Tag: church (page 1 of 5)

The Real Reason I Don’t Go To Your Church

No, it’s not the music style, the lighting, or the programs.

No, it’s not that I’m lazy, disinterested, or bent towards worldliness.

In fact, I care deeply about spiritual things, long for community, and have a generous heart for serving people.

With your professional branding, elaborate worship staging, cultural savviness, and groups for nearly every interest known to humanity, I can tell you are feverishly trying to crack the code and leverage me into your church gatherings. Even your ministry conferences, flowcharts, and mission statements are centered around somehow influencing me into your kingdom. Like Captain Ahab tempestuously traversing the oceans for the prized moment his harpoon punctures the elusive whale, it’s obvious you long for your efforts to be those that heroically pierce my heart with salvation, lure me into your faith community, and set me on a course to belief and act as you do, all to the praise and admiration of those that align with you spiritually. I see your noble intentions, I really do—all are efforts I truly appreciate.

Yet sadly, the real reason I don’t go to your church still eludes you—perhaps because the answer can’t be bought, programed, built, diagramed, staged, earned, envisioned, emotionalized, focus-grouped, or even prayed into existence. For all the chumming of my life with every strategy, program, and event that could possibly ever be imagined, you’re still yet drastically missing the one ingredient for which my heart and soul hungers the deepest, and could even render it captured. In fact, the one and only thing that truly matters is the very thing rarely ever heard amidst all your ministry chatter—love.

See, the real reason I don’t go to your church, subscribe to your faith understanding, or connect with your spiritual community is actually because of you—you don’t truly love me.

The one thing you so desperately want me to see and believe about your god and your faith establishment is the very thing I don’t see established in you—it’s love—and it’s oh so very clear, you don’t truly love me. With all that your faith, church, and Christian life has become to you, the one thing that hasn’t become of you is the one thing that is so glaringly missing—a simple, true, and genuine love of me.

The real reason—no matter what you might be tempted to conclude. It’s not about your god, your buildings, your beliefs, or your community. It’s actually all about you— that you don’t truly love me.

For if you did…

You wouldn’t even think of putting your rights, comforts, and privileges above mine. Rather, you’d be laying them down for me.

You wouldn’t care so much about bathrooms, wedding cakes, and movie scenes. Rather, you’d be pushing aside every obstacle and looking for every opportunity to simply serve me.

You wouldn’t shame, discard, and condemn the people I love no matter who they be. Rather, you’d love them thoroughly and completely no less, simply because you love me—you know, like Jesus.

You wouldn’t see me as a spiritual project to stuff upon your mantel for all your friends to see, but rather as a wholly divine person already redeemed, simply longing for an awakening—you know, like to the Jesus already in me.

You wouldn’t say selfish things like, “I’m praying for you” as you pretentiously look down your pointed nose and flaring nostrils and determine that if I’m not all that I should be. Rather, you’d vehemently commit your heart to truly understanding, knowing, and loving me—and that, unconditionally.

You wouldn’t want to “reach” me, “win” me, or “grow” me into becoming some robotic, spiritual zombie who believes, looks, and acts mostly like you. Rather, you’d want to love me into the God-adorned person who believes, looks, and acts exactly like the true me, living life as “I” should—in freedom, with only the Spirit guiding me, not you. For don’t you have enough navigating to do in your own life to necessitate in you the trusting of God with mine?

Your theology and Bible understanding wouldn’t be the idolatrous, unmovable, and inerrant foundation upon which you lean, pompously standing as one who holds all the “clear teachings.” Rather, your humility would give way to a love of me that would prevail above all things and become the one and only thing. It would be your vision, denominational mantra, and your ultimate dream—convinced that in all you do for me, you are in fact doing so as your highest and most important way of loving and honoring Thee—you know, Jesus.

You’d be listening, learning, and looking for any reason, excuse, or loophole to affirm me—no, not that there needs to be. That God loves, accepts, and delights in me simply because I breathe, would be more than enough—because that’s the heart of Jesus.

Your default bent, beliefs, and creed would all center on Grace, love, and human equality, not jamming down my throat something you have in your privilege that you believe I need as a remedy to what you see as my depravity. For who do you think you are, anyways? You don’t even know me.

You’d trust the goodness of God so much that potentially erring on the side of unconditionally loving me would not only be deemed as non-threatening, in your heart and mind, it would be concluded to be an impossibility. For with a God of more than enough, who could ever love too much?

Perhaps, most of all, you wouldn’t say ridiculous, stupid things like, “The reason I point out your sin is because I love you” and then expect me to actually believe it—if only I could keep the vomit from dripping out of my mouth. Rather, you’d be begging me to hear one thing, and one thing above all things, “I love you, is the reason I love you.” “Pointing out sin is the job of the Spirit, it’s not for me.” “For who I am, but one who is just like you—no better, only different.”

Yet sadly, you don’t trust Grace to guide, teach, correct, empower, and be all-sufficient, which is perhaps the sole reason why yours is a love that is so alarmingly love-deficient.

You want to change me, I just need you to love me. You want to convert me, I just need you to love me. You want to confront, castigate, correct and conform me, I just need you to love me. There is nothing in all my heart and soul that couldn’t be overcome, if you’d just truly and simply love me. But sadly, you don’t—and even more tragically, because of your faith understanding—you won’t.

Truth is, I don’t need to know anything more about your god or your faith community, because I see everything I need to see—in you, already.

With all due respect and appreciation, you can have all your services, traditions, events, conferences, retreats, revivals, groups, clubs, books, movies, schools, buildings, programs, prayers, and music, because I know true love when I see it—and tragically, I just don’t see it—in you. Don’t ever think you could possibly convince me that the god atop your steeple truly and deeply loves me, when it’s all so crystal clear, from the tippy top to the shallow depths of your own being, a love cannot be found that truly loves me.

Which is all the reason I need to know or ever show as to why I’ll never want to be a part of your church, your faith understanding, or your community.

The real reason?

You.

You don’t truly love me.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  -1 John 4:8

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” -1 Corinthians 13

Grace is brave. Be brave.

The Message From God You’ve Never Heard

Deep within us all, God has embedded His Light, the faith of Christ within us—every human an equal recipient. We all possess the faith of Jesus, a faith that fully knows and trusts the true essence and heart of the Father. Yet, darkness always seeks a way to condemn and imprison the Light our soul has always possessed in hopes we never awaken to it. Soon, it becomes demonized, silenced, and even unrecognizable within us—many of us walking around unaware or the faith of Christ, His Light within us. Tragically, it’s all become so religiously deformed, twisted, covered over, trampled and christianized inside.

Adam and Eve embraced the Light, saw themselves as Light, and gave it all a cherished harbor within. In their faith understanding, God, themselves, and all of life was a beautiful Garden—forever whole, pure, free, and alive. The faith of Christ within them had become their faith within them—a perfect communion. Yet, in a moment of question, they bit the lie that the Light they held to be Truth was actually darkness—needing correction, deserving of condemnation, and requiring redemption from an angry God. In their minds, all the sudden God became untrustable, Love became conditional, we became condemnable, and the Garden became a hopeless game of God-fearing, God-chasing appeasement. Religion is always the result of the Light becoming something to us that God isn’t, we aren’t, and God never had in mind.

Enter Grace.

Grace is God pinging your soul in hopes of awakening you to the true Light you have always possessed and longed to believe. It’s the call of Jesus to be unwrapped from the burial clothes that bind your heart from embracing true Life. For religion rings true to the flesh, but Grace rings true to the soul. It’s the Deep calling to your depth. It’s the true faith of Christ within you crying out to become your faith within you. It’s the moment your religious, christianized understanding is overridden by your Spirit and though you can’t explain it and your mind can’t chart it, you taste the Light and your heart knows it to be True, even as it shakes you to your core. It’s breathing for the first time and realizing, all this time, you weren’t breathing at all. It’s Grace releasing, rekindling, and recalibrating the caverns of your soul to what it’s always known and your heart has longed to believe—all is Grace.

This is the message from God you’ve never heard, but your soul has always believed, and your heart is desperate for you to embrace.

God is Love- Whatever sense of condemnation, shame, disappointment, or lack you have towards yourself, it does not come from God—it can’t. Run from any message that puts any conditions, any hell, or any distance between you and Him—all these our constructs of religious projection.

Grace awakens our perceptions to the true nature of God and His affection for us. The purpose of Christ is not simply that we believe in Him, but that we believe in God like Him—His faith within us becomes our faith within us. Jesus knows no other nature, aspect, or trait of God other than pure, unconditional Love. His sinless life before God is our sinless life before God—His performance in life is our performance in life. Love is all, defines all, wins all, and conquers all—especially us. Jesus has no sense of God as being nor exuding anything but unyielding Love.

To the delight of our soul, when we allow ourselves to see God the way Jesus does, we discover there is no other message from God to and for our lives other than Love—no fine print, conditional clauses, trap doors, loop-holes or dropping axes. Love unhinges the tenets of the religious and reveals the evil forces behind their call to one-eyed open living, sin-managing, God-appeasing, self-improving, people-judging, and hell-fearing. Only the graceless, self-righteous, privileged, and judgmental ever feel the force of God’s displeasure as Grace confronts their religious, doubting, selfish, love-drained souls.

God is Love from top to bottom, beginning to end—inside and out. The expanse of God who is Love is boundless, limitless, unrestricted, and unrestrained. His actions and reactions to every molecule and movement of your life is always Love.

God is pedal-to-the-metal in love with you—always has been, always will be.

To Believe Is To Rest- Despite what many may hold to be true, faith is not a decision, choice, or invitational response. Faith is a gift from God welling up from within. It’s the awakening of our heart, mind, and soul to the Jesus that has always been within us, and the God whose arms have always been around us.

To believe is to rest in Grace and the illimitable goodness of God, trusting its full sufficiency for every aspect of our lives. Pursuing God, chasing after God, hungering for more God, and begging God to come, bless, and even forgive, though all seemingly spiritual pursuits, are actually confessions that He is not already here, His grace is not sufficient, and His choosing of us is somehow inadequate. A restless, appeasing, and fearing heart before Jesus is a disbelieving heart before Jesus.

Grace postures our entire being onto a foundation of rest—convinced we can never over-portray or over-characterize the goodness, love, and graciousness of God, nor can we ever believe too much in the exclusive, unsurpassed power of Grace to guide, change, and enable us in all things.

