My views aren’t solely my own, I am not the only Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist out there, but on this blog/platform I speak for myself and myself alone.
My beliefs that I hold are held in open hands. I operate from a nuanced stance of an open-handed system of faith. If you’re in community with me in real life you will probably hear before or during my time of unpacking Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism “I might be wrong” because what I have learned and gleaned from others, what I have found out on my own, has to be put up for examination; I am not above reproach nor do I turn it away, it’s why when it comes to my faith system I very well could be wrong and so that’s why my faith is open-handed.
Disclaimer: I don’t consider my years spent as an Evangelical to be years wasted, for they served as the building blocks of what I know and hold in an open hand these days. They were never a stepping stone, that is, I was never in one place looking to hop off to the next place and then on to the next and so on. They gave me the tools and the basis for what I believe in now, and I look back upon those years fondly and I send them my light and love.
I am not devoid of having self-identified Evangelicals friends and family members, and if anything I have much love for them. Do I cut them down for their views? Absolutely not! It works for them in this season of life, and something shifts in their lives and their belief system, I will be there with them all the while, in solidarity and fidelity.
I grew up in a Christian home, was homeschooled, went to church on Sundays and youth group and/or AWANA on Wednesdays. And what I learned in the time in each of those settings was a “you have to know what you believe.” And with that in mind I learned all the songs, learned a lot of Bible verses, had answers to questions or sought out answers if none were given in a timely fashion. I learned a lot, I grew to know a lot, I had a lot of faith, and I also had a lot of beliefs, but so much of it was whittled down to either orthodoxy (right beliefs) or orthopraxis (right practices).
It’s why there was a slight discord amongst me (WASP-in-training) and my Catholic friends. Because I held the Truth with a capital T, they weren’t Christian they were Catholic, and subsequently they didn’t have it right and that’s what it’s all about…right?
I thought it was, and given my microcosm Evangelical-centric universe, I was led to believe that I was as well. But what shifted me, and subsequently shifted my views, was one big thing: relationships.
Relationships have the capacity to unravel or provide ground to reexamine what we think / what we believe and I for one think that’s a great thing. In my own life I think the unraveling / reexamining first occurred when I was attending community college. I was involved with a diversity group, Circles Of Understanding, and while there weren’t a lot of us in attendance we all did collectively come from different backgrounds.
I remember clearly the day we decided to discuss religion as a group, and instead of making it a “this is what I believe” discussion we brought up stereotypes other people think about our religions. I pointed out that people might assume that I am bigoted and prone to bash people over the head with the Bible. One of my peers brought up the issues she faced as a Muslim in a post-911 world, and how people assumed the worst, as if she had an explosive vest strapped to her chest with the intention to blow others up. Because we put out there what we experienced and what people thought they knew about us, putting out a bit of vulnerability to others, it led to a friendship that still exists to this day.
I have many stories about encounters with others that have shifted and broadened my thoughts about life and faith and everything in between. I know some people operate under the premise that you have to lock down what you think and believe when it comes to matters of faith, and honestly I think that’s what leads to extremism in any faith system, because you do not allow room for anything to upset your way of thinking, and consequently your way of living. Faith should be open to critique, to questioning, and also to doubting.
I know my views aren’t solely my own, and I know others may have a difficult time stepping out in faith as to broadening their views on faith and God, but to those of you who find yourself at a crossroads with all this I find that it is ultimately worth it to do so. The bottom won’t fall out, the sky won’t crash, you might find yourself in new circles and new communities, but through it all God is there and present. There’s no need to build up stronger walls when your faith is challenged, just let go and enjoy the ride!