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I think I am a Protestant.

I’ve spent my entire Christian life, since childhood, as a Protestant, but I got tired of it. I tried being nothing for a while, but that didn’t work. I tried being anything else, too, but that didn’t work either.

So, I think I am a Protestant.

It seems to me that the root reason is that I have a personality defect. I like to live in my head.

Protestants tend to focus on having better arguments than the next person—after all, claiming to be more right about God is how it all got started, a legacy that is downloaded from the Reformation onto all Protestant offspring.

Protestantism allows me to stay in the Comfortable Place—my head; a refuge, a rock, an ever-present help in time of trouble.

In fact, Protestantism positively encourages me to stay put in the fantasy world of my brain.

From there I control my life, my surroundings, the universe—God himself. Which is ironic, since Jesus has a few things to say about letting go of control, dying in fact, so that you can gain true life.

I have tried to take this to heart in recent years, the reason being that I came up against a number of experiences that I (wait for it) could not control—namely my life.

Of course, that control was illusory to begin with, but God in his mercy doesn’t leave us there for long. Without pressure points, without the messiness of life invading the command center of my brain, I was free to continue thinking I was moving the pieces of my life when and where they need to be moved.

So, I have been pushed into places where I am learning to honor my head without living there.

For the past ten months I have attend a liturgically minded church—15 minute (at most) sermon and 45 minutes of a lot of sitting, standing, and kneeling, plus a lot of reading of prayers out of books.

All that makes me uncomfortable and annoyed—which means it’s working. It means my monkey brain is jumping up and down, “Look at me, look at me!” but is given no branch on which to land.

Call me a slow learner, but maybe God is not a Protestant. Maybe God does not enter only or even primarily through our heads. In fact, our heads are sometimes the last parts of us to catch on. The head is where we are most alert to any threat to our control,

to any threat to our need to be right,

to any threat to our need to divide the world into those like us and those different from us.

Which is to say,

to any threat to our need to create God in our own image.

My control center is not happy now because it is having a harder time finding things to criticize, new lands to conquer, new things to be right about, new arguments to win.

So the point of all this seems to be to help the head learn its place. To honor the head but not to live there.

So, I think I’m a Protestant, but maybe the edges are being rounded out a bit.


I first posted this in November 2011. I’m reposting it because I like it. 

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.