By: Alex Vaiz
Editor's Note: This article was orginally published on July 30, 2019
Something continues to bother me.
As I scroll through my social media feed, article after article features Joshua Harris renouncing his faith. His books and sermons created a purity movement in the 90’s and early 2000’s that resulted in hurting and shaming so many young people. I commend him for asking for forgiveness from those he caused pain. However, as a pastor and a person of color having gone through persecution, grappled with personal doubts and deconstruction, I can’t just let him off the hook that easy.
Joshua Harris represents a trend of white evangelicals that when confronted with having to deconstruct their white theology when their experiences don't add up to what they believed for so long, have instead taken the easy way out. They've renounced the faith altogether.
I’m not against anyone renouncing a faith that has catered to white privilege and power but I disagree with people wanting the easy way out. They choose to renounce the faith altogether when they begin to experience any form of persecution or marginalization. It seems that the moment those who have lived in privilege and power are confronted with even a glimpse of what people of color, LGBTQ or people from other faiths have always experienced it becomes too much to bare and the only solution for them is to give up altogether.
Yes, please give up on your white supremacist theology, where the white nationlist Jesus is at the center. Yes, please give up on your sexist teaching where shaming and misleading others has hurt so many. Just don’t give up on the work of discovering the God of the margins. The God of the persecuted. The brown Jesus who resisted those who were in power and privilege.
I encourage Joshua and those like him to live and walk with those who are in the margins. I encourage them to search for Jesus amongst the disenfranchised and the outcasts of society. I encourage them to leave the false faith and embrace the true faith that reveals Jesus in the midst of the poor and forgotten.
Yes, deconstruction isn’t easy and it’s not suppose to be. It’s what being a true disciple of Jesus is all about. To take up your cross and follow him. As an evangelical I was taught that the cross represented death to self. This teaching focuses only on the individual, leading us astray, keeping us from taking any social responsibility for those who are in the margins, and from resisting the social structures that continue to oppress the vulnerable. Yet, the cross represents so much more. It represents an identifying with Christ and his sufferings. Jesus suffered for resisting the religious establishment and its interpretation of scripture. He suffered for being a Jew at the hands of the Roman empire because he was a non-citizen. This is the Christ of the marginalized.
So for Joshua and those like him, I’m glad you’re beginning to feel the pain you’ve caused others, but giving up doesn’t feel like true repentance to me. I believe giving up and walking away only causes further pain, especially to all of those who have chosen to pick up the broken pieces of their lives and not give up on their faith. It’s ok to doubt, to grapple and to struggle, but to give up so easily is disrespectful for those that reside in the margins.