Competitive Christian Blogging Sucks

Over the course of many years in Christian ministry, I have discovered there is a thick, competitive spirit in virtually every aspect of it. Our consumer-driven, Americanized Christian culture has been a primary fuel that has led many in ministry to utilize the cause of Christ for personal gain and ministry empire building—at times, myself included. Sadly, the fame-seeking sentiment communicated by Bob Wallace in the iconic movie White Christmas is highly relevant in describing much of the modern scene that is Christian ministry, “everyone is working an angle.”

The competitive currents circling within the oceans of Christian ministry can be so strong at times, it’s hard not to get pulled into its spin unaware. Soon, your entire sense of worth, success, and value as a person, Christian, and minister subtly becomes connected to the numbers—baptisms, budgets, book deals, attendance charts, speaking engagements and the like—been there, done that, have the t-shirt.

Less than a year ago, I began to write seriously as a blogger, focusing on communicating a voice of advocacy for those disillusioned and harmed by conservative Christianity—namely the de-churched, spiritually marginalized, religiously condemned, and LGBT communities. Somehow, in stepping back into the world of Christian ministry in a fresh way, I believed things would be different. Perhaps within these circles, the nobility, urgency, and plight of these causes would leave little to no room for the onset of a competitive spirit among those who seek to be a light in the darkness.

Yet, after I reached out to a few highly prominent, progressive bloggers for their wisdom and guidance, sadly, most of what I heard was centered around gaining followers, watching how many hits your website gets, and how to package your writing for greatest appeal while harnessing your personal branding. One of the top challenges asserted… how to transform subscribers into financial contributors. I have to admit, at first, I got a bit caught up in the allure of it all. My writing was gaining a good bit of attention and once again, the apple of “ministry success” was dangling all so deliciously in front of me.

That is, until the cold splash of water. A highly beloved, popular, Christian blogger clearly, intentionally, and knowingly criticized and sought to undermine me in front of my audience. The ego and purposefulness of their actions was so obvious that others reached out to me in shock. It was then that I realized, we’re not in Kansas anymore. The wild wild West of Christian ministry had indeed pushed up a stool within the saloon of my new blogging venture, revealing to me a clear problem that not only exists, but that I too could potentially become.

To be sure, I am certainly now fully aware of my gross naiveté, but back then, I truly never thought that within the arena of Christian blogging, especially among progressive circles, there would be personalities and ministries more territorial and exclusive than the Mafia in Vegas.

I find it interesting that in the New Testament, the word translated as “evil” has a deeper meaning. The Greek word “poneros” actually means, “full of labors.” When the Biblical writer asserts, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God,” the evil that is being referred to points to one who is not stereotypically carnal, denying, or doubting, but rather one who is full of labors—a person who is seeking to make a name for themselves, who embodies a kind of internal striving to produce something worthy of their life, a performance-driven mentality that looks to one’s abilities for the procurement of success. It’s the heart that concludes… my identity, worth, and closeness with God are intrinsically tied to my achievement, skill, and performance. One may never say it that way, but so many of us are living that way—self-aggrandizement, self-improvement, self-actualization. Call it what we will… “best practices,” “excellence,” “ministry effectiveness,” “promotion,” “radical Christianity,” “faithfulness,” “personal branding,” “marketing,” or “platform building.” When it’s done out of spirit of success-gaining, ministry empire-building, or competitiveness, it not only sucks, but God calls it “evil”—everyone and everything subtly becoming a leverage towards a personal ministry future of our envisioning and creating. It’s the difference between a dream and a scheme, and sadly, many of us in ministry are doing more scheming than dreaming. The same narcissistic erosion that has engulfed the contemporary Christian music industry I fear is beginning to sink its claws into the Christian blogging world. If only we can pump the breaks before we all are neck deep in the ditch.

As humans, it’s easy to medicate our insecurities with the pursuit of ministry “success.” In a performance-driven, church-franchising, personal ministry empire-building, consumer-addicted Christian culture, this becomes even more alluring and deceptively tempting.

I guess it’s unrealistic to think that any aspect of Christian ministry would be devoid of the exclusive “cool leaders” lunch table to which only the select are welcome and invited. Yet, that is all the more reason why voices like Michael Hardin, Brian Zahnd, Daisy Rain Martin, Susan Berland, Matthew Distefano and Robert and Susan Cottrell, to name only a few, are such a breath of fresh air, giving hope and a sure example upon which to aspire.

The day that the sun sets on competitive Christian blogging (and ministry) will be a beautiful day.

May the coming of that future begin with me, and begin with you.

Forget It Conservative Christianity, I’m Choosing Hell

One of the most telling aspects of any faith is its vision of heaven. Gaze into the crystal ball of any religion for a picture of their afterlife, and there you will find a clear culmination and ultimate fruition of its true desires, values, and beliefs.

In fact, for Christianity, the concept of the “Kingdom of God” is in essence, a sample-sized, earthly manifestation of a believed future, five-course, eternal reality—a kind of foretaste now of a feast to come later. What any version of Christianity is presently dishing out upon the world’s table in thought, word, and deed is in fact a profound foreshadowing of what truly resides in the heart of their faith and what they hope will extend in greater proportion and size for all eternity. Despite any creed’s best intentions, one is always becoming tomorrow, in reality or vision, what you are doing and believing today.

What will heaven be like?

Well, if you took the current picture of conservative, Evangelical Christianity and multiplied it by forever in a heaven far, far away—for many, this is their preferred vision of eternity.

It’s a vision of American, Evangelical, conservative Christianity manifested upon the cosmos without limits and double-fried in an inch thick batter of endlessness. For them, heaven is their brand of faith and faithfulness being awarded the eternal green light from God to the exclusion of all others and super-sized beyond limits of scope and time. Heaven is everything that conservative, Evangelical Christianity is today injected with steroids, spun into eternity like a breakdancer on crack, and given full reign over all things, forever.

What does this Evangelical, conservative Christianity kind-of-heaven look like? Well, what does Evangelical, conservative Christianity look like now?

From what I see, heaven is an exclusive club of the do-gooders and the conservative-enough believers in which you are so-saved and so-loved, all up until the tragic point you blink with a question or step outside inerrant lines. It’s an eternal existence of warmth when you fit, and cold shoulders and surface pleasantries when, for some reason, you don’t.

It’s hell.

It’s an eternal contemporary, Christian rock themed couple’s cruise where the whole boat is jacked up with people trying to prove how in love they are with each other and Jesus all while slamming Shirley Temple’s as they blissfully walk hand-in-hand with pride past the slot machines that have been unplugged for their spiritually-sensitive accommodation.

It’s hell.

It’s a forever worship service to see whose hands are raised the highest and looks to be pressing deepest into the presence of the Lord “Jeezus,” all while the worship leader is seemingly breaking the all time record for withstanding the squeeze of his skinny jeans before passing out on stage—not to mention the pastor whose hands are sweating in hopes the gold dust machine secretly mounted into the ceiling above doesn’t short out this time.

It’s hell.

Heaven is a place where your unrepentant, wrong-believing, non-KJV, doubt-harboring, sin-dripping wayward loved ones and fellow human beings endure eternal, flesh-melting torture in a place called “hell” while you sip Mimosas undisturbed on the shores of righteous bliss somehow totally at peace and satisfaction with a god who remains completely holy and just in the process.

It’s hell.

It’s the place where Jesus shrugs his shoulders in his “welcome to heaven” orientation speech looking out to those polished few who “made it” declaring with a sheepish grin on his face, “Well folks, I did the best I could—glad at least you’re here.”

It’s the fruition of a long-desired escape from the pesky, inconvenient people with whom you disagree and those who dare to question, offend, and even stand against a cut and pasted, conservative theology and a pretentious, anti-Jesus way of living.

It’s a gathering of predominantly white, starch-pressed people with a few minorities thrown in who have proven their conservative value and Evangelical legitimacy.

It’s hell.

It’s a place where an Ark believed to have carried a few of those specially selected to survive a frustrated god is made into a profiteering amusement park to honor a psychotically personified deity instead of a memorial to remember a humanity that died, and a people who projected their spiritual ignorance onto God with a false, diabolical, bible-making storyline that is so far from His heart, nature, and ways.

It’s hell.

