Tag: faith (page 1 of 8)

For Those Skeptical Of Prayer, You’re Not Alone

Prayer—a popular part of the Christian life.

Perhaps for you, prayer is believed to “change everything.” Seek Jesus with all your heart while plugging in the right spiritual algorithms and prayer becomes a powerful tool to influence God towards your desires and unlock His. The measure to which God is working in your life is in direct proportion to your prayer skills, faithfulness, and persistence. God gives the gift of prayer as a way for His followers to open the heavens, learn of His specific will, and unlock the blessings and capacity of God to benefit your life, pursuits, and those for which you pray. From prayer warriors to prayer chains, the accessing of God, moving Him to do the miraculous, or simply wrenching a blessing out of His hands are all just prayers away for those who crack the code. In fact, don’t expect to hear much from God or land the key to His blessings if you aren’t seriously getting on your knees and prioritizing purity. Pray more and pray better, get more and live better—it’s that simple. To those who believe differently than you and do not share your same prayer experiences and vigor, a simple answer is ready to thwart their reservations—”If your prayers aren’t working, the issue isn’t with God, the issue is surely something with you.”

Or maybe for you, prayer is more complicated and mysterious. You love Jesus, feel a responsibility to pray, and sense it’s probably a good thing. But, how it works and whether it works is, at times, certainly uncertain. When things are clicking in life and all the pistons of firing, prayer feels awesome and is rendered such a powerful experience. Yet, when the chips fall and the ground crumbles from underneath, prayer is met with suspicion and secretly questioned to be a spiritual gimmick that can’t be trusted nor can the God to which it is directed. As a result, prayer becomes a kind of protection from being caught with your pants down. You do it, not necessarily believing it really works, at least not consistently, but because you don’t want to take the chance of not having checked it off your spiritual “to do” list. So, you go through the motions, just in case God’s in a good mood or it’s your special day. In the presence of your doubts and lukewarmness toward prayer, your Christian friends and church leaders encourage you to adjust your methods, strengthen your faith, give God the benefit of the doubt, be more patient, and remember “God works in mysterious ways.” Yet, when all is said and done, in your mind, if you are honest, prayer is hit or miss—perhaps even a bit misleading, cruel, and unfair.

Well, no matter where you are in the spectrum, chances are you have been taught that prayer is a transactional exchange.

That is, we are down here, God is up there—and prayer is largely how we connect with God, access His mind, and move His hand to work from there to here on our behalf. Prayer is that which bridges the gap, the disconnect, and the distance believed to be present between us and Him. It’s a kind of life-line, necessary for communication and the delivery of His will, blessing, guidance, movement, and favor from His world into ours. Without prayer, only the autopilot default interactions between God and humanity would be possible, filled with significant limits, disconnects, static, and separation. Therefore, prayer is what opens the flow of the divine spigot so that God can greater move in response to our greater movements of faith, faithfulness, and asking—it’s all transactional.

With that as the popular Christian view, no wonder why you’re skeptical of prayer and I gladly join you at the table—you’re not alone.

For if prayer is transactional in any way shape of form, then God is an unfair, callous, inconsistent, limited, humanly codependent god, and prayer is a scam and scheme of the most diabolical flavor.

For I have witnessed repentant Christ-worshipping alcoholics desperately pleading with God to be released from their addiction, only to be tortured with a life of unending vigilance and unequaled burden. I have watched humble Jesus-loving sacrificial pastors begging God for revival in their church only to be unfairly sent to the curb by the Deacon Board who is there today and gone tomorrow. I have watched good-hearted Christians ask God to bless the food on the church picnic table only to spend the next three days knee-bent at the porcelain altar. I have heard the despair of Jesus-worshipping church-attending parents who pray day and night, week after week, every year of their children’s adolescence only to see them grow up and face severe tragedy or embark on unyielding rebellion. I have observed numerous believers pray in and around their local schools, only to have them fall victim to devastating violence and murder. I have seen my fair share of faithful Christian fathers and mothers praying in tears for the cure to their child’s cancer only for their son or daughter to tragically die months later.

I know, I’ve heard it all before—God is going to use the death of their child, their addiction, their termination, or their misfortune to work out greater things in their life or that of others, and besides, He was focused on meeting their “needs” not their “wants.” Really, that’s how prayer and your god works? God is impotent to prosper people without pain, death, and difficulty, and everything He gives is predicated on stinginess? The same Jesus who fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread can’t afford the healing of a cancer-stricken child? I know, “His ways are not our ways and His timing is perfect.” Really, for who?

If that isn’t enough, I’ve also witnessed countless people who couldn’t give a rip about Jesus, God, or their fellow human, seemingly blessed at every turn and miraculously spared of tragedy. In fact, the only explanation to their success, deliverance, and good fortune is to attribute it to the Divine, though they would surely never acknowledge it. If God truly “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” then this transactional understanding of prayer is the child making a Christmas list of hopes, dreams, and wishes with a special note of their love for Santa, all while the evil Parent has already determined what they will and won’t get—love letter or not.

For if this is the sum and true essence of prayer, and God gives it to us in hopes of convincing us of His love and goodness, then He surely has a funny way of going about it, and you are not alone in questioning it.

Thankfully, our relationship with God and the essence of prayer have been widely misunderstood—the truth is so much better.

Thank God almighty, the truth is so much better.

