Monday, November 4, 2013

A no-faith strong liberal and Jesus

Fox News' Highly Reluctant Jesus Follower 

Of all people surprised that I became an evangelical Christian, I'm the most surprised.
Photo by Scott Suchman
Just seven years ago, if someone had told me that I'd be writing for Christianity Today magazine about how I came to believe in God, I would have laughed out loud. If there was one thing in which I was completely secure, it was that I would never adhere to any religion—especially to evangelical Christianity, which I held in particular contempt.
I grew up in the Episcopal Church in Alaska, but my belief was superficial and flimsy. It was borrowed from my archaeologist father, who was so brilliant he taught himself to speak and read Russian. When I encountered doubt, I would fall back on the fact that he believed.
Leaning on my father's faith got me through high school. But by college it wasn't enough, especially because as I grew older he began to confide in me his own doubts. What little faith I had couldn't withstand this revelation. From my early 20s on, I would waver between atheism and agnosticism, never coming close to considering that God could be real.
After college I worked as an appointee in the Clinton administration from 1992 to 1998. The White House surrounded me with intellectual people who, if they had any deep faith in God, never expressed it. Later, when I moved to New York, where I worked in Democratic politics, my world became aggressively secular. Everyone I knew was politically left-leaning, and my group of friends was overwhelmingly atheist.
I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don't know what you don't know. How could I have missed something I didn't think existed?

Very Open-Minded

To the extent that I encountered Christians, it was in the news cycle. And inevitably they were saying something about gay people or feminists. I didn't feel I was missing much. So when I began dating a man who was into Jesus, I was not looking for God. In fact, the week before I met him, a friend had asked me if I had any deal breakers in dating. My response: "Just nobody who is religious."
A few months into our relationship, my boyfriend called to say he had something important to talk to me about. I remember exactly where I was sitting in my West Village apartment when he said, "Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?" My stomach sank. I started to panic. Oh no, was my first thought. He's crazy.
When I answered no, he asked, "Do you think you could ever believe it?" He explained that he was at a point in life when he wanted to get married and felt that I could be that person, but he couldn't marry a non-Christian. I said I didn't want to mislead him—that I would never believe in Jesus.
Then he said the magic words for a liberal: "Do you think you could keep an open mind about it?" Well, of course. "I'm very open-minded!" Even though I wasn't at all. I derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world. I had found this man's church attendance an oddity to overlook, not a point in his favor.
As he talked, I grew conflicted. On the one hand, I was creeped out. On the other hand, I had enormous respect for him. He is smart, educated, and intellectually curious. I remember thinking, What if this is true, and I'm not even willing to consider it?

 HERE is Page 2, if you're interested.   I don't know how you couldn't be, frankly.  It's really compelling.

I love how she addresses the stereotypes that had turned me off to faith as much as it had her.  There's a lot of good stuff in here that's important and well said.  



35 comments:

Always On Watch said...

Christians as anti-intellectual bigots

Forget the "bigots" part for a minute.

One of my biggest gripes about Christians today -- especially so-called Christian fiction -- is that so many Christians whom I personally know run away from intellectual challenge. And, of course, as a member in good standing of the Grammar Police, I got nuts correcting all the blatant errors in so-called Christian fiction.

Yes, as a Christian I believe that Jesus is all I need. However, the Bible also teaches us to seek out wisdom even to the point of "whatsoever things are good, think on these things." Not to mention so many verses in Proverbs.

I must also mention that the Bible commends those early Christians who "searched the Scriptures." A real search of Scripture should be intellectual!

Now, certainly not all Christians are intellectually challenged. Perhaps what I'm seeing is that they've become victims of Christian self-help books.

All this blabbing to say that I can well understand why Kirsten Powers was turned off to Christianity for so long.

Silverfiddle said...

She worked in the Clinton White House?

She should consider herself fortunate she wasn't sexually assaulted.

JonBerg said...

Powers seems to be somewhat of an enigma in that she professes to be a Liberal but on rare occasion she makes some sense. Further enigmatic is that she can, concurrently, be a Liberal, in it's contemporary context, and a Christian. Some notable Conservatives were Liberals at one time. She is young; we'll see!

AOW,I understand your point.

Z said...

Always, I wondered where you were going with that because I disagree with some of it....the Christians I personally know never STOP questioning and searching intellectually. Trust me on that!" I personally would love to just settle in and have NO DOUBT ANYMORE! Ain't gonna happen :-(
But the more I see life, and the lives of people CHANGED from becoming believers, the less doubt I have. THAT is one of THE biggest witnesses to me.
Also, the fact that if I'm not reading some Bible pretty regularly, I start to become the person I was before I ever really started reading it and had the "epiphany" of what happens when "it" hits you. Something I could never explain here. Not here.

