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  • Writer's pictureMollie Talbot

Recovering Conservative: Welcoming Holy Disruption

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

We are a nation divided. That is fact, not judgment. Further, we are a people and Church that don’t disagree well. We leave whole communities if our beliefs aren’t shared to a “T” and defensively disregard, downplay, and write-off the life experiences of others who don’t readily join our echo chambers. Worse still, we can reduce those with differing beliefs to projects in need of our “wisdom” to change their minds. While we subscribe to bible verses that insulate our beliefs, we blatantly ignore those which interfere with our comforts. Yet, Romans 12:15 is plain.

We are to mourn with those who mourn.

I know you’ve felt dissonance over the last few months. You hear and see the collective groaning of the world on your phone, computer, and TV. But on Sunday, you’re met with church messages that don’t reflect the acuity of this pain at all, let alone its implications on an already postchristian world. Regardless of where you stand politically or theologically, we can agree pain has always existed but lately the division and pain feel much like the rest of 2020; unprecedented.

The problem is that flaccid, unoffending Sunday messages of “united we stand, divided we fall,” “be a peacekeeper,” and “your politics shouldn’t interfere with your relationships,” serve only to distance us from the reality that actual change is needed and we're the ones intended to bring it.

Would I love to write something on the importance of self-care and boundaries, or how God operates within chaos? Sure! I believe those things. What I don’t believe, is that you need another effectually impotent, idealistic message which encourages you merely to bury your head further in the sand. There’s a big difference between positive reframing to get yourself into action and spiritually bypassing a whole system in flames.

Lately, the White American Church has done a grave disservice to the very spirit God endowed and it looks, sounds, and feels a lot like these comfy one-liner messages. We were created to feel the pain of others because that pain is what smote the heart of David, convicted Saul on his way to Damascus, and made Peter an apostle when his own shame could’ve prevented the church being built upon him as Jesus foretold. Entering the depth of our painful humanity is exactly where we begin impacting the kingdom. But we have to stop sharing this idea in a pretty font on our socials and begin actually living it. The people I named above and so many others have something in common:

They were willing to stare pain in the face, without needing to justify or convert it, even when they were the ones responsible for causing it.

The beauty is that doing so changed whole lives and activated world-changing ministries.

Now here’s why I think we struggle to do the same and instead, either stuff our own beliefs while rolling our eyes or make people our conversion projects:

1) Shame. As the American church we know how harshly we’ve judged others (criminals, addicts, mothers who’ve undergone abortions.) So, it's scary to consider what we might find by placing ourselves under the same lens. We avoid humbly observing our own complicity with sin or admitting our interpretations might not be the only ones, preferring instead to point out the sins of others while subscribing to black and white systems of faith even when grey is necessary for the existence of Grace.

And 2) We don’t actually want to change. Fully entering another’s painful reality and evaluating your own belief system as having room to grow is uncomfortable and could change your entire worldview. And heaven forbid, we fall from power, comfort, or control in that worldview, even when every story in the Bible shows that following Jesus means precisely this. We, the pale of skin and faith, tend to hold tight to our pretty comforts.

In the last few months, I’ve watched people I know to be diehard Christians double-down on their judgment of who's the “outsider” rather than open their eyes to the reality of another group’s pain.

I’ve observed utter silence regarding the Black Lives Matter movement** while watching the same people justify their political leanings with the belief that abortion is the single most powerful violation against the heart of God. Not the factual, legal, systemic abuse and poverty a pregnant mother might've seen her entire life before arriving at the doors of Planned Parenthood.

I am tired. It seems that despite how much we pray for God to intervene in our lives by sending us signs to help us make decisions, protecting our financial security, and giving us peace while we pray for the second coming of Christ, we actually don’t want God to intervene in our lives, at all. In addition, by this logic we’ve missed the entire point.

The kingdom of God is before us here and now; our comforts be damned.

On May 30th my husband and I were on a date. We went to a park in the mountains, posted up by a stream with books and didn’t talk to each other for two hours. It was great, until it started raining. We had 5 more hours to spend and no idea what to do with them until my husband said, “Why don’t we go check out the protests downtown.” History buff that I am, I was all for observing what was unfolding in Denver. So, we went with masks and sanitizer in hand.

What happened next were the most influential and life changing moments in my existence and I say this as a chronic addict who relapsed 7 times before my husband prayed for his very first time and my addiction was lifted from me. No exaggeration, no lie; a bible-level miracle. For background, my father is retired Air Force and was military police when he started his career, my uncle is a highway patrolman who has used his firearm multiple times, my brother’s currently in the Navy and in addition, I was raised in a white suburb deep within the bible belt. Everything in me subscribed to every conservative, pro-military, pro-police, republican belief system looong before I entered the church and realized Christians happen to subscribe to much of the same. But, today I can’t make these statements any longer.