Believing in the unfathomable Love that is God and declaring His grace-singularity of heart, mind, and will is not a sign of human weakness, faith depravity, or theological waywardness. If anything, it is our under-believing, under-ascribing, under-estimating, and under-characterizing of His Love purity that reveals the x-ray of our religiously infected souls as in our doubts and flesh addiction, we live our lives restlessly turning outside of Jesus to find peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with people.

You Are The Relationship- The modern Christian idea that God wants a “relationship” with you is highly misleading and in fact, unfounded in scripture. Interestingly enough, there is not even a single mention in all the Bible of “inviting Jesus into your heart.” Rather, the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus has been projected back into the Bible and onto the Gospel by our fleshly, religious desire to have some level of human control and credit with God, and even a spiritual notch on our belt that distinguishes us as above others.

A “relationship” requires the performance, maintenance, and continual contributing desire of both parties. Thus, a relationship can have varying levels of closeness and even become completely broken. This is not what we have with Jesus nor what He has in mind with or for us. Instead, the Gospel proclaims our communion with God, established long before our earthly arrival and even before His.

Our union with God is of the same fabric as the Trinity. It is not a relationship, it is a singular entity based not on desire, performance, or the like, but is in fact a whole union. We are not in a relationship with Christ, we are Christ–He is us, we are Him. Jesus is not a person to invite into your life or heart, He is your life and heart, irrevocably.

This is the awakening, revealed by Grace, and manifested by Jesus. There is no “relationship” with Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit to be had, for we ARE the relationship—different, but equally connected. Thus, in full union and communion. 

The Gospel doesn’t become real the moment one invites Jesus into their heart, it becomes real the moment they realize He had been there all along.

The Bible Is The Beginning Not The End- If the writers of the Bible were infallible in their understanding of God and their interpretation of His actions among them, there would be no need for the infallible One, Jesus Christ.

If the writers of the Bible perfectly captured the desires of God and His every design for all of life and living, there would be no need for the Perfect One, Jesus Christ.

If the writers of the Bible captured the sum, conclusion, and depth of all that is truth, there would be no need for the One who is Truth to reveal it and His Spirit to guide us in it.

There’s a big difference between adding to the Bible and adding to our understanding of it. The Bible is not a case-closed, all-conclusive blueprint of God and all that relates to Him, but rather a catalyst towards our diving into stream upon stream of never ending, progressive revelation welling up from our awakening to Jesus and His Gospel of Grace.

The people who demand the infallibility of the Bible are often the ones demanding the infallibility of their understanding of the Bible—all for the purpose of creating a spiritual, self-righteous safe haven in which to turn off their brains, and from which to control and judge others.

Notice, the corner of America where there is often the most rampant manifestations of spiritual condemnation, bigotry, and hate aren’t called the Jesus-belt, or the Love-belt, but rather—the Bible-belt.

It’s Not About Improvement- So much of what is taught about spiritual growth and the Christian life is the idea that through spiritual disciplines, effort, and behavior modification, one is to strive to become something tomorrow that they aren’t today. Go to church, pray hard, bury your head in the Bible, press into Jesus, and get “radical” for Christ, and sanctification and spiritual maturity will soon follow. Sadly, nothing ever truly gets better upon the treadmill of sin-management, self-improvement, and spiritual striving—enough is never enough. It’s all a diabolical prescription pimped as a life of fulfillment that in fact leads to a life tragically wasted.

For no matter our greatest intentions or desires, nor even in our best moments of believing or behaving, our spiritual performance always breaks down. In the end, whether with God, ourselves, or others, the good that we know we should do is not what we do, and once again, our capacity to escape ourselves is found foolishly and drastically insufficient. All that’s left in the end is a life of pretending riddled with inner shame and guilt as we gloss tons of Christian lipstick onto the pig of our self-righteousness.

Thankfully, the Christian life isn’t a test, it’s a rest. It’s not about becoming something tomorrow you aren’t today through a hopeless life of back-breaking spiritual gymnastics. Rather, it’s about becoming more of the person you already are in Christ.

Jesus came, not to merely do something for you, but to do something to you. The cross is one and done—you are a completely finished masterpiece of the Master. You are whole, holy, pure, righteous, sanctified, justified, and lack no spiritual blessing—as is. There is nothing to improve about you, only everything to believe about you. That’s why the Holy Spirit is forever pursuing your heart, not to convict you of failure, but to convince you of your righteousness—knowing that the more you believe it, the more you will live it. For the Christian life is the beautiful process of awakening to who we truly are because of Jesus, that our actions might catch up to our true, divine identities.

Christians Are Often The Ones In Most Need Of Saving- In the scriptures centered around Jesus, the people who we would expect to know Him the best, in fact, turn out to truly know Him the least–the ones expected to know Him the least, turn out to truly know Him the best.

In the same way, perhaps the “world” and the “lost” that are often seen as the unbelieving, subhuman sinners of the planet, are in actuality, not the “world” and the “lost” at all.

Rather, maybe just maybe, it’s the self-righteous, spiritually elite, legalistic, Grace-withholding, religious ones that turn out to be those that are truly “lost” and of the “world.” For there is no greater form of being “lost” than believing you are so close to God while being so far away, and there is no greater form of “worldliness” than to turn to ones spiritual performance (flesh), religious pride, and the condemnation of others for your sense of righteousness, salvation, and spiritual purpose and satisfaction.

Maybe, just maybe, the “world” and the “lost” need far less saving than Christians would ever want nor dare to believe, and “Christians” need far more saving than the “world” and the “lost” would ever dream.

Maybe just maybe, the “Church” isn’t the believing ones who are convinced their “in,” and grasp this status with pride believing it’s the just reward of their faith, behavior, and do-gooding, but rather it’s the humble ones–the meek, who conclude they’re probably “out,” but nonetheless search, believe, and find rest in Love anyways, simply because it’s the best way to live and to reflect and give Life.

Maybe, just maybe, the bride of Christ isn’t the one adorned in beauty and white, concealing a religious darkness within, but rather the ugly, dirty one, who knows nothing of make-up and a lipstick ladened grin, whose Light is on the inside, emerging from within–whether they’re aware or not matters not, it’s there, and Jesus sees Himself, and smiles, “let the wedding begin.”

You Are God’s Perfect Will- The idea that God has a perfect will for your life and you need to make your life’s ardent pursuit the finding and fulfilling of it, is all highly misleading. The Americanized version of the Christian life would have us all believe that God has some “big” thing for us to do and become that will show ourselves to be genuine and faithful in following Jesus. I say, hogwash.

You are God’s perfect will, you are the big thing God is doing in the world. You, being fully you, and doing what you love to do in ways that honor God, love people, and serve humanity is far closer to His heart.

In fact, if any of your sense of worth, significance, and righteousness in life can be reduced, compromised, or questioned by your failure, mistakes, inadequacies, shortcomings, limits, or lack of production, then I can assure you that what you have is not a sense of your true Christ-righteousness and worth, but rather a self-righteousness and worth.

If you were to do nothing more with your life and instead fail and waste it in every way, you would be loved and lovable no differently and valued and valuable no less. For God’s perfect will for your life is not a plan charted, a path traveled, a series of accomplishments completed, or destinies discerned and fulfilled. Rather, God’s perfect will is a person, and that person is you, as is. You are a complete, whole, and finished work of Jesus that is irrevocably and irreversibly beautiful, whole, and pure.

What’s God’s perfect will? You, being fully you.

This is the message from God you’ve never heard, your soul knows to be True, and your heart pleads for you to embrace .

God is Love.

To believe is to rest.

You are the relationship.

The Bible is the beginning, not the end.

It’s not about improvement.

Christians are often the ones in most need of saving.

You are God’s perfect will.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  -Galatians 2:20

Grace is brave. Be brave.

5 Things The Church Must Become Before It’s Too Late

As a pastor, I believe in church and love her deeply, especially when the centerpiece of all she is and does is the Gospel of God’s pure Grace and the all-inclusiveness of Jesus and His unconditionally unconditional love. Yet sadly, these values are increasingly far from what is being manifested in most segments of American Christianity. Instead, as difficult it is to say, church has largely become a self-righteous, spiritually arrogant, sin-focused, Bible-weaponizing, and people-condemning kind of monster that has lost much of her credibility among thinking, human-loving people. In fact, the emotional, spiritual, and even physical carnage created by significant segments of American, conservative church-world ironically makes it perhaps the most prominent, antichrist force on the planet today.

Don’t believe me? To those willing to hear, countless are the gut-wrenching stories of people who have experienced great suffering, tragedy, abuse, and condemnation exclusively at the hands of Christianity and its church. The hand-washing claim that “no church is perfect” doesn’t even come close to fitting nor justifying the spiritually militant, aggressive, and narcissistic tribe we have become, nor gains any appeasement among those whom we have broken. The truth is, if we don’t make significant steps towards returning to the heart of God who is Love and His Gospel of peace, we will further become the very evil we claim to be against, and surrender our voice and influence in furthering all that is good and of God for generations to come.

Yet, amidst these daunting realities there is still great hope that we might awaken to the heights from which we have fallen and chart a new path. With that desire for renewal, here are five things I suggest every church must become before it’s too late.

We Must Become Grace Driven– Despite what is believed and taught within most segments of the church, there is no other Gospel nor message from God for humanity other than Grace—period. Grace boldly and accurately declares that all are in Christ, deeply and unconditionally loved and affirmed by the Father. Every person is a finished work of the cross—holy, justified, sanctified, righteous, and whole apart from and despite their performance in life. Faith is not a decision, heart invitation, or commitment to good behavior. Instead, to truly “believe” is to simply rest in the goodness and Grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, contrary to what is widely understood, the Christian life is not to be one of sin-management, “to do” steps, rule-keeping, or spiritual striving, but rather the journey of completely awakening to the incredible and unfathomable goodness of God and the wholly complete person one is already and will always be in Christ. In short, it’s our actions catching up with our true identities.

In fact, in a very real sense, under Grace, there is nothing “to do,” self-improve, or become, but everything to believe—and as one increasingly believes in the purity and goodness of who they truly are in Him, they will live it increasingly in and through their actions, and that—effortlessly. For there is no power in all the universe other than Grace that changes people and influences them towards living the ways of Jesus—hallelujah!

