7.  
The evolving
faith factor

People in
evangelical/Pentecostal circles have a strongly biblically based faith. This
type of theology has been at the core of the ex-gay movement and you’ll often
find it clearly stated on ex-gay websites. An evangelical/Pentecostal faith is
all very neat and tidy. It’s black and
white
. There are no arguments. No wiggle room. Doubts and questions are not
encouraged. I remember well the slogan, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it”.

The problem with this kind
of theology/faith is it doesn’t take into account interpretation of what God
“said”. Not only has Christianity been smashed into 1,000’s of denominational
pieces because of interpretation, it happens within denominations as well. Do
you know how many breeds of Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Pentecostals
there are in each of those groups? Each one believing they are right, which of
course makes the other wrong, in error or apostasy because they have strayed
from “the truth”.

When a person from this
background begins to question or have doubts then they, and others, might say
they are losing their faith. Actually, what is often happening is that is their faith is evolving but because the
system is so tight, they can’t see the reality of what is happening. To go with
the process is scary. A loss of faith means disbelief and disbelief leads to a
loss of salvation. Paul said in Ephesians
2:8 For it
is by grace you have been saved, through
faith
—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”
Those who move through the
stages of faith come out the other end with an
evolved faith. Their God is no longer neatly fitting in a box of answers it is
a God of mystery of unanswered questions and ambiguities. Far from their faith being destroyed, it is now broader, larger, and
richer.
They know that they don’t have all the answers and it is arrogant
when people say they do. They are less judgemental, live more in grace and love
instead of the law (the Bible says). This doesn’t mean they have rejected the
sacred texts but recognise the source of all life is bigger than a book and certainly
man’s limited attempts at interpretations.
This piece by a Pentecostal
pastor friend of my mine demonstrates what this evolved faith might look like.
The
way we were –

When I look back over my life I realise how much I
have changed in thought and theology. The journey of life is certainly never
boring! And the journey in and of itself, is probably one of the main things
God uses to reveal himself to us.

There was a time when I actually thought God was in
sensationalism – in the goose bumps, and the atmosphere of certain songs –
nowadays I see him far more clearly in the slums and the ordinary.

There was a time when I thought that the
mountaintop is the right and nirvana of every Christian – nowadays I see His
footprints in the muddy paths of very dark valleys.

There was a time when I thought that I had clearly
mastered and understood most major doctrinal truths – nowadays I walk with a
lot more contradiction as I face the fact of how little I really know.

There was a time when my god could comfortably fit
into a safe box, or on a flannel board, and he would make everyone smile –
nowadays I am content to simply recognise that what I worshipped was a god the
way I wanted him, not the God who said his ways and thoughts are beyond mine.

There was a time when I thought triumphant victory
was the reward of the strong and courageous – nowadays I feel more at home with
failure, and a recognition that God is not freaked out by it either (the
freaked out god belonged on my flannel board).

There was a time when I thought that suffering was
a strange phenomena, now I stand at the foot of a bloody cross and wonder “what
the hell was I thinking?”

There was a time when I thought God depended on my
prayers, nowadays I continually pray in the face of my own helplessness.

There was a time when I looked for miracles in the
supernatural and gobstopping, nowadays I realise every breath of life is a
miracle and gobstopping.

There was a time when I thought that friends should
be found in the community of the triumphant and all-together ones, nowadays I
feel very at home with sinners, mainly because my own sinfulness stares me in
the face.

There was a time when I though God had cursed the
lepers in our community – nowadays I realise He is the leper that our Christian
communities often curse.

