Month: November 2015

Christian, Shut Up And Listen Already

I get it, there are a lot of high-volume issues at play in the jukebox of our culture.

Sexuality, immigration, terrorism, politics, economics, war, racism, poverty, abortion. All, filling the airwaves with their sound. Complex voices, ringing around our heads. Stirring our thoughts, twisting our emotions. Reverberating straight to the bottom, rattling the very essence of our souls, forcing the ultimate question…

What does it mean to be Christian?

You want it to calm down, turn down, settle down, make it all go away. What you don’t understand you label as noise. What doesn’t fit your theological playlists, you quickly eject. Cupping your ears, you crank up the volume of familiar hymns. Drowning out, discrediting what doesn’t align. The voices God wants so desperately to speak to your faith, you simply want to subtract.

What you call static, Jesus calls sacred…humanity crying out, if only to be heard.

So much to learn, so much to understand, so much to be gained. This is what learners of Jesus are supposed to do… learn.

Our culture is a concert hall of instruments, each in their own way, crying out with the same longing. A beautiful song. What does it truly look like to be human? To be pleasing to our Maker. Is it being more like this, or more like that. Living this way or living that. Believing more over here, or believing more over there. Each having a melody. If only to be heard.

What you call unconscionable, even unlovable, Jesus calls undeniable, even in-condemnable…humanity crying out, if only to be affirmed.

At the core of every soul is an ancient desire fashioned from the eternal, to love and be loved. To have value, to have worth. Meaning, purpose… beating the beats of our heart. To be alive in our living.  Just… to be… frigging… affirmed.

But you don’t hear it, and you won’t hear it.

Sadly, we Christians suck at learning, even more at listening. We think it’s all about the concluding and the speaking. In our arrogance, we assume we already have what needs to be said, believe it’s our job to say it, and people need to hear it.

Spoiler alert. Christian, nobody gives a damn! You’ve lost your credibility. You’re all talk, no listen.

Licking your chops, unfolding your talking points, “this is what the Bible says.” We play in bands of like-mindedness, creating walls of sound to out-sound opponents. Walled in spiritual neighborhoods of little pink theologies. We Christians are experts at volume; speaking over, drowning out… ideas, creeds, viewpoints… even people.

This is who we have become. Noisy. Mute-button, Christians.

Can you just shut up already? For Christ’s sake… shut up?

You are speaking to be heard rather then listening to become a voice. And therefore, you have no voice that our culture is willing to hear.

When is the last time you sat down, and just listened?

Listened to the journey of a homosexual. The path of one who is transgender. A Muslim’s story. Or that of a mother who had an abortion. Broke bread with one who believes differently. Sat at the feet of a black man, an hispanic women. Dare I ask, maybe even an enemy.

When was the last time, you frigging just listened?

Give me the day, the hour, the minute.

I’m not talking about listening to tolerate, with spiritual eyes rolling in the back of your head. Going through mission-statement motions.

I’m talking about sitting to be transformed. To see Jesus where you believe you will see none.

Is your faith system so weak that you can’t think, reflect, listen, question… even learn, possibly come to a new perspective?

Within the sound of everything you label as noise, are the cries of real people, longing to be heard.

Our culture is listening for our listening, not for our words.

There should never be a voice that needs to force to be heard. Never a person questioning, desperately desperate to be affirmed.

Yet this is what we Christians have created. Hell on earth. A culture, a world, that has to cry, beg, plead… just to be heard, just to be loved, just to be affirmed.

That is the last thing that should be happening where we Christians are near.

Folks, this isn’t a game where the loudest voice wins. In fact, it’s where we listen, and only where we listen, that Jesus begins.

For the every cry of every person has already been heard and answered by Grace. We simply listen and point to the beauty of His face.

It’s that simple.

He is our voice, His Gospel is this… that in Christ, all are unconditionally loved, affirmed, valued, and desired. None are better, only different. Adored, delighted, saved, made whole, in Him.

This is our faith. This is the Kingdom.

It only begins however, when we shut up, and listen.

Christian…

for Christ’s sake…

shhhh, shhh, shh,

shut up…

and listen.

Learning To Love ISIS, Starting With The ISIS In You

Everything is spiritual.

We can mud-sling political views around. Debate historical data. All, painting each other into corners. We may feel a release, but there won’t be a resolution.