Heaven is a forever-long small group meeting where the highlight of the gathering culminates when one’s spiritual jollies finally climax as you exercise your ultimate, conservative Christian role as spiritual policeman and accountability partner while circling the room with the questions, “what are you working on spiritually?” and “how can we pray for you?”

It’s hell.

Heaven is a place where your kids can finally and forever avoid those dirty, worldly sports groups that don’t have a Evangelical-flavored devotion and prayer session before every practice, play, water break, and game.

Heaven is that place where my LGBT friends and family will be burning in hell, not because Jesus said so, but because conservatism did.

It’s hell.

This, and sadly so much more, is the heaven of conservative Christianity, the spiritual wet dream of Evangelicals, the 72 virgins of Islam shrink-wrapped and spiritualized for Christianity.

To be sure, this is not the vision of heaven intrinsic to the hearts and minds of all Evangelicals, but sadly, no amount of conservative love, exceptions, do-gooding, and redemptive moments can out-sound and out-glare the screeching overall declaration and vision of the conservative, Christian heaven that is exclusive, performance-driven, racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, elitist, brutal, graceless, inhumane, and filled wall-to-wall with conditional-ladened love.

That’s why I’m a human, a Christian, and a pastor who would rather burn in hell with the broken than float around in clouds with the spiritually fascist.

Perhaps, the scandalous scandal of the Gospel of Jesus is that in the end, to the surprise of all, the tables are turned, and Jesus is found once again, determined to live with and love the very people the religious hope to live and love without.

Perhaps hell is disguised as heaven to the religious, and heaven is disguised as hell to the broken—all to make sure the right people get to the right place.

For the same Jesus that traded heaven once already to be with the religiously outcast will be the same One to do it again—and this time, forever.

So stop trying to assimilate me into your spiritual Borg of a hell you’re pimping as heaven, I’ve made my choice—your mission that has made me a project of your self-righteous quest to desperately valid your empty faith by making it mine, is futile.

Your hell is where my Jesus will be.

I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and your heaven is not.

That’s why, forget it conservative Christianity, I’ve heard and seen enough—I’m choosing, hell.

 

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there.”  -Psalm 139

My Dreams Are Made Of You : From Jesus To The LGBT Community

My dreams are made of you—from first light to the setting of the sun.

All that are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—radiant shades and gleaming colors of the human tapestry—in every way, beautifully and wonderfully made. The stars, dull in comparison to your splendor.

Those special souls who bear these children, conceived by the moving of My Spirit bringing forth life—not just a life, but Light for all to see, exposing and revealing truth with every breath they breathe. Be it forever known in crystal clarity, you parent not just flesh and blood, but a cosmic awakening, pulsating from My creative majesty. Each one, a birthing from the throne so universe shaking—the mere truth of their divine being chases religious hearts out of deep seated shadows, setting free poets and prophets of true love and Grace in waves the size of eternity. Yours is an honor bestowed, a high privilege—the threads of Mary and Joseph spooled and weaved into the adornments of your calling.

All that are gay, all that are lesbian, all that are bisexual, all that are transgender, all of every shade of heaven in between—My dreams are made of you.

You are My smile that extends as far as the east is from the west. You are the joy the Father graciously sets before My chest.

You are the laughter that can’t be contained from the depths of My belly.

You are warmth of a winter’s fire, the breeze of a summer’s shower.

You are the echo of my voice through a river of mountains. You are the stream of sheer jubilation, welling up from My eternal fountain.

You are the delight that sends Me love-drunk into the streets. You are the pulse moving through My veins with every heart beat.

Forever and ever and ever I say—My dreams are made of you.

I know the hurt, the skin melting pain, the soul stripping floggings of condemnation. When I was ridiculed and rejected by My own bigoted family—there I was thinking of you. When I cried over Jerusalem, begging to be understood and simply accepted—there I was living as you. When I was in the garden, on bended knee, begging for divine reprieve, my cup flowing over with doubts and hopelessness—there I was scared just like you. When I was left to die on a religiously conspired cross, murdered in body, mind, and spirit, crucified to death by ignorance and hate, and even good people who remain silent and unengaged—there I was dying, not just for you, but on the Tree, as you.

There has never been a time you have ever been alone.

You are not the forsaken.

You are not an abomination.

You are not a sin that needs reformation.

You owe no apology, no explanation, no verse, nor spiritual transformation.

This is your time, this is your permission, this is your affirmation, this is My decision.

Be you, be fully you—for My sake, for my Name, for my Fame throughout all the universe—be you, unashamed.

Everything I am, everything I make—everything that is of mine is forever and freely yours. You are the diamonds from which dreams are made, extravagantly, specifically, and intentionally created.

Bend your ear, release your soul, I’m shouting from the heavens—from the edge of My seat, the tip top of My heart.

Listen to the cry of My trinity, Three in One wrapped in infinity.

My dreams are made of you.

My dreams are made of you.

My dreams are made of—

You.

Is Jesus Gay?

At times, there is silence for a reason as some things are best said by being left unsaid.

That there is no mention of Jesus’ sexual orientation in scripture is perhaps reflective of a profound, cosmic reality that one’s gender nor orientation are a prerequisite for determining that which is of the Divine. To the dismay of much of western Christianity, Jesus wasn’t purposed on being imaged into a caucasian, American, heterosexual, republican, gun-owning, blue-eyed, conservative male with flowing locks of brown hair—but rather He is the surest example of what it truly looks like to simply be fully human and fully rested in the Divine.

Was or is Jesus gay in terms of sexual orientation or behavior? I don’t believe so—but it certainly doesn’t matter. For being gay is about so much more than mere sexual orientation or gender identification. It’s about being a beautifully created soul adorned with eternal extravagance imaged in the splendor of the Creator, who no less bears the arduous task of navigating their unique, human experience through the minefields of a brutally inhumane world that would quickly ransack those who break religious molds, clawing to strip them of their divine value, identity, purpose and worth. Beyond the gravity of sexuality and orientation, this is the deeper, ultimate essence of the plight intrinsic to being gay—to be fully human and fully alive while sweating beads of blood in determination to find one’s way and hold onto one’s inherent dignity and God-delighting in a spiritually nefarious, different-condemning, and different-killing world.

In this way, Jesus was surely gay.

For in the face of being ostracized and derided by His own Nazareth family of bigots determined to misunderstand Him, Jesus is the gay man and the lesbian woman who live in the constant, gruesome torment of coming out, being known, and fully living their God-designed personhood—a kind of hell on earth of daily accusation and rejection God never weaved into the tapestry of what anyone should endure.

Or crying over Jerusalem, begging for His heart to be understood and His people to receive Him, Jesus is the parent who lies awake deep into the night, tirelessly fighting in solidarity for the defense, worth, dignity and affirmation of the LGBT child God has blessed them, but the religious deem a disgrace—Jesus, not just the parent, but also too the LGBT child born innocent by the Spirit’s authoring, pursued by the cunning Herods of our world whose sure desire is to seek out and kill them.

There, praying in the garden of Gethsemane, begging for divine reprieve, Jesus is the lesbian teenager, trembling in terror as she cuts her arms and threads the noose, convinced that giving up is the only way out, and the only sure resolve to the pain that is before her.

In the outer courts, confronted by the religious through the evil venom of their creed—backed into a corner, a pointed finger pushing at His chest questioning His true identity, Jesus is the transgender person whose truth is too truthful for the world to hear nor see.

Then, from the confines of Pilate’s Praetorium where flogged beyond recognition, to a savage, religiously-conspired cross where nailed, pierced and left to die of internal suffocation, Jesus is the Orlando night club and every LGBT person ever murdered in body, mind or spirit—crucified to death by religion, ignorance, and hate, and even good people who remain silent and unengaged.

In all these ways, Jesus is surely gay—not just gay, but One of us all for whom religion has demonized, illegitimized, and crucified in hate.

For Jesus didn’t die just for humanity, He died as humanity—all of it. Transgender, black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor, conservative, progressive—the haters, the lovers, the lifted high, the beaten low, the Christians, the Muslims—every type, color, creed, and flavor.

Everywhere there is religious oppression, everywhere there is bigotry, discrimination, or injustice—where there is the branding with labels or the withholding of Grace, Jesus is there in Person and as the person being deprived of that which has been given to them freely and irrevocably from the goodness of His Name.

