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Coming Out

“Change of itself just happens; but spiritual transformation must become an actual process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore.”

~Richard Rohr (Daily Meditations 6/30/16)

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(Rob Sinclair, Creative Commons)

I didn’t want everything to unravel.  My journey in faith up until last year had been an exciting path of successive revelations, each building on the last, and all within the broad tent of American evangelicalism.  Yeah, things changed, but it was more like just rearranging furniture.  My influences shifted around: John Piper, John Eldridge, Rob Bell (pre-shitstorm), and then later Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson, Kris Vallaton, etc., but they all stayed pretty much within the orthodoxy of the evangelical.

The next plot twist seems obvious looking back, but it took me by surprise.  I discovered other authors and teachers like Harold Eberle, Brian Zahnd, and Derek Flood.  Zahnd, especially, had (and still has) a major influence on me, and it was he who showed me the door outside the tent.  Years ago, he packed his bags and bid farewell to evangelicalism.  He set out in search of a deeper well, a rich wine that centuries of Jesus followers have drawn from.  He’s written extensively about that journey here and elsewhere.

That first peek outside the tent was both exhilarating and overwhelming.  It was like seeing color for the first time after a decade of black & white.  A whole new host of influences came flooding in: NT Wright, Walter Brueggemann, Richard Rohr, Rene Girard, and so many more.  I think I’m still trying to find my footing from that experience.  But what no one told me, though, is that the door of the tent is what holds the whole thing up.  Once that door is opened, the whole thing comes crashing down like a house of cards, and you can’t go back in.

I found myself in a full-blown existential crisis when I stumbled across The Liturgists podcast.  I was helplessly watching the systems of faith that I had built around me crack and crumble, while I wrestled with my own mortality.  The term for this that is starting to gain some notoriety is “deconstruction,” though that word doesn’t do justice to the wrenching pain and despair it drags you through.  I found myself slipping into atheism territory, as everything I had trusted in dissolved like mist in the morning sun.  Also during this time we were struggling to find a church where we fit, both as a family and also for me personally.  It’s hard to have questions and doubts in an environment that only welcomes them if you arrive at the prescribed answers.

As painful as it was, there was a liberating sheen to the experience of standing amongst the ashes of my once-tidy faith.  I didn’t want to be an atheist, so I started searching for new footings to rebuild on.  I found them through one of The Liturgists’ co-hosts, Mike McHargue, and his axioms.  These simple, rational thoughts provided safe, firm ground that I could stand on, and even more importantly, always return to.  They were enough.

Since then, it’s all been exploration.  I’ve discovered new voices like Peter Rollins and Nadia Bolz-Weber, and old voices like Rob Bell have returned.  I can’t quite verbalize what my faith has become, but it is much more rich and much more human than it ever was before.  So I’ve decided to come out.  I’ve stepped outside the tent of mainstream evangelical christianity, and discovered there is a wide and beautiful world out there.  I’ve joined the ranks of the unlabelable, the spiritual vagabonds, the desert mystics; and I’ve started this blog as a way to both process my own thoughts and to be an encouragement to others who might find themselves in the same situation.  The more I opened up about where I was at, the more I found others on the same journey.  If that’s you, know that you’re not alone, you’re OK, and you’re welcome to come along.  If you’re not on this path, this won’t be an attempt to convert you, but you’re welcome to listen and join the conversation.  We’re all stronger together.

On to new horizons.

PB

  • Janis

    You will always be you. Kind and loving, brave and honest and with an enquiring mind. I loved you as an innocent child exploring alchemy , I loved you as an excited evangelical, I love you where you are now and I will love you where you go from here. I will like you for always and love you for forever. Thank you so much for allowing me to share your marvelous journey called life. Janis

  • Paul Johnston

    What would you say are your primary disconnects with where you’ve been and where you are now?

    • philbritton.bcm@gmail.com

      Good question. I wouldn’t really call it a disconnection, though. It’s more like what Rohr calls “transcend and include.” It feels more like growth or season change or a natural progression than any kind of rejection. It don’t really have much beyond metaphor right now, but I’ll be posting more as I find the words. Keep asking 🙂

    • Good question. I wouldn’t really call it a disconnection, though. It’s more like what Rohr calls “transcend and include.” It feels more like growth or season change or a natural progression than any kind of rejection. It don’t really have much beyond metaphor right now, but I’ll be posting more as I find the words. Keep asking 🙂