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America Is Not Great, And Evangelicalism Is Not Good

Countless women and men of selfless valor have died for her.

Many have given their life’s work to prosper her.

To be sure, she embodies many good things worthy of honor and thanksgiving.

Yet, no matter how many times we pat ourselves on the back. No matter how loud we cheer ourselves on. No matter our resilience to believe in brighter days ahead. No matter how vigorously we attempt to wall ourselves off from our own shameful realities. The truth that we desperately don’t want to hear is in fact the one bell whose ring could free us all, if we’d only listen—America is not great.

Privileged? Yes. Powerful? Yes. Wealthy? Yes. Domineering? Yes.

Great? No.

In fact, the foundational attributes that make greatness truly great reveal themselves to be much the opposite of who have we become. Search through the tenets of nearly every world religion, especially the very Christianity many deem to be foundational to the fabric of our country. There you will find common definitions of greatness that cast an epic dark shadow across our history, current realities, and aspirations.

Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, and many others of divine wisdom all sit at the table and sing from a familiar chorus—”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Yet, sadly these are not the sounds of our national anthem nor our ethos.

No matter how large the flags we unfold onto the playing fields of American life with jet fighter flybys and fireworks. No matter how subtly we sanitize our history to insure the ignorance and compliance of future generations to our atrocities. No matter how many “bread and circus” shows we materialize in order to deflect from the evil of our endeavors. There is a prophetic chant of life-giving truth crying out from the wilderness of our nation, “America is not great, not great at all.”

Just unravel the American scroll but a few inches.

Consider the bloody rape, murder, pillaging, and displacement of millions of native Americans for the purpose of personal and religious conquest largely driven by white conservative Christian males seduced by evil visions of a twisted sense of manifest destiny. Consider the brutal enslavement, abuse, and murder of millions of black people for the purpose of personal and religious conquest spiritually justified by white conservative Christian males addicted to their privilege. Consider the vial discrimination, demonization, and marginalization of thousands of people in the LGBTQ community for the purpose of personal and religious conquest largely influenced and orchestrated by white conservative Christian males intoxicated by power and the control afforded by their bigotry. Consider the diabolical invasion of countries, the false flagging of wars, and the killing of innocent women, children, and men without legitimate provocation for the purpose of personal and religious conquest predominantly authored by greedy white Christian conservative males whose appetites will stop short of nothing less than ruling the world.

We have long lived by the swords of spiritually justified violence, greed, and imperialism, and now we are dying by them as we bury our heads deep into the sand and numb our collective conscience with the opioids of mass denial.

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in most every other country. Gun-related murders in the United States rate 25 times higher than all of the high-income countries of the world. America is ranked 16th on the world’s top 100 corruption list. We are cited as one of the top 10 most racist countries in the world. America is home to the highest number of overweight and obese people. In fact, we throw way 200,000 tons of edible food daily. 34% of billionaires are Americans, yet the US poverty level is the highest in the developed world. Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. America makes up 37% of the 1.6 trillion dollars spent globally on military expenditures. Not surprisingly, the US military budget is the largest in the world. All, while US college students face tuition rates that far outrun inflation rates with more than $1.2 trillion in student debt, an increasing middle class and elderly population that is being further denied adequate health coverages, and Social Security projections that significantly decrease future payouts. And to top it off, America, the land of the free, ranks 47th in press freedom—no surprises there.

There is no doubt, for those with eyes willing to see and ears willing to hear, we have become the bratty narcissistic child who has warped divine freedom into barbaric ferociousness. With all the world our sandbox, we have become consummate experts at casting blame upon everyone else for our problems, gas-lighting the crap out of our dissenters, and bullying anyone and anything that challenges the elite’s quest for power and privilege.

Make no mistake, in the eyes of Jesus and the common sense goodness of humanity, we are not great, not great all.

Yet sadly, we have long been blind to the evil Wizard pulling the strings behind the American curtain, and therefore, have wielded little power and success in turning the Titanic around. For conservative Evangelical Christianity is increasingly showing itself to be perhaps the greatest evil ever manifested upon the earth—nothing less than the foundational fuel behind the moral and spiritual decline of America. Yes, as hard as it is to hear and as difficult as it is to say, the very entity that has long postured itself as having the Savior is being exposed as harboring the Satan.

