Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: exvangelical

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”

Morning Devotions

The main thing that bugged me about the State of the Union was the way Trump wove Christian narratives in his speech to co-opt religion into his uncompassionate policies. Even when I was a Believer I squirmed when politics stuck its greasy fingers into Faith. Faith almost never comes away clean when she screws around with politics.

So I’m going to talk about daily devotions this morning instead.

I get up around six. It’s dark and cold and I have to push away immediate feelings of hatred for all life. I don’t feel like a morning person during the first few minutes of consciousness.

I splash water on my hands and face. It’s cold because I won’t wait for the tap to warm up. The bathroom light is blinding that early. But now I am waking up.

I’m a morning person by the time I sit at my desk. I start with prayer.

I address my prayers to God—turns out I can still do that, even though I don’t think he’s real. I express my gratitude at the good things in my life. As I express, I recognize more and more good that I would not have noticed without a morning habit. Then I look to my struggles. Where do I want work/development/growth/sanctification? I close my prayers with a quiet spirit of willingness. I want wisdom. I am willing to listen.

In this spirit, I read.

Usually I read the Bible. I’ve read it cover-to-cover a few times, and I’ll do it again this year. I read slowly, with a journal and pen beside me. I read like a man looking for treasure in his basement. I almost always walk away with something, which is more than I can say about listening to the State of the Union.

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.