Tag: affirm

Life After Conservative Evangelical Christianity—Hope For Those Who Hurt

Many are those who have been hurt and harmed by conservative Evangelical Christianity. A walk through the haunted woods of right-wing religious America can be a painful, faith-stripping, and life-sucking experience. For some, it’s an alarming set of events that must transpire before their eyes are opened to the religious deceptions and evils they have endured, adopted, or perhaps have even empowered. Many within and outside of conservative Evangelical Christianity can attest to the victim or victimizer they have become as a result of the faith and practices of much of religious right-wing America.

For those who have been deceived into befriending or becoming the religious evils of conservative Evangelical Christianity—there is hope. For those whose lives have been devastated, their faith disillusioned, and their dignities raped at the hands of these same religious evils—there is hope.

Raise your head, open your heart, awaken your soul—there is sure and certain hope.

There is Grace Instead of Conditions- There is a Gospel that is devoid of fiery judgement, religious condemnation, guilt-trips, “to-do” lists, and people shaming. There is a Gospel where everyone is deemed equal, affirmed, included, and eternally loved and valued. There is a Gospel absent of an angry, vengeful God who requires the murder of His Son and the proper religious responses of His creation in order to forgive and save humanity. There is a Gospel where God loves unconditionally because that’s who He is and can do no other. There is a Gospel that stands against all violence, abuse, and idolatry, and yet, in all these things, is no less biblical. This Gospel is not a fad, a new theology, or some wayward heresy–it’s a person, and that person is Jesus who is pure Grace.

There is Jesus Outside of Church- There is a Jesus who is everywhere and in all things. He is not exclusive to any one location, nation, group, orientation, gender, skin color, tradition, ideology, political party, or even faith system—He is all and in all, nowhere can He be found missing. He is not in public schools only if the people within them are praying or the Bible is being read. He can’t be summoned, controlled, or enticed into favoritism. As much as one may encounter Him in Church, they can encounter Him anywhere and in all things—if they have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that is willing. Jesus isn’t just in Church or into Church people, nor a building, or a service—He’s in everyone, everywhere, and everything. He’s into all humanity.

There is Community Beyond a Congregation- Where church congregations are largely organized around agreed beliefs, values, preferences, and purpose, true community is found deeper where all beliefs are honored, love is most highly valued, and purpose is centered on mutual respect, compassion, and human service—diversity is prized, not feared. People love, not out of religious obedience or faith obligation, but because it is who they are and the full essence and nature of the God they worship. No greater form of community is found than at the Jesus-table that extends far beyond the confines of many a congregation into the realm where people simply intersect with people—anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. The planet becomes our sanctuary, loving people becomes our worship service, and all humanity our congregation—no one is excluded, no walls needed.

There is Love without Restriction or Restraint- No more sizing people up or pre-qualifying expressions of Grace. No more wondering and fearing that you could love too much—if that ever could be a thing. No more conditions, fine-print, or exemptions. No more relational distancing out of religious obligations. No more “hate the sin, love the sinner” in order to desensitize your soul and justify condemnation and hate. No more saying “no” when everything in your spirit is saying “yes.” No more separating “truth” and “love” because your heart has been awakened to the revelation “the Truth is Love and Love is the Truth”—one in the same of the blessed Trinity. No more holding back, shrinking back, or turning back—only giving back as God has first given love to you—without restriction or restraint.

There is Freedom above Conformity- There is a spiritual growth that knows no limits and has no bounds. The goal is not conformity to a set of beliefs and convictions, but effortlessly becoming all that you already are by the Grace of Jesus. It’s founded on a trust and declaration that God is bigger than our best thoughts, ideas, conclusions, behaviors, and confessions. His desire is not that we land in a place of determined theological correctness, but that we open our sails to the Spirit to take us wherever Grace might lead us. That we listen to His voice speaking with fresh revelation fills His heart with delight far more than to see our heads buried in pages and verses. You are a free-living, free-thinking, free-aspiring creation and God loves to see you embracing freedom fully.