In this way, if you can’t handle the notion of Jesus being gay then you aren’t fully understanding the essence of Jesus being you.

To be you or to be gay is essentially one in the same—it’s what it means for all of us to simply be human, created in the likeness, image, and favor of our Maker, living in a religious world that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy all that His hands have made, with special sights on that which the religious deem inferior or against the grain.

Run your fingers through the strands of an LGBT soul, then through mine, or that of any other, and soon you will declare the only declaration that can be truthfully rendered—that none are better, only different. For the sooner we see Jesus in and as the people around us, the sooner the lenses of God’s affirming view become the windows through which we see ourselves and all humanity.

If Jesus isn’t gay then Jesus isn’t you, and if Jesus isn’t you, then the incarnation is a fake, and your resurrection a certain uncertainty.

No one chooses to be LGBT, but in Christ Jesus, God has chosen to be—not just One of them, but He even does the unthinkable and dares to be One of you.

Yes, that’s right.

Jesus is gay, Jesus is me, and Jesus is even…

You.

5 Solutions To The Racial And Spiritual Divide In America

There is a racial and spiritual divide in America. The cracks on the ceiling are giving way, some wondering if the whole house is about to fall—violence in thought, word, and deed gushing through every tube that connects us. The assumptions and predeterminations from which we view one another and render our conclusions have perhaps never been more jaded. Much of American Christianity has become weaponized, marching as to war—the political climate and social ills, mere surface products of our deeper spiritual fall from Grace. America is racially and spiritually divided and poised for certain eruption, not primarily from what is happening in the halls of our capitals, but first and foremost, because of who we have become sitting in the pews of our churches. With blood in the streets, discrimination around ever turn, cries going unheard, and condemnation gutting us from within, enough is enough, a new people we must become if America is to be racially and spiritually divided no more.

We Must Become People of Grace-

Grace is the ultimate equalizer that declares the intrinsic, sacred order within all humanity—none are better, only different.

We are all human, created in divine imagery, having strengths and weaknesses. Yet, by God’s Grace, our weaknesses nor our strengths define us. Rather, our irrevocable and irremovable God-established worth forever qualifies all humanity for every right, blessing, and fair treatment. Under Grace, we travel this planet, all spinning on equal footing and value. As we pursue different paths and apply different choices, we are no less worthy nor more entitled to the fundamental qualities of life that God, by His Grace, has woven into His plan for every being—freedom, hope, life, love, eternity, and the fruition of their God-given capacity to be the person He created them in identity.

As we see people as equally reflecting our Creator’s image an possessing His value and worth, we live not to judge, conquer, lord over, nor undermine, but to see the quality and potential of our lives forever connected to that of all those around us. When we are people of Grace, we live not to point out imperfections nor be divided by inherent differences, but to sing in concert with the Creator’s plan that all might know and enjoy their divine beauty and the rest to one’s soul and living that Grace provides.

Under Grace, the nightmare of the American dream is revealed and the birth of a Kingdom hope takes flight, where people are fully free to be fully loved and to fully love in return—a hope where personal performance, success, and accomplishment do not create division nor distinction that measures, but rather reflects the artistry of our Maker who shares the benefits of His excellence and stature for the purpose of lifting everyone upon Him and blessing them with everything needed to enjoy and reflect Him. We must become a human-honoring, non-judging, equality-loving people.

We Must Become People of Unconditional Love-

The essence and entirety of God is unconditional love and His deepest desire is for us to embrace that love and manifest it to others. Love is love is love—it has no color, gender, orientation, status, limits, conditions, restrictions, or exclusiveness.

No matter our faith understanding or expression, until our theology is love, we will always be leaning on our own religious ideologies to the detriment, division and depravity of others and our nation. If love is not the ideal, the real, and the priority above all others, then all our creeds, policies, governing, and individual and corporate endeavors are rendered as gonging, clanging cymbals out of beat and out of touch.

Where temptation and even fair reason emerge for revenge, retaliation, subversion, isolation, or discrimination, love must be the alarm and the trumpet that calls us back to what is eternally true and relevant—only love wins, everything is a bandaid upon a cancer.

The ethos of our country as a nation and our faith gatherings as spiritual formations needs to centered far less on the creation of like-minded camps and exclusive denominations, and much more on the becoming of tables for transformative conversations. And where there are disagreements, love must be lifted as the common denominator and disposition that calibrates our hearts and attitudes towards mutual affirmation, even in the presence of honest disagreement. For the new unity of the future that will truly bring us together, spiritually or otherwise, will not be based upon what we can agree, but rather on the strong foundation of our willingness to have disagreements while doing life and freedom together in mutual respect and honor.

We Must Become People of Servanthood-

Grace doesn’t build walls, it builds mirrors that we might first see ourselves in the light of our shared humanity, spirituality, and equality with all others. Then, and only then, are we fully capable of truly seeing our neighbor in all their truth and assuming the right posture of heart to love, influence, and guide one another as mutual learners along this path of life, faith, and togetherness.

In this way, we become servants of one another, establishing the currency of our interactions to be measured by that which bestows the highest levels of honor to another, simply because they breathe.

Servanthood sees sin less as something to stand against, and more as an opportunity for love to find its highest fruition as it stands in solidarity with the redemptive value inherent in all creation, no matter the perceived sin or dissonance. For sin, differences, and creedal conflicts are not near the issue for God as they are for religion—making them a condition and stumbling block for servanthood where God makes them the object of it.

We are to serve one another in spite of all things and because of all things, giving love center stage to do its work and win in the lives of ourselves and others. God is surely big enough for everyone’s truth to be important, respected, valued, and served. We must become a humble, serving people who are convinced that he or she that loves the deepest and with the least restriction is he or she that wins, to the gleam of God above.

We Must Become People of Shared Human Dignity-

Evil must be seen not as an inherent human condition, but rather in those actions that would withhold Grace, reduce the dignity, and undermine the sacred, equal value, goodness, and worth of all people.

When this becomes the tuning fork from which we align our perceptions, spiritualities, and attitudes—bigotry, racism, discrimination, condemnation and hate for any person for any reason will be aggressively called out, chased out of the shadows, and suffocated of the air it needs to breath. The “least of these” will be defined as those whose seat at the “importance” table has been conditioned, minimized, or removed. Thus, our hearts will be forever bent in sorrow towards anyone in lack, seeing their equal treatment and future as being forever weaved into ours.

Where those privileged today often see equality as anything that still keeps them privileged, equality in the future must look like that which manifests the reality that God created us all privileged, qualified for every good thing—and therefore, how dare we get in the way of that which the Divine has decreed or be silent when it’s missing. For silence and apathy are the incubators from which all evil is given permission to grow.

We must become a outspoken people who see evil as a dehumanizing reality and we as the ardent defenders, advocates, and caretakers of the least of these, shielding those who bare its brunt and force, and rescuing those who wilt in the soils of its poisoning.

We Must Become People of Nonviolence-

Where there is violence the real battle as already been lost.

Spiritual, physical, and emotional harm is always a surface acumen that rarely ever solves the core. For punishment never made anyone holy, nor healed the hurt fueling the hurter.

People are not the problem, our unwillingness to thoroughly listen to each other’s story and submit ourselves to their implications is much more the culprit. A changed mind about an enemy begins with a heard story. Sadly, we have become more addicted to being ignorant and isolated from people’s true pains, experiences, and histories, then in the discovering of where the seeds of condemnation were first planted that have blossomed into the aggressions, scars, twitches, and brokenness that are manifested.

Violence is often a compensation for the unwillingness to listen and be changed in mind and heart by the human histories and experiences of another. Listening begets understanding, understanding begets learning, learning begets compassion, compassion begets healing, and healing begets peace.

There will be no peace until there is passionate, humble listening. For in the end, we are altogether no different— in, under, and with the One who made us—equal by the Equalizer—Grace.

This is who we must become—gracious, unconditional-loving, all-people-serving, human-dignity-defending, nonviolent-listening people.

May it be so, beginning with me, beginning with you.

