Tag: evil (page 1 of 2)

I Will Not Be Silent—Chasing The Evils Of Conservative Evangelical Christianity Out Of The Shadows

No one who identifies themselves as a “Conservative Evangelical” is evil—no one. For God has fashioned us all in His image, and very few ever pursue the Christian life without the best of intentions and aspirations. We are all good people simply seeking the heart of God.

However, as much as it may be unpopular to express and I do so without any pleasure, so much of conservative right-wing Evangelical Christianity as a system and faith understanding harbors numerous tenets and values that are nothing less than pure evil—anti-Christ and diabolical for sure.

That’s the truth, and with all due respect, you should know it.

In fact, never has there been a more important time to open the blinds, connect the dots, and chase the evils of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity out of the shadows—countless lives are in the balance, and much of our future as a people and nation is at stake.

To be sure, conservative Evangelical Christianity can be so seductive to the flesh that even the strongest among us can be brainwashed by its witchcraft—many rendered completely desensitized to the evils in which they participate. That was me, 22 years spent as a right-wing conservative Evangelical pastor.

Yet, one need not look any further than to the callous person one can become and the cruel creeds one can adopt to see the rampant spiritual justification of hate and evil that spews out of significant segments of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity.

Perhaps it will serve as a challenge to your comfort zone, a deep offense to your beliefs, or blasphemy to your faith understanding, but I cannot be silent in laying before you the very evils that find their source, sanctuary, and sustenance in much of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity.

Stone me, crucify me, defriend me, withdraw your support, or turn your back altogether. Accuse me of painting with too broad a brush or speaking too harshly—I will not and cannot deny the evils I see nor shrink back from chasing them out of the shadows.

God help us all to wake up.

Grace is the Gospel, Not Repentance- Grace is the only power that changes anything—especially people. The good news isn’t that God offers us a gift but we must respond in order to receive it—that’s the conservative Evangelical interpretation of the Gospel and it’s not good news, it’s terrible news. For who knows when one truly believes, repents, and behaves well enough and properly enough for the exchange to truly occur, let alone remain. If it’s up to us in any way, shape, or form, there will always be doubt, fear, and uncertainty waiting eagerly in the wings—all sure fruits of evil.

Rather, the good news is that our unconditional irreversible inclusion in Christ with all its benefits is the gift—there’s nothing to receive only everything to believe. There is no such thing as a “relationship” with Jesus established and maintained by our proper responses to His love—that’s a sure evil construct of religion. Rather, there is only full communion in and with the Trinity, established and secured on our behalf from the foundations of eternity. He is us and in us, we are Him and in Him. Jesus is the message and manifestation of all that we already have and are—whole, saved, righteous, pure, affirmed, without blemish.

Faith is simply awakening and resting fully in this Truth—realizing it’s never been about our performance, always about His. Any repentance and relational aspects of Scripture must be understood, not as admonitions for our required response, but as cues to awaken to the fullness and sufficiency of Grace that is already ours, completely and irrevocably.

Sin Management Promotes More Sin- With all of its “to do” lists and prescriptions to grow spiritually through engaging in certain faith behaviors and commitments, conservative Evangelical Christianity is leading the way at imprisoning people to their sin and brokenness, not freeing them.

With every inspiring message peppered with new principles for living, lists of behaviors, and passionate admonitions to press in and try harder, we have created strung-out spiritual junkies addicted to the lures of the flesh to perform their way out of the sin and brokenness in their lives through some kind of partnership with Jesus. Becoming “successful” for Jesus and overcoming oneself and the trials of life through any kind of personal spiritual performance is the most diabolical trap in all the earth—loading people onto the train of sin-management and behavior modification with the promise to bless and emancipate their lives, only to end up in the gas chambers of the ministry of death—the Law.

At the feet of much of conservative Evangelical Christianity, we have nothing less than a spiritual holocaust in our country where the moral decline is ever increasing all because we have been preaching the cancer not the cure. Pure Grace is the only power of God to handle, manage, and transform brokenness and sin, and the people in which it resides. Any other message, prescription, step, action, or commitment is to extend condemnation and to rape one of the miraculous sin-busting freedom Christ bestows on us through our awakening to Grace. The Christian life is not a test, it’s a rest. Spiritual growth isn’t about becoming tomorrow who you aren’t today through ones spiritual performance, but rather the journey of our actions and attitudes catching up with who we already fully are in Christ—complete, whole, holy, pure, righteous, saved, and lacking no spiritual blessing. This is the foundation of Grace that enables in us and through us all good things, effortlessly—any other foundation is a sinking sand-spiral of death.

Jesus Is The Word, Not the Bible- Sadly, what a pacifier is to a baby, the Bible has become to much of conservative Evangelical Christianity—no wonder why we act so childish at times and elected one as our President. A pacifier is not a meal nor even a source of nourishment, so to it is with the Bible—for Jesus is the only Bread and the only Life offered. A pacifier isn’t the foundation of a child, not even for their growth—for Jesus is the only solid ground and the Bible simply an important catalyst and beginning to encountering Him, the true Word, Life, and Child in us all.

Yet, significant segments of conservative Evangelical Christianity suck on the Bible and their interpretation of it as if Jesus is secondary, or doesn’t exist at all. Nothing tells of their infantile dependency on the Scriptures more than when one pulls it from the clenches of their lips, challenging issues of inerrancy, proof-texting, and their weaponizing of its use. Kicking and screaming, they demand control and find no peace without declaring it infallible along with the exclusive authenticity of their interpretations. For their peace and faith is not in Jesus, it’s on the spiritual pacification their worship of the Bible affords them—forever perpetuating an evil spiritual adolescence. For no greater evils have come upon the earth than from Bible-sucking Christians whose faith is solely founded and directed by their Scriptural understandings, instead of the person, the only Word of God—Jesus, whose mind we possess and whose Life is ours.

The Way of Jesus is Inclusive, Sacrificial, and Nonviolent- With every push and plea for their values and beliefs to be legislated upon society, dominant in the public arena, given priority within our nation, and afforded special protections and privileges, conservative Evangelical Christianity departs from the way of Jesus and embarks upon its own evil imperialistic self-serving path.

The Kingdom of God does not come by way of weapons, demands, intimidation, legislation, or war, but through sacrificial service, nonviolent example, and all inclusive unconditional love—period. When the message of Jesus becomes militarized spiritually, emotionally, or physically, it is no longer the message of Jesus. With every moment conservative Evangelical Christianity fails to truly love its enemies, disagreers, and non-conformers as human beings created with divine dignity, freedom, rights, and value no less than theirs, they partner with the forces of evil to blaspheme the Spirit and twist Jesus into the hood ornament of their evil world bulldozer.   

Carving itself away from those it deems to be inferior through efforts to escape the “world” and retreat into their churches, charter schools, businesses, groups, and clubs gives sure example that much of conservative Evangelical Christianity gives priority not to the ways of Jesus, but to the ways of the religiously pretentious.

Conservative Evangelical Christianity will always be an evil system as long as it continues to fail to produce the fruits of true enemy love, putting others above self, serving those it deems deplorable, welcoming and wanting all people, being in community with all humanity, and choosing the ways of meekness, humility, and sacrifice over power, self-preservation, and greed.

Jesus Equalizes Everyone- For Grace is the great equalizer—none are better, only different. All are loved, all are affirmed, and all are valued and equal in capacity—Jesus makes it so.  Sadly, nearly everything about the conservative Evangelical creed speaks of and fosters privilege, the opposite of His Kingdom—we are the saved, you are the lost; we are the faithful, you are the heathen; we are the blessed, you are the condemned; we are the friends of God, you are the enemy; we are the sole possessors of Biblical understanding and righteous interpretation, you are the sure heretics; we are the faith upon which this nation was founded, you are the people that need to be converted and conquered.

