“ I must make a conscious, deliberate, daily choice to sit at His feet,
to listen to His Word, to receive His love,
to let Him change me,
and to pour out my heart’s devotion to Him.
When I get into His presence,
the whole world looks different. ”
A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
This reality is what we can cling to in the face of doubt. No matter what anyone else thinks or says about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, this I know: “When I get into His presence, the whole world looks different.” That is the difference between one who believes the truth of Christianity and those who reject it. We can have endless and exhausting conversations and debates about whether or not God is real; whether or not Jesus is truly the Son of God; whether or not He is, in fact, God Who came in a human body to meet us right where we live; whether or not He does, daily, intervene in human history. All of that is interesting, but it is ultimately irrelevant in light of the personal experience of those who see His hand of mercy and grace in every moment of life’s journey.
This morning I was reading a bit of Frank Schaeffer’s blog . . . . I was fascinated by his “conversion” from “right-wing conservative Christian” to a sometime apologist for Eastern Orthodoxy. He has great insight into the inner workings of the history of the fundamental, evangelical cultural movement in America. After all, his father was the brilliant Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer. And his mother, Edith Schaeffer, was very influential in my personal Christian life. As the author of books extolling the value of a woman in her home, Edith Schaeffer gave me “permission” to find my creative expression through my ministry within my family. During the darkest years of my life as a young wife and mom, her words of validation for the ministry of homemaking and motherhood were frequently exactly what I needed to hear.
The confusion and mixed messages that were coming at me from all corners of my life were quite distressing: “A woman’s place is in the home . . . . ” OK, I was good with that. And although I do not recall that these words were ever actually spoken out loud, the message came through loud and clear: “We really don’t know what you do there, and we couldn’t care less, just shut up, stay there, and do it.” Where I came from, girls were not supposed to ask questions, make suggestions, have an opionion, and certainly it was not considered to be the behavior of a “Godly Christian woman” to have a voice. So, in many ways, I truly identify with the perspective of Frank Schaeffer as he dissects his upbringing in the home of a famous and outspoken “right wing” Christian evangelical apologist and philospher.
As it turns out, Frank Schaeffer has come to the conclusion that most, if not all, of the dysfunctional and eccentric quirks of many “right wing” Christians (such as a seemingly disproportionate percentage of “evangelicals” who fall into adulterous relationships and / or pornography addictions) are the result of an obsession with sex. Perhaps. I have also made that observation in a few situations that I have personally known. But what I find interesting about Frank Schaeffer’s “conversion” from “right wing” fundamental / evangelical Christianity to Eastern Orthodox Christianity is his apparent complete and total rejection of all things conservative.
So, I understand that he grew up in a home where legalism was probably a big part of the picture. And I understand how destructive that can be to a person, especially a child, as they begin to question and discover how relationships work and how the world around them functions. I suppose that is a topic to be explored in another post . . . . I am also quite intrigued, as an evangelical Christian, with the beauty and worshipful experience of Eastern Orthodoxy. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study the history of Christian theology in graduate school, and spent a great deal of time in researching this ancient tradition. I discovered that in the Orthodox tradition, there is much more emphasis on worship as a holistic experience, rather than a predominantly cognitive, intellectual proposition which is what my experience of Protestantism has been.
But . . . . . . I wonder why the quest which led Frank Schaeffer to identify and call-out some of the dysfunctional aspects of evangelical Christianity brought him to the conclusion that, therefore, everything about conservative thinking is “wrong.” Perhaps I have understood his writings incorrectly, but it seems that he has completely discarded the essence of a personal relationship with Christ. Although the questions, in my opinion, are valid; his conclusions about the damage that can be inflicted on people through a weird, legalistic, self-righteous, and judgmental philosophy are obvious; and his own experiences of childhood in the family of a very public evangelical Christian family cannot be denied; is it not possible that the truth of Christianity is not dependent upon the way some people perhaps distort that message?
I know – this post is probably a bit philosophic and esoteric for a lot of people, but I just found it interesting that this particular quote appeared here for “In Other Words” this week and it seemed to speak directly to my thoughts on the subject this morning. We can question, we can doubt, we can complain, we can criticize, we can condemn all the things that are “wrong” about some of the kooky things that we have observed in the behavior of “right wing” fundamental, evangelical Christianity – but for me (and I have personally experienced some of the cruelty that is imposed by strange “Christians” who use their “Christianity” to manipulate and abuse people) – this is the bottom line: “When I get into His presence, the whole world looks different.”
And not just “different;” no one can deny the reality, the truth, of the power of faith in Christ and the gift of God’s grace and mercy in MY life. I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, and I am living it. For all of the truth that Christians are not perfect, that is not even the story. Christ makes the difference in my life, and I am sad that Frank Schaeffer chooses not to distinguish between the God Who Is and the people who have failed him. I think I’ll read a few more of Frank’s books to see if I can figure it out ;o)
If you would like to participate in this week’s “In Other Words,” please visit Debbie on her blog, Heart Choices, where you can leave a link to your post on this topic and find links to the other bloggers who are participating. Have a great Tuesday!