First, because of Jesus and the cross, there is nothing transactional about our relationship with God. Any needed exchanges and transformations between us and God were completed at the crucifixion on our behalf. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it. The cross obliterated any distance, conditions, and transactional kind of relationship present between us and God. All of those are now relational relics of a covenant long past.

In fact, truth be told, we really don’t have a relationship with Jesus at all—certainly not in the conditional, transactional, distanced, and compartmentalized way we think of it. No, what we have is so much better. For we are nothing less than perfectly interwoven into the Trinity having full communion and union with God. He is us, we are Him—His life is our life, our life is His life. This is the power of Grace sealing us indistinguishably and irrevocably together with Him in a divine togetherness that is impenetrable and irreversible.

In fact, everyone you see, including yourself, is a walking Trinity in the flesh. As Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit are One, so are we with the Creator of the universe.

This is the mind-blowing cosmos-shaking reality the biblical writer Paul tasted on his lips when He penned,But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” It’s the same Grace-bomb Jesus desired to explode in our understanding when He announced, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Notice, according to Jesus, our inclusion and infusion into the Trinity was a past reality already established in the heart and mind of God that He longed for us to awaken to in the present. This is why Paul could confidently declare we “lack no spiritual blessings” from God. For God extends His generosity as far as possible in fully giving Himself to us, to be us, with us, as us—living, breathing, walking Trinities sharing completely in everything He is and possesses.

Are you ready for this?

Therefore, the true essence of prayer must reflect the true essence of our inclusion and infusion with God.

Prayer isn’t the inferior language of a transactional, conditional, and distance-ladened relationship with God, it’s the divine language of our full union and unconditional communion in, with, and as the Trinity Itself. It’s the voice and echoes of our heart reverberating with His in the living mystical chamber of our inclusion into the fellowship of the Trinity. Prayer as a life-line is rendered woefully obsolete as He is our life, and our life is His—inseparably.

Prayer is the longings of our heart in conversation with the Father, Son, and Spirit within and all around, with every word continually recalibrating our soul to the unstoppable, fully capable, and beautiful human we are in Him, lacking nothing in capacity to face our every moment.

It’s not a pleading with a distant God to receive something we don’t already possess or He might not give, but our words, feelings, and thoughts being shaped and sounded into faith by the Trinity within and all around—convincing us that everything He is and has is already ours—self-sustained Trinities with skin.

It’s the gaze of our insecurities into the Trinitarian mirror dwelling inside and out, showing us who we truly are—whole, righteous, divine, loved, affirmed, inseparable from the Father, Son, and Spirit—popping and sparking with life.

It’s the every step we take, not into the divine or in pursuit of gaining closer proximity to His presence, but rather as the divine and as His presence in this world—this is prayer, for you are the Trinitarian conversation that changes everything.

It’s the crying of our heart that is met with the shared tears of the Father, Son, and Spirit when our divinity interacts with the insanity of an insane world.

It’s the rage of our anger that is met with the shared angst of the Father, Son, and Spirit when the Trinitarian chord of justice indistinguishably interwoven into our being is sought to be silenced and defeated by the darkness.

It’s the desperation in the depths of our soul that is met with the shared compassion and passion of the Father, Son, and Spirit within, when unfairness seeks to devour the perfect sufficiency of Grace that fills us and all things.

It’s the fierce and courageous solidarity we express that is met with the shared unyielding inclusiveness of the Father, Son, and Spirit within, when discrimination, inequality, and condemnation seeks to undermine the Kingdom of Love we are and bring.

It’s the thanksgiving we feel welling up in our hearts when the Trinity within assures us there is no distance nor lack from God to us in any way or anything.

It’s the asking, seeking, and desiring that is supplied and resolved instantly and effortless without pause, not with pithy answers, clear paths, miraculously changed realities, and instant Jedi powers, but with nothing less than an awakening to our complete seamless inclusion into, with, and as the Trinity Itself—together navigating life on planet earth as One.

No more wondering, have I been heard?

No more questioning, has God turned His back?

No more doubting, maybe I’m not good enough?

No more believing God is inconsistent, distant, callous, stingy, and downright unfair and un-trustable.

For the more we pray the more we realize, God is moving in, through, and as our lives, not because we pray, but because it is who He is and who we are with Him.

Living in the Trinity, as the Trinity, the ultimate unstoppable force in a forceful world.

 

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.

A Pastor’s Desperate Plea To Justin Bieber

Justin, I don’t know you and you don’t know me.

We have never met, and I certainly claim no rights to bend your ear nor even expect you to read or consider these words.

Our worlds are completely different, yet we do share one very important thing—exposure to modern Evangelical Christianity.

For me, I became a conservative Evangelical pastor early in my career, leading contemporary churches for nearly 20 years. I certainly don’t believe to know your spiritual journey or dare to define it, but from what I have seen and read, it seems you are headed towards a similar path. I admire your love for Jesus and your willingness to go the distance with your faith. Your courage, transformation, and authenticity are clearly apparent.

Yet Justin, I also know all too well the seductive evils of much of modern Evangelical Christianity—often cleverly concealed. I wasted so much of my life and ministry being duped and deceived chasing after the Evangelical dream, and now I pray this nightmare doesn’t become your story too.

