Monday, June 24, 2013

Paradigm Shift

You hear about it occasionally,  an Evangelical becomes Catholic or even an Atheist. To make the change from the Evangelical position a paradigm shift must take place. Christian Smith, a Notre Dame professor and sociologist, covers this in the appendix of his book entitled "How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps". In my experience, I could only do about 85 of these steps which made me a good Lutheran.
 John Loftus also addresses this issue in a different manner with his "outsider test of faith". He is a former pastor whose book " Why I Became an Atheist" explains that we need to look at the faith we hold from an outsiders perspective and evaluate if it is true or not. This was also helpful to strip away what was programmed into me not by my choice and look and see if there was anything left. We all inherit faith traditions, political views and other cultural traits by the environment we are born into.
A paradigm shift is what happens when see problems with our current theological position and begin to find answers in a different theology for example. I know as I went to pastors and leaders I knew in my evangelical realm, I was not satisfied with the answers there and I had to read church history, theology, philosophy and anthropology to start to make progress. In this first article, I will highlight some key things that popped the Evangelical bubble I was living in and what caused the cognitive dissonance in the first place. Then I will do an article further explain each point with more information and where I got it from.
1. History and Evolution. Being an avid reader of history I noticed that the Evangelical tradition I was in had no historical roots prior to when The Fundamentals were published around 1915. My evangelical experience pretty much followed everything out of those volumes and church history between Paul and Martin Luther was ignored. Knowing the theory of evolution allows you too see everything around us builds and develops over time. When you start to back convert the political and evangelical culture in light of history you begin to see it is a modern invention married to our consumerist culture.
2. Politics. It felt like everybody around me was a 100% card carrying Republican. I didn't have to listen to any of the right-wing political talk shows because it was parroted all around me even walking though the courtyard in between services. Being constantly surrounded by this rhetoric is tiring and only lead me to further isolation. Dissenting opinions were discouraged and actually you were talked down to for not buying in to their conservative way of thinking.
3. Culture Wars. Homosexuality is a big one here for me. My wife and I met a gay couple whose son wanted to be friends with our son. At first, they were afraid to approach us because of the church we attended. This did not sit well with us and made us understand how conservative Christianity has not been very welcoming to the GLBT community. I have come to find that those who are the most judgmental of homosexuals don't know any. Meeting a long term committed couple and getting to know them made us realize they were awesome people and we are lucky to have them as friends.  Actually, volunteering at an independent film festival and being exposed to documentaries that addressed the GLBT and other cultural issues that helped sink this part of my evangelical piety as well.
4. New Calvinism. As I became more theologically aware, I realized there was a neo-Calvinist trend sweeping over conservative evangelicalism. To me it feels like doctrine, control of the flock and the bible become idols.  At least now I could identify what I disagreed with in my former branch of evangelicalism and quit feeling like I was the only one who didn't get it. Knowledge is power and enabled my family to move to a more historical faith tradition.
5. Anthropology.  I started reading Anthropology after reading "Breaking the Spell" by Daniel Dennett. When you start to evaluate belief systems without the fear of hell and look at it from a geographical perspective, things change. I see most denominations in Christianity as need for us to still have tribes to belong to. I then realized I needed to go find a new tribe to belong to indulge this need in my human nature.
These 5 topics were key to causing the paradigm shift in my journey and everybody's is unique. It is a big jump that most people don't make it and are filling the growing rank of "nones" in our midst. My experience with church up to 2 years ago left me wanting to quit as well. My quest for answers allowed me to see jumping to another evangelical church wasn't the answer and it was time to try something totally different.

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