When I recall my early charismatic, Pentecostal zeal, I nearly always find myself thinking of my junior high school's cafeteria. I can remember the tables that lined each side; I can see the quadrant in which I sat. I believe I think of that cafeteria in part because it may have been the location for my most fervent, most studied evangelism even though I was to become more theologically and evangelically sophisticated, grounded a bit later on. In that cafeteria I remember telling friends that I certainly would not die - the Rapture of the faithful would happen in my time. I remember my ongoing debate about the demonic and pagan (I had not yet learned to distinguish between them) origins of Halloween. I remember a debate about full-believer's baptism, the notes from which I may still have, nearly 15 years later. Indeed, I remember writing a paper which argued that it may be the case that demon possession is lately misdiagnosed as personality and mental disorder.
As a result of a message exchange with an old, also ex-evangelical, friend, I have just spent the past few hours reading articles and essays from Christianity Today. This is not how I intended to spend my evening... What I find even more interesting is how illicit it feels. As though I were reading someone's diary or spying on a family together or 'slumming' or, maybe, seeing myself in a carnival mirror.
Is, my friend asked me, what drew us into evangelical faith and practice, that which drove us from it? And so my mind has been turning all day. Why and how did I leave the fold? And why has my leaving not stopped at having left - why do I seem to have to keep leaving? Why is it that, having left the church, my mind is still drawn to the quest for god, for absolute and certain ethical living, for rest? Why is it that when I'm feeling emotionally and mentally 'full-up' I don't even realize until after I begin to hear my own voice singing that I am, again, creating a worship service for a god I cannot recognize.
Where are the churches for the unbelievers? For those of us who do not so much long to believe, as for those of us who cannot seem to forget - or seem to want to forget - the habit of worship? Where are our congregations? Where can I meet my church, where brother Ben and sister Becca will join hands with me and we will all pray to no god and worship no god - but pray and worship nonetheless? Where may I preach or be preached to? Who will write a sermon for me and my church? For those of us who cannot or will not or must not believe, but who are still powerfully affected by the ways in which worship and the divine and better-than-human ethics radically shift the ways in which we exist our worlds - where may we meet and commune and offer thanks, gratitude, recognition, affirmation, submission, zeal, power, bravery; where may we join hands and, connecting our bodies, souls, hearts and minds, bridging our desire and our unbelief, -- where may we meet and praise ...
where may we offer praise to ears of our own making for a universe given us and remade by us;
where may we offer gratitude for such heretical, devoted, like-minded love?
where may we practice a loving, faithful non-faith?