At first, it feels like life, only to suffocate you later. No matter how well branded, produced, savvy, and culturally relevant it all seems up front, the basic tenets of much of Evangelical Christianity are shrouded in deceptive darkness. Underneath all the spiritual lipstick, God is diabolically portrayed as loving humanity while at the same time holding them over eternally consequential conditions—love Him back in return in all the prescribed ways or else suffer forever in a torturous hell. Jesus is personified as the Son who dies at the hands of a wrathful Father who requires His death in order to have the power to forgive. The Bible is reduced to a weapon used to condemn, label, burden, and lift one’s self over others. People are labeled as inherently depraved and evil sinners in need of fixing. The world is seen as “lost” and in need of saving through Evangelical ideology. The Christian life is presented as a never ending list of “to do’s” and sin management. And, the overall mission is to ultimately lead people to believe, think, and act like you—assimilated into the Evangelical Borg of conformity. Look behind the curtain, turn down the volume of all the smoke and mirrors—there’s a cowardice self-serving faith pulling the strings. Discrimination, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, nationalism, self-righteousness, and elitism are all lurking in the wings—no matter how modernly packaged.

Justin, I promise you, though you may not see it now, so much of what modern Evangelicalism has done with Christianity has left it looking and acting almost nothing like Jesus. For God is pure Love—not fine-printed conditions, Jesus is Grace—not condemnation nor punishment. The Gospel is peace—not fear pimped as faith, people are good—not intrinsically evil. The Bible is a catalyst—not a tool for judgement, and Jesus didn’t die at the hands of an angry vengeful God, but rather to keep us from a life of believing He is—angry and vengeful.

When it is was recently reported that perhaps you are now seeking to start a church, my heart gasped in fear that was a sure sign you had been tractor-beamed by the Death Star that is conservative Evangelical Christianity. With genuine concern, I wondered if the performance-driven, consumeristic, church-franchising, and personal empire-building allures and priorities of much of modern Evangelical Christianity had cast their spell upon you.

Justin, I beg of you, what the world needs now is not another church or celebrity Evangelical Christian. No, what the world needs now are authentic Jesus loving people rested in Grace who see the planet as their sanctuary and loving people unconditionally as their worship service—period, full stop. You being you, just as you are, is more than enough—as is, wherever that is. Whatever guilt, regret, or shame perhaps there once was in your heart, the pursuit of becoming something “big” for Jesus will only leave you with emptiness and disillusionment—I promise. In truth, much of Evangelical Christianity is so desperate, selfish, and insecure, many can’t help themselves at the thought of an icon such as you joining their team and buying into their flailing ideology.

Yet, truth be told, I see so much more Jesus in you peeing in a mop bucket yelling profanities at Bill Clinton than I could ever see in you becoming another mega-church pastor or famous Evangelical Christian. For Jesus is found so much more in the people, circumstances, and events the religious least expect or approve. Please know this, and know it for sure, God has been working in and through you all along, and now you’re simply awakening to it.

I beg you Justin, don’t let them steal, kill, and destroy what Jesus has always been doing in and through you by thinking it now needs the labels and looks of “Christian,” “church,” and “ministry.” Don’t sell your soul, abandon your authenticity, or surrender yourself to the blood-sucking monster that is much of Evangelical Christianity. You are the revival God is bringing to the world—not because of your gifts, celebrity, or new found faith in Jesus. Rather, simply because you are you—whole, holy, and God-imaged as is.

Justin, at the end of the day, for what it’s worth my sense is this, “My Jesus don’t like much of modern Evangelical Christianity, and He likes everyone.”

Take a deep breath, stay on course, don’t shed your skin or walk your soul to the plank overlooking Evangelical waters—you’re already the person and living the life God has for you. For it’s never been about your performance, it’s always been about His.

Thanks for listening.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

No Longer Afraid—The Day My Heart Outgrew Conservative Evangelicalism

I used to be, but today is a brand new day.

I’m not afraid anymore—something  has happened deep within my being. New perspectives, revelation, and spiritual understandings have changed my mind completely. No, not in some kind of condescending way nor with a joy that excludes you. I’m just a completely different person now—my soul convictions and overall posture are nothing of the same.

I understand. Perhaps to you, it seems like I’m out of control, descending into a death-spiral plummeting into everything and anything that is backslidden and heretical. Yes, I suppose it’s true, I am out of control and it’s such a beautiful thing—breathing for the very first time. I’ve lost no love for you, mean no disrespect, nor harbor any pride in saying so—but conservative Evangelicalism, it feels like my heart has outgrown you—I can’t lie.

Where I used to curl up in the fetal position, turn off my brain, play dead, tuck in my shirt, and quickly fall in line, a seismic grace-bomb has gone off within me sending waves of courage and freedom supplied with a simple message, “have no fear.”

Call it a spiritual emancipation, a soul-revolution, or a new found courage to walk away. All I know is this—today is like no other, I’ll never be the same. Conservative Evangelical Christianity—with all due respect, I’m no longer afraid.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Speak and Live my Truth, Without Fear of Your Rejection- I must admit, intended or not, you used to have me under your thumb and controlled a good bit of my headspace. But now, Grace has taught me who I am, full of divine splendor and perfectly loved by the Father. Without blemish, stain, or unrighteousness, God is well pleased with me, as is—just me being me. For I’m an unstoppable force of God-affirmation that is immune to condemnation, coercion, and the religious spirit. There’s no proof text, admonition, or guilt trip that could ever penetrate my Jesus-plated armor of identity. In a way like never before, I’m at peace with who I am, addicted to life outside conservative Evangelical control, guilt, and religious seduction—if I’m honest, that’s how I truly feel. My heart has outgrown your rejection.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Say You’re Wrong, Without Apology or Reservation- No, I don’t have all the answers or know things completely. Yet, I do have the Light of God’s Truth within me that confirms in my Spirit what my mind can’t always explain—sometimes you’re wrong, and now, I’m no longer afraid to say it. I don’t always have a defense or explanation, but the mind of Christ within me knows when something is amiss and you’re at it again, selling me more poisonous religion—no matter your intention. The difference now is this—I’m just not going to take it. In fact, I’m going to completely spit it out—for today, I’m no longer afraid. My heart as outgrown your religious spirit.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Live in a World of Grey- For the gravity of your controlling, fear-driven, and self-righteousness creed has long been pushing to reduce my heart and believing into a black-or-white right-wing religion, where God is on your side and the enemy of all others. Yet, here’s what I’ve discovered, I don’t have to align my faith to absolutes nor lord them over another, especially when God is so much bigger and His love so much more capable. My peace and centeredness is grounded in Jesus the Author and Finisher of a world of unlimited spectrum—far beyond my best conclusions and confessions—always revealing more. I’m not afraid to graduate from cut-and-paste conservatism and embrace a God of diversity, a world of differences, and a Jesus who purposely leads me to have more questions than answers. There’s nothing to fear in welcoming uncertainties—for today I’ve been awakened, it’s the place where true faith actually lives and flourishes. My heart has outgrown your narrow mindedness.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Embrace Science, Social justice, and Human Dignity. Jesus is all and in all things, for where can we go from His Spirit? How can I be afraid to consider facts, scientific wisdom, and their faith implications? In fact, when I gaze upon the Grand Canyon with all its rivers and layers, I’m not going to tremble anymore when my soul refuses to believe in a 6,000 year old creation. I’m not going to apologize for a practical faith and an all-inclusive human-loving compassionate Jesus, whose message and example applies to every aspect of life on earth and living. I’m not going to abandon human decency, rights, and dignity to embrace a conservative brand of faith that is skilled at spiritually justifying hate, privilege, and the dehumanizing of people with whom it disagrees or deems to be sinning. No-more-can-do—today is a new day of wisdom, mercy, and compassion—at least, for me. My heart has outgrown your apathy.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Look My Privilege in the Mirror with Honesty- It’s true, and I’m no longer afraid to admit it. I’m white, male, straight, and for so long, was totally clueless. The thought of being privileged was nowhere to be found blipping on my radar screen. Until that day when, because of my changed beliefs, I became a kind of minority. Mocked, maligned, betrayed, and presumed dirty and guilty, simply because I breathed—differently than you. The bias, racism, bigotry, sexism, judgmentalism, and elitism that was long undetected within me, revealed itself—shaking me to my core and haunting my every being. Now, this one thing I know for sure, I refuse to let fear win the day and live my life unaware, unchanged, and unmoved by the presence of my inherent privilege. I’m a changed man with new conviction, committed to being a force of true equality, as was and is Jesus—I believe. My heart outgrown your elitism.

I’m No Longer Afraid To See Women as Equal in All Things- The wizard is out from behind the curtain, there’s no theological slippery slope to fear, nor hierarchy to declare—it’s all smoke and mirrors. By God’s design, women are not inferior people nor lesser in capability—and I’m no longer afraid to look you in the eye and say it. I love and respect you, I really do. But, despite all the patriarchal pressure to see differences where there are none, I’ll be standing at the top of the mountain declaring full equality in home, marriage, society, work, and church—nothing short of in everything. It’s a new day, with a new me, embracing an eternal equality for all people. My heart has outgrown your discrimination.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Break Free from the Chains of Biblical Inerrancy- I know, it’s the Holy Grail of all that you believe. For you, it’s the foundation of everything—no one dare question it. But I have, and I will—I make no apology. In fact, I’m all together convinced that the Bible is much more a collection of our words about God than His perfect inerrant words for us. No, not because I want to twist it to say what I will, but to never commit God into saying and doing what He hasn’t. For He is the Word within me that reveals and guides me above all things, especially in regards to a book commonly used to condemn, control, and judge. My heart has outgrown your Scripture idolatry.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Love People, Without Fear of Aiding and Abetting Sin- What a constant pain and stress, prequalifying people for love, fellowship, and affirmation. Determining who is in or out, right or wrong, wayward or faithful—what a mess. If there is one thing for sure that emboldens my courage, it’s knowing that Grace and unconditional Love are the only things that truly change people. I’m not afraid to trust the Spirit to do what only She can, and for me to love unconditionally without fear, restriction, or restraint—trusting God with the rest. My heart has outgrown your conditions.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Affirm the LGBTQ Community- You believe it’s all sin and demonic manifestation—I simply don’t. You line up your passages as proof—I see them altogether differently. What else can I do, but believe what I believe with honesty? As much as your stereotyping desires to include me on your list of progressive, bible-ignoring people, I’m not afraid any longer to receive the stare-down of your disapproval. I stand in proud, full affirmation of the LGBTQ community. For me, it’s not a matter of Grace or biblical leniency, but of Gospel truth. My heart has outgrown your condemnation.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Go to the Hell of Your Faith Understanding- Yes, I’ve heard it a thousand time, “You’re in danger of going to hell” if not already guaranteed a reservation. I should be trembling in fear and confessing sins every moment of every day just to make sure. God is loving, but also just—and His will is to torture you eternally if you don’t love Him back in return—in precisely all the right ways. Thankfully, with all due respect, my heart has been captured by a Love that is permanent and unmerited. I have no fear of your hell or your conclusions that I’m going there. God’s Grace is sufficient and His love endures forever—who or what shall I fear? My heart has outgrown your hell and the god you’ve fabricated to send me there.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Walk Away from You and “Church” Altogether- If a bridge can be burned, it wasn’t worth it or its destination. I’m not going to be controlled anymore by your threats of abandonment and disassociation. At times, it feels like you leave me no other choice, but to walk away from you, and even “church” altogether. The fear I once had of life without you has shrunken in comparison to the regret I would certainly harbor if I caved to the fear of living and speaking my truth. I wish we could find a middle ground of peace, but if push comes to shove, I’m no longer afraid to leave. Thank God almighty, I’m free at last. My heart has outgrown your imprisonment of mine.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Resist, with Every Fiber of My Being- No more burying my head in hopes it all goes away. No more biting my tongue just to keep the peace. No more settling in order to appease. I’ve tasted and seen the toxins of your brand of believing, and now I just can’t idly stand and watch you seduce, abuse, bully, and deceive—no matter how sweet your fragrance or intention. I’ve come to realize, it’s not all just about me. When my moment of truth is before me and injustice and evil show their face, I will resist with non-violent solidarity no matter what it takes. Yah, there’s a new courage within me. My heart has outgrown your intimidation.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Do, What You Won’t Do For Me—Accept You Nonetheless. I’m not asking you to change, nor condemning you to hell. I’m not denying you rights or demanding my way in your public circles. I’m not labeling you a sinner or an abomination, nor peppering your life with condemnation. I’m not closing the church door or restricting your capacity to serve. I’m not sending you to the curb, if it turns out, you were one of my children. I’m not signing you up and dragging you to reparative therapy. I’m not keeping you from loving who you love or policing your bedroom. I’m not using the Bible to condemn all the people who sin differently than you, or beat you into repentance. No, I’m not afraid to affirm and accept you as is—a perfectly whole, beautiful, and God-imaged person whose faith happens to be conservative Evangelicalism. None of us are better, only different—Grace has made it so.

