Tag: affirming

Trump, LifeWay, and Eugene Peterson—Conservative Evangelicalism Personified

Life has a way of putting things right in front of us—if we’re willing to see them.

Though much has been said in attempt to cast light on the true essence and nature of conservative Evangelicalism, perhaps nothing in all the universe speaks more clearly than when it all gets personified so poignantly in human flesh. Look no further, search no longer—Trump, LifeWay Christian Stores, and Eugene Peterson are conservative Evangelical Christianity in living color. They serve as both a window into the true desires and ethos of right-wing Christianity, and a mirror giving an honest reflection, if only its adherents should dare to look within.

Debate all you want about President Donald Trump, at the end of the day, he bares a strong resemblance not unlike that of many a conservative Evangelical pastor, leading with a male-driven patriarchal sexism and a vision of personal power, imperialism, and greed—all spiritually justified of course, and often at the expense of the “least of these.” As a former Evangelical pastor myself, I know it all too well. It begins with good intention and the best of aspirations, but quickly the tractor-beams of the Evangelical Death Star can’t be overtaken. Slowly, but surely, the erosion overcomes.

There’s no denying, much of conservative pastoral leadership has adopted some of the most cruel, immoral, anti-Jesus, and evil behaviors and attitudes on the planet. Brutally lording over people, insisting on ones own way, demanding allegiance, fear-mongering, childishness, blatant double standards, and putting character and truth aside as long as you’re willing to be a player in the Evangelical game. Keeping it all predominantly white, male, Evangelically conservative, privileged, and culturally dominant are some of its greatest unwritten leadership priorities. Inside handshakes, closed-door meetings, all conspiring on how to quickly demonize, marginalize, and even give exit to nearly any barrier or perceived enemy. Virtually nothing is off the table when it comes to defending and taking territory in the name of conservative Evangelicalism. Bullying, shaming, emotional abuse, spiritual exploitation, and political adultery—no matter how overt or subtle, is all spiritual justified by a militant, vengeful, intolerant, gun-carrying, homophobic, hell-addicted, sexist, racist, and imperialistic distortion of Jesus.

No wonder why so many couldn’t help themselves but to elect him as President, for chances are, he most closely resembles their local conservative Evangelical pastoral leadership. Nearly everything you see in our President Donald Trump is hauntingly intrinsic to much of conservative Evangelicalism—especially its leadership. Want to know what it feels like to be under the mantle of many a conservative Evangelical Church? Ask yourself this simple question, how does it feel to be under the leadership of President Donald Trump?

Feel a bit uncomfortable or believe it’s unfair for me to make this kind of comparison? May I ask you a simple question—then why did you elect him President? If he makes you embarrassed or is lessor in character, maturity, and vision in comparison to your pastor, why do you still vehemently support him? Besides, by your own faith understanding and declaration, wasn’t he sent by God—appointed by the Father, as are all leaders? Not just to merely be your pastor, but to be the President of the only nation you declare is under God—how much more important and requiring is that?

LifeWay Christian Stores is a revealing display and manifestation of the state of many a conservative Evangelical church. With it’s consumer-driven franchising of Jesus and their unique conservative brand, it centers itself around preserving its future, protecting conformity, and paying the bills—sounds a lot like “church” of most any flavor.

One is most certainly welcome to come and buy all you can, they’ll gladly take your cash—no questions asked. They might even let you sweep the floor or take out the trash—if you’ll put on one of their logo-embroidered t-shirts, of course. Yet, try to become a valued contributing part of their community, and you’ll find an endless supply of tests, hoops, and checkpoints you’ll have to pass. For, at the end of the day, Jesus is big business, and there’s a lot of right-wing conservatives to please and lost people with money to spend.

Giving Christians and the spiritually vulnerable more and more to do, consume, become, believe, fear, and achieve is an evil religious concoction not many can resist. In fact, they’ll lay down a lot of dough to keep up with the latest Christian trends and make doubly sure, they’re being faithful enough and becoming successful for Jesus. LifeWay, and many a conservative Evangelical church, have mastered both creating the addiction and seductively pimping the drug that feeds it. In fact, put a worship service in your local LifeWay Christian store, and you’ll hardly know the difference.

Yet, perhaps most telling of all, is how they shoot their wounded and send those they deem to be wayward to the curb. Just ask Jennifer Hatmaker, to be sure. For nothing resembles many a conservative Evangelical church more than big business, demanded conformity, self-preservation, consumerism, and the eating of their own.

