To the Evangelicals Who Raised Me

To the various pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, family friends, and other well meaning adults who helped my parents raise me. Thank you for your efforts. My folks are amazing people and I know they could not have handled me all on their own. Allow me to congratulate you on mission accomplished. You successfully ushered me into adulthood where I became a law-abiding, tax-paying, contributing member of society. I know it was not easy.

image courtesy of Huffington Post

I was a quirky and precocious child. I knew all the Bible stories you would never teach to children. Like how Lot's daughters got him drunk so they could have sex with him. Or how the prophet Elisha summoned bears to maul a group of obnoxious teenagers. Or the time a youth fell from a second story window after dozing off during one of Paul's all-nighter sermons. I was the kid in church asking you why I wasn't allowed to dance when King David once danced naked, and why we weren't allowed to drink alcohol when Jesus and his disciples frequently consumed wine.

Those questions I asked were the first starts at pulling threads to see what would unravel. Those were my attempts to peek behind the curtain and see how the wizard worked.

The older I got, the more I queried. In the environment you maintained, asking questions was a dangerous activity. My inquisitiveness was often discouraged, mocked, or ignored. Yet I kept poking and prodding and trying to figure it out for myself.

What I discovered is that a lot of what you taught me did not make sense. In fact, much of it was unbiblical.

You taught me smoking, drinking alcohol, dancing, using profanity, and watching movies in a movie theater were all sinful activities. You made me think that my soul could be condemned to hell for dropping a single f-bomb, stepping foot inside the local cinema, or holding a single Marlboro between my lips. Your biggest message was how doubt was the gravest of sins, and possibly one which was unforgivable.

You prohibited one non-sinful thing under the assumption it would lead to something biblically sinful. Forget the verses about freedom in Christ or liberty for believers or personal convictions. You created strict (and sometimes absurd) rules not grounded in scripture to prevent what the Bible does describe as wrong. For example, you prohibited any imbibing because the Bible tells us to avoid drunkenness. What we have here is legalism.

When I reached the age where several of my peers were abandoning the Christian faith, I rebelled against legalistic dogma. I still believed. I still attended church. I also questioned everything. In the end, I realized a lot of what you taught me was crap.

Now, as a grown adult with kids of my own, my tenets of faith are much different than what you tried to pass on. My theology is probably a bit more liberal than you would prefer.

I still don’t smoke, for health reasons - not because of religious objections. I rarely drink, although I do love a good mojito. I dance like a fool, but only when no one is watching. It no longer bothers me when I hear other people cussing because I do not believe in a God that is scared by our vulgar language. I go to the theater as often as my budget allows. And I still have a bevy of doubts. There might be a few of you who think I'm hell-bound based on this paragraph alone.

I picked apart the Christian faith to determine how much of what you said when I was a kid held up under the weight of scripture. In the end, I got rid of a lot of baggage. Hopefully what remained were the parts that matter.

That God designed us to have an intimate relationship with the divine.
How God's love for us is the most powerful force imaginable.
That Jesus came as God in the form of a man to disrupt the corrupt patterns of human folly.
How Jesus set an example for how we should live.
That people have no greater way to love than to sacrifice their own lives for others.
That God's plan is to restore this world and fix the broken bits of our lives.

I still believe in sin. I believe that child abuse and sexual assault are sins. I believe intentionally deceiving others is a sin. I believe anything that brings harm to the weak, the poor, the powerless, minorities, children, the elderly, and the disabled is a sin. I believe it is a sin when our words and actions do not demonstrate love for God or love for our neighbors. I believe that racism, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry are sins. I believe these sins separate us from God. I also believe that God is eager to forgive and God’s grace is bigger than any of us can imagine.

Smoking and swearing and movie theaters and slow dancing and wearing jeans to church on Sunday mornings have nothing to do with creation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, or salvation. Following petty rules about what should or should not be done will not change how much God loves us. Arguments over daily sanctification or eternal security are meaningless when we should be caring for orphans, widows, and refugees.

The person I am today is alien to the kid you taught and guided and mentored all those years ago. That kid might even think of me as a heathen. Regardless, I must thank you. You raised me to be a (hopefully) decent human being. I would not be who I am without your influence. For the good and bad and ugly, you were the catalyst for my wandering, rebellion, and renewal.

But there's more.


  1. Very well said and some thought provoking arguments as well. I know of people completely turned off from the Christian faith or any religion for that matter because their question were never answered, or if they were, they were not met with a desire to be heard or understood.

    As I help with a young group ministry, I will keep this blog post in mind and look out for those kids who may have questions and do my best to support their curiosity, rather than condemn it.

    Also, hats off to the job you are doing raising your kids. I have had the pleasure of spending time with all of them and you are doing a phenomenal job!

    1. Thank you. Your kind words encourage me.

      I hold out hope for those that struggle through leaving the church as I've seen many return once they have kids of their own. It's not an easy road to take and I want all those who still work in churches to welcome and love these people - whether they're leaving, thinking of leaving, or already gone.

  2. “You doubt because you love truth.” - George MacDonald

    1. Oh wow, I have never seen this quote before. It is wonderful. Thanks for sharing.