This Is What It Feels Like To Be Loved By You : An Open Letter To Conservative Christians

I love you, and I am one of you—no, not a conservative Christian per se, but a fellow Jesus-loving, God-created human being journeying along this mutual path of faith—a travel that is often dimly lit and consistently uncertain. At the end of the day, I am trying to center by life, understanding, and beliefs in the person of Jesus, as are you. We are fellow children of God, sisters and brothers in faith, bedazzled by the Father with divine dignity and worth. Ours, is a journey with much in common.

At one time, I shared much of the same conservative perspectives, tenets, and interpretations as do you. I understand fully the foundations upon which you stand and the lenses through which you see God, scripture, and the world.  Over the course of 21 years as an Evangelical pastor, my knowledge of conservative Christianity is intimate.  I respect you and the framework from which your faith is established.

Right now, we live in a pivotal time and space, loaded with opportunity to be Light that outshines the shadows. The earth and all that has life and breath is opening wide its arms and lifting its chest in hopes of being collided with fresh winds of divine rendering, bringing life to its every limb, bending and swaying all humanity as the Spirit blows free with freedom.

One of the most awakening moments in my spiritual journey came when I was confronted with the person I had become and the stark reality of what my conservative Christianity had done to me. With the noblest of intentions, I had become the opposite in results. So much of what I held certain to be of truth, faithfulness, and the person of Jesus was chased out from behind the masks of my religious ignorance and pride—revealing a monster of demonic proportions dressed as faithfulness to Jesus and the Bible. What stared back at me in the mirror shook me to my core—I was irrevocably convinced of being so close to His heart, but discovered in truth, I was universes away.

I wonder if you know what it feels like to be “loved” by you and to interact with your faith understandings and pursuits.

As well intentioned as I know you are, quite honestly, your love often feels highly conditional and even pretentious, if not all together condemning. To be sure, there are many in your faith tradition, like you, who are loving and pursuing with great ambition, but it feels like any love that’s given is mainly because at some level, you kinda have to—all seemingly all part of your faith obligations and spiritual mission. I am sure your heart is real, but it feels like you love me more as a project than a person, with an overall goal to “disciple” me into thinking, believing, and behaving just like you. You call it transformation, the manifestation of a God who loves me enough to “meet me where I am at, but not leave me there”—but I am not even sure what that really means, or if it’s really true. I’m thinking it might be as simple as God just loves me, period—which leaves me wondering, why doesn’t it feel like you do too?

To be sure, conservative Christianity can taste so wonderful when you fit snug into the mold, but it can also feel like a sure kind of hell when you don’t—smiles to greet you at your face, surface pleasantries all around, but twitch with a wrong move—knives ready to stab you in your back, pushed to the outside, and even left to drown. The requirements to keeping-good-going in a relationship with you feels like a tireless game of making sure one plays by all the rules, completes all the steps, and meets your every expectation—otherwise, a clear message is surely in the mail, “we love you but, you’re falling short, repent or be removed.”

Oh I understand the idea of divine-authored, corrective conviction and the displeasure that can entail. It’s an integral part of your faith system and how the Jesus of your understanding impacts and transforms the world. But this is not about objecting to a dose of divine discipline, but rather the hurt, shame, and harm that’s caused by your faith prescriptions and interventions. For divine correction carries with it a kind of pleasurable discomfort as it begins and ends with Grace, kindness, humility, and unconditional acceptance—and thus, what hurts in the process is not the correction, but the regret of not seeing and embracing all the love, forgiveness, acceptance, kindness, and Grace that is already ours in Christ, so much sooner—the very things, the only things ironically, that bring about genuine change and transformation. That’s why sadly, so much of your discipling and speaking your “truth in love” only feels like pain and punishment as it’s completely devoid of the very Grace and truth that saves and makes the broken, whole—for punishment never made anyone holy.

I wonder, do you know what it feels like to be shunned—the facial displeasures, the flippant remarks, the disapproving stares, the disassociations and marginalizations? Do you know what it feels like to be labeled as lessor, inferior, and even evil, particular by you who declare to be so spiritual and echo the voice of the Creator? Do you understand how your “hating my sin,” but loving me as a “sinner” sucks the life out of my soul, condemned by your words as a second-class citizen?

Rejection, shame, disgust—do you know what they feel like when wielded from the visceral of another human?

Where is the discrimination in your life? Where are the toilets from which you have been banned their use? Where are the cakes that you have been refused? Where are the church fellowships and leadership positions from which you have been deemed disqualified? Where are the parents that sent you to the curb as illegitimate and no longer their true child? Where have we seen you dehumanized to the point of suicide, all in the name of Jesus and biblical faithfulness? Where are the gallows from which you have been hung for simply having a different color of skin? Where do we see you doing more listening than lecturing—more serving than judging?

To be loved by you feels like becoming a carny in a circus of constantly created wars against enemies you desperately need to exist and the formation of dire solutions for which there are no real problems. It feels like you believe yours is a privileged faith that entitles you special treatment—that you have deemed yourself as being better than the rest and possessors of the inside scoop to all that is Jesus, God, the Bible, and truth.

Oh, how I wish things were different as it feels like you have little to no sense of how much your words impale and your displeasure tortures and kills from the innards on out—your faith brand imprisoning me in a spiritual maze from which I will never find my way, upon a scale I will never measure up, and within a race I can never cross the finish. If there was ever a move by the Spirit to improve me, all your conditions, religious prescriptions, and condemnations would surely eclipse it.

I wonder, why do you have to interpret the Bible in all the most legalistic, negative, barbaric ways?

You don’t have to believe in a skin-melting, eternal-tormenting hell, an angry schizophrenic God, homosexual abomination, and the conquering of the world through militant, empire Christianity in order to be biblically faithful. Yet for some reason, you still do.

Why is it that when it’s shared with you, the words translated as “homosexual” in the New Testament were not translated as such until 1945, all the sudden you frantically determine that Greek translations are no longer important—but then, when it’s suggested that God loves everyone and desires all to be saved (and gets what He desires), all the sudden Greek translations used to limit God’s love become, to you, ever so critical?  I can’t help but feel like you are intentionally spinning the Bible towards restricting, restraining, and putting conditions on God, love, and the true freedom and life Jesus brings. It feels like any blanks left in scripture are always filled in with the most negative, condemning, legalistic, and conditional conclusions possible—not to mention, the convenient love it feels like you give, allowing a pass on your own biblical sins while judging harshly those who sin differently than you.

To be loved by you feels like, even though when met with faithful alternative, biblical understandings—you would still choose the ones that are the most hurtful, shaming, condemning and conditional.

It feels like you want to hate so much more than Jesus and the Bible are telling you to do so.

It feels like you are much more in love with your stances on the Bible, than in love with standing with people.

It feels like your love of justice is much more like a love of “just us.”

I long so desperately for the day when you will love me “as is” and all the same if I never change to your liking, but I am grieving the loss that from this, your conservative creed construct, that day will never come.

Maybe, just maybe, the Bible isn’t a strict dictation from God of His nature and ways, nor a detailed, infallible diary of His human interactions, but rather an organic catalog of important human journeys towards the understanding of life and God’s intersection and interactions therein—human understandings that are often imperfect and at times even drastically off the mark, painting colors and storylines into a picture of God that are in reality, far from who or how He truly is. Yet, nonetheless, each giving us a window into the highs and lows, the clarities and the misunderstandings we all experience along the way—each step, right or wrong, filled with the capacity to know Him more fully and live Him more accurately than at first.

Maybe, just maybe, the Bible is intentionally imperfect and incomplete so as to launch us into this same ever-flowing river of encounters with the perfect One—encounters not purposed on gaining complete understanding, but on finding complete rest in the One who is Understanding—writing along side of us our own personal Bible of faith journeys with Him where theology is best learned at the feet of Jesus not in the pages of someone else’s experiences and interpretations.

Maybe just maybe, this is the essence of what is truly authoritative and divinely inspired about the collection of faith experiences we call the Bible—all leading us to encounter for ourselves the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus the Christ. In so doing, we embark not upon a slippery slope that steers our theologies into the ditch, but a trail of faith that allows God to reveal Himself more clearly and deeply as we discover there is always more to know and more that He reveals of the expanse of God who is Love.

For this I surely know, until our theology is Love, we will always be leaning on our own understanding to the detriment, and even destruction, of other people.

My friend, may I suggest, a new absolute is coming and has already long been here—Grace.

For the non-judgement day is upon us, because all is finished, forgiven, and made whole by the Father through the Son.

But yet it feels like, to you, this is bad news, as much as Jesus died to make it good.

It feels like you want hell, judgement, condemnation, discrimination, lines, labels, battles, distance, and differences more than Jesus or the Bible could ever desire or deem so.

I mean no disrespect, nor look away from my own imperfections and failures, I just thought there could be a chance you might want to know…

this is what it truly feels like to be loved by you—

which, for so many of us, we are truly questioning if it’s really love at all.

Orlando And The LGBT Blood On The Hands Of Christians

Mass murder doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To be sure, the ultimate responsibility for the terrorism in Orlando, Florida that slaughtered 50 innocent, God-loved people of the LGBT community lies with Omar Mateen. We will probably never be able to fully determine all the psychological, environmental, and religious nuances of influence that contributed to this act of premeditated evil. However, what can’t be ignored nor remain undefinable is a growing atmosphere in America of religious hate charged with all the right conditions to fuel the increasing discrimination, condemnation, and violence committed towards the LGBT community.

At face value, it would be easy to conclude that Islamic Fundamentalism is the primary catalyst to the Pulse Nightclub atrocities. However, behind the scenes of nearly every harming reality thrusted into the lives of the LGBT community in America is the hand of a significant segment of conservative, Evangelical Christianity that worships the very same kind of angry, vengeful, hell-wielding, punishing, violence-justifying, imperial, and militant God as does Islamic Fundamentals.

We can put all the lipstick we want on the pig of conservative Christianity in America, but the truth is, the blood of 50 Jesus-imaged, God-affirmed, LGBT people in Orlando is upon every denomination who has determined that an LGBT person is a divinely decreed abomination in direct opposition to their Christian teachings and the Christ who authored them, every church leader and committee member who’s slung a gay member to the curb in an effort to “cleanse” their righteous community,  every politician of faith whose vote and law-making has served to bring LGBT discrimination, every “Christian” baker who refused to bake a cake in solidarity to a god who “hates fags” and a faith whose primary role is to police a sinful, “fallen” world, and every billboard creator, meme designer, Facebook poster, and Target boycotter who has joined in the dehumanizing, marginalizing, deChristianizing, and demonizing of the LGBT community in words or action. It is within this oppressive context of continual religious torture, Christian or otherwise, that ideologies of hate find the oxygen to breathe. For hate is suffocated and render powerless among those who believe that God is love, Jesus is Grace, and serving our fellow human is the ultimate way of peace. Sadly, these are not the tenants of much of Christianity in America today.

If we simply believe that the mass murder in Orlando targeted specifically at the LGBT community is exclusively one of only ISIS capacity, we have failed to see the evils embedded within much of conservative Christianity whose hate, discrimination, and willingness to bring harm to this unprotected group of humanity increases with every cry for and assertion of their God given value, dignity and rights. Equality always feels like war to those who are privileged.

I am thankful for Christians who are using their voice to condemn this act of terrorism. Yet, nothing measures the truth of these words like the deafening silence of countless conservatives who, truth be told, inwardly believe that in some fashion or other, the murder of 50 LGBT people fits within the plot of their faith, Bible, and the God who set it all into motion.

Where one believes violence, retribution, punishment, and revenge are part of some divinely written story and the Divinity who penned it, these same verses will surely become a part of the human story they write towards the ones with whom they disagree and their faith defines as the enemy.

Until Christians become true people of Grace, truth, love, equality, and peace, America and the world beyond will increasingly become a place of religiously authored harm, violence, and death, no matter from what creed.

The greatest enemy of human equality is modern Christianity, who ironically claims to worship the One who definitively created all people equal, valued and affirmed under Grace–none are better, only different. Equality and human dignity are not something that need to be created, Jesus already accomplished that and made them an irrevocable cosmic reality, we need only awaken, embrace, and live within it.

Religion is always fighting what God has already established in Grace—and apparently, it’s even willing to murder it.

“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer…” -Jesus

 

Why We All Should Stop Calling Ourselves Christians

Not many enjoy dealing with negative issues, certainly I don’t, but the reality we face is daunting—much of modern American Christianity is a kind of full blown, DEFCON 5 mess. Are we intrinsically bad people? No, of course not. Is the bulk of Christianity in dire straits? I believe so.

Whether by eyes-wide-open intention or some kind of unconscious seduction, many of us who claim the name “Christian” have sadly become some of the most hateful, selfish, condemning, privileged, demanding, and arrogant people on planet earth. I wish this weren’t true, but unfortunately it is—American Christianity’s overall deplorable state is the pink elephant in the room draped with blinking lights and sounding alarms that somehow is still being ignored by many of us who refuse to see beyond our ideologies and listen beyond the cooing sounds of our own ignorance.

Like an alcoholic in denial of their disease, many of us have gone nose-blind to the stench of our religious breaths. Sadly, as virtuous as our pursuits may seem and our intentions might be, we are drunk on everything but Jesus, who is pure Grace. We are the wasted guy at the bar who thinks their high is so spiritual and worthy, totally oblivious to the superficial buffoons we have become—a laughing stock to the world of the highest cringe-worthiness, increasingly dangerous to ourselves and even more so to others.

Despite the divine-pleasing nobility we seek, our creeds and our creed-doing are so far gone from Christ and His earthly essence that our wayward faith looks back from some distant planet and dares to declare it’s the world that’s moved away. We are self-professed experts at label giving, boasting of a “biblical” accuracy to put names to the sins and the sinners we decree. Yet, more and more, it seems our credibility to even place the title “Christian” on our own backs is showing itself to be anything but an act of genuine, on-target appropriateness.

Oh how we have fallen from Grace and stand in diametrical contradiction to the very label we profess—”Christian.”

A Christian is supposed to be a person who, first and foremost, is resting totally in Grace—as was Jesus. Grace is the Gospel—anything less or added along side is nothing but deceptive, cruel, bad news. Grace alone is our salvation, our sanctification, our justification, our preservation and our summation. To “believe” is to simply rest in Grace—to be awakened to all that God is (Love), and all that humanity is (sons and daughters of the living God)—whole, righteous, and fully alive because of Jesus’ performance, not ours. By Grace, from Grace, and through Grace, Jesus is the author and finisher of everything about everyone. To love Jesus is to love pure Grace, to believe in Jesus is to rest solely in Grace. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sadly, most Christians, especially Evangelical conservatives, aren’t resting in Grace but fidgeting in their souls, putting their trust in some level of spiritual performance for the existence, quality and closeness of their relationship with Jesus. They don’t believe they, or anyone else, are truly a finished work of Christ through the cross, but rather that one must embark on a spiritual process of sin-management, life-change, and evil-overcoming in order to establish and maintain a working relationship with God—what many call “becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.”

In technical terms, they think the Law, in all its forms of religious rule-keeping, is actually doable. If you just pray enough, press into Jesus enough, get radical enough, keep your sins at bay enough, subscribe to the right belief systems and complete the right steps enough, your spiritual faithfulness will result in a wellspring of life leading to blessings from God now, eternity with Him later, and a superior standing over the rest of humanity. God loves you “but,” if you don’t love Him back through a life of rule-keeping, expectation-meeting, church-playing, correct doctrine-believing, radical-serving and sin-overcoming, all bets are essentially off.

In essence, those who subscribe to this self-righteous way of living are ironically the ones leading the way at watering down sin as they pridefully lift up some kind of system of human capacity that’s able to overcome it—believing within the application and declaration of religious effort and striving there is life. A life, for them, that is attained by leveraging Jesus and mixing Him into a cocktail of personal performance they believe will satisfy the thirst of God and cause Him to release a sum of blessings and favor that wouldn’t be otherwise rendered. If one can just bolster enough spiritual steam and put Jesus in their pocket along the way, the conquering of sin is just a few sermon bullet points away. The need for Jesus is reduced to a pawn in their spiritual game purposed on check-mating God into being required to love, bless, and keep them because they, through their spiritual gymnastics, have fulfilled the just requirements, checked the boxes, and have done their part.

Because they have this lessor view of sin, they also have a lessor view of Grace and their need for it, reducing the cross to an ongoing, open-ended negotiation instead of a once-and-for-all, one-and-done salvation. Attend just about any church in America and you will experience this “Jesus plus me-and-my-faithfulness” concoction that’s sadly bottled as the Gospel.