No, it’s not going to be found written in the church bulletin or the carefully crafted mission statement of your local conservative Evangelical Church, but with white painted churches steepled with white crosses as far as the eye can see, Sunday mornings across America can be some of the most segregated hours of the week and a screaming indictment to the true fruits being grown on the vine of significant segments of conservative Evangelical Christianity—division, supremacy, sexism, racism, and classism, all of which, are deeply evil, intended or not.

The Spirit Changes People, Church Imprisons- In the face of a cosmically creative God, conformity is the sure work of evil hoping to thwart the brush strokes of the Divine. For conformity and forced unity kills spiritual growth and imprisons the soul, rendering it nearly incapable of genuine encounter with Jesus and the Spirit who sets us free. Perhaps the most frightening evil subtly being wielded across the planet is the false unity and forced conformity being fostered in many a conservative Evangelical Church where differing beliefs, perspectives, and values are feared and quickly labeled for assimilation or rejection—never community. Diversity is welcomed as far as it does not compete with nor challenge long held beliefs and traditions and people don’t outgrow the walls of the conservative evangelical system of beliefs and behaviors. Where the Spirit changes people and sets them on a path of free exploration, so much of the conservative Evangelical system manifested in churches is set up to conform people into compliance and condemn diversity that contradicts and challenges their spiritual Borg.

Condemnation and Conditions Are Messages of the Devil- Jesus didn’t die to riddle your life with condemnation. Jesus doesn’t love you to fill your heart with conditions. Jesus didn’t create heaven to lose you to the possibility of hell. For any message that declares condemnation from God or places conditions to love, falls drastically short of reflecting God and understanding Him who is Love. Sadly, the most popular talking points being spouted from conservative Evangelical Christianity are “God loves you BUT,” “Turn or burn,” and “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” All, sure messages of conditions and condemnation. For in God’s eyes, there is no such thing as loving the “sinner” because He doesn’t see anyone in that way nor make that label even a true possibility. Instead He calls them “friend,” “saint”, “child,” “blessed” “righteous” and “heirs” in the Kingdom, seeing all people included in Himself as Himself, unconditionally.

A gospel hinging on repentance is no Gospel at all—it’s evil.

A Christian life of sin-management and behavior modification is no life at all—it’s evil.

Worshiping the Bible instead of Jesus isn’t worshiping at all—it’s evil.

Twisting and using Jesus to spiritually justify hate, war, violence, supremacy, nationalism, greed, self-preservation, and power isn’t following Jesus at all—it’s evil.

Extending to the world a kingdom filled with racism, sexism, discrimination, classism, and marginalization isn’t extending the Kingdom of Jesus at all—it’s evil.

Doing church in ways that promote conformity, false unity, and the suppression of spiritual growth, diversity, and differences, isn’t doing church at all—it’s evil.

Mixing Grace with condemnations and mixing Love with conditions isn’t manifesting true Grace or Love at all—it’s evil.

Stone me, crucify me, defriend me, withdraw your support, or turn your back altogether. Accuse me of painting with too broad a brush or speaking too harshly—I will not and cannot deny these evils I see nor shrink back from chasing them out of the shadows.

God help us all to wake up and dismantle deception.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Is Conservative Evangelical Christianity An Incubator For White Supremacy?

President Trump won’t exclusively condemn it, Frankly Graham won’t clearly denounce it, and many conservative Evangelicals remain all but silent and waffling with false equivalencies in its destructive wake—white supremacy.

Take a good look at the landscape of right-wing Christianity in America and tell me why we should be surprised when white supremacy is seen by some as, at least in part, a bi-product, intended or not, of significant segments of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity. The undeniable placid ambivalence, tiptoeing, and ambiguity displayed by some in response to the recent acts of domestic terrorism committed in Charlottesville give sure light to the elephant in the room—a white Jesus for white people creating white churches with white male leadership hoping to protect, preserve, and foster a white conservative Christian nation to rule the earth.

It’s high time we wake up and smell the vile stench—casting out our evil nose-blindedness. Should we be surpised when significant segments of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity are discerned as highjacking Jesus and turning Him into their personal cruise director, sipping Christian cocktails while their Evangelical Titanic plows through and pollutes from sea to shining sea spewing out sure levels of hatred, bigotry, racism, greed, and even the sounds of white supremacy?

There is much about the conservative Evangelical creed that could be understood as speaking of and fostering privilege—we are the saved, you are the lost; we are the faithful, you are the heathen; we are the blessed, you are the condemned; we are the friends of God, you are the enemy; we are the sole possessors of Biblical understanding and righteous interpretation, you are the sure heretics; we are the faith upon which this nation was founded, you are the people that need to be converted and conquered.

No, it’s not written in the church bulletin or some carefully crafted mission statement, but with white painted churches steepled with white crosses as far as the eye can see, it should be to no one’s surprise when people observe that Sunday mornings across America can be some of the most segregated hours of the week and a screaming indictment to some of the highly unfortunate fruit being grown on the vine of the gospel of significant segments of conservative Evangelical Christianity—not excluding, aspects of white supremacy.

For at some point, we have to do the difficult work of putting two eyes on what’s in front of us and connecting the dots.

No, of course, not everyone who identifies as a conservative Evangelical Christian manifests nor supports the evils of racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. There are many, if not most, standing in the gap, seeking to be a force for good. Yet sadly, but perhaps appropriately, the foundational theology, ethos, and culture of significant segments of right-wing conservative Christianity are now being questioned as a potential incubator, cesspool, and even catalyst for some of the evil tenets, actions, and aspirations found in white supremacy.

As unpopular and perhaps controversial as it is to shout from the mountain tops or assert at the Thanksgiving day table, we have a serious spiritual and moral problem in our country, and one of the cowardly wizards behind the curtain pulling its fair share of the strings is none other than significant segments of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity.

If you’re white, silent, and not completely enraged at the racism spewing from the privileged sewers of America, you are the problem.

If you’re a Christian and believe that your faith understanding affords you special dignity, rights, blessings, status, and the capacity to judge and Lord your creeds and values over another, you are the problem.

If you subscribe to any belief set that sees the color of your skin, the creed you confess, or the location of your birth as granting you special anointing, favor, and affirmation from God, you are the problem.

If you have taken even just one step towards concluding that God created anything less than perfect equality for all people as the predominant sign of the manifestation of His Kingdom, you are the problem.

If you dream of a world where white Christian people remain the majority, retain overall power, legislate society, and have their values, beliefs, and culture prevail in the public arena, you are the problem.

Take a good look at the landscape of right-wing Christianity in America and tell me why we should be surprised when white supremacy is seen by some as, at least in part, a bi-product, intended or not, of significant segments of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Christian, What Your Continued Support Of Trump Is Screaming To The World

Perhaps it’s not your intention—that is, the true message your continued support of President Donald Trump is sending to the world. In your mind, you’ve been innocently choosing between lesser evils, seemingly caught in a no-win conundrum. Initially, your vote for Trump to become President was birthed with an underlying hope that he would shed his campaign antics and mature into a more solid presidential leader that supports your values with integrity and poise. Yet, despite consistent clear evidence to the contrary, as neither his character nor his leadership competencies have improved whatsoever, still to this day he retains your allegiance. Twittering like a middle schooler, bullying his disagreers, lying blatantly, harboring serious duplicity, and exuding strong levels of narcissism and greed still don’t seem to phase you the least. In all the ways that Trump and Jesus clearly and undeniably don’t mix, your continued loyalty is sending a deafening, disturbing, and revealing litany of messages to the world that you may not fully realize.

Whether it’s your desire or not, with every ounce of continued support you garner for this President, you are trumpeting these sure declarations to the world about you and your brand of Christian faith.

