Month: September 2015

For Those Who Suck at Family, and The Rest who Think They Don’t

Growing up, my mom always told my sisters and I you should never say, “shut up.” Instead, the polite term is, “be quiet.” I agree, I really do, but this has gotten out of hand, and sometimes you have to say what you have to say…

So, whoever you are, “shut up” already with all this “we need to build stronger families for Jesus” garbage!

Pastor after pastor, ministry after ministry, book after book, article after article, all driving the hoop with the same game, “what you are doing in your family life isn’t good enough, so you need to do more of this and less of that.” Learn this strategy, follow these principles, take these steps. Get your spiritual pom-poms on for the family cheer and whistle your act together; pray harder, get to church, buy the devotion books, serve more, set goals, smile wider, find a mission trip.

What? You haven’t had a family mission trip together? What the hell is wrong with you people? Some kind of Jesus-family you are.

Quick, you better take that beach photo with everyone dressed in white, photoshop in a Bible verse at the bottom, post it on Facebook, and get with the program already, because “we need to build stronger families for Jesus.”

Well, if I hear one more person spew that cut-and-pasted, spiritual vomit from their pie hole, I am going to a have small farm animal. No, I really am. Perfect, candle-lit dinner tables with linen placemats where all the kids are smiling, and dad has the leather bound Bible in his hands for the evening devotion just before mom serenades in with the steaming casserole she labored at all day.

Are you kidding me? Somebody, gag me with a multi-colored pitch fork. Do it now.

People who know me, know that I am all about family, but this image and pursuit we have created of a so-called “Christian” family looks not only ridiculously cheesy, but actually is the very thing that is eroding families, ironically. And we haven’t even talked about extended family relationships… oh yah, those can be fun.

See, it all looks and sounds so spiritual. Everyone appears to be behaving, praying, getting along, serving, lifting up a whole bunch of glory to the Lord. “We’re just giving all we have to Jesus as a family.” (That last sentence reads better if you do so with a southern accent)

The truth is, nobody is pulling this off. And the sad part is, everybody knows it but the people trying. At some level, we all suck at family. And to be honest, I actually think Jesus is pretty much o.k. with it. He knows what it’s like to have a real family. A family tattooed with rough edges, blind spots and a strong dosage of drama.  One that is not all put together and edited for Christian primetime. One that hasn’t been so Christianized with a two story house, white picket fence, a dog named Spot, a bible on every coffee table, Friday night family devotions, SUV’s stickered with every “Upward” sports possibility, and all the family challenges and adversities getting wrapped up in a nice little, Evangelical-approved, faith-packaged conclusion.

We live in the age of the performance-driven, appearance-ladened Christian. And sadly, many a tribe have drunk the Koolaid. There are a whole lot of families and family members dying on the inside cause deep down they know they don’t have it, and they can’t do it… this photoshop, Pinterest-perfect, magazine-cover Christian family thing.  Nobody does, and nobody can.

That’s why it’s time to get real, for realsies.

We all suck at family.

There are moments where we love the idea of spending time with our kids much more than the actually event of doing so. Jacked up on anxiety, we sit down at the Thanksgiving dinner with cousins, uncles, sisters, and brothers, secretly desiring to sabotage the person sitting across from us, if not to completely strangle them. We don’t like them one bit, and that’s pretty much all there is to it, no matter how much we say we “pray for them.” We’re smiling on the outside, but shaking hands with jealousy on the inside. We want to look forward to tucking our kids in with a story, baking birthday cakes, and driving to after school programs, but we don’t always. In fact, sometimes we resent it and even detest it. We look at other people’s family lives and wish we had theirs. Deep down, we wonder if we will ever measure up, and dread the idea of people hearing our secret thoughts and seeing our concealed imperfections. What if they peered through the curtains into our real doubts, heard our unedited arguments, viewed the x-ray of our thoughts? Some of which, are disturbing at best and certainly disqualifying of us from the Christian family vibe we so want everybody to believe we’re sporting.

The truth is, we spend a lot of time putting lipstick on the pig of our family lives. Sadly, because our Christian culture has groomed us that way.

In fact, if we are honest, a good bit of what we do as parents and family members is all for one thing… show. To prove to God, ourselves, and others that we are faithful, worthy, and successful in our family lives. Look at me, look at us, we’re doing it, we’ve got it!