Enter Eugene Peterson, a gentle, humble, wise, and good Christian man who has greatly contributed to the evangelical Christian community through his famed leadership, writing, and teaching. As is characteristic of most every member of your typical conservative Evangelical Church, his intentions have always been noble and His pursuit of truth and the growing of His relationship with Jesus undeniably genuine.

Yet, when recently, his spirituality grew to a place it colored outside conservative Christian lines by affirming gay marriage, he experienced the full wrath and weight of the monster that is conservative Evangelicalism. Quickly, he became the fear-driven church member that is imprisoned by the shackles of conservative ideology. Like countless others, his free-thinking theological transition of belief was met with punishment, shaming, excommunication, and threats. No matter his reasoning, biblical revelation. or honesty with it all, he was nailed to the cross and fearfully enticed to surrender and come down—or else.

In fact, LifeWay Christian Stores pledged to remove his books—go figure. Websites were swiftly created to denounce and demonize him—surprise, surprise. The biggest question many conservatives asked wasn’t, “What can we learn?,” “Is he onto something?,” or “How can we find a positive way to agree to disagree?” No, it was, “Can we still read his stuff and be seen as genuine Christians?” God help us all—that this is the kind of atrocious people we have become.

Sadly, instead of standing strong and going the full distance of resistance, Eugene Peterson, like many others, buckled under the pressure in compliance with Evangelical conformity and tradition. In fact, he threw in the towel and retracted it all—a suspiciously sudden change from his recent gay-affirming position. In the end, it seems he must have concluded, the cost is too costly to pay. In Eugene Peterson, we need not look any further, this is the hell, this is what it looks like to be a conservative Evangelical Christian and a prisoner of its machine—with seemingly no way out.

As hard as it may be to hear, it’s even harder to say.

Everything you need to know about the truth of much of conservative Evangelical leadership, church-life, and membership can be tragically found in this sad trifecta—Trump, LifeWay, and Eugene Peterson.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

To Those Hurt By Franklin Graham And His Supporters

There’s is no denying the hurtful, deplorable words recently communicated by Franklin Graham to the LGBT community.

His timing, message, and condemning posture are extremely disappointing and disturbing at best. The hateful march of many of his supporters rallying around their captain has left ditches full of casualties, shot at point-blank range with fiery darts of condemnation, hate, and judgment.

Yet Franklin Graham and his supporters are a symptom and product of a much deeper cancer in our Christian culture, the Evangelical highjacking of the Gospel, God, and what it means to follow Jesus. Until this spiritual disease in our nation is healed and the heart of Christ reclaimed, this religious spirit will continue to spread and spew its vomit. Hurting, harming, misleading, and destroying the lives of many in its path.

For those of us who are of the LGBT community or allies thereof, these are difficult times requiring great courage, honesty, togetherness, patience, faith, and Grace. Now more than ever, it’s time to be brave.

There is real hurt, pain, and hardship caused by those who would use Jesus to spiritually justify their bigotry, hate, and the pimping of a Gospel that is no Gospel at all. Never apologize nor shrink back from your cries being cried and your voices being heard. We must never become the evil done against us. We are a people of love because God is love. But that does not mean for us to be silent, or perfectly varnished in our feelings or even in our expressing. Jesus confronted the religious spirit of His day openly and honestly, and we are no less Jesus in our doing so.

In fact, in two instances, Jesus is specifically recorded as becoming angry. Not violent, but angry. Both times, at people who interestingly enough, were withholding Grace.

It is indeed right and salutary that we should be emotional, even carefully confrontational where we see Grace withheld, and condemnation and judgment its replacement. Opening wide the floodgates, with honesty in our sails. Yet, all a river leading us to become servants, lovers of our enemies, compassion overflowing. A stream that cannot be stopped, because love is unstoppable. For that is the gift of an enemy, that we learn to love anyway. Furiously and fearlessly.

Even as we hurt, even as we cry, even as we confront, even as we defend, even as we are crucified, we love anyway. Washing the very feet of those who would stomp on ours.

Please understand, Franklin Graham’s voice and those of his supporters, do not represent the Gospel nor Jesus. That is my opinion. His words, their words, are nothing like Him, nor the Gospel He brings. For God is love, Jesus is Grace, and His message is peace. Love, unconditionally without conditions. All affirmed, all included, all delightfully delighted in Him and by Him.