In fact, it is the Law in command or spirit, in whole or in any mixture, that actually entices and imprisons people to sin and embody all that is bad. Its diabolical rule-keeping mantra focuses our attention on sin, entices our religious pride to believe we can master it, and places trust in ourselves and our capacity to spiritually out perform it. This is a futile pursuit destined for failure, straight out of the hands and heart of the devil. For where you have any call or sense of need to please and appease God to gain, keep, or grow ones relationship with Jesus, there you will find every form of self-righteousness, judgmentalism, spiritual pride, hypocrisy, sin-stronghold, religious spirit, and evil.

That’s why the sure and true reason why America is in such moral decline and countless people are walking away from “church” (and rightly so) is actually because of  us and our love affair with a mixed-messaged gospel of Law and Grace—a message that, in truth, is the rampant cancer, not the cure. For any other message than the pure and thoroughly sufficient Grace of God in Christ Jesus is a sure death sentence of humanity to a hellish life of self-righteous imprisonment.

We must become Grace-driven—countless lives are in the balance.

We Must Become Unified By Diversity- For far too long, the church has based its sense of unity upon that which people must agree. Denominations and individual churches align their membership qualifications to certain sets of beliefs and behaviors people are required to adopt for inclusion. In the process, the concept of “making disciples” has been reduced to a church’s pursuit of assimilating people into thinking, looking, and behaving just like them. People become projects of conformity, diverging beliefs become threatening and inferior, and churches become clubs of like-minded people huddled around their “this is what the Bible says” ideologies.

Tragically, this has morphed many a church into a spiritual black hole where doubts are quickly buried, free thinking is demonized, spiritual growth is restricted, people have to pretend they truly agree, and churches live in denial of the real disunity that exists under the surface conformity of their congregants.

In increasing measure, people are justifiably turning away from spiritual communities where one is either deemed to be “in” or “out.” They are resisting the applications of labels upon themselves and hunger for the God-given freedom and liberty that comes in being personally guided in all truth by the ever revealing Spirit—not a cut and pasted creed nor a patriarchy of so-called biblical leadership. Good people are opening their eyes to the selfish agenda of churches that see people as prospective notches on their belt with the goal of assimilating them into their spiritual Borg that they might increase in their capacity to spread their pre-packaged religious ideologies among the masses of people they deem to be “lost.”

Churches must become more like tables where every person and every belief-set has a seat in the discussion, where doubts, differences, and disbelief are valued, and where unity is based upon a church’s willingness to embrace disagreement and harbor diversity much more so than what is necessary to be agreed upon. Spiritual growth must be allowed to truly flourish through the considering and potential adopting of views, perspectives, and beliefs that are even contrary to what is widely held.

Churches must become belief fluid, where a confidence in the person of Jesus and His Truth ringing true in the hearts of all humanity creates the secure foundation from which all beliefs can be considered, explored, and find community instead of exclusion—all without fear.

Then, and only then, can true unity flourish, true spiritual growth emerge, and true freedom in Christ be realized—all centered on God who is Love and Jesus who is Grace.

We Must Become Fierce Defenders of the Oppressed and Condemned- People are not projects, attendance charts, giving units, baptismal stats, or even our conversion mission—though nearly everything about our attitudes and behaviors as the church would indicate so. Rather, our highest mandate from God is to stand with, defend, empower, and become a voice for the oppressed, especially those religiously condemned and marginalized—all of us on equal footing. It’s not enough to merely extend our sympathies, minister to a need here and there, or put people and issues on a prayer list. Solidarity in thought, word, attitude, and deed with the marginalized and condemned is the way of Jesus and our Christian calling in every arena of life—even political.

Grace is not weakness nor passivity in the presence of evil. It’s not turning a blind eye nor restraining ones voice as an effort to take some kind of highfalutin, spiritual highroad concealing what is ultimately a self-serving “grace” copout. Rather, Grace is brave and confronting in the face of religious and cultural oppression, injustice, condemnation, and discrimination.

Those who would portray God as less than all-loving, His message as bringing any measure of condemnation, and His ways as embodying any level of religiosity, self-righteousness, or conditionality will always meet the fierce correction of Jesus. Those who would shrink back from the unrestrained defense, solidarity with, and mutual humanity of the “least of these” will always be met with the buzzsaw of Jesus’ pure oneness with those who are cast aside or cast out.

The nonviolent way of Jesus is not passive, impotent, nor powerless, but rather the sure model that makes our solidarity, defense, empowering, and voice with and for the oppressed and condemned our greatest responsibility, honor, and calling. For there is no greater litmus test of a church’s alignment with the heart of Jesus than how it stands with, defends, empowers, equally includes, and gives voice to the “least of these.” Until that day comes, growing numbers of people will rightly discern the fallacy and religious scam that sadly has become much of American church.

We Must Become Equality Minded– Grace is the great equalizer—none are better only different. This is the message of the Gospel that infuriates and frustrates the self-righteous, white, male-driven, patriarchal churches of America. There should be no sense of privilege of any form in any church, only people—all equally loved, valued, affirmed, and imaged by the Creator.

The sexist churches of America continue to grieve the heart and message of Jesus and send countless women (and men) searching elsewhere for safe contexts where true God-given equality is embraced, and the utilization of the equal calling and gifts bestowed by God upon all genders is empowered.

It is spiritually criminal that the church, who should be leading the way at embodying the culture of heaven upon earth, is in actuality largely standing against it—women are not seen as equally gifted and called, skin colors matter, economic status is evaluated, sexual orientation is discriminated, and sin is rationalized in favor of the privileged.

This is deplorable, evil, and antithetical to Kingdom of God.

The church will never truly manifest nor follow the ways, message, and heart of Jesus until our every step leaves a sure and undeniable footprint of true equality for all.

We Must Become A Contribution Centered Community- One need look no further than the me-centered worship services and programs that dominate much of American church for evidence that we have become selfish, consumer-centered Christians and churches. In fact, most of modern church planting is strategized around starting a state-of-the-art worship service with hopes that a church will somehow grow out of it. The thrust of most churches new or old is to attract people to “visit us, join us, and serve among us” with emphasis on the “us.” With facilities, budgets, programming, and marketing endeavors taking center stage, competitive-minded ministry thrives and the incubator for pastoral celebrity and church franchising becomes full born.

Sadly, when it’s all said and done, as much as we spiritualize our endeavors, much of church has become largely about “us”— our spiritual growth, our style preferences, our convenience, our inspiration, our agendas, our power, our importance, our rights, and the preservation and furthering of our privilege.

In times past, many have been mesmerized and seduced by the contemporary lipsticks we have used on the pig of our self-centeredness—but not any more. Growing numbers of good people are seeing through the clever lighting and carefully positioned fog. Either they have lost at playing the church game, or witnessed the pain and brutal carnage of someone else having done so. Regardless, people not only want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, they want to be a part of something that is clearly and concretely not about themselves or an agenda other than pure Love.

The truth is, much of the church in America is losing influence and credibility, and rightly so. The awakening of Grace and its full application in the life of the church is among us, challenging and haunting the religious as it spawns.

Before it’s too late, may we become Grace-driven, equality-minded, contribution-centered communities that are unified by diversity as we fiercely defend the oppressed and condemned among us as Jesus modeled and purposed for us all along.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Maybe This Is The Real Reason You Believe Being Gay Is A Sin

So, you believe homosexuality is a sin.

I get it—it’s where you are at and what you uphold to be true.

Maybe for you, you’re not exactly sure why you subscribe to that position, other than the countless times you have been told, “That’s what the Bible says.” You want to be loving, accepting, and viewed as a compassionate follower of Jesus, but numerous admonitions from fellow Christians declaring that “loving people doesn’t give license to their sin” seem to give you no other alternative posture than one of judgement and distance. Sure, you’re familiar with a few of the verses typically used to condemn homosexuality and those of the LGBTQ community—since childhood, your mind and heart has been seated around the traditional male/female relationships of Scripture as being the only God-approved model for marriage, gender, and sexuality, but that’s about as far as your thinking has taken you. Deep down, it’s a complicated issue, and quite honestly, you’re not always sure what you believe. Even though you know some LGBTQ people and perhaps might even call them friends, moments of belief-questioning or consideration of LGBTQ-affirming views are quickly summoned to a much more comfortable, default position in your faith, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” For you, you’re hoping it’s as simple and settled as that, and if it’s not, it’s just going to have to be.

On the other side of the coin, maybe for you, it’s all so perfectly, crystal clear. There’s nothing to reconsider, nothing to learn or unlearn. It’s a slam dunk, a biblical no-brainer. Not only have you sat under the popular chorus, “This is what the Bible says,” you proudly and boldly sing it from the mountain tops. You believe to know every verse relevant to the issues, even citing original Greek and Hebrew words and context. In your mind, heart, and faith, all things LGBTQ are a deplorable, disgusting affront to God and an offensive abomination before the Lord. Maybe you have never held the sign (or maybe you have), but “God hates fags” largely fits hand-in-glove with the bottom line of your faith understanding. Sure, if they repent, change their ways, and adopt your faith views, there’s hope. However, until that day comes, “ground and pound” is your perceived divine mandate to wrestle the LGBTQ demons out of our culture and country. No matter the consequences or costs wrought by your anti-LGBTQ angst and rage, you are “right” and everyone else will always be “wrong”—even to the exclusion, excommunication, and potential suicide of your own LGBTQ child, sister, brother, parent, congregant, or friend. In your mind, any other way of seeing things is to author confusion where God created infallible clarity—and you, the God appointed vessel of His authority and truth. If a transgender person were to commit suicide and your secret (or not so secret) conclusions to this tragic event were displayed on your church’s worship screen, it might read something like, “They had it coming to them, for the consequences of sin is death.”

Well, no matter where you are on the spectrum of believing homosexuality is a sin, I have an honest question.

Are these really the true reasons you believe being gay is a sin? These are the case “evidences” you really want us to attribute to your actions and beliefs?  “The Bible says so…” “God hates fags…” “Rethinking my views or considering new information is unnecessary…” “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” These are the foundational, core kind of sentiments that make up the sum, depth, and rationale of your thoughts, words, deeds, and creeds regarding one of the most important issues of our time affecting countless God-imaged souls?

With all due love and respect as I truly want to understand and believe the best, if I’m honest, the ruby-slippered Dorothy in me is having a hard time swallowing that pill. In fact, pull back the curtain of your confessions and I wonder if there’s perhaps a deeper Wizard behind the smoke and mirrors of your anti-LGBTQ declarations—and it’s not God, the Bible, or spiritual laziness—in fact, I think it just might be… you.

