The Alphabet for Recovering Evangelicals (check back – it “grows” by a letter or two each week)

A is for Ambiguity

I am going to begin to resist certainty. Not everything has to be so absolute. Things are not so black and white, so for or against. It is acceptable to have unanswered questions. If I am just a little less sure of myself, I might be a little easier to get on with, the “lost” might not feel quite so lost in my company, and I might not have to think the cold shoulder I get is part of being persecuted. I repent of Certainty, of alienating others by being so Good, so decided, and so Right – and embrace the many Ambiguities all around me.


B is for Beautiful / B is for Brutal

I know that life is beautiful, – and brutal. I know that the “bad” (the unrepentant) see and experience the beauty of life, and, I know that the “good” (the pious) experience the brutality of life – just as much as each other. Life is Beautiful and Brutal, they go together like a “horse and carriage.” But, the miracle of a “With-us God” is not that faith becomes a ticket to life’s beauty and a “free pass” from its brutality. The miracle is in learning to courageously, maturely, embrace both, and to see both as inevitable, despite my so-called goodness, or rebellion, and despite anything I have done or have not done, believed or rejected, obeyed or disobeyed. Life was both Beautiful and Brutal to Jesus and it is unlikely it will be any different for me.

C is for Care

I want to indiscriminately care for people, regardless of age, gender, race, language, denomination, sexual preference, house of faith (or the lack of it) according to the energy and grace afforded me. I repent of indifference – indifference to suffering, the hungry, marginalized, disenfranchised, and alienated. I repent of indifference to victims of war, and indifference to those whom life itself, because of their own choices, has humiliated. I want to care more than I have ever cared, and I want that caring to drive me to acts of kindness and generosity so that the love and the truth of the Gospel may be tangible to those who, as a result of misguided evangelical zeal, have become victims of religious scorn.

D is for Domestication

I will not pray, or speak, in any manner so as to suggest that God is at my beck and call, divinely appointed to carry out my every whim. I will repeatedly remind myself that, like all other people, I am here for the good and worthwhile purposes of God, and it is not, to the surprise of some, the other way around.

(THOMAS DOANE) D is ALSO for Dialectical Thinking. There are questions whose answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at the same time from different angles. Get used to it.

E is for Endurance

I need endurance and patience to be kind to those for whom faith in Jesus has become a weapon, a means of feeling and thinking of oneself as superior, “over and above” ordinary, lesser mortals. Being “in touch” or “touched” by the Grace of God, instead of rendering some persons profoundly humble and grateful, has given some a sense of entitlement, of superiority, – and it is for these persons that I need endurance.

F is for the Failure

When the preacher, the teacher, of even the parishioner, imparts his or her wisdom, insight, teaching, without also first becoming part of the fabric of the group, the congregation, or the larger family of faith, – then he or she stands in waiting to become its judge. He or she will ultimately regard the group of persons with whom he or she has a “ministry” not as equals, as mutual sojourners on a shared pilgrimage, but rather as a group in need of his or her tolerance, guidance, and correction. And when this group is wayward (as groups are prone to be) he or she, who has failed to become part of the fabric of the group, the congregation or the larger family or faith, will move on, to where he or she may judge more effectively, where people are more “open” to his or her guidance, – to where the grass is, of course, greener.

G is for Grace

Grace helps me to overlook what I think is my due, my just desert, my right. It assists me to forgive, to turn the page, and to move on and let go. Grace empowers me to live with an open hand rather than a clenched fist. When under the spell of divine grace, I can forgive, even when forgiveness is not requested. I can write off debts, even offering gifts in place of the repayment of the debt. I will seek to enrich the lives of those try to hurt me knowing that grace is evidence of divine intervention, of growth, goodness, and spiritual maturity.

H is for Humility

Humility is recognizing, acknowledging, then doing – what I am good and gifted at. It’s stepping up to the plate to do what I am called to do with the gifts I have been given. I know it is false humility, worm-like, to claim I am good at little or nothing. To deny my talents is poor stewardship of my life. Like every person, I am gifted and talented, and when I hide my skills in order to appear humble, I am wasting valuable time.

(THOMAS DOANE) I is for ‘I am the problem’

Not the economy. Not my boss. Not my employees. Not someone else. Not President Obama. Not even Glenn Beck. ‘I’ am blocking the way between my life and God.

J is for Jesus

Not King James. Not Joel Oesteen’s “Your Best Life Now.” Not Jerry Falwell. Not Jim Bakker. Consider the source.

