As you probably know, a number of volunteers work for the blog, graciously giving their time and talents to promote the work we’re doing. As one of the perks, volunteers who have published a book of relevance to what we do here on the blog can write a post on it for us. I did an interview this past August with Glenn Siepert that I enjoyed very much; he is a very good interviewer (you can see it here: Interview on Lost Christianities: “What If Project” Podcast | The Bart Ehrman Blog ). Afterward he volunteered to design graphics for some of the blog posts, and we’ve all benefited from it.
Glenn has just published a book about how he left a fundamentalist form of Christianity and the new world he then entered into. Here is his description of his experience and the book.
Hello friends. My name is Glenn Siepert and Bart invited me onto the blog today to share with you a bit about my new book that I recently self-published via Amazon. The book is called (Re)Thinking Everything and it’s about my spiritual journey out of a fundamentalist world of black and white thinking and into a great, wide world of color.
Allow me to explain.
I grew up in the world of conservative Evangelicalism. I went to a Private Christian School from the 4th – 12th grades and then went off to attend an Evangelical Bible College, then an Evangelical Seminary, then to pastor a church, then back to the same Evangelical Seminary (for another degree). I received straight A’s in most of my classes, earned a preaching scholarship, all but memorized my Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology textbook (not to mention Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict) and was well on my way to building a career in the world of Evangelicalism.
But then one morning I found myself in the NICU with my newborn daughter.
My wife had just had a C-section and was out cold from the anesthesia when the doctor informed me that I needed to follow his team to the NICU because our baby was having trouble breathing on her own. I left my wife in the care of the nurses and ran down a hallway that seemed to have endless twists and turns and before I had even a moment to grasp what was happening, the doctors had our daughter connected to all sorts of wires and tubes and laying in a tank that had holes on the side for me to stick my arms into.
“I can touch her?”, I asked.
“Sure”, the nurse said, “I’ll give you some time with your daughter.”
I reached my hand into the tank and I’ll never forget the rush of energy that flew through my body as my daughter grabbed my pinky and touched me for the very first time. Tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to process all that was happening when all of a sudden an unexpected voice rose up from deep within me. It wasn’t audible. It wasn’t “the voice of God”. Instead, it was a familiar inner voice – the voice of my younger self, the voice of a child who had endured years and years and years of problematic teaching that had been deeply ingrained into his subconscious. At that moment in the NICU this dormant voice sprung to life inside of me, raised his fist into the air and shouted, “Seriously? Do you really believe that this baby is born sinful and that she’s destined for hell if she doesn’t believe the right things about Jesus? You’re really going to pass that garbage on to her?” This is what I had believed for over 30 years of my life because it was all I ever knew, the only narrative I was ever given; BUT at that moment in the NICU with all my years of schooling and study and pastoring under my belt … I was having a major theological crisis.
My book is the story of my crisis. As I mentioned above, it’s called (Re)Thinking Everything and it’s the story of my journey out of the black and white world of Christian fundamentalism and into the wonderful world of color that I find myself in today.
The book is divided into 5 chapters with the first 4 being an exploration of the hot topics of hell, LGBTQ inclusion, biblical inerrancy, and salvation / the message of the cross, and the 5th being a “letter” of sorts that I wrote to the god I used to believe in, the god I experienced in Evangelicalism who is angry at my sin, sending people to hell who believe the wrong things, waiting to destroy the world, and allowing people to go hungry, get raped, and have their lives torn to shreds by hurricanes and tornadoes and cancer all because it’s somehow “part of his will”.
What happened in the NICU the morning my daughter was born sent me down the rabbit hole of what many would call “faith deconstruction” where as soon as I began to rethink my thoughts on original sin, the doors began to open to other things as I wondered, “Hmm. If the stuff I was taught about original sin is off … what other teachings need to be re-examined as well?” There are lots of topics I could have explored in the book, but I chose those 4 because those topics were the ones that I was taught had absolutely no wriggle room for different thinking and so they were the hardest ones for me to grapple with.
The book coincides with my podcast at the What If Project that I started a year after my daughter was born. The project explores the question, “what if there are ways of thinking about God and faith that are different than what our traditions have handed us?” We’ve spoken to people like Bart, Brian McLaren, NT Wright, Barbara Brown Taylor, David Brakke, James McGrath, Diana Butler Bass, Alexander John Shaia, Elaine Pagels, and many more (we’ll hit 200 episodes this Spring!) in an effort to find other ways to think about matters of faith that many of us were told could only be understood or thought about in one, narrow, black and white way.
My hope is that this book will fall into the hands of people who have had their own NICU moments, but have nowhere safe to bring their questions, their doubts, and their uncertainties. Much like the podcast, I hope the book can be a lifeboat of sorts that is trailing behind the ship of Evangelicalism (or some other fundamentalist faith tradition) and picking up people who jumped off, were pushed off, or fell off so that they can have a place to dry off, get warm, and be loved and appreciated for who they are regardless of where they are on their journey.
That said, below is the link to the book on Amazon as well as well as some other ways to connect with me and my work. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post, I look forward to connecting with you out in cyberspace!
Email: [email protected]
Website / Blog: http://www.whatifproject.net
What If Project Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/whatifproject.net
What If Project (Closed) Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/whatifprojectcommunity
What If Project – YouTube: http://youtube.com/c/whatifprojectpodcast
What If Project – Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7oGrRDh7FMkmgf0kSUigsQ?si=oBiMmzSGTYmlkgy4G56tNA
What If Project – Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-if-project/id1397047558