There is Safety and Strength In Divine Affirmation- You have no one to fear nor owe anyone an explanation. God perfectly loves you and embraces you completely. He affirms you no less than His gaze into a mirror—you are the image of the Divine Creator. Your value and worth have been predetermined. His love, approval, and acceptance or irrevocable and unchanging. That He created you is more than enough to hug you with an embrace that is eternally unbreakable. No ones opinion, voice, declaration, proof-text, or sermon should even begin to matter compared to the ultimate statement of God on your behalf, “it is finished.” God’s love for you—done deal. God’s delight in you—done deal. God’s affirmation of you—done deal. God’s salvation for you—done deal. As is, whoever you are. All is Grace, one and done—you are an unstoppable force of the Father. You are the revival God is bringing to the earth.

There is Forgiveness For The Enemy- To take the highroad and live to love again is not only the cry of your soul but the empowerment you become—free from all that is religious. Never becoming the evil done against you while standing firm to your truth is the beautiful balance centered upon your heart. No longer can one drag you into meaninglessness nor bring out in you a person foreign to grace and graciousness. Even the worst of that done against you is gleaned of its lessons but neutered of its power to possess. Confronted by and collided with a forgiveness that is unlimited compels you to free yourself from the shackles of unforgiveness, that you might never become your own worst enemy. What the evils of religion have stolen from you will become your mandate to no longer give them headspace nor power through being imprisoned to their hate. You refuse to hold onto bitterness, the desire for revenge, or the expectation of change. Those who forgive freely are those who are truly free and show themselves to be fully rescued out of the shadows of conservative Evangelical Christianity.

There is Purpose in the Pain- Standing, resisting, crying out in fierce solidarity. Giving voice to the voiceless, listening where no ears have been willing. Defending and proclaiming the sacred value of all the discarded. Living with a bravery of epic proportions that only a heart captured by Grace could compel. Shouting for equality where there is none. Ranting for justice where there is none. Chasing evils out of their shadows where they have long resided unchallenged. These are the places where one finds the deepest purpose in life—to be fully yourself and fight on behalf of those who know not that joy. Taking the pain of your oppression and the story of your plight that it might empower another to overcome and discover true life.

Don’t give up.

Don’t give in.

There is always hope.

There is always righteous resistance.

There is always the awakening to a new day and a new way.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

What’s It Going To Take? A Pastor’s Plea To Affirm LGBT

You are a good person, perhaps a Christian. Maybe even a leader or a pastor. Your heart is to follow Jesus and to be faithful to His purposes. The important things you are accomplishing for the cause of Christ haven’t gone unnoticed. You’re living out your faith with noble intentions from the framework of your experience, understanding, and conviction.

Yet, there are issues in life that change the course of history, starting with the challenging of our own creeds and spiritual assumptions. The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender realities being one of those, especially within Christian circles.

For some, you are familiar with terms like LGBT. Others, your awareness is more centered on homosexuality in contrast to heterosexuality. When it comes to sexual and gender manifestations, there is a large expanse. It’s complicated stuff, with lots of moving parts. All of us having a certain level of understanding, if nothing more than how charged, difficult, costly, and controversial these issues can be.

Maybe you have already drawn your conclusions, carved a line in the sand. It’s all an abomination. The clear teachings of the Bible make it perfectly clear. Any other theological landing point is a slippery slope to hell. Nothing is going to move you, sway you, or alter your view.

That was me. The pastor who could look out upon a congregation. With no restraint, no hesitation, no pumping of the breaks. Telling those gathered in my polished preacher’s voice, it’s all a sin and unless met with repentance, every last one of them are on a fast track to hell. Gladly receiving the high-fives from those who agreed.

Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. I understand exactly where you are at.