Silver...well said :-) She is very pretty!
He must prefer very young brunettes!


JB...I don't think libs aren't Christians, but I absolutely see your point.....Her stances ARE softening, though. And yes, she does make sense from time to time. I can tell she just can't let go of the 'honor' and 'kindness' of being a liberal. Did you see that comment about her family and her newfound faith. PRETTY TELLING..Take a look if you missed it.

Impertinent said...

Wow, wow wow! So worth the read...Thanks.

But I found this really amusing: It says a lot about the family in which I grew up that one of my most pressing concerns was that Christians would try to turn me into a Republican."

JonBerg said...

Z,

"JB...I don't think libs aren't Christians"

That portion of my comment was meant to be more-or-less rhetorical and not all encompassing. However, as you know, a lot of hard core Liberals are atheists. Unlike most Liberals that I see in the media, who make me want to vomit, I find Powers somewhat interesting.

-FJ said...

Who believes what, today?... for a Lacanian psychoanalyses of Kirsten Power's faith experience.

-FJ said...

I found it particularly significant that her faith came to her precisely at the moment in which her Christian significant "other" was withdrawing... and she was forced to re-address the issue, in her own mind, the question of, "What does the Other want from me?"

Always On Watch said...

Z,
I've actually been told my more than one Christian (almost word for word in each case), "You are too concerned about current events. That concern is evidence of your lack of faith in the Lord. I trust in the Lord!"

Average American said...

To those who think we should just "leave it up to God" and don't worry about it so much had better also remember "God helps those who help themselves." God will do the heavy lifting, BUT, WE have to pitch in too!!!!

Always On Watch said...

AA,
I see some of these people quite a bit more worried now than a year ago -- before Obama got re-elected. Now they are starting to see that his agenda is going to touch them.

I feel that I should change my name to Cassandra.

I must say that, as a Christian, I have rarely lay awake nights worrying about debacle. I don't know if my calmness comes across in the blogosphere.

Jen Nifer said...

Yes, it does. :-)

Jen Nifer said...

Regarding her conversion:

She described the sensation she felt upon accepting that Christ was REAL.

She described an oppressive, overwhelming new reality, not all rainbows and butterflies, as many non-believers would assume.

I know that joy is a large part of the equation, but I appreciated the way she described the enormity of the experience.

-FJ said...

I believe every word she said. This was no "story"... it was real.

Duckys here said...

It's good that she found the path the suits her.

I have no idea why political choice necessarily has anything to do with it.

Life is fluid. People change and faith is not a guarantee.

Ed Bonderenka said...

Duck, often ones political viewpoint gets colored by ones relationship to God.
Not killing babies, not promoting or accomodating wrong marriage arrangements, only two of many positions that change.
Her description of "the moment" resonates with me.
But what do I know?
I'm not intellectualy critical.

FrogBurger said...

I'm not surprised. You can see she's a good woman even though we may disagree. She's fairly intellectually honest as well.

Pris said...

My sister and I were raised to decide our own beliefs. I remember when my children were little, and sick. I sat in their rooms and prayed they'd be well.

I learned that Jesus, God, were the only answer to give me strength, and to depend on a higher calling when it is needed. We come to this place of faith when all we have done to lead to wellness, is in our hearts and minds, and sometimes that's not enough.

We all are mere mortals. For me, if not for looking for a spiritual healing, life can be so much more difficult, IMO. Mankind alone is not the only answer for me. The proof of this is everywhere.

So, I can understand how Kirsten came to this belief. All it takes is being open, and ready to accept faith when we realize we need divine intervention.

Duckys here said...

It's true, Ed. The influence of the Catholic Worker movement is never far from me.
I find socialism very compatible with the Gospels.

FrogBurger said...

I find socialism very compatible with the Gospels.

Makes me want to throw up when I hear this. This is exactly why I have trouble with Catholicism and a religion.

God gave us first and foremost free will. Socialism removes that free will.

Duckys here said...

Frog, why don't you join JonBerg, he likes to puke also.

Anonymous said...

From Z of GEEEZ:

Ducky, tell me, to you consider abortion also compatible with the gospels?

And do you see a difference with giving to our neighbors and family and our government demanding that we do?

Jen, I didn't get the oppressed feeling (did she use those words?) but I absolutely agree with you that coming to faith is not always butterflies, hearts and flowers!
It's SO HARD. For me, anyway. SO HARD. And yet it's so rewarding in every way.


Jack Whyte said...

