I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago. My house was on a block with a LOT of kids my age. After supper on most summer nights, we would gather at someone’s house to plan the game for the night. Most nights, that game was Sabu.
The rules of Sabu were simple. One person was chosen as the “Sabu,” and they were the “enemy.” Boundary lines were drawn consisting of a certain number of blocks and alleys where everyone could run. The Sabu would close their eyes and count to 50 while everyone else scattered. You could travel independently or in groups, but you had to keep moving. You couldn’t stop or hide—you needed to keep participating. If you were found and tagged, you also became part of the Sabu. The object was to remain untouched by the Sabu until the game was called.
“By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”
With these words on Instagram, Josh Harris (known to many for his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye) joined the ranks of others who have decided they can no longer consider themselves “Christian” in the sense they had always understood that moniker. You may be familiar with the exits of authors Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, Sarah Bessey, and others from their faith roots. These are people who decided they could no longer be a part of an organization that supports patriarchy, marginalizes the LGBTQ community, excludes people from faith walks unlike their own, and/or demands adherence to a literal biblical understanding. This has earned them the label of “enemy” by many in mainstream Christianity.
A sample of responses to Harris’ post:
“Really sad to see this from you and for your family. Just proves to me Satan is among us and destroying lives daily.”
“You’re standing on sinking sand. Couldn’t finish the race. Praying for you.”
“This is not good, Joshua. Your very soul is at stake here. Feeling good about yourself will fade and can't save your heart of stone.”
Do Harris’ words confirm he has rejected faith, or is he simply on a journey to a place different from where he began? The other authors mentioned above continued to journey, and while they did so, with vulnerability and humility they explored the authenticity of the life to which God had called them.
“I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals. False fundamentals make it impossible for faith to adapt to change. The longer the list of requirements and contingencies and prerequisites, the more vulnerable faith becomes to shifting environments and the more likely it is to fade slowly into extinction. When the gospel gets all entangled with extras, dangerous ultimatums threaten to take it down with them. The yoke gets too heavy and we stumble beneath it." Rachel Held Evans
I believe there is an enemy to followers of Christ. However, I don’t believe it is those who honestly share their struggles and are willing to deconstruct their belief system. Like those in the game of Sabu, those individuals continue to engage, continue to participate, continue to seek the holy adventure. Their desire is not to join the ranks of the Sabu but to find new paths toward the goal of finishing the game and sharing their journey along the way.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
The “race” God has set before me is unlike the “race” set before you. That’s because we have a personal God and a unique journey. Leaving a particular faith walk, reconstructing your faith, stripping off the past weight you feel is slowing you down—are these steps toward being captured by the enemy? Or are they a vital part of an authentic life of faith?