Maybe you are questioning. It’s all a bit fuzzy to you. You see both sides, swinging from one end to the other. Looking down at the fall between the two trapeze. To grasp for the other side, making the leap, the blood wells up in your head, your breath is constricted in horror. You gaze ahead to the relational dominoes that would crash to the floor if people knew just the doubts you were having, let alone the new position you might be taking. The deconstruction of your faith, the footings of your creed. If only it would all just go away. Indecision, straddling the fence. It’s all too much. So, you just keep swinging.

That was me. The pastor trying to stand for everything, and therefore standing for nothing, and with no one. Lukewarm and loving it.

Been there, done that. The middle ground is the lowest ground.

Maybe deep within, you believe in God’s affirming heart for LGBT people. You have studied it out, covered the chalkboard with new equations, new summations, new conclusions. Like Nicodemus, in the dark of night, you have come to Jesus. Learned His heart. Yet, it’s your secret stance. Only known by you, perhaps a few others. Adding up the costs, the conversations to take place, the meetings to meet with, the look in people’s eyes, the locking of their wallets, the removal of their memberships. The de-friending, the demonizing, the de-humanizing. The firing, the resigning, the transitioning. The tally on the receipt, the numbers that result… it’s too much. The cost is just too much.

That was me. The pastor, who with money he didn’t have, planted a church, starting with seven people. Nurtured it, fed it, changed its diapers. Knowing full well, just a year in, if people knew my true heart, it might die. I could lose everything. Friendships, family, systems that held me together, clients in my bi-vocational work.

But then, the awakening. Truth. Jesus. God’s heart.

Christian, do you realize the spiritual, emotional, and physical torture LGBT people experience, almost exclusively at the hands of our Christianity? Thousands of gay and lesbian people commit suicide every year. Others, walk a daily living hell of discrimination, hate, bullying, violence, abuse, marginalization, and condemnation. A staggering 41% of transgender people attempt suicide because of societal non-acceptance.

Certainly, that has to bother you, at least register a blip on your radar screen, does it not?  No, maybe it’s not happening in your leather-bound, steeple-topped world, but it’s happening in God’s world. And quite frankly, He’s pissed and so am I.

Can you even begin to imagine what’s that like? Every moment of every day, dehumanized and demonized. A breath among them is rarely taken without a whiff of pungent bigotry stinging every fiber of their being, burning clear down to their souls.

Folks, this is disgusting, outrageous, and dripping with pure evil. And who are the ones leading this frontal of death towards the LGBT community?

Christians, that’s who.

Do you realize the Bible, particularly in regards to LGBT, isn’t nearly as clear as you think it is? It’s not the slam dunk we have swallowed as truth. There is only one Word of God, Jesus. The rest our words about God requiring deep contextualization, discernment, and evaluation. Those six verses that we cling to, seemingly condemning LGBT people, are at best a house of cards. We’re slinging marshmallows, arming them are missiles.

But chances are, you won’t hear any of that. The fingers in our ears feel safer. The reality that you, and a whole spiritual system within Christianity could be completely wrong, is perhaps just too much for your pride and faith arrogance to compute. So excuse me, if while you smoke your unnatural cigarettes, sign your unnatural divorce papers, and stuff your faces with all kinds of unnatural, I get a little smirk on my face when you try to get all Bible on me, preaching to me how “unnatural” those LGBT people are.

I know. You think from where you sit, it’s your job to tell the LGBT community the error of their ways, the consequences of their choices. Eternity is in the balance. Sadly, that’s what love looks like to you. But that’s not what Jesus looked like to anybody. You are going to have to re-image Him into a vehicle of your own agenda to arrive at a spiritual license for your condemnation, judgement, self-righteousness, and hate. Sure, you can proof-text a couple passages into compliance, but you’ll never contextualize Jesus and justify that evil prowess.

Christian, do you realize, the LGBT community is not a manifestation of choice or decay, but of God’s delighted design. They didn’t sign up for this like a gym membership. There is no upgrade God is downloading, a change that God is desiring. He didn’t make a mistake. There is nothing to improve, overcome, or revamp.

These are human people. Living, heart-beating, lung-expanding, emotion-feeling people. Beautifully and wonderfully made by the artistry of the Master.

But perhaps that river of revelation hasn’t flowed to the banks of your spirituality. Why? Because you haven’t listened, you haven’t truly befriended, you haven’t humbly sat at the feet of the LGBT community, washing, serving, beholding. You haven’t looked into the eyes of their soul, stood under waterfall of their struggles, internalized their suffering. And therefore, you have missed Jesus, the Living Water, right within your midst. You have become the very people who have received Him not. Leaving your mind, your heart, your faith unchanged, hardened by your unwillingness to repent in response to the kindness, goodness, and holiness of God created in every LGBT person.

The Holy Spirit is charging into the temple of our Christianity, flipping the tables, revealing the truth that in the spiritual x-ray of all that is LGBT, we are in fact the cancer, we are the sin, we are the abomination… not them. And most tragic of all, the wages of our sin has become their death. The wages of our ignorance, the wages of our silence, the wages of our complacency. The wages of our bench sitting, comfort idolizing, spiritual pride, and cowardice… everyday, becomes their death.

Whoever you are, wherever you are at, I am not asking you to go against your conscience, but for Christ’s sake, I am asking you to open your conscience to the transformation of the Holy Spirit.

For the love of God, listen to your heart, listen to the voice of Jesus.

If God, in scripture, affirms the wild donkey that serves no redeeming purpose, the Ostrich that sucks at parenting. Just because they breathe, He pours at His full delight and pride. How much more does He affirm all of humanity, His best idea, one-of-a-kind created in His image? That’s reason enough for the God of the universe to love unconditionally, affirm unlimitedly… just because we breathe.

What’s it going to take?

How many more LGBT people have to commit suicide, begging for life to end? How many more LGBT people have to crawl through this living Hell, tasting the ever constant spit of Satan upon their face as he uses Christians to mouthpiece his declaration that God hates them. How many more LGBT people have to breathe their last, foaming from the mouth in the stranglehold of bullies and bigots? How many more parents of LGBT have to weep until their eyes bleed. Fearing for their children’s lives. Closing the drapes, curling up into the fetal position, all but giving up. How many more LGBT souls condemned, lives destroyed, families broken apart, faiths unraveled? How many more LGBT people have to die at the altar of our Christianity?

What’s it going to take?

But what about my reputation, what about my congregation, what will my family and friends say?

I say to you, who gives a shit? Don’t you get it? Lives are at stake. This is not a joke. We Christians have gotten this completely, emphatically wrong. Search you soul, deep down, you know you have tasted the poison we are pimping as fruit.

While you are dreaming of your future, keeping your ministry aspirations alive, holding on for a life of financial security, family peace, and basic hopes and comforts. There is a whole group of LGBT people dreaming they don’t wake up tomorrow, praying on their hands and knees to die. That’s their dreams.

For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. He went the distance, risked everything, did whatever it took. What was the joy? The full affirmation, the full salvation of all, you and me, just as we are, beautifully and wonderfully made. One and done on the cross. You don’t die for that which you don’t first love and affirm.

So I ask you, what is the object of your joy? Is it your wallet, your pay check, your church attendance, your friendships, family, reputation, ministry? Is that the ultimate, deepest object of your joy?

For Jesus, it was the least of these. The broken, the marginalized, the condemned, the hurting, the discarded, the bullied. Those drifting in the sea of injustice.

Isn’t that enough for you? The life, the wellbeing of a mutual, human being. Their dignity, their divinity?

What’s it going to take? Tell me. I’ll write, pay it, do it.

Your affirmation of what God already has, could be the difference-maker in a life. Hope where there was no hope. Changing everything.

Desmond Tutu said it this way…

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

James, the brother of Jesus said it this way…

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

Jesus said it this way…

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

What’s it going to take?

For some, it’s already too late.

But for others, before it’s too late… I beg you, affirm what God already has.

Grace is brave, be brave.

Affirm.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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