I am thankful for my evangelical upbringing because...
It has given me a habit of self-examination. I have been raised to think often and deeply about the possibility of error and sin in my life--my pride, my unforgiveness, my jealousy, even my shame. I know from experience how to say "I'm wrong." I know how quickly I damage relationships with others and this gives me a healthy humility and a continual awareness of my need for improvment (or, many times, my need to accept my weakness). This has given me an openness to see flaws in my creative projects and to always be critical of any pride that comes with success.
It has taught me how to read. Anyone who has sat through a childhood's worth of sermons--if the sermons were scriptural exegesis--has a mind subconsciously prepared to think like a literary theorist. I understand literal interpretations, metaphors, genre, translation, author's intent vs. reader's experience, that texts can be allegorical and mystical and historical at the same time. I also learned how to read with passion, to weep over the smallest of words--to apply a text to my life as if that's all that mattered, to drink from it like parched traveler, let it confuse me and play in my imagination like a wild tiger.
It keeps my mind in perpetual iconoclasm. While protestant denominations are infamous for their divisions (and this a terrible show of unity, peace and love), there is something to be said for the never-ending assault on anything that sets itself up against Jesus. There is a deep distrust inside me of anything popular or powerful. The Spirit moves--where it once was, it no longer is...where is seems to be is where it's not...when we think we have God pinned down, he's vanished into thin air like a magician under the sheet...and suddenly appears where we least expect. Flannery O'Connor said once that the good thing about protestantism is that it has within itself the seed of its own destruction. I don't think she meant this to be mean but to describe how its own cracks let God shine in.
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