Ever try something new, only to have it turn out incredibly different than you ever imagined? That's what happened to Alice (the blogger formerly known as "not-crunchy") when she entered the blogging world. Alice, a self-proclaimed typical lefty-Democrat, blogs at I'm Not Crunchy (her original blog), but also has begun Evangelical Update, a blog which is aimed to help those who think that we evangelicals are nuts to understand that we're really not crazy! From that purpose, some great discussions between liberals and evangelicals (and a few belong to neither category) have ensued -- all in a spirit of love and respect for one another.
I've always enjoyed my discussions with Alice because she has been willing to listen and debate on an intellectual level, not simply on a "Here's where your wrong" basis. It has also taken some incredible strength to tolerate a bunch of evangelical bloggers challenging your every belief, and Alice has been gracious throughout. I'm proud to call her my friend. Alice and I had a recent "cyber sit-down" to talk about Evangelical Update and her experiences with the evangelical community.
AS: When I first found your blog, you were just getting started with I'm Not Crunchy, blogging about the environment and your journey to law school. How did you end up with a majority of your readers being evangelical Christians?
Alice: After I started my blog, which was supposed to be about the environment, I was all excited about blogging and looking for new ones to read by clicking on the "Next Blog" button at the top of Blogger blogs. I came across the blog, Amy's Humble Musings and posted a comment there. Unbeknownst to me, Amy is quite popular and my post directed some traffic to my blog. Since I have always had a general fascination with Evangelical Christians, I decided to change the focus of my blog from environmentalism to whatever popped up in discussion with Evangelicals.
AS: Now you have a second blog, Evangelical Update. The way the new blog is set up, Christians and non-Christians learn from each other. Where did the idea come from?
Alice: From the beginning of my adventure with Evangelicals on my first blog, I wanted to use it as a learning experience. I've told a lot of my friends and family about it, and they are always very interested in what I've learned. I thought that it would be valuable to others like me who want to know more. I will be honest here: most liberals that I know think that Evangelicals are not very bright. I want to help change that perception because it is obviously no more descriptive of this segment of America than of any another segment.
Around the turn of the year I read a transcript of a Bill Moyers speech on Evangelicals and their view on the environment which completely outraged me. It turns out that parts of Moyers' speech were wrong and he apologized for his mistakes. But reading that speech left me so completely baffled about the Evangelical world, that I wanted to learn more. Thus stumbling across Amy's blog was good timing for me (and as I'm sure any good Reformed person would say, maybe it was not a coincidence!).
AS: Personally, which previous ideas that you had about evangelicals did you find to be wrong?
Alice: Interestingly, through all of this, not a single person has been hostile toward me. Maybe hostile toward my ideas, but not me personally. This surprised me because one of my stereotypes of Evangelicals is of the "foaming at the mouth" crazy woman protesting abortion at a women's clinic. (I still think that that demographic is out there -- I just haven't run across their blogs, and probably wouldn't waste my time reading it if I did!) But I don't think that they are typical. There also does not seem to be hostility toward those with lifestyles with which they disagree (homosexuals, other faiths, etc.). To be honest, another impression of mine was that Evangelicals do not think about their faith on a deep level -- that their interpretation of Christianity takes a simple view of things for the sake of simplicity. I was definitely wrong on that one.
AS: Which of your ideas about evangelicals were reinforced?
Alice: Several -- that their lives revolve around religion, that they think those who do not believe that Jesus is the only path to salvation are going to hell, and that they absolutely believe that they have the correct interpretation of Christianity.
AS: Has this whole experience changed you in any way?
Alice: It's probably too early to say, but one big change in me is that I'm no longer angry with Evangelicals, though I do still get very frustrated with some of the things I read. I had a negative experience with some Evangelicals in college (I went to school in Springfield, Missouri -- headquarters of the Assemblies of God and home to two or three Bible Colleges). After that experience if I so much as thought about it I would get fuming mad. That anger is gone, because now I understand where they were coming from.
One great side-benefit of this experience has been a re-examination of my belief system. I have never been so challenged to define and defend my beliefs. I am no closer to being the Evangelical definition of a Christian than when this started, but I am re-thinking the idea of "What is a Christian?" I realized that while I like to say that I follow the teachings of Jesus, I need to learn more about those teachings before I can honestly say that.
AS: You mentioned on your blog about your curiosity about the influence of the Christian right and the Republican party. Have you had any insights about this?
Alice: Not a whole lot because I think that the group I tapped into are not the typical Republican-voting Christian-right. If anything, I've learned that Evangelicals are just as disgusted with politics as anyone else. I also learned that not all Evangelicals are as gullible as I thought when it comes to the intersection of politics and religion. Many liberals (myself included) feel that the Christian Right has much too large an influence on politics and is the main contributor to the current polarization between the two main parties.
AS: What has surprised you about Evangelical Update?
Alice: The original intended audience was liberals only. When I first started it, I was only getting Evangelical readers and commenters, which really frustrated me. Then a few liberals, Christian and other, came in and a conversation started. Commenting has made the site exponentially better than I envisaged, because liberals can now get the original viewpoints -- from the horse's mouth.
AS: What should evangelical Christians know about non-Christians?
Alice: I'll start this one by saying that it is really hard for me to call myself a non-Christian, because I think of myself, culturally, as a Christian. I grew up in a Christian church and am comfortable with Christians. I first questioned some of the fundamental aspects of Christianity at age 14, and since then have never been able to look back, despite much effort. Needless to say, this is not a good topic to bring up with some people like my Grandma, so I feel like I'm going out on a limb and "exposing" my non-Christian self on the internet, just in case it gets back to Grandma! I want Evangelicals to know that I am a typical former or non-Christian. Hopefully Evangelicals find me reasonable and earnest in my beliefs (or lack thereof) and see that I am not inherently evil or trying to wreak havoc in this world. If anything, I want this world to be a better place, just like they do. I think that it is also important to remember that the vast majority of the world's population is not Christian.
AS: What has your husband thought of this whole experience?
Alice: At first he was concerned that the experience was upsetting me too much (it was stressful for me at first because it was me vs. about 20 people!). But I calmed down quickly, and we have had a lot of great conversations about philosophy that I'm not sure we would have normally had. He occasionally reads I'm Not Crunchy but I don't think he has ever read Evangelical Update -- just as I don't read the postings he makes on the web about criminal profiling because it doesn't interest me.
AS: Do you have any further goals for Evangelical Update?
Alice: I'll have to see how time-consuming law school is, but my participation will probably end pretty soon. I hope that someone else can take over because the idea seems to have truly captivated many people. It takes a lot of time to put together a cogent review of any topic regarding Evangelicals because they are such a diverse bunch. Therefore the new approach is to just gloss over the topic and let the commenters do the rest. But, I got myself in hot water by glossing over a topic the other day, so I need to be very careful if I'm going to try to keep my posts at least half-way objective. I do not have any defined goals because these blogs tend to define themselves.
A few cautions to new readers of Evangelical Update. First, the discussion goes fast. A lot of ground gets covered and with so many there to participate the process can be very quick. Second, the discussion doesn't end when the next topic is posted. Don't be afraid to check down the page for more conversation on older posts. And third, read expecting to learn from those who disagree with you.