Q & R: How did you transition out of Evangelicalism?

Here’s the Q:

… what did you do to make the transition out of conservative evangelicalism so gracefully?
I imagine your first statement will be to say that it wasn’t graceful, but how can a person make that transition in a more graceful manner? I imagine this could be a good blog topic, maybe you have already written something on it that you could forward to me. Also, feel free to change the wording if you so desire, the goal for me is to brainstorm things that help people make the transition…
Here’s the R:
Many years ago, a wise older gentleman told me regarding my more conservative Christian brothers and sisters, “Brian, never leave them. If they constrict their circle to exclude you, just keep drawing a bigger circle that includes them.” Then he added, “Love is not rude, and it’s rude to stay somewhere where you’re not wanted. So if they want you gone, don’t push yourself on them. Give them the space they desire.”
I’m not saying that advice is right for everyone, but it’s the path I’ve tried to take. I don’t want to reject Evangelicals, even though I think they’ve drunk some dangerous spiked Kool-Aid lately … unwittingly (or intentionally in some cases) joining the ranks of white supremacy and Christian nationalism.
Here’s how the process went for me:
1. I was seen as a creative, forward-leaning Evangelical with a lot of promise. (Like Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans, Jen Hatmaker, etc., etc.)
2. I was seen as increasingly dangerous because I couldn’t in good conscience condemn LGBTQ people, vilify Muslims, or affirm biblical inerrancy.
3. I was seen as “outside the camp” because I publicly affirmed the full equality of LGBTQ people, including regarding marriage equality, because I lost confidence in the conventional view of hell, and because I stopped affirming the theory/doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. I was frequently criticized (often by people who had never read any of my books or heard me speak, etc.)
4. I was completely ignored, as if I had never existed, by many Evangelicals.
It was during stage 2 that things were most difficult. Here’s what I tried to do during that time:
1. I found peers and mentors with whom I felt safe and free to be myself, express my questions, and engage in needed conversations.
2. When people criticized me, I usually let it slide. I realized that if I tried to defend myself or respond to every criticism, I would never get anything constructive done.
3. On some occasions, I tried to respond and engage with some critics. Looking back, I see some passive-aggressiveness in some of my responses, which I regret. (Ones I wrote and threw away were even worse!) But in general, I tried to follow these “policies”
– Try to treat others as I would like to be treated, which means …
– If the criticism is valid, admit it and say thank you.
– Don’t respond to insults or attacks with insults or attacks.
– If people make a factual error or misrepresent me, clarify without impugning the critic’s motives.
– See each criticism as an opportunity to clarify my message.
– See each unfair or dishonest criticism as an opportunity to draw closer to Christ and to grow in Christ-likeness.
4. What was especially difficult was watching people launch “inquisitions” on friends of mine. People would be asked if they knew me and agreed with me, and would be fired if they said yes. I had several friends say, “Brian, I respect you and value you as a friend, and I actually think you’re right, but I can’t be publicly associated with you any more because it will destroy my career.” That hurt. But I understood.
One interesting side note. Someone once forwarded an email he received from a famous Evangelical blogger. This blogger had sent this email to a bunch of other bloggers, not knowing that one of them was a friend of mine. The email said something like this: when McLaren’s next book comes out, we have to make an agreement not to even mention it. If we criticize it, we only draw attention to McLaren, and our strategy with people like him must be to pretend they don’t exist so that younger Evangelicals won’t even know about them.
The good news is that eventually, Evangelical gatekeepers lose their aura of moral authority for forward-leaning Evangelicals, and when they are no longer respected, they are no longer feared, and when they are no longer feared, there is a great deal of freedom to live, serve, and minister.
The other good news is that new networks are forming to create new, more expansive spaces for belonging … places where progressive and post-Evangelicals can come together with socially conscious black, latinx, asian, and other church leaders,  including missional mainline Protestants and progressive Catholics and others. For more information on one of those networks, check out Convergence Network.
Anyway, I hope that answers your question. Watching Evangelicals line up behind Trump and a whole range of unsavory white supremacist characters is deeply disturbing to many Evangelicals of good conscience, so I hope they have the courage to differ graciously, and to find other spaces for spiritual support and encouragement. Getting edged out of Evangelicalism is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. In fact, anyone who cares about the planet, the poor, peace, and the dignity of all people (regardless of race, health, gender, nationality, religion, etc.) should be getting in trouble with the Evangelical gatekeepers these days – if they’re speaking out as they should!