I was ‘forced’ to become an outside observer of the American Evangelical (and Fundamentalist) Christian scene in 1995 when the leadership of the Sabbath-keeping Christian church we were attending announced that much of their theology was misguided. It didn’t take long for the leadership of some of the member churches of the National Association of Evangelicals (in America) to welcome the leaders who had made that announcement, with almost open arms!
The reality of the situation for me was that without any formal theological training, I was being ‘forced’ for a second time to reconsider just about everything I had ever been taught (without any recollection of ever doubting the existence of God). I had walked away from a Baptist Sunday School when I was 13 because I could not accept what I was being taught about the trinity. Many years later I became an active member of the Anglican church (I was treasurer of the local church for 8 years). I never did get a satisfactory answer to my questions about the trinity, and I gradually became disillusioned by what I saw as the lack of ‘radical’ Christianity. I could never understand how people could attend church at Christmas and Easter and not be seen at any other time. I had seen an advert in the Readers Digest offering a subscription to The PLAIN TRUTH magazine in the late 1960’s. Only later did I come to appreciate that here was a Christian church committed to keeping the biblical Sabbath and Holy Days instead of Christmas and Easter that they considered to be Pagan festivals. They also rejected trinitarianism and did not accept the traditional teachings of heaven and hell and believed that ‘this is not the only day of Salvation’.
That announcement in 1995 led almost immediately to the breakup of our own family of 14 related by marriage – wounds that have never been healed! The church had been very legalistic in some ways. Only later did I realise that this legalism had been much stronger in America. It’s all a very long story but in 1998 I was suddenly aware of a freedom and liberation from the slavery of legalism. By this time the church had ‘splintered’. My wife and I were still attending what was left of the local church, but our daughter and her husband who had been Youth leaders walked away, and some of the family have not spoken to us since then!
By 2012 I had a story to tell and I tried to share something of my own thinking at that time – especially my doubts about Evangelicalism – summed up in “Christianity After Religion?” – the title of a book written by Diana Butler Bass.