“We Seriously Lack Discernment and Spiritual Maturity”- As much as your creed declares to know and have the Spirit, perhaps you’ve somehow triggered the “turn off” valve. For either your capacity for spiritual discernment is all but nonexistent, or you’re taking every opportunity to turn a blind eye—the epitome of immaturity. From “pussy grabbing” to denying healthcare to millions. From blatantly racist comments to trash-talking his perceived enemies. From lusting after his own daughter, to having multiple failed marriages. From the temper tantrums of Spicer to the “not sucking my own cock” of Scaramucci. The undeniable ever growing list of immoral and inconsistent red flags and sounded alarms is staggering with this President, especially when compared to your corresponding silence and excuses. With every pass you grant to Trump’s ungodliness, you reek of your lack of ability to put spiritual eyes onto the President in front of you and have the maturity to confront reality. Perhaps, so seduced by a conservative right-wing Evangelical ideology, it’s as if you’re convinced that denial, rationalization, and double standards are now spiritual gifts that can be excused as necessary evils to the furthering of your mission. Whatever your conclusions may be, this is not spiritual maturity nor discernment, it’s joining forces with the darkness—the sure message your continued support of President Trump is screaming to the world.

“For Us, It May Be About Our Faith, But It’s Certainly Not About Jesus”- As innocent and benign as your intentions may be, the days are surely over when one can support President Trump and still yet claim their brand of faith is founded and centered on Jesus—period. A house divided cannot stand nor manifest spiritual integrity. With all due respect, to praise Trump and Jesus at the same time is to declare to the world your faith has little to do with Him—Jesus. Directly or indirectly as you continue to support President Trump, you join forces to nationalize conservative Evangelical Christianity, further white privilege, condemn the LGBTQIA community, turn a deaf ear to sexism and racism, belittle minorities, demonize perceived enemies, and foster xenophobia—telling the world everything they need to know. If it was ever about Jesus for your brand of Christian faith, it certainly isn’t now. For Jesus has never and would never condone such bigotry, hatred, self-centeredness, imperialism, condemnation, elitism, and discrimination—in fact, He died at the hands of such things in order to put an end to such things. Keep on lifting your hands in worship, building more buildings with crosses on top, sending missionaries across the globe, and declaring your solidarity with the Bible—the world isn’t buying it one bit, but rather hearing the sure message screaming from your continued support of President Trump, “For us, it may be about a lot of things, but it’s certainly not about Jesus.”

“Our Gospel Bottom Lines On Personal Power and Privilege”- Perhaps you are truly unaware or blinded to the moment, but while Jesus is washing feet, your continued support of President Trump intimately connects you with those licking their chops to step on them—especially if that’s what it takes to move the conservative Evangelical machine forward. With assumptions as sickening as those that equate unchristian immorality as being connected to a person’s tendencies to need healthcare, nothing is more clear than right wing religious conservatism’s desire for power and privilege. The underlying diabolical promise that your support of Trump declares is that if you think, believe, and act the way we do, you’ll be blessed above and have power over others. Don’t be fooled or live in denial, “Make America Great Again” was first born in the incubator of your faith understanding which has reduced Jesus down to a personal white republican gun-carrying Savior whose chief desire and calling upon your life is to make you great and give you a great life, no matter the expense to others. Sadly, while perhaps your gospel is great news for you and those who conform and fit the mold, it’s terrible news for all others, particularly those your brand of faith deems to be the enemy. Just ask Muslims, minorities, women, immigrants, and the LGBTQIA community. The message your continued support of President Trump is screaming to the world is that you’re completely at peace with using Jesus as the hood ornament of your conservative Evangelical world bulldozer, fueled by your ultimate desire for personal power and privilege.

“Our Brand Of Christianity Is A Scheme Not A Dream”- For let’s be honest, no dream remains a dream the moment it must take advantage, condemn, discriminate, or harm another in order to see its fruition. No matter how spiritual and noble your brand of faith postures itself, your continued support of Trump engrafts you to a political and religious scheme pimped as the American dream—eroding it all into one big nightmare. For how many people must suffer condemnation, discrimination, marginalization, and even death as a result of your brand of faith’s efforts to survive and prosper? How can denying millions of people healthcare be in concert with the dream of Jesus for their lives? How does your continued support of Trump serve to feed the hungry, heal the sick, foster true equality, uplift the downtrodden, give shelter to the homeless, love the enemy, extend mercy, bless the meek, empower the minorities, and rescue the least of these? How does your continued lifting up of Trump as a God-appointed leader inspire future generations towards the ways of Jesus? The truth is, it doesn’t, none of it—for it’s all one great big scheme. It’s always been about you, moving your faith ideology forward at all costs, but yours—that’s the message your continued support of President Trump is screaming to the world.

“We Have Become Inhumane People At Best, And We’re Basically O.K. With It”- Perhaps this is the message heard round the world the clearest. In every way you should be leading the way, you are desperately falling behind. Instead of holding up love as the highest of priorities, it’s violently thrown to the ground and deemed an accessory at best. Instead of looking for every way to live at peace, you’re always searching for an enemy to conquer—contriving them into existence when a real one can’t be found. Instead of extending the table of hospitality, tolerance, freedom, grace, and true equality, you’re insistent on building walls to protect and prosper your privilege. If it wasn’t for your ultimate benefit, prosperity, or greedy fulfillment, so much of what we as a country and people do for the world you would have ceasing to exist—for you’re always looking out for number one—you. At the end of the day, it’s all about protecting your way of living, believing, and doing, even at the expense of Jesus and your fellow human. For apparently, Trump is merely a manifestation of your true creed, character, and aspirations—what else are we all to believe when the one message we never hear is that of you renouncing him? At the end of the day your continued support of President Trump screams a clear message to all the world, “We don’t give a sh*t, call us inhumane, evil, or whatever you want, this is our faith and this is our nation—like it or leave it.”

Whether it’s your desire or not, with every moment of your continued support for this President, you’re blasting these sure declarations to the world about you and your brand of Christian faith.

Perhaps, now would be a good time to listen to the echoes—asking yourself a simple question, “who or what do I truly serve?”

Jesus and the world surely know the truth.

The questions is—for you, does it even matter?

As it stands today, your silence, excuses, and continued support of President Trump tell us all the answer—apparently not.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Life After Conservative Evangelical Christianity—Hope For Those Who Hurt

Many are those who have been hurt and harmed by conservative Evangelical Christianity. A walk through the haunted woods of right-wing religious America can be a painful, faith-stripping, and life-sucking experience. For some, it’s an alarming set of events that must transpire before their eyes are opened to the religious deceptions and evils they have endured, adopted, or perhaps have even empowered. Many within and outside of conservative Evangelical Christianity can attest to the victim or victimizer they have become as a result of the faith and practices of much of religious right-wing America.

For those who have been deceived into befriending or becoming the religious evils of conservative Evangelical Christianity—there is hope. For those whose lives have been devastated, their faith disillusioned, and their dignities raped at the hands of these same religious evils—there is hope.

Raise your head, open your heart, awaken your soul—there is sure and certain hope.

There is Grace Instead of Conditions- There is a Gospel that is devoid of fiery judgement, religious condemnation, guilt-trips, “to-do” lists, and people shaming. There is a Gospel where everyone is deemed equal, affirmed, included, and eternally loved and valued. There is a Gospel absent of an angry, vengeful God who requires the murder of His Son and the proper religious responses of His creation in order to forgive and save humanity. There is a Gospel where God loves unconditionally because that’s who He is and can do no other. There is a Gospel that stands against all violence, abuse, and idolatry, and yet, in all these things, is no less biblical. This Gospel is not a fad, a new theology, or some wayward heresy–it’s a person, and that person is Jesus who is pure Grace.

