I used to... but now... (1 of x+1)

This entire thing was set in motion by a blog I've been lurking on, because I've never gotten around to posting very much this last week.The question was what are some of yours?

And I answered. These are my extended answers, because I feel like they merit some unpacking, and because there are just enough that I can make this a multi-night habit and get back into the routine of paying attention to both my functional blogs.

I used to define myself in oppositions; now I'm defining myself in relations.

Before I knew what I was, I knew what I was against.

I knew I wasn't a fundamentalist. I learned that much from Bruce Bawer's book Stealing Jesus. I knew I didn't believe in legalism. (I did; certainly I practiced it; but it was only legalism for other people.) I knew I didn't believe in the infallibility of the Bible. I knew that I didn't believe in a factual six-day creation. I knew I didn't believe in the Rapture (before I knew why) and...

But what did I believe? Looking back, it turns out, not much. I talked a lot about theology, about authors I liked, or (more honestly) what other books said the authors I liked said - but until the question was asked, I'm not sure I ever sat down and tried to say what I actually believed.

That was at least half my life.

For about ten years of that life, the only person religious I followed was Slacktivist. Every Friday he would tear apart the World's Worst Book, and I would join in. And every Friday he would wind up showing, one dot a time, the constellation that is this thing called faith, and I would appreciate that little point of light.

And over that time, especially towards the end? I realized something.

I realized that this enthusiasm thing that I got dreamy and flush-faced wishing I could feel wasn't that hugely different from what the charismatics were going on about.

I realized that the evangelicals at the local megachurch believed whatever it was that they believed, and it was a source of strength for them in ways that knowing what I knew wasn't.

I discovered that, coming from the other direction, there were other people, telling my story off-handed. People like these.

It's easy to stand against stances. It's hard to stand against people - people struggling together with me; people trying to work out our salvation with fear and trembling; people whose lives converge in imagined community on this road to wherever our stories may go.

So I have left those barricades I imprisoned myself behind, and joined their cross-bearing. Because somewhere beyond those barricades is a world I long to see. And I hope - and I think they hope - we can see it together.

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