Month: August 2016

The Letter Every Parent Should Write To Their LGBT Child

As parents, we want to parent well. We love our children deeply and want the very best for them. There are many things that shape the values and philosophy we carry into the raising of our children—spirituality, beliefs, culture, family, traditions, preferences, not to mention the often unshakeable manner in which our parents parented us. However, nothing should ultimately dictate the attitudes and actions we manifest towards our children more than unconditionally, unconditional love. No matter what parenting mantras we adopt along the way, however holy and seemingly righteous, without unconditional love taking center stage, we are powerless and bankrupt of true influence with our children.

The journey of being a parent is a daunting one where the playing field is constantly shifting beneath us, each stage along the way requiring careful adjustments. Parenting often feels like a constant tripping down the stairs where the main goal quickly becomes to simply stay on our feet and manage the fall—none of us our perfect or have the inside scoop. Yet, there is no greater opportunity to win the heart and shape the life of our children than in the giving of unconditional love when our children need it most.

When a child finally steps to the edge and invokes the God-given courage to reveal themselves as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, there will perhaps be no greater moment and opportunity in all of our parenting to reveal to that child that ours has been a hug, all along, from birth until now, that is truly unbreakable and unstoppable—no height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will separate the embrace of love, loyalty, and pride we have gripped around them. There was no fine print in our parenting that is now called into application. There were no loop holes or contingencies that warrant us a way out or a justified shrinking back. The very same joy we had when they came out of the womb is still the very same joy we have when they “come out” of the tomb of living a lie in fear of being fully known for who they truly are—lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Whether in agreement or disagreement, whether in affirmation or in confusion, we still declare in determined resolve, “this is my child with whom I am well pleased.”

This, is unconditional love when it’s needed most.

Yet sadly, while Jesus is calling our Lazarus-children to “come out” and truly be alive and fully live, unwrapping from the burial clothes of fear and condemnation that suffocate them—we can miss the moments, and even, intentionally or not, turn our children back towards the grave, wrapped once again in fear and shame. For ours is a powerful voice.

No, our children are not expecting nor desiring nor needing our perfection, but rather they long for a simple, unyielding, unbreakable, undeniable connection of loyalty and unwavering pride, sealed by an unconditional love for them that nothing can reverse or restrict. We are all born with this ancient sense deep within that this kind of love is not only possible, but ultimately the essence of God and life—and thus, the most important gift we can give, especially when everything within us or around us would tell us not to do so—when we feel those voices of our faith, culture, family, or inner convictions telling us to place conditions, to put up walls, to tighten the grip, or even condemn our very own children.

Regardless of the situation, regardless of our creed, we never make a mistake when we give unconditional love—we always make a mistake when we withhold it. Leaning on our own understandings to the reduction or removal of unconditional love always creates a detriment and depravity God never supports.

See, the truth is, we are constantly sending letters to our children, whether we intend to or not. Every day is charged with cosmic opportunity—messages of life welling up from our souls colliding and reverberating into the atmosphere of our children’s living and being. Never underestimate the power of the living letter we are forever composing to our children. The most beautiful and transformative words we can write within these verses and inject into their veins by script and action—”I love you no matter what,” “I’m forever proud of you” and “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”

Nothing can change the course of things like these kinds of words spoken and displayed genuinely from a parent.

Whatever has happened, whatever path has traveled beneath your parenting feet, it’s never too late to write that letter.

It’s never too late.

Perhaps, today is the day.

For today is a new day, full of Grace, truth, and promise.

Now is an opportunity as good as any other to give echo to the Father’s heart through your voice spoken into the life of your LGBT child.

And maybe, here is the place to begin—the kind of letter you can write, the kind of letter you should write, and I pray, the kind of letter you will write.

Son / daughter,

You are beautifully and wonderfully made, as is—whether lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, it matters not. The One who holds all the stars in the sky holds you with deepest affection. You are not, nor ever will be, a problem to be solved, a question that needs an answer, nor a mistake that needs transformation—you are a finished, divine work of art. I am always proud of you and there will never be a day I don’t take great joy in calling you my child, no matter what. You are of the greatest gifts from God in my life. No, I am not a perfect parent, and yes, there have been desperately important moments I so wish I could have back that I missed showing the relentless loyalty and love I have for you. I am sorry, at times I have been flat out wrong—wrong about God, wrong about you, wrong about life, wrong about most everything. I’ve done a whole lot more talking than listening, selfishly absorbed with myself. Yet, this remains true and the deepest desire of my heart, that the same unconditional, affirming love the Father has for me, is the same love you know and experience to have from me as well, as much as I am capable of humanly doing so. For He loves you, delights in you, is proud of you, believes in you, and so do I—He will never leave you nor forsake you, and neither will I. I stand with you, by you, and for you, forever.

With deepest love,

Mom / Dad

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

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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