There is Jesus Outside of Church- There is a Jesus who is everywhere and in all things. He is not exclusive to any one location, nation, group, orientation, gender, skin color, tradition, ideology, political party, or even faith system—He is all and in all, nowhere can He be found missing. He is not in public schools only if the people within them are praying or the Bible is being read. He can’t be summoned, controlled, or enticed into favoritism. As much as one may encounter Him in Church, they can encounter Him anywhere and in all things—if they have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that is willing. Jesus isn’t just in Church or into Church people, nor a building, or a service—He’s in everyone, everywhere, and everything. He’s into all humanity.

There is Community Beyond a Congregation- Where church congregations are largely organized around agreed beliefs, values, preferences, and purpose, true community is found deeper where all beliefs are honored, love is most highly valued, and purpose is centered on mutual respect, compassion, and human service—diversity is prized, not feared. People love, not out of religious obedience or faith obligation, but because it is who they are and the full essence and nature of the God they worship. No greater form of community is found than at the Jesus-table that extends far beyond the confines of many a congregation into the realm where people simply intersect with people—anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. The planet becomes our sanctuary, loving people becomes our worship service, and all humanity our congregation—no one is excluded, no walls needed.

There is Love without Restriction or Restraint- No more sizing people up or pre-qualifying expressions of Grace. No more wondering and fearing that you could love too much—if that ever could be a thing. No more conditions, fine-print, or exemptions. No more relational distancing out of religious obligations. No more “hate the sin, love the sinner” in order to desensitize your soul and justify condemnation and hate. No more saying “no” when everything in your spirit is saying “yes.” No more separating “truth” and “love” because your heart has been awakened to the revelation “the Truth is Love and Love is the Truth”—one in the same of the blessed Trinity. No more holding back, shrinking back, or turning back—only giving back as God has first given love to you—without restriction or restraint.

There is Freedom above Conformity- There is a spiritual growth that knows no limits and has no bounds. The goal is not conformity to a set of beliefs and convictions, but effortlessly becoming all that you already are by the Grace of Jesus. It’s founded on a trust and declaration that God is bigger than our best thoughts, ideas, conclusions, behaviors, and confessions. His desire is not that we land in a place of determined theological correctness, but that we open our sails to the Spirit to take us wherever Grace might lead us. That we listen to His voice speaking with fresh revelation fills His heart with delight far more than to see our heads buried in pages and verses. You are a free-living, free-thinking, free-aspiring creation and God loves to see you embracing freedom fully.

There is Safety and Strength In Divine Affirmation- You have no one to fear nor owe anyone an explanation. God perfectly loves you and embraces you completely. He affirms you no less than His gaze into a mirror—you are the image of the Divine Creator. Your value and worth have been predetermined. His love, approval, and acceptance or irrevocable and unchanging. That He created you is more than enough to hug you with an embrace that is eternally unbreakable. No ones opinion, voice, declaration, proof-text, or sermon should even begin to matter compared to the ultimate statement of God on your behalf, “it is finished.” God’s love for you—done deal. God’s delight in you—done deal. God’s affirmation of you—done deal. God’s salvation for you—done deal. As is, whoever you are. All is Grace, one and done—you are an unstoppable force of the Father. You are the revival God is bringing to the earth.

There is Forgiveness For The Enemy- To take the highroad and live to love again is not only the cry of your soul but the empowerment you become—free from all that is religious. Never becoming the evil done against you while standing firm to your truth is the beautiful balance centered upon your heart. No longer can one drag you into meaninglessness nor bring out in you a person foreign to grace and graciousness. Even the worst of that done against you is gleaned of its lessons but neutered of its power to possess. Confronted by and collided with a forgiveness that is unlimited compels you to free yourself from the shackles of unforgiveness, that you might never become your own worst enemy. What the evils of religion have stolen from you will become your mandate to no longer give them headspace nor power through being imprisoned to their hate. You refuse to hold onto bitterness, the desire for revenge, or the expectation of change. Those who forgive freely are those who are truly free and show themselves to be fully rescued out of the shadows of conservative Evangelical Christianity.

There is Purpose in the Pain- Standing, resisting, crying out in fierce solidarity. Giving voice to the voiceless, listening where no ears have been willing. Defending and proclaiming the sacred value of all the discarded. Living with a bravery of epic proportions that only a heart captured by Grace could compel. Shouting for equality where there is none. Ranting for justice where there is none. Chasing evils out of their shadows where they have long resided unchallenged. These are the places where one finds the deepest purpose in life—to be fully yourself and fight on behalf of those who know not that joy. Taking the pain of your oppression and the story of your plight that it might empower another to overcome and discover true life.

Don’t give up.

Don’t give in.

There is always hope.

There is always righteous resistance.

There is always the awakening to a new day and a new way.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Sorry Conservative Christian, I Don’t Owe You Anything

You’re right, I’m pissed.

Not just pissed—I’m disturbed, dismayed, and utterly repulsed at what has become of so much of modern Christianity. The undeniable carnage that rots at the feet of conservative Evangelicalism should send every soul into rants of injustice and blasphemy. I’m not going to apologize for my vehemence—in fact, I’m wondering how you can remain so acquiescent. Blinded to our privilege, arrogance, and greed, we have made a mockery out of Jesus and raped His Gospel into good news for the privileged and ideologically-conforming, but terrible news for the rest—how convenient. Marginalizing, condemning, and destroying whole groups of God-adorned people at the wave of our Evangelical wands, we cozy up to the devil himself while hoping to convince the world we sit at the right hand of Jesus. It’s terrible, disgusting, and flat out evil—and I’m determined to chase every fiber of it out of the shadows, giving voice and courage to all those it oppresses.

I know, you disagree.

In fact, you’re all but convinced I’ve gone plummeting off the deep end—steering my life, thinking, and believing straight into hell’s toxic ravine.

With seemingly everything I say, write, feel, and believe, the glare in your eyes and the rejection on your face shows me all I need to see. I’ve stepped outside the lines, disappointed expectations, and called into question the sacred cows of conservative Christian belief. You don’t like it one bit—that needling under your skin. If there’s one thing—that’s the one thing, that’s perfectly clear.

At times, I can’t help but notice—grinding down with every muscle in your being, you try to squeeze out some politeness to wrap around your disagreements. I appreciate that, I really do—your heart and noble effort are shining through. Yet as flowery as you hope I’ll receive it all and the sure goodness of your intentions, the time-released stench coupled with your corrective words is a scent I can’t ignore. Coated with the perfumes of religious condescension, so often your displeasures with me steep and steam of freshly spewed manure—as much as I may try, I just can’t un-smell it.

It’s not the reality that we don’t see eye to eye, or that you’re completely missing my heart. It’s your apparent determination to misunderstand, deflect, and reject without pause or genuine review that tells me any hope has vanished—jumping ahead with your assumptions and conclusions before the trigger sounds the start.

It’s not that I don’t respect your faith, beliefs, personal perspectives, and ways of thinking—I do. It’s not that I don’t care about developing or preserving some kind of relationship with you—I do. It’s not that I don’t desire peace between us and mutual understanding—I do. It’s not that I don’t want to hear from God what He might desire to say to me—I most certainly do. But somehow, it seems, a seat at the table for conversation and the sharing of differing views, just isn’t enough—for you. Instead, without my desire nor consent, you keep jumping the fence, claiming an entire space and authority in my life to call me into accountability—as if Jesus has surrendered the throne to your right-wing conservative ideology and made my entire being your imminent domain. With all due respect, when did God grant you exclusive access to the inside scoop on all things Jesus? Tailing my every move, turn, and twist along this spiritual journey, I don’t ever remember God assigning you to the role of spiritually policing me.