There was a moment, a cosmic shift in my entire being, the day I awakened and realized I was altogether different. There was a clarity that had never been so clear—a new wind blowing and filling my sails. I’ve lost no love for you, mean no disrespect, nor harbor any pride in saying so—but conservative Evangelicalism, it feels like my heart has outgrown you—all because, the one thing I know for sure is this, I’m no longer afraid.

Salvation has come—I’m no longer afraid.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Let’s All Just Start, By Trying To Be Christians Who Give A F**k

You’re right.

I did it—I dropped the “f-bomb.”

I could have easily chosen a different word.

Maybe “flip,” or “damn,” or “crap” of “rats” or even “shit.”

But I didn’t. Why?

Because, none of those forced me out onto the ledge of your potential rejection, shaming, and condemnation in quite the same way.

Perhaps like never before, in consideration of all the factors, I have dripped the sweat, counted the cost, and looked square into the face of your disapproval, knowing for sure the cataclysmic series of dominoes that could fall in response to this one article. In fact, in some ways, I could be, I surely am—risking it all. One word, one simple word, could set into motion a tsunami of distancing, disassociation, and abandonment from which there could be little to no recovery or return.

It’s all so sad, isn’t it? No, flat out disturbing. Not only how quick we are to summon people onto the plank of our disapproval, but how little pressure it takes for us to buckle under another’s.

Above all else, it seems we Christians have become cowardly wimpy people who care most about ourselves, vigilantly shielding our lives from what we fear the most—rejection, the true kryptonite of our faith living. We’re so married to perceptions, our platforms, reputations, and the god of approval. When it’s time to take a stand, travel uncharted waters, speak fiery light to the darkness, and defend the oppressed—when it’s all said and done, we’re most concerned about perceptions and their personally felt consequence.

Instead of counting the enormous cost of being silent, complacent, disengaged, blindly compliant, and politically correct, we’re addicted to the personal ramifications of truly giving a damn no matter what. So many of us simply refuse to be bothered outside the comfort of our pristine black-and-white pre-packaged starch-pressed Americanized Christian lives. When push comes to shove and we are cornered into our moment of truth—our followings, relationships, ministries, popularity, image, comforts, acceptance, and approval reveal themselves to be the true gods we worship. As Jesus leads us onto the path of becoming the Good Samaritans of our day, thwarting the countless religious crucifixions of the God-imaged, and facing the evil religious systems of much of modern Christianity—our withheld actions, tempered empathy, and shrinking back speak to the true confession of our heart. “Sorry Jesus, when it’s all said and done and it matters most, I just don’t give a f**k. My life, my stability, and all that I have and built, is just too important to risk. I won’t say what truly needs to be said, I won’t do what truly needs to be done, and I won’t pay the price of what it would most certainly cost. Oh yes, I love you Jesus and all people—but I’m sorry, not that much.”

And so I ask, with all due respect. If you’re uncomfortable with the title of this article, just wait until you’re confronted with these questions.

Whose life, besides yours, will finally become important enough to be worthy of your unrestricted risk?

At what point will spiritual integrity and human dignity become important enough for you to truly consider, perhaps your anti-gay interpretation of the Bible is misguided at best?

How many lives and minorities must be destroyed before you give aggressive consideration to the presence of racism and privilege in your own life and worldview?

How many parents of LGBTQI children must lay sleepless at night, feeling alone, frantically afraid, and viciously condemned before you have the courage to chart a new path of compassion, solidarity, and understanding towards this entire community?

