I just finished the book, The Exvangelicals: Loving, Living, and Leaving the White Evangelical Church, by NPR journalist, Sarah McCammon. It jumped right into my library app, um, because I put it there.  

I’m one of those Christians who wonders “what happened?” Where did the deeply humble, servant-hearted, powerfully transformative teachings of Jesus go? Where did love go?  

I don’t identify as “exvangelical,” preferring to say I’m evangelical, but not Evangelical. I think being evangelical precludes being Evangelical. Lower case “e” evangelical means “following the teachings of Jesus.” Upper case “E” Evangelical has been hijacked to smack of political things, many of which are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. 

So many exvangelicals were brought up, first and foremost, with a message of “you’re not okay (you are a horrible sinner) nor are you safe (you are going to Hell) unless you follow these four simple steps.” Little kids like me weren’t ever sure if our boxes were checked completely enough. In other words, it all depended on me. At least that’s how it felt. 

I think a huge amount of nuance has been missed. When I read the words of Jesus, I hear “follow me,” (intriguing) not “you’re not okay nor safe” (terrifying). I’m not glossing over his admonitions to repent. He never minced words, but his words were transformative, not scary. We don’t teach children to read by beating them over the head with how illiterate they are. We invite them into the wonderland. 

It’s a nuance thing. 

So some of us are rethinking the messages we got. Some call this “deconstruction.” Some are leaving the Church, even their faith. But some of us are finding a new understanding of faith…and it is beautiful. It’s not about changing the words of the Bible; it’s about reading them through a different lens. It’s been my spiritual cataract surgery. I can see better. Jesus isn’t a finger-wagger standing there as soon as we exit the womb. He’s the inviter to an abundant life. Even little kids can understand that nuance.  

I think God gets rejected a lot because we don’t understand him well enough, maybe because of some off-kilter messaging. Who would reject pure love if we could really see it? What if this spiritual upheaval is a new way of seeing? Looking for Jesus and saying, “Oh, THERE you are!”