Tag: church (page 1 of 6)

8 Things I Wish We Christians Would Admit

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

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

I wish we would admit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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

I want to understand, I really do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please, help me understand.

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

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

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

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

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

Help me understand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please, help me understand.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

 

photo: alyssa l. miller

The Conservative Christianity That Is Killing You

Sometimes in life, we don’t realize the things silently destroying us from within—false beliefs we have long held to be true, misplaced values we have long embraced as being invaluable. As humans, we can be so attracted to the path of least resistance that we become willing to reject the kind of positive change that would free us from our prisons. To think that we could be wrong, misled, or have wasted our lives on things found to be untrue or uncertain is a daunting proposition of regret we’d just as soon put to death, even if it means resigning ourselves to a life holding fast to the lies.

For years, as an Evangelical pastor, conservative Christianity was gutting me from the inside out, stealing the very life it promised to give. I thought I was breathing the ultimate way of living only to realize I wasn’t breathing at all. Sadly, nothing would have changed had I not been confronted by the pure Gospel of God’s Grace and awakened to the heights from which I had fallen.

In fact, if you hold to the beliefs I once did, you are determined that outside of your conservative, Evangelical way of thinking and believing, there is no other way, no other truth, and no other life. For some, even as you watch your marriage erode, your children suffer the rejection and abandonment of your condemnation, your faith-performance fall short, your hypocrisy grow, and your hate and intolerance overtake you, nothing will loosen the grip you have upon your conservative faith understanding. Even as we speak, your fingers are twitching and your mind is rushing ahead to the bullets you’ll fire in the comment section of this post. You have it all lined up and justified in your mind and heart, along with the biblical passages and interpretations to build your defense.

Yet, little do you know, the conservative Christianity that is killing you. Perhaps you would do best to ask your spouse—even better, to question your children. Ask your enemies, those you deem to be sinning, or with whom you disagree. Ask the females, the minorities, the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender people among you, or perhaps just ask the less fortunate.

If they are honest and objective, they will tell you the dark, diabolical tale of what conservative Christianity has truly done to you.

But if not them, maybe, just maybe, your conscience has been speaking, crying out to be heard. Deep down you sense something isn’t quite adding up, there are pieces all together missing. You quickly subdue the tensions in your soul, the questions that tremble below, and cue the rationalizations. Yet, now is as good a time as any to give way to honesty and awaken to the truth that is so desperately trying to set your free—conservative Christianity is killing you.

It’s Killing Your Inner Peace and Joy– For how can you have any peace when so many things in your conservative faith-understanding are deemed to be unresolved? Your eternity, your closeness with God, your divine acceptance, your faith status—unresolved, unresolved, unresolved. One day you’re close with God, the next you aren’t. One day you’re eternally secure, the next day you’re not. One day your life enjoys the gleam of God’s favor, approval, and acceptance, the next day, it doesn’t. How can there be any peace when so much of your faith and spiritual life hinges upon you, your capacity to believe, believe correctly, and spiritually perform? Nothing is ever settled or certain even if you are convinced you’ve measured up. For it’s impossible to know for sure when your good has been good enough. Maybe there is something God sees that you’ve tragically missed.

In front of the mirror of conservative Christianity, all one can do is pretend, medicate their fears and doubts with self-righteousness, and live a life of angst with one eye open, as even our best days will always fall short of a God who suspiciously gazes upon us through the eyes of an incomplete score card.

And so I ask, with all due respect—where is the joy in pretending? Where is the peace in always having an endless, ever growing list of things one must do, become, and overcome that are in fact impossible to ever satisfy? The spiritual gymnastics required to fool yourself and others into believing you are truly happy and fulfilled are daunting in number and surely a hell-on-earth way of living.

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the real faith-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “peace” nor “joy,” it would be—never ending, unresolved PRESSURE.

