In the Wilderness of Religion

The Race Track

 Eric Bryan via Compfight

There are an awful lot of us in the Church today who are no longer feeling at home in Evangelicalism. Regardless of how you feel about World Vision’s hiring policy decisions, the spectacle of thousands of people discontinuing their child sponsorships (relationships with flesh and blood children in need) because of a theological disagreement left many of us aghast. Is this what American consumerism has done to our faith?

Ed Cyzewski wrote a blog entitled We Know Where to Find Jesus, But What If We Don’t Want to Go There?  If you’re feeling like you’re wandering in the wilderness of religion, it might comfort you to know that the wilderness can be a holy place.

From Ed’s blog post:

The riddle of Jesus was as confounding to John as it would be for us today. There’s no doubt that many Christians today would struggle to believe in and follow a religious “leader” like Jesus who wasn’t married, didn’t have a large following, and never assumed any kind of official office or put together an organization/denomination.

Jesus wasn’t organized, systematized, or influential according to our own terms. While he had a certain amount of authority and clout because of his powerful teachings and miracles, he never took on a formal position. That latter point made no sense to John.

I was reminded of these lessons about John from my book Unfollowers when I read a post by Sarah Bessey over the weekend. Sarah gives evangelicals “permission” to step away from labels, traditions, and positions for a season in order to grieve and to rediscover what following Jesus may look like for them. Everything in her post resonates with my own experiences in evangelicalism: the need to grieve its worst parts, the desire for distance and space, and the reassembling of my faith out in the wilderness apart from religious structures.

We don’t get to remake faith according to our own terms. We can only seek out Jesus wherever he may be found, and as the story of John the Baptist teaches us, Jesus spent a lot of time in the wilderness.

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