The first time I heard the song precious puritans by Propaganda was also the first time that I heard about the inconsistencies of my precious puritans. The men that I and everyone around me admired as great preachers and theologians failed to live out their theology in one of the greatest needs of those times, slavery. It was shocking to me that the Puritans, who believed and taught that all men are made in the image of God, owned slaves. However, Propaganda ends the song Precious Puritans by expressing how he feels when people quote him without the knowledge of some of his shortcomings.
In the past year and half of many people being “cancelled,” I am reminded once again of this song. We are currently living in a time when the sins of many are starting to come out in the public, whether through the #MeToo, #ChurchToo or just by mere people being called out on social media. One thing we can all agree on is that no one is safe – not your favourite actors, musicians or pastors.
Social media has given us access to people in a weird way, a way we’ve never quite had before. For example, I remember what it was like when I first joined Twitter. I followed all my favourite preachers, but over time it has turned out to be both a gift and a curse. With recent conversations on race, racial reconciliation and politics, I have often found myself being disappointed in the men (and women, but mostly men) that I looked up to and learned greatly from. I have seen many of them say or tweet things which I personally find inconsistent with the things that they preach or claim to believe.
I have significantly been disheartened and discouraged by these inconsistencies, but I have also seen the idolatry in my own heart. I am very prone to making idols out of mortal men; perhaps this is God’s way of reminding me that only He is perfect. I am also reminded of my own inconsistencies. It’s so easy to forget and overlook the fact that my own lack of constancy when I am calling out and cancelling people. My inconsistencies may not catch up with me publicly, but sin always catches up with each and every one of us.
As Propaganda says in another one of his songs, “maybe we are all a little inconsistent, so maybe we can show each other some grace.” I think this grace allows us to be able to still learn from the people we disagree with, and even believe that they can change as we’ve seen the transformation in others. At the same time, I equally believe in holding people accountable, so, by all means, we ought to call people out on their inconsistencies, we ought to ‘call’ (or if they have been called out) them out to repentance and if they don’t repent, maybe cancel them.
Conviction comes out of being convinced on a particular topic and I entirely believe in having strong convictions that are grounded in scripture. My early-20-something-year-old self-has learnt that growth happens when we experience life. God has designed our lives in such a way that we go through various experiences, meet people and have conversations that shape how we see the world. Some of these occurrences even change our convictions and that is part of growth because no one really has it all figured out. As my friend Lynnley recently told me, “no one has a perfect theology if they did they would be God.”
I think God gives us life experiences that either change how or what we think about God, or affirm our thoughts of Him. But maybe sometimes we (I) are just too scared to confront those thoughts in fear of what our faith in God or our theology will look like on the other side of such scrutiny and confrontation. I personally know for sure that this has been my fear in thinking through and wrestling with certain aspects of my theology. I am afraid of letting go of the comfort of feeling like I know who God is. I am afraid of how people will perceive some of the growth and changes that I am experiencing. I am afraid of sharing with others because I fear that I’ll be misunderstood. I am afraid of seeing or facing my own inconsistencies because they remind me that I don’t have it all figured out, that I don’t have God all figured out.
Despite this, I also think there is such great freedom in knowing that I don’t have it all figured out. I find that this has given me a great sense of liberty, enabling me to go before God and to the word of God and longing to learn from Him afresh. I can go before God devoid of the pride that comes with thinking I have it all figured out; I can open scripture without the mentality that I have already figured out what it is supposed to say. I would much rather figure out what it is saying in a new or different way.
If ‘Semper reformanda’ (always reforming) really means we are always conforming to what the Bible teaches, then there should be no shame in repenting and readjusting our (my) view back to scripture. Ultimately, there should be no shame in admitting that I don’t have God, theology, faith, culture and the various sections of life all figured out. Through it all, I am learning to have grace with myself and grace with others.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18