Just imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham. Immersed in a religious system at such a level that few ever have the discernment or courage of heart from which to break free. Constantly placing the footings of his faith, life, relationship with God and self on his performance. Forever being preoccupied with sin management, rule-following, and closeness-keeping with God. Imagine, the daily spiritual struggle and unrest in his life. Always having to live up to spiritual expectations, sleeping with one eye open, justifying and medicating shame with self-righteousness. Believing in a Gospel where God loves you… but. If you don’t do this, or you do that, all could be as nothing. A God whose justice, holiness, and love look like the eternal torture of billions of people who simply didn’t follow certain prescribed religious steps and expectations. Where there is no room for incongruent thinking, spiritual exploration beyond the tracks. Where you never get to fully love without restraint. There is always a governor affixed to the pedal of your heart. I love you… but. Just imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham.

I, and others, have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt. And I can tell you it’s a living hell that you’re fooled to believe is heaven.

The more Franklin Graham and his supporters speak, the more our hearts should be filled with deep sadness, even compassion. If it hurts so much for us to hear him, imagine what it feels like to be him. For the language he speaks out, is first the language he echoes to himself, believing God first decreed it. And perhaps there is not greater hell then self-condemnation, growing full term into religion, all the while believing its the best of heaven. Imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham. We are getting a mere taste of his reality.

Be doubly assured, God is working in Franklin Graham’s life just as He is with you and me. Not through punishment, fear, guilt-trips, manipulation, rules, or condemnation. All through Grace.

In the same way, we can be, we must be… a manifestation and message of Grace to him.

Especially as it hurts, even as it hurts. Where life is a cross, not a couch. This is when Grace is most convincing.

To hurt and to give Grace at the same time, is to be fully human, fully Jesus. On the cross, blood flowing down, agony upon agony, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Grace upon Grace.

For Grace is the only thing that changes anything and anyone. Grace wins where everything else does not and cannot.

At the heart of Grace is… forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what Franklin Graham has said is now somehow true or acceptable. It doesn’t mean what he has done, is somehow now approvable. It doesn’t mean the hurt should somehow now be instantly removable; the anger subsided, and the injustice now somehow justified. It doesn’t mean any of that. For him or anyone else beside him.

It does mean, however, we emotionally release the false-accusers in our lives of the debt they owe that they cannot or will not repay.

Franklin Graham and those among him, they owe, and they owe big time. An apology, innocence returned, sleepless nights re-slept, tears removed, depressions lifted, tragedies averted. They owe big time. We all have our list.

Yet chances are, they cannot or will not repay. That apology is not coming. The affirmation is not coming. The compassion is not coming. The change of heart and mind… not coming.

Forgiveness means we no longer live with the bitterness, longing, and emptiness that comes from the expecting, even the demanding of a return. It gives us the power to be free, to never let the lack of integrity in another become the lack of integrity in us. To sing choruses crying, “It is well with my soul” not because it is necessarily all well with them, but forgiveness has necessarily made it all well in us. They no longer rent space in our heads, nor can their words unravel what God has knit together. Forgiveness has developed our immunity from the false-accusers within our faith. For we know who we are, and Whose we are. Beautifully and wonderfully made, the divine artistry of our Maker.

Forgiveness is releasing our offender only to realize we were the prisoner.

Franklin Graham, to all who gather around him, we love you as is. There is no condemnation for you, not from God, not from me, not from us. You are unconditionally loved without conditions. None of us are better, only different. We consider you, and all among you, cherished members of the family, completely included and affirmed.

To those who have been hurt by Franklin Graham and his supporters, walk with confidence today, that you are loved, affirmed and celebrated by your Father in heaven. Your LGBT child is loved, affirmed, and celebrated by your Father in heaven. Nothing to change, nothing to be rearranged. No sin, no darkness within. None.

You are secure in His arms of approval and pride. You are the joy set before Him, His affections are ever upon you. Unmovable and undeniable.

Lift up your head, lift up your head I say! You are the revival God is bringing to the world.

For such a time as this, you were born.

Be brave!

Love furiously and fearlessly.

Be brave!

Don’t Homophobe Me, If You Don’t Know Me

Since becoming a defender, advocate, and voice for the LGBT community, I have been the toilet in which many have squatted their negative feedback. There is nothing like a good online, comment-section spanking. Or, walking through a local store only to bump into the disapproving glares of those who were once friends.

Yet, my experience, just four months into this gay-affirming, homosexual-loving journey as a pastor, dwarfs in comparison to what the LGBT community endures every moment of every day.

Sadly, the emotional, spiritual, and even physical carnage caused to supporters and members of the homosexual community is almost exclusively generated by Christians. Go figure.

Even more disturbing is the glaring reality that Christians who take a condemning posture against homosexuals and homosexuality, often have little to no personal, relational connection with people in this demographic. They harbor great energy and willingness to condemn homosexuality intellectually and biblically, but distance themselves from any personal interaction of meaning and journey with homosexual people. Keeping everything in the comfortable and familiar confines of debate land.

