Tag: evangelical (page 1 of 3)

Dear Conservative Evangelical Christian, Is This The Darkness You’ve Become?

I know, because it was me.

I’m the guy—I’m the pastor who once embodied the very evils that often become of those who sit at the feet of conservative Evangelical Christianity.

I was seduced, deceived, and wasted years of my life adopting and exuding a kind of religious hate and harm that levels nearly everything in its path. Little did I know, the person I had become while nursing at the cold steel-plated breasts of conservative Christianity. What I thought was the way of Jesus, was no way at all—a twisted gospel so sinister and callous only Grace could free my soul and break my fall.

To those who have ears, let them hear the alarms sounding from the halls of heaven—these are the evils, the darkness that will surely become of those who eat of the demonic fruits glistening as they dangle from the tree of conservative Evangelical Christianity.

It wasn’t my fault, and surely not my intention—neither is it yours, or anyone who becomes a conservative Christian. We are good people with good intention, tractor-beamed by the Death Star of conservative Evangelical Christianity.

Search your soul, let honesty rule the day—are these the dark, diabolical things you are subtly becoming?

A Person Who Makes Faith An Exclusive Club- For at the feet of conservative Christianity, “making disciples” who simply awaken to the Grace of Jesus has sadly eroded into the pursuit of “making people into people just like us.” New converts don’t become free-thinking, free-living “learners” of Jesus, but spiritual lapdogs—molded to submit and serve conservative churches, denominations, and faith constructs. Instead of falling in love with Jesus, they are led to fall in line with conservative Evangelical Christianity. Faith becomes, not a journey to be traveled but an ideology in which to be conformed. People are intentionally evaluated based on their willingness to comply and manifest the prescribed behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. Nothing could be clearer than the lines that are drawn by many conservative Evangelicals as to who is in, and who is out—who is faithful, and who is not. Proud of this exclusive privileged club, conservative Evangelicals excel at the use of control, fear, guilt, and power to herd the cattle, milk them for all they’re worth, and brand them into the fold. There is perhaps no greater darkness than one who rejoices in an exclusive, pretentious, and people-manipulating faith.

To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare embrace a faith that makes Jesus into an elite cult of conformity and limited accessibility?

A Person Who Embraces Collateral Damage- For in the halls of conservative Christianity, people are not the primary purpose. Rather, preserving the conservative Evangelical institution trumps all other pursuits. If in this process of furthering, protecting, and extending conservative Evangelical Christianity, a person is harmed—so be it. Doctrine, power, and dominance are lifted above all things. When push comes to shove, theological submission, creedal conformity, institutional preservation, an ideological alignment are determined to be far more important than serving, sacrificing, and putting the needs of others above ones own. If, in order to preserve and prosper conservative Evangelicalism, people must die in war, sinners must be condemned to hell, disagreers must be demonized, non-conformers must be cast out, and people must suffer emotionally, spiritually, or physically—that’s just a part of the cost of following Jesus. Easy come, easy go—there is perhaps no greater darkness than one who could be so callous and ruthless in the name of Jesus.

To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare participate in a faith that allowed and fostered such religious oppression, brutality, suffering, and violence?

A Person Who Belittles Jesus and Sin- For at the center of conservative Christianity is the fundamental tenet that sin is actually manageable, spiritual growth is possible, and holiness is attainable through the exertion of human performance in concert with Jesus. Faithfulness is seen as a team effort—God does His part, but we must do ours. Sin is softened to a depravity that is within human capacity to overcome through spiritual disciplines and the harnessing of our will. Jesus is belittled into a life-partner who bestows his presence, favor, blessings, and power in as much as we spiritually perform correctly. Jesus didn’t die on the cross because sin is so sinful that only He could manage, conquer, and destroy it and give us righteousness, holiness, and sanctification as a free gift. Rather, Jesus died because sin isn’t so sinful and He isn’t so powerful, the best He could do is offer its management, conquering, and destruction through a conditional contract of mutual performance between us and Him. Therefore, at the table of conservative Christianity, self-righteousness is not only a thing, it’s the centerpiece of ones entire faith. It’s a living hell of rule-keeping, sin-managing, and do-gooding in fear and pressure to meet expectations, never truly knowing when enough is enough. But not just that, it’s the imposition of this hell onto others through the judgmental, condemning, and people-measuring attitudes that surely grow when self-righteousness is the meal upon which you are feasting to stay alive. There is perhaps no greater darkness than one who replaces Jesus and His Grace with a self-righteous, judging, fear-driven, legalistic, Jesus-minimizing and sin-minimizing faith.