It’s Killing Your Relationships- For how many miles of emotional and spiritual distance have you carved into your relationships with people because your conservative faith-understanding requires you to do so? You can’t just love for the sake of loving, connect for the sake of connecting, or enjoy people for the sake of enjoying people—that would be preposterous. Rather, every person you meet becomes a kind of spiritual project, a potential convert into your faith-understanding, or a shiny new visitor for your church. You measure people spiritually by what you believe is a God-given specialized capacity to have “discernment,” lest you become unclean, dirty, or condone evil. In order to gauge what kind of relational approach your conservative faith prescribes at any given moment, people and relationships have to be rigorously sifted, sized up, and labeled—lost or found, friend or foe, faithful or unfaithful, real Christian or wolf in sheep’s clothing. More so than not, unless they believe and act like you, people are largely designated as a problem to be fixed—and you, the perfect one to do the fixing. If they resist or even refuse—eventually disagreement becomes disappointment, disappointment becomes disapproval, disapproval becomes distance, distance becomes disconnection, and disconnection becomes damnation. Why? Because the one thing that’s largely missing for your conservative faith-understanding is true, unconditional Love. For love is never love if, based on what another person is or does, it can ever grow into hate, conditions, or condemnation.

And so I ask, with all due respect—how is that religious, relational radar working for you? How about with your family, work, community, or even church? How much true connection, community, and influence do you have with people who look, believe, act, and live differently than you? Jesus had so much that it got Him killed. It wasn’t a conservative faith within Him that nailed him to a tree—far from it. It was the conservative faith around Him that crucified Him and sought to put to death the love-life He came to bring.

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the true relational-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “humble,” “transformative,” nor “gracious,” it would be—pretentiously, selfishly STRESSED.

It’s Killing Your Capacity To Love- For how many conditions must you write into the fine print of the love you give? What’s it like always having to pump the brakes, filter compassion, prequalify affirmation, and love half-heartedly? The greatest fear of your conservative faith-understanding is to give too much love, Grace, and acceptance—convinced of the terrible things people would do. Yet ironically, the greatest fear of Jesus was for people to believe in a God who would restrict love and that people could ever give too much—that’s why He came. For either God’s Grace is fully sufficient, or it’s fully not. Wouldn’t you agree?

Yet, your conservative faith-understanding believes that expressing love in its highest form requires one to boldly confront sin, convinced that withholding or limiting love is at times both helpful and necessary in fostering God’s plan. In your mind, love, by itself, is much too soft, impotent, and permissive. In fact, the centrality of your conservative creed rests upon a fear of hell, the wrath of God, and His holiness in sending un-repenting sinners to an eternity of torture. In your mind, it would seem these dark potential realities justify and even demand your conditional love-giving.

However, have you ever considered that because Jesus confronted all sin, once and for all—there is, in actuality, no more confronting to do? In fact, to confront sin with a prescribed fear of any form of divine retribution is to confess the belief that Jesus didn’t confront sin, or do so sufficiently. That’s why Grace, the only power Jesus ever employed in His sin confronting and ultimate defeating, is the only power that awakens people to a change of mind and a heart of faith.

In fact, when people awaken to the scandalous, divine freedom they have in Christ to choose sin without fear of divine retribution, it is then and only then, that sin loses its power and appeal to be a good choice. Sin is disarmed of its capacity to serve as a form of punishment, guilt, and condemnation, and is instead correctly internalized as that which steals, kills, and destroys the good things in our living.

In the end, because your conservative faith-understanding refuses to surrender to Love and love alone, you can’t imagine how Love alone could possibly win over another. Rather, in your mind, they too, like you, must first become religiously imprisoned.

And so I ask, with all due respect—how does it feel to be shackled to a restricted life of giving love with conditions, believing that’s the height and sum of God’s love for you, sadly convinced that love doesn’t win?

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the real love-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “compassion,” “passion,” or “mercy,” it would be—fine print filled CONDITIONS.

It’s Killing Your Freedom- For when, by your conservative faith-understanding, the Christian life is seen as little more than a test, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to find spiritual rest? When faithfulness is seen as life of sin-management, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to truly be alive, live, breathe, and be burden free? When Church is seen as a building with a cross on top filled with a club of like-minded people, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to actually be the church—anyplace, anytime, anyhow? When love is seen as requiring conditions, limits, and restrictions, how you can ever know the divine freedom of what it’s like to love unconditionally? When hell hangs over your head, wielded by a bi-polar God who draws close to you one minute but turns his back the next, how can you ever know the effortless freedom of what it’s like to love, worship, and adore Him without fear nor obligation?

And so I ask, with all due respect—why is it that the life your conservative faith-understanding wants me to believe is filled with such immeasurable freedom, feels so much more like a life of unimaginable imprisonment?

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the life-trajectory of conservative Christianity it wouldn’t be “limitless” or “free,” it would be—rule-driven, fear-driven RESTRICTION.

It’s true, conservative Christianity IS killing you—taking what God intended to be a life of peace, joy, human community, unconditional love, and life-giving freedom and raping it into a death sentence of religious pressure, relational stress, conditional love, and fearful restriction.

Sounds a lot more like hell to me.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Christians, This Is Why People Think We Suck

Maybe you’re tired of hearing it, maybe you don’t care, or maybe you just don’t want to see it, but the truth is, whether we like it or not, most of the world doesn’t view Christians nor Christianity in a positive light—especially the conservative brand of our faith. For all our efforts to “win people for Christ” with even the best of intentions, at the end of the day, many see Christians as hypocritical pretentious jerks, “church” as a ridiculous waste of time, and our faith as a hopeless, ignorant, hateful, and useless relic of the past that refuses to evolve.

Sure, we could spiritualize it all away with leather-bound excuses as we declare that “in these the end of days, people will turn away.” Yet sadly, blinded to our own rebellion, it is in fact we, not them, who have increasingly rejected the true and pure Gospel—falling away from God who is Love, Jesus who is Grace, and His message that is peace. Once again, the irony is deafening as the religious who point fingers at the world in disgust and blame are the ones found to be most entrenched in its evils—lacking real compassion, humility, love, and true faith.

Believe what you want to believe, draw the lines where you want to draw, retreat to your camps, wrap yourself in the faith flag that seems to best suit your spiritual comforts—the world doesn’t care. We have largely lost our voice, surrendered much of our influence, and bear the image of spiritual buffoons in the eyes of many who look upon us. Fair or unfair, that’s the mirror of truth—whether we are willing to stand in front of it or not.

Sure, a few megachurches and contemporary ministries are increasing in numbers as sheep shift from pasture to pasture seeking out the best show. Yet still, American Christianity in all its expressions is largely dying and we, like drunks, are apparently so addicted to our religiosity that we would just as soon die with it in a pool of our own spiritual vomit than embrace the sobering cure.

But no, you won’t hear it, you won’t listen to it, you won’t take seriously the countless voices of those who’ve been left to drown in our wake. Deflecting truth, with your head buried in the echo chamber of your own understanding, has become to you a prized spiritual gift. For it is our deafness to the Christ crying out all around us that has drained the marrow out of our souls, rendered us nearly useless, and made us a sure enemy of God’s heart.

A voice cries out in the wilderness, “Christians, when will we lift our heads out of the sand and finally realize just who we have become?”

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve become nose-blind to our own stench. The pungent, nose hair singeing aroma that exudes from our pores is the very reality we refuse to admit—our spiritual attitudes stink. Maybe we don’t put it into exact words, but we say it exactly in every other way. “We have the exclusive truth, and everyone else is the exclusive problem.” “We are right, and everyone else is wrong.” “We have all the answers and a Bible that clearly tells us so, who are you to question or differ in opinion?”

“You need to come and join us—think like us, believe like us, look like us, live like us, for we have the cure to you who are the cancer.” “God is working towards our success because of our faith-living while working towards your failure because of your rebellious sinning.” “We will always be just a bit better than you until that day you become one of us—in the meanwhile, we’ll be praying for you.”

With vomit dripping off their lips as countless fight the urge to gag, the world joins together in upchucking an honest chorus of reply, “thanks, but no thanks.” “We’d rather spend an eternity with our noses shackled to the excretion holes of a thousand skunks than to spend one moment becoming anything like you.”

Reeking with religious pretentiousness, to the spiritual nostrils of good people everywhere, we have become an all new fragrance for an all new world, “Stank” by Evangelical No. 5.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve spiritualized and justified hate. Countless mindful, thinking, good people observe the behavioral liturgies of our faith and truly wonder, how can anyone encounter Jesus personally and read the love-driven talks He gave, and yet somehow translate that into a faith ladened with racism, sexism, discrimination, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, nationalism, imperialism, judgement, and condemnation? This is incomprehensible to the world, and rightly so.

If there is any hate that should be adopted by our faith it should be directed at evil, which is defined by its root word in biblical Greek as being “the pursuit of making a name for oneself.” Interestingly enough, the essence of evil in God’s mind is not sin nor disbelief, but rather using Jesus for the pursuit of power for one’s own benefit.

It is the condemnation of others in order to secure our own sense of righteousness. It is the assertion of one’s rights to the minimizing, reducing, or removal of another’s. It is the privileged gripping onto their own privilege to the detriment of true equality. It is the building of walls where God desires tables. It is the exclusion of any of the “all” that Jesus always and forever includes. It is arrogantly insisting that one is “pro-life” while being equally determined to twist the scriptures in every possible way that brings condemnation’s death to those with whom we disagree or deem to be sinning.