How many sisters, brothers, children and family members alike must you shame, condemn, or reject all together before the carnage of so many destroyed people and relationships compels you to have the courage to fully examine the evils of embracing such a legalistic, graceless, bigoted, and twisted brand of faith, and do the hard work of thinking for yourself and questioning long-held beliefs?

How many times must we Christians be on the wrong side of history, before we muster the bravery to pump the breaks, jump ship, and disarm the right-wing conservative Evangelical machine whose worship of the Bible and their interpretations of it have been the catalyst to some of the most diabolical evil atrocities and injustices ever manifested on the planet—all in the name of Jesus?

How much regret are you willing to risk and careless damage to the lives of good people around you, simply because you refuse to listen and give genuine consideration to opposing views in light of fresh revelation?

How many mass shootings, suicides, murders, wars, holocausts, and people imprisoned by depression, shame, and religious condemnation must ensue before the non-violent, all-inclusive, sacrificial, serving, welcoming, affirming, forgiving, equalizing, non-discriminating, unconditional-loving, pure Grace message and Gospel of Jesus will be given top priority by you—met with your willingness to move His Beattitudes from being a faith accessory or flat out inconvenience to becoming your main way of living, no matter the cost?

Perhaps you’re offended that my heart is no longer afraid of your religious glare of disapproval or the ramifications that might come my way—as your voice of displeasure, disassociation, and pity no longer haunt me. Or, perhaps you’re most uncomfortable and even resentful of the freedom within me to live at peace without your affirmation, and instead can confidently speak my truth without reservation.

For Grace has given me, perhaps, the greatest gift of all—the power, joy, and honor of being a Christian who is compelled to give a f**k, when to do so stands as my moment of truth and another’s hope, healing, and salvation. My heart has been captured and my soul is convinced, nothing is more important than standing for truth, defending the religiously oppressed, proclaiming the God is who is Love, and manifesting His Gospel of unconditional love, acceptance, and affirmation for all—no matter the cost.

Go ahead. Pull your support, remove this post, de-friend me, or curse me all together—but here’s the stone cold truth I hope you’ll consider.

The world will keep on ignoring your message, the poor will keep starving, and black lives will continue to not truly matter. Transgender people will still keep committing suicide and the LGBTQ community will continue to be mocked, marginalized, and condemned in every arena. The religious evils rampant in much of right-wing conservative Christianity will still keep flourishing, minorities will still be discriminated, and racism will still divide us. Millennials will continue to exit the building, atheism will be ever increasing, human rights will keep on being denied, and women will still be seen as second class humans, Christians, employees, and citizens. All, until we start becoming Christians who not just give a tear, a thought, a sympathy, a glance, a nod, or a condolence, but actually love Jesus and love people enough to give a f**k, no matter the cost.

While you’re building your multi-site church campus, planting the next “Elevation,” or becoming the next famous Christian writer, preacher, or blogger. While you’re getting voted into elected office, preserving and protecting your income and way of living, counting your followers on Facebook, keeping your relationships peaceful, and enjoying your privilege—a whole world of people are asking, why should I believe in your God, worship His name, and sign up for your way of believing and living, when at the end of the day, no matter what person, truth, tragedy, injustice, or evil is before you, you simply don’t and won’t give a f**k?

Until we love Jesus who is Grace and people unconditionally to the point of truly risking it all, the one thing the world knows for sure—we Christians don’t know the true nature of God, the value of people, and what it means to love. In fact, all we probably have is just another worthless, impotent, and destructive religion and its spirit working within us.

Every time we buckle, every time we choose comfort over resistance, every time we opt to place our interests over truth and justice, the world screams out a resounding sigh, “we were right, it’s all a fraud, nothing ever changes.”

So with all due politeness and respect, please save your “you’ve gone too far with this one” and “my how you’ve lost your way” comments for someone else. For I fear, that’s the very kind of religious pretentious attitudes too many of we Christians have selfishly adopted that are enabling catastrophic problems and postponing and preventing countless much needed solutions.

Perhaps you would have said it differently, or chose a phrase devoid of profanity, but don’t miss the pure metaphor behind it all as to what it must look like specifically for you to love enough to stomach the risk and go the distance to be a true force of Grace and the God who is Love in the lives of the oppressed, religiously abused, and discarded.

Now, like never before, we must set into motion and call up from within our souls the courage to rethink, reexamine, and reconsider everything we think we know that years of unchallenged faith tradition, believing, and doing have lured us into—a spiritual complacency that has us nursing at the breast of evil while being convinced we sit at the table of Jesus.

Until our theology is Love and our countenance is sheer bravery no matter the cost, we will forever be leaning on our own understanding and enabling evil to live and flourish to the detriment, dehumanizing, and destruction of God-adorned people.

Grace is brave, Be brave.

Give a f**k.

Trump, LifeWay, and Eugene Peterson—Conservative Evangelicalism Personified

Life has a way of putting things right in front of us—if we’re willing to see them.

Though much has been said in attempt to cast light on the true essence and nature of conservative Evangelicalism, perhaps nothing in all the universe speaks more clearly than when it all gets personified so poignantly in human flesh. Look no further, search no longer—Trump, LifeWay Christian Stores, and Eugene Peterson are conservative Evangelical Christianity in living color. They serve as both a window into the true desires and ethos of right-wing Christianity, and a mirror giving an honest reflection, if only its adherents should dare to look within.