To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare belittle Jesus, the cross, and the power of sin?

A Person Who Demonizes God- For in order to justify the very existence and legitimacy of conservative Evangelical Christianity, one must choose an interpretation of hell that is filled with eternal torment for the unbelieving and disobedient, and a picture of God who is willing and just in sending His creation there. Without this Dante-inspired characterization of hell and a God who is complicit in its rendering, the house of cards that is conservative Christianity crumbles to the ground. To accomplish the ultimate end of conservative Christianity where the unrepentant are damned to an eternal suffering beyond human imagination, God must be demonized into the most diabolical parent in all the cosmos and an impotent deity who loves His own creation less than the devil himself.

With the sure presence of alternative, scholarly, and faithful interpretations of Scripture that view God as pure Love. With the sure presence of alternative, scholarly, and faithful interpretations of Scripture that see Jesus as the One who overcomes the dark systems of the world for all humankind. With the presence of alternative, scholarly, and faithful interpretations of Scripture that understand hell to be an eternal existence in the presence of God, where Grace is so fully, powerfully, and inclusively extended that it becomes unbearable to the religious who would limit it with condition. With all the many faithful interpretive options, believing in a hell of eternal torment and a God who allows it, is not just a convenient interpretive choice, it’s an affront to the cross and a murdering of God. There is perhaps no greater darkness than a willing blasphemer who warms their self-righteousness around the religious bonfire of a hell-loving conservative Evangelical Christianity.

To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare to error on the side of demonizing God and misrepresenting the wondrous life and future He has secured for all people?

A Person Who Steals Life, Joy, And Freedom- For on the horizon of conservative Evangelical Christianity there is always a sin to point out, a behavior to avoid, an issue to stand against, a debate to be argued, a rule to keep, an expectation to meet, and a “to do list” to accomplish. With so much to be against, so many battles to fight, and a life lived in a constant state of trepidation—all joy, enjoyment, rest, and true surrender to the Spirit is quickly and thoroughly snuffed. The blackhole of conservative Christian living not only sucks the life out of its adherents, but many of the bystanders who get caught up in their downward spiral. Deep within, the unsettling reality constantly rears its ugly face—the truth is, you’ll never measure up, your faithfulness eventually breaks down, you’re doing more damage than good, and all you can do is pretend and hope it’s enough to fool God, others, and yourself. The freedom that you’re convinced exists because of the confines and obediences of your conservative faith is in fact the very prison in which Satan has seduced you—believing that life is found in what is in reality, a ministry of death. There is perhaps no greater darkness than a strung-out, exhausted, judging, sin-focused, and performance-driven Christian.

To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare to waste your God-adorned life bewitched by Satan into living a life that is no life at all, bringing death to every good thing in and around you?

A Person Who Has Made An Idol Out Of Their Understanding- For there is perhaps no Christian faith-expression on all the earth more insistent that their beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Scriptures possess the exclusive divine stamp of approval, accuracy, and authority than conservative Evangelical Christianity. With a kind of callous arrogance, there is little consideration among conservatives that perhaps their understandings of the Bible are not exclusively faithful and could even be flat out wrong. With cocked and loaded phrases like, “the clear teachings of the Bible,” many conservatives sit on the thrones of their biblical interpretations eagerly waiting upon anyone who would dare challenge their long-held perspectives. With interpretive blinders restricting their view, many seldom see their evil idolatry of Scripture. For if our understanding and revelation of Jesus is restricted to the Bible, we have not only fashioned the Scriptures into an idol, but have silenced the mind of Christ within us and the work of the Spirit. There is perhaps no greater darkness than an arrogant, ignorant, bible-worshiping believer who builds their house upon the sands of their interpretations.

To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare lean on your own understandings of Scripture to the squelching of the Spirit, the dethroning of Jesus, and the detriment of other people?