To the level that the world despises us and the “Christian” label we wear, it is because we have given them every good and biblical reason to do so. For we have become evil’s highest manifestation—spiritualized hate.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve reduced Love into an accessory. As much as we might claim to be a people of love, the world knows us best by the love we fear. With us, every good thing has a condition, expiration date, and imposed limits. Don’t love people too much. Don’t give people too much grace. Don’t have too much fun. Don’t enjoy life too much. Don’t be around those people, go to that movie, listen to that song, or buy a cake from that baker—danger, danger, danger. Shackled by a fear-driven faith, we’ve turned love into a defensive, fragile posture.

In fact, nothing brings us more anxiety than God’s own declaration that He is Love—without conditions, restrictions, or expiration. Everything within our religious being fights and claws at this table-turning revelation and conclusion.

Why? Because, for God to be wholly and purely Love would render so much of what we are, do, and believe as ridiculously absurd, contrived, selfish, useless, and anti Christ. The house of religious cards that has become much of our Christian faith falls tumbling to the ground the moment God is embraced as solely Love as He himself declares. The litany of additional attributes we project onto God that conveniently justify our loveless behavior, all become impotent—anger, judgement, wrath, punishment, revenge, and condemnation alike. That’s why we are so insistent on confusing Love, and making it an accessory.

The fact that people can experience God and live Him with one single Word—LOVE—sends our entire faith construct into a tailspin plummeting to earth in a ball of flaming fire.

All evil begins where Love has been made an accessory.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve turned a book into a bulldozer. The Bible is only black and white to people seeking the control of another and the spiritual justification of self. For nothing levels people we don’t like and creates mountains upon which to judge others like the perfected craft of Christians turning the Bible into a bulldozer. What God meant to be a human springboard to a life-long encounter with Jesus, Christians have turned into a people prod, hoping to corral the world into their religious misery.

The “clear teachings” of the Bible aren’t clear to anyone, and everyone knows it, except we who arrogantly claim to know it best. The heights of authority we insist on attributing to the Bible are often sadly equal to the depth of our desires to exert authority over others. “This is what the Bible says” is ultimately our clever way of declaring, “This is what we believe the Bible says, and you need to believe it too, or else.”

Yet, for all our proof-texting and bulldozing with Bibles, the world isn’t fooled, every verse loses its ability to condemn, judge, and breed self-righteousness the moment it is rightly placed under the feet of Jesus who is Grace, the only perfect Word of God.

The truth is, we don’t have to interpret the scriptures towards inerrancy, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, bigotry, a life of sin-management, God-appeasement, or a tormenting hell for people who miss the mark in loving God in return—we choose to. The flames of our hate, condemnation, and pride were in our hearts already, we just use the Bible to fuel them and give it all a spiritual glow.

People don’t dismiss the Bible because of Jesus, they dismiss the Bible because of us.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve become all talk, and our talk sucks. We sing the songs, say the prayers, attend the services, read our Bibles, make our promises, pledge our allegiance, and hope the world doesn’t look under the hood. The truth is, we’re faking-it-to-make-it along with everyone else who signs up for religion. If American Christianity was calibrated to the heart of Jesus, we wouldn’t have to do so much pretending.

We’d be singing far less songs to the Jesus on the worship screen and crying more tears with the Jesus on the streets. We’d be praying far less to God for His will, favor, and blessings, and doing much more for the hurting, marginalized, and oppressed. We’d be worshiping far less in elaborate buildings and serving more passionately without them. We’d be spending far less time idolizing the Bible and loading it for debate, and more time listening to people’s stories and seeking to truly understand them. We’d be spending far less time making promises to God we can’t keep and more time loving people in ways they would never be able to forget.

If only, we would simply take the advice of the Christ calling out from amidst the world, “stop talking, stop pretending, stop playing church, and learn to shut up and listen.”

See, people aren’t stupid, God has put His light into all humanity—they can do the spiritual math.

