Month: May 2017

Trump-Loving Conservative Christian, Excuse Me For Expecting You To Act Like Jesus

What was I thinking, right?

Feeling like Charlie Brown, flat on his back with stars spinning around his head after Lucy exploits him once again with the infamous kick-the-football trick—how could I be so stupid?

I guess I should have known better, history tells the tale. Conservative Christianity in all its many forms has sadly been an undeniable contributor to more human atrocities than perhaps any other faith group. The Crusades, the pillaging of the American Indian, the rise of Nazism, black slavery, sexism, the demonization of the LGBTQ community, and the onset of Transgender suicides are just a few examples. Find me a place where discrimination, spiritual oppression, bigotry, sexism, racism, imperialism, and the drums of war abound, and there you will have found, in some order or fashion, the direct influence of conservative Christianity.

Yet, with all your state-of-the-art worship facilities as far as the eye can see, and books upon books about Christian living. With million dollar celebrity pastors, inspirational conferences, hip concert t-shirts, and clever bumperstickers calling me to repentance. With all your sin-busting accountability partners, schools, colleges, and radio stations. With Bibles for every interest group and study guides to go with them, you almost had me reconsidering—maybe you’ve changed?

The way you quote scripture so easily and raise your hands in worship so passionately. The way you claim the inside scoop to all that is truth so confidently, and put on such a glistening smile so convincingly. The way your children win top prize at nearly every “Bible memorization” contest, fold their hands in school prayer, and have those cute little “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets. I mean, just the sheer mass and volume of scriptural Memes that daily adorn your Facebook page—certainly, you’ve turned over a new leaf and things must be altogether different.

No more bigotry, discrimination, double-standards, self-centeredness, legalism, condemnation, and overall spiritual nastiness—it’s a new day with an all new heart for Jesus, right?

Just when I started to believe again—renewed my hope in hope. Just when I was ready to be the proud prodigal father and usher in a planet-shaking party. You elected him, you support him now, and the love affair still continues. Trump—the bright orange flare shot out of hell as a sure sign and declaration that nothing about conservative Christianity has changed, but tragically has become far worse. Even Satan himself tires of his tomfoolery.

Never has there been a more childish, dishonorable, arrogant, hypocritical, salacious and unpresidential President in all of American history. Worst of all, apparently none of that matters to you and some within your tribe actually celebrate it. The nationalism of your conservative faith, the preservation of your privilege, the full fruition of your xenophobia, and the expanse of your spiritual policing, are apparently worth the hypocrisy it’s costing you and the countless lives it’s destroying. Hell has no fury and Jesus has no enemy like a Trump-loving conservative Christian.

With all due respect, your diabolical joke-of-a-gospel is no Gospel at all—seducing people into a pretentious, performance-driven, self-righteous, elitist, white-centered, male-dominated cult that looks nothing like Jesus, all while pimping it as biblical faithfulness. It’s a grand cosmic scheme, whose primary purpose is to spiritualize hate, discrimination, greed, imperialism, violence and condemnation—turning Jesus into the hood ornament of your world bulldozer.

Yet, the best ideas you’ve contrived in defense of your creed and its orange-haired messiah, is to point fingers at Hilary’s mistakes, diminish Obama’s presidency, and bullhorn your talking points and proof texts in hopes of drowning out your dissenters.

Well, excuse me for expecting you to act like Jesus.

Excuse me for being a tad bit embarrassed when you dare to call yourself a Christian.

Excuse me for getting upset when I see you leave the poor helpless, deny healthcare benefits, and prosper the rich at the hands of your ruthless insatiable appetite for power and privilege.

Excuse me when I vomit at the sound of your empty, self-aggrandizing worship while you belittle, ostracize, marginalize, and build walls against refugees, foreigners, and immigrants.

Excuse me why my neck veins bulge at your condemnation of the LGBTQ community with greek words in a book that were not translated to mean “homosexual” until conveniently in 1945, by conservative Christians.

Excuse me while I raise my eyebrows at all your legalistic self-righteous sin-inspecting ways, while your make-up ladened daughters dance in two-piece costumes, sixty percent of your husbands and pastors watch pornography, and your divorce rate is higher than that of atheists.

Excuse me when I choke on my spit, when you stand on the sidelines of everyone’s sexuality, as if you have the divine authority to dictate every play—especially when it seems like your the one with the issues, wanting most to get into the game.

Excuse me for the face-palm when you put on display the full fanfare of your racism, deprecating people of minority who protest, express rage, and demand rightful justice in ways that are not to your privileged comfort or liking.

Excuse me when I grow in anger and frustration with every legislation you seek to impose that reverses the desegregation of our school systems, Christianizes public education, and further turns our country of religious freedom into a totalitarian Christian state and nation.

Excuse me when I laugh in disgust at all your boycotting, demands, and vacillation with Transgender people in bathrooms, when more sexual crimes are committed in public restrooms by Republican politicians than have ever been committed by a Transgender person.

Excuse me when I cringe at all your claims to be a people and a faith that are pro-life, when you portray God and interpret the Scriptures in every way possible that justifies the spiritual, emotional, and even physical death of the people with whom you disagree or deem to be the enemy.

Yes, excuse me.

Excuse me when I call you on the carpet for electing and supporting a President who couldn’t even meet your church’s requirements for serving in the nursery.

To be sure, we’re all saved by Grace, but this is getting ridiculous.

Where you take and deny, Jesus gives and blesses.

Where you build taller walls, Jesus builds longer tables.

Where you judge and condemn, Jesus loves and embraces.

Where you huddle in like-minded clubs with crosses on top, Jesus is serving and unconditionally loving the masses.

Where you quote and proof-text, Jesus redefines, reinterprets, and puts love at the highest place.

Where your faith seeks to make the most of you, Jesus seeks to serve the least of these.

Where you smite, deny, and demonize the enemy, Jesus is giving Grace and loving scandalously.

Where you elect, embrace, and support such a Christ-less president, Jesus asks the sure question, “are you serious?”

You want to silence my rants, convict me of overgeneralization, and declare me to be equally as judging. To that, my response is pure and simple. As much as you tout yourself to the world as being all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips—excuse me for expecting you to act like Jesus.

What was I thinking?

Evidently, just because there’s a cross on top, a Bible in hand, or verses in a Facebook post, doesn’t mean there’s Jesus—in a building, mind, or heart. In fact, more and more, it’s becoming a sad indication, He’s probably not.

Trump-loving conservative Christian, excuse me for expecting you to act like Jesus.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Conservative Christian, If You Really Loved Me, Would You Please Just Listen?

I know you disagree with me and so many aspects of my life—that’s one thing that seems to be overflowing with clarity.

That’s o.k, it really is, you are welcome to your own perspective.

To you, my nonconservative choices, values, beliefs, and even the very essence of who I am as a person are deemed to be suspicious at best, certainly inferior, and likely in desperate need of repair and a strong dose of repentance. In step with the marching orders of your creed, you pace back and forth, waiting for opportunity to put my faith and life through your conservative curling iron in hopes of straightening me out. You say you love me and it’s all from a heart of genuine concern—I want nothing more than to believe you, I truly do. Yet, it feels like everywhere you touch upon the fabric of my life, you’re insisting on your own way while claiming it to be God’s—desperately trying to unravel and pull apart what I’ve actually come to believe and cherish as the divine tapestry of my life.

You want all the Scriptures you so confidently quote, the stern warnings about hell, and your passionate lectures on all the ways that I’m desperately misguided to feverishly call my soul to attention. You want your guilt trips, silent treatments, and glares of disapproval to magically solicit an urgency within me to wake up and change. You want all the articles, books, and sermon videos barking the bullet points of your faith to bring me to my knees, surrendering in agreement and tearful repentance. Yet, deep down inside I have this ancient, Jesus-embedded sense within me that I just can’t ignore—if you really loved me and were truly being used by the Spirit, you’d simply listen.

No, I’m not talking about the kind of listening that’s nothing more than the inconvenient duration of time you’ve silenced your lips while reluctantly waiting your turn to speak. I’m not talking about the kind of listening that’s merely the sum of the moments you’re rushing ahead in your mind to all the ways you’re going to correct me. I’m not talking about the kind of listening that’s nothing more than the pause you give in your rebuttals to humor me with a moment to interject my wayward thinking—licking your chops, poised and ready to shoot it all down. No, I’m not talking about the awkward silence that ensues while your arms are folded and your chin is lifted in obvious disgust. Maybe you call that listening or discerning, or whatever faith term that fits your brand of religious conservatism, but I call it—hate. For nothing is perhaps more antiJesus, demeaning, and drooling with shame and condemnation than a Christian who refuses to listen.

You want me to believe that you love me—I greatly appreciate that. You want me to consider that you were sent by God to guide me—I understand that. Yet, with all due respect, I’m finding it very hard to convince my conscience to open the door of trust when every alarm in my Spirit is sounding to the clear and ever present reality, you aren’t even listening.

You speak, you judge, you correct, you assume, you admonish, you lecture—perhaps all with the most wonderful of noble intentions. Yet, all the while, it feels so reckless, like a sheep being dragged to the slaughter, as you don’t even glimpse beyond the surface to the intricate fabric of my being and the complicated walk upon which I have been traveling. At best, you’re shooting in the dark because you don’t take the time, extend the grace, and embrace the humility required to remove the blinders and truly see me and my story. In fact, at times, it feels like I’m just another sitting duck, traveling across your spiritual arcade, bracing for the impact of your prepackaged conservative bullets. Cocked and loaded, you’ll never hear nor encounter the story behind my eyes—a story that if I told you, would break your heart, humble your faith, and perhaps even cause you to put down your weapons. Maybe, when it’s all said and done, that’s what you truly fear the most and the reason why you refuse to truly listen—it’s all too risky, your entire faith-construct might come crashing down.

The one thing that’s missing is that one thing you seem to be so adverse to giving. It’s all I’ve ever truly wanted—so I’m begging you, would you please just listen?

