A few years ago I reached the end of my Christian rope. I was tired of getting simplistic answers to complicated questions, or just being flat-out attacked for even asking the questions in the first place. For some people, that’s the end of their Christian faith. They give up, walk away, throw it out; or stop asking questions and become another Christian clone. None of those worked for me.
So I left the church; maybe not physically, but intellectually. I still showed up on Sundays, and to some other events, but mostly I was just warming a seat. The reasons are actually more complicated than this, but this was a big chunk of the why. I travelled along like this for several years, questions still burning within me, occasionally stumbling across a book or a website that encouraged me that being a Christian wasn’t an either/or decision between my intellect and my faith, and that maybe it was OK to have and ask questions.
During this time I stumbled across the blog of Michael Spencer, “The Internet Monk“. My initial response was to shy away from anyone calling themselves a monk (there were a LOT of Chick tracts in my past). I spent time reading Michael’s posts; I was encouraged by someone who was both answering and asking difficult questions; someone who hadn’t separated his intellect and his faith. He didn’t have all the answers, and he didn’t claim to. Michael called it how he saw it, and often copped flak for it.
In Michael I felt that I’d found a kindred spirit, and his writing encouraged me to keep going, and not give up on my faith. His writing was a refuge from the voices in my past telling me to shut up and stop asking questions. His love for Jesus shone through his writing, and inspired me.
As the voices of “religious right” become increasingly strident, and so much of the church seems determined to crush anyone and everyone whose theology doesn’t quite line up they way they believe it should, Michael’s voice was a lighthouse to someone being smashed on the rocks of religion by the waves of the self-righteous.
After a short battle with cancer, today his voice was silenced.
I believe, as did he, that he’s gone to somewhere where the pain of his cancer is no more, and where all tears are wiped away. Tonight I mourn for his wife Denise, his children Clay and Noel and their families, and for those of us who are left behind.
You will be missed, Michael.