On Tribes and Community: Part 1, Progressive Loss and Nostalgia

It's not news to anyone that many progressive, post-evangelical Christians are obsessed with evangelicalism.

They are, after all, post-evangelicals.

Which means they are working out who they are in relation to evangelical Christianity. So there's a lot of "That is no longer me" contrasting in post-evangelical, progressive Christianity. I no longer read the Bible like that. I no longer see the atonement like that. I no longer think of LGTBQ persons like that. And so on.

Who you are now is defined by what you were then.

And all this is experienced as a great gain and joy. And yet, there's also a sense of nostalgia and loss among post-evangelical Christians. A part of the reason post-evangelicals have a hard time emotionally moving on from evangelicalism is that a part of them misses it.

They don't miss all the bad parts they've moved on from. What they tend to miss is the community. This ache was poignantly expressed in Rachel Held Evan's 2012 lament "Who will bring me casseroles when I have a baby?" 

I know Rachel has since found a faith community and has had a beautiful baby boy, with another baby on the way. Congrats Rachel! So I hope someone did and will continue to bring her casseroles. But that lament in 2012 perfectly captures the longing for community that seems so elusive for many progressive Christians.

Another recent example of this ache is Peter Enn's post-evangelical lament "The Hardest Thing for Me about What I Do":
What’s hard is losing friends, a community, a sense of belonging, a shared narrative.

It’s not so much about friends becoming enemies, but the more subtle disorientation of not really fitting anywhere.
What I want to do in a few posts is talk about tribes and this post-evangelical ache for community, where it comes from and why it seems to be so elusive, why it's so hard to leave all the bad stuff and keep all the good stuff. And the start of our exploration is this simple truth. If you ask post-evangelicals to talk about their childhood and early adulthood growing up in evangelicalism, many will describe it like this:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

And in that mixture of nostalgia and loss is a complicated story about tribes, about why we leave them and ache for them at the very same time.

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