This will be of those difficult post, like I use to do. The feelings are as real as any feelings can be, but the words to describe them are allusive.
Us, post-evangelicals, are a lonely bunch. We fit (speaking for myself) better in non-Christian groups than within evangelical ones . . . but to a point. We also find an impasse with the non-Christians eventually.
I've struggled on how to place my hand. I found comfort within a mainline church but out in the periphery. There is constant calling for those needing warm bodies for all the programs for me to become more involved. But to do so would eventually mean a nasty conflict of cultures. I choose my involvement carefully, mostly where the exchange of ideas would be limited, such as manual labor or work projects.
My wife and I made the decision to become part of a small group. We knew we needed a platform on which to nurture relationships better. It was a real "small" group with only five of us at max. Then one of the other individuals dropped out leaving it as two couples. We enjoyed the group very much. Of course we didn't see eye-to-eye with everything as no two people do. The other couple were thinkers and had been around LAbri. The major disagreement (which was almost never an issue) is that the other man considered himself an intellectual-charismatic. So, when I hear the word "charismatic" I get a cold chill up my spine as I've been there, done that and it was ugly in my experience. But, he never made an issue of it or even spoke in tongues during our group time.
Then our group was combined with a much larger group of about 15 people. Suddenly, like boarding a time machine, I'm plucked back to my early evangelical days.
Here is where wording is difficult. I hate this new group. I do like the people and I think they are fine people, but when they are put together, like putting nuclear fuel rods together, an energy is created that is ugly (in my humble opinion). I mean, standing in the kitchen eating cake and talking one on one is great. Like I said, they are fine people . . probably much better people that I am. But when they enter the living room and take up their Bibles something dramatic happens and they warp into someone totally different.
I will try to describe what I feel but I know I will get it wrong. In the Bible study a couple of verses are read then people start to share about that verse. I sense I'm at a puppet show where the characters on stage are not real but the real operators are behind the curtain. First of all, the speaker shares a short speech and then another shares a short speech. Several of the group are big talkers. But the 'speeches" are so stereotypical evangelical that I know exactly the words the person is going to say before their mouths open. It appears to me that each person (working the puppet) is trying to give the illusion that God is great but what they are really want to communicate is that they, the person behind the curtain, is great. Each one seems to be desperate to unveil their great spiritual attributes. I also sense a desperate effort to conform to evangelical mores of speech, which of course is trying to say that God is great. No one can argue with that so that seals the deal on the comment. This is exactly why a ISIL fighter screams "God is Great" when he fires a mortar into a school. Who can argue with him about his moral actions. Of course we can but not his peers because he punctuates his actions with the undeniable statement.
So here is an example. A verse is read that says that there should be no immoral deeds among you and then there is a pause.
The first person tells a story about how people around them at work were cursing and using God's name in vain and how that grieved them so much because they (the speaker) have such heart for God. But then, over time, that person (who was "swearing") saw how the (speaker) was reacting to difficulties, by praying and not cursing God so they eventually stopped swearing. They even invited that swearer to church.
Then the next person adds another long story along the same lines that communicates that they were a saint and the nasty non-Christians around them were bad people. But they always smile and then say at the end, "God is great isn't he?" Which of course the whole group smiles and gives them positive reinforcement that what they just said was wonderful. Then there is the constant suggestion of supernatural miracles around them . . . puny stuff . . . not real miracles, as if we need miracles.
I, at that time, feel like my head is about to cave in from lack of content.
Again, these are good people but are only following the norms of evangelical "Bible study."
I finally spoke up when I kept hearing that we Christians have our act together because, unlike the evil non-Christians, we study the Bible, which purifies us. I said that this concept of "godliness" is a myth because we, in my old days, studied the Bible non-stop and thought we were the most godly people on the planet . . . but then did awful things to one another, hateful things. My comment was met with stares. I forgot to end it with a big smile and say, "God is great isn't he?"
So, I don't know what we are going to do. If there was a silver lining to this, it was on the way home in the car. My wife, who previously wouldn't have seen a problem with such a "discussion" commented that the discussion made her feel physically ill and totally unsatisfying. I think I've rubbed off on her over these years.
But I'm not sure where this leaves us. Do we sit week after week tolerating the "God did this miracle and that miracle and I'm such a good Christian" talk just so we can have friends? Is the trade off worth it? My thoughts are trying to create a new small group. I just don't know how many people I could find in the Church (a very good church in comparison) that has not drank from the Kool Aid bowl. I just don't know. Being a Christian who is no longer an evangelical is a lonely place without an address.