Permission to Doubt, My King?

One of my Facebook friends wrote this in response to a schism that’s happening in churches across North America:

Marty Sampson recently said “Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point” in an instagram confession about losing their faith. This follows close on the heels of Josh Harris’s confession of not being able to imagine a Christianity that has room for what he is thinking and feeling right now. I’ve read a lot of comments calling them apostate, traitors to the faith, chaff, people who were never saved to begin with and about anything else you can imagine. I’d even agree that something has gone wrong here and they are the ones making a choice to leave, but I can’t lay all the blame at their feet, the current church needs to own their share in this “divorce”.

We (the church in general) have done a poor job of equipping leaders to face doubt let alone dance amidst it. Deep doubt is part of a healthy faith journey but its rarely talked about and almost never encouraged. And when it comes there seems to be few places within the faith to face it outside denying the doubt. The people who are making this space get called leftist, progressive-liberal false prophets, etc.

Instead we NEED a church that is a safer place to experience “deconstruction” and “reconstruction” or rather a dynamic growth and depth of faith. It needs to be a place to ask questions and hear answers, lots of them, and sort through them and hold a bunch of them with open hands because we don’t have as good an answer as we’d like sometimes. We need humility, honesty, hope to face fear and love that is scandalously hospitable or the hemorrhaging we are experiencing will become full-on exsanguination.

I’m obviously in no way a scholar in theology (and deserve to be proven wrong for this commentary), and in no way ever will be an expert at anything theological. I do, however, have a few theories as to how we’ve come to this point.

– Unfortunately, every Christian struggles with a human Christianized matrix that’s been partly built by fundamentalist leaders such as Schaeffer, Robertson, and Falwell. The commentary of chaff and being apostate comes from groups of Christians who unwittingly try to preserve their fundamentalism, conservative thinking, and legacy. I believe that these Christians are terrified that if the fundamentalist church as an organization is radically torn apart by “leftist liberal LGBT-affirming false prophets,” then Satan has won. But to me, God is bigger than the organized church, Christian nationalism, and fundamentalism. I’ve always held on to this belief even when I struggled with God between 2011 – 2016.

– Church leaders are aware of the spiritual abuse that comes from fundamentalism and other Christian cults. They are aware that abuse is one of the causes of the doubt described, whether it’s abuse of women, exclusion of the LGBTQ community, or gossip around sexual acts that happen between congregational members/pastoral staff in adultery. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to equip leaders to face doubt because of the subjective views and definitions of doubt, and spiritual abuse itself.

– I think Harris and Sampson are trying to sort out guilt for some of the things they preached in the past which left an awful taste in the mouth of many Christians who doubt what they preach. I think they genuinely desire to love God and love their neighbors (especially neighbors that they have influence over) but they have no idea what to do when it comes to the damage that may have been caused by their past empires. This may be more so for Joshua Harris than Marty Sampson.

As someone who’s gone through spiritual abuse and the stages of “deconstruction” and “reconstruction” of my own faith in Christ over the past decade, I’m starting to see the beauty and hope of small diverse communities that sort through Biblical truths without angrily dealing in absolutes. I’ve seen churches that embrace struggle and are willing to risk loving people who would be considered by other churches as the ugliest, most sinful, unblessed individuals. These places are hard to find as I hardly feel safe in most churches. And yet, because all of doubt and questioning coming out into the open, I’m hoping and praying that a much safer church we need badly is what the church eventually becomes.

Permission to doubt, my King? I guess the next decade will indicate if we should or not.

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