This is a deeply troubling reality. Ideas, creeds, perspectives, and alike are all very important. Yet, in my experience, debate is primarily used by those who simply want to assert opinions and convince themselves they have position over another. It is the mind games of small minds. Loaded with information, lacking in transformation. Debate is an effective way of dealing with the issues without the issues dealing with you.

Nowhere is this more evident than with homosexuality. Hiding behind laptop screens. Endless circular arguments. Statistics, studies, and biblical texts, keeping the heart at a comfortable, sterile distance. Church committee task forces, Sunday sermons bent on defending long-held positions. All requiring little to no soul process, faith, and receptivity to the Spirit. As Jesus admonished, one can diligently search the scriptures, debate issues of the mind, defend human, hermeneutic tradition and completely miss the heart of Christ at same time.

Perhaps that’s the whole idea. Heaven forbid Jesus gets in the way of our ignorance, bigotry and misguided theologies.

In fact, I’ve come to a place in my own ministry where with some people who want to criticize and debate me in regards to homosexuality, I enforce what I call “The Rule of Six.” Before I am willing to take one step further in debating the mere six bible passages relating to homosexuality, I suggest the person first develop genuine, meaningful relationships with six homosexual people. There’s a revolutionary concept.  As those relationships emerge, there is a much better chance we can come back to the biblical texts with an open mind and heart, ready to consider afresh the Spirit of God on this matter. No, it’s not a hard and fast rule, but the idea is extremely important.

Until you have a truly genuine, open-hearted relational connection to homosexual people, you disqualify yourself from the debate, and from a position of criticism and condemnation of gay people and their supporters.

Don’t homophobe me if you don’t know me.

Have you taken the journey of a homosexual? No.

Have you taken the journey of a person who has become a gay-affirming, homosexual loving pastor? No.

Have you truly immersed your heart into the stories and experiences of people who are homosexual? Probably not.

Have you thoroughly studied out the issue of homosexuality, openly listening to voices that speak directly against your anti-gay stance and biblical interpretations? Probably not.

Chances are, you don’t know homosexuals, you don’t me, and you really don’t know this issue. You may know of them, you may know of me, you may know of this issue. But you do not know, because you do not know.

The longest distance between two points is a shortcut. And try as we may, there are no shortcuts with homosexuality.

The truth is, it’s only when we humbly connect with homosexuals and homosexuality at a personal level that minds begin to change from the heart outward. Only then, do we become willing to rethink long-held thoughts. Only then, do we start looking for ways to affirm instead of ways to condemn. Only then, will what we see and hear in front of us, through the stories and journeys of living, breathing gay people, show itself to be nothing like our spoon-fed biblical view of homosexuality.

I know, you can’t wait to write in the comment section below that it’s not necessary to look at other vantage points, nor engage in meaningful relationships with homosexual people for you to know God’s heart on the matter. It’s all so clear to you, and such things are below you.

Maybe you should pump the brakes a bit, because that’s what Paul, the biblical writer thought. In the limited landscape of his perspective and experience, at one point, he had determined that it was “unnatural” for the Gentiles to be included in the Kingdom. However, upon further information and personal experience, he later determined otherwise. Completely changing his view. He realized, he was wrong. Thank God, because guess what? We’re the Gentiles.

See, it’s easy to take shots at people we aren’t willing to sit down with. Condemn things we don’t fully understand, and reject that which challenges the very foundations of our spirituality, humanity, and theology.

There are a lot of string attached and a lot at stake. The costs of being a gay-affirming, homosexual loving person can be great.

Yet, at the end of the day, at least have the integrity to study the issue out, going far beyond the intellectual all the way to seeing through the eyes and heart of homosexual people and the LGBT community.

I double-dog dare you. Walk a mile or two in their shoes. Open your soul, humble your mind, build some relationships for crying out loud. Then, and only then, wherever you land at any given point, you do so from a genuine, humble journey of listening, relating, considering, and experiencing the issues as openly and fully as possible. Heart to heart, hand to hand.

Until then, don’t homophobe me if you don’t know me.

Not me, not my gay friends, not the gay community.

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

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

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

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

At times, I wish I were gay.

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

Oh how at times, I wish I were gay.

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

Had only I been gay.

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

Oh how I wish at times, I were gay.

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

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

Had I only been gay.

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

How at times, I wish I were gay.

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

Had I only been gay.

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

If only I had been gay.

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

Sooner, clearer, greater… the heart expand.

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

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

Maybe… you should too.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: