Step 1: Admit it, you’ve got issues.
Ask some people what they did in their more radical days in the name of religious culture, and they will get a cozy, distant gleam in their eye. Ask others and it’s as if they are accessing a dark part of their past that rivals what Marilyn Manson does on a Friday the 13th night that also happens to lie at the end of Mardi Gras week. Recovery is required. Perhaps several rounds of therapy. Possibly involving electrodes.
Now, the Evangelical church spans 1,000 of the 38,000 denominations under the overall Christian umbrella, each with its own unique bouquet of flavors. A lot of things the church culture influences are beautiful. Take “Love thy neighbor”, for example. Short, sweet, lovely. It’s something to get behind. It’s also a far cry away from, say, “Gang-pray your Goth friend while she’s smoking in the bathroom and inform her that she’s in a freefall toward eternity spent in a lava-filled lake, upon which time you should hurl Bible verses at her until she emerges with wet, mascara-smeared cheeks.” These things, they…tend to give one pause later in life.
But of course, ambushing the vampire girl who spends most of her school hours under the bleachers isn’t the only thing that you might have tucked away in the dark recesses of your mind. Chances are, if you’ve once dabbled in über-sainthood, you’ve got some other choice cuts of meat in your spiritual locker.
Other symptoms of some classic Devangelical issues may include one or more of the following:
1) A feeling bordering on euphoria when you sleep in on Sunday morning and an irrationally violent need to defend such “right” on the magnitude of one Bilbo Baggins’ when jonesing for the ring. Friends can only stand by, bewildered. Detox may have been discussed.
2) The paranoid suspicion that you are being judged by your family members as going to Hell for not believing what they do. This may result in emotional explosions over turkey dinner or during otherwise polite conversations. Sample conversation may include:
Your Mother: It’s so nice to see you. Tell us what you have been doing lately, dear.
You: Why do you always have to harp on me? Just because I’m not following the path you set out for me doesn’t mean I’m going to burn in Hell, OK? Geez mom, leave me alone. I’m an adult and I can think for myself.
Your Mother: Please pass the gravy, dear.
3) An unhealthy obsession with listening to “Stairway to Heaven”, “Another One Bites the Dust”, or other backmasking “targets” on the quest to get to the bottom of the “satanic messages” you once heard as a kid.
4) An intangible feeling that your growth has been stunted and that church can somehow be blamed for why you look at life as one big Youth Group party. (i.e. It’s not your fault that you thought it was appropriate to give your boss that wedgie)
5) Inordinate amounts of trivia bouncing around in your head concerning the flaws of other religions, but a basic lack of understanding about the history of western civilization. (i.e. Romulus and Remus who?)
6) When somebody around you begins to spell out a derogatory word that begins with “C”, something in the back of your brain clicks over to the song “I am a C”. You shake your head to dislodge, but it is no use.
7) The word “VBS” has a smell.
8) You have been told that your search outside of the church you were raised in is equivalent to “spiritual complacency”.
9) You love conspiracy theories a little too much. Having come from a world of the Illuminati, Disney, and a government agenda of eradicating Christian values, you have now changed direction and focused the conspiracy back on the church.
10) Hearing the name “Condaleeza Rice” makes you want to say “shondalie condalie” over and over until someone smacks you on the forehead and you fall prone on the ground.
The possibilities for issues are endless, and my issues may not be your issues. We all have had our unique journey to get to this point. Point being, this guide is not for Devangelicals across the board. And not every Devangelical has left the church as a result. Devangelicalism, as I’ve stated before, is simply a paradigm shift. It’s not so much about faith or your choice of faith community, it’s about seeing the distinction between those things and culture.
So, welcome to Step 1. If you’ve got issues, you might as well place them on the table in front of you and stare at them for awhile. It is likely to be an interesting menagerie, with some weirder than others. But it’s time to address them if not for any other reason than that you can move forward. Well, that and so we can all have a good chuckle at your expense. In a way, we’re all still in the Youth Group, after all. Don’t expect to get out of this without at least one good swirlie.