I was born and raised within Evangelicalism; a culture that I know front and back because I have been participating in it front and center throughout my entire life.
My father has been a minister within Evangelicalism since he was radically converted from a “backyard bully” to a “Pentecostal preacher” at the ripe age of 15-years-old and he proudly wore the “Evangelical” label throughout most of my life; that is, until his beloved daughter and precious protege began to publicly question Evangelicalism (particularly the movement’s ongoing sexist theology and misogynistic actions) towards the end of 2014 when I began seriously blogging.
In fact, my father gave his best friend from Canada (a man who held me as an infant and supposedly loved me) a piece of his mind when his buddy “defriended” me on Facebook due to my critiquing of Evangelicalism – a culture my dad’s “bestie” is obviously more attached to than his life-long-friend’s daughter. Sadly, this man is not the only important figure in my life who has removed me as their Facebook friend due to theological differences within Evangelical culture.
Two male pastors I worked under as a Children’s Pastor from 2012 to 2014 in Virginia Beach also “defriended” me without ever letting me know. I left this job in excellent standing and both pastors wrote me one letter of recommendation each. One was a close friend; or so I thought. I imagine my thoughts were too liberal for them.
Later, a best friend from college, who was in my wedding, not only “defriended me;” but blocked me from ever being able to find her on Facebook again. I imagine my thoughts were too conservative for her at the time. But the real icing on the “cake of betrayal” was when my own sister-in-law “defriended” me on Facebook. She claimed that we would be better friends if she did not have to read my Facebook posts. As one might expect, the opposite happened unfortunately.
Although my heart has been shattered in a severely traumatic way these past several years of public advocacy (for women’s equality of opportunity and respect in the Christian Church), social rejection is something I have dealt with since I was a young child.
I trusted people too easily and thought everyone was as honest and good-intentioned as I was. I gave people space that I should not have because I ignored my intuition. “Intuition” is a feeling and Evangelicalism generally taught me to ignore my feelings in favor of my logic, which turned out to be a stupid idea since I have always been more gifted in the area of intuition than in the area of logic. Since I chose a male-dominated career path within a sexist culture, I had to grow in the area of logic, but it is still not my number one gift.
As I tell my husband, “I don’t know how I know things. I just know things. And although I have a hard time explaining my case, I am right 99% of the time.” 😉 He agrees and he is a master at arguing any case with logic. My intuition and his logic can easily collide; but when we are in alignment with one another, our gifts complement one another and one gift is not more important, valuable or trustworthy than the other. It’s nice to have a life-partner who can logically explain my intuitive feelings.
It took me a long time and a massive amount of social betrayal (mostly over my faith views and strong personality) to realize that only God can be fully trusted.
I now try to live by the motto, “Love People, but Trust God Alone.”
I am not a victim. I know that I have done selfish, judgmental, “know-it-all,” and generally bratty, immature things in my life, but I also know that I did not deserve to be rejected so harshly by so many loved ones. Thankfully, I have always had really great parents!
My folks were far from perfect, but they felt strongly that I had an important calling on my life and that God specifically charged them with the oftentimes difficult responsibility of making sure I survived mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically to achieve my purpose – a purpose that was prophesied over my life while I was literally still in my mother’s womb about three weeks before I was born.
My father has been my personal “body guard” since before I could even walk; he had to be or I surely would have died.
The truth is that my life story is filled with many unfortunate life-threatening accidents and events due to my “dare-devil” nature, naivete and sometimes for no apparent reason at all.
At two years old, I climbed to the top of the refrigerator and swallowed an entire bottle of vitamins. Thankfully, they did not have iron in them and I ended up being fine with exception of stinking like vitamins for a couple days. At the same age, I attempted to climb up a one-legged table in an ice cream shop when it fell directly on my forehead. I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance on my mother’s lap as she held my bloody forehead and “spoke in tongues” at the top of her lungs.
I am sure the first responders thought my mother was very strange, but if there is one thing I know about my conservative “Pentecostal mamma,” it’s that she couldn’t care less about what those first responders thought of her (especially in such a traumatic moment in which she thought her baby could be “losing her life” in any sense of the phrase). At 34-years-old, the scar still exists on my forehead and my mother has not changed much.
Within Evangelical culture there are many unique sects. I was brought up in the Neo-charismatic movement which has its roots firmly planted in Pentecostalism. We were the bunch that the Baptists liked to make fun of with all of our “holy-roller-ways;” but don’t worry, we judged the Baptists just as much as they judged us and probably still do. Ironically for me, I married a Baptist who continually reminds me how great the denomination is. I digress.
My husband, Luke, and I met at Regent University in Virginia Beach where I attended seminary and he attended the School of Government. As one classmate yelled across campus after I told her about my new man; “Watch out; a Preacher and a Politician.” I did not understand what she meant at the time, but after a decade of intensely battling over theology, politics and everything in between, I finally get it.
At the time and all the way up until 2016, I considered myself a Conservative-Republican, as all good evangelical women & girls did (and still do in many cases). Luke, on the other hand, considered himself a “Christian Democrat;” two words that I was taught never ever go together. But, Luke’s passions for his faith and social justice were contagious, so I continued to listen to his political ideals with an open mind and heart. Plus, I always had a thing for “bad boys” as many “preacher’s daughters” do. 😉
Regent University is as “Conservative Evangelical” as it gets.
In fact, the president of Regent University is Pat Roberson; the famous televangelist who ran for U.S. President in 1988 on a Republican ticket and made it all the way to the primaries. This is the one and only time I have ever seen my mother express excitement over a political candidate. I was only 4-years-old at the time, but I have heard about this moment throughout my whole life. Never has my mother been so interested in politics than in 1988.
Even though my parents have always voted, “politics” was not a common topic of conversation in our family. We were a “ministry family” and we focused all of our extra time and energy on the topic of theology and the mission of evangelism. However, there were some political ideals that were simply assumed; such as, the unwavering commitment to “pro-life” values; which for most evangelicals, stems primarily from the following Bible verses:
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” -Psalm 139:13 (NASB)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” -Jeremiah 1:5 (NASB)
My intention with this particular series is not to take a political side on this issue (although I will link some older posts on this issue at the end of this one so you can see where I am coming from); but rather, my intention is to help outsiders understand where evangelicals are coming from and why the movement as a whole seems to be so passionate about some moral issues while seemingly ignoring and/or justifying others.
I also hope that as evangelicals (even if you are like me and not sure if you are still an evangelical) we can be humble enough to authentically address our serious cognitive dissonance in order to integrate both our past positives and negatives so that we might become whole within ourselves once again.
My ultimate goal for this series is to bring about greater oneness within the global human family as I believe that authentic oneness is God’s ultimate mission and the very avenue bringing heaven to earth.
We are living in confusing times and so many of us feel misunderstood on all sides; and so, my motives are to simply bring more clarity, understanding, truth, and most of all empathy into a season that we all must quickly learn to come together in a spirit of unity even in our extreme differences. Our lives depend on it. Our children’s lives depend on it.
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Read more of my thoughts on “pro-life feminism” by following the links below: