world too far turned away, too dead in too many places, and dying in others.

Still, I am told sometimes in this America, that I cannot be Evangelical. That we must use a different word because that one has become compromised. That it means a cultural subset that is against abortion and gay marriage, and that often believes men are the only ones gifted to preach and lead congregations.

I am told that to be Evangelical is to be Republican and, most likely, to vote for Donald Trump.

I'm told that there are categories, you see, and God or God's Bible does not mean as much as skin color, party affiliation, social values, or human interpretation of Scripture.

I reject this limited and binary thinking.

The word Evangelical is a Gospel word. It comes from Biblical Greek, from the Gospels themselves, from the root verb εὐαγγελίζω which means to share the Good News.

The original meaning, then, of Evangelical, was one who would share the Good News of Jesus.

Somewhere along the line the Gospel was stolen. The Good News about Jesus was changed into Bad News for anyone who didn't fit into a prescribed American cultural construct. Just because I believe my gay brothers and sisters are saved, too; just because I believe that the best way to end abortion is not to legislate against women; just because I think women can be pastors and lead churches, too - I am suddenly not allowed to claim the very name the Bible gave the Christians who wanted to tell the story of Jesus.

Of course I don't hear all that much about Jesus anymore. I hear more about culture wars, about who God is going to condemn rather than who God is going to save. I hear more about winners and losers; about red states and blue states, and all the reasons we can't occupy the same spaces anymore.

I reject it.

I reject your decadent patriarchy; your limited view of God; your stranglehold on God's sovereignty, your exclusive claim to religion; your smugness; your fear of evangelism; your willingness to shed the label Evangelical that has lived with Christians for nearly 2,000 years, and turn it into a political wedge.

I reject the idea that simply because I believe it is God's grace that saves, rather than a prayer I prayed in the front row of church one Sunday, that I cannot lay claim to the very same Gospels that assert Jesus - not ourselves and our own faith - as the only way to salvation.

How dare you tell me I'm not Evangelical?
And how dare we lay waste to a word that once created a global Church?

Comments

  1. I read your post and understand your frustration. But language changes (look up the word "gay") and unfortunately for you, the most un-Christian people in the country have appropriated the word Evangelical and it is now associated with being hateful, bigoted, xenophobic, and not-at-all Christ-Like.

    Until a new word that describes a Christian who actually follows the lessons of Christ is coined, you may have to go by the title "Christian", because that will definitely separate you from the hate-mongers who have stolen your name, for they are less Christ-like than I am, and I'm an atheist!

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    1. Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful response, Neil.

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  2. I read the edited down version of this blog on Red Letter Christian and said to myself, I wish I'd written that! Amen to all you've said, sister. What next? How shall we reclaim this word of the Good News? I have signed up to keep reading your words and look forward to more. By the way, if you ever want to beat the heat (re: your latest blog entry), come visit us in Maine. I don't have a blog, but we do have a website for the church where I am pastor, if you want to connect mcpconline.org

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