Going Public with My Privates (part 1 of 3)

Written by geoff holsclaw : July 25, 2008

colorful pants…on becoming post-(whatever I was).

Feeling rather left out, I began to worry. Perhaps I was still within my Evangelical cocoon. Or worse, maybe I was still crawling around on branches eating leaves. While my friends flew with new wings, was I still waiting to take off? Yet I felt as if I had emerged already, but by a different process; perhaps I had become a moth?

My question is, if I were to claim metamorphosis into a post/progressive-Evangelical/Conservative/Liberal existence, how did it come about?

Or, to change metaphors, most of my friends who claim a (re)birth trace their lineage through a secret promiscuity with Protestant Liberalism. But I was always much too self-righteous for that. So, is there another family line that can be traced beyond Evangelicalism not issuing from a liaison with Protestant Liberalism?

To make sense of this other possibility of a passage beyond, we have to look closely at the issue concerning how the Church publicly expresses its private beliefs; or, how we go “public with our privates.”

Going Public…

Now, the common complaint leveled against Evangelicalism is that it perpetuates a privatized faith without public effect. But of course this is not entirely true because the highest form of devotion for Evangelicals is to share their faith publicly at school, at work, in the heath club and every other arena of life. Discipleship is completed only when a believer confidently and regularly shares her faith in public. In a sense, Evangelicals are always willing to share their privates in public.

It could be argued that, in regard to matters of faith, Evangelicals are the true disciples of the sexual revolution. Thinking themselves much less repressed or socially inhibited, Evangelicals are willing to drop their religious pants at any time, while Protestant Liberals have much more modesty concerning their private beliefs. PLs are very reluctant to whip out their privates, but rather are reserved and careful, always referring to their beliefs in socially acceptable terms. Evangelicals, liberated from the embarrassment of their privates, are willing to freely expose themselves at any time: on the beach, at work or during dinner. It is the poor PLs who are repressed, denying the goodness of their private life, blushing whenever someone asks about the “hope they have within”.

Of course this evangelistic manner of “going public with the private” is not what critics of Evangelicalism are upset about. Rather they complain that Evangelicals all too typically fail to affirm the goodness of the world/society, and therefore fail to do any good in regards to economic, racial, gender, and environmental problems. Evangelicals go public with their privates on an individual to individual basis. But my maturing faith (fostered by reading OT prophets which are rarely, if ever, preached in Evangelical churches) left me disenchanted and demanding a social/communal aspect to Christian confession.

Coming Soon:
(part 2 of 3) Going Public with My Privates: Evangelical Liberalism/Fundamentalism
(part 3 of 3) Going Public with My Privates: Beyond the Private

Geoff Holsclaw is co-pastor at life on the vine in chicago and a ph.d student at Marquette University studying liturgy and politics.

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Viewing 3 Comments

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    Hilarious and insightful. Thanks.
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    But for all the "exposing ourselves" that we do, we often find that those outside the Evangelical movement are hard pressed to actually define it. We know what we are, but the world at large holds on to a caricature or just plain misinformation. Which is amazing when you think of all the stuff that's on radio right now, on television and on blogs and webpages and in Christian bookstores. All that "exposing," yet we are among the most misunderstood people anywhere. How much more naked to we have to get?
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    • v

    Great play on words and very insightful and thoughtful. Good stuff.


    Never thought about it that way. I guess we are just confusing.


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