With a gospel that is no Gospel at all, as it actually further imprisons and entices people to sin while pimping the poison, not the cure. With a prescription for Christian living that most assuredly and directly leads to self-righteousness, judgmentalism, hypocrisy, duplicity, double standards, and pretentiousness. With a church culture overflowing with greed, consumerism, conformity, selfishness, exploitation, ministry empires, pastoral fame, and the franchising of Jesus. With a driving leadership of white heterosexual males fueled by their egos and an addiction to grandiose aspirations of ministry and cultural supremacy. With a declaration that they hold the infallible exclusive inside scoop to all things God, the Scriptures, and truth. With an overall purpose and vision of world domination that divides the planet into the converted-to-heaven and the condemned-to-hell. With a belief in a god who spiritually justifies violence, condemnation, sexism, murder, conquest, elitism, and imperialism, all under the twisted auspices of love—not to mention the worship of a white Jesus who encourages and enables personal prosperity and separatism. As has become America, conservative Evangelical Christianity is perhaps the most gun-loving, enemy-bullying, defensively postured, greedy, gluttonous, bigoted, oppressive, marginalizing, sexist, freedom-killing, narcissistic, imperialistic, militant, and controlling manifestation on the planet.

Truth be told, now like never before, America and conservative Evangelical Christianity have become two evil peas in a evil pod, creating a death cocktail that intoxicates the privileged and religious, and drowns out all others. Find me places in the history of America and our current endeavors where we have done and aspired to evil things, and there you will have found the underlying direct influence of a white heterosexual male-driven conservative Evangelical brand of Christianity. No wonder how such a deplorable president as Donald Trump could have been elected and remain continually supported.

For where in America are freedom of speech, thought, and belief most likely to be squelched? Where are women most likely to be shackled by sexism? Where is the LGBTQ community most likely to be demonized, condemned, and driven to suicide? Where are minorities most likely to be discarded and discriminated against? Where are the poor and vulnerable most likely to be exploited for personal or corporate gain?

Where? All at the feet of conservative Evangelical Christianity, that’s where.

And sadly, if this corrupted faith system has its way, it will be at the feet of all of America too.

To those who would criticize me as being harsh or overgeneralized, the truth is, these realities are just that deeply disturbing and widely infiltrating. I refuse to shrink back in fear and be recorded by history as one who became complicit out of an unwillingness to sound the alarm and stand atop the walls of humanity and shout the truth. For we are not far from a tipping point from which there will be little to no return.

No, there is no pleasure taken in shining a light into these caverns of darkness. No, not all conservative Evangelicals are willing participants or knowingly support such abhorrent things. Of course, no church, group, denomination, or faith expression is perfect. Yet, make no mistake, conservative Evangelical Christianity as a faith system is nothing shy of pure evil. And now more than ever, we are witnessing before us on a national and global scale the devastating fruitions of its hollow fruit.

These are desperate times that call for determined bravery—a bravery that begins with brutal honesty. For we have met the true enemy of all that is Jesus and all that is good—and it is us. We are the false accusers, the bulliers, the conquerers, the oppressors, the condemners, the deceived deceivers, and the exploiters of humanity and abusers of all that is God who is Love.

America is not great, and Evangelicalism is not good.

That’s the truth, and it’s high-time we wake up to it.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Why We Should All Be Thanking Mark Driscoll

The story of Mark Driscoll is like an onion, with every layer that unfolds the eyes can’t help but burn to tears —sadness, frustration, astonishment, disgust, empathy, a full range of emotions. What he has done, said, and represented at times is nothing less than chilling. Sexism, misogyny, blatant bully-leadership, abuse of ministry funds, bigotry, not to mention the Evangelical family secret… hyper-Calvinism. One time, describing America as a “pussified nation” dominated by feminists and “chickified dudes.” One face-palm after another.

As you’ve probably read, Mark took a very short time away from ministry after a scandalous exit and ultimate resignation from Mars Hill Church. Many of his supporters and ministry partners, running full throttle for the exit signs. During that season, in the minds of most, his choices and actions didn’t demonstrate a genuine process of humbling and change. At best, it’s a mixed review. Now, months later, he’s back at it, starting a new church.

