Today I watched a YouTube video from evangelist Todd Bentley claiming to have brought 35 people back From the dead. I deleted a lengthy, sardonic Facebook post about this guy. I will choose to open up my heart instead. My faith formation was nurtured on these types of teachings. In the end it was detrimental to my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Not everyone – not even the majority – of people in the churches I was raised in said or believed things like this. But in the decidedly revivalist communities I was raised in people like this were always there, hanging out in the corners of the room. The tambourine shaking, tongue speaking and falling down was never quite a “powerful” enough “manifestation of the Spirit” for them.
Unfortunately – due to emotional disposition or nurture or some combination of the two – I gravitated towards these kinds of teachings. My mother gravitated towards these kinds of teachings. She read self-published books with no isbn and titles like “Blessings and Curses” full of bizarre stories of revival or Old Testament like plagues falling upon people with moral failures. I followed suit. One of my youth group leaders when I was a teenager gave me a book by Smith Wigglesworth. Wigglesworth claimed to have laid hands on disabled people and amputees to watch them walk again or see before his eyes legs sprout back. He claimed in the book to have raised his own wife from the dead and have breakfast with her. She told him he was being selfish and he could get more evangelism done as a widower. So he tucked her back into bed and she died again.
Most people in the churches I was raised in were masters at a sort of cognitive dissonance that I unfortunately was not endowed with. I believed this stuff very, very deeply. I read the accounts of the disciples raising the dead after the narrative of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and I took them to heart. Urged on by writings I would glean from my mother’s stash or passed down to me from youth group leaders, I would spend hours and hours and hours on end laying prostrate on the floor or kneeling at my bedside for these kinds of revivals to happen so more people could be saved. Despite all of these prayers, I could not even “gain control” over my problem with over eating. I could not stop masturbating which I was taught from a very early age was an egregious sin. I felt an enormous weight of guilt that revival was not happening all around me because I was not pure of heart enough. The self-defeat was overwhelming and at times nearly unbearable. Despite this I kept praying and praying that God would make me pure enough to live a “powerful” life like this.
But then my friend and a youth that I had mentored and “led to Christ” died of liver cancer in his early 20’s. Despite prayers and more prayers.
Then my mom died of Creutzfeld Jacob Disease, despite a group of women coming to our house armed with Bible verses promising the prayers of the righteous would availeth and whatever we asked for in Jesus’ name would be given.
Then a friend from seminary who never felt comfortable with his sexuality and who battled intense depression and who I knew prayed constantly to be “delivered” from both drank himself to death.
I think truly the only way to be a relatively happy “well adjusted” Christian is to live with an enormous amount of cognitive dissonance. How else can you hear to stories week after week – or for the truly faithful – read them day after day – of great worldwide floods, parting seas, plagues of frogs, blind receiving sight or the dead raising while simultaneously living in a world where such things simply do not happen???
This is not about renouncing that there is some “spiritual” component to life, whatever that means.
This is not about denying that there is some cosmic force that animates the cosmos with life and connects all things, that some might properly call god.
This is not denying that morality and values and ethics are still very important – to me personally – and I believe for the betterment and survival not only of humans, but of our planet.
This is NOT saying I am any smarter, more sophisticated or any more aware than any of my religious family or friends or people from the churches I grew up in.
This is meant to simply acknowledge to one and all – and finally to myself – that I cannot live with the cycle of guilt and self-hatred that is part in parcel – at least for me – of what it means to be a conservative Christian.
This is intended to confess to one and all – and finally to myself – that I cannot live with the cognitive dissonance that I know is required – again at least of me – to be the progressive Christian I have for years been straining to be.
This is written to be honest with everyone – and finally to myself – about this one thing: I can no longer with integrity call myself a Christian.
I have no idea “what I am” or what that “makes me.”
I have lived a life obsessed with labels: good and bad, black or white.
For the first time in my life I just want to be.
And I want to still be here for and with you, any loved ones who are reading this and who can accept…
This is not a new me.
It may not be the “last me.”
My life is not over
I believe that this a point that all of my life has led up to.
And to be honest it feels like a resurrection of sorts…