MW Cook

an ex-evangelical doing a year of living christianly

Tag: deconstruction

Conversation with Derek Webb

Derek Webb’s music has been important to me since 1999. Songs like Not the Land and Wedding Dress provided vocabulary for aspects of my spiritual journey that other believing artists wouldn’t touch. Faith My Eyes and Lover were soothing anthems during my missionary days. His most recent album, Fingers Crossed, is a tale of spiritual and marital divorce. It’s about losing faith and family. It’s sad and beautiful and if you’ve ever lost faith go listen to Goodbye, for Now and cry a bit.

I sat down with Derek last week at before his house show in Buffalo. We had a great conversation about his music, what’s left over after faith is gone, and the time he nearly killed RC Sproul. Watch the video below, or at Youtube where there are handy chapter divisions in the description.

Go buy Derek’s music and tickets to his few remaining house shows at derekwebb.com

What it Would Take to Believe

There’s beauty in the idea that we are chosen, and our reward will be worth any amount of suffering. There’s power in the idea that the Omnipotence indwells a believer. It’s great to believe that no matter how bad things get, the One in control of the cosmos has my back.

I’d wager it sounds trite to most unbelievers. The power of Evangelicalism is a bit like the harm of cultural appropriation: you can’t understand it unless you know the whole story. And even then there’s something important lost in translation.

See, every human restlessness and ache and shame and attachment is because of innate brokenness. Our souls are bent before birth, and our bodies reflect it. Ours is a world of exiles, so far from God that we wouldn’t believe the truth even if it slapped us in the face and sent us all to hell. Cut off from reason, we suffer and cause others to suffer until we die and reap suffering’s fulfillment.

Some are saved when God breathes life into their dead spirit, rips the scales from their eyes, gives them a heart of flesh instead of the stone inside. These ones are set apart. No matter what suffering they go through it will not be comparing the eternal weight of glory prepared for them through Christ.

I used to believe all that.

The year of living christianly is not about trying to recapture that belief–it seems dishonest to set out trying to attain any specific belief. But the other day someone asked me what I wanted from God. What would God have to do to prove that he was real? Well, faith is a gift of God, lest anyone boast. If God wanted to prove himself real to me, he would have to give me faith.

so either you aren’t real

or I am just not chosen

maybe I’ll never know

either way my heart is broken

– Derek Webb, “Goodbye, for now”

Introducing a Year of Living Christianly

A boy walks through dark woods on a clear path he knows will lead to a celestial city until one day he emerges at an open field and the path is gone and he stands there saying, Well now what am I supposed to do?

I lost faith five years ago. Christ was all-in-all, so it meant losing identity, community, and my life’s purpose. It’s been a rough go, learning to live without faith. I’m starting to get the hang of it.

But I think about the Pilgrim’s Path all the time. I remember it being beautiful, for the most part, and worthwhile. So I’ve decided to go back for a visit. To get a torch and bag and walk the walk a bit. I don’t believe in God, so I can’t actually be a Christian, but I can do a year of living christianly.

In fact, I started last month.

Question: What is a year of living christianly?
A year of living christianly will be marked by these three facets: christianly ethics, christianly habits, and christianly stories. At all events, this means daily prayer and devotional reading, regular church attendance, and an attempt as sermon-on-the-mount styled love. I’m sure it will mean more, but this is the start.

Question: Why are you doing this?
First, to walk the Path again, for its own sake, to see what was lovely about it.
Also, to recapture some of the disciplinary power that the Christian walk seems to give. These years I’ve resonated with Bree the horse who lost the ability to push himself after he found freedom.
Finally, to open conversation about faith, its loss and change, and the stuff that comes after.

Question: Besides reading and prayer and going to church, what will you be doing?
Sharing. In a lot of ways I feel like I’ve been hiding from the world for five years. I plan to write about my experiences and invite conversations and review books. I plan to do things I haven’t thought of yet. Maybe you have a great idea for me.

Question: There’s a zillion kinds of Christianity, which one is informing the year of living christianly?
Evangelicalism forms the foundation I interpret Christianity through. That being said, I am interested in what other traditions have to say. That being said, I reserve the final judgement of whether an ethic, habit or story is christianly for myself. Kinda like every other pilgrim.

Question: Are you making fun of Christianity?
No, I’m being earnest.

Question: I have a book you should read for this!
Great! Tell me about it and I may add it to my growing reading list.

Question: Why don’t you just keep it simple and be a Christian again?
Because I do not think a personal Fathergod exists, and to pretend I do would be an insult to reason and religion. For this reason I also won’t be taking part in any sacraments like the Lord’s Supper.

Question: I have a question!
Ask! Comment or Facebook or Twitter or email or smoke signal. Let’s talk.