Religious Trauma is a real thing. I know it. I feel it. I see it in others. And there is official recognition these days! A few years ago, I interviewed Teresa Mateus. Our Skype connection did not work so I had my computer record the squeaky voice that came through the speaker of my iPhone 4s. It worked. As I spoke to her, Teresa seemed to discuss people who have undergone serious abuse in the church. I did realize that such abuse happens in many different forms and intensities. I suppose in the back of my mind I even realized that I was affected too but I was mainly thinking about people other than myself.
I’m not a fundie watchdog. So when I hear Fundamentalists say something weird it always comes to through leftwing or liberal media. And, yes, today was when I heard about Jim Bakker making the fantastic claim that those who mock Trump bring the apocalypse closer. Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. Most of us know Trump as the man whose behavior and speech inspire comparisons with the situation in Germany before World War II. And people who resist him are now ushering in Armageddon? Apparently!
Bonhoeffer’s theology is multifaceted. It can be approached from many different sides and applied for different purposes. In part, this is because Bonhoeffer developed such a rich theological narrative, in part, because his theology addressed people in their context, in part, it is because his theology stands under the influence of many, often opposing voices. It is no wonder that there are many interpretations of Bonhoeffer’s theology that often conflict with each other. There is even a [book] out that addresses the problem of the many different Bonhoeffer’s that are paraded as the original in support of this or that theological or ethical stance.
Theocracy, that form of government in which God governs a nation directly through divine command, is hot again. Think for instance of Iran, al-Qaeda or ISIS. Closer to home, American evangelicals are busy using the White House to get a firm grip on politics and legislation. For them, Trump is God’s man who will ensure that the US will be governed again according to the moral values once established by God.
A God in the Hands of Angry Sinners: How the Evangelical Misconstrual of God and Politics Spells Doom
Many people in the United States are familiar with the famous sermon Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher and scholar in the Massachusetts of the 1700s, preached on the 8th of July 1741. The title of his sermon was “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” As was his custom, Edwards read his sermon out loud. An utterly boring routine for a spiritually inert congregation. But something weird happened. People started shaking and trembling. Some fell to the ground sobbing and moaning. Edwards’ sermon is a good example of the theology of the Great Awakening, a movement of religious fervor and repentance that swept through the thirteen colonies of America and left a permanent mark on the Protestant faith in the North American continent.
I recently got interviewed by Clint Heacock from the MindShift Podcast about the deconstruction of my evangelical faith. Clint also asked me about the theological process involved and if there was any reconstruction after it all fell apart. I did retain something—or better, found something new—after all. It is called the theology of the cross.
By the way, the theologian I refer to but whose name eludes me (as always) during the interview is Justo L. González.
The following is an excerpt from a chapter that I am contributing to a book about and by evangelicals who fell through the bottom of their faith and deconstructed hard. Except for sharing on social media the following should not be copied or used otherwise. It’s personal and real though there is much more to my story that is in the chapter and not here. But still, enjoy.
The Slippery Slope of Black and White
Given the personal circumstances I found myself in after one year of Seminary, I slowly started dissembling the evangelical bulwark. One beautiful thing with tightly knit systems of thought is that once one piece of it goes broke the whole building disintegrates. Once one piece topples, the whole system becomes a cascading row of dominos. This process can take a couple of years but for those who do not shy away from the challenges and manage to avoid the boomerang effect (the snapping back to the old paradigm upon returning to one’s original community of faith), the collapse is unavoidable.
A long time ago, there was peace between God and humanity. They were happy together. In fact, you could hardly distinguish one from the other, for God walked among her people as one of them. She loved them as though they were her own children which, in a way, they were. God took care of the people to the best of her abilities and the people worshiped and thanked her for all she did to the measure of their blessedness and gratitude. The latter never quite measured up to the former, of course, but God was ok with that. After all, it is human to fall short of expectations.
While the United States celebrates the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Israeli army shot and murdered 58 Palestinians. Yesterday Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary while Palestinians commemorated the great tragedy of the Nakba, their violent displacement that to this day has not ended and has resulted in refugee camps outside Israeli territory and two separated enclaves where Palestinians struggle for survival under economic hardship.
My friend, Dwaine Sutherland, was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) this weekend in Minnesota. I’ve known Dwaine for some years and from the first moment I met him in the library of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, I realized, by observing his body language and listening to his Southern accent, that he was not your typical Lutheran. Like me, he has a background in evangelicalism. This is the story of his struggle away from double predestination Calvinism toward becoming a Lutheran pastor. Congrats on your ordination Dwaine! May you be a faithful shepherd of God’s flock.
I have opened many sermons, preaching at congregations that had not met me before, with a humorous, “No I am not from Minnesota”. My southern accent does stand out and it is a novelty for some to hear the liturgy done with a Tennessee country accent. So, how did a small-town Tennessee boy end up as a Lutheran Pastor in the Midwest? I get this question quite often.