If you have arrived at this post because you were looking for information on NBC’s “The Voice” you may as well stop reading. I am a fan and cheer for anyone from team Blake, but I want to reflect on another voice. I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian home. For the most part I have good memories from my childhood. However my understanding of faith and God was shaped by a lot of rules and a tremendous amount of guilt. For example, Christians didn’t dance, go to movies or listen to rock n’ roll. We believed in a judgmental God who would one day come back to “rapture” the faithful. Men were called to leadership in both house and church while women could teach children’s Sunday school and be quietly submissive. When pre-marital sex led to pregnancy the “girl” would meet with the elders and then disappear for a few months. Apparently all of these pregnancies were immaculate because the male participation was never discussed. Divorced people could be forgiven but rarely achieved more than second class status.
In a strange sort of way these rules and others like them created a space of predictability and stability for me. When everyone played by the rules everything was good. That was until I started experimenting with “sin.” I still remember going to my first movie. It happened because I went to a friend’s overnight birthday party and the next morning we all went to the Saturday matinee. I chose to go to the movie rather than home. It was a spaghetti western; I was both thrilled and racked with guilt. Before long I was attending movies on a regular basis. The story of my first high school dance is similar, only this time I was the yearbook photographer and I “had” to attend the dance to get some pictures.
Through all of this there was “the voice”, it kept whispering to me, reminding me of how I was abandoning my faith. Initially I was convinced it was the Holy Spirit convicting and condemning my sinful actions. Over time I came to understand that this voice wasn’t so much the Holy Spirit as it was the culturally trapped and twisted version of my faith.
One of the most difficult tasks people of faith engage in is separating cultural norms and preferences from the good news of the gospel. This tension is only heightened when diversity increases. The norms of my youth worked to a certain extent because most everyone shared a common cultural background. This is no longer the case for me or my family. Diversity is the norm. Everything is different. Difference is challenging. It is especially challenging when it comes to faith. I live, work, and worship with people who claim to worship the same Jesus I do. Some of these folks have a similar understanding of the rules that I had in my youth, while others push every boundary I thought I had and some boundaries I was unaware of. That voice has never left, it still whispers, asking if I have crossed the line into unrighteousness. It is a constant battle to not give in and an intentional choice to walk confidently into the vastness of the kingdom of God.