Maybe, just maybe, the real reason you believe being gay is a sin, is because—you want to. When it’s all said and done, it’s not anybody else’s voice or choice—it’s yours.

In a Christian church-world where there are over 30,000 different denominations who read the very same Bible you do, and come to thousands of different belief-conclusions on major theological issues. In a Christian church-world where elective misunderstanding and ignorance are seen as legitimate positions instead of serious problems. In a Christian church-world where there are countless, growing numbers of biblical scholars with the same love for Jesus, submissive heart for Scripture, and tenacity for Truth as you, who see the Bible as affirming LGBTQ people, not condemning them. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason you believe being gay is a sin is because—you want to. It’s not the Bible saying so, it’s you saying so. In fact, if one can be faithful to the sacred Scriptures and yet come to an LGBTQ-affirming view (which you can) instead of condemning, demonizing, and abusing a whole God-adorned population of humans, why wouldn’t you? Maybe, just maybe, the real reason is because—you don’t want to.

In a Christian church-world where many apparently have little-to-no true fear of having a sin lifestyle of blatant, chosen gluttony and greed that potentially even compromises their eternity. In a Christian church-world where virtually none of its participants would ever dare construct nor hold up the sign, “God hates fatsos.” In a Christian church-world that largely has little-to-no restraint in looking the other way regarding its own sins and strongholds. In a Christian church-world where nearly 50 percent of its married adherents end up divorced, and even the “unbiblical” ones are given a free pass. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin, isn’t for fear of condoning it or leading one into hell, but simply because—you want to.

In a Christian church-world that is known for justifying and feeling oh-so-good and righteous about itself through the condemning and demonizing of people they conveniently deem to be sinning differently than they. In a Christian church-world that largely needs a sin-battle to fight in order to justify its purpose, worth, validity, energy, and existence. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin is because—you want to. The self-righteous perch from which doing so seems to afford you exclusive divine favor, license for anger, and spiritual justification for hate is just too convenient to step down from. Watching porn on Sunday afternoons never seemed so benign as after a rousing, gay-condemning sermon from Romans 1 and 2. It’s a drug only Grace can disarm, but you refuse the “reparative” cure. Why? Because—you want to.

In a Christian church-world where community is often centered around the conformity of beliefs and behaviors. In a Christian church-world where in many of its expressions you are either “in” or “out.” In a Christian church-world where to believe differently is often met with a kiss of death—discipline, rejection, marginalization, termination, or just a good-ole’-fashion greeting line of cold shoulders and religious spankings. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin is because—you want to. The fear of being convinced of LGBTQ-affirming views is just too strong, and the perceived ramifications, just too costly. When the rubber meets the road and you hear the Jesus-call to put the suffering of others above your own—you simply don’t want to.

See, at the end of the day, when Toto draws the curtain open, the scheme that was concealed becomes the truth that is revealed—people don’t choose to be LGBTQ, but they sure do choose to believe whether it’s a sin or not.

In fact, I find it interesting how many Christians proudly proclaim to be pro-life and wear it as a badge of faith-honor, all while at the same time they are certainly pro-choice about the Bible—determined to protect their freedom to use every interpretive knife they can contrive to abort countless people into hell, murder their souls with condemnation, and yank them out of the womb of God’s Grace and affirmation, slicing and dicing them with sin-labels and discrimination—all while singing songs to Jesus with a self-righteous, anti-gay smirk on their face.

When all the smoke clears, perhaps the real puppeteer behind your anti-gay beliefs finally emerges—it’s you. You don’t “have” to believe being LGBTQ is a sin—you want to. When all is said and done, the pain of affirmation has been determined to be greater than the pain of discrimination. The call to take up our cross and follow Jesus, perhaps is a cost, you have concluded is too costly to endure. The ego-humbling, faith-reconstructing, soul-examining, human-loving, life-transforming, and courage-requiring invitation of Jesus to put down the nets of religion for the sake of “the least of these” is finally met with what is perhaps the real sum and truth behind your response—”I don’t want to.”

Maybe, just maybe, this is the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin—it’s not God, not the Bible, not spiritual laziness, nor moral purity or responsibility.

But rather, all because—you want to.

How Conservative Evangelical Christianity Wasted My Life

Nobody plans for this moment to come—sitting on our bed upstairs, I called Amy into the room. Up to that point in time, everything I had touched in ministry over the past twelve years had essentially fallen apart, my ability as a husband and father to provide for our family was painfully lacking, and unexpected, critical health issues overwhelmed me with incapacitating, daily battles of insecurity, anxiety, and hopelessness. I was a complete mess—everything seemed to be crashing to the ground as I stood in those moments looking over the edge of my life. It was all so real, so terribly real.

Making her way up the stairs, she entered the doorway. “Amy, I need to talk to you. I want you to find a new husband and father for Harrison and Cailyn. I’m such a failure and your lives would be better without me—you deserve so much more.” Seeing a seriousness in my eyes like never before, with sheer terror in her face, Amy ran out of the room sobbing in tears. I had experienced periods of depression before, but these moments were of an entirely different realm of darkness. I was truly ready for it all to be over—desperately looking for the closest exit sign.

As a young boy, I nearly died of asthma two times, spending much of my elementary days in the hospital. No sooner did that fog begin to lift then the sexual abuse from a family member began. They say sixty percent of people enter the pastoral ministry to “save” one of their family members—if that’s true, it was my father. The very man who saved my life on one of those asthmatic occasions was ironically the same man who sowed deep seeds of condemnation, guilt, insecurity, and inadequacy into my heart. During one semester in middle school, I received a “C” on my report card. My father always said, “C’s just mean you’re average, and we Kratzers aren’t average.” I knew he was upset as he reacted in disgust. Seeing his harsh disappointment, I told my mother, “Dad doesn’t love me.” Insisting that he did, she coaxed me into the living room where my father sat rocking in a chair. She said to him, “Honey, Chris doesn’t think you love him, tell him that you do.” His response, “With grades like that, he’s no son of mine.”

Sadly, behind everyone’s eyes is a story that, if they told you, would break your heart. With a belly full of emotional baggage and gaping, puss-ladened wounds of shame, I entered into pastoral ministry. I wasn’t a conservative Evangelical at the start, but it didn’t take long for the tenets of conservative Christianity to be pimped my direction. Within a few puffs and injections of its seductive self-righteous creed, it became an instant drug of choice to numb the pains of inadequacy long been building in the caverns of my being. Never did there appear to be a better way to appease a conditional-loving father and heal the sins and shame of my youth than to embark on a spiritual climb designed to satisfy the ultimate conditional-loving Father—the god of conservative Evangelicalism who promised to rid me of my demons if I pressed in hard enough and learned to traverse the tightrope of faith. Salvation had finally come in an Evangelical deity offering me a spiritual track upon which I could race to right my wrongs, give value to my condemned life, and render myself lovable at the finish line. Just color within the lines, give the proper responses, think and believe the right things, fight the good fight of faith, and I too could become “successful” for Jesus. Perhaps then, both my father on earth and the Father above could finally love me—perhaps even then, I could finally love me. The ultimate trifecta of acceptance and approval was just an Evangelical “to do” list away, all leading to a position seated high above the world upon which to feel good about myself through the looking down upon others. It was all so righteous and perfect—so it seemed.

With a snappy new Jesus-step in my shoes, I eagerly surveyed the landscape of conservative Evangelical Christianity and its heroes. They all had obvious common denominators—big churches, big book deals, big speaking schedules, big conferences, big baptismal numbers, big budgets, big leadership philosophies, big vision, and even wives with big hair. Every sermon was finely crafted with spiritual formulas, principles, and steps that lead to the big life. Every service was meticulously programmed for ultimate appeal and emotion. The Bible was cut and dry, people were either in or out, sin was clear and easily defined, the truth was black or white, and either you had a place at the cool pastors lunch table or you didn’t. People on the outside were seen as a project to assimilate into the inside, and then to “grow” towards ultimately partnering in the pastor’s grandiose vision to “make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ” AKA “my big ass ministry ego trip.” It was all so spiritual, and spiritually justified—”purpose driven” to the nines.

I swallowed it, all of it, hook, line, and sinker—my flesh never felt more alive. Job one, clean up my act. Job two, use a bit of smoke and mirrors while carefully pretending all the “to do steps” were working in order to keep people from seeing I couldn’t master job one. Job three, turn off my brain and heart as I learned to believe, say, and do all the right “Evangelical” things even if deep down they made little-to-no-sense, contradicted themselves, or left good people cold, hurting, and condemned. Job four, attain ministry “success” and fame at all costs, using people as a means to what is really a selfish end disguised as a noble mission. Job five, spiritualize it all so that people don’t see the hypocritical phony who’s faking-it to make-it and signing them up to do the same, wrapping it all up in shiny Jesus paper and calling it “faithfulness.” Job six, whatever it takes, convince yourself this is the way, truth, and life even when deep down inside, something is screaming that it’s not—quickly silencing and demonizing every voice that contradicts you. Job seven, if all else fails, program more worship fog, get a tattoo, and start sporting some Buckle brand skinny jeans—the rest will take care of itself.

I tried, I really did. I never worked so hard in all my life—just ask Amy, just ask the kids. I started waking up at 4 a.m. every Sunday morning to memorize my sermons, line for line, word for word—all for the maximum adoration of the congregation and the hopes of validating my life by becoming a superstar preacher. I began writing devotionals hoping they would get published. I read every ministry leadership book money could buy. I attended the best conferences, taking copious notes from which to implement the latest church fads guaranteed to grow your congregation and grant you the ministry of your dreams. I made myself available at any moment of any day for pastoral counseling or care. I studied the scriptures, applied ever prayer formula I could find to maximize my capacity to leverage God for His blessings and favor. We didn’t tithe just 10%, but 20%, often becoming the top givers in the churches we served whether we could afford to or not. I solicited accountability partners to speak truth into my life as a sure fire way to keep me on the straight and narrow. I distanced myself from all the right people and settings, just like I was prescribed. On Sundays, I was the first one at the church, and the last one to leave. Those rare moments when I wasn’t engaged in some kind of formal ministry, you can be sure I was thinking about it. We started churches on a wing and a prayer, barely having enough income to survive. We walked through devastating church splits, worship wars, members threatening my life, and countless conflicts whose marks will surely never go away. Years and years spent in a so-called, “Christian life” trying to convince God, the people around me, and myself that I am valuable, lovable, acceptable, significant—worthy of God, His favor, His blessings, and His heaven.

