Please don’t believe, or write as if you believe, that your personal experiences are a fully reliable path to understanding. Everyone who has life has experiences, and those experiences do shape us in meaningful ways. But here’s the problem: Different people have different experiences, and different experiences can yield wildly different, even contradictory, notions of reality. You may have been bullied and wounded by a fundamentalist church. That experience is valid and means something, but it doesn’t mean that every fundamentalist is waiting to hurt someone, nor does it mean that everyone who sounds to you like a fundamentalist is someone who would bully you given the chance. We can be honest about our experiences and how they form us, but making experience authoritative–especially when it empowers broad assumptions and animosity toward others–is deeply deceptive.
Please make your theology more than language games. If you describe your faith as “welcoming,” “authentic,” and “open,” explain what those words mean using ideas and examples. Don’t merely use the words to gain leverage over those who disagree with you about Scripture or the church. This verbal violence happens to the word “legalistic” all the time. Legalism has a specific meaning which implicates certain specific attitudes and beliefs. It’s not a catch-all term to describe anyone who has a conscience issue about entertainment.
Be willing to critique your “tribe.” This is not hard to do when your friends are doing it too. It’s only hard when you’re the one doing it and your friends/fellow writers are the ones at the receiving end. A lot of young evangelicals are more than willing to critique, harshly even, their parents’ tribe or their pastor’s tribe. This, unfortunately, is not necessarily the same as critiquing your tribe.
Remember that “love hopes all things.” Write, think, and love as if the church is beautiful, because she is. Beware the temptation to demand that other Christians be good to you before you love them and hope the best for them. Don’t ridicule or shame the very thing for which your savior died merely for the sake of some clicks, follows, or a book deal. Honestly, “I Got Burned By the Church and Now I’m Out For Revenge” is the lamest, least-interesting genre of writing out there today. Be brave enough not merely to deconstruct but to say, “This, flaws and all, is valuable, and I love it, and you should too.”
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