I noticed a recent article about a Grammy Award winning christian hip hop artist who has renounced his faith. Brady ‘Phanatic’ Goodwin has recorded ten albums, written six books, even attended Bible College, Seminary, and taught apologetics.
“I sent a letter to my church withdrawing my membership and saying that I am denouncing the Christian faith that I have believed, professed, proclaimed, and defended for the last 30 years of my life.”¹
That makes most of us feel sad, defensive, maybe angry. Some of you are probably formulating theoretical answers or clobber verses in response to his words.
Maybe that’s the problem.
Naturally the reactions to Goodwin’s announcement were varied: some supportive, some confused, some defensive. In the article, one pastor commented, “[Goodwin] acknowledges that he stepped away from the Bible” and that “he was trying to find God in the world, instead of the Word.”
Or to put it another way, ‘Goodwin is not being honest. He is wrong because my answers are good enough for me’. This pastor reminds me of a goldfish watching the world pass by, completely satisfied, and frowning at all the commotion outside its cloudy bowl. Except that food, fresh water, meaning, even life itself come from out there.
The article indicates an assortment of reasons why Goodwin stepped away from his faith but most significant were the various conflicting messages in the Bible and evangelicalism’s lack of compassion on social issues.
“I got to the point where I felt like I was: one, being lied to and two, being trained to lie to other people.”
What if I told you that what he is doing is healthy?
I don’t want to assume too much about his intentions or those of his detractors but as I scrolled through the article it occurred to me that Goodwin’s words were not anti-God in any way. It’s just that he couldn’t reconcile how his faith was being taught and practiced in the real world.
What I saw in Goodwin’s comments was honesty – a common characteristic in christians who ask difficult questions. His conscience wouldn’t allow him to continue repeating things that didn’t make sense in his own heart and mind! Shouldn’t we applaud that level of integrity?
Brady ‘Phanatic’ Goodwin will be fine.
Guess how I know?
My memory conjured up a long list of celebrities who became born again christians only to later ‘reposition’ their beliefs.
I thought especially of Anne Rice, the famous author of of the Vampire Chronicles, who died this past December. Anne famously became a christian only to later renounce christianity … kind of. Naturally Rice was hazed in some christian quarters but look carefully at what she said.
“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.” ²
I recently listened to an interview with Rice from a few years ago. She was very clear that she had never renounced her faith in God but had distanced herself from the unloving ways of the christian establishment.
Why have factions of our faith become so uncomfortable with enquiry, reason, diversity? Why do churches become little more than places to reinforce the status quo? Why is our Good News so drab that entire generations are walking away?
Know what? I don’t see very much standing still in biblical characters who were serious about God. It’s sad that seekers sometimes have to separate themselves from a paralyzed church in order to seek truth and purpose.
‘Phanatic’ Goodwin was an ‘insider’ for most of his life but was never even aware of the spaciousness outside of his evangelical ‘bowl’. The myopic answers he was given slowly festered and began to overwhelm. So much so, that he felt compelled to leave christianity just to be faithful to the instincts God had given him.
Perhaps, like me, you have a Cross as a piece of jewelry or a tattoo. Yes, it is a popular decoration but for many of us it is a statement about where our roots are. To refresh your memory, the cross was originally popularized by the Romans as the primary symbol of their power.
Jesus was hated because he taught that God was much more loving and interesting than the religious authorities were teaching. So they chose to silence him by allying themselves with the amoral, cross wielding, Roman government.
Think about it: Jesus was killed to preserve the order, control, and stability of ‘right-thinking’. He hung on a cross for daring to declare that God existed in greater ways than the popular thinkers would allow. In the end, he twisted an international symbol for safety and control into the timeless symbol of truth and love.
If you are satisfied with seeing the Divine from a comfortable, static place, bless you – but many of us can’t. When you wrestle with God it means the answers are important.
I’m not here to tell you what your struggles should be … just to reassure you. The good news is that you don’t have to leave the faith to have ‘a crisis of conscience’. If your spirit is not at peace then keep searching honestly, quietly, and doggedly.
Some people won’t understand your journey, but God does.
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¹ This article can be found at julieroys.com. Julie Roys is a conservative christian reporter who investigates abuse in the church. She is professional, faithful, tenacious, and a good source for fair reporting.