On Becoming a Wolf

On Becoming a Wolf

An evolving faith can survive because it can adapt to change. Because it embraces those seasons of building up and tearing down, of planting and uprooting. Of death and resurrection. -Rachel Held Evans

 

It has been seven years since I first started examining my faith. Small inconsistencies between the beliefs I was fed as a child and what I was reading in Scripture first alerted me to the need to look again, but pretty soon I was like a madwoman digging through an old box of personal treasures frantically taking everything out trying to figure out if there was anything at all worth keeping. And why were these things sacred anyway?

In part because of these questions, I went to an evangelical seminary where I discovered that there were many different faithful, intelligent answers to my questions about beliefs that I had once been told were written in stone. My faith was one big mess on the floor, and I have been staring at it for two years now feeling completely frozen and at a loss for the next step.

Rachel Held Evans, in her introductory talk at the Evolving Faith conference in 2018, explained that an evolving faith is an adaptive faith. It is a faith trying to survive questions and doubts, make sense of new information and new relationships. It isn’t a faith that is better or more mature than the previous version. It is simply a faith trying not to die.

No longer can I deny that the faith that I started out with is inconsistent, illogical, and incompatible with love… the one belief about God that seems to have withstood it all. My faith is not dead; it is just completely undefined. I do not know what I believe. I only know what I DON’T believe. I feel unable to claim any belief because I am scared of what that will mean.

In my conservative evangelical upbringing, the most dangerous people were not the ones that did not believe. The most dangerous people were the ones that believed the wrong things. Atheists or non-believers were generally viewed as people to feel sorry for. They were lost and needed someone to lead them to the truth. They were a neutral sort of people deserving of prayers and patience. The people to be wary of, to avoid, and to actively fight against were those who “claimed to be Christians” but who held the wrong theology. They were wolves in sheep’s clothing, capitulating to popular culture in their sinful rebellion, and willfully leading others astray. These were the ones that faithful believers should not have any association with.

I believe that to begin embracing new, more progressive theology will mean that I become dangerous to the community that I’ve always belonged to. That I become the type of person that evangelical parents warn their children about. The type of person whose beliefs mean that conservative Christians boycott anything associated with them. The type of person whose children are pitied. It will mean that I become a wolf.

If I begin rebuilding my faith, I will be aligning myself with deadly beliefs in the minds of many. For most conservative Christians, liberal Christianity is not real Christianity at all. In fact, liberal Christian ideas are essentially a form of abuse because they destroy the faiths of believers and set their souls on a path straight to hell… and isn’t that so much worse than an abuser who destroys the body alone? For a time, I was the victim of liberal Christianity, but am I ready to align with my “perpetrator”? Am I ready to become one myself?

Deconstruction is hard, but reconstruction is terrifying. Reconstruction comes at an even higher price and an even greater loss for those who grew up in conservative Christian circles. As long as I am a deconstructing Christian, my old community can feel sorry for me and pray for me and my doubts and questions. But if I reconstruct rather than return, it is time to abandon me, warn others about me, and pray against me for the spiritual harm that I am capable of inflicting on others. Not only do I become a persona non grata; I become a wolf capable of devouring the faithful sheep. I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can’t.

13 thoughts on “On Becoming a Wolf

  1. Dalaina I know you will be OK. You will find that many others have gone before you and found great freedom. Yes you will be labeled a hieratic by some. I have found I keep dropping beliefs and adding because I am always seeking. It becomes and adventure with God to see what is coming next. Not always easy but wroth it.

    1. I love that you remain open to change and growth and are never satisfied with whatever it is that you find true at the moment. I hope that I always have a teachable spirit… even if it is hard and scary sometimes!

  2. I have walked this familiar path of deconstruction and reconstruction. My faith did not stay intact but it was only terrifying and paralyzing for a season. Oh, but the anger stated with me for a very long time. Anger was the only way I was able to escape the crazy-making mental labyrinth of evangelicalism.

    Evangelicalism broke me into a million particles of dust. There was no “me” left intact after 30 years of being in the fold. Yet, I dug out from the rubble and found myself. Healed myself.

    Keep writing. Your intelligence and critical thinking skills are much more developed than mine were when I began my deconstruction. I hope more “lost” people find your blog. It would have meant the world to me to find it 25 years ago when I was utterly desperate and alone after my faith disintegrated.

    You shine so bright, Dalaina.

    1. Wow, Elliot. Thank you so much for this comment. It broke my heart because I feel so deeply that “million particles of dust” experience. I am so glad that you found healing too. It gives me hope to know that there is more coming behind this.

  3. I find the closer I become to my LORD, the less I know. The less I “know” the greater freedom I have to serve my LORD. Look to Jesus, look to the prophets, look to the apostles, their mission was “new” and “fresh” and it scared the organized religious leaders to their very souls. The Journey is not easy, it is not crowded, but the rewards are unbelievable. God bless your winding path to the Almighty.

  4. You say that you are a wolf; that you have left evangelicalism and become the outsider.
    I’m afraid that I may be doing the same, but while you embrace this, I’m afraid. (But I’m always afraid these days… of messing up of hurting others, of being unfaithful or leading others astray)
    I know that I can’t be an evangelical anymore. It doesn’t seem like the truth, which I want to seek and pursue and follow. But it is so much easier. Easier to paint only with a black and white brush with clear lines. Outside obvious right and wrong, I don’t know which way to head. It still seems like the universe was created with rules and guidelines and directives, I just don’t know what they are anymore. I can’t make sense of what the Bible is or isn’t or what my relationship is to it or if I should have a relationship with a book. It’s so hard to see that God revealed himself progressively to humanity over a thousand years. And now it’s been two thousand years of seeming chaos. I know we’ve messed up along the way. I know that not all the viewpoints can be right and that what we’re fighting for really matters. But once I leave the ship of evangelism I feel lost in open waters.
    Husband says that I shouldn’t look to others to define my path or what is right or wrong, but that I should be able to determine it myself (ironic listening to that advice). But I don’t know how. I don’t know what hermetic to follow or how not to slip into the mire of meaningless pluralism. (Or that’s what it seems from my current vantage point).
    I wish (and pray) you grace on your journey. For yourself and others. Be patient with those of us who are still afraid or not as bold or untethered as you. May you find peace. May you continue to be the fantastic trailblazer you are and give us behind you a hint of where to go and what you find along your way.

    1. Liz, I am scared too. Sometimes I get angry and defiant, but then I realize that actually underneath it all the the fear that I am wrong and the fear that I could lead others away. (You know actually BEING a wolf!) I’ve found a lot of solace in Richard Rohr’s work and I highly recommend his book Falling Upwards. Reading about Fowler’s spiritual development stages has helped as well.

      Sometimes I think the point is not to find new places to anchor, but to learn to be wild at sea. That’s a huge bit of letting go of control and trusting that God is in fact the ocean. I am not there either.

      I wish you grace on your journey as well. You’re not alone in your feelings.

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