Don’t be fooled, insisting that “denial” is just a river in Egypt. Whether you’re in ministry or not, this is what you do—this is the hell you live and give, in some shape or form, when your faith concludes, “God loves you… BUT.” There can be no more hiding of the Wizard behind the curtain, this is the performance-driven, endless, restless, futile plight of your soul when the anchor of your faith clings to the diabolical slogan of conservative Evangelical Christianity, “God does His part, but you have to do yours… OR ELSE.” Find me a person who subscribes to conservative Evangelicalism and there you will have found a tragically deceived soul who is sleep-walking this same kind of daily, self-righteous, pretending, performance-driven hell while actually believing it’s heaven.

Look no further than my life for your proof, for there in that upstairs bedroom it all came tumbling down—none of the steps, formulas, principles, “to do lists,” worship choruses, bible studies, sin-management strategies, conferences, recommitments, fasting, prayer sessions, or spiritual disciplines ever worked, and all my pretending wasn’t camouflaging it anymore. The lipstick on the pig was wearing off—conservative Evangelical Christianity had done far more than merely waste my life, it had stolen every remnant of it I ever possessed and left me impotent to face its darkest moments.

All that time, years and years, I was suffocating when I thought I was breathing Life—thinking I was so close to Jesus, yet being so far away from His heart.

All that time, I thought I was helping people when in fact I was imprisoning them—declaring a mixed Evangelical gospel of conditional love that is in fact no Gospel at all. All, while sentencing countless God-adorned people to a fear-driven, empty life of sin-management, God-appeasement, and people-judging.

All that time, I thought I was being a faithful servant when in reality I had become a monster—a sexist, racist, homophobic, bigoted, ignorant, selfish, judgmental, legalistic, hypocritical, two-headed, and heart-divided monster. Without a flinch or a blink of an eye, I could heartlessly condemn people to a Dante-inspired hell of Evangelical imagination and poison their hungry, hurting hearts with guilt, shame, fear, and condemnation all while deceiving them to believe its source was no less than the throne of God.

All that time, I thought I was equipping people when in fact I was using them. Call it “vision,” “ministry dreams,” “reaching the world for Christ,” or whatever label helps you sleep at night—but the truth is, so much of modern Christianity has simply become the franchising of ministry egos.

All that time, I thought the Bible was a kind of convenient, inerrant weapon best used against the self-declared enemies of Jesus and for the defense of a truth that only conservative Evangelicalism possessed, when in fact, it’s actually a perfectly human set of writings best used to inspire all people to progressively encounter Him who is Love and defend His graciousness.

All that time, I thought I knew love and how to give it, when in truth, I knew nothing of it—receiving it, living it, sharing it. I thought loving people required doing so with careful restraint for fear you might extend too much grace and affirmation, or worst of all, catch their disease. Constantly pumping the breaks with people by restricting my love and qualifying His was indeed an unpleasant endeavor that never felt settled in my spirit. Yet, for so long I believed that was the full extent for which God loved me—all at a safe distance, riddled with fine print.

All that time, I thought I was being the picture perfect father and husband, but in reality, I was so consumed by a spiritual quest in which enough was never enough, that though I may have been there physically for my family, in so many other ways, I wasn’t there at all.

So much time wasted, relationships scorched, walls erected, people written off, unnecessary family tension and division created, opportunities missed, life that could have been enjoyed, unconditional love that could have been given, freedom that could have been embraced, lives that could have been set free by Grace, and all I had to show for it in that upstairs bedroom was the painful faith conclusion that I would never measure up, I was a failure, Jesus surely hated me, everything that mattered was slipping through my fingers, and the god of Evangelicalism was probably not only o.k. with it, but holy and just in allowing it, and perhaps even authoring it.

Hearing Amy downstairs crying in desperation pleading with me to change my mind, I fell to the ground on my knees—or perhaps, I was pushed.

In that moment, to which I still can’t put words, Grace awakened in me. As I closed my eyes sobbing on the floor, the real Jesus wrapped His arms around everything about me and refused to let go with divine relentless—a picture in my mind and an embrace of my entirety I’ll never forget.

You can be sure, the real God is nothing like conservative Evangelical Christianity—I know this to be True, He showed me.

Today, years later, I’m alive and truly living for the first time in my life and the future is bright with real hope and real joy. God is Love, Jesus is Grace, we are all the Beloved, and I am free to be fully me—free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I am free at last.

So, I say to you who drink from the devil’s cauldron of conservative Evangelical Christianity—run, run as far and as fast as you can, don’t let it mix you into its brew. It’s a religious concoction of death—pure unbridled death.

It wasted much of my life, don’t let it waste anymore of yours.

If This Is What It Means To Be A Progressive, I’m Out

I am deeply proud and honored that there are many who would call me “progressive” and include me in their fellowship.

Those that know my heart and are familiar with my writings understand me to be an outspoken voice standing in fierce solidarity with those bullied, marginalized, discriminated against, and condemned by significant segments of conservative Christianity and privileged society as a whole. I have been highly critical of conservative Evangelicalism and a passionate advocate for the LGBTQ community.

Having been, years ago, an anti-LGBTQ, racist, conservative, Evangelical pastor myself, the radical change of mind and heart I experienced in regard to these and many other issues came solely from revelations of divine Truth. I have no skin in the game, only that first and foremost, as a lover of the Gospel of God’s pure Grace through Jesus Christ, I am also fervently convinced that all humanity is beautifully and wonderfully made, affirmed, and euphorically delighted in by our Creator. Grace is the great equalizer—none of us better, only different—all of us, divine.

As a Grace-guy, I find myself resisting and even cringing at both conservative and progressive entities whose seemingly chief desire is to assimilate me into their ideological Borg—discerning my value and worth and their interest and affiliation with me based primarily on my willingness to conform to their scrolls of codes and creeds, blindly echoing their every sentiment to the exclusion of my own.

Grace makes me a free thinker, believer, soul, and human being. I fit in no box, nor can any label affixed upon me, perfectly stick. I am unique, beautifully complicated, and wholly divine—Grace has made me so. I will protect the sacred diversity that is me and seek out a unity and community that is founded on a love, not of what we share, but on so much of what we don’t.

Thankfully, among “progressives,” I often find such a place. So many of us are beautifully inclusive and humbly hospitable to those who harbor differing beliefs. We fully understand what it’s like to be a toy on Misfit Island and to be on the receiving end of condemnation’s fiery darts. With boldness and bravery, our ethos stands for so much of what Jesus extended His arms. To be sure, I am a proud “progressive.”

Yet, at times, it seems there are nuances among certain segments of the “progressive” movement that solicit in me concern and even a desire to create some distance. With an unsettled spirit, I wonder if there will come a day when these questionable observations are found to be truly indicative of where things are going and what will be required to be a real-deal “progressive,” knowing that if this is who I must become in order to carry the banner—then sadly, I’m going to have to bow out.

For example, if I have to become a Smug, Pretentious, Elitist—respectfully, I’m out.

Is there a good bit of ignorance within our culture today? You bet. Are there people who are determined to misunderstand even the clearest of common sense and truth? Yes, and amen. Are there those who blatantly refuse to examine important issues from perspectives outside their own? Absolutely. Are there conservative Christians I want to punch in throat? Damn straight I do.

However, is everyone who disagrees with me a stupid, ignorant, uneducated redneck? Absolutely not. Am I somehow better than them because I have come to believe certain things and adopt certain views? Never, no way.

I find nothing “progressive” about holding onto ones beliefs so tightly that we become an ideologically constipated, self-righteous jerk in the process—creating exclusive clubs of like-minded people who conveniently house a double-standard of tolerance.

We can’t expect those with whom we disagree to truly listen and consider our message from the high tower of a self-aggrandized, ego-ladened enlightenment or closed-knit, hifalutin communities. When Jesus was given all power and authority—the sum of all enlightenment and progress, His first action wasn’t to smugly declare how astute and empowered He is and how juvenile and impotent are all others. No, his first action was to humbly serve, and that—washing feet, even of those who would deny, disagree, and betray Him and His cause.

There are serious levels of ignorance, evil, and systematic deception that must be boldly and aggressively corrected in our culture, but only a default attitude of humility and true inclusiveness will create the needed posture.

If I have to become an Impulsive, Ill-informed Alarmist—respectfully, I’m out.

We have serious problems in this world, many stemming from conservative, religious circles—particularly Christian. There are real people dying, being abused, discriminated against, marginalized, and even taking their own lives at the hands of religiously-driven hate. For our cities, states, country, and people everywhere, these are terrible realities and constant threats that must cause us alarm and solicit our assertive action.

Yet, in my mind, this urgency is all the more reason I must resolve that my words be credible, and my positions and actions be accurately informed. In the heat of battle, it’s easy to cast aside restraint and settle for unfortunate instances of misguided collateral damage in the wake of our rage. This is almost unavoidable in our social media-driven culture where the truth, is at times, hard to ascertain.

However, if my default position has to become one where I swing at every pitch that comes across the plate, swallow every “breaking news” report, buy into every Facebook post—crying foul and screaming “fire” with every perceived action of the enemy, then with all due respect, I’m out.

Grace teaches me to never bury my head in the sand nor ever believe that silence is always a virtue. Indeed, sometimes the sky is truly falling and someone needs to shout it from the rooftops, even taking up arms for the fight. Many times I have been that very person, saying the tough things that need to be said, and risking much in doing so.

But Grace also teaches me not to strike at everything that moves. If I have to take a default position where any piece of information that casts a negative shadow upon those with whom I disagree is automatically assumed to be true in whole or part, out of lust for more of that which can further justify my positions and my plight, then with all due respect, I’m out.

I get it, for so many of us, myself included, our radar screens are set on high alert, and rightly so. These are dangerous times and there are sure amounts of defensiveness needed to be taken, paranoia to be had, rage to be expressed, and rants to be written. Nothing reddened the face and swelled the neck veins of Jesus more than religiously-spirited, bigoted and discriminating people who withheld Grace and sowed seeds of injustice and violence.

But that doesn’t change my responsibility to see good where I can see good, give the benefit of the doubt where I can grant it, cast off fear where it’s safe to do so, wait for the facts where waiting is what’s needed, proclaim innocence where there is innocence, and render benign that is which is benign—especially where in doing so corrects my perceptions and even disarms my rage.