I agree with Frogburger ...

Ed Bonderenka said...

Any news on Kyle? Enquiring wives want to know.

Duckys here said...

The bible says very little about abortion and the Gospels say nothing, z.

Sam Huntington said...

I disagree, Ducky. The Bible says quite a bit about “abortion.” The Bible commands, “Thou shalt not murder.” There is no tolerance for spilling innocent blood. Now there are those who wish to argue with God, but I am not one of them. Murder is forbidden, and the Bible uses the term “innocent blood” more than 20 times. There is no blood more innocent than the unborn.

In Psalms 139, David affirms that God superintended his formation in the womb. This is reaffirmed in Job 10: 8-12. If God governs relatively minor behavior such as the rolling of dice, do you not think that the murder of innocents occupies a more important place?

In Exodus 21: 22-25, God ordains the penalty of a life for a life when the life of an unborn child is taken.

Be careful how you liberally interpret God’s word: your soul is at stake.

Jen Nifer said...

Thou shall not kill, Duck?

Ed Bonderenka said...

All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I'll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, "It's true. It's completely true." The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy."
"The horror of the prospect of being a devout Christian crept back in almost immediately."
I didn't see oppressive anywhere.
She's in love with Jesus.

Jen Nifer said...

I'm sorry. Oppressive was the wrong word.

Bob said...

Ed said: "I didn't see oppressive anywhere.
She's in love with Jesus."

I think we all remember that feeling when everything was clear, and we knew what we were all about. There was no oppression, just a realization and a terrific feeling of freedom.

Ed Bonderenka said...

Yes, Bob. That veil being lifted off.
I felt like I'd walked through a mirror, the looking glass.
It all made sense.
Jen, I understand your meaning if you were referring to that last comment of hers "the horror of the prospect...".
You and Sam answered Duck well.

Z said...

Ducky, No kidding. It never mentions it anywhere in the Bible. But,you say you've read the Bible...do you think killing unborn life goes along with plans God has in the Bible? You're Catholic, but that doesn't bother you?

Sam and Jen...thanks for those clear reminders.

Always and Average American: I've met Christians like that, too. I tell them I believe we're here to do God's work on earth. Yes, we should TRUST TRUST TRUST, but just sit back and let it happen? they've clearly not read the Old Testament :-)!!

Jen ..I can see how you'd use "oppressive" but it's not that, you're right. It IS a kind of "oh, MAN, I'm one of THEM now" things, however! Particularly if you've been so ANTI "them" for so long, right? that is kind of oppression!

Ed...she really is in love with Jesus...He got to her. I'm glad she's in a good church and Bible study because not being in the Word sets me back a long way. I just realized that 3 days ago, by the way. I've stopped Bible study leadership since I went to work full time and I have to get back into it on my own because I'm not the person I was. I see a difference and don't like it too much, frankly!
I started thinking the other night about how the Bible's a giant well and we need buckets of that water and need to dig deep and into the words for our thirst.

and, OH MAN, I'm a little like Kirsten Powers when I say "If you said that to me 12 years ago, I'd have thought 'another religious NUT'"?!!

Pris...well said; thanks for that!

Bob, it is a terrific feeling of freedom. It's funny because people think Christianity's full of laws and confining advice...when, really, it gives us a freedom of knowing and trusting and celebration!

I see it EVERY SINGLE DAY, a feeling in a high school where a teen gets badly hurt and the 'cool kids' who'd never admit faith in a million years, are praying with their friends...bowing their heads.
I see it in kids' reactions to AMAZINGLY cool Christian teachers...it's magical, really.

Frog...BRAVO!



ED...Kyle's still at UCLA but doing better and better. His teeth were JUST about out of braces but the accident pushed them around and he'll need quite some work. The splenectomy went great, the lung's inflating, etc...concussion wasn't severe.
I suppose he has a lot of stitches because there was a LOT of blood.
I'm trying to get parents to donate and take dinners to Kyle's house once he's home.
Please pray that works!
Thank your 'enquiring dear wife'!!

Z said...

Ed, please give Scherie a big hug from me and thank her for her prayers for Kyle :-)

JonBerg said...

Hey FrogBurger:

Did you get a load of this? "Frog, why don't you join JonBerg, he likes to puke also."

What do you say; let's keep reading Ducky's idiotic $#!t and we can have a real PUKE FEST! No RSVP, it's open to all! AGGGGARAGGGHH-GAG-GUSSSHHH,PLOP!

FrogBurger said...

Honestly, Ducky's comment doesn't deserve my attention. I've got plenty of 20-year old intellectuals around me. I'm exhausted by them.