I was once part part of a military based leadership program that focused on helping young people see their full potential while emphasizing a drug free lifestyle. I do not have any terrible things to say about the program because it served as a key component in helping me become the person I am today; however, it is evident that it informed a love for country that made my understanding of faith to be incredibly limited.
This was love for God and country.
These two competing liturgies created an emphasis on the freedom I had from religious oppression and an ideology that desired to force others to live by my idea of the Christian faith. By the time I was a senior in high school, my faith was a concoction of militant evangelicalism and a sole love for the United States of America. If there were to be some alternative timeline where the Thomas of then would meet the Thomas of now, he would beat the shit out of him.
The values I practiced were limited to those within my own country. What happened on a global scale did not matter, as long as the mother land was kept safe from Sharia law and the “gay agenda”, as if the two things could somehow coexist.
That was part of my problem. Faith was based on having the ability to think and say certain things without oppression. I feared fear was losing his freedom to tell gays and transgender people they were going to hell and having the ability to shoot anyone who would come to take away my ability to worship the Prince of Peace.
Life was based on the fear of losing, rather than being motivated by the love and grace that gives life.
I allowed my love for country to create a fear of anything that was outside of my own perspective. Instead of being a person of welcome, I was motivated by a xenophobia that would neglect to welcome anyone who worshiped the Divine differently. Too often I would start sentences with, “I am not racist, but…” before vomiting a comment meant to oppress another. I looked at poor people as a nuisance who should be able to pick themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps.
But I did not stay that way.
I have been asked by many who want to know my single turning point; however the fact of the manner is there is not just one. I wish I can say there was a sort of Apostle Paul moment when the glory of Jesus fell upon me or that a single Facebook argument changed my mind; but that did not happen. It took seasons of doubting my faith to eventually becoming atheist only to find the Divine in much more than the box I called my “Christian Faith.”
I crawled into the thought process I found myself in when I started college, and it took about a third of the time to crawl out of it. My perspectives are still evolving, and it is important to remember that yours will continue to as well. If they do not, then I am afraid you have put your faith back in the box you took it out of.