I wish things were different, but I can’t be silent, this is the most anti-Christ, anti-Jesus-like way to believe and live—flipping Jesus the middle finger while we pat Him on the back in declaration that what He did on behalf of all humanity was pretty damn good, but not quite good enough—Jesus got us so far, but there is a significant amount of human pedaling to muscle in order to open up the heavens now and get us in later.

The truth is, for most Christians, we aren’t resting, trusting, and believing solely in Christ alone, but something much different and deeply sinister—and our performance-driven, legalistic, self-improving, judgmental, conditional-loving and pretentious faith is all the world needs to see as proof. We don’t truly worship Jesus, we worship Jesus plus “us”—Jesus plus repentance, Jesus plus church attendance, Jesus plus spiritual notches on our belts, Jesus plus this, that, and everything else. At the end of the day, we don’t truly love Jesus, rather, we are using Him like a street corner prostitute to empower our spiritual joy ride of self-righteousness, self-justification, world-judgement and world-condemnation. We want as much Jesus as we need in order to get what we want and yet maintain a sure level of control, superiority over others, and self-righteous satisfaction.

That’s why words about Jesus (the Bible) are more important to us than the living Word, Jesus Himself. We don’t interpret the Bible through the person of Jesus—as did Jesus. Rather, we interpret it through the lens of our selective agendas, self-justification, and a need for some skin in the game to quiet down our restless faiths that are afraid to acknowledging the full ramifications of Grace—you aren’t in control, He is; your performance doesn’t matter, only His does; you aren’t any better than anyone else, only different. In our minds, when Jesus doesn’t do and say what we need Him to do and say, we scramble for something or someone else to legitimize our convictions and justify our religious agendas—enter, the Bible.

Let’s be honest, we aren’t totally in love with all of humanity—as was Jesus.

We aren’t totally impassioned with equality and justice for all people—as was Jesus.

We aren’t totally focused on helping people see themselves through the lens of Grace instead of sin, guilt and shame—as was Jesus.

We aren’t unconditionally loving the broken and discarded, and confronting the religious, legalistic and Grace withholders of our day—as did Jesus.

So many of the things that are primary to Jesus aren’t even on the bus of our religious joy ride. Instead, we have become consummate, spiritual mixologists—diluting the purity of Jesus and His Grace with our religious additives and preservatives, pouring it all into our crystalline clubs with crosses on top and calling it faith and faithfulness—hoping the world will drink from the very same poison that’s killing us, while sadly we believe it’s bringing us Life.

We say we love “justice,” but it feels so much more like we love “just us.”

We say we love “Jesus,” but it feels so much more like we love “judging everybody but us”

We say we’re all about “Love,” but we have polluted Him and His affections with so many “conditions.”

“Evangelical,” “Conservative,” whatever name you want to hoist is fine with me, but with all due respect, please stop calling yourself a “Christian,” it simply doesn’t fit. The Christ you claim and the Christ you proclaim is almost nowhere to be found within all the spin, conditions, and condemnation riddled in your game.

Call yourself religians, sin-managians, world-judgians, homophobians, sin-hatingians, discriminatians, mixed-gospelians, legalismians, churchians, conservativians, bible-thumpians, church-franchisians, empire-christianityians—whatever title floats your boat, but please reconsider calling yourself a Christ-ian.

It’s all too obvious you are comfortable with making the world into an all-you-can-judge buffet as you cling to a bipolar God and a book you can wield to justify your angry deity, inner underlying hate, and an addiction to self-righteous justification. No doubt, the rest of us are beginning to clearly understand that because of you, to self-identify as a “Christian” in America today is to position oneself as a rabid porcupine in a world of balloons—rightly predisposed as haters, bigots, egomaniacs, ignoramuses, and overall life deflators.

For this, I am actually glad. It’s high time the people of Jesus put faith-handles aside and let our actions speak louder than a title ever could.

Let’s all stop worrying about the label and determine to be the Love.

Let’s stage our love and grace do the talking and the persuading—the best way to reveal the Who we are trusting. For by the way we love without restraint and adore without limits, people won’t even need to ask, they will simply know—Love has come to town.

But how will they know it’s Jesus who is the subject of our souls? Because Jesus is Grace, nothing and no one else truly is, and people aren’t stupid.

It’s sad, but true, the more I become unchristian, the more Jesus recognizes me as His own.

If you need the title “Christian” to be one and to do His work, then perhaps you have missed the entire point of who Jesus is and the true nature and essence of what is truly His work.

Perhaps the less we call ourselves “Christians” the more we truly show ourselves to be one.

And more importantly, the more the world might believe in the One and only who is Grace.

The Self-Talk That Is Killing You

There is no drama playing out in all the world that is more significant than the one being continually staged in the auditorium of our heads. Ours is an inner life filled with an ever developing script of characters dressed with the personas we give them, the sentences we write, the blanks we fill in—friend or foe, villain or hero, threatening or benign, hope or despair, regret or satisfaction, all a constant inner conversation striving to interpret and navigate our human experiences and direct them into a positive plot that circumvents pain and resolves dissonance into harmony.

Of all the scenes that are set under spotlight, the exclusive conversations we have with ourselves form the dialogues that leverage the strongest pull on the strings of our story. Nothing directs the chapters of our lives more than our self-talk—so much that our future is rarely the sole product of what manifests on stage, but rather the narration we pen of it in our inner conversations. Within seconds of every life interaction, we translate our experiences into internal, emotional and cognitive storylines and conclusions that forever shape our steps.

Above all that unfolds in front or behind the curtains of our psyche, we are the director of the drama in our inner life, and our directing, a sure product of the perceptions we embrace of the Author. If God exists, does He write scripts of hardship, adversity, or even pain into our lives for some kind of divine purpose? Is His affections for us filled with limits, conditions, inconsistencies, or even existent at all? Are the characters that fill the world’s stage fundamentally good, bad, or something in between? Is He mad, disappointed, or undecided about me? Is God truly love, or is He some kind of bipolar mixture with moments here and there of convenient amnesia? Should I place complete hope and faith in Him, or is it best that I live with one eye open? Are the plot lines in my life, negative or positive, written directly from the pen in His hand, or is something or someone else at play? So many factors and influences take the stage—parents, upbringing, faith, circumstances, and life experiences, all auditioning to write a verse or even commandeer the entire script as the Author in our heads.

That’s the reason why, for many of us, the person we are to ourselves isn’t so much in concert with the true Author of life, but far more in step with the Accuser of it—a constant voice of condemnation interpreting all of our existence towards the verdict of personal guilt and shame. Somehow, it’s always our fault. We are wrong even when we are right. Every moment of every day, drinking in and regurgitating out volumes of evil, twisted verses to our souls—I’ll never measure up, I’m a square peg in a round world, always a step below, a length behind, a stumble too far gone. Things will never get better, this is as good as it’s going to get. God hates me, I’m an abomination—the reason this is all happening. My life is a bitch in the ditch, a mess far beyond repair. I’m a misfit, a misprint, a miscue, and fundamentally, a grandiose mistake.

The truth is, the Accuser cannot speak to you what you aren’t first willing to say to yourself. Often, the lens through which we see our lives is so skewed by inner condemnation, shame, and inadequacy that the person gazing back at us in the mirror reveals the image of one who has been repeatedly and brutally raped by our self-talk to the point that our true beauty, strength, wholeness, and divinity is nowhere to be seen—buried under the bed of our self-inflicted adultery. Tainted by a diabolical world that’s been allowed penetration onto our cerebral stage, our self-talk is killing us—and not just killing us, but unceasingly thrusting Jesus back upon the cross in full declaration and conclusion that when all is said and done, His Grace is not sufficient—at least not for us. The words we speak, the evils we echo to our soul are the nails that crucify us and Him, over and over again—our self-talk, locking the shackles that are imprisoning our every step.

The verbal selfie you take in your mind is the most influential image in your life. Like a resurrected Lazarus who was nothing more than a card-carrying member of the walking dead until his burial wraps were removed, we will never be fully alive until the death we speak to ourselves is shown for its utter uselessness and imprisonment, and thus unraveled and replaced with words of life—because we have finally become convinced by the Convincer, we are not dead, but teeming with divine Light.