Love plus conditions equals no love at all. Gospel plus Law equals no gospel at all. A God who is Love but also hates, condemns, and forever imprisons is no god at all. Striving to please, appease, and satisfy an angry god is no life at all. Sin-managing, pretending, and looking the part equals no hope it all. Equality for some equals inequality for all. Inclusions for the privileged alone equals no inclusion at all. Being human without being humane is not being human nor divine at all. Hating the sin but loving the sinner equals hating it all. Thirty thousand different Christian denominations that believe entirely different things about the same Bible equals the sure and glaring reality that no Christian group or individual can accurately claim to truly know, understand, and rightly interpret it all.

As good as we are at building buildings, mission statements, ministry branding, smoke machines, video venues, robed choirs, ministry conferences, and clean carpets, the truth is, we suck at loving, we suck at being human, we suck at listening, we suck at serving, we suck at sacrificing, we suck at including, we suck at humility, we suck at unselfishness—basically all the things Jesus would have us to be and do.

The world sees it, yet we refuse. Perhaps because, to our surprise and ensuing rage, they have the Spirit and we have lost it.

Hear this and hear it clearly, God is awakening a people to His true self (who is Love) and His true Gospel (which is Grace), but sadly, most Christians and much of Christianity will have no part of it and therefore no part in it. My sense is, God is not only completely o.k. with that, He might just be behind it.

Where is the Grace in all of this?

It’s in the courage of trembling voices such as this, that speak, tell, and confront the religious hell on earth we have created and surely have become, believing there is still hope for us all—never giving up.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

Christians, this is why people think we suck.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Trump, The Middle Finger Of Conservative Evangelical Christianity

To be sure, these are not easy words to write, but necessary, and nonetheless true.

The spiritual influences of darkness pulling the strings behind nearly every political headline in America is alarming—especially when the true culprit portrays and positions itself to be the only and ultimate cure.

Pulling the mask off perhaps the greatest spiritual scheme on planet earth is not a pleasant task nor one easily received.

As a pastor of 23 years, it has been my experience and it has become my conviction that much of conservative Evangelical Christianity manifests an evil unlike any wielded upon the earth. Its presentation of a false, mixed-Gospel of highly conditional love, a schizophrenically violent God, a spiritual justification of hate and condemnation, a weaponizing of the Bible, a legitimizing of self-righteousness, and a ruthless desire for world-domination has been the catalyst and cause of more death and destruction (spiritually, emotionally, and physically) than perhaps any other influencer—world history, a sure source of evidence.

Indeed, some who participate in this system of belief have genuine hearts to do what is right and are truly unaware of the evils and antichrist attitudes in which they have been indoctrinated and participate. Yet, nonetheless, much of conservative Evangelical Christianity aggressively stands as an intentional, religious movement that embodies the desire to eradicate the planet of anything that would disagree with and stand against its ideology—condemnation, conversion, and conquering its primary tools. Under the guise of Jesus, love, moral purity, and goodness, conservative Evangelical Christianity has become perhaps the greatest spiritual deception ever misted upon the masses—a pungent blasphemy against the Spirit, who is Grace.

As much as I wish all of this was unfounded and overly exaggerated, nothing confirms these strong assertions like conservative Evangelical Christianity’s undeniable lust and insatiable appetite for power and control. Their willingness to embrace blatant hypocrisy and double-standards, justify deplorable violence, and spiritualize human discrimination. Their willingness to rape the earth and its cultures, enable greed and materialism, conveniently usurp the teachings of Jesus, and arrogantly position themselves as the sole possessors of truth above all others, all for the furthering of their agenda and the needed power to do so, affirms the darkest of suspicions and the most urgent of calls for resistance. Strip away all the spiritual veneer—the heart and soul of much of conservative Evangelical Christianity is the spiritualized pursuit of power and control, virtually at any cost.

In fact, most everything you see in Donald Trump, his election, and life under his leadership is deeply intrinsic to the ethos of conservative Evangelical Christianity and what it’s truly like to be a part of their ministry world. Sadly, Donald Trump is merely the tip of the conservative Evangelical iceberg, mostly frozen to the core.

Trump focuses on aggressively giving our highest national priorities to self-serving interests regardless of their detriment to others. Conservative Evangelical churches have long focused their existence on self-preservation, internal interests, and increasing their numbers, facilities, and budgets, all while countless good people needlessly suffer just outside their doors. You don’t have to attend many a church meetings before you’re smacked in the face with the sobering conclusion—as spiritual as it all gets packaged, the bottom line for many churches ultimately revolves around the preservation and promotion of themselves—at times even displaying a cold callousness to the alarming needs around them.

