The arrogance of evangelism is ruining our planet.
Believe me, I’ve been guilty.
I was an arrogant 10-year-old, knocking on doors, trying to convert adults to my religion. I felt the blush of my arrogance recently, when my sister asked me, “Was that when you told me ‘I had to be born again?’”
I spoke to her that way because I’d been converted, reconverted, and born again, again. That’s how I was knocking at doors at 10, being baptized twice, flying to far off lands, and how I went to seminary.
I woke up to my arrogance a day or two into my mission trip to Kenya when I thought, “How can I travel half way around the world to tell these people they are living wrong?” I wasn’t there to bring a gift, build a well, or teach at a school. I was there with "good news" but in my heart I knew I was saying, "Abandon your God and worship mine."
I’m inclined to excuse the whole thing as an embarrassing series of “life lessons,” but as a recipient and a pusher, I paid a heavy price because of evangelism. I learned to be condescending. I labeled people. I built relationships on a foundation of my hidden agenda. I never got real. I hid my doubts while presenting myself with certainty. I felt glee at the thought of God returning to kill the wicked. I cut family out of my life for a decade. In short, I was a real ass. I could justify anything by wrapping it in the cloak of serving a higher purpose.
When I was in Kenya, I entered a crisis. There was a history of domination, theft, and cruelty. We were told “Don’t talk politics.” But I could see the effects of white Christian colonialism. As I walked from hut to hut, I was observing the effects of evangelicalism. In the name of Jesus, missionaries had come to Kenya in droves, preaching of God’s love, but leaving wounds across the land. I was a visitor with an agenda, and I was ashamed. It wasn't real love and it wasn't good news I was offering.
Coming to the current moment, I see the arrogance of evangelism played out across the globe, and it’s not just Christians. The damage is done anytime someone says, “I have the Truth.” Name any political conflict or terrorist act of the last 20 years, and if you dig, religious extremists have fueled it.
I am probably writing things you know. If you’ve been beaten up in the name of religion, you get it. You’ve seen how “right” leads to plight.
Once someone feels right, really, really, right, they can justify anything-- expelling people who disagree, shunning family members, killing others in the name of their God. They feel free to invade. They feel free to dictate and to control sexuality. They beat children to break their wills and bring them into the fold. They hide abuses and continue preaching. In the most extreme crusade-mentality, they murder in the name of their God.
Frankly, I am embarrassed by my history of evangelicalism. I am sad that throughout life, my relationships have been tainted by a hidden agenda. I am sorry for the years I wasted. But now I am liberated. I am free to create relationships built on respect. I am free to learn from others and to visit other cultures without trying to change people. I feel relief in not seeking, not promoting, and in just being me.
I healed by forgiving. I asked for forgiveness and I forgave myself. It helps me to laugh at how I used to be. I let people be where they are on their personal faith journey. I do however, educate about spiritual abuse and I offer tips on healing. I share my thoughts and trust that the right people will read them. I scatter seeds of healing.
I healed because I did my research. What I needed to be whole, was not zealotry, but rather, I needed the right to explore information from many places, and assimilate it in a way that makes sense to me. I read widely, and I agree to disagree. I don’t need to change others. I view history as my teacher. I am thankful for the things I have learned. I am grateful for the way my experiences shape and lead me.
My blogs take on all topics related to recovery, including commentary on the intersection of spiritual abuse and current events.
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