A Person Addicted To The Accessories- For in order to feed the fleshly addiction of conservative Christianity to “get more Jesus” and prove yourself to be “sold out” for Him, one must be constantly consuming from the spiritual drug lord that is conservative Evangelical Christianity. With every book, conference, worship chorus, building project, concert, revival, retreat, group, event, and prayer marathon, many conservative Christians see faithfulness as moving from one spiritual fix to the next. Because Jesus isn’t enough, Grace isn’t sufficient, and Love doesn’t win, conservative Christianity creates famished consumers hopelessly addicted to the accessories. Mesmerized by the latest Christian fad, worship album, book, mega-pastor, or “secret” to taking your faith to the next level, adherents to conservative Christianity are stripped of their cash, drained of their souls, and imprisoned to a life chasing after a God who is already there and a peace you can’t fabricate. There is perhaps no greater darkness than a spiritual junkie addicted to the consumerism of Jesus.

To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare turn Jesus into a corporate franchise and good people into the spiritual addicts that fuel it?

A Person Who Spiritualizes Arrogance and Greed- For it’s not enough for evangelical Christianity to worship, believe, and express their faith within the framework of the freedoms of our country. It’s not enough that they enjoy the rights that all others do under our Constitution. It’s not enough to follow the call of Jesus to serve, sacrifice, and consider others as more important than self. Instead, in every arena of life, society, our nation, and our planet, conservative Evangelical Christianity is aggressively insisting on its own way to the discrimination, the reducing and restricting of rights, and the suffering of other people. Greed and arrogance drive conservative Christianity to be a brand of faith whose ultimate goal isn’t to lead the way in serving the world, but to lead the way in dominating it. There is perhaps no greater darkness than a religious glutton whose heart and aspirations have been poisoned with the cancer of conquering.

To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare turn Jesus into a world bulldozer driven by religious pride and the desire for power?

Search your soul, let honesty rule the day—conservative Evangelical Christian, is this the darkness you’ve become?

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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.

Dear World, Franklin Graham Doesn’t Speak For Us, Or Jesus

I’ve had enough, and I’ve heard enough.

There is perhaps no greater evil upon all the earth than those who pillage the person and message of Jesus, and shroud their hate, arrogance, privilege, and imperialism under the guise of godliness, biblical faithfulness, purity, and the valuing of life.

Jesus understood there would be those who would exploit His truth and hustle a gospel that is in fact, no Gospel at all. In so doing, He asserted the importance of observing the fruit of a potential imposter’s beliefs in hopes of discerning and circumventing the cut of their spiritual claws.

Rev. Franklin Graham has become the mouthpiece of conservative Evangelical Christianity. With its deceptive mixed-message of “God loves you…but,” filled with traps, conditions, and controls, this increasingly aggressive movement within Christianity has had a long history of sowing seeds of poisoned fruit. Since the dawn of discrimination, conservative Evangelical Christianity has been a prominent enabler of racism. In fact, only in 1995 did its Southern Baptist denomination finally, but reluctantly, apologize to the black community for their intimate role in using the Bible to endorse racism and slavery. Conservative Evangelical Christianity is the leading incubator for the vile theology of Calvinism which portrays God as hand-picking some for heaven and joyfully discarding the rest to an eternity of tormenting hell—all founded by a man who murdered his disagreers. Christian conservatism has led the way in the discrimination of women in ministry, work, and home—even turning a blind eye to domestic and church abuse. Where once, Evangelical Christianity aggressively condemned the divorced to an eternity in hell, it cleverly came up with the word, “desertion,” to serve as a kind of biblical loophole, enabling those men left behind by the women who wised-up and “deserted’ them, to have the freedom to play another round. In fact, it was a conservative brand of Christianity that influenced Adolf Hitler towards Nazism and sat firmly in the hearts of those European settlers who raped the American Indian of their land, life, and culture for some kind of “Manifest Destiny.” Now, with a heart to spiritually and culturally exterminate those it deems to be sinning, conservative Evangelical Christianity is the dominant faith understanding behind the spread of homophobia and the false condemnation of the LGBTQ community, conveniently adding the word “homosexual” to the Bible, where it hadn’t appeared in any translation until 1945.

With the drastic uptick of good people leaving churches, thinking for themselves, questioning their indoctrination, and opening their eyes to the piles of carnage left in the wake of Christian conservatism, a perfect storm with a perfect kind of Satan has emerged. Franklin Graham has climbed up the cliffs of Evangelical Christianity’s fiery pit to lead the way in trumpeting their desperate call to war—a battle purposed on retaking that which they perceive to have lost as the world awakens to their evil.