The truth is, I don’t owe you an explanation, justification, rationalization, or clarification. I don’t owe you a bible verse, proof text, theological reasoning, or an example from history. I don’t owe you a visit to your church, the reading of an article, or a talk with your pastor. In fact, when it’s all said and done, I don’t owe you a damn thing—in a manner of speaking. My freedom in Christ and His Spirit to guide me dismantle all pursuits from you or any other to control me and make me your project. There’s nothing like meeting the buzzsaw of my iron-plated identity in Him—wait for it, you’ll see.

Every time I speak, you’re cocked and loaded with the very same litany.

You say that I’m being just as judgmental and intolerant as the people with whom I disagree. With all due respect, I have found more so than not, that’s what people say who are ignorant of their privilege and the shadow it’s casting. It’s the height of all spiritual arrogance to wrap yourself in the garments of religious authority and elitism, and yet cry foul at the presence of constructive passionate criticism. That’s like the sun shaming the stars for claiming it’s hot, bright, and big. Until you’re willing to be last, you’ll never understand the sacred responsibilities of being first. If you have a problem with the people under your feet crying out to be heard as they protest your perniciousness and reveal it for what it is, you’ll need to take up your complaint with Jesus who was murdered for doing the same.

You say my observations, descriptions, and admonitions are too broad and sweeping—as if people don’t have the common sense to see themselves (or not) in the mirror my words are creating. With all do respect, I’ll start caring about your concerns regarding the presence of broad-sweeping descriptions when you reject a faith that condemns to hell whole segments of God’s sacred humanity. I’ll start worrying about making sure I’m painting by the numbers when you stop labeling entire communities of people as “sinners” in need of “reparative therapy.” I’ll stop making blanket statements when you stop boycotting entire industries. I’ll stop describing things in general terms when you come to realize that “all lives matter” doesn’t matter until, “black lives matters” matters first.

You say that I’m not loving unconditionally those I criticize, in the same way that I’m calling for it. You say I need to just “move on” to some kind of “joy” that comes from making peace with all of it. You say there’s a “healing process” to be had so I can “grow up” and put aside my angst and aversions towards religious conservatism. You say that I don’t include enough biblical references and sound theological reasoning. You say I’m always pointing out the problems and never shining light on the solutions.

Really?

Does unconditional love require the refusal to speak on behalf of those with whom conservative Christianity has condemned and abused? Does it require a passive silence in the face of evil at its purest?

You assume that God’s desire for me is a “joy” that comes from some kind of spiritual numbness to the pain of others and the evils of religion. Until my dying day, I refuse any such twisted “bliss”customized for the privileged who can turn their backs and look away—until that day, of course, when there are no privileged, but only people equal under Grace, all treated the same.

With all due respect, in regards to who I am or what I pursue, I don’t owe you a spin on your Scripture pole nor a lap-dance upon the legs of your orthodoxy. I don’t owe you a prancing around in your legalistic lingerie nor photos for your vacation from caring about humanity. Know this, and know this for sure, I don’t owe you a blasted thing, because the last thing God desires for my life is for me to start answering to you.

Instead, from the megaphone of heaven trumpeting in my ear, there is a sure and voracious calling to be fully me, free and alive—to manifest the heart of Jesus who called the religious evils of His day out of the shadows, and stood in solidarity with the religiously condemned. Jesus didn’t just “move on” as if people are disposable, rather He died and took everyone and everything broken unto Himself. How dare you entertain the idea that doing anything of a different flavor could manifest He who is the Bread, broken for the world.

Nothing could ever inspire me beyond the redemption of people abused at the hands of the brand of Christianity you seem to so desperately want me to appease and approve. I will not leave nor forsake the least of these until all of us can cross together into a land where Grace is given full room to rule and reign—now, welling up to eternity.

No, there is no “healing process” for me—by His stripes I am healed, and perfectly made whole already.

If you’re so concerned about solutions to the problems, why don’t you just go and be one.

As for me, hear me and hear me well. I’m gonna be all up your kool-aid—I’m not going away. I’m not shrinking back or bowing to your editorializations and expectations—hell no, no way.

Today is the day of my soul emancipation—I’m breaking free from your shame, guilt, condemnation, and loaded lines of questioning.

Sorry conservative Christian, play every card in your religious deck. I’ve come to realize the truth that Grace has convinced me—I don’t owe you anything.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Hell-Believing, Wrath-Preaching, Fire-Breathing Christian—What If You’re Wrong?

Chances are, it’s a belief you’ve grown up with all your life—God loves humanity so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in order to save us from His eternal punishment of sinners who don’t love Him back in return through believing in His Son and repenting of their sins. As the story goes, through His crucifixion, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment from God that we deserve for sin. God required the death of Jesus in order to forgive sin, and personal faith and repentance are how we benefit from that event. Otherwise, the work of Jesus isn’t applied to our account and we are doomed to spend eternity in a place of unimaginable suffering where our greatest wish is to die, but by God’s design we are prevented from doing so—it’s hell, and it’s forever.

For those who might find this storyline of human redemption difficult to stomach with its dark portrayals of God, the Gospel, and Jesus. For those who wonder how God could claim to be so loving and yet act so sinister in not only imagining this kind of hell, but creating it and making the brutal murder of Jesus the only way out of it. For those who dare to look ahead towards the psychotic duplicity of what it might feel like enjoying eternity in the bliss of heaven while your loved ones scorch in unbearable suffering. For those this whole damnation-thing strikes their conscience as being a bit unsettling, unnerving, and confusing—we’ve been taught a simple fix. Hell is a necessary and natural manifestation of God’s divine holiness and justice. In heaven, we will encounter these attributes so completely and fully that any doubts we might have about God or people suffering eternally will somehow no longer haunt us, but rather rest peacefully and easily upon our souls. So much, that in the presence of God who allows for, created, and sustains hell, we will be forever desiring to sing His praises as millions of others suffer unimaginably.

In short, the brutal, violent death of Jesus and a hell of eternal pain and suffering have been handed down to us unquestionably as the ultimate reflection of God’s character and His best ideas for how to extend and make real His deep abiding love for humanity.

Maybe for you, these popular teachings regarding God’s narrative of salvation are a comfortable fit and central to your faith understanding. In your mind, if people go to hell, it’s their fault, not God’s. God can do whatever He wants, and if Hell is the setup, so be it. Besides, the Scriptures are clear, people have been warned—believe or burn, that’s the Gospel. If one rejects Jesus and refuses to heed His commands, they’ll get their just reward—an eternity of torture. God is holy, just, and sovereign no matter how vicious and brutal things play out—for His ways are not our ways, who are we to cross-examine the Divine? Therefore, you proudly and boldly declare the reality of a flaming eternity and the glory of God in sending (or allowing) people there who reject Jesus or live disobediently—thanking God, it’s not you, of course.

Or perhaps for you, as much as you dislike thinking about hell and are even inwardly perplexed by its reality in contrast to a loving God, your understanding of the biblical witness and teachings of Jesus seem to leave you no other choice but to conclude that hell is real and real people will be spending eternity in some kind of suffering existence that affords no hope and no way out. It’s not how you would draw it up, and the whole idea is secretly unsettling to you. When it comes to God’s wrath, burning in flames, and the brutal crucifixion of His own Son, you’d just as soon focus on something else and hope it all comes out in the wash. You have your doubts, a lot of questions, and significant uneasiness with it all, but that’s about as far as you’ve taken it.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, chances are, without a hell for unbelieving sinners, the foundations of your faith understanding make little sense and largely comes crashing to the ground. In your mind, if there’s no hell, there’s no purpose for Jesus. If there’s no hell, there’s no purpose for believing. If there’s no hell, there’s no purpose in being a Christian. If there’s no hell, what’s the motivation? If there’s no hell, what’s our message? If there’s no hell, what’s the Gospel? If there’s no hell, what happens to all the effort I’ve put into my righteousness?