Where some might want me to attack Mark and kick him to the curb, I can’t. Furthermore, it’s not my place. Despite the darkness of his deeds, the destruction wrought from his ego, He’s a fellow human being. We all make mistakes and lose our way. The Grace that is sufficient for me, I am sure is more than sufficient for him. If Mark should be sentenced to a spiritual life of stacking pins in a bowling alley, then so should I, and so should you. Grace is the great equalizer, putting us all on the same playing field and on the same team. We all need Grace, equally. None are better, only different.

But that didn’t stop Jesus from staring down evil, addressing it as so. The truth is, we have a problem. A huge zit on the face of our modern church-world. On the surface, it looks like “pastoral celebrity”—not just pastors, but anyone building a personal kingdom. Bloggers, leaders, speakers, artists, authors, all candidates for being seduced into this horror show. What are pedaled as visionary dreams and difference-makers, are schemes and attention-takers, all achieving one radar averting goal…the validation-creating, insecurity-healing, and significance-gaining of the individual leading the show. It all looks so spiritual, but really so selfish, when one sees what’s below.

To be sure, there are many within our Christian community who receive the label of “celebrity.” And though not perfect, they are wearing it well. Their extensive reach, success, and large followings weren’t sought out, don’t rule their hearts, and they aren’t exploiting their platform, rather humbly using it for good. What is a very difficult walk, they are walking very well.

Sadly, in the sea of spiritual celebrity, this is not the norm.

Yet, the numerous Mark Driscolls of our Christianity aren’t the real problem, it’s our Christian culture that seeds and enables their existence. The illness we have become, is what gives birth to the reality of their formation. The x-ray is on the light board, we are the disease, and they, a mere symptom, a surface manifestation. Spiritually engineered from the incubator of our Christian culture.

In fact, the truth is, we should all be thanking Mark Driscoll. His story is the alarm that should be grabbing us by the ears, the stoplight that should be slamming our breaks. The fever, the itchy red rash that calls us to the doctor, realizing there is a much deeper problem at stake. And maybe, just maybe, before it’s too late, we’d embrace a cure before our cancer overtakes.

Problem is, we are so far gone. Color blind for sure. What is fire-engine red, begging us to halt, we see as grass-growing green, signaling God’s favor to press through. Intoxicated by the sound of our own Christianity.

As hard as it is to hear, the diagnosis is clear. We are the “something” going on behind the person these people become. Get out your pen and paper, we owe not our condemnation, but our apology for the creation of each and every one.

For we are the Christians who see Church as primarily where Jesus exists and works. It’s all about church. Church, church, and more church. Not just church, but gatherings, groups, conferences, concerts, followings of people. The larger the crowd, the more legitimate the ministry, the greater blessings of the Savior.

For us, the goal and sum of the Christian life is church, cross-topped corrals of church-people pursuing churchy things, as different as some may seem. Organize it, maintain it, whatever it takes to keep it going. And if church isn’t for you, something is wrong with you. Damaged goods, subtly not one of us. You’re not a true leader until you are a church leader. The big dance, where big leaders go.

We are the Christians, who equate spiritual maturity, skill, and evidence of God’s favor with followers, buildings, baptisms, books, speaking schedules, blog “hits,”and “likes” on Facebook. God must be doing something great, a special work is surely at play. Look at all the subscribers, the listeners, group members, all the people, it can’t possibly be a charade. Look at those buildings, so modern and easy, as far as the eye can see. Look at how busy, how in demand. Wow, how anointed they must be. 10k followers on Twitter, the number they follow, only 10, surely that’s the mark of Christ within. Superstars of Jesus, rockstar prophets for our day. Dare I say, if Hitler lived among us, he’d have the very same. Tons of followers, “hits”, and “likes” on Facebook. Branded to the nines, slick social media presence, lots of lipstick to hide behind.

Territory, market, fan-base, all must be preserved. The celebrity lunch table, exclusive to the cool dudes. Whatever it takes to get to the next level, step on you if they must. Platform creation, platform preservation, platform elevation, at all costs. We are truly in the age of franchised ministry, and we the spiritual consumers who drive it, and make it breathe.

