About Bitter Scroll
Bitter Scroll is a monthly letter on Christianity and culture from Sara Billups. Bitter Scroll encourages #OrphanedBelievers to remain steadfast through cultural storms and political division.
Orphaned believers are Christians looking at the American Church and wondering where Jesus is.
Orphaned Believers are Cultural Orphans
We’re Christians in a middle space: we might be politically progressive, moderate, or conservative, but we joined together in full opposition to the Trump presidency and its long-lasting implications for the American Church. Yet we’re often alienated in our pursuit of Jesus in a moment when many people equate identifying as a Christian as archaic, anti-intellectual, and supporting dominant culture and God and Country nationalism.
Orphaned Believers are Spiritual Orphans
We may also be orphaned from our parents’ faith. I’m writing about how 80s and 90s culture wars, consumerism, end times subculture and the white, suburban church influenced my faith. Many of us have been wounded by certain elements of our upbringing, for a lot of reasons. Yet while we’ve had to grapple with these experiences and influences, we remain inspired by—and live our lives centered on—the gospel story.
Sometimes, We Experience a Dual Orphaning
Some of us have had a double orphaning: from church culture—reeling from nationalism, racism, and sexism—but also in broader culture, where following Jesus costs social capital and does little for personal brand. We’re folks who live in a middle space, and tend feel out of place in the Bible Belt's cultural Christianity, or are often the only Christian in the room in progressive spaces.
Many of us remain convinced Jesus wasn’t only a good prophet, a historical figure, or a crucified refugee. We believe because, in spite of our doubts, our lives have been changed and hearts softened by the gospel. Whether we’re orphaned spiritually, culturally, or both, the Christian story is ours.
Sara Billups (MA, Seattle University; D.Min candidate, Sacred Art of Writing at Western Seminary) is a writer and cultural commentator. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Christianity Today, Aspen Ideas, and the BBC. She serves on the vestry at an Anglican church in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Her first book, Orphaned Believers, is out now from Baker Books. You can order a copy here.
Sara writes about a range of topics impacting Christian culture, including being out of place while growing up a Gen-X evangelical with a Jewish Christian father waiting for the rapture in the conservative Midwest, the dissonance of identifying as a Christian publicly in the progressive Pacific Northwest, and the grief of a changing American church reeling from Christian Nationalism in the wake of the Trump era.
After earning a B.A. in creative writing from Taylor University, Sara moved to a small town an hour north of Indianapolis, IN, where she was awarded an Indiana Arts Commission grant to publish the literary magazine Country Feedback. She later started Bellywater Press, publishing titles including a reprint of the 70s hippie translation of the gospels, Letters to Street Christians. She has lived in Seattle with her family for more than 18 years, working as a journalist, editor, and nonprofit communications director.
From a failed summer spent evangelizing on the streets in San Francisco, finding life in community in a dying Rust Belt town, and moving to the Pacific Northwest as a part of the missional church movement in the early 2000s, Sara’s writing encourages young and mid-life Christians to claim a wholehearted identity in Jesus.
Follow Sara on Instagram and Twitter.