- the long, difficult journey of self-acceptance as a gay man
- the rejection of fundamentalist Christianity (a.k.a. Christianism)
- the flirtation with atheism and the full embrace of doubt (Christian Agnosticism)
- years of therapy, including four years working with a Jungian therapist
- a season of moderate depression, followed by joining a small, progressive Episcopal church
- a sudden and jarring revelation of my own privilege, thanks to difficult but extremely useful conversations happening around the subject in the blogosphere
It also seems a fitting time to start something new, because today is both Martin Luther King, Jr. day and the 2nd inauguration of President Obama.
Like many Americans, I had a respectfully solemn yet vague admiration for Dr. King. Not unlike the word privilege, I viewed him as a blunt object that Liberals used to shame others; I viewed him as a great man, but that we had quite enough streets named after him, thank you very much. Also, I was too busy wallowing in my own shame and struggles as a evangelical Christian trying to rid myself of homosexuality: No time to think of others less fortunate! However, reading Colin Woodard's book American Nations did a lot to change that perspective. When one looks at the history of North American culture, one sees how slavery, segregation, and a racial caste system became so deeply embedded. Understanding this history helps me understand the incredible, amazing, enormously miraculous work of King. He is without a doubt the 20th Century's biggest game-changer. He was also a follower of Jesus and a believer in non-violence and non-hatred. He showed an staggering amount of grace to his enemies. If this isn't Christianity, what else could it possibly be??? He inspires me to want to re-open the Gospels and look again.
Today is also President Obama's 2nd inauguration. Unlike four years ago, I'm not super-hopeful. Don't get me wrong: I am a big Obama supporter--I think he's a good man, and I think he's a smart man. However we also have a large percentage of our population (and a majority in Congress) that truly hates and fears the man. This, I believe, is mostly projection of the fear of economic, cultural, and technological change that is happening separate from the political landscape, and the panic of the (slightly) dimished influence that the white male population has had in this country. (See, again, American Nations.) My hope is not in Obama, and I am fairly certain he doesn't want that either...it's a lot of pressure to be "the Messiah"! No, my hope is in individuals who want to see Jesus' vision of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Truly, the change I want to see in the world can only begin by living out that change on a daily basis. Here is where I fail, here is where I need grace, and here is where I can understand the concept of "forgive others as you yourself have been forgiven." When I see the innumerable injustice in the world, how much have I been forgiven by not doing all I can, daily and aggressively, to reverse this injustice? This is where Christianity finally makes sense to me. I feel a passion building inside of me for justice...this has got to be--it MUST be--God's spirit moving.
So, for these reasons and with these new perspectives, I intend to read the Gospels. I'll be posting my thoughts as I read through them. I'm doing this not because I am any sort of theologian, but just to share my own experience in hopes that it challenges, comforts, and inspires you, too.