We are the Christians who believe the goal of the Christian life is to be successful for Jesus through personal performance that creates appeal. Be all you can be, Jesus and me. Do more, become more, live the Christian dream. Prosperity, happiness, pleated and ironed, the spiritual Hollywood scene. We, the narcissists on our personal quest for Jesus to show us how to perform at our personal best. Enough is never enough. Give me more to do, a way to overcome, something to convince me that I am worthy to be loved. Tell me it’s reachable, something Jesus and I can achieve. Inspire me with the Kool-aid, I’ll drink anything for a remedy. Keep me thirsty, keep me hungry, I’m addicted to the hope, that within me and Jesus, our efforts combined, I can become whole.

We are the Christians who believe it’s best to get your spiritual growth spoon-fed through like-minded, public figures you can adore. Just give me something I can worship, fabricated into an idol of my own ideals. I know about Jesus, but furnish me something real, something for the in between. We all need a savior when the Savior is not enough. Identity, worth, and significance are best measured by spiritual accomplishment. So surely, my side-kick savior has the goods that I need, simply look at all that they have achieved. Besides, leadership is best validated by the creation of a personal brand that gains and keeps spiritual consumers. When I see this, it’s gotta be the trough for which God wants me to eat. Surely, He doesn’t want me thinking on my own.

No wonder there are so many Mark Driscolls, this is who we have become. Church-addicted, consumer-minded, performance-driven, platform-worshipping, appearance-seduced, franchise-focused, me-serving, success-intoxicated, personal kingdom-building Christians who drop their jaws in surprise and disgust when all that we are gets super-sized and personified by some among us, for all to see in public light.

Yet Jesus chose purpose over celebrity, message over crowds, the cross over appeal, commissioning over franchising, serving over being served, Grace over performance, and sacrifice over personal gain.

There will always be Mark Driscolls among us, until Jesus becomes our game.

We should all be thanking Mark Driscoll for showing us that for which we should be ashamed.

What We Love About Christmas

Hate me forever, label me a heretic, or just defriend me, but I just don’t think Jesus is as mad as some people hope He is about how we celebrate Christmas in our culture. Behind some of the things we do that are deemed so off-message are in fact some deep, sacred longings placed in our hearts by God Himself. Seems like we are so far from what Christmas is about when in fact, we might be closer than we ever believed.

“God has set eternity in the hearts if men.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Isn’t that what the lights, candles and glitzy decorations are all about? We long for a celestial, cozy, dreamy world where our senses are dazzled with snowy peace, bright purity, and the visually fantastic. Maybe we don’t flesh it out all perfectly and theologically, but deep down, we want what God has prepared for us… heaven; this world renewed and reconciled back to God. Heaven, the world of the fantastic, pure, celestial, and a dreamy eternity. We want a world where the baseline stories (many secular) of Christmas live; good wins over evil, our priorities are placed in the right order, families heal and last forever, life is everlasting, and things are restored to how they should be. That’s Rudolph, Santa, Frosty, the Grinch, Elf, and the list goes on and on. Maybe as far away as it might seem, we are actually closer than we first believed.

Or what about the packages, the ribbons, and the bows. Is it really all that bad? God did create us to be blessed, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and yes, materialistically. Sure, some of us rush ahead to take it for ourselves; that’s not good nor Godly. But, the sense and longing to have blessed lives where we were created to receive (from the Lord) with abundance is still under the surface, it’s their deep in our hearts. God put it there. It’s heaven isn’t it? Where everyone has what they need and are blessed by the Lord to beyond satisfaction, never hungry nor thirsty again. Our inheritance from the Lord, fully given by Him and fully received by us, with wealth beyond measure. And then, the giving. We have this deep sense that we are created to be blessed to be a blessing. We all want to give, to have something worth giving. Maybe we try to purchase this experience from malls, shopping centers, and online sprees, but we just want to love and be loved, God put that in our heart. That’s heaven isn’t? Where we love and are loved without restraint or limit. Where we have everything to receive and to give. That’s Christmas. That’s Jesus. That’s heaven.

Isn’t all of this what we love about Christmas. It’s magical like that.

We call it magical because that’s the best word we can find, it’s the closest word we can think of as we get a touch of the eternity God wrote in our hearts.

But, God knows the perfect and complete words. God calls it Jesus… Heaven… Christmas. Truth is, it’s better than magical… it’s all real, in heaven, in Him.

Maybe as far away as it might seem, we are actually closer than we believe? Maybe Jesus isn’t as mad as some people hope He is about how we celebrate Christmas in our culture.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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