Listen—with the reverence that completely stops and deeply considers that chances are you have something to learn, change, or reconsider first before ever being granted the green light from God to speak to my Christ-imaged humanity.

Listen—with the humility that, though you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, you certainly aren’t entitled to your own facts, nor the claim that you hold the one-and-only divinely-sanctioned interpretation of Scripture.

Listen—with the self-control that renders the noise of your stubborn insistence to a prison of silence in order to create the openness and freedom required to hear a true revelation from God.

Listen—with the determination to never lean on your own understanding, project your bias, and pepper me with labels.

Listen—with the level of compassion that no matter what you had to say, all I would ultimately hear is that you love me.

For if we aren’t listening deep enough to where we understand with fullness, empathy, education, and humility the very journey, perspectives, beliefs, and values to which we disagree or disapprove in another human being, we aren’t truly listening. For when Jesus left the halls of heaven and became a human being, it wasn’t just an act of becoming human flesh, it was an act of ultimate, divine listening.

So now, when you wonder why I don’t call, why I don’t respond, and why I’ve resigned to love you from a distance. When you wonder why I’m deeply hesitant to visit your church, come to family gatherings, grant you influence, and see you and your conservative faith-understanding as credible. When you wonder why I ignore you on Facebook or de-friend you altogether. When you wonder why the world is increasingly concluding that yours is a brand of Christianity that is filled with self-righteousness, selfishness, and hate. Perhaps you would consider this perspective, it may just be because I, and many others, can’t ignore the screeching reality—you’re not listening.

Say what you want, debate all you like, curl up in the fetal position of your guilt trips, and trumpet your Scriptural proof-texts—my heart breaks at all that we are missing, the time that’s being wasted, the hurt that’s being experienced, and the relationships that never will be. Largely because, like Martha in the Scriptures, it seems you’re insistent on making religious sandwiches of debate, correction, and condemnation that Jesus never ordered, while Mary was learning the true heart of Jesus—to sit down, be quiet, and simply listen.

No, I’m not perfect, I certainly have my faults. But right now, I can’t trust you nor give your voice credibility, not because you aren’t speaking, but because I can’t hear you listening.

Conservative Christian, if you really loved me, would you please just listen?

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak…” James 1:19

Grace is brave. Be brave.

I’m Sorry Conservative Christianity, I Just Can’t Do It Anymore

There was a time, I tried.

I wanted to fit in, to be a shining star of conservative faithfulness lighting up dark skies. The dream of being successful for Jesus and gaining the gleam of His eye seemed like the apex of all pursuits. I could feel good about myself as I strapped in and revved the engines of the Monster Truck named “Conservatism,” enjoying a kind of favor that positioned me above a world of sin-obstacles and rebellious human traffic—it was perfect. With conservative Christianity there was a stage upon which to spiritually perform, a pre-defined system of belief to simply absorb and plug in, and a self-validating mission to assimilate everyone and anyone who would listen and buy in. It was all so cut and dry—a faith that was calculable, concrete, and clear in defining who was in and who was out, who was faithful and who was not, and who was right and who was wrong.

Yet now, things have changed—I would say, much for the better. A revelation welling up from my soul of a different way of believing and living has shown itself to be an unstoppable force. I can’t deny the air that I am breathing for the first time and the life it is giving—Grace has awakened me. No, it doesn’t all add up in my mind like ducks marching in a row, but it doesn’t have to when it’s all adding up in my heart and soul.

It’s not that I don’t love you anymore—I do. It’s not that I don’t accept you without conditions—I do. It’s not that I don’t believe you are filled with good intention and tremendous God-adorned worth and value—I do.

I’m sorry conservative Christianity, the bottom line is this— I just can’t do it anymore.

I Can’t See People As Being Inherently Evil And Lost- I’ve come to learn that Grace is the great equalizer—none of us are better, only different. That’s why the religious conservatives sought to kill Jesus and this, His message. When we are all equal before heaven, there can be no controlling, condemning, and fear-driven coercing. We are all loved and accepted equally by the Father—all of us in Christ from the very beginning. Faith is merely awakening to all that has already been given—Grace. People are good, whether they believe incorrectly or behave differently. This is the way Jesus sees all creation, the entire expanse of humanity—I just want to live my life seeing people the way He does.

I Can’t Support A Consumer Driven Christianity- For all the books, buildings, blogs, branding, conferences, concerts, movies, ministries, jewelry, t-shirts, stage-lighting, bumper-stickers, worship bands, cheesy comic-sans font-ladened Facebook memes, and church groups and activities, who have we become? I dare say, not nearly as sacrificial, serving, and loving as we are consumer-driven in our faith. In fact, the greatest passion inducer in many churches is sadly the conflicts that center around the style of worship. Nobody prays harder, studies the Bible more, and gets more involved than a Christian who is trying to assert and defend their personal preferences in church. From what I’m learning, the way of Jesus was sacrifice, not spiritual self-absorption—I just want to live my faith in a way that gives and contributes, not consumes with a rampant kind of spiritual appetite bordering on addiction.