Make no mistake, Franklin Graham and the perverted faith-understanding he represents is far from the heart of Jesus and many of us who follow Him alone. We deplore the nationalization of any faith, the discrimination of any person, the weaponizing of any Bible, and the condemnation of any soul. The disgusting Americanized version of Jesus and His Gospel that has given rise to Empire Christianity, church franchising, spiritually arrogant congregants and faith communities, and privileged, judging, and elitist followers makes us all want to vomit, right along side you. We are appalled, repulsed, and infuriated at was has become of the Jesus we adore and the Grace-centered faith that liberates us.

With all due respect to Mr. Franklin Graham, as good and spiritual as his ministry to the poor throughout the world appears and surely blesses, as much as he quotes the Bible and exclusively claims to possess and know its every truth, as much as his father was a beacon of faith, compassion, and a love for God, and as much as he postures himself as valuing life, moral wholeness, and biblical faithfulness, the screeching sound of his bigotry, pride, self-righteousness, mean-spirited condemnation, and imperialistic faith overtakes and overshadows all.

For where Jesus brings freedom, he seems determined to wrench down with control. Where Jesus brings Grace, he is quick to draw lines of condemnation. Where Jesus defines and redefines scripture, he worships it as perfect and claims to know it infallibly. Where God is pure Love, he claims He is not purely. Where Grace is declared sufficient, he says it isn’t completely. Where Jesus makes it personal and communal, he wants to make it political and national. Where Jesus makes it all completely free, he and his faith-understanding makes it all so conditionally conditional.

Everything Jesus stands for, Franklin Graham seems to stand so firmly against—a sermon on a Mount, apparently makes little-to-no difference.

For where do we see him serving the LGBTQ community? Where do we see him truly loving the enemy? Where do see him refusing to lean on his own understanding, and instead displaying a spirituality of listening? Where do we see him washing the feet of people who are transgender? Where do we see him laying down his life to escort one safely into a bathroom? Where do we see him truly loving his neighbor—Islamic, Atheist, Progressive, or even Illegal Alien? Where do we see him fighting for the rights of the marginalized, discriminated, and even those with whom he disagrees, instead of vehemently gripping onto the privilege of the privileged? Where do we see him rationalizing, excusing, and giving grace to sin on behalf of those who sin differently than he, instead of only doing so for those from whom he can gain power, influence, and the furthering of his faith ideology? Where do we see him trusting the Spirit to guide people in all truth instead of trying to control, contain, and conform them?

We don’t.

So, why should I give care and credibility to the sin he claims to see in me, everyone, and everything, when it’s clear he’s entirely oblivious to the storehouse of depravity to be seen right within his own being? Why should I line up to be assimilated into his spiritual Borg and learn the marching steps of his creed, when it’s become so blatantly clear it’s a faith understanding that doesn’t want to just normalize hate, but give it spiritual necessity? Why should I bow down to his biblical interpretations, faith perspectives, and God teachings when it all seems to desire nothing more than to control, condemn, and conform me into his image and faith collective?

Make no mistake, I refuse and resist with all my being in becoming anything like the King of disowning. My soul, worth, and value is not, nor will ever become, the imminent domain of any self-righteous, faith ideology.

The true message of Jesus is that God is proud to belong to me and every other, especially in all the places and ways that Franklin Graham and conservative Evangelical Christianity despise me and all others.

Dear world, Franklin Graham is not our leader, not our pastor, not our spokesperson, nor our example—and with all due respect, in my personal opinion, he’s nothing like Jesus.

How Conservative Evangelical Christianity Wasted My Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave, be brave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never, no way, no how.

All is Grace.

Grace is brave, be brave.

Forget It Conservative Christianity, I’m Choosing Hell

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

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

What will heaven be like?

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

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

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

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

It’s hell.

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

It’s hell.

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

It’s hell.

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

It’s hell.

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

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

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

It’s hell.

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

It’s hell.

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

It’s hell.

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

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

It’s hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your hell is where my Jesus will be.

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

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

 

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

This Is What It Feels Like To Be Loved By You : An Open Letter To Conservative Christians

I love you, and I am one of you—no, not a conservative Christian per se, but a fellow Jesus-loving, God-created human being journeying along this mutual path of faith—a travel that is often dimly lit and consistently uncertain. At the end of the day, I am trying to center by life, understanding, and beliefs in the person of Jesus, as are you. We are fellow children of God, sisters and brothers in faith, bedazzled by the Father with divine dignity and worth. Ours, is a journey with much in common.