So, as difficult, foundation-shaking, and faith-unraveling as this question could potentially be, I’m still going to ask it—what if you’re wrong?

What if hell is nothing like you think?

What if hell (if a place at all) is actually just as Jesus alluded, a literal place (Gehenna) located in Jerusalem associated with the valley of Hinnom that was used as the city dump where a fire was constantly kept to burn up and consume all of the city’s unwanted junk? In fact, the word Gehenna occurs 12 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament, each time being mistranslated to mean “hell” in several versions of the Bible, even though Jesus used it as a clear reference to a city dump.

What if it’s an embarrassingly huge stretch of theological abuse to determine in one moment that the admonition by Jesus to, “pluck your eye out” is certainly not to be taken literally, but yet in the next moment, His literal use of “Gehenna” in the same sentence should somehow be unequivocally understood to refer figuratively to a real place in the bottom of the earth where people are tortured by the wrath of God in eternal flames? Really?

What if the other three biblical words traditionally interpreted as referring to a “hell of fire and eternal torment” actually are grossly mistranslated and don’t actually mean “hell” at all? In fact, Sheol occurs 65 times in the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament, and it simply means “the grave” (the place of the dead) or “the pit.” Hades occurs 11 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament and it is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol. Thus, it also simply means “the grave “or “the pit.” Tartarus occurs only once in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament in this verse: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.” Notice that God casts the angels (not humanity) who sinned down to tartarus and chained them in darkness, to be reserved for judgement.

What if the single word “hell” we use today and associate as “hell” (a place of fiery, eternal torture) is actually not found in the Bible—nowhere, and in no manuscripts? It’s true.

What if, in fact, much of modern Christianity’s convenient love affair with a hell of flames, wrath, and demons comes much more from the influence of Dante’s “Inferno” than ever could be derived from the true words of Jesus?

What if hell is actually a reality experienced in the presence of God, not apart from Him like commonly taught? In fact, two writers in Scripture describe this very notion: “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb,”  and “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” 

What if hell is not the result of God doing something contrary to His nature (love), but rather doing more of it? In fact, the Greek word for “wrath” in the New Testament is the word “orge.” Unfortunately, the way this word has been translated has been shaped greatly by our pre-existing concepts of God as being angry, temperamental, and hell-bent on punishing. The word “orge” actually means “any intense emotion.” It’s from where we get words like “orgy” and “orgasm.” At its core, “wrath” has to do with a very strong passion—not even associated to anger. In fact, the root of “orge” actually means “to reach out in a straining fashion for something that you long to possess.” 

What if the wrath of God is not Him pouring out anger, vengeance, or retaliation, but rather His furious love—grasping, reaching, shaking to possess every person that they might experience His Grace?

What if hell is the experience of religious-hearted people who despise the pure Grace of God and His unconditional love and inclusion of all people into Himself and the Kingdom? In the eternal presence of the white-hot love of God forever flowing out as a river from His throne (Daniel 7:10), their souls are scorched with frustration, rage, and torment as their self-righteousness, conditional love, and religious arrogance, bigotry, and intolerance are exposed—stripped, and rendered powerless and evil. All of it deemed as filthy rags fit for the lake of God’s all consuming fire—the blistering flames of Grace. The presence of all people of every color, gender, orientation, stronghold, sin, and creed sends them into legalistic episodes of uncontainable protest and rage—how can this be, how is this fair, how dare the cross include all of these? Resigned to spend an eternity in the presence of pure Grace, the only way it becomes heaven for them is to do what many will refuse—to repent of their demonizing of God, their worship of the Scriptures, and their own legalistic understandings of it all to the exclusion of truly knowing Jesus and His heart. For the same Grace and love that will be experienced as heaven by many, will be a sure torturous hell for some. Jesus forever flips over the tables yet again, and those whom religion joyously sends to the curb are given a prized seat of bliss, and those whom religion gives elite privilege are found to be pouting and wallowing forever in religious disgust.

What if Jesus didn’t die to save us from white-bearded, angry, and vengeful God, but to save us from a fear-driven faithless life of believing He is?

What if Jesus didn’t die at the hands of a God who required His blood-soaked death in order to forgive, but rather at the claws of the religious and their diabolical systems of evil whose chief desire is to murder pure Grace and all its self-righteous destroying, all-including implications?

What if, in the hands of a world dripping with oppression, Jesus, through the cross, chose the way of nonviolence, sacrifice, service, forgiveness, inclusion, and unconditional love to model and manifest the Kingdom that was already eternally established by His Grace?

What if Jesus didn’t die to forgive us, but to manifest to the world that God already had, long ago outside of time in the realm of eternity?

What if God isn’t schizophrenic after all—harboring unconditional love for humanity one moment and eternal hate the next?

What if the truth is, you can’t reject Grace—you can’t stop its presence, pursuit, favor, or blessings over your life or that of any other, you can only love it or resist it? Loving, believing, trusting Grace fills your life with heavenly rest. Not loving, believing, and trusting Grace fills your life with a hell of frustration, self-righteousness, bitterness, religiosity, judgementalism and angst—as long as you desire, even for eternity.

What if God isn’t an insecure, limited, and codependent parent, whose capacity to save, love, and forgive are restricted to and governed by the obedience (or disobedience) of His children—thus, making them the Lords of the future, not Him?

What if God never changes—He is love through and through, forever and always, no matter what or who?

What if the presence of alternative biblically-faithful interpretations regarding ones understanding of hell and God’s connection to it back you into an interpretive corner, so much that if you believe in an eternal hell of torment and torture for the unbelieving and a God who would author it, you are doing so solely by your own choice?

For the results are in—history paints the picture. We Christians have been drastically wrong before—wrong about racism, wrong about equality, wrong about violence and war, the list keeps on growing.

Hell-believing, wrath-preaching, fire-breathing Christian—what if you’re wrong, yet again?

If I’m wrong, then God will most certainly go ahead, around, and over me in a divine full-court-press to scare the hell out of the people I’m misleading—literally. For there’s nothing about me or my message that the Holy Spirit is powerless or unwilling to usurp. Any wayward guidance on my part can easily be reversed by the omnipotent leading of the Father. I would boldly stand before the Throne having exaggerated the goodness, love, and Grace of God—if ever that could be a thing.

But, if you’re wrong, you have participated in nothing less than the evil demonization of God and the sheer blaspheming of His Spirit. You’ve allowed your spiritual laziness, vulnerability to religious brainwashing, and twisted comfort with the notion of people going to a torturous hell and a God who would create it, to win over your heart, mind, thinking, attitudes and actions. You have leaned on your own understanding of the Scriptures to the spiritual abuse of others—imprisoning them into a life of fear as they are raped of their capacity to know the joy, freedom, and peace that comes from awakening to God who is love, Jesus who is Grace, and the Gospel that is truly good news for all.

Hell-believing, wrath-preaching, fire-breathing Christian—what if you’re wrong?

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness… I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love?  -St. Isaac the Syrian

“The flames of heaven will be hotter for some than the flames of hell could ever be”  -Dallas Willard

Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world.”  -Robert Capon

Grace is brave. Be brave

9 Things I’ll Tell My Child If They “Get Saved” At Vacation Bible School

It’s bound to happen, seems like almost every year—one of our children is invited by a friend to their Vacation Bible School. We seek to respect and trust the Spirit’s work in our children’s lives enough to allow them a variety of faith experiences. Yes, we are Christian parents who love Jesus, no less. Our children know Him well, pray and sing songs, and hopefully see Him most clearly in our life examples.

