Dear Ana Marie Cox,
Like countless others, I read your essay “Why I’m Coming Out as a Christian” with mixed emotions. At times you encouraged me, baffled me, and infuriated me, but at the end, I walked away satisfied, knowing that, even though you and I may not agree on everything (or much at all, maybe?), you and I are on the same side of the ultimate decision of all: the decision to follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
You impressed me most with some of your elegant descriptions of faith:
In my personal life, my faith is not something I struggle with or something I take particular pride in. It is just part of who I am. [...] I try, every day, to give my will and my life over to God. I try to be like Christ. I get down on my knees and pray. [...] Here is why I believe I am a Christian: I believe I have a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. I believe in the grace offered by the Resurrection. I believe that whatever spiritual rewards I may reap come directly from trying to live the example set by Christ. Whether or not I succeed in living up to that example is primarily between Him and me. My understanding of Christianity is that it doesn’t require me to prove my faith to anyone on this plane of existence. It is about a direct relationship with the divine and freely offered salvation.
A perfect world would greet your essay with the same fanfare it greets people who make all sorts of declarations about their personal life, but as believers in Jesus you and I both know that the world we live in is far from perfect.
Like my colleague, Jon Bishop, I thought that sharing my experiences might add to the conversation. I grew up in the church — there has never been a time in my life when my family wasn’t actively involved in church. The church we attended from the time I was a child until my 11th grade year was a Christian Church. Though they claim not to be a denomination, and there is no hierarchy like a denomination, there’s a doctrinal hegemony within much of the Christian Church, and the congregations share common educational institutions and mission organizations.
In the church where I grew up, I often heard the saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.” Yet this congregation didn’t practice much unity — in fact, every three years or so a big blow-up would take place which would set the church back in many ways.
(It may be worth nothing here that such schisms dot the timeline of the Restoration Movement, which began during the Second Great Awakening in the 19th century and produced the Christian Church, as well as the more liberal Christian Church [Disciples of Christ], the Church of Christ [both the congregations who use musical instruments and those who don't], and the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada. Disputes over organization, worship style, and theological liberalism have led to splits within the movement over many years.)
During one of those blow-ups at my home church when I was 16, my family along with about half a dozen other families set out to start a new congregation, one that was truly independent. We saw a need that was lacking in our community and sought to meet it by providing a casual, contemporary worship experience in a theologically conservative setting.
We maintained the loosest of ties with the Christian Church, largely because our pastors and earliest members came from that tradition, but also for the sake of camps for children and students, as well as missionaries. We’ve also kept a few of the Christian Church’s traditions — taking the Lord’s Supper every Sunday and an emphasis on baptism by immersion (though, while the Christian Church considers baptism essential to salvation, we don’t believe that baptism saves an individual — we do consider it a requirement for church membership and an important sacrament for a new believer to undertake).
After 25 years, give or take a few months, Eastridge Community Church has refined its mission — the mission God gave us — to make disciples who love God, love people, and reach the world. We have served our community in countless ways and sent members on mission trips to Mexico, China, India, Honduras, Ethiopia, and Rwanda. We’ve become a multi-site church with a second campus in the southern area of our home county, and we sponsor churches in India.
One of the most remarkable features of our history is that, other than one change in leadership, we’ve remained largely unified with no splits (save an exodus of some members surrounding that leadership change). It’s the kind of unity that can only come from a congregation that is committed to following God above any other agenda.
How has Eastridge shaped me? It’s where I learned how to serve selflessly, where I developed many of my creative talents and leadership skills. The church has taken me to Mexico to build houses — twice. I’ve been discipled and I’ve discipled others. I love Eastridge so much that I spend six years on staff and recently came back on staff!
Without the involvement in and support from an independent, non-denominational church for a little over 25 years, I wouldn’t be the man of God that I am. I truly believe that, and I’m grateful that He’s allowed me and the rest of my family to experience these years at Eastridge.
Please join the discussion with us on Twitter. The essay above is the twenty-first in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle
The essay is the third in a series of inter-faith dialogues on Sundays, see the first from Jon Bishop on March 8, “Why I Am Catholic,” and the second by Susan L.M. Goldberg published earlier today, “Why I Am Jewish.”
- Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek
- Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
- Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
- David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
- Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
- Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
- Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
- Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
- Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
- Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
- Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
- Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
- Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
- Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
- Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
- Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies
- David S. Bernstein on March 12: Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 15: Why I Am Jewish
See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:
2014 – Starting the Discussion…
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Liberty Island on November 22nd, 2014: A Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
January 2015 – Volume I
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
- David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
- Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
- Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
- Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes
- Kathy Shaidle on February 16, 2015: David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite
- David P. Goldman on February 18, 2015: Understanding This Bloody Truth About the Bible Will Save Your Life
- Lisa De Pasquale on February 20, 2015: Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey
- Spencer Klavan on February 24, 2015: How Bad Ideology Destroys Good TV: Why Glee Crashed and Burned