Debate all you want about President Donald Trump, at the end of the day, he bares a strong resemblance not unlike that of many a conservative Evangelical pastor, leading with a male-driven patriarchal sexism and a vision of personal power, imperialism, and greed—all spiritually justified of course, and often at the expense of the “least of these.” As a former Evangelical pastor myself, I know it all too well. It begins with good intention and the best of aspirations, but quickly the tractor-beams of the Evangelical Death Star can’t be overtaken. Slowly, but surely, the erosion overcomes.

There’s no denying, much of conservative pastoral leadership has adopted some of the most cruel, immoral, anti-Jesus, and evil behaviors and attitudes on the planet. Brutally lording over people, insisting on ones own way, demanding allegiance, fear-mongering, childishness, blatant double standards, and putting character and truth aside as long as you’re willing to be a player in the Evangelical game. Keeping it all predominantly white, male, Evangelically conservative, privileged, and culturally dominant are some of its greatest unwritten leadership priorities. Inside handshakes, closed-door meetings, all conspiring on how to quickly demonize, marginalize, and even give exit to nearly any barrier or perceived enemy. Virtually nothing is off the table when it comes to defending and taking territory in the name of conservative Evangelicalism. Bullying, shaming, emotional abuse, spiritual exploitation, and political adultery—no matter how overt or subtle, is all spiritual justified by a militant, vengeful, intolerant, gun-carrying, homophobic, hell-addicted, sexist, racist, and imperialistic distortion of Jesus.

No wonder why so many couldn’t help themselves but to elect him as President, for chances are, he most closely resembles their local conservative Evangelical pastoral leadership. Nearly everything you see in our President Donald Trump is hauntingly intrinsic to much of conservative Evangelicalism—especially its leadership. Want to know what it feels like to be under the mantle of many a conservative Evangelical Church? Ask yourself this simple question, how does it feel to be under the leadership of President Donald Trump?

Feel a bit uncomfortable or believe it’s unfair for me to make this kind of comparison? May I ask you a simple question—then why did you elect him President? If he makes you embarrassed or is lessor in character, maturity, and vision in comparison to your pastor, why do you still vehemently support him? Besides, by your own faith understanding and declaration, wasn’t he sent by God—appointed by the Father, as are all leaders? Not just to merely be your pastor, but to be the President of the only nation you declare is under God—how much more important and requiring is that?

LifeWay Christian Stores is a revealing display and manifestation of the state of many a conservative Evangelical church. With it’s consumer-driven franchising of Jesus and their unique conservative brand, it centers itself around preserving its future, protecting conformity, and paying the bills—sounds a lot like “church” of most any flavor.

One is most certainly welcome to come and buy all you can, they’ll gladly take your cash—no questions asked. They might even let you sweep the floor or take out the trash—if you’ll put on one of their logo-embroidered t-shirts, of course. Yet, try to become a valued contributing part of their community, and you’ll find an endless supply of tests, hoops, and checkpoints you’ll have to pass. For, at the end of the day, Jesus is big business, and there’s a lot of right-wing conservatives to please and lost people with money to spend.

Giving Christians and the spiritually vulnerable more and more to do, consume, become, believe, fear, and achieve is an evil religious concoction not many can resist. In fact, they’ll lay down a lot of dough to keep up with the latest Christian trends and make doubly sure, they’re being faithful enough and becoming successful for Jesus. LifeWay, and many a conservative Evangelical church, have mastered both creating the addiction and seductively pimping the drug that feeds it. In fact, put a worship service in your local LifeWay Christian store, and you’ll hardly know the difference.

Yet, perhaps most telling of all, is how they shoot their wounded and send those they deem to be wayward to the curb. Just ask Jennifer Hatmaker, to be sure. For nothing resembles many a conservative Evangelical church more than big business, demanded conformity, self-preservation, consumerism, and the eating of their own.

Enter Eugene Peterson, a gentle, humble, wise, and good Christian man who has greatly contributed to the evangelical Christian community through his famed leadership, writing, and teaching. As is characteristic of most every member of your typical conservative Evangelical Church, his intentions have always been noble and His pursuit of truth and the growing of His relationship with Jesus undeniably genuine.

Yet, when recently, his spirituality grew to a place it colored outside conservative Christian lines by affirming gay marriage, he experienced the full wrath and weight of the monster that is conservative Evangelicalism. Quickly, he became the fear-driven church member that is imprisoned by the shackles of conservative ideology. Like countless others, his free-thinking theological transition of belief was met with punishment, shaming, excommunication, and threats. No matter his reasoning, biblical revelation. or honesty with it all, he was nailed to the cross and fearfully enticed to surrender and come down—or else.

In fact, LifeWay Christian Stores pledged to remove his books—go figure. Websites were swiftly created to denounce and demonize him—surprise, surprise. The biggest question many conservatives asked wasn’t, “What can we learn?,” “Is he onto something?,” or “How can we find a positive way to agree to disagree?” No, it was, “Can we still read his stuff and be seen as genuine Christians?” God help us all—that this is the kind of atrocious people we have become.

Sadly, instead of standing strong and going the full distance of resistance, Eugene Peterson, like many others, buckled under the pressure in compliance with Evangelical conformity and tradition. In fact, he threw in the towel and retracted it all—a suspiciously sudden change from his recent gay-affirming position. In the end, it seems he must have concluded, the cost is too costly to pay. In Eugene Peterson, we need not look any further, this is the hell, this is what it looks like to be a conservative Evangelical Christian and a prisoner of its machine—with seemingly no way out.