K is for Kingdom

Jesus proclaims repeatedly that he is inaugurating the Kingdom of God. The Gospel is the Good News about Jesus: grace, etc. The Gospel is the catalyst for the Kingdom about which Jesus was always talking. The Kingdom of God is here, or the Kingdom of God is near. Either/or. Where it is not, is far away, somewhere else in a Platonic otherworld, where the dutiful will be admitted after death and not before. We continue to live in the always-already/ but not-yet. As an experiment, try behaving as if you lived in the Kingdom of God now, or as if it were dawning at this moment–where time meets eternity.

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Womb Mates

“Pssssst.”

“Who’re you ‘pssssst-ing’ at?”

“You. It not like there’s anyone else in here.”

“I was just checking.”

“You think we going to make it?”

“Mmmmm. Touch and go I’d say, from everything I’ve read.”

“You believe everything you read?”

“Well, why not? I’m not jaded. Yet.”

“Is that you thumping?”

“Here you go blaming me again. She’s at the coffee shop. We always get a bit of a thump when she’s in here. Café Mocha does that to people…. and to almost-people.”

“Put that out.”

“Who me? I’m not smoking. It’s that guy she hangs out with. He smokes around pregnant women.”

“Well …. it’s reaching me and I don’t like it.”

“Put your hand over you mouth.”

“It doesn’t reach, yet.”

“Pssssst.”

“Is that you ‘Pssssst’-ing again?”

“Get back to what we were saying. What’s going to happen to us if she, you know, isn’t glad we’re in here? What if she makes a choice and, you know, we are not in it?”

“We go back. Silly.”

“Back? Where to? Don’t ‘silly’ me,”

“Don’t tell me you forgot already. We go back to where we came from. You know, the Beautiful Place. The Big Place. There’s no rejection there, remember?”

“No. I don’t remember.”

“That’s what they said. They said we wouldn’t remember, but I can still remember some things. Although I’ll admit my memory is slowly fading. I am having a fetus moment.”

“Wait a minute. I remember the gift shop. The day we got loaded with talents and gifts and dreams and ambitions and every good thing. I remember when we were chosen for each other. I remember when we were chosen, both of us, for her. Wow! I remember it all so clearly now. It is all coming back. They said we’d have a place to live and grow and discover everything. They said that although we’d feel far away from the Big Place. They’d be very near to us. Remember they said we’d be very useful and creative and deeply loved every day until our return no matter how we were welcomed on Earth or not.”

“Settle down. You are getting a little hyper. Can you remember, did They said it was safe?”

“No. It’s not safe. I remember distinctly. Exciting yes. Safe? No. They said we’d not like it to be too safe. It’s a human thing you know. Humans like a lot of adventure and thrill and risk. Too much safety doesn’t do humans too much good. Speaking for myself, I cannot wait.”

“Well, you have to. We’re in this together and we get out together.”

“Is that you gulping? Do you think you could respect my boundaries a little? You’re on my side.”

“Hey, you’re a little young to be doing that. Choosing sides and all that.”

“You know what I’m looking forward to? Diapers. I’m tired of swimming around here, naked, in front of you.”

“You’re thinking about diapers. Hey, this is life and death stuff. We’re in a womb for goodness sake. This is a danger zone if ever I knew one and you’re looking forward to wearing diapers?”

“Let’s agree on something?”

“What’s that?”

“Whatever choice she makes. However it pans out, we’ll stick together.”

“If we get out of here alive I’m telling you now, I’m never going to a coffee shop.”

“And I am never going to smoke.”

“You think she going to want us?”

“I don’t know. I hope so. There’s so much to do out there. So much to see. If she doesn’t want us I hope she’ll hang in there and give us to someone who does.”

“Hey, I have another question.”

“What is that?”

“Are we in an American womb?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Well I heard a lot of stories about American wombs.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t remember.”

NOTE: My editor at a major newspaper rejected this column. The original draft ends with: “Hold your breath,” says the one, “here comes the whipped cream,” which she said was a tasteless ending. When I questioned the rejection of the column (she had run more controversial columns from me in the past) she said she thought actually aborting the twins at the end of the column was tasteless. This was very surprising to me, since in the writing of the column, I had never thought the whipped cream was some chemical administered to kill the babies. It was simply the mother drinking her coffee at a coffee shop.

ANOTHER NOTE: This thought was inspired by Janet Starkey who read somewhere (or heard somewhere) the beautiful thought that babies enter the world, forgetting everything of the full knowledge of God they have. Their life mission is to rediscover the truth about God they knew and experienced before they were in the womb.