It hasn’t happen yet, but this summer could be the year when one of them rushes home and declares, “Guess what mom and dad, I got saved at Vacation Bible School.” If that day should come, here’s what I can’t wait to tell them.

A Long Time Ago, In An Eternity Far Far Away—God Had Already Saved You- I’m not trying steal any thunder or bring down the moment, but that’s the really good news—the one and only true Gospel! You’ve been in Christ’s arms since the very beginning. There’s not a chance He’d ever take a chance in letting you go. He loves you that much—always has, always will. Sure we make mistakes, even lose our way. But, forgiveness isn’t an event, it’s a forever reality that can’t be taken away—God made it so, before you and beyond you, when you didn’t even know. You don’t even have to ask for it or earn it in any way, just embrace it’s already there and always has been, each and every day. That will keep your heart clean from useless shame and guilt and free you to want to do good purely for the sake of doing good. I’m glad you “got saved” but there was no need to, you already were—completely and thoroughly. That’s the real awakening that’s taken place, now you can fully breathe—the air of true freedom.

God Is Only Love, Not A Monster To Fear- He’s not keeping score, there’s not even a test. Life is not an exam, it’s a rest. You don’t have to earn anything, do anything, or appease Him in any way. It’s Christ’s performance that defines your life, not yours. He doesn’t love you one moment and turn His back the next. There can never be distance between you, He is in you every step of the way. When people talk about wrath, hell, and doom and gloom, you can be sure that all of that has been highly confused. God is only Love, pure as pure can be. His heart has nothing but affection for you and all humanity. Rest in the flower bed of His Grace and enjoy the smell of true life, now and everlasting. You don’t have to live with one eye open, God is only out to bless you and exceed your best expectations—no matter what.

God Didn’t Kill Jesus, Religious Villains Did The Trick– Jesus didn’t die to save you from an angry God, but to save you from living a life believing He is or ever could be—angry with you. Jesus didn’t die because it is was required to forgive you, Jesus died because He already had it in His heart to do so. The way of Jesus is non-violent, gracious, kind, sacrificial, and serving. The way of religion is condemning, self-righteous, prideful, and greedy. Jesus takes all of our religious inclinations, rebellion, pride, gracelessness, and self-righteous addiction, and allows us to murder Him with it instead of punishing us, destroying us, and seeking revenge. In doing so, Jesus takes our entire being and fills it with His perfection, showing to all the world on a cross, that we have been made perfectly perfect and Grace ultimately wins.

Hell Is The Terrible Feeling Religious People Get When Unconditional Love Wins- No, it’s not a place where people burn in horrible pain forever—God would never do that nor allow it. Yet some people can become so selfish, conditional, unforgiving, hateful, judgmental, self-righteous, religious, and insistent on their own way, that when God turns up the heat of His white-hot unconditional love and Grace, and pours it on them and everyone else without restraint, it frustrates and shakes them to their core, burning their self-righteous flesh. To them, pure love and Grace feels like excruciating pain because their true heart is exposed and all their religiosity is derailed. For nothing feels more torturous than spending an eternity immersed in wall to wall Grace when you hate nearly everything about it, and everyone is getting it, equally and regardless.

Jesus Is What’s Important, Not A Book- Here’s an inside secret you should surely know, when people say, “this is what the Bible says,” what they really mean is, “this is what I think the Bible says”—see the difference? Some Christians worship the Bible and use it as a weapon—hurting people, judging people, and Lording it all over them. For them it’s all about control, fear, and bringing people into religious conformity and submission. The Bible is beautiful, but not perfect. It leads us into our own encounter with Jesus, but should never become His replacement. The writers had their own human sense and perceived experiences of God, not always understanding what’s happening nor Who is doing it, though they might have believed and even wrote that they did. Read the Scriptures, learn to love them passionately, but only let Jesus be the one true guide of your interpretation, use, and understanding of them. That way, you’ll discover over time, all the ways Jesus redefines, reinterprets, and even discards some of what’s written—and you should too.   

Be Yourself, You’re God’s Perfect Plan- If you want be a doctor, be a doctor. If you want to fly to Mars and form its first colony, go red or go home. If it turns out you’re gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender in orientation or gender, be that without fear or intimidation. You are God’s perfect plan, you are the revival He is bringing to the world—as is. You, just be you, one hundred percent. There will always be haters and those who label and dissect. Listen to the Christ within you, the Light He has placed in every human. Don’t worry about living some perfect will, dream, or “big thing” God has planned for you. Know this for sure—you are the dream, you are the plan, you are the big thing God is doing. Do what you love to do in ways that honor God and serve people—He is always for you and by your side. The canvas of God’s life for you is loaded with potential and countless possibilities, don’t let anyone paint it for you, nor convince you that you’ve ruined it or wasted it all together. The pursuit and expectation of perfection should always be your enemy and never your friend. You are God’s perfect plan, so now just go and live—free. Do you, everyone else is taken.

You Aren’t Any Better Than Anyone Else- Just because you’re “saved”, a “Christian,” or whatever people want to call it, doesn’t mean you’re better or can look down upon any human. Grace is not only what saved you, but is the great equalizer. All of us are different, but none of us are better. Different people believe and do things differently. Our job is to love unconditionally and trust the Spirit to do any needed correcting. Set healthy boundaries, set a good example, and be the best you that you already are in Jesus, but never believe that in doing so, that makes yourself any better than the least of these. The way of Jesus is to serve, listen, understand, respect, welcome, and desire community with all people. Human equality is not just a social value or ideal, it’s what the Gospel looks like when truly manifested upon the earth.  Everyone is created in His image, not just you.

Grace Is God’s Super Power- Not punishment, correction, discipline, condemnation, rule-keeping, guilt, shame, fear, sin-management, spiritual commitment, or rededication ever made anyone Holy. All any of that does is further imprison us to the futile insufficiency of our own performance that can never measure up. Grace is the only power to heal, change, and transform anything or anyone. Run, as fast as you can, from any person, pastor, or message that would seek to convince you that Grace is too soft, slippery, dangerous, or incomplete. It’s God’s kindness that truly changes hearts and minds, nothing else. The Christian life is never about becoming something tomorrow that you aren’t today, but rather about your actions effortlessly catching up with your perfect, unblemished identity in Jesus Christ. All is Grace. Grace is the Gospel—period, full stop. Nothing else matters, nothing else works.

You Are The Church, Earth Is The Sanctuary- If church becomes a place you go on Sundays, you’ll never get there. All the stuff that looks so cool—worship screens, smoke, and lights, buildings, cafes, camps, and conferences, can all be highly overrated and deceptive. We all want to belong and that’s so important, but hanging out in a club of like-minded people to get all spiritual about Jesus, isn’t the sum of what He has in mind for His followers—I dare to say, it’s not even a priority. You are the church, and the earth (not a building) your sanctuary. Wherever you are, there’s the church. Community in Jesus can be found with anyone, anywhere—even among those who believe differently. Mutual respect is the glue that creates authentic, spiritual relationships and true community. Jesus is all and in all, that’s the most important thing you’ll ever see about what it means to be a Christian, be the church, and live in community with your fellow humanity.

Christians Can Be Scary- Just because someone is a “Christian” doesn’t mean they’re on the side of Jesus—that’s a very important distinction. I know it sounds weird, but Christians can be some of the most hurtful, hateful people. It’s not something to get all judgmental about, but rather deserving of our deepest sorrow and empathy. You’ll never go wrong standing in solidarity, defense, and support of those whom some Christians will hurt, condemn, and even put to death—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Religious oppression is everywhere and rampant among American Christianity. In fact it’s one of our planet’s greatest evils. Sadly, the people who will oppose your heart for Jesus, the freedom you seek to live, and the Grace you seek to give will be the Christians around you—and they will do so aggressively. Be not afraid, God’s grace is sufficient. Greater is He that is in you, than in their religious, worldly religiosity.

