“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would be see as it is.”- William Blake
I was born into an Evangelical household. I remember my childhood nights spent listening to our Christian radio station and hearing people like Chuck Swindoll and James Dobson. I was very fortunate to have been raised in an Evangelical home. It gave me a worldview, it gave me a structure, it gave me my religious foundation that I needed to start my journey. When I turned 18, the Evangelical worldview I was given crashed to the ground. I began having questions around hell, salvation, what the purpose of the Church was, and even if I still wanted to be a Christian (by attempting some universal spirituality or humanism). When I was 18, I found people who were raising questions or brought different perspectives to my Evangelical mindset, people like Donald Miller and Rob Bell. These were people who were speaking about things differently then I had been raised with they arrived at different answers, or were asking different questions, and yet were still able to hold onto their own Evangelical identity.
A few years later I was introduced to a different form of Christianity, one that was heavily influenced by Anabaptist values. I had begun reading people like Greg Boyd, N.T Wright, and Stanley Hauerwas. This framework of Christianity brought me further out of my own exclusive Christian ideology, and it forced me to look beyond pat answers and our failing church and systemic structures. This type of Christianity caused me to see how Christianity should look through the lens of justice, peace, and non-violence. It showed me how much of modern day Christianity looks more like the “world” and less like Jesus.
Just a year or two ago, in my attempt to find a deeper sense of inner peace and to deal with the spiritual problems that all human being face, I was influenced by the Catholic mystics. I remember sitting up day and night reading the works of Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Richard Rohr. I felt a deep inner surrender. I experienced for the first time a deep sense that I am in God, and God is in me. That I was deeply loved by God, and God was using my pain and my story to help me connect to him, and help me connect to others. The soul work of the Catholic mystics showed me a much deeper reality of who God is and how he shows up in the world.
When I look at my journey, God keeps showing me tradition after tradition of how he is at work through the Christian narrative. God is too big to be confined to “my denomination”, “my tradition”, and “my belief system.” God uses things beyond what I was raised with to polish the lens through which I not only see God but how also life. There are pearls in many traditions that need to be sought out and included. For me to be a faithful Evangelical, and even more importantly, a Christian, it had to include questioning Evangelicals, Anabaptists, and Catholics. Somehow, in our own narcissism, the narrow path that leads to life somehow was directed by “our denomination”, “our tradition”, and “our belief system.” The danger in that is the fact that we become a more polluted and angry version of ourselves. But there must be many narrow paths that lead to the narrow path. If this weren’t true, then the narrow path would have included a burning bush, or being knocked down in a street for everybody. But we’re not Moses, and we’re not Paul. We’ll have a journey which we must learn to include and discern.