On writer in the Scriptures discovered a life-changing awareness… “the Law entices us to sin.”  The more we try to meet standards, the more we fail to meet them. It’s even evil to think we can. In our family life and relationships, trying and striving to “be better” and “do better” never works. Our performance always breaks down at some point, leaving us with only one option, pretending to be something we aren’t. And that my friends, is hell.

I’m here to tell you, pretending is the breakfast of the religious. You don’t need to stage your family song and dance. God’s Grace is sufficient. Stop pulling the strings and choosing the choices motivated to somehow create an acceptable, admirable impression in the eyes of everybody else. Who gives a rip what they think?  They aren’t you, and they aren’t in your family.

Besides, it’s not about them. It’s not even about you. The quality of you as a family member, and your family as a whole is based on nothing less than the quality of Jesus. He defines you. His success is your success, in ever area, even family.

You lack no spiritual blessing from Jesus. You are already a great parent, you are already a great child, you are already a great family member, you are already a great family, and nothing within your performance thereof can add or subtract from that.

So stop playing the game. Take down the pieces, fold up the board, and put it back in the box.

Your family job is to enjoy Jesus and awaken to the you, you already are…. complete, righteous, sanctified, forgiven, pure, Holy, and the delight of your Father… as is… a whole mother, a whole father… brother, sister, daughter, son… that’s who you are.

There is no condemnation over any aspect of your family, your role, or participation thereof. None.

No person, no family is better… only different.

So shut up with this, “we need to build stronger families for Jesus” crap. There’s nothing to build.  It’s already been built, finished on the cross. It’s you. It’s your family.

You are already strong, you are already successful, you are already complete.

So go, be free… be the family, be the family member you already are… no better, no worse than another, just different…

…without pressure, fear, guilt, or shame.

This is Grace.

This is the change that changes things.

This is family.

This, is the Jesus way.

Out of the Closet, Into the Cold : Life after Coming Out as a Gay Loving, Homosexual Affirming Pastor

As I write, it’s been a mere two weeks since I gave a message and wrote a blog post where in both, I “came out” as a gay loving, homosexual affirming pastor to my church, friends, and family. No big deal, right?

Honestly, I never quite imagined the kind of responses I would receive, each one walking me further along the tip of the iceberg of what one must surely experience when “coming out” as a gay person in our culture today. Perhaps I should have know, but who could really? I will tell you this, my perspective on what it can look like to “come out” as a gay person in America has forever expanded with disturbing awareness. The handling of homosexuals and homosexuality by many Christians has become no less than the new racism of the 21st century.

Just shy of death threats, which are probably not far around the corner for me, even as a front-line, controversial Christian writer and pastor, I have been shocked at the negative and hurtful responses from some. Even more disturbing is the calculative results that conclude all the hateful, vial responses have come exclusively from Christians, the very people who profess Jesus as the model for their life.

I prepped our church weeks before that Sunday, and even tipped my hand to the cards I was going to play in addressing more specifically the issue of homosexuality, hoping to ease us further into the waters that I had already increasingly tipped our toes into from the very beginning of the formation of our ministry. On that day, a few chose to not listen or even consider my teaching before I could even teach it, opting out of attendance. Among those, there was a stated fear of receiving new information that could potentially change their mind, others among them just walked away… no words, no communication, no nothing. People who had journeyed close by my side for some time, left it, without a sound, statement, or blink of an eye. The relationship in the end perhaps became disposable or just too difficult.  It was clear that some who came, already formed their conclusions, but went through the motions of being present before quickly telling me of their no longer future presence; of course, through a text or email.

I understand, I really do, this is a complicated issue. There are a lot of strings and traps attached. I have been on the other side of the fence. I get it. It’s a tough issue, it takes time. I hold nothing against. Same love, same respect.

I never asked anyone to agree and repeatedly communicated that one of the defining values we have as a church is that our unity is not based on us all agreeing upon a certain set of beliefs, but on our willingness to agree to disagree and yet have the maturity, tolerance, and humility to still love, respect, and do life and ministry together from a foundation of Grace. Our church is purposed on being less of a church and more of a table, where everyone has a seat in the conversation, the life, the relationships, and the feasting on the Grace of Jesus.

For some, this unique church ethos is a fresh wind of hope and delight they never knew could exist. For many, they are thinking, deconstructing, and reexamining their faith, asking the ultimate question of their biblical understanding, “have I read this right?” All, while still seated, connected, loving, respecting, serving, and experiencing authentic, spiritual community. Many our clapping on the insides with overflowing enthusiasm, others are giving Christianity another chance as they find this compassion, courage, unique church culture, and revelation of scripture something of the miraculous.