I Can’t Live With One Eye Open In Fear Of A Bipolar Deity- The Spirit of Jesus within me has convinced my heart, God is love—wholly, completely, and purely. He has nothing but affection for me and every human being. No condemnation, no punishment, no desire for revenge—He perfectly loves me with perfect consistency. All this fiery talk about hell, wrath, judgement, and God’s discipline—it’s not only all highly debatable and open to be differently interpreted, but all silenced at the foot of the cross. Captured by Jesus who adores humanity without limit or restriction, I refuse to live my life fearing, doubting, and in a constant state of paranoia of a conservatively-imaged god who could love me one moment and cast me into hell the next, simply because I don’t love Him back in precisely all the right “conservative” ways. I just want to live my life seeing God through the lens of Jesus—perfecting me on the cross and perfectly loving me without conditions for eternity. God is for me, whom shall I fear?

I Can’t Ask My Wife To Submit To Me- My soul tires of being summoned to dismiss women as lesser and inferior human beings by a male-driven conservative Christianity that  seems insistent on their sexist way of contextualizing and interpreting the Apostle Paul and his teachings. My wife and I are a team on completely equal footing—for that’s what it means to be one flesh. Jesus speaks, equips, calls and empowers her in all the same ways He does with me—her potential in life, church, family, and ministry is no less than mine. She can do anything and everything with complete freedom in Christ. She is not weaker, less capable of leading, nor deserving of anything unequal because of her gender. I just want to live my life seeing my wife and all women as Jesus does—completely, thoroughly, and unequivocally equal in all things—period, full stop.

I Can’t Deny The Validity of Science- Forcing a literal biblical understanding upon every aspect of an entire world view, to me, is no longer honest nor embracing wisdom. Demanding that the earth has an age of merely 6,000 years, evolution is fake news, and global warming is a myth, is to create a war of intellect, science, and common sense where there need not be. In both matters of the spiritual and scientific, our human capacity to fully comprehend, define, and know for certain is highly limited. Our faith would do well to simply conclude what is truly most important—God created and creates. I just want to live my life with my brain turned on to the awareness that scientific discovery and spiritual revelation don’t have to be enemies, but are important threads that are actually woven together in the great divine tapestry of life. God is neither threatened, separate, nor necessarily contradictory to science and its discoveries—therefore, neither will I be.  

I Can’t Turn Off My Brain, Deny My Individuality, And Freeze Dry My Beliefs- I’m on a spiritual journey, not a destination. God gave me a brain with common sense and a conscience. I’m convinced that God’s desire isn’t that I land in a cold existence of conformity to a certain set of approved beliefs, but that I’m always growing in my awakening to His Grace—forever fluid to where that might take me emotionally, spiritually, physically, and confessionally. Jesus created me as a complicated, unique, divinely loaded individual that should resist all human-born labels that would seek to limit, control, own, cage, or define me. Where conservative Christianity largely desires to assimilate and mold me, I just want to live my life enjoying the freedom for which Jesus freed me.

I Can’t Believe The Bible Is Perfect- Grace has convinced me, nothing and no one is perfect but Jesus. He is the only Word of God, everything else is human words about God. Yes, they can be deemed as inspired, but never infallible—for aren’t we all inspired by God anyways, with a story to tell and perspectives along the way? For how can you not be—He is all and in all things. Inspiration never guarantees accuracy. I’m tired of reducing the Bible to a playbook for living, debate winning, and lording over my disagreers and those conservative Christianity deems to be sinning. I just want to live my life captivated by the mystery, experiences, and faith stories God uses in Scripture to lead me into a personal, life long, and ever expanding encounter with Jesus—progressively awakening to Him who is Grace.

I Can’t Compete With You And Your “Sold Out” Family– With all the ways you say you are so “blessed,” the religious art and nicknacks decorating your house, and the sheer height of your hands lifted up in worship, I simply can’t keep up. For all the times you commit to people, “I’ll be praying for you,” I wonder how you have time for nearly anything else. The never ending litany of Facebook pictures of your highlighted Bible next to a coffee cup, scripture quoting memes, and subtly self-congratulating celebrations of faithfulness, I have a hard time resisting the conclusion that there must be something wrong with me. You’ve got it going on with Jesus in so many ways I simply don’t and can’t. As much as it all seems so impressive, I just want to live my life outside the pressure and lifting up of all that—stuff. You will always be more spiritual and faithful than me. I’m  finally learning to enjoy the joy that comes from being completely at peace with that.

I Can’t Love People Conditionally- It takes so much work, judgement, reservation, and energy. Who is deserving, who is not? How much is too much, or just right? What’s the perfect mix of conditions, clauses, and confronting? Where does one even begin in mixing a perfect love-with-conditions cocktail? When have they changed, repented, believed, and behaved enough to unlock the door to love or at least let them peek in? The truth is, Grace has shown me, that’s not how Jesus loves me, nor anyone that has ever been or ever will be. In fact, He loves without restraint, conditions, restrictions, or fine print. I just want to live my life with the “love conditions” radar screen turned off, knowing and trusting my purpose and scope is to love people unconditionally and let God untangle the rest. And if I error, I will boldly approach the throne of God having loved too much, if that ever could be a thing.

I Can’t Condemn The LGBTQ Community- There is perhaps nothing that has become more clear to me than the sure reality that the “clear teachings of the Bible” aren’t clear at all. I can’t ignore the real stories and journeys of the LGBTQ community, and the truth they bring to the table. I can’t deny the faithful scholarship of Bible-loving, truth-seeking, Jesus-loving, and unbiased scholars who find no other alternative but to conclude that the Bible is actually affirming of LGBTQ people—as I do. I can’t condemn where there isn’t certain certainty, but rather, the sure potential that conservative Christianity could very well be completely wrong. With an undeniable history of wrongfully judging, disapproving, and damning things later proven to be benign and even divine, I am learning to never lean on a conservative Christian understanding. I just want to live my life outside of the condemning, discriminating, and sin-labeling mantra of conservative Christianity that shoots first and consults Jesus later—if at all.

I Can’t Embrace A Gospel That Is For Me, No Gospel At All- I’ve tasted and seen that God is pure Love and Jesus is all Grace, and now my soul won’t let me consume nor settle for anything less—for to do so would be a blasphemy against the Spirit and His work in me. I believe the Apostle Paul was centered onto divine truth when He charged that a Gospel mixed with any level of Law, conditions, or human performance is in fact, no Gospel at all—even to a level of being accursed. I take sin so seriously that it is my deep confession and personal experience that no one can master, manage, nor overcome it but Jesus, who is Grace. It is the Grace of God that empowers, teaches, and inspires us to divine change and right living—nothing else can or will. The conservative Christian gospel filled with “to do” steps, conditions, rule-keeping, fear-living, and hell-requiring is to me, no Gospel at all, but rather a sure ministry of death. I just want to live my life truly living because my heart has been overcome and irrevocably endeared to a Gospel that is nothing but Grace, life at its very best, and pure freedom.

It’s not that I don’t love you anymore—I do. It’s not that I don’t accept you without conditions—I do. It’s not that I don’t believe you are filled with good intention and tremendous God-adorned worth and value—I do.

I’m sorry conservative Christianity, I just can’t do it anymore.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

8 Things I Wish We Christians Would Admit

Nobody’s perfect, that’s for sure. We’re all on a spiritual journey in life that is both complicated and filled with ample opportunity for blunder. Yet ironically, within much of modern Christianity, faith qualities of mystery, vulnerability, humility, inability, and uncertainty are often deemed to be sure signs of weakness and nonconformity—what God has painted with beautiful shades of grey and fragility, we quickly want to thin into black and white. Unfortunately, this starch-pressed and cut-and-dry way of believing has rendered our brand of Christian faith to be one that is highly resistant and adverse to healthy criticism, introspection, change, and the embracing of fresh revelation. In the eyes of many who look upon us, ours is a Christianity fortified behind towering walls, moated with religious hoops, and purposed on allegiance, conformity, and world domineering. The presence of questions, doubts, uncertainty, individuality, and the recalibration of one’s beliefs are largely unwelcome and unwanted in many of our spiritual precincts. Some have gone so far as to even suggest that we have become deaf to the cries of Jesus upon our callous, cut-and-paste way of believing and living.

Which is why I believe, if our modern American brand of Christianity is to survive and reclaim its credibility, we must first become people of courage who are willing to be self-aware. What so many in the world discern and conclude about our American manifestation of Christianity, as unpleasant as their voices may ring, are the very truths we would do well to admit—that we might begin a process of healing and become more authentic in our faith.

I wish we would admit.

We Don’t Love Very Well- As much as we might try, with deep noble intention, in the minds and hearts of many, we aren’t succeeding. It’s as if we don’t believe in love, and fear its unconditional giving. We say we love people, yet can act so un-lovingly—just ask the broken, the minorities, the LGBTQ community, the “lost,” our enemies or our disagreers. “Hating the sin and loving the sinner” leaves nearly everyone wondering, why not just love for the sake of loving, and let God carry the rest? Our selfishness in church, family, and society has deafened people to any love our hearts might be singing. We are more interested in confronting, correcting, insisting, and even condemning, and believe those actions are somehow required in being loving. Maybe in reality, we’re just addicted to the idea of loving instead of the actual practice of it. Perhaps we should simply love people as people instead of projects—trusting God with any needed transforming. Until then, the truth is, we don’t love very well, and we would do well to admit it.

We Weaponize the Bible- For many of us, it’s become a kind of fourth Person of the Trinity—seemingly granting us a divine authority to assert and demand the practice, infallibility, and priority of our particular faith understanding and ideology. We have fashioned words about God into an idol of words from God—largely for the purpose of lording ourselves over others. The human carnage that remains from the countless rounds of Scripture fired at our enemies, disagreers, and those we deem to be sinning has become an American spiritual holocaust conveniently camouflaged in the flag of being biblically faithful to Jesus. Yet, the clear teachings of the Bible aren’t clear at all—30,000 different Christian denominations is more than ample evidence. The truth is, with every proof-texting and “this is what the Bible says” declaration, many of us show ourselves to be worshiping a false god, the Bible, and wielding it as weapon for debate, condemnation, power, and our self-serving, empire-building ambitions—we would do well to admit it.

We Don’t Fully Trust Grace- Though we may pepper it into a message, counseling session, or the back page of a monthly newsletter, the thought of giving too much Grace haunts us. For many of us, Grace is a slippery slope that can tragically lead people into a spiritual ditch of rampant disobedience. It’s the bait that gets people into the door for what we believe is the real message, “repent, or else.” To many of us, Grace is what makes it possible for us to have a fighting chance at a relationship with God and eternity spent with Him as long as it’s followed with believing and doing the right spiritual things. Yet, people are quickly learning that apart from a life rested and centered solely on Grace, everything else requires pretending and hopeless striving, as our best efforts always fall short—if we’re willing to admit it. Where the Apostle Paul insists that it’s Grace alone that leads people to a change of mind and heart, and is the sole power to teach, guide, transform and enable us into all truth and right living, we quickly dismiss trusting the purity of his revelation. Instead, we frantically fumble through the other Scriptures desperately looking for a quick fix for our flesh—which always seems to need another “to do” list. We don’t fully trust Grace, the only power of God for life, change, and transformation, which is why we as a people and nation aren’t getting any better—actually worse, if you haven’t noticed. We would do well to admit it.

We Come Across as Arrogant- We have the truth, the one and only true religion, and everyone else is desperately wrong or “lost.” Believe like us, become like us, live like us, join us, and then you’ll be a legitimate and acceptable human. These are the kinds of attitudes and subtle messages many of us exude, intended or not, with our spiritual noses pointed high in the air. Somehow we have concluded that the way of Jesus is to demand and feel entitled to have our faith-understanding dominate in our communities, schools, society, nation, and world. “Those who are first will be last, and those who are last will be first” are words of Jesus that apparently don’t even render a blip on our spiritual radar screens. No wonder why so many people largely want to spit our pretentious, self-serving way of believing out of their mouths. The admirable amounts of serving, giving, and caring we certainly do are often eclipsed by our arrogant, privileged attitudes—many of which we are blinded in seeing by our pride, and sadly unwilling to admit. We come across as arrogant, and would do well to simply admit it.

We’re Mostly Faking It- It’s the people who don’t go to church who are perhaps the most authentic in their faith. They rightly conclude, they’ll never measure up nor be able to apply the principles, disciplines, and admonitions required for faithful living in just one sermon, let alone all the new ones listed the next Sunday. With a brand of Christianity like ours that is so performance driven, many realize that all they can do is pretend, feel guilty, tired, and ashamed—and they conclude that pretending, along with all its trappings, isn’t for them. What amount of sin adds up to a lifestyle of it? What amount of do-gooding adds up to faithfulness? What amount of trusting adds up to truly believing? What amount of prayer, studying, fellowship, and adoration amounts to being a true worshipper? What amount of faithfulness adds up to being a genuine Christian? The truth is, nobody really knows for sure, the playing field is always changing. Yet, one thing so many people absolutely discern is this, to be a player on our team you must first become a pretender who’s skilled at faking it. With a faith-understanding that places its success and legitimacy largely on our abilities, behavior, and capacity to belief correctly and adequately, we will always be people who, in truth, can do nothing more but mostly fake it. We would do well to admit it.

Church is Mainly About Us- The many expensive buildings that remain empty and unused most of the week. The worship services we fight over to embody our personal preferences. The inside rules, policies, handshakes, and politics we create to keep things under the control of a few, and to manage the rest. The big visions we cast to fulfill our ministry egos. The programs we program to stay in competition with our competitors down the street. The periodic mission trips and service projects we commission in ultimate hope of bringing people to us and our religion, all serve to confess a very clear confession—church is mainly about us. As much as we might, with beautiful intention, purpose ourselves on reaching the unchurched and being culturally relevant, if it all didn’t somehow increase our memberships, stroke our egos, fuel our budgets, and seemingly justify our lavish buildings and worship services, we probably wouldn’t be doing it. Perhaps instead of trying to cleverly and creatively package “church” as being mainly about serving outside people from of a pure altruistic agenda of love, we should just openly admit what so many already know to be true—church is mainly about us.

If We Don’t Have Hell and an Enemy, Our Purpose is Lost- What if Grace, who is Jesus, is truly the only answer and loving like Jesus is our only purpose? What if a hell of eternal torment for the unbelieving is actually more of a figment of our imaginations and a product of ancient infernos, mythology, and old-time religion than it ever has been truly biblical? What if all are in Christ from the very beginning? What if the enemy isn’t “them,” but it’s really “us?” What if, because of the cross, there isn’t an enemy at all? What if all of our spiritual warfare is nothing more than shadow-boxing for Jesus? What if hell is the unrestrained presence and force of Grace upon the religious, and heaven is the unrestrained presence and force of Grace upon the humbled and broken? What if our only purpose is to simply love, and love completely and unconditionally? So much of what we envision, plan, and do as Christians would be rendered ridiculous and counter productive. Pull out the cards of hell and an ever present enemy that needs to be conquered, condemned, and converted, and all comes tumbling down. Like a needle needs a vein, we need hell and a constant enemy, even if they don’t exist. We would do well to admit it.

