Having had fairly extensive discussions with members of this movement over a period of months, both on twitter, facebook, and privately via email I have observed the following:
- The movement is right to distrust ‘Evangelicalism’. Evangelicalism, as a term, has been emptied of all meaning and by rights everyone who adheres to an understanding of Christianity that isn’t tied to the far right of the Republican Party should identify with subsets of Christianity which do not call themselves ‘Evangelicals’.
- The movement is made up of a number of people who identify as Gay or Lesbian persons. Feeling ‘unwelcome’ in traditional Christianity, they distance themselves from it by adopting the hashtag.
- The movement is also made up of persons who have been, in various ways physical and emotional as well as spiritual, hurt by a person or persons in a local church.
- In responding to the Church some of these persons adopt an attitude of open hostility. They despise the Church because of ‘what it did’ or because ‘it makes them feel excluded’. Some adopt an outlook of sadness in that they mourn for the disconnect they feel and wish things were otherwise. And some simply walk away from the Church without looking back.
The interesting thing about the movement, to me, is the response offered by some to anyone who defends the Church. The response tends to be hostile, and in some instances, downright rage-filled. Anger at the Church becomes, for some, all consuming. Now it isn’t a person or persons who hurt them or excluded them or whatever, it is, writ large, Christianity itself. Their anger is displaced. Instead of being furious with their particular abuser/mistreater they now behave and speak as though every Christian who has ever lived has done them wrong.
And the most interesting thing of all is that the attitudes of some display a more than fascinating attribute: i.e., that if things had been done their way, in their time, as they wished, then they wouldn’t have anything with which to fault the Church at all. As one person wrote (and I have to congratulate her for her blunt honesty), ‘If my church had accepted that I was a Lesbian and if they had accepted my wife, I wouldn’t have ever left’.
In sum, what I heard from this young lady and from numerous others was that the Church should see things and do things the way the #Exvangelical wished. Had they, all would be well. The problem with this of course is that it betrays a certain self-centeredness and self-absorption that could find better expression in finding a congregation which held similar views rather than in anger at those whose views you do not share.
Which brings me to my central take-away from recent discussions: anger is widespread. Whether justly or unjustly; whether at individual Christians or at all of Christianity; anger is the chief characteristic of the #Exvangelical movement. Anger that mistreatment occurred (when it did occur anger against it is perfectly justified). Anger that personal preferences weren’t adopted. Anger that others don’t see the situation in the same way. Anger. #Exvangelicals are mad as hell. And I’m not sure that’s either healthy or sustainable.
Anger will only get those in the movement so far. And then they will either have to abandon their anger or it will consume them. They will burn up with and in their anger at _________________ (fill in the blank) or they will move beyond it to positively engage in the change they so loudly demand.
#Exvangelicalism will either remain a movement of the angry, and accomplish absolutely nothing (because in fairness it has to be said that, as a movement, it’s presently accomplishing nothing at all except loudly bemoaning what’s in the past) or it will grow beyond anger and become the counterpoint to the sorry state of Evangelicalism- a movement itself so besmirched by political entanglements that it can no longer serve the Kingdom of God. To put it crudely, #Exvangelicals can either keep bit****g or they can make a real difference through constructive pursuits.
#Exvangelicals can make a difference. The question, if they’d face it, is whether or not their members are willing to stop being mad. Only they can answer that, and they may not even want to. After all, some people love the drama of anger.