Trump favors preserving the comfortable lives of the privileged and seeks out the wealthy and powerful for the most intimate of counsel. Conservative Evangelical churches have long catered to those who garner the highest financial and political means, enthusiastically gathering them into the leadership of their ministry. There is perhaps nothing more white, upper middle-class, pretentious, and privileged than what has become of modern, contemporary conservative Christianity. Big visions of big buildings and big campuses as far as the eyes can see, state-of-the-art worship venues, marketing, branding, books, concerts, conferences, and so called “reaching people for Christ” all costs big money. “Making church great again” for the white and well-to-do comes with a hefty price tag and the necessary appeasement and leveraging of the privileged.

Trump surrounds himself with primarily white, male influencers who are vetted by their unwavering loyalty to his unilateral leadership. Conservative Evangelical churches have long been dominated by white, male pastors and leaders who demand unwavering loyalty to their vision with the overall goal to increase their own power by the limiting of others. The contemporary move towards staff-led and pastor-led church leadership models often serves as a rationalizing and spiritualizing of the pursuit of power and control, energized by the ego and desire for ministry fame so rampant within modern Christianity.

Trump manifests a culture of fear and inequality where those who color outside the lines of conservative ideology and values are quickly condemned, discarded, and belittled. Conservative Evangelical churches have long been largely unwelcoming and un-wanting of those who are different in color, orientation, lifestyle, creed, or status. In fact, many on the fringe are largely deemed the enemy, unless of course they convert, clean up, behave, and buy into all things conservative. As Trump raises the level of our national defenses to an all-time high, conservative churches have long made what they stand against in the world to be their primary commission, often creating battles where none need to exist in order to justify their worth and mission. Listen in to a few church conversations and you will soon hear the clear underlying sentiment, “We are good, the world is so bad. What a shame. Let’s build some more walls and send some Bibles.”

Trump embodies callous arrogance, greed, bigotry, sexism, immorality, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and a foundational desire to conquer those who oppose him and gain the power to dominate them. What Trump has positioned as the “art of the deal” is merely a business version of the conservative Evangelical pursuit to “make disciples of people into people just like us.” No matter how much spiritual lipstick is plastered on the face of conservative Evangelical evangelism, the underlying goal is the same—the fruition of self-serving desires through spiritually packaged manipulation, coercion, and exploitation. Still to this day, many conservative churches see women as inferior, the LGBTQI community as needing of reparative therapy, financial prosperity as a sign and goal of faithfulness, the world as “lost,” and immorality as that which can be overlooked or minimized if you know the inside Evangelical handshake. In fact, any given Sunday between 11 a.m. and noon at just about any conservative Evangelical church near you, could very well serve to be the most sexist, homophobic, hypocritical, xenophobic, transphobic, racist, graceless, greedy, privileged, and spiritually arrogant hour you’ll ever experience.

Put a steeple on top of the White House and the workings, dealings, and ethos of the current administration and the leadership of president Trump, and one might easily confuse it all with their local, conservative Evangelical church. When it’s all said and done, the connections between the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency and the true soul and ambitions of conservative, Evangelical Christianity are undeniable and highly disgusting.

In fact, over the past several years, conservative Evangelical Christianity has perceived itself to be losing in a cultural war it actually created all by itself. Surprise—good, thinking people have awakened to the highjacking of Jesus, the Bible, and the cause of Christ by religious, Christian conservatism. Like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum in response to not being granted their every wants and wishes, conservative Evangelical Christianity has long been whining, pouting, and insisting on its own way in the private, public, and political square. The emergence of true equality always feels like war to the privileged.

Desperate to see their ideology survive and fulfill its twisted version of the “great” commission, conservative Evangelical Christianity savagely licked its fingers and led the way in electing Donald Trump as president. Whether you like him or not, voted for him or not, it’s all too clear that Trump serves as a message to all who would oppose and stand apart from religious, Christian conservatism, “We won, you lost, and now we’re gonna shove our way down your throat and do whatever the hell we want.”

As a middle finger raised boldly for all to see, Donald Trump is the true sum of conservative Evangelical Christianity and a clear sentiment of its dark soul of spiritualized hate, self-righteousness, duplicity, and greed. Though conservative Evangelical Christianity might not ever say “FU” to the world in those specific words, their messiah Donald Trump is gladly doing it for them—loud and clear.

Make no mistake and be not deceived, much of conservative Evangelical Christianity is a monster, that monster has a middle finger, and that middle finger has a name—Donald Trump.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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.

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