I’m glad you “got saved” at VBS this year. Now, may true salvation come as this little saying, I pray, becomes your life motto…

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Why Trump’s Speech To Congress Should Scare The Crap Out Of You

On Tuesday evening, President Trump gave his first solo speech to Congress. To be sure, speeches are important as are congressional gatherings.

However, what is drastically more important and far more telling than speeches and tender political moments is our response to them—many conservatives, orgasmically licking their chops of jubilation upon Trump’s teleprompted performance. “Now that’s my president!” “It’s Trump 2.0,” “This is the best speech ever given before Congress.”

I was not only unimpressed, but mortified—fearing we have all slipped even deeper into the diabolic “art of the deal.”

For it should be a sad and horrifying day when, in our country, we elect a person as president only to jump for joy when weeks later, based on a speech, he is determined to finally and all the sudden be presidential. Seriously? Are we hearing ourselves? Shouldn’t that have happened a really long time ago? Besides, are speeches now the litmus test to what makes one presidential? I thought “grabbing pussy” was the new norm.

As much as I am trying to look on the bright side, where am I to go from this freakish circus show? I’m trying to give it time, I really am, but if I look towards his actions, the clown appears. If I look towards what he says, the clown appears. Somebody, wake us all up to this nightmare we’re being sold as the American dream—before it’s too late.

It feels like as a nation, we have tragically become the abused, enabling, and codependent spouse who repeatedly falls for flowery speeches, rhetoric, appearances, and empty promises that things “will be great” and the abuser has changed their ways. Have we sunk so low that we actually become delighted and relieved when a person of authority and leadership actually gives signs of having basic levels of decency? That’s not presidential, that’s just coming up to the level of being remotely human.

We have spent far too long blindly giving credence and weight to seductive voices with pricey lifestyles, fame, allure, and wallets. Our narcissism as a nation has postured us for exploitation, especially from among the religiously conservative. Like an alcoholic who knows they have a problem but can’t help themselves away from the Scotch, many have become addicted to whatever new cocktail serves their ideological and personal agendas. What used to be a Statue of Liberty standing as a promise and hope for the “least of these” has become a self-centered, political stripper pole of rationalization, purposed on serving the power of the privileged—scheming to seduce us all into seeing the substandard, abusive, and evil as being standard, healthy, and of God. If only we could see ourselves and the people we have become. 

No, I’m not trying to take anything away from the speech writers or the important moments of Tuesday evening. However, you know you are in bed with the devil when you are so desperate for moments that you can latch onto that serve to convince yourself that you aren’t.

That my friend, is a sure sign of a delusion that should haunt everyone of us.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

To Those Christians Who Still Support Trump, Help Me Understand

The election is over, thankfully.

You voted for Donald Trump to be named president of the United States, he won.

As much as I personally disliked this result, I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt, so I waited. Maybe there was something I was completely missing. Perhaps, Donald Trump was in reality an entirely different person than his campaign persona. Maybe, what you believed, many of us simply could not see, and Donald Trump is truly a God-send for our country, but needed to carry himself in certain controversial ways to get elected. Therefore, overtime, Donald Trump would shed his campaign skin and the real man, anointed by God, would emerge and all would clearly see it.

Yet, here we are, the election is over, we’re well into his presidency, and Donald Trump is absolutely no different—no more presidential, no less arrogant, no less divisive. I could list much more—nothing of him has changed, if anything, it has become worse.

So when I see your continued Christian support, I’m trying to understand, but finding it very difficult.

From what I know of your brand of Christianity, following Jesus and His example is primary. You are well versed at calling attention to perceived sin, you hold your understanding of moral purity as the highest standard from which to discern the favor and presence of God in ones life, and you have no lack of courage in condemning an American culture you deem to be filled with every form of lust, evil, and offense to God. Within your own churches and ministries, those who desire leadership are highly screened and continually discerned for alignment with the commands of God and a lifestyle faithful to Scripture. And above all, you believe our nation to be uniquely blessed by a God who has no hesitation in withdrawing Himself from anything or anyone who doesn’t honor His will, character, and ways. Is that not true?

And yet you still passionately support Donald Trump—not just the office of president, but the person soon to be occupying it.

Help me understand.

Did it all just magically go away? Where’s your sensitivity to sin and lack of Godly character, now? Where is your condemnation of moral impurity, now? Where is your concern for the removal of God’s favor upon our nation in the face of continued carnal leadership, now?

Help me understand.

Many of you have children—what will your response to them be one day when your son or daughter asks of you, “Dad, did you really vote for and continue to support a man who publicly made fun of special needs children, bragged about grabbing women by the “pussy,” spoke of them as being a “piece of ass,” and continually used his platform to childishly bully people with whom he disagrees?” For your sake, I hope that moment of curiosity doesn’t arise during family devotion time, that would be awkward. You cringe at the thought of allowing your children to attend an r-rated movie, accidentally listening to a vulgar song, or playing an immoral video game at a friend’s house, but apparently have little-to-no hesitation in supporting an x-rated president.

Help me understand.

How do you even begin to justify that, especially within your faith that confesses to be so centered on Jesus?

Donald Trump couldn’t even pass the basic screening to volunteer in your church’s children’s ministry, but he still receives your full Christian support as the president of the United States? He couldn’t qualify for the simple role of Elder in your church for lack of character and self-control alone, and yet you continue to display t-shirts, hats, and signs bowing to his name as the leader of your “one nation under God?” I would suspect that many parents, if they were honest, wouldn’t even feel good about him coaching the local girls “Upward” Basketball team, or even the boys, and yet he still receives your allegiance and is the object of your national hope?

Help me understand.

I would be hard pressed to find a pastor in your faith tradition who wouldn’t normally see Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” as the height of His declaration as to what following Him should look like—the fruits of a genuine person of faith and the desires of God upon the earth for all people and nations.

Here are the opening verses…

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It doesn’t get any clearer—this is the Jesus you profess to worship, this is the essence of the Kingdom you pray will come, this is the vision of God for all people and all things under heaven and earth.

So, help me understand, where does Donald Trump even begin to match any of this in character, vision, attitude, or example?

Where do we see Donald Trump being truly humble, and genuinely empathizing with and honoring those who aren’t privileged? Where do we see Donald Trump mourning for the oppressed, abused, marginalized, outcast, and religiously condemned within our culture? Where do we see Donald Trump displaying and valuing meekness over imperialism, greed, and power? Where do we see Donald Trump thirsting for self-controlled, Christ-righteous leadership beginning with his own? Where do we see  Donald Trump being merciful with those whom he disagrees, has taken offense, or perceives as an enemy—or ever worse, an immigrant or Islam believer? Where do we see Donald Trump striving for purity of heart over insecurity and impulsiveness? Where do we see Donald Trump using his Twitter feed, let alone his presidency for the goal of Jesus-exampled, sword-less peacemaking?

Instead—homophobic, narcissistic, racist, sexist, xenophobic, greedy, vulgar, arrogant, bullying, and childish seem to be more in line with his be-attitudes.

Please help me understand.

For how can you, as a Christian, continue to unequivocally support a man, no less the president elect of the United States, who represents so much of what Jesus, the Christ, opposes?

To be sure, no one is perfect. Donald Trump is my president by nature of my proud citizenship and civic respect, and will receive my prayers, love, and best wishes, but he reflects very little of the Jesus of my faith understanding and what I believe are His desires for our nation and world.

Which leaves me with a good bit of wondering and questioning—how is it, that Donald Trump could possible reflect yours?

To those Christians who still support Donald Trump, help me understand.

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