If I am going to be taken advantage of, abused, or discarded, I’d personally rather it be while living a life from a default posture of believing in the best than a life imprisoned by always assuming the worst. Never is there a more important time to believe in hope and love then when we are tempted to conclude that worshiping fear would be better.  And never is there a more poignant way to spit in the face of our enemies then when we are still yet determined to believe in the good when our enemies would have us to be consumed by the bad.

If I have to become a Pro-Choice Militant—respectfully, I’m out.

There is perhaps no more complex issue of debate in all of our culture today than abortion.

I understand the fragile and polarizing nuances of this issue and continue to vigorously study them out from the perspectives of both sides—biblically, scientifically, and psychologically. I totally respect all people of all viewpoints who know where they stand regarding this sensitive topic, and do so boldly.

Yet, if being a “progressive” means that I can’t settle, at least for a season, in an area of grey and have serious inhibitions about prematurely pitching tent in any one camp regarding such a multi-layered and important issue, then with all due respect, I’m out—lest I find myself succumbing to an all new form of fundamentalism masked in “progressive” veneer, where I’ve simply jumped from the narrow-minded ovens of conservative, Evangelical Christianity into a whole new kind of legalistically-spirited frying pan.

On one side, I can’t silence the voices nor bleach the images of real mothers crying in my office wishing they had never been granted the choice to abort their child—for them, the guilt and regret is life destroying. Nor, on the other side, can I silence the pain of real mothers who have been raped or forced into ultimate situations of life and death, and fathom the retraction, in those moments, of their right to chose.

In the same way that love, is love, is love, at times I wonder if maybe also—life, is life, is life. Right now, it’s all fading to grey, and if that can’t be o.k., with all due respect, I’m out. For if it’s not the issue of abortion today, it will be another complicated issue tomorrow of which, for a season, I may be uncertain or undecided.

If I have to become an Ideological Slave—respectfully, I’m out.

Having traveled around the block a few times, I have determined that I’m just not going to be owned by anyone or anything. I’m not going to be dragged around like a dog on a leash by the ideological expectations of others, no matter how noble.

If being a “progressive” means I have to surgically hate all the right people, disagree with all the right things, and oppose all the right viewpoints—carefully making sure to color within all the “progressive” lines, then with all due respect, I’m out.

If it means, for the sole purpose of keeping informed by their posts populating my timeline, I can’t “like” the Facebook page of a person or entity with whom I or another disagrees without being threatened the loss of “progressive” support, friendship, or association—respectfully, I’m out.

Spiritually speaking, God’s revelation throughout history and over the span of our individual lives is a progressive one—God is continually revealing more and more truth through our awakening to more and more Truth. This requires me to be open and never leaning upon my own understandings to the exclusion of my willingness to consider things anew.

I’m a human being on a journey for crying out loud—not a “progressive” project where the primary goal is to conform and carbonite me into a set of beliefs, positions, and behaviors. That is regressive, not progressive—an act of the Empire, not the Rebellion.

There is a complexity to each of us on our paths to encounter God, ourselves, and the world—seeking to arrive at the Truth of it all. If being a “progressive” does not allow for people to be where they are at, wander along this path of enlightenment, and still find, at some level, inclusive community among us at all points along the way, then with all due respect, I’m out.

If the fruits of being a “progressive” is in the creating of peasants, cloned to simply serve an Empire under a spiffy new name, I’m out.

If I have to become a Hyper-Offended Watchdog—respectfully, I’m out.

I have no reservation nor restraint in declaring from the mountain tops that nothing is more offensive to the person and cause of Jesus Christ than conservative, Evangelical Christianity and the violent, discriminatory, bigoted actions and attitudes of many of its adherents.

In the same way, as a communicator and writer, I firmly believe nothing is perhaps more important than the words and terms we use, requiring our educated carefulness and intentionality while giving priority to how our vocabulary is received and internalized by the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. The common phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me” is a sure lie from the pits of hell and a convenient copout for the privileged. Words carry with them the power of life and death, and far too many, with intention or not, use them in ways that hurt, abuse, destroy, belittle, demean, and demonize the very people and things God loves and affirms so dearly. This is a severe, epidemic in our culture and world as a whole, and many are dying from the mere weaponizing of words.

Yet, if my default posture when navigating what can be a very ignorant, discriminating, hateful, and careless world, must become one devoid of common sense while focusing every creative fiber of my mental being in the seeking out and connecting of discriminatory, racist, privileged, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, and condemning dots where there are none in reality or intent to connect, then respectfully, I’m out.

There is far more than enough in our world for which to take necessary and appropriate offense without having to fabricate or make much out of what is truly benign or all together nonexistent.

I know I will always be a Grace-guy and most certainly a “progressive” in heart who passionately wants to be a contributing member of this important movement, but if these are the kinds of things I must become to keep the keys to the kingdom, then with all due respect, I’m out.

Grace is brave, be brave.

Why Conservative Evangelical Christianity Is The Worst Evil Ever Manifested Upon The Earth

By far, the worst form of evil ever manifested upon the earth is conservative, Evangelical Christianity—for there is nothing more diabolical and destructive than to position and assert oneself as having and presenting the exclusive cure for humanity’s deepest, darkest, and most troublesome and consequential realities while at the same time, being the very poison that like no other, perpetuates, enflames, and imprisons all humanity to the very diseases it claims to heal. Conservative, Evangelical Christianity is the cosmic lie that must be called out of the shadows of deception. It is a spiritual veil to an empty life. It is the cancer claiming to be the cure, addicting all its adherents to a hope that is no hope at all. The anti-Christ, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the devil draped in holy garments disguised as an angel of light–these are none other then conservative, Evangelical Christianity at its core.

At the heart of all conservative, Evangelical Christianity is the sum of Satan’s biggest ploy, a mixed Gospel that is in truth, no Gospel at all—an imposturous trick of grandiose proportions that pimps a “good news” proclamation deemed to be straight from the throne of God that is in reality only partially good news, if good news at all. God loves you, BUT. He saves you, BUT. He blesses you, BUT—you must repent, make a faith choice, and love Him back in all the right ways, or else. This is the essence of a mixed Gospel, always containing some level of human performance for its existence and effectiveness in one’s life. God does His part, but you need to do yours—until then, a divine connection is hit or miss at best, and nothing of God reaches beyond this divide until you appropriately reach back.

This is bad news—terrible news. God and His dealings with all humanity are deemed as contractual and conditional at the core, requiring some level of human responsibility for their establishment, continuation, and validity. God is the necessary giver, but humanity is the necessary receiver. Jesus knocks, but we must answer. We pray, God moves. We tithe, God blesses. All is a divine equation where God makes His offers and humanity is solicited to respond accordingly in ways that complete, uphold, access, and maximize what is in reality, a conditional relationship to the Creator. Ultimately, God’s love, power, blessings, and desires are only as effectual as our human capacity to respond correctly.

This is a sure, diabolical death sentence no one can withstand disguised as our only way of emancipation and life, for who among us, with all our human limits of mind, heart, and spirit could ever truly respond adequately in one moment let alone a thousand, successfully tripping all the necessary God-switches. To believe one can even take a step toward doing so is to already be seduced by Satan’s greatest scheme—a humanly codependent Gospel, which is no Gospel at all.

In fact, it this false Gospel that erodes beautiful humans into mere spiritual junkies addicted to the sound of their own faith and faithfulness, leaving them with a shivering, psychotic, bipolar spirituality convinced that hinging upon their faith performance is both their greatest potential hope and their greatest potential demise. If I believe, do, feel, and think correctly, then all is well—Jesus is on the throne, life is good, I’m forgiven and acceptable, blessings abound, and heaven is a certainty. But, if my faith flounders, my actions wander, my feelings waver, or my thoughts collide, then all is not well—Jesus Himself is now justly unsettled towards me and in some way or another there will surely be a cost to pay in goodness, blessings, favor, and perhaps even the eternal trajectory of my life.

So, in panic and desperation, we turn to the latest “Christian” book, or empowering “Christian” conference, or candle-lit liturgy, or emotional worship chorus, or ritual, or sacrament, or spiritual formula, or good deed, or ministry accomplishment, or breakthrough-promising “to do” list, searching for a fresh syringe from which to inject a hope that is no hope at all into the restless veins of our empty, strung out soul curled in the fetal position grasping for life, hoping that today will finally be the day we “get right” and “get it right” and therefore overcome. But sadly, as Satan’s lips grin from ear to ear and his nails course through his wiry beard, that day never comes and never will.

If the good news of Jesus requires anything from us, anything at all, it is in fact the worst news of all. No matter our greatest intentions or desires, nor even in our best moments of believing or behaving, our spiritual performance always breaks down. In the end, whether with God, ourselves, or others, the good that we know we should do is not what we do, and once again, our capacity to escape ourselves is found foolishly and drastically insufficient. Thus, this mixed, humanly-codependent Gospel we believe turns the key towards freedom from all that shackles us, reveals itself to be the very evil that keeps us imprisoned. Behind every person with a sin problem is first a person, not with a behavior problem, but rather with a condemnation problem in heart, believing themselves to be condemned in some way.  A person with a condemnation problem is first a person, not with an obedience or faith problem, but one who has been tragically kept from the one and only cure—pure Grace, the true Gospel. Only pure Grace heals and empowers, any other mixture of any kind only serves to entice, enflame, and imprison every negative aspect of our lives. Therefore, what is pimped as Christian living is in fact, Christian suffering—humans reduced to spiritual zombies given just enough of a Grace-mixture to sustain a pulse, but never the purity of Grace that brings true freedom, healing, and life. This is spiritual terrorism, a sure kind of hell where nothing ever truly gets better, and conservative, Evangelical Christianity its prince. The very moral decay conservative, Evangelical Christianity licks its lips at ridding from planet earth is the very moral decay it creates, perpetuates, and entices with a mixed Gospel that is impotent to solve anything and virtually omnipotent in poisoning everything.

For where you have a mixed Gospel, there you will have some level of human performance required. Where you have some level of human performance required, there you will have the sure presence of self-righteousness. Where you have the sure presence of self-righteousness, there you will have the perceived spiritual justification for the condemnation, labeling, and judgement of others. Where you have a perceived spiritual justification for the condemnation, labeling, and judgement of others, there you will find every kind of hellish manifestation on earth—racism, sexism, discrimination, hatred, violence, murder, war, homophobia, bigotry, nationalism, elitism, misogyny, legalism, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, division, condemnation, and all the like.