It is truly a beautiful thing.

Outside of church, there has been the silent treatment. People I always heard from, going unheard from. Glares, non-verbals of disappointment. The unspoken, yet clearly heard voices of shame. Others communicating their disagreement openly and respectfully, others, not so much. Waves of de-friending, all from… Christians.

I truly admire those who disagree with my perspective on the issues, yet still pledge their love, friendship, conversation and desire to stay by my side. They refuse to let their stance on the issues usurp their stance “with” me. In the same spirit that Jesus died for the ungodly, they are willing to stand with what they perceive is unbiblical and perhaps ungodly… me. Not from a condescending spirit, but from one of unconditional love, togetherness, and respect. This, I deeply treasure and joyfully extend as it’s been extended to me.

Some are more passive aggressive. Disagreeing on the inside, and acting on their disagreements in the shadows. Murmuring, chattering, making me pay subtly, behind the scenes, all the stuff you remember from middle school, now on display in adulthood. Precious, isn’t it?

And this, just “coming out” as one who simply affirms and loves someone and something certain people are against. I can’t imagine “coming out” as actually being a gay person, as hard as it has been for me in just affirming them. Holy crap, batman.

Yet, I wouldn’t trade it all for the conversations I have had with people who are gay or have family members who are gay. One person could barely control the speed of their words as their excitement couldn’t be restrained in finally having a pastor to talk with who understood and supported.

Tasting and seeing, breathing for the first time. Resurrected to life. One after the other.

I wouldn’t trade it all for the atheists, the skeptics, the undecideds, the “done’s” who are actually finding new faith or a faith restored because of this courageous, compassionate, conversational, free, humble, serving, unconditional loving, Grace flowing flavor of Christianity and “church.”  The original, the pure Gospel in flesh, and fleshed out, right before their eyes.

I wouldn’t trade it for all the friends who have shown themselves to be true friends. Who when the shit hit the fan, they stood with me and took it, and are taking it, boldly and even cheerfully. Some with even a Jesus-crazy, Grace-intoxicated smile on their face as if to say, “bring it on, you bastards.”

I wouldn’t trade it for the after-Sunday-service hug of my sixteen year old, heterosexual son, who had never quite hugged me that hard while speaking into my ear, “Great job dad, I am so proud of you.”

I wouldn’t trade it for the peace I have, and the sense of fully realizing the heart of Jesus in me and through me as I boldly and unapologetically love, affirm, and defend homosexual people and their families everywhere.

I will not stop. I will not be silent.

It may be cold…but this cold cannot touch the fire from above and from within.

I will fight as long as it takes, and I have breathes to take.

A Garden, Jesus, and Affirming Gay Marriage

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do believe I have the Spirit.

I am listening, searching, and progressing as I grow in Grace.

Paul, in scripture, realized that with certain issues, there was no specific command from the Lord from which to gain guidance. In response, he sided with Grace and a listening to the Spirit as the foundation from which He gave instruction.

Enter, gay marriage.

If you are a follower of my writings and teachings, you will know that I do not believe all homosexuality is a sin. In other places (here), I share in detail my understanding of the six “clobber” passages that are commonly proof-texted to declare homosexuality as sin.

Yet, I am often asked to address the biblical narrative of the Garden of Eden where we have Adam and Eve, male and female, and in the minds of many, that is ample evidence that God does not support homosexuality nor gay marriage.

Well, to be sure, the Garden of Eden is the first, ideal model. It is a place of wholeness at every level. Yet, it is clear, we are no longer in Eden, and not everything in Eden is transferred nor always transferable to life outside of Eden. Jesus recognized this.

Maybe I should repeat that… Jesus recognized this.

In Eden, to be sure we have Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, I’ll give you that. But we also don’t have Adam and Eve plus Susie if things don’t work out. Yet, interesting enough, Jesus made allowance for life outside of Eden. He exchanged the ideal for the real. In regards to the issue of divorce and remarriage, he added to the model of Eden a new reality… divorce under certain circumstances. In Eden, divorce and remarriage was not the model, but Jesus brings it outside of Eden as, in certain situations, a new, faithful, authentic, God honoring possibility.

Wow.

It is interesting to me, that not only do we not have divorce and remarriage in Eden, we also don’t have adoption.

The only model for children and parenting in Eden is biologically connected. The reality that parents can have children without biological congruency of origin is unheard of in Eden. That parents can have children unnaturally, going against the biological, genetic, reproductive model of Eden is absent from Eden. It’s no where to be found.

Yet, adoption is found outside of Eden, and it is just as real, beautiful, authentic, and faithful as the model of biological parenting we see in Eden. I have two biological children (Eden) and two adopted children (outside of Eden) and I can tell you, there is no difference. They are our children purely and equally. No distinctions whatsoever. None.

So is the case with gay marriage. It is not the model of Eden, but that does not determine it cannot be a faithful, authentic, God honoring reality outside of Eden.

From Jesus, we have no command about bi-racial marriage, it’s not in Eden, but we do have the Spirit. And the Spirit has progressed us to affirmation, to see the beauty that God always saw.

From Jesus, we have no command about adoption, it’s not in Eden, but the Spirit has shown us its authenticity and God-delighting.

From Jesus, we have no command about homosexual marriage, it is not in Eden, but we do have the Spirit. The Spirit, that is always challenging our understanding of what can be authentic, beautiful, and affirmed in the mind of God.

Adoption, remarriage, bi-racial marriage, gay marriage…

Can be.

Is.

The Spirit.

Affirmation.

…words to ponder.

Today I Came Out as Gay Loving, Homosexual Affirming Pastor

It’s been coming, I can’t say for a long time, but for some time.

I was that guy, that pastor who believed homosexuals were sin-dripping heathens going straight to hell in a hand basket. I preached it, taught it, and stood against it. It was a no brainer, slam dunk issue. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Those who listened either applauded, baptizing me in the oil of their approval, or they walked away, silent and discarded. Shamefully, I didn’t really care, I was right, they were wrong. No blip on my radar screen. They were going to hell anyways, what’s a pastor to do when he has a church to build. Poor gay people, what are we going to do with them?

Then, Grace came to my door. He shook me, wrestled me into His arms and leveled my feet. Deep waters of humility, unconditional love, and supernatural compassion. I was sinking fast. Every footing, every foundation of prior understanding of Jesus, God, and the Bible, forever altered, deconstructed and resurrected into life.  Soul searching, soul strangling, and soul saving. That’s what Grace does, it changes everything. Nothing can withstand its refining fire.

I believed it, drank it down, driven to believe it all the way. Consumed by the Consumer. Jesus, the intoxicator of my soul, baptizing me in barrels of Grace.

“So Chris, when did you choose your heterosexuality, give me the date and time?” “So Chris, go over and caress that man’s hands and kiss his lips… what, you can’t, why not? But you are asking me to?” “So Chris, why in the hell would I ever choose to be gay, are you kidding me?” “So Chris, I am supposed to abandon my gay child, put him out of the family?” “So Chris, I am just supposed to flip a switch, I’d rather die, cause I can’t do that, and I can’t do this (holding open Romans 1 with tears in their eyes pointing to the phrase ‘God haters.””  “So Chris, God created me, but hates me, He put in me a desire He in return dooms to eternal fire, cause I know I didn’t put there, I would kill to make it go away, but I can’t?” “So Chris, my sexual orientation defines me?” “So Chris, you love me, but hate a core piece of who I am, no choice of my own?”

That was just the beginning. Experience with real people. The experience gay condemners rarely have. Homosexuality became no longer an issue, a theological debate, but rather… living, breathing, human, loved by God and some, Jesus loving… people.

Then, the pivotal, haunting, and life-changing question… “did I read this right?” Grace grabbed me by the feet and hung me over the biblical texts, like my dad once held me to jerk out the hotdog I was choking on soon about to snuff out my life, ridding my lungs of breathe.

Grace grabbed my feet, hung me over the text, shaking out the ignorance I swallowed whole for so long, revealing that I was barely breathing all along.. that is, before the great Grace dislodging.  Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy. Clobber passages that became clear passages, not for the condemnation of homosexuals, but against those who strip them of their context, rape them of their intent, and turn them into gay-seeking missiles.  Hijacking each one from their intended warfare on sexual atrocities well outside the world of homosexual orientated, consensual, life-giving, monogamous, same-sex relationships.

I had been singing in the chorus of the false accuser of our brothers an sisters. Hating with the haters, all under the veil of a Jesus centered life.