Change is painful. Pain causes us to wake up to the
matrix, once woken we really don’t want to go back…
Within those words above
is the essence of the journey of faith. It oozes with humility. I think it
reflects the core of the Christian message and the life of Christ himself.
To not evolve (grow up) in
faith leaves one with simple Sunday School faith which conveniently denies
other evidence like science. Much like the Catholic Church did when Galileo
suggested the world revolved around the sun. This immediately put him in
opposition to the “authority” of the scriptures (the interpretation
of the time) and the church. He spent the rest of his life imprisoned as a
heretic. It took the Catholic Church
another three centuries to acknowledge they were the ones in error and apologise
for that.
Worse than the Sunday
School type of faith is the Pharisaical faith of laws, rules and regulations.
The Pharisees were the Jewish religious leaders of his day. Pharisaical faith
is harsh and judgmental (totally Bible based of course).  LGBT people are very familiar with this type
of Christianity. I still chuckle when I get an email from someone trying to
“set me straight” (pardon the pun) and quote Sodom and Gomorrah,
Leviticus the first chapter of the book of Romans and I Corinthians 1:9 as if I
was completely oblivious that these verses existed let alone knew what they
meant. You only need to read the gospels to see how cruel and illogical the
Pharisees were. Jesus life and teachings are the antithesis to Phariseeism. Well
explained by my friend Rowland Croucher in his article Pharisees
Ancient and Modern.
Pharisees
in Jesus time were the ones who told people how they should live, who they
should be, where they could and couldn’t go and who they could or couldn’t mix
with.
Sound familiar? Jesus got really pissed off with the Pharisees
regularly and said all that stuff was a load of crap. Ignore them he said
repeatedly to the crowds who followed Him. “It’s
simple,”
he said. “Love God
and love your neighbour as yourself”.
Right wing conservative evangelicals are like the Pharisees is many
ways.
I call them Pharagelicals.
I can’t recall a time when they treated LGBT people or the community as they
would like to be treated themselves. Their rhetoric is full of judgement, distain
and disrespect.
For those of us who have
some understanding of these things it wasn’t hard to see that Alan and others
at Exodus were shifting theologically and faith wise to a more loving and
gracious expression of Christianity. Far from abandoning the scriptures, they
have sort to be more like Jesus than a Pharisee. This of course has put them at
odds with the Pharagelicals like Robert Gagnon and Peter
Le Barbara
. Alan’s faith shift is expressed in the way he writes and
also his interactions.

This recent Post by Randy Thomas. gives an understanding or what that evolution might look like.

You
know… I have been thinking tonight, again, of how wonderful it is to
not be bound by religious legalism any longer. I look at some former
friends (who have set themselves up to be enemies) without
condescension, pity, or anger. I see them with the humility of shared
experience, respect for who they are, and understanding that I am a peer
… nothing more or less.


For a very long time, I lived what
they are saying freedom should look like. Yet, I didn’t realize that
those ministries/books/programs/models/approaches were only more
performance based systems rooted in self-righteousness, works based
“enlightenment”, and not based in the finished work of Christ. I do long
for these old friends to be truly free from the underlying
shame/oppression built into cultural religious legalism.

I love
Jesus, no doubt. Jesus loves me, no doubt. If He said “it is finished”
… it is. His love empowers His Life through us. He didn’t rise from
the dead for us to grovel at the foot of an empty cross. He didn’t
declare us Children of The Most High so that we had to suffer under the
withering haughtiness of clever retorts and legalistic demands. He sent
the Wonderful Counselor (Holy Spirit) to comfort and counsel us in the
ways of Life, not for us to become the experts (the high priests) in
niche sin management systems.

Yes, it’s great to be free from
legalism. But, I miss my former friends who are still promoting their
version of “freedom” while not realizing they are just polishing the
shackles they feel most comfortable in.

If you would like to
receive a PDF of the complete article click on this email address info@gayambassador.com and hit send.

Or read the 8 Factors that Created the Tipping Point separately.
No.1 The Society Shift Factor 
No.2 The Gulf Factor
No.3 The Internet Factor 

No.4 The Honesty Factor
No.5 The Bridge Building Factor
No.6 The Listening Factor
No.7 The Evolving Faith Factor

No.8 The Midlife Factor

Copyright
© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography ‘A Life of Unlearning’, details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and  was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.