Just ask the forty percent of transgender people who commit suicide each year and the countless others that can’t pee in a public restroom with simple human dignity. Just ask the LGBTQ community who live every waking moment of their lives in fear, discrimination, marginalization, and condemnation sentenced to walk on this planet depressed, shamed, shunned, abused, and even murdered. Just ask the thousands of good, Jesus-loving people who have been put out from their church communities—spiritually oppressed, abused, and terrorized, many to the point of giving up on Christianity all together, if not taking their own lives first as the deep scars of religious shame seem impossible to heal. Just ask the millions of people in cities and nations across the world who have been killed, their communities obliterated, and their cultures and faiths demonized by our nation that has turned the cause of Christ into a militant empire that spiritually justifies war and violence for its existence and furthering. Just ask the 6 million people exterminated in the Holocaust, a cosmic atrocity led by a man named Adolf Hitler who claimed, “My feelings as a Christian point me to see my Lord and Savior as a fighter,” and “the true message of Christianity is only to be found in Nazism,” and “I can imagine Christ as nothing other than blond and with blue eyes…” Just ask millions of black slaves from history and millions of others within our modern black communities today who, by the color of their skin, are predisposed as being inferior, guilty, suspect, lazy, and irresponsible and thus deserving of abuse, exploitation, discrimination, and even death.  All this and tragically more, manifested at the feet and influence of primarily a conservative, Evangelical Christian mindset rooted in a false, mixed Gospel that is no Gospel at all, where many of its adherents have become experts at weaponizing the Bible, spiritually justifying hate, condemning those who think, believe, and act differently, furthering a conservative Christian empire at all costs, and outright sucking the life out of living.

When one connects the dots from source to symptoms, the evil and its roots are undeniable.

Beyond the realm of Christianity, if and where humanity is inherently hateful, carnal, and self-seeking on its own, conservative, Evangelical Christianity only serves to enflame all that is bad into the worst by giving it a spiritual justification that transforms evil into being more evil than evil itself. For Satan has found no greater incubator than conservative, Evangelical Christianity through which to cloak his most diabolical and destructive manifestation ever wielded upon the earth—the spiritual justification of evil birthed from a false, mixed Gospel that is no Gospel at all.

To be sure, this is the Antichrist agenda in full bloom. For if conservative Christianity truly believed in the pure Gospel of Grace and its complete sufficiency, then the Christian life wouldn’t be a test, but a rest—all humanity would be seen as equal, worship would be un-programmable, church would be uncontainable, condemnation would be impossible, differences would be inconsequential, people un-judgeable, skin colors and orientations un-shameable, washing the feet of all others would be fundamental, and love, particularly of one’s enemies, would be unconditionally unconditional. All would be Grace. Church, an open table. Life, a freedom to fully love others and fully be oneself.

For the truly good news of the pure Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ is this… God is love, Jesus is Grace, and you have been made whole, complete, and irrevocably connected to the Creator—solely based on and by Him who is Love, and nothing based on you or by you who are simply the beloved. God’s greatest desire and the cause of Jesus Christ is to awaken the world to that which has already been settled—He is love, you are the beloved, period. You are blameless, pure, holy, righteous, and fully free, and quite frankly there is nothing you can do about it because Jesus did everything about it. The cross is truly, one and done.

This is life abundantly, this is God completely, this is His heart though His son, irrevocably.

That’s why one writer, seeing the drastic differences and the demonic deception and consequences of a mixed Gospel manifested among people, wrote this…

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving grace of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.” –Galatians 1:6-9

Notice, Paul clearly recognized that God does not call nor come to humanity with a message of condemnation, shame, guilt, fear, spiritual performance, conditions, “to do” steps, behavior modification, or sin management, but rather with one word, one message alone… Grace.

If it’s not all Grace, it’s not all Gospel.

If it’s not all Gospel, it’s pure evil—an evil that should be cursed, no matter how controversial or unpopular it is to do so, even unto death on a cross.

Hate me, criticize me, fart in my general direction—I will not stop sounding the alarm.

Never, no way, no how.

All is Grace.

Grace is brave, be brave.

I’m Done: Why I’m Completely Walking Away From Church, Ministry, And Most Everything “Christian”

I promise, it’s not you, it’s me.

That, I’m convinced.

I’ve tried, I really have. Twenty-two years of ministry—even more time, simply being a “Christian.”

I can’t do it, and it’s high time to call the wizard out from behind the curtain.

This whole American-Christianity thing, I’m just not good enough. I can’t pull it off.

Church, ministry, “Christian” stuff—I simply don’t have what it takes.

I mean, you Church folks are amazing, I don’t know how you do it. The way you keep your righteousness and closeness with God afloat through a vigilant life of sin-management, do-gooding, and Christian faithfulness, I can’t even begin to lift that kind of weight, let alone hold it up. For me, every time I’m admonished with things I need to do in order to be a better person or become a more “fully devoted” follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t even get close to mastering just one of them, not to mention the five others listed in the sermon notes. And before you know it, the next Sunday, we’re on to a whole new set of things I need to go after. Honestly, I just can’t keep up like you. I’m so far behind from being a “real deal Christian.” And quite frankly, I’m ashamed of my incapacity to spiritually perform at your level. I truly don’t know how you field that kind of pressure and keep good going with all the spiritual consequences ahead of you if you don’t. Your fear management skills must be impeccable.

Something is wrong with me, I’m sure. All the accountability partners, prayer warriors and small-group interventions have somehow fallen flat. Years of Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, pastors, and mentors hoping I’ll get serious enough to get my life on track. I feel like such a hypocrite and fake to just take a step towards your fellowship, as if I’m even close to making the grade or would ever be capable of drawing within your lines. It all leaves me so empty. I feel everything in my soul shutting down at just the thought.

I look around, and everyone else is so much more spiritual. All the inspirational posts they have on Facebook, all the good things they are doing for the Lord—so deep into worship and prayer with their eyes closed and hands raised, loving every minute of it with complete abandon. There’s this ardent love and commitment to Jesus that’s just dripping from everybody’s lips with such eloquent and Jesus-flavored verbiage. And here I am—riddled with serious doubts and questions, embarrassed that I’m not feeling nearly as into Jesus as apparently I should. Heck, truth be told, I’m still struggling with a good amount of the bad stuff you folks seem to be so far beyond. My beliefs change, my behaviors fall short, my passions fade—no wonder why, from time to time, I’ve gotten the disappointed looks, cold shoulders, and leadership “time outs.”  What was I thinking, I’m way out of my league. Repentance here, pointing out sin there, keeping people from an eternal torture in hell prescribed from a God who is Love—I don’t know how you stomach it all. It’s true, I really should be so much further along by now, but for some reason, all the formulas, disciplines, rituals, steps, and “soaking” in worship aren’t working for me. And trust me, I’ve tried—really, really hard.

Church, I want to fit in so badly, I want to feel like a genuine follower in American Christianity, but I just can’t. Whatever it is you have, I simply don’t have it in me.

I mean, you people in ministry—you got it going on. All of you, rockstars for sure. How you keep up in the whirlwind of competitive Christianity is beyond me. It’s everywhere—in all my searching, I’ve been hard pressed to find a layer of Christian ministry that hasn’t been turned into pretty much a kind of all-out ministry cage match. Quite frankly, I don’t know how so many of you do it—making sure your ministry is out-growing the next, your blog posts are the first written on the latest controversial subject, your platform is increasing, your branding is on point, your engaging your following, updating your Twitter account, promoting your latest “thing”—on and on and on, keeping up with ministry trends, making sure you’re “in” with all the right people, all while having the picture perfect marriage and family pimped with the latest fashions, fohawks, tattoos, and skinny jeans required in order to be relevant.  Wow, I bend a knee in your honor and awe.

And then, the criticism. All the people determined to misunderstand you—the people who treat you unfairly, kick you to the curb, and hang you out to dry. The fellow people in ministry who sabotage you, seek to undermine your influence, use you, and are always trying to “out minister” you. How you shrug it all off and plow through—my hat goes off to you.

I’m sure I just don’t have enough faith and I am way too insecure. I should be so much stronger in my identity in Christ, but a lot of times, I’m just not. Thank God there are celebrity ministers out there within every camp and kind who do, say, and write so much better than the rest of us—makes up for all my floundering for sure. You folks are heroes, how you stomach and swim in the business and enterprise that is empire Christianity is way beyond my capacity—the compromises you have to make, the duplicities you must have to embody—yours is a high wire act I’m just not good enough to swing.  As much as your table in the lunch room captures my attention, I can’t hang with you all, though my ego might keep on dreaming. I must concede, I just don’t have it in me.

I mean, “Christian” stuff—your imagination is mind-boggling. Christian yoga, Christian yoga pants, Christian basketball, Christian football, Christian dance, Christian art, Christian music, Christian movies, Christian television, Christian bathrooms, Christian food, Christian fast food, Christian books, Christian book marks, Christian clubs, Christian groups, Christian values, Christian principles, Christian nations, not to mention,  Christian ___________. Oh, and I almost forgot, Christian_____________.

I am amazed, you are the masters of drawing lines—defining who’s in and who’s out, what’s in and what’s out, what’s good for me, and what’s not.  My radar for sin and uncleanliness just isn’t that good. Thank God, you label it for me.

But even still, if I’m honest, I find myself deeply wanting to “be with” and “in with” so many of things that aren’t necessarily “Christian.”  And for that, I know I am suppose to feel, “dirty”—but, I don’t.

Surely, something is wrong with me—terribly wrong with me. I’m damaged goods, falling away, chasing wayward spirits of doctrine, or something “biblical” like that. Yet, I can’t help it. Something inside of me that I have been told for years is so weak, meek, and poor feels, yet all so strong and divine, drawing me away— far, far away.

I’m pretty sure I am going to hell, at leasts that’s what “they” say.  So, I guess that’s just how it’s going to have to be, because I simply can’t fake-it-to-make-it anymore. You folks have it, I don’t.

I know breaking up is hard to do, but I’m done. I’m walking away.

Church, ministry, so much of this “Christian” stuff.

I’m done playing the game, running the rat race, never measuring up or doing enough. I’m done competing, sacrificing my sanity, and being spiritually cross-checked every time I have an open shot on goal.

I’ve simply resigned myself to a life of trying to fully be myself—relying on Grace and loving some people along the way as best I can, believing that in so doing and in so being, Jesus is somehow pleased.

I’m a firm believer that you don’t lose friends, you lose people who you thought were friends.