ISIS is a spiritual manifestation and a human problem.

On the surface, it reveals itself as terrorism, murder, hatred, war, and violence. Terrible realities, worthy of our anger and conversation. Yet underneath, there is a cancer much deeper, a catalyst much darker. Until this is healed, there will be no healing. It is beyond the reach of missiles, religion, sanctions, politics, rhetoric, ideologies, and war. All, perpetuating the cycle.

Everything is spiritual. Requiring spiritual evaluation and application. This is why we must talk about the root of all that is terror… condemnation.

It’s a simple story.

In the creation poem that opens its scroll at the front of the Christian Bible, God speaks the world into being. With hands coursing His artistic beard, He pauses between breathes to evaluate His living imagery. In rhythmic cadence, with each step He declares, “it is good.”

Soon after, the Tempter in serpent form, exploited the Garden of its goodness, playing his sole card of condemnation, the only one in hand. The first human ones bit the bluff, that God is holding out because of something they can’t handle. Convinced they lacked in some way, unworthy of the worthiness etched into their being. What was natural became naked, and the yarns of shame and guilt slithered their coil through the threads of inherent goodness. It is a complex weave. And we, are a complex people in the arduous journey of trying to unravel from condemnation’s relentless entanglement.

This is the story of every human being, bobbing and weaving, wrestling to come out from under condemnation believed. The genesis of all contortions, twisted personas, and justifications. It is the root of all sin. The birth of all religion. Compelling us into the dance to heal or conceal a shamed heart. All of us have a life that tells a unique, complicated story and reveals a personal shaping from our quest to be released from the lie we swallow as truth… condemnation.

This is the essence of all religion. The soul trying to heal its concluded unworthiness through efforts of appeasement and pleasing… people, self, Gods, standards, expectations. A never ending list.

Religion, it is a contrived system, all to place the conquering of condemnation in human hands and within human reach. It has names like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, but it’s reach is far greater, and origin far more universal. For it is first a human system, and then a human system falsely projected onto God. Starting from humans, and within all of humanity. Religion is not of God, it’s of us.

Living up to the Jones’ next door, or living up to a Diety in heaven, it is all equally religion. Striving to feel good about you, people feel good about you, a Being above to feel good about you. It’s all religion.

People pleasing, God pleasing. Earning self approval, God approval. Call it what you may, a path, a pursuit, a faith. Jesus calls it religion. Evil, from its beginning, especially in what it becomes at its fruition.

For the ultimate manifestation of condemnation is religion. The ultimate expression of religion is… violence.

Just ask Cain and Abel.

A mere stones throw from the Garden, the first act of terrorism. From condemnation’s stem, the religious barbs grow. Cain and Abel believe they must please God, offerings of show. Covering over guilt, justifying their concluded lack. Cain and Abel enter the sanctuary to perform their religious act.

Cain’s perception? God sees his offering as inferior compared to that of Abel. It’s lacking, unworthy. He is therefore, lacking and unworthy. Internalized condemnationSentenced to disapproval, the cell is too much. If only to break free. To even the score. To bring one down, to lift one’s self up.

Murder, terrorism, its origins the same. Cain bites the bluff and kills out of shame. All in attempt to clean, clear, lift, and better his name. To win at playing this religious game.

Be it Christianity, Islam, or ISIS, there is no difference. The root of terrorism is condemnation fully grown into religion.

Violence is born out of people who see the lowering, hurting, or death of another as a path to the validation or justification of self. It is born out of those seeking to perpetuate or defend the religious system they use to justify away concluded condemnation. For the death of their religion is the death of their self-justification, the self-healing of self, their very salvation.

All the way to believing they are better, instead of only different.

Crusades, planes, bombs. Christian or Islam, makes no difference. All is religion.

Isn’t that what most of Christianity has become, just another religion?

Isn’t that who we are as people, mostly religious in prescription?

Living to overcome condemnation through our performance, be it spiritual or secular, it makes no difference. Causing us to believe we are better than another, where in truth, we are only different.

All is spiritual, and most all, have simply become religious.

In doing so, terrorism is already here.

For we are a terrorist nation, because we are a religious nation. Our violence just looks different.

Infidels declared. Homosexuals, transgenders, all condemned. Those on the left, those on the right. Immigrants, refugees, or somewhere in between. Pro-life, pro-choice. Those who have, those who have not. All sighted as targets, candidates for open season. None, it seems are exempt from hate. We are a hating, violent country, because of our religions.

Where we are a religious person we are a terrorist person, our violence and evil nonetheless violent and evil.

Bringing people low to lift ourselves up, terrorizing with the planes of our disapproval. Crashing people to pieces to fabricate an affirmation of self and shame’s removal. Pushing people behind simply to get ahead. Pimping dreams that are merely schemes. Condemning, judging, isolating, labeling, all to win in this religious game. Ultimately, to believe we are better, instead of merely one in the same.

Missiles of marginalization, bombs of bigotry. Shrapnel-laced blog posts, and weaponized rants of ideology. Whether it’s a pen or a pipe-bomb, legislations, labels, or land-mines, they are nonetheless, mere extensions of a heart poisoned by religion. Purposed primarily on justifying ourselves, our faith system, or our position.

Even that we are better, instead of merely different.

Murdering people, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. All is terrorism, nonetheless.

Just ask Jesus.

For Jesus, to hate in heart is to murder in action. At the core, either choice changes not our position. To pray “thy Kingdom come,” to give Jesus your adoration. This diagnosis must become our admission. We all need Grace, and all equally. Non are better, only different.

There is ISIS in us all, because there is the religious in us all.

This is the true battle within and without. Where external or inner condemnation attempts to engage our performance, spiritual or otherwise, to cover over or rise above areas where one feels lack. Be it appeasing a God, living up to religious standards, using success to medicate inner insecurities, bringing another down to lift one’s self up, ISIS is within us all. To choose religion over Grace.

Grace is God’s best idea to show the heart that believes it’s condemned, that there is no condemnation to believe. Grace is based on the eternal truth, that through Jesus none are condemned, none are lacking, all our whole, righteous, complete, and without blemish, all because of Jesus’ performance, our only hope.

Religion is based on the lie from Satan, that all are condemned, lacking, incomplete, poisoned, and their only hope ultimately rests in some level of their performance to appease an angry, conditional-loving God who requires something of their actions to trigger His.

Where we choose religion over Grace, ISIS is not just them over there, it’s you and me, right here.

Until the world awakens to Grace and dies to religion, there will always be an ISIS within and without.

Until you can see the ISIS in the mirror, you will not see yourself in ISIS. We are all human, none are better, only different. This is the scandal and humbling of Grace.

Terrorism is a complex issue that needs many levels of response.

But until we believe within Grace lies the way, we really don’t believe Grace all the way, and we will forever miss its capacity to heal the true root of all that is terrorism, and rid our planet of its power.

Until ISIS is you, you will not believe you need the same enormity of Grace necessary to be given, for ISIS to be no more.

You can’t give what you don’t have, and you don’t have what you don’t believe you need.

Religion, retaliation, revenge, only serve to arm and rearm.

Only Grace, disarms.

Our only chance to find true healing, of the ISIS within and the ISIS without.

Why I Wish I Were Gay, And Maybe You Should Too

Some of my gay friends would do just about anything to not be gay. Not out of some confusion complex or deep inner shame, but solely because of the abuse, condemnation, and flat out emotional torture they endure from our bigoted culture. For many, there are times of deep introspection, the searching for self-affirmation, navigating through a jungle of external to internal condemnation. I would never wish this experience on anyone and deeply empathize with their journey. The walk of being gay is uphill at best. It can be a special kind of living hell. Day by day, by day, no rest.

Yet, at times, I do wish I were gay.

Being gay affords an intrinsic discovery of profound awarenesses and the development of a depth of personhood that is to be highly prized. Gains that can tip the scales of loss and yield a treasure, over flowing. A vault of gold that only being gay can unlock.

At times, I wish I were gay.

Being so, you quickly find out with whom there is true friendship and true family. There’s no wasting time spending years in veiled relationships only to find out it was conditional love all along. The reality of people is quickly chased out of the shadows. There’s a kind of weeding out, a stripping down. Surface pleasantries and sunny-sky friendships quickly lose their appeal. One possesses a kind of relationship authentication system, revealing who is truly with you and who is truly not. And that, sooner than later. How much relational longing that only ended up in disappointment could have been usurped had I only been gay. Years of giving headspace to people who don’t matter. Tirelessly coaxing people into having an interest in my life and desperately trying to keep them caring. Some heterosexuals claim to have a kind of “gay-dar.” A radar-like sense for who is gay and who is not. Well let me tell you, gay people have a “crap-dar” I quick sense of who is full of crap and who is not.

Oh how at times, I wish I were gay.

I would have jettisoned the Evangelical brand of Jesus much sooner. The house of cards that is much of modern Christianity would have blown over in the wind of my God-breathed homosexuality, revealing religion’s evil scheme. To think about all the years I spent completely oblivious, clueless to this legalistic, self-righteous, elitist, religiously-spirited, arrogant, condemning, and theologically twisted take on Christianity. The blindest of the blind. Never seeing my faith from the other side. Therefore, never seeing faith at all. Rather condemning, judging, misleading, and flat out being wrong. A complete and utter jackass in the name of Jesus. Oh, the shame that could have been averted from the show-stopping, jaw dropping discovery that what I thought was the Way, was no way at all.

Had only I been gay.

I would have known more; earlier, faster, deeper, quicker, of what it means to be truly human. To be humane. To love without condition. To be loved without hesitation. For love that hesitates is no love at all. All that religion and conservatism wanted to rid me, God wanted to give me. My humanity. Not a disease but a divinity. You don’t learn to truly love until you learn what it feels to be truly hated. That’s the gift of an enemy, that we rise above to love, anyway. None grow to be more accepting than those deemed unacceptable. Loving, than those deemed to be unloveable. There is a special sound that Grace makes, a special sound that Grace quakes from those who are gay. Compassion for human suffering, a tolerance for intolerance. Grace upon Grace. None are better, only different. These are the diamonds of being gay.

Oh how I wish at times, I were gay.

To rest in my identity in Christ would have come much sooner. Years spent people pleasing, God pleasing. As if people pleasing and God pleasing were possible. Believing in a God who is displeased, full of an anger that needed to be appeased. What a freedom there could have been, more towards the beginning not the end. That God is Grace. He is love. Perfectly loving me, always delighting in me. Without hesitation, but complete affirmation. He is so much better, so much greater than I ever believed. Higher, deeper, wider, stronger. One can never exaggerate the goodness of God. Seeing Jesus through the lens of being gay, one can see God as being fully grey, loving every shade.

It’s never been about me, and all my me-ness. It’s only and always been about Him, and His loveliness. To finally awaken, to breathe for the first time, when having thought I was breathing all the time. This is what happens, when what you once believed and have been told is that you are breaking the mold, turns out to rather be the Father’s fashioning of a wholeness to behold. Held in the same hands as the stars. That you are.

Had I only been gay.

I would have loved the Bible as I’ve come to love it now, in all its complexity and errancy. The progressive revelation of humanity’s experience with God, completely completed in Jesus. The perfect Word, not a page, but a Person. Longing to reveal Himself to me and through me, as Love. Not a weapon, but a whiskey, intoxicating me in one hundred proof Grace, drinking in the forever favor of His face. Used by the religious to condemn. By Jesus to reveal the beautify of the Father. The beauty of them in which the world sees none. Only a quest from a heart pierced by religion’s claws sees the true divinity within us all. Not just a book, but an anthem affirming all of life.

How at times, I wish I were gay.

Playing in the garden of vulnerability, watching flowers grow in colors of uncertainty, learning to stand in the tension and stay connected with those stretching the connections. Where honesty and openness lose their threatening, and cuts and scars need no pre-packaging. Learning and living in true worship. Hands in the air with words singing, “Oh God, my life sucks and I’m having serious doubts about You.” Beautiful songs that need not reach the throne, because He has already drawn near, long before. Weeping, crying, laughing, living, struggling, searching, learning, questioning… all together. True community. Wanted, welcomed, celebrated, affirmed. Where church happens best where the marginalized, discarded, condemned, cast out, are happening most.

Had I only been gay.

I would have come in touch with my racism much sooner. The inner bigot that was me. The false accuser declaring what is no error, to be error. For this is the bottom line of homosexuality, where the heart meets heaven. No choice, no sin, no different than the color of a person’s skin. To be against one who is gay, is to be against myself, and myself against Him. To stand in opposition to the handiwork of the Creator who created me from within.

If only I had been gay.

