I was done with evangelicalism by the time I graduated college. I’d done everything right, I’d attend the conferences, I’d fallen to my knees in charismatic worship, I voted for Republicans, and I studied the Bible. My desire to delve deeper into Biblical study, into the person of Jesus, is what led me straight out the door of the evangelical house. Philosophical questions of mutability and sin nature plagued my study – the timelines for how God interacts with creation and what kenosis means for Jesus’ humanity all presented philosophical puzzles that my blueprinted evangelicalism could no longer tolerate. I moved out and beyond the narrow orthodoxy I'd been taught, exploring deeper the questions of Jesus. My evangelical desire to delve deeper into God ultimately led me away from the evangelical vision of the Kingdom.
My favorite book of CS Lewis’ Narnia series is the final one – The Last Battle. Many have (rightly) criticized the book as far too preachy and obvious in its allegory, which I understand. But for me, the imagery of heaven as a bigger, wider, more vibrant and perfect version of the world we already know brings to mind the idea of a Kingdom of Heaven on earth. What it really means to say “your Kingdom come” becomes clearer as the Pevensie children go further up and further in.
In one memorable scene, the dwarves, who refuse to take sides and repeat that the “dwarves are for the dwarves,” are ushered into the stable that leads on to the new, blessed world. But instead of seeing the great grand fields and breathing new air and eating new food, the dwarves see just the stable. The food turns to straw in their mouths. Trying to move beyond their confines causes them to bump into walls that are invisible to everyone but them.
They are confined in this new world, not because they are purposefully choosing not to believe, but because what they believe about the world restricts their world into a smaller and smaller space. They have their little community, their space, and they will not be moved or persuaded out of it.
When I left evangelicalism, I felt like a dwarf finally opening its eyes. I was no longer in a musty stable where the rules had to be followed, where my community stuck by its own - which was people who looked, talked, and believed exactly like me. The newer world was scary, it was bright and it took some time to figure out that it was blessed, but it was ultimately better than the musty stable I left behind.
Evangelical gatekeepers think they hold they keys to the Kingdom. Their conviction that conservative American politics are a necessary part of Christian belief create boundaries on a Kingdom that is so much greater and so much larger than anything we could have imagined. It is a world where we can run without getting tired, where the further in we go, the larger and more beautiful our world becomes. But we have to take the first step to get up and walk away from the restrictive, legalistic evangelical table first. We have to give up on the idea that we can know the mind of God fully, while we are here, behind the veil.
True liberation does not come from confining yourself to the stable. It does not come from chasing after power and correct orthodoxy. It comes from the trust it takes to get up, to start running, and to go further up and further in toward a big, wide wonderful Love.