And better than that—you don’t stop loving, you just learn to love more honestly.

I sense I’ll be doing the former, and I know, I’ll be doing the latter.

For honesty is the first thing that grows from a life planted in Grace.

Forget It Conservative Christianity, I’m Choosing Hell

One of the most telling aspects of any faith is its vision of heaven. Gaze into the crystal ball of any religion for a picture of their afterlife, and there you will find a clear culmination and ultimate fruition of its true desires, values, and beliefs.

In fact, for Christianity, the concept of the “Kingdom of God” is in essence, a sample-sized, earthly manifestation of a believed future, five-course, eternal reality—a kind of foretaste now of a feast to come later. What any version of Christianity is presently dishing out upon the world’s table in thought, word, and deed is in fact a profound foreshadowing of what truly resides in the heart of their faith and what they hope will extend in greater proportion and size for all eternity. Despite any creed’s best intentions, one is always becoming tomorrow, in reality or vision, what you are doing and believing today.

What will heaven be like?

Well, if you took the current picture of conservative, Evangelical Christianity and multiplied it by forever in a heaven far, far away—for many, this is their preferred vision of eternity.

It’s a vision of American, Evangelical, conservative Christianity manifested upon the cosmos without limits and double-fried in an inch thick batter of endlessness. For them, heaven is their brand of faith and faithfulness being awarded the eternal green light from God to the exclusion of all others and super-sized beyond limits of scope and time. Heaven is everything that conservative, Evangelical Christianity is today injected with steroids, spun into eternity like a breakdancer on crack, and given full reign over all things, forever.

What does this Evangelical, conservative Christianity kind-of-heaven look like? Well, what does Evangelical, conservative Christianity look like now?

From what I see, heaven is an exclusive club of the do-gooders and the conservative-enough believers in which you are so-saved and so-loved, all up until the tragic point you blink with a question or step outside inerrant lines. It’s an eternal existence of warmth when you fit, and cold shoulders and surface pleasantries when, for some reason, you don’t.

It’s hell.

It’s an eternal contemporary, Christian rock themed couple’s cruise where the whole boat is jacked up with people trying to prove how in love they are with each other and Jesus all while slamming Shirley Temple’s as they blissfully walk hand-in-hand with pride past the slot machines that have been unplugged for their spiritually-sensitive accommodation.

It’s hell.

It’s a forever worship service to see whose hands are raised the highest and looks to be pressing deepest into the presence of the Lord “Jeezus,” all while the worship leader is seemingly breaking the all time record for withstanding the squeeze of his skinny jeans before passing out on stage—not to mention the pastor whose hands are sweating in hopes the gold dust machine secretly mounted into the ceiling above doesn’t short out this time.

It’s hell.

Heaven is a place where your unrepentant, wrong-believing, non-KJV, doubt-harboring, sin-dripping wayward loved ones and fellow human beings endure eternal, flesh-melting torture in a place called “hell” while you sip Mimosas undisturbed on the shores of righteous bliss somehow totally at peace and satisfaction with a god who remains completely holy and just in the process.

It’s hell.

It’s the place where Jesus shrugs his shoulders in his “welcome to heaven” orientation speech looking out to those polished few who “made it” declaring with a sheepish grin on his face, “Well folks, I did the best I could—glad at least you’re here.”

It’s the fruition of a long-desired escape from the pesky, inconvenient people with whom you disagree and those who dare to question, offend, and even stand against a cut and pasted, conservative theology and a pretentious, anti-Jesus way of living.

It’s a gathering of predominantly white, starch-pressed people with a few minorities thrown in who have proven their conservative value and Evangelical legitimacy.

It’s hell.

It’s a place where an Ark believed to have carried a few of those specially selected to survive a frustrated god is made into a profiteering amusement park to honor a psychotically personified deity instead of a memorial to remember a humanity that died, and a people who projected their spiritual ignorance onto God with a false, diabolical, bible-making storyline that is so far from His heart, nature, and ways.

It’s hell.

Heaven is a forever-long small group meeting where the highlight of the gathering culminates when one’s spiritual jollies finally climax as you exercise your ultimate, conservative Christian role as spiritual policeman and accountability partner while circling the room with the questions, “what are you working on spiritually?” and “how can we pray for you?”

It’s hell.

Heaven is a place where your kids can finally and forever avoid those dirty, worldly sports groups that don’t have a Evangelical-flavored devotion and prayer session before every practice, play, water break, and game.

Heaven is that place where my LGBT friends and family will be burning in hell, not because Jesus said so, but because conservatism did.

It’s hell.

This, and sadly so much more, is the heaven of conservative Christianity, the spiritual wet dream of Evangelicals, the 72 virgins of Islam shrink-wrapped and spiritualized for Christianity.

To be sure, this is not the vision of heaven intrinsic to the hearts and minds of all Evangelicals, but sadly, no amount of conservative love, exceptions, do-gooding, and redemptive moments can out-sound and out-glare the screeching overall declaration and vision of the conservative, Christian heaven that is exclusive, performance-driven, racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, elitist, brutal, graceless, inhumane, and filled wall-to-wall with conditional-ladened love.

That’s why I’m a human, a Christian, and a pastor who would rather burn in hell with the broken than float around in clouds with the spiritually fascist.

Perhaps, the scandalous scandal of the Gospel of Jesus is that in the end, to the surprise of all, the tables are turned, and Jesus is found once again, determined to live with and love the very people the religious hope to live and love without.

Perhaps hell is disguised as heaven to the religious, and heaven is disguised as hell to the broken—all to make sure the right people get to the right place.

For the same Jesus that traded heaven once already to be with the religiously outcast will be the same One to do it again—and this time, forever.

So stop trying to assimilate me into your spiritual Borg of a hell you’re pimping as heaven, I’ve made my choice—your mission that has made me a project of your self-righteous quest to desperately valid your empty faith by making it mine, is futile.

Your hell is where my Jesus will be.

I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and your heaven is not.

That’s why, forget it conservative Christianity, I’ve heard and seen enough—I’m choosing, hell.

 

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there.”  -Psalm 139

Is Jesus Gay?

At times, there is silence for a reason as some things are best said by being left unsaid.

That there is no mention of Jesus’ sexual orientation in scripture is perhaps reflective of a profound, cosmic reality that one’s gender nor orientation are a prerequisite for determining that which is of the Divine. To the dismay of much of western Christianity, Jesus wasn’t purposed on being imaged into a caucasian, American, heterosexual, republican, gun-owning, blue-eyed, conservative male with flowing locks of brown hair—but rather He is the surest example of what it truly looks like to simply be fully human and fully rested in the Divine.

Was or is Jesus gay in terms of sexual orientation or behavior? I don’t believe so—but it certainly doesn’t matter. For being gay is about so much more than mere sexual orientation or gender identification. It’s about being a beautifully created soul adorned with eternal extravagance imaged in the splendor of the Creator, who no less bears the arduous task of navigating their unique, human experience through the minefields of a brutally inhumane world that would quickly ransack those who break religious molds, clawing to strip them of their divine value, identity, purpose and worth. Beyond the gravity of sexuality and orientation, this is the deeper, ultimate essence of the plight intrinsic to being gay—to be fully human and fully alive while sweating beads of blood in determination to find one’s way and hold onto one’s inherent dignity and God-delighting in a spiritually nefarious, different-condemning, and different-killing world.

In this way, Jesus was surely gay.

For in the face of being ostracized and derided by His own Nazareth family of bigots determined to misunderstand Him, Jesus is the gay man and the lesbian woman who live in the constant, gruesome torment of coming out, being known, and fully living their God-designed personhood—a kind of hell on earth of daily accusation and rejection God never weaved into the tapestry of what anyone should endure.

Or crying over Jerusalem, begging for His heart to be understood and His people to receive Him, Jesus is the parent who lies awake deep into the night, tirelessly fighting in solidarity for the defense, worth, dignity and affirmation of the LGBT child God has blessed them, but the religious deem a disgrace—Jesus, not just the parent, but also too the LGBT child born innocent by the Spirit’s authoring, pursued by the cunning Herods of our world whose sure desire is to seek out and kill them.

There, praying in the garden of Gethsemane, begging for divine reprieve, Jesus is the lesbian teenager, trembling in terror as she cuts her arms and threads the noose, convinced that giving up is the only way out, and the only sure resolve to the pain that is before her.

In the outer courts, confronted by the religious through the evil venom of their creed—backed into a corner, a pointed finger pushing at His chest questioning His true identity, Jesus is the transgender person whose truth is too truthful for the world to hear nor see.

Then, from the confines of Pilate’s Praetorium where flogged beyond recognition, to a savage, religiously-conspired cross where nailed, pierced and left to die of internal suffocation, Jesus is the Orlando night club and every LGBT person ever murdered in body, mind or spirit—crucified to death by religion, ignorance, and hate, and even good people who remain silent and unengaged.

In all these ways, Jesus is surely gay—not just gay, but One of us all for whom religion has demonized, illegitimized, and crucified in hate.

For Jesus didn’t die just for humanity, He died as humanity—all of it. Transgender, black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor, conservative, progressive—the haters, the lovers, the lifted high, the beaten low, the Christians, the Muslims—every type, color, creed, and flavor.

Everywhere there is religious oppression, everywhere there is bigotry, discrimination, or injustice—where there is the branding with labels or the withholding of Grace, Jesus is there in Person and as the person being deprived of that which has been given to them freely and irrevocably from the goodness of His Name.

In this way, if you can’t handle the notion of Jesus being gay then you aren’t fully understanding the essence of Jesus being you.

To be you or to be gay is essentially one in the same—it’s what it means for all of us to simply be human, created in the likeness, image, and favor of our Maker, living in a religious world that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy all that His hands have made, with special sights on that which the religious deem inferior or against the grain.

Run your fingers through the strands of an LGBT soul, then through mine, or that of any other, and soon you will declare the only declaration that can be truthfully rendered—that none are better, only different. For the sooner we see Jesus in and as the people around us, the sooner the lenses of God’s affirming view become the windows through which we see ourselves and all humanity.

If Jesus isn’t gay then Jesus isn’t you, and if Jesus isn’t you, then the incarnation is a fake, and your resurrection a certain uncertainty.

No one chooses to be LGBT, but in Christ Jesus, God has chosen to be—not just One of them, but He even does the unthinkable and dares to be One of you.

Yes, that’s right.

Jesus is gay, Jesus is me, and Jesus is even…

You.

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