We’re OK With Other People Not Being OK- The collateral damage caused by significant segments of our American brand of Christianity is something many of us have surrendered ourselves into tolerating and even justifying. Numb to the plight of those who find themselves on the hurting side of our faith, our overall mission to make the world believe, behave, and become like us has become for some, a goal we must achieve no matter the cost. Comfortable with adopting a view of God that is willing and just in leaving people behind to suffer and die for some kind of greater good, makes our Christian living one that easily embraces the same sentiment towards our fellow humanity. Because we believe, in the end, that God is OK with some people not being OK, many of us share the same callous way of being a so-called Christian. As much as we claim to embody and preach compassion, our compassion has limits and expiration dates as it bows down to a brand of Christianity that is capable of eating its own and leaving others behind to suffer in our wake. We would do well to admit it.

Before there can ever be unity, peace, and wholeness among us and from us, we must first become self-aware to the point we are willing to admit what so many others already know to be true.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Dear Anti-Gay, Trump Supporting, Bible Quoting Christian—Help Me Understand

I want to understand, I really do.

Yet, with nearly every headline and activity that involves President Trump, conservative Christianity, and the modern American church, I’m finding it increasingly difficult.

It’s all too apparent, you vehemently stand against the LGBTQ community, believing their sexualities in gender and orientation are willful evil choices in rebellion to your holy God and way of living. With methods like “Conversion Therapy,” you are convinced these human beings require serious repair, and their hope of returning to the sexual design you believe God has authored for all creation is simply a few prayer sessions and some spiritual intervention away. Condemning them to hell, insisting theirs is a life of sin, boycotting companies, bullying them with bathrooms, restricting and rejecting them in church, discriminating against them in society, and pursuing their overall eradication are tactics highly intrinsic to your faith understanding. Even a drastic suicide rate among transgender people largely at the hands of conservative Christianity, hardly, if ever, gives you pause—for some, even bringing delight.

With all due respect, help me understand. How could you possibly feel good, justified, and supported by Jesus in any of this?

With countless translations and different interpretations of the Bible—from Calvinism to Arminianism, from Universalism to Penal Substitution. With over 30,000 different denominations holding drastically different, biblical conclusions on basic issues like “salvation.” With the simple fact that the Greek words now biblically translated to mean “homosexual” were not translated as such until 1945. With a sure history of countless Christians convinced they held the scriptural truth while committing terrible atrocities in the name of God and biblical faithfulness. How on earth can you not be stricken, humbled, and entirely dismantled at the thought that you, with all your seemingly biblically-authored homophobic and transphobic attitudes and actions, could very likely be wrong—and not just wrong, but participating in evil?

The apostle Paul initially concluded that the Gospel excluded the Gentiles—wrong. John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, believed his theology was so pure and true that it justified the murder of his disagreers—wrong. Early conservative Christian American settlers believed God endorsed the pillaging and murdering of the American Indian—wrong. Conservative American Christians of the 19th and 20th centuries believed that according to the Bible, blacks were inferior humans who deserved discrimination and a life of brutal slavery, and marriage between a white and black person was an abomination—wrong. Many modern, conservative Christians still believe that women are a lesser vessel and should be restricted from certain roles in the church—you guessed it, wrong again.

How many times do we have to be so drastically and demonically wrong until we finally listen to the counsel of the biblical writer who admonished, “lean not on your own understanding?”

If it’s the sole job of the Holy Spirit to convict and convert, then with all due respect, what the hell are you doing and why isn’t all your barking, condemning, praying, and conversion therapies working? Wouldn’t it seem that perhaps your time would be better spent fixing your own fifty-percent divorce rate and gross levels of chosen obesity among conservative Christians, instead of brutally and arrogantly using the God-imaged LGBTQ community as your spiritual guinea pigs, while hoping to convince us you’re doing so to be “biblical” and faithful to Jesus?

Please, help me understand.

Isn’t it, at the very least, pure barbarianism to harbor a default position of condemnation when the “clear teachings of the bible” are clearly not so clear at all? If we can’t get something as simple as “salvation” settled and certain, how could you ever become so sure in your bigotry towards something so complicated as human sexuality?

Of course, I could be wrong, that’s a no brainer—which is why I choose to be purely loving, trusting God to go around me if need be. His grace is more than sufficient.

Help me understand, why isn’t that the sum of what you are doing?

It’s also all too apparent, you still support Donald Trump and rejoice that he is our president, praising his name and leadership.

Evidently, pussy-grabbing, sexism, xenophobia, adultery, racism, vulgarity, imperialism, lying, greed, and childish immaturity have suddenly become biblical traits for Godly leadership—of course, as long as your conservative faith-understanding and ideology is being nationalized as the American dream, right? That’s not hypocrisy, that’s spiritual creativity for the cause of Jesus in our country—excuse me as I vomit in disagreement.