At one time, I shared much of the same conservative perspectives, tenets, and interpretations as do you. I understand fully the foundations upon which you stand and the lenses through which you see God, scripture, and the world.  Over the course of 21 years as an Evangelical pastor, my knowledge of conservative Christianity is intimate.  I respect you and the framework from which your faith is established.

Right now, we live in a pivotal time and space, loaded with opportunity to be Light that outshines the shadows. The earth and all that has life and breath is opening wide its arms and lifting its chest in hopes of being collided with fresh winds of divine rendering, bringing life to its every limb, bending and swaying all humanity as the Spirit blows free with freedom.

One of the most awakening moments in my spiritual journey came when I was confronted with the person I had become and the stark reality of what my conservative Christianity had done to me. With the noblest of intentions, I had become the opposite in results. So much of what I held certain to be of truth, faithfulness, and the person of Jesus was chased out from behind the masks of my religious ignorance and pride—revealing a monster of demonic proportions dressed as faithfulness to Jesus and the Bible. What stared back at me in the mirror shook me to my core—I was irrevocably convinced of being so close to His heart, but discovered in truth, I was universes away.

I wonder if you know what it feels like to be “loved” by you and to interact with your faith understandings and pursuits.

As well intentioned as I know you are, quite honestly, your love often feels highly conditional and even pretentious, if not all together condemning. To be sure, there are many in your faith tradition, like you, who are loving and pursuing with great ambition, but it feels like any love that’s given is mainly because at some level, you kinda have to—all seemingly all part of your faith obligations and spiritual mission. I am sure your heart is real, but it feels like you love me more as a project than a person, with an overall goal to “disciple” me into thinking, believing, and behaving just like you. You call it transformation, the manifestation of a God who loves me enough to “meet me where I am at, but not leave me there”—but I am not even sure what that really means, or if it’s really true. I’m thinking it might be as simple as God just loves me, period—which leaves me wondering, why doesn’t it feel like you do too?

To be sure, conservative Christianity can taste so wonderful when you fit snug into the mold, but it can also feel like a sure kind of hell when you don’t—smiles to greet you at your face, surface pleasantries all around, but twitch with a wrong move—knives ready to stab you in your back, pushed to the outside, and even left to drown. The requirements to keeping-good-going in a relationship with you feels like a tireless game of making sure one plays by all the rules, completes all the steps, and meets your every expectation—otherwise, a clear message is surely in the mail, “we love you but, you’re falling short, repent or be removed.”

Oh I understand the idea of divine-authored, corrective conviction and the displeasure that can entail. It’s an integral part of your faith system and how the Jesus of your understanding impacts and transforms the world. But this is not about objecting to a dose of divine discipline, but rather the hurt, shame, and harm that’s caused by your faith prescriptions and interventions. For divine correction carries with it a kind of pleasurable discomfort as it begins and ends with Grace, kindness, humility, and unconditional acceptance—and thus, what hurts in the process is not the correction, but the regret of not seeing and embracing all the love, forgiveness, acceptance, kindness, and Grace that is already ours in Christ, so much sooner—the very things, the only things ironically, that bring about genuine change and transformation. That’s why sadly, so much of your discipling and speaking your “truth in love” only feels like pain and punishment as it’s completely devoid of the very Grace and truth that saves and makes the broken, whole—for punishment never made anyone holy.

I wonder, do you know what it feels like to be shunned—the facial displeasures, the flippant remarks, the disapproving stares, the disassociations and marginalizations? Do you know what it feels like to be labeled as lessor, inferior, and even evil, particular by you who declare to be so spiritual and echo the voice of the Creator? Do you understand how your “hating my sin,” but loving me as a “sinner” sucks the life out of my soul, condemned by your words as a second-class citizen?

Rejection, shame, disgust—do you know what they feel like when wielded from the visceral of another human?

Where is the discrimination in your life? Where are the toilets from which you have been banned their use? Where are the cakes that you have been refused? Where are the church fellowships and leadership positions from which you have been deemed disqualified? Where are the parents that sent you to the curb as illegitimate and no longer their true child? Where have we seen you dehumanized to the point of suicide, all in the name of Jesus and biblical faithfulness? Where are the gallows from which you have been hung for simply having a different color of skin? Where do we see you doing more listening than lecturing—more serving than judging?

