It Takes Real Faith to Doubt
An Open Heart Opens the Door for an Open Mind
My friend’s face beamed more than usual as he rushed over to share the news.
Our church service had just ended, and while people milled about, catching up or stacking away the chairs, my friend gushed joy as he shouted over the house music. I knew how his parents had firmly disapproved of his coming out as gay years ago, making it clear that any future boyfriend would not be welcome at their home. But that morning, my friend wept as he shared how his mom recently did an about-face. Not only did she express excitement to meet his boyfriend, but she spoke of her desire to love and welcome him in the same way she did her daughter-in-law.
“She’s not fully affirming yet,” he said, still smiling, “but her feelings have totally shifted.”
I share that story for two reasons.
First, I’m sure you have people in your life who cannot understand the Shift you’ve made, and who perhaps remain a source of distress for you. You feel like the theological chasm separating you will never close, forever impacting your capacity for meaningful connection. Full disclosure: that might be true. You might spend the rest of your days struggling to navigate those rocky waters.
But remember that you, before you shifted and began a journey toward progressive Christianity, likely never would have foreseen your own change either. From your current vantage point, you might reflect back and feel like you simply followed where logic, reason, or common sense led you. This is faulty thinking. At some point, you were carried away by a vision of a more expansive, generous, and compassionate approach to the world. You never know when that same wind might animate someone else. You never know what’s going on in the hearts and minds of those you might assume will never change. People do change. You’ve changed. So, I challenge you to hold loosely your expectations for the future mindsets of those close to you.
I think the wisest move involves choosing to trust that the God who whisked you and me along in our lives to where we are now is the same animating force present in the lives of our loved ones.
The other reason I tell you this story is because it reminds me that the head cannot go where the heart is unwilling.
An emotional opening necessarily precedes an intellectual commitment to a novel idea. We *think* reason and logic lead us to our convictions, but the truth is we feel a particular way first, then we find evidence to support it.
Even though my friend, shouting over the house music that Sunday morning, was quick to point out that his mom was not yet theologically affirming of his sexuality, I affirmed the significance of her change of heart. She now at least possesses the potential to reassess her long-held views on faith and sexuality—something she could not have done beforehand.
An open heart opens the door for an open mind.
(The above is an excerpt from the closing chapter of The SHIFT, “Stay Open, My Friends.”)
It Takes Real Faith to Doubt
For the past month I’ve been reminding folks (and, for many, announcing) that one year ago my book, The SHIFT: Surviving and Thriving after Moving from Conservative to Progressive Christianity released in to the world.
The book closes with me inviting the reader to remain open to the possibility (actually, the likelihood) that they will continue witnessing transformation in their life.
You see, just by evidence of reading at book like The SHIFT (or, subscribing to this Newsletter, or, watching my Live Shows) I can tell that you are someone who sees the value in keeping an open mind, rooted in an open heart. If you’ve Shift’d away from your more conservative/evangelical roots, then you’ve already demonstrated a capacity to humbly accept that you might not have all the answers, that you might be wrong, and that you might indeed have areas in your life where you can grow.
I believe it takes great faith in order for us to doubt our faith.
I love this quote from Lloyd Geering in his book, Reimagining God,
Doubt is not the enemy of faith, but of false beliefs. Indeed, our entire catalogue of assumptions and beliefs should be continually subjected to critical examination, and those found to be false or inadequate should be replaced by those we find convincing within our cultural context. Yet expression or even entertaining doubt sometimes takes so much courage that we may say it takes real faith to doubt.
Did you catch that?
Our entire catalogue of assumptions and beliefs should be continually examined. If they end up being inadequate, we should update them or let them go.
This strikes me as entirely reasonable and wise, and yet for many religious people this process would not only be foreign but feared. Instead, within many religious contexts the holding-fast to beliefs that are either critically unexamined or clearly at odds with other ideas of what is True is seen as evidence of a strong, steadfast faith.
But I agree with Geering. It takes real faith to doubt.
The Journey of, for, and with Love
Thank you, readers and viewers alike, for returning to The SHIFT these past couple weeks with me. It’s a book I love, and I’m proud of, and I was delighted to talk more about it.
And thank you for sharing with me so many of your feelings and experiences of your own Shift. I cherish them all.
While I’m confident that The SHIFT can be helpful for those on that unique journey away from conservative and toward progressive Christianity, I also believe that the ideas and values and principles found in The SHIFT can be helpful time and time again, even as progressively minded Christians continue to grow and evolve. The whole point is not to create a new landing place, a new static destination by which you should now plant immovable roots. I’m not trying to encourage people to move out of Bakersfield only to then settle down in San Diego (although, let’s be clear, that would be an upgrade of you).
What I’m trying to do is to show how, once you have courageously exercised your faith in such a way that Bakersfield is in your rearview mirror, no matter where the road takes you, you may rest in the Truth that you are okay.
You may trust that you are loved by God.
You may trust that getting the right answers, possessing the correct beliefs, is not the thing that will either cement you in God’s good graces (if you’re right) nor remove you from them (if you’re wrong).
I totally understand that you might reach the Bay Area and want to stop for a bit. Go for it! Enjoy the pier. Take in the redwoods. Yes! Do that! You should.
Or maybe you travel north and discover the Oregon Coast and you realize that you’ve been duped your whole life into not believing just how magical it can be. Relax, settle in, kick up your feet. Yes!
But whichever direction you go, the invitation here is to remain open.
May we understand that the same animating Spirit of the Divine that has taken us this far is not now done with us.
We must keep moving. Our souls must keep dancing.
And all along the way, wherever our journey takes us, may we remember this: Love matters most. All other things are passing away, but Love never fails.
May we seek love.
May we be love.
May we rest in God’s love.
Last week I asked you to share with me what you love most about your new expression of faith, as well as what (if anything) you miss about your old faith.
Here’s what some of you shared.
I can read the Bible with a fresh eye, without the pressure of resolving inconsistencies to align with "settled doctrine." I now come to the Bible less encumbered by unmanageable expectations.” -Walter
Wow, I so resonate with that, Walter. So much more freedom in reading the Bible now!
I too miss those days when I sat in a warm pew feeling comforted while singing hymns … [but] For my own mental well being it was necessary for me to avoid attending churches that worship on Sunday ...and hearing messages that homosexuality is a sin.” -Paul
This sort of both/and makes so much sense. I miss it… and… I can’t go back to it.
I absolutely LOVE [that] it's okay to not know something and/or not be sure about something and it DOESN'T UNDERMINE MY FAITH! … [and then] I miss the validation that what I believe is shared by others.” -Alex
That makes so much sense to me, Alex. To love the freedom to shift in your beliefs… and then also, feeling like, “damn, it was really nice when I was part of a larger group of folk who all believed the same thing.”
Today on “Perspective Shift: LIVE”
This will be fun!
For the first time, I’m bringing on multiple guests to join me live!
Head on over to YouTube or Facebook at 2pm pacific to join me, Tommy, Mira, and Lauren as we talk about their experiences of Shift’ing faith.
Catch the Other Videos in the Series
Check out my conversations with Brandan Robertson, Josh Scott, and Britt Lively!
Check out THE SHIFT
Find out why best selling author, Glennon Doyle, says,