For you are the loveliness of Jesus, the prize for which He became a person. You are whole, complete, forever without blemish—never discarded or labeled as damaged goods. Nothing less than pure delight and affection has come from God’s heart to yours. On the cross, Jesus did far more than ankle-yank you out of hell into heaven, He remade you, and all that is Him is all that is now you. Nothing can revoke or remove God’s perfect, unconditionally unconditional love for you. You are fully qualified for every good thing. No sin, past, present, or future shall ever define you nor cast a shadow upon your image. As far as the east is from the west, inadequacy and shame are forever removed from your path.

My child, there is nothing wrong with you, no doubts to haunt your potential nor twitches to sabotage good things. Your capacity to face life is nothing less than Jesus’ capacity to face death—resurrection and redemption are who you are. To God, you are not merely a person to love, you are the reason God is love. Above all else, you are an experience to Him, the candy in the store that fills the heavens with joy, satisfaction, and pride. The mere thought of you tickles His sides with laughter and sends Him blazing through streets of gold with a gleam in His eyes brighter than a thousand suns.

There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time where the God who is perfect love does not perfectly and completely love you—all of you, everything about you. Every feeling, decision, and conclusion in your regard has already been formed and sealed in ecstatic, irrevocable and unremovable love. There is nothing you can do or become that can undo or improve upon what God has already put to rest—the internal, tormenting conversation you constantly wage with yourself wrestling with the value, worth, essence and summation of your life. There is nothing left to talk about or debate—there is nothing unsettled that hasn’t been settled. You are divine beauty, God’s best idea—no matter what others, and more importantly, no matter what you might say.

When we are the person weighted with depression—engulfed in the quicksands of discouragement. When we are the person held captive by self directed unforgiveness—hopelessly circling on sin’s merry-go-round, spinning our lives out of control. When we are the person eclipsing ourselves, standing in the way of shiny new things—striving, trying, and performing our way to somehow redeem our storyline and make a name and a significance of ourselves. Before all, and in all, we are first the person whose self-talk is diseased with words of condemnation and condition that ooze out a soul-hemorrhaging puss dripping from our mouths as we sing from the Accuser’s songbook.

Seeking to change our circumstances often proves futile, seeking to change our self-talk is the good fight of faith—the work of God that is to fully rest our souls and our self assessments on how deep, wide, scandalous, and expansive is the love of Jesus upon our every atom.

The greatest battle in your life is to be convinced of the Author’s conclusions when the Accuser blows his hallucinogenic smoke into your eyes hoping you’ll believe something less. There is nothing to work on in your life, there is only everything to believe on about your life. Jesus did not die to save you from an angry God, but to save you from believing He is. For guilt is anger turned inward, the death cocktail of the Accuser served for the consumption of your self-talk to rid you from seeing all that His hands have made—the perfection that is you.

God is good, He is love. He has nothing but grace, joy, hope, acceptance, affirmation, and freedom to speak into you.

Never let a thought be in your head of self evaluation or conclusion that is not first a thought in His, nor a conversation ensue within you that is not first wrought from the Father, Son, and the Spirit as they brag about you.

Then, the self-talk that is killing you soon becomes the Jesus-talk that frees you to fully be who you fully already are… Jesus anew.

What The Boycott Of Target Says About American Christianity

No, not every Christian is lining up to enlist in the boycott of the popular, big-box store, Target. In fact, there are significant amounts of faith-embracing people who are flat out appalled at the notion and embarrassed by this latest temper tantrum waged from within our Christian community. Yet, there is no denying the growing, aggressive movement among large numbers of conservative Christians licking their chops in hopes of making Target pay deeply for their inclusive, store-wide stance that allows the transgender community to use the restrooms of their choice. From vehement, media pleas to war-crying online petitions, once again, it’s game on for conservative, Evangelical, American Christianity.

Yet, make no mistake, this is far beyond a mere game. The civil war of the twenty-first century is here, waged by Evangelical, conservative Christianity upon the LGBT community and their supporters—the periscoping of Target, just another battle of many on the horizon. Sadly, the sounding of these trumpets from atop the walls of Christianity to summon its adherents to boycott the enemy is indicative of a much deeper cancer widely spread within the gates of much of American Christianity.

The truth is, anyone can hoist the most eye-pleasing, Jesus-intentioned flags for all to see, but one’s true colors are no greater revealed than in the facing of a perceived enemy.  How we handle our adversaries is truly who we are at our core.  For much of American Christianity, the satellite imagery has been rendered, the toxicology reports are in, and once again, what the latest boycott of Target says about the true state of American Christianity— it’s not pretty.

We Are Still Blind To Our Privilge And Arrogance- At the end of the day, nothing says “pompous jackasses” like a religiously driven boycott. Sadly, our faith is filled with convenient presumptions we joyfully hold over people as fact, taking Jesus, His Gospel, and inspired words about Him, and morphing it all into a god of our own image—privileged, elitist, temperamental, and arrogant. This is the pride-lifted throne from which all boycotts are decreed.

Through the narcissism with which we have shaped the ethos of our Christian culture and message, it’s as if Jesus was literally born and raised in America and our nation is exclusively favored and set apart by God Himself, founded on the Bible and all that is holy—and we, the special, gold-dusted Christians who have been given the one-of-a-kind, inside scoop into all that is Jesus and His desires for the world.

Drunken by the poison of our spiritual arrogance, we posture ourselves as the sole authors of genuine family values, true interpreters of scripture, exclusive discerners and dictators of moral purity, and the only possessors of what’s best for our country and world. This is our nation, we are God’s favored, and it’s our God-given mandate and responsibility to see to it that you become one of us and enlist in our spiritual empire. Don’t be fooled by our over 30,000 different denominations of self-declared faithful who read the same bible and arrive at completely, diametrically-different conclusions—look away, there’s nothing to see here, trust us, we’re still the experts on discerning all that is spiritual and true. Because one thing we know for sure, our Jesus loves you so much that if you don’t respond to His love with careful precision, He will drop-kick you into a hell of eternal torment—and that’s what we call, good news.

So, like a slick used car salesperson, we strut around our cultural parking lot, many of us completely ignorant to the crap we are selling, some of us hoping nobody looks under the hood and kicks the tires enough to reveal what we refuse to see, just how truly delusional we have become. So much, that with no pause in our steps, little consideration for reexamination, and no check in our spirit that perhaps we are wrong and have much to learn, we steamroll ahead having raped the Jesus of the Gospels into a white, gun owning, bible-thumping, Republican male who drives a Ford pickup truck, bumper-stickered with Jesus statements purposed on convicting the world. He lives in a two story house with a white picket fence, a dog named Spot, and cable TV in every room. On Sundays, with His leather-bound, name-engraved Bible in hand, He adorns the most popular, program scheduled, state-of-the-art church in town where the worship leader is often found requiring the jaws of life to get out of their culturally relevant, skinny jeans after the stage smoke clears. Beyond that, His primary calling is to meet with like-minded, like-colored, like-believing, like-living people, get into a good sin-management program, and morally police the world.

Problem is, this monster that we have made of Jesus is nothing like Jesus, and who we have become is nothing like who He is—nothing makes this clearer than our arrogant, elitist, privileged response to transgender human beings simply desiring to use the bathroom of their choice based on their true gender identity.

Do we seek to listen? Do we consider new revelation in light of new information? Do we humble ourselves under the person of Jesus, the only Word of God?  Hell no. Once again, we just can’t wait to belly up to the bar of our spiritual addictions, drink down the belly shots of our self-righteousness, and drunkenly declare to all who would oppose us, “we are right, you are wrong, we know what’s best, and everyone who disagrees are simply deviant peasants who deserve a good flogging”—all sending the clear, central message of our twisted faith understanding, “be discipled or be drop-kicked, assimilated or shunned, the choice is yours.”

The World Still Knows The Heart Of Jesus Better Than We- Have you noticed? The “world” isn’t, in fact, the prowling boycott-bully pacing back and forth on the block—no, we are. That’s why there’s a deep awakening of people in our country to the tragic reality of our day that if you want to truly experience Jesus, the last steps your feet should take is to shadow the doorsteps of a church or adopt the American distortion of Christianity into your life—nothing will set your soul on a trajectory spinning it further away from the heart of Jesus.

