The Price of Entry

Russell Miller had a post recently that made me think. It’s entitled The Price of Entry. Russell features a comical video about how to speak Christianese—which teaches the newcomer in the faith about such Christian catchphrases as “being led,” “God put this on my heart,” “testimony,” “I struggle with that,” and others. One that particularly puzzled me when I first got involved in evangelicalism was the concept of “lifting up” someone in prayer. (Incidentally, the Christianese video didn’t mention that one.) “I lift up Pete,” for example. “Lift him up where?”, I thought. I grew up in Armstrongism, which (in my memory) did not use a lot of evangelical catch-phrases.

A key point of Russell’s post, though, is the following:

“For the low, low price of acting like this [(i.e., speaking Christianese)], I could worm my way into a Church. No one would know – except, maybe, those who know me best, such as Mark. But most wouldn’t know. They would assume that I was ‘one of the fold’, and would probably welcome me with open arms. And I would soon have more people to do things with than I knew what to do with. Maybe mostly religious events, after all, who would ever do anything with me socially, voluntarily. But they might call me brother. And all I would have to do would be to bow my head, and say the right words when necessary, and act humble and use a great deal of my formidable experience to come up with interesting points about the gospel. And they would think I was led by the spirit. And maybe I would find a good Christian woman (and maybe not, but still), and finally get married and have a family.”That is all dangling in front of me right now, just out of my reach. And I could reach up and grab it, if I wanted. The price of entry is my soul.”

I wonder to what extent I could worm my way into a church. Part of my problem with evangelicalism was that I had a hard time fitting in among evangelicals. They did not consider me to be all that wise or attractive, but rather unoriginal, maybe even militant. Moreover, they weren’t exactly unconditionally loving people. At the same time, there were some conservative Christian circles in which I could fit in a little bit better. As long as I kept my mouth shut and did not make waves, Christians just assumed that I believed the same way as they did. And, at the time, I did. But, if I were to go to a church today, with all of my doubts and antagonism against evangelicalism, I could probably fit in on some level by pretending to agree with everybody. But the problem is that they wouldn’t be accepting the real me, but rather a mask.

At the same time, let me say this: there is a sense in which I have felt more accepted by conservative evangelicals, than I do by liberal Christians. For instance, if I post something on Christian Mingle, which is rather conservative, people will respond. I still have friends from that community, even though some of them realize that I no longer share the same views that they hold. By contrast, if I post something on a liberal Christian site, I often don’t get a response. Maybe they view my comments from a standpoint of “Been there, done that.” Perhaps they see me as overly militant—only this time, I’m militant in an anti-evangelical direction. Even liberal Christians are big on love, and I can easily come across as someone who has a huge chip on his shoulder. So I feel more comfortable reading what liberal Christians have to say; but I feel slightly more accepted by conservative Christians.

Go figure!

I may not be able to publish comments over the next few days, for I’m in the process of moving from Cincinnati to New York. But I’ll get to them! Thanks for your patience.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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