To experience such revelation, to have this awareness, discover these discoveries, to garner pure wisdom. To love deeper, be known more fully, embrace more widely, to see more wholly. His beauty, His favor, His essence, His plan.

Sooner, clearer, greater… the heart expand.

To finally see, scales falling from our eyes, the evil so many of us as Christians have embraced and become, you ought to wish you were gay.

Oh, how at times, I do wish… I were gay, and maybe you should too.

Maybe… you should too.

Starbucks, Christmas, and Superficial Christian Whiners

So here we go again. Can we Christians just grow up?

Big deal, so Starbucks is sporting a red cup for the holiday season. No, it doesn’t have “Merry Christmas” or “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” glittered on it. It’s a red cup, people. A simple.. red… cup.

Besides, isn’t that everything your little heart desires? A pristine, “Jesus-filled” Christmas without being visually assaulted by satanic, atrocious, secular images of diabolical reindeers and snowmen.

Starbucks owes no one a curtsey to their faith. They are not obligated to give religious sponsorship. They are a free company in a free country. If you want to sip your Mocha Latte’ from a cup ladened with seasonal little-baby-Jesus sayings, do the hard work of starting your own show where you can pimp whatever coffee cup you want. You could even call it “Higher Grounds,” to match the cheesy-Christian, arrogant disposition from which you gaze upon the world.

But, it’s not about that is it? Not even close.

Your judgmental version of Jesus isn’t about what you could be doing, it’s about flapping your gums at what everyone else should be doing. Pitching a temper tantrum when culture doesn’t harmonize with your black and white, underwear-ironed, pretentious Evangelical world. Your arm-chair version of the Christian life looks like that 40 year old, adult child who lives in mom and pop’s basement, eating Corn Puffs in his boxers. Pouting when he doesn’t get his way, while pointing freshly-licked fingers at everybody else’s life, completely oblivious to the pathetic nature of his own.

Don’t we have anything better to do?

Here’s an idea. Put on some pants, wipe the orange drool off your face, and get a life for crying out loud. Don’t you realize how pathetically desperate you look, glued to your cultural radar screen ready to pounce on the slightest blip of what you perceive to be an offense to your faith.

Enough is enough.

The way of Jesus has never been about words on cups. And that it apparently is for a serious portion of our Christian culture, shows just how disgustingly lame we have become.

But really, who should be surprised. When worship has become all about stage lighting, tight packaging, skinny jeans and whose hands are lifted highest. When church has become all about growth trends, baptismal counts, carpet colors, slick branding, and warm bodies. When faithfulness has become all about social appearances, verse quoting, creed conformity, behavior modification, and doing “big” things for Jesus. When the Christian life has become all about making sure you’re against all the right things, gaining cultural footing, and talking amongst your own while you judge the world. Then Christmas becoming about a red Starbucks cup… starts to make sense.

My God people, what the hell have we become?

Masters at nothing that matters and everything that doesn’t. Superficial, selfish whiners who have turned Jesus into everything He’s not. Easily offended spiritual babies who can’t even smell our own dirty diapers.

That’s who.

We have become a fart in a fan store. Completely, irrelevant. The more we try to jam our views and values down the throats of our culture, the more society vomits them right back. Why? Because they know the essence of Jesus better than we do.

That’s why.

They know the way of Jesus is to serve, not to be served. Period, end of sentence.

Understand this, as people observe you, they ask one primary question… “would becoming more like you be an upgrade or a downgrade in my life?”

Though perhaps you don’t care, they do. And I think they have given their answer. Your version of Christianity sends even Jesus vomiting into the porcelain altar. It’s nothing like Him. It’s superficial, selfish, and whiney. And quite frankly, the world sees your faith, founded on appearances, theological conformity, self-preservation, religious fanfare, spiritual elitism, and a judgmental spirit and therefore has decided it just isn’t going to be superficial, selfish, and childish like you.

Downgrade discerned.

Christmas… it’s not about a red cup, but a new covenant cup of Grace. A Grace that places everyone on equal ground, none our better, only different. All beloved by God.

That is the essence of Emmanuel. Born to rebirth us all. Grace with us, in us, for us… as us. All of us.

Until people matter more than red cups, we will forever be drinking and selling a coffee Jesus never ordered.

One that He, me, and the world will forever spit out.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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