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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Comments

  1. Hi Chris, awesome letter! Check us out! Come visit us if you ever visit our fair city!

    http://www.downtowndisciples.org/

    Evangeline

  2. Chris! This almost made me cry when I read it. I am having such a hard time trying to put into words how I feel about everything that is going on around me with the people I deal with every single day. Well, you just did that! I mean, you really did. I see the “holier than thou” attitudes every single day. I see the folks who totally believe the fallacy of inerrancy every single day. I see people who say “love the sinner, hate the sin” every single day. I never know what to do, or how to deal with it. Your words are so good, I am going to read them again, right now. THANK YOU CHRIS!!!! oh, one little thing….. determent should be detriment…. that’s just the old secretary proofreader coming out in me! 🙂

    • ckratzer

      June 28, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      Thank you so much, it’s an honor be on this journey with you! Let’s be brave together! Thanks for the edit too, hate how I can look at something a gazillion times and still miss something! 🙂

  3. Chris….You have managed to find the words I have felt for so many years about these types of people. I feel for the first time the strength to share one of my sad stories at the hand of one of these “so-called” Christians. I had a good friend who truly had a Christian heart and “lived” a Christian lifestyle–until she got involved with a new “Christian” start up church. She saw no signs of the negative changes coming over her as she became more involved in this church. I think perhaps it could have been due to the fact that her husband had been unfaithful to her many times throughout the years and she finally had the strength to separate briefly. But then her teenage son started dating the daughter of this “so-called” minister, who was just beginning to set up this church, and her husband began getting involved with her. I think this made her so happy that she could not see the “Self-righteous” Christian she began turning into. What’s so sad is that she really was a much truer Christian prior to her involvement with this church. It’s not just the personal loss of a friend that hurts, but others have used the term “cult” to describe this “so-called” church (which ironically was the first thing I thought of after I accepted her invitation to attend once). This minister then posted a very caustic statement regarding our President of the US (he didn’t know ‘outsiders’ could see it–but he set it to ‘private’ shortly afterwards). I mentioned (kindly) to her that his words weren’t exactly the behavior of a minister. When she came up with a very lame excuse for what he said I knew she was too far gone. After that she never heard called or contacted me again. I do hope God will speak to her someday to bring her back to Him, and open her eyes to become the REAL Christian she had once been.

    • ckratzer

      July 10, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      Gina, thanks so much for sharing this story. I can certainly understand and feel your pain. I am so sorry this has happened to you, nothing hurts more perhaps than a lost relationship due to the claws of religion pulling us apart.

  4. Hey Chris,

    For the first time in a long time I’m not going to church at all. Period. I’m not finished with Jesus, in fact, there are moments where I cry out to Him to help me through my life. But my association with “church world” there is a seperation, not a divorce, but a “I’m tired of living a lie” sort of moment in my faith.

    Maybe it started with my friend coming out to me as a lesbian; maybe it started with the interpretation of the church regarding sexuality and what works in the real life; maybe its the people I met who didn’t go to church and finding they were not demon possessed people but folks who had a better grip on life than I did. I guess I am at a point where I’m detoxing myself from the life of a conservative Christian, allowing grace to take hold and walking in it, and learning what my boundaries are in the first place.

    I wish I can say I’m a little less prudish, but I tend to be. I tend to be more of a peacemaker and I think beer is a good thing for me, but with moderation. I guess to sum up where I’m at is I’m done with the rule keeping, the scare tactics, and the requirements of faith and more about just getting through each day knowing God is with us while making sense of how this sad and tragic world works while finding the good in it.

    Does this make sense?
    Thank for the write! I’m definitely sharing this with others trust me.

    • ckratzer

      July 19, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Eddy, what you say makes complete sense, and to be sure, you are not alone my friend!

    • Eddy, I thought your reply to Chris’ writing was profound and meaningful, and I so appreciate you sharing it with all of us who read Chris’ deeply important commentary. Your reply made me feel connected to the world in a good way. Thank you for keeping yourself and your life authentic and heartful (I know, “heartful” is not a real word, but it seems appropriate).

      Peace and Blessing, Eddy

    • Yes Eddy…hopefully you can tell by Chris’, Evangeline’s and now my reply, it will confirm to you that it does make sense to us–and probably to many more than just us three. Church is not a building, it’s not even necessarily an ordained minister. In fact, the Bible says we are ALL ministers if we believe. And, in my experience, MOST people who preach in the conservative manner have never read the Bible. Ask them–They are dumbfounded when you actually ask (which I have had the nerve to do several times in my life)! I read the Bible (in fact, I’ve read it maybe about 30 times now)–and much of what they ‘preach’ isn’t even Biblical–and some of what is, they take out of context! And the truth is that there are NO original versions of the Bible available. (well, we say “Bible” as one book, but there are 66 books in most King James’ versions of Bibles). Then King James–a well-known misogynist–changed much of the text and excluded much of it as well–especially those regarding women. These are facts–not my opinion. Keep believing what you believe. I can assure you, by what you wrote, that you know the real God more than most of them do. Some people may not like what I said. So I’ll just say to them…..”Read any of the entire (American English study) Bibles and interpret it yourself!!”

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