Yet truthfully, it’s been that way from the beginning. The people closest to Jesus who should have known Him best are the ones who are, in fact, revealed to know Him the least, and the ones who are declared the sin-bathed outsiders on the fringe, worthy of the deepest wounds condemnation can cut, are in fact, the ones who resonate with His heart, most.

With every boycott, with every legislation of discrimination, with every weaponized chorus of “Jesus Loves Me” purposed on snuffing out the voice and dignity of the transgender community, we declare to the world from the stench within our hearts, “If you’re looking for Jesus, if you’re looking for compassion, if you’re looking for equality, dignity, justice, and basic goodness, you’ll not find Him nor these attributes among us—we worship a different god of our imagineering”

Until love becomes our core and Jesus our center, the world will increasingly discover the truth—to become one of us and live more like us is a drastic downgrade of Jesus-distancing proportions, and to be of the world—far more spiritual and in tune with the heart of God.

Oh, the irony of it all.

Our Best Ideas Are Still To Boycott- Because boycotting is what desperate, shallow Christians do who, in the caverns of their true convictions, have turned their faith into a Jesus-insultingoffensive pillaging of the cross and the Gospel it reveals.

For Jesus did not and would not ever boycott. Rather, He served as a cosmos-vibrating megaphone of heaven declaring that from the bottomless well of love, faith, and the exampled ways of the Master, there are always better options from which to draw no matter the day, hour, or circumstance. In an age where we have more revelation, information, and examination than ever before of all that Jesus was, is, and inspires, the reality that boycotting is still on the list of our best ideas speaks to the mal-transformation our dysfunctional Gospel has rendered to our hearts.

We have become the barbarians of the world, and it’s high time we see it—a people who can’t help ourselves from punching something different and calling it faithfulness.

Nothing reveals the alarming level of our school-bully ignorance and militant faith than our boycotting of a perceived enemy.

If ours is a love at all, it is a deeply distorted, diabolical, and diseased one.

We Are Still Selfish, Whining People Who Refuse to Serve- Nothing unveils the true motto behind the bulk of American Christianity like a good boycott. As much effort as we muscle into our full-court press to convince ourselves and the world around us that “it’s all about Jesus,” the truth is, “it’s all about us.”  Why can’t we simply be honest enough to align our verbiage with our actions? Most everything we do says, “me, me, me.” It would all be completely excusable and even understandable if we were five year olds. Yet, we’re supposed to be the light of the world, not the spiritual toddlers of it.

It’s so predictable. We don’t get our political way—here comes a temper tantrum. Someone or something stands in question or opposition to our agenda—we kick and scream. Transgender people want to use the bathroom of their choice—up come the marbles as we huff and puff our way home, conspiring in our “conservatives only” tree houses with crosses on top, plotting our pubescent path to revenge.

We are spoiled, whiny, spiritual brats who think the mission of Jesus is to preserve and expand our American, Christian empire of morality dictation and ideology assimilation. All, while Jesus washes feet, embraces the outcast, and affirms the condemned—but let’s not let Him get in the way of our crap-slinging crusades.

Why can’t we just love for the sake of loving, serve for the sake of serving, and trust the One who holds all the stars in hand with the rest? Even if your conclusion is that the transgender community is in error, the way of Jesus is to serve all the more, not all the less—even to the sacrifice of our perceived safety and convenience. This is the Jesus of cross, but sadly not the Jesus of conservatism.

While Jesus brings the Kingdom of God through unconditional serving, we bring the Kingdom of hell through our unconditional self-centeredness—for we have proven beyond a shadow of doubt that there is no instance in which we won’t believe and act upon what we deem to serve our best, ideological, self-serving interests, in blatant defilement of the Gospel we claim to hold so dear.

We Are Still Satisfied With Any Ignorance That Supports Our Intolerance- Boycotts don’t materialize out of thin air. Nobody rallies against a company like Target over transgender-friendly bathrooms who first hasn’t been trained in an American Christian, spiritual concealed-weapons discipleship class that teaches a strategy of when engaging the enemy, “shoot first and learn last.”

We say we start from the Bible, but we really start from our bigotry and the assumption we know better. The truth is, when your righteousness is derived apart from Grace, you have to contrive ways to justify yourself—putting people down in the name of Jesus to affirm oneself has become our goto drug of choice. Somehow we have swallowed the lie that to be “set apart” means to be “better” and “above,” when in fact, it merely means to be “different,” yet still thoroughly “equal” under Grace. Yet violence, discrimination, condemnation, and boycotts gain no fuel in a Kingdom of equality—rendering us with nothing left to do and believe in a land where all is Grace. To be sure, one can disagree with another without being accurately labeled a “hater,” but you can’t refuse to listen, learn, and stand beside a fellow human and not be considered one.

The world is truly asking, “Is there a caboose to this train? Because we’ve seen this all before.” Any smell that fits within your flatulence somehow is deemed appealing and true, and the rest we are supposed to believe, somehow is automatic crap—science, facts, truth, experience, information, revelation.

We aren’t learners (disciples), we are ignorers—so insecure in our faith that our skeletal creeds shake at the thought of considering new information and new revelation.

When was the last time you built a relationship with a transgender person? When was the last time you listened to their story? When was the last time you researched the transgender topic, purposely desiring to open your mind to various viewpoints and schools of thought?

Chances are, the last time was never. Why? Because to learn would be to expose the ugly face of our flesh contrived, Christian faith hidden under the make-up of our own chosen ignorance.  We’d have to look into the mirror and be real about what we see and believe—and that’s a series of falling dominoes we’re just not willing to push.

So let’s just admit it, we’re blind and we like it that way.

Our Faith Is Still Fear Driven- With every boycott, legislation, and Youtube rant we declare to all that has life and breath that our God is small and our doubts in Him, great. For what kind of God do we believe in with such fear in our hearts? Lions, tigers, and transgenders, oh my! The world is collapsing, our country is falling apart, our women and children are in grave danger—all because transgender people simply want to pee in peace. Seriously?

You say it’s not about transgender people, but rather the ones who will “fake it” in order to “make it” with women and children in a restroom stall near you. All, while there is a statistically far greater chance to be molested or sexually assaulted by conservative politicians in the very same, said locations. But let’s not let the facts stymy the fears we so desperately need alive for our Christian brand to survive.

The very anxiety we drink deep down into our faith is the very horror we disperse ever so widely. Sleeping with one eye open, we hope the world will join us in our misery. We are not a free people, we are a “fear” people. Nothing is jockeying for more human companionship than fear, and we have become its “hoe.”

Yet, the perfect love from God that casts out all fear is the very love we insist on conditionalizing to ourselves, and thus, the very love we cannot give unconditionally to another. Fear has become our master, and boycott-like behavior, our sacrifice of praise.

No wonder so many detest the idea of believing as we believe, because it’s not belief we have, it’s fear—boycotts that confess that God is surely dead, and so is our faith,

Love Is Still An Inconvenient Accessory- Far beyond the boycotting of Target, it’s become all too clear that virtually everything we say, do, and believe reveals the disturbing reality that, for most of us, this “unconditional love” thing has become a sharp edge in our stool. To love without condition, restraint, or reservation is so painful for us, the tension and displeasure in our bloodshot eyes says it all. Like a hard poop, we push it out because we basically have to—it’s the “Christian” thing to do. For to us, truly “unconditional love” is the foolishness of misguided progressives, the waywardness of a world seduced by the darkness, and the hallmark of Christians who are water-downed.

If we could just somehow usurp this “unconditional love” thing, our faith would be so much easier—boycotts as far as the eyes can see, unlimited enemy condemnations to fill up our joy—political ploys here, marginalizations there. Oh, what a wonderful Christianity this would be.

Looking like a breakdancer on crack, we try to dance our way around it by “hating the sin and loving the sinner” while demanding that “love” is an attribute of God, but not the sum of His nature. Yet, confronted with buzz saw of Jesus’ pure-love example, our duplicity and schizophrenic love is found out and confronted to its abominable core.

The world knows true love far better than we do—understanding that anything that is not unconditional love is not love at all.

Is God utilizing the boycott of Target? Damn straight He is—to further reveal the entrenched evils of American Christianity and pave the way for a worldwide awakening to Grace, justice, and equality.

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