Help me understand.

You say you want a Godly Christian country, yet it seems that every step you take towards the fruition of this ideal finds you completely ignoring and re-imaging Jesus. Has Christ been drop-kicked to the back seat and replaced with conservative, Evangelical Christianity? Help me understand.

You say you want one nation under God, yet you enthusiastically support a president who acts, leads, and carries himself in ways that are blatantly nothing like Jesus. He couldn’t even qualify to be the elder of your church, serve in the children’s ministry, or be trusted with the girl’s softball team, yet you adore him as the leader of our nation, which you say was founded on Christianity. Help me understand.

You say every person has the preexisting condition of a sinful, sin nature and therefore is in desperate need of Christian, spiritual healing. You say it’s your mission to bring the cure of Jesus to every person—fostering life, peace, joy and eternity for all. You say the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and God does not take delight in evil nor suffering. You say you worship the same Jesus who used the story of a Samaritan giving a strange foreigner free healthcare as an example of what it looks like to be truly living as a Christian. Yet, you support a president who has led the way in reducing and removing affordable healthcare for thousands of God-imaged people and tax-paying citizens, denying them coverage for preexisting conditions—sentencing them to a hopeless existence of pain, illness, and suffering. Help me understand.

You say “all lives matter” and that your faith-understanding is filled with compassion. Yet, you eagerly support a president whose values, desires, and policies are bent towards systematically displacing, deporting, and preventing foreigners and refugees from the safety, resources, and freedoms of our country.

You say that sacrifice, generosity, humility, and serving are hallmarks of your conservative faith, and that seeking the betterment of another even to the detriment of self is an important tenet of Christian living. Yet, you applaud a president who aggressively positions and extends our country into the world in some of the most arrogant, self-serving, power-seeking, and greedy ways—many of which calculate a loss for another at the expense of a win for us. Help me understand.

You say “it’s not the government’s job” when it comes to living out so many of the values of Jesus—human care, compassion, rights, and provision. Yet, ironically, so many of the things that support the nationalism and imperialism of your conservative faith-understanding suddenly have become critical, urgent, and needed governmentally-controlled responsibilities. Help me understand.

In a world that so desperately needs hope, peace, love, grace, and compassion, how is it that you can take such a person as Jesus who manifests it all so purely, and turn Him into a faith that is so blatantly obnoxious?

Dear anti-gay, Trump supporting, bible quoting Christian—help me understand.

Please, help me understand.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

 

photo: alyssa l. miller

A Letter From An Aborted Child To Their Mom

Dear Mom,

I know what you’re thinking, how can “I” possibly be speaking?

Everything has a voice.

Every cell in your body has a voice—a memory.

You think of me. Moments, thoughts, feelings, uncertainties, dreams, indecision, the unexpected—I will always be with you.

That’s a voice.

Maybe you didn’t hear me then—lots of distractions, pressures, decisions, competing voices. I understand, but perhaps you would hear me now.

A person is never the sum of a moment or period in their life—they are eternal.

A time, a stage, a segment of their life does not define them or whether they are in fact a “them.” The moment your egg and my father’s sperm united, eternity spoke its creative evaluation and decision that I am a person. Besides, there is no other outcome that orchestration signifies nor grows. Somehow, someway, God or no God, intended or not, positive or negative, the cosmos was aligned to bring me to be, a human. Not as an intention, or a future formation, even if just an egg and sperm together, I have always been a person. That whole conception thing may have been my beginning, but every person has a beginning that does not make them any less a person from the beginning. I was not a “leading to life,” but life from the beginning.

All of this is to say—mom, you have a child, it’s me.

I’m still alive. Both in you, as a memory, and in heaven as a person, for eternity.

You have a child. It’s me. I’m speaking.

Mom, please listen—please.

I want you to know, I understand. Maybe you feel deep regret, maybe it was a confusing time, maybe you didn’t care at all. I understand—life is so complicated.

Yes, I think about what could have been, as probably you do as well. It’s sad, it’s painful, it’s hard—but, I am alive.

I still have a voice.

I want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you that our eyes will meet one day. I can’t wait to wrap my arms around you, I practice for that moment with great anticipation.

I’m not angry with you, I don’t hold anything against you. In fact, Jesus and I have talked, and we both take great delight in you. Besides, on earth, who knows the mistakes I would have surely made, too many to count—reaching out for your patience, forgiveness, and long-suffering. Mom, I have nothing but love for you.

You are not less to me, you always have been more. It’s not about what could have been—it’s about what is, what can, and will be.

Mom, you have so much still to give, to share. You are so beautiful, especially to me.

I pray, in some way, my voice can speak through your voice.

Perhaps in that way, even now, we can be mother and child, together.

A voice of healing.

A voice of hope.

A voice, leading to better understanding.

A voice of clarity within the complexity.

A voice that speaks, from what at first was thought to have no speak.

I love you mom—always have, always will.

I am so proud of you—that you are my mom, always and forever.

I hope you hear me.

Love,

Me

Grace is brave. Be brave.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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