God Beyond Religion – an outside observer of Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism especially in America

I have been on a journey through Christendom.

I became a Christian as an adult some 65 years ago within an Anglican Church in the UK. I was treasurer of the local church for 8 years before I became disillusioned by what I saw as a lack of ‘radical’ Christianity and the inability to get answers to some of my questions. I subsequently spent some 20 years as a member of a Sabbath keeping Christian Church before a ‘church-split’ in 1995 ‘destroyed’ our family of 14 related by marriage. That was when I was first introduced to Evangelical Christianity as practised in America. I had never believed in the traditional teaching of hell and had long understood, like C S Lewis and J R R Tolkein, that the early chapters of Genesis were myth and symbolism. It didn’t take long before I became aware of the fear, guilt and shame that is generated in Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles. I just knew that this was not right!

That very briefly is how I subsequently became an outside observer of Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism especially in America over 20 years ago.

I had stopped attending church in 2009. It was in March 2012 that I saw a review of “Christianity After Religion” by Diana Butler-Bass. This resulted in an intense period of study and some extensive notes that contain several additional links.
I saw this as another major stepping stone. I sensed that I had a faith that I could hold on to ‘loosely’.
I have written at some length about my journey in My Story (from 1995 to 2012).
That all changed in 2013 but that is another story!

It was in 2019 after listening to several talks by Barbara Brown Taylor, that I came to the conclusion that it was time to step back from all of the divisive, denominational theology that had been so much part of my life for so long. That was the start of yet another wilderness experience, not made any easier by needing to care now for my wife who has Alzheimers.

I’ve been writing about my on-going changing beliefs since 1990 and using the web since 1997. I created my first web site in 2000 (the start of an on-going Work-In-Progress).  I had long had an interest in what makes people tick and created a series of Mind Maps (aimed at creating a Safe Haven especially for those of us without any formal theological training), who were being drawn away from churches that they may have attended for many years.

In the early 2000’s I was very involved with the Emerging, Emergent and House Church scene both in America and the UK.

It was in 2003 that I found the early chapters of So you don’t want to go to church anymore. This was my introduction to Wayne Jacobsen and The God Journey and later The Shack when it was published privately in 2007. In the meantime in 2005 I finished what I now call Some Earlier Material – the foundations of the blog as I saw them at that time.
It was in 2010 that I was introduced to the writings of Richard Holloway, the former leader of the Episcopal Church in Scotland who had a major influence on my thinking at that time. It was Richard who suggested that the symbol ‘God’ seems to be one of the most ambiguous of human inventions!

I have had the privilege over a period of some 15 years, of sharing something of the stories of at least 2,000 people who have been drawn away from churches that they may have been attending for many years, including some leaders and former leaders.
A very close friend once said, You are encouraging thought – you are putting out a challenge – maybe asking the right questions that others haven’t formulated.

My parents had left school at 13 and 14. I got a scholarship to a Grammar School. My parents never owned a Bible but sent me to a Baptist Sunday School on my own, during World War 2, when I was 9 because, as I learned later, they wanted me to be better educated than they were. I actually rejected what I had been taught about the trinity when I was 13 and immediately left. With hindsight this was going to have an on-going impact on my understanding of Christendom.

I have never had any formal theological training. It was in 2013 when I was 78 I joined the local branch of U3A (University of the Third Age) and started attending classes in Philosophy, Psychology, Counselling, History of Christianity, History of Religion, Buddhism, Islam – just 2 to 3 hours a week for 4 years. That was a real eye opener! The beginning of a new phase!

Apart from Richard Holloway, Diana Butler Bass and Barbara Brown Taylor other major influences since 2016 have been Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Eckhart Tolle, Bart Ehrman, Spiral Dynamics and the Enneagram (9w1, 954)

Currently I find myself contemplating such things as God Beyond Religion; what is Consciousness, Intuition, and Mysticism; the Future of Mankind; and how other people react to the question, What does the Word God mean to you now? – the title of the next post. 

I don’t have any answers. What I do have is a wealth of experience going back some 50 years of living Outside the Goldfish Bowl of Traditional Christianity and a bit of a reputation for asking some of those awkward questions to which there are no easy answers.

I recently came across this quote from George Orwell:
I am not writing to please anyone, even myself. I am writing to find out what it is that I think, because I don’t think that I can escape that obligation any more.

It was in April 2022 as I was trying to finalise the wording of these two initial Posts that I was introduced to the thinking of two people whose journeys have been from what I see as almost the opposite ends of the Christendom spectrum. At this point in time I have no idea where this will lead.
We live in interesting times!

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What does the word God mean to you now?

It was in 2015 that Diana Butler Bass suggested that the question, “Where is God?” may have emerged as one of the most consequential questions of our time.
It was Richard Holloway the former leader of the Episcopal Church in Scotland who had earlier suggested that the symbol ‘God’ is one of the most ambiguous of human inventions.
Richard had a big impact on my thinking – see “Broken Myths” that I wrote in 2010.
“Food for Thought” was a reflection of some of my thoughts at that time.

It was in 2014 that I had been introduced to Barbara Brown Taylor who suggested that she had a gift of Lunar Spirituality and that she had found her teacher in John of the Cross, who she says is no help to anyone seeking a better grip on God – he wants to convince those who grasp after things that God cannot be grasped – cannot be held on to – can only be encountered as that which eclipses the reality of all other things. Barbara went on to suggest that John is a teacher in a negative way – he doesn’t teach anything about God by saying what God is – John clears space by teaching what God is not – that images and ideas about God are really obstacles between them and the real thing – offering no handle on this elusive God who cannot be grasped.

Here is something I wrote in 2016 after listening to a discussion between Rob Bell and Pete Rollins – Let’s Talk about God.

It was after listening to Barbara Brown Taylor talking in 2019 about her new book, “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” that I realised that this was another turning point. That’s when I realised that it really was time to get away from all the divisive, denominational theology that had been so much part of my life for so long. This was reinforced about 3 weeks later when I found “The Two Posts” written by a former Evangelical.

It is said that there is a book in everyone. There is one big problem – if you publish a book and then change your mind, you can’t then change what you had previously written. I created a web site in 2000 that later became the blog that is still a Work-In-Progress after more than 20 years, that has always reflected my changing thoughts.

An important part of my blog over the years has been the links in the sidebar. I do realise that many people now access WordPress sites on their phones. I’d love to change the format of my blog but in the meantime there is a separate Page detailing the links in the sidebar – see here.

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