To be loved by you feels like becoming a carny in a circus of constantly created wars against enemies you desperately need to exist and the formation of dire solutions for which there are no real problems. It feels like you believe yours is a privileged faith that entitles you special treatment—that you have deemed yourself as being better than the rest and possessors of the inside scoop to all that is Jesus, God, the Bible, and truth.

Oh, how I wish things were different as it feels like you have little to no sense of how much your words impale and your displeasure tortures and kills from the innards on out—your faith brand imprisoning me in a spiritual maze from which I will never find my way, upon a scale I will never measure up, and within a race I can never cross the finish. If there was ever a move by the Spirit to improve me, all your conditions, religious prescriptions, and condemnations would surely eclipse it.

I wonder, why do you have to interpret the Bible in all the most legalistic, negative, barbaric ways?

You don’t have to believe in a skin-melting, eternal-tormenting hell, an angry schizophrenic God, homosexual abomination, and the conquering of the world through militant, empire Christianity in order to be biblically faithful. Yet for some reason, you still do.

Why is it that when it’s shared with you, the words translated as “homosexual” in the New Testament were not translated as such until 1945, all the sudden you frantically determine that Greek translations are no longer important—but then, when it’s suggested that God loves everyone and desires all to be saved (and gets what He desires), all the sudden Greek translations used to limit God’s love become, to you, ever so critical?  I can’t help but feel like you are intentionally spinning the Bible towards restricting, restraining, and putting conditions on God, love, and the true freedom and life Jesus brings. It feels like any blanks left in scripture are always filled in with the most negative, condemning, legalistic, and conditional conclusions possible—not to mention, the convenient love it feels like you give, allowing a pass on your own biblical sins while judging harshly those who sin differently than you.

To be loved by you feels like, even though when met with faithful alternative, biblical understandings—you would still choose the ones that are the most hurtful, shaming, condemning and conditional.

It feels like you want to hate so much more than Jesus and the Bible are telling you to do so.

It feels like you are much more in love with your stances on the Bible, than in love with standing with people.

It feels like your love of justice is much more like a love of “just us.”

I long so desperately for the day when you will love me “as is” and all the same if I never change to your liking, but I am grieving the loss that from this, your conservative creed construct, that day will never come.

Maybe, just maybe, the Bible isn’t a strict dictation from God of His nature and ways, nor a detailed, infallible diary of His human interactions, but rather an organic catalog of important human journeys towards the understanding of life and God’s intersection and interactions therein—human understandings that are often imperfect and at times even drastically off the mark, painting colors and storylines into a picture of God that are in reality, far from who or how He truly is. Yet, nonetheless, each giving us a window into the highs and lows, the clarities and the misunderstandings we all experience along the way—each step, right or wrong, filled with the capacity to know Him more fully and live Him more accurately than at first.

Maybe, just maybe, the Bible is intentionally imperfect and incomplete so as to launch us into this same ever-flowing river of encounters with the perfect One—encounters not purposed on gaining complete understanding, but on finding complete rest in the One who is Understanding—writing along side of us our own personal Bible of faith journeys with Him where theology is best learned at the feet of Jesus not in the pages of someone else’s experiences and interpretations.

Maybe just maybe, this is the essence of what is truly authoritative and divinely inspired about the collection of faith experiences we call the Bible—all leading us to encounter for ourselves the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus the Christ. In so doing, we embark not upon a slippery slope that steers our theologies into the ditch, but a trail of faith that allows God to reveal Himself more clearly and deeply as we discover there is always more to know and more that He reveals of the expanse of God who is Love.

For this I surely know, until our theology is Love, we will always be leaning on our own understanding to the detriment, and even destruction, of other people.

My friend, may I suggest, a new absolute is coming and has already long been here—Grace.

For the non-judgement day is upon us, because all is finished, forgiven, and made whole by the Father through the Son.

But yet it feels like, to you, this is bad news, as much as Jesus died to make it good.

It feels like you want hell, judgement, condemnation, discrimination, lines, labels, battles, distance, and differences more than Jesus or the Bible could ever desire or deem so.

I mean no disrespect, nor look away from my own imperfections and failures, I just thought there could be a chance you might want to know…

this is what it truly feels like to be loved by you—

which, for so many of us, we are truly questioning if it’s really love at all.

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