Not any more. The curtain has been torn in two.

Today, I came out as a gay loving, homosexual affirming pastor. My church heard it, line by line, verse by verse, one text after the other.

Now, you are hearing it.

It hasn’t been easy, the cost is costly, but at the end of the day, I know this to be true…  you have the heart of Jesus when the religious scatter and the broken gather.

Whatever comes and whatever comes my way… Grace wins yet again.

Get Off My Back and Open your Ears, You Bible Thumping Jerk Weed

Ain’t going to lie, I have grown so tired of people getting all up in their Bibles in order to get all up in my face.

Pushers and pimps of their packaged prescriptions on what “the Bible says.” Facebook pics with font abusing, clever little sayings touting their position on what they are against, fresh off the leather-bound, name engraved, coffee table press. For Christ’s sake, clip art and sun ray scenes are so 80’s. Enough already, people. Enough.

Rubber hammer them in the knee cap with a theological thought outside the black and white… and bam… there goes another knee jerk, Christian shoe up in your crotch. Their Apollo 13 wired spiritual capacitors can’t compute, overrun with revelation that doesn’t fit their denominationally predefined algorithms. Brain sparks fly, neck veins flare, alarms sound, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Yes, we do have a problem, damn straight we do, starting with the fact that exhibit “a,” the Bible doesn’t “say” jack squat. Hello, hello, is this microphone on?  I think I recall Jesus saying repeatedly regarding the “Bible” of His time, “You have heard it was said, but I say unto you.”  Notice, He doesn’t declare,”it” said, he says, you “heard” it was said.

Why? Because the Bible doesn’t “say,” … it reads. The mistake being made (the only mistake being made) Jesus pointed out to those gathered, was in their hearing. Oh snap, I hate it when Jesus rounds third base.

So let’s get real Christian. In fact, here’s an example.

Throughout the New Testament, new experiences with people are the driving force that led key Christians to ask the question, “have I read this right?”  No, it’s not some scholarly, exegetical orgy of dissecting a text that leads to the reexamination of a life issue, but rather new experiences with life, relationships, and flesh and blood that lead people like Peter and Paul to deep, theology altering questions of understanding regarding “what the Bible says.”

It was a sad state of affairs that the Jews, who experienced Pentecost and were the first Christians, did not believe the Gentiles could even receive the Gospel. Talk about inclusion issues. In fact, the growth of the first church was exclusively of Jewish people.  So much that Peter had to have an experience with God where He was led to begin to reevaluate his reading of a Biblical text about clean and unclean foods, a metaphoric communication of deeper issues regarding Jews and Gentiles that was about to play out.

Enter Cornelius.

Cornelius, a Gentile, was led to Peter because of his rumored spiritual experiences. Peter could not begin to fathom, it was so way beyond his window of perspective, that Cornelius could experience God. But once their bumpers were in the same parking lot, face to face, relationship to relationship, Peter was blown away by Cornelius’ receptiveness and spiritually capacity. After picking his jaw up off the ground, Peter, going against his original reading of the Biblical text, shared the Gospel and “boom, there it is,” new life for Cornelius.

Let’s just make sure you are getting the picture here, until that experience, Peter adamantly believed, along with the Jews, because of the way they “read” the scriptures, that the Gentiles had no access to Jesus and the Gospel, and even withheld the waters of Baptism because so.

Oh and by the way, the Gentiles, comprised of like 99% of the rest of the world. Yes, the Gentiles are you and me. Thankfully, Peter, Paul, and others, had the kahunas to ask the question, based on new experiences, “have we read this right?”

Truth be told, the more time spent on your high horse riding people like mules, using the Bible to try to kick and whip them onto your agenda… the more your ears are closed, your heart is hardened and life experiences lose their Spirit-led capacity to hold you over the text, demanding you ask one of most important questions… “have I read this right?”

So, get off my back (and everybody else’s) and open your ears. Cause right now, you got “jerk weed” written all over your forehead.  Your ignorance is making a circus out of this Christian thing and missing the heart and the spirit of Jesus and His Gospel. Come down from your pride, get outside your “church world” fence, and actually sit at the table of the people you hate, and the issues they harbor that you are so against.

Maybe then, you can hear the megaphone of Jesus trying to break in and penetrate over the noise of your evangelical earphones… “you have heard it was said, but I say unto you.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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