Before you get huffy, I want to encourage you to take a deep breath. I’m not trying to change your mind. But I want you to contemplate why you’d be so upset, if I were? Are your beliefs so flimsy they cannot tolerate a challenge? I’ll understand if you say yes, because a few months ago, mine were too, but that was before I humbled myself and began praying the gospel of Jesus Christ with my feet.

I traded my morning quiet time on my couch, under a blanket for my shoes on hot pavement and a sign in my hand that read “Jesus wasn’t white” because that’s all I was certain of. I went with my whole body to learn more of the God of ALL instead of my comfortable God of “me.”

It used to be that I would feel anxious when people shared an alternative interpretation of the Bible as I understood it. I feared that the thoughts of someone else would wriggle their way into my mind and “shake my faith.”

I used to fear the possibility of heresy more than the rotten fruit of abuse, inaction, and division that was a result of my own closed mind. But the moment I was downtown surrounded by strangers in pain and allowed myself to enter it fully with them, the Spirit of Love at work within me shattered my fear and the scales fell from my eyes.

Since then, I’ve adopted the mantra that if I truly believe God created my mind to search, learn, know, contemplate and LOVE, that Romans 8:38 might actually be true in saying that nothing it finds is capable of separating me from it. I’ve gone from believing that God was easily offended, easily intimidated and vengefully playing chess with my life, to searching my beliefs with such zeal and questioning WITH God, that my faith is stronger and God’s voice is louder.

Being willing to actively seek out information that conflicts with what you were taught or inherited is scary. Feeling the pain of others fully and truly mourning with those who mourn can be disorienting. Holy disruption is welcome in the bible lessons we squeeze personal meaning from but when God does it to our lives, we’re not so keen. So, I’m here to ask: What are our beliefs if we’re too fearful to search them? Answer, they’re beliefs without blood. They’ve become dogma. Blind obedience laced with fear that God might treat us with the same harsh judgment we use to draw the black and white lines around who’s “in” and “out.” Subscribing to dualistic, all or nothing, in or out, patterns of faith renders us fearful, powerless, blind, and out of Love with the One who calls us nearer to Love every moment. We use our beliefs to manage our personal anxieties rather than allowing Jesus Christ to transform our entire personhood.

Now, I understand if there’s a strong response in your body to my words. Resistance, fear, rejection, even anger, but all I can say is I’ve been there, too. Your body wants to protect you and something about the bigness I’m ascribing to God feels scary when our morning quiet times and Sunday church streams have allowed us the luxury of feeling accepted while disregarding the pain just outside the door.

But I’m here to tell you; your faith should be terrifying. So electric you’re donating your clothes; so potent you’re imagining a different world for your children; so radical that it sits with the women IN the abortion clinics rather than outside yelling AT them. Your faith should break your heart, interrupt your sleep, confuse and change your entire life for the sake of LOVE and more LOVE.

And not the kind of “I love you despite your sin” love but the actual Jesus Love that enters fully into another’s pain, questions its own belief systems, and gives over its every comfort to fight for the freedom God endowed. This is Love that mourns with those who mourn.

So yes, vote. Yes, read books and follow accounts of people whose life experiences are different than yours. Ask pastors the hard questions and insist on disagreeing well but ONLY after you become brave enough to honor the spirit within you that seeks to find Truth and moves to bring change even when it’s your own beliefs under the knife. We must believe that the gospel means equality, justice, and freedom for ALL, even if the price is your comfort and security.

And speaking of, if you need someone to go first, as if the belief and value transformation over the last few months wasn’t enough change for one family: in one month we’ll be leaving our Kingdom of Kush. Denver- the successful company my husband started and the only life my children have known, for what was a very painful place of wilderness for us both, Kansas City. My husband and I found God and our sobriety at the feet of geographic giants and learned to stand and breathe deep from our strength in thin mountain air. But we’re putting our belief that comfort kills the gospel into practice. I cry daily when I think of moving back to the lotion-thick air of a state I never managed to stay clean or sober in, to live temporarily with my parents in the house I OD’d in- because I’ve seen God do immeasurably more with even less and I trust that my husband sometimes sees things that haven’t been revealed to me, yet. Optimists are the worst.

But I hope one day I can sit in the presence of The Presence as fully as I’ve sat these last months with the pain of people I’d chosen to stay blind*** to for much of my life. If I can, I know I’ll experience a Love of which my comfortable faith never gave me access. It’s radical and it’s just as much for me as it is those I want to keep fighting for. By allowing Holy disruption and challenging the status quo, the gospel of Mollie can now be written by God- instead of my fear, comfort, and control. But, who is writing yours?

** I shouldn’t have to say this but you're allowed to support a movement for human equality without supporting the organization of the same name. Using this as a justification for silence is yet another nit-picky, self-insulating way to evade seeing your brother and sister as equal.

***There are no white saviors here. Staying blind to the pain of my brothers and sisters is proof of my white privilege. I'm just here to say you too, can change.

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Sep 11, 2020

I feel so much of this! Thankful Kansas City is getting such a beautiful soul!

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