As hard as it may be to hear, it’s even harder to say.

Everything you need to know about the truth of much of conservative Evangelical leadership, church-life, and membership can be tragically found in this sad trifecta—Trump, LifeWay, and Eugene Peterson.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

I’m Trying, But I Just Can’t Seem To Win With You

I just can’t win—at least it seems like, not with you.

No matter what I say or how I say it, it all falls short. Pouring out my heart, opening doors to vulnerability, I wrestle with every phrase and every word, hoping to position every thought as best I can do. I want nothing more than for you to understand and receive me as a blessing. What Grace has done in me, I can’t contain. The revelation of Jesus that has confronted my heart has left me forever changed. There are rampant religious evils I simply can’t ignore nor be silent as they have their way—destroying good people.

You’re right, I’m taking a path largely untraveled. I’m giving voice where there has been little to no voice before. I’m swimming against long-held beliefs and the tsunami of right-wing Christianity, and daring to stand up for things many have long been standing against.

No, I don’t expect it to be easy, nor do I harbor an adversity to opposing views. I’m not asking you to agree with me, nor render your stamp of approval. I entertain no delusions, for you won’t be anointing me with oil any time soon—perhaps it’s crossed your mind that a dose of lighter fluid might better suit.

I get it, I understand. These are changing times, and so much of our identities, perceptions, and beliefs are in the balance.

When I first was collided with the truth of my religious spirit and the legalistic faith that birthed it, I was shaken to the core and rebelled with every right-wing conservative Christian fiber within me. I’m not saying I’m right or have all the answers, but I am saying that my heart knows perhaps no greater frustration than when it becomes all too clear, I just can’t win with you.

Please know this, and know it for sure, it’s not for lack of trying and having a soul that desires to.

It seems that when I speak strongly with passion and angst, then somehow I’m being far too abrasive—stepping on feet with too heavy a weight. But then, when I speak softly with tenderness and grace, somehow I’m not speaking strong enough—allowing evil to see the light of day. If I try to land it down the middle, I’m a disappointment to everyone. If I paint with broad strokes, I’m not being surgical enough. If I get specific, I’m being too harsh and insensitive. If I don’t respond, but simply let you share you views, I’m being a callous hypocrite by not engaging you. If I step into the ring and go a few rounds, I’m now deemed a bully who just likes to argue my heretical, unbiblical views. If I don’t walk in perfect step on the path of your ideology and tone preferences, you’re quick to pull me over and write me a scolding ticket.

You gaslight the crap out me but then protest when I don’t rush to cozy up. You troll my life hunting for a debate, cocked with loaded questions for which you’re conveniently convinced you already hold all the answers. Yet, you get offended when I don’t get sucked in or I block you all together—labeling me a fake. You hyper-analyze my every move and step, filling in the blanks with the very worst of assumption and intentions. It’s like you’re determined to misunderstand me no matter how clear or bright shines my light—deflecting seems to be your go-to method.

Sure, I could always say, believe, and handle things better—that’s a given. But, none of that matters, for it seems no matter what, I can’t win.

So, here’s the real kicker—the revelation in it all.

For who would I have to become, what would have to believe, and what would I have to do to be accepted, affirmed, and deemed worthy of your gleam? What kind of surrender and conformity would that transformation require?

With deep love and all due respect, as much as I wish I could win with you, there’s a very real part of me that’s growing more and more thankful—that I can’t. For I have this deep sense within me, I wouldn’t like the person I would have to become for that wish to be granted—nor would Jesus. My sense is this, He created me to be a person not a puppet.

Instead, here’s my plan, a kind of manifesto. I’m going to speak my truth—I’m going to say it exactly the way I want to say it, no holds barred. No shackles, mute buttons, shrinking back, curling up in the fetal position, or editorializing my heart.

Come hell or high water, fame or loneliness, though maybe I can’t win with you—I am awakened and determined, I will win at speaking and living my truth.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Dear Conservative Christian, What Am I Supposed To Believe?

I’m trying to understand, I really am.

I hear what you’re saying—the deep confessions of your conservative brand of faith. You’re passionate, determined, and believe strongly in your way. I respect the veracity of your convictions—that, we have in common. Yet, if I’m honest, more so than not, I’m left scratching my head in utter confusion. I listen to your speaking and then take notice of your doing—finding it very hard to pull together much consistency between the two. I want to believe in the best, applaud your efforts, and grant you a fair shake, but the discrepancies I just can’t seem to ignore.

You say that conservative churches are warm and welcoming—I guess I’m wondering, to who? If I color outside conservative lines or commit a moral miscue, I’m quickly distanced, given the cold shoulder, or even sent to the curb. If I believe differently or entertain some serious doubts, I’m rushed to a Jesus-101 class or a small group for the spiritually lost and confused. You may allow a member of the LGBTQ community to sit in your velvet padded pews—certainly, your hands are open to receive their Sunday offering. Yet, all bets are off when it comes to teaching Sunday school or having equal footing in your community. Thousands of people from every walk of life have real stories of fierce condemnation, marginalization, and demonization at the hands of your organized conservatism. Yet, you gregariously claim a genuine desire for everyone to come and attend your church. I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but what am I suppose to believe? Putting two eyes on what’s in front of me—you’re telling me this is warm and welcoming?

You say you’re all about Jesus—I guess I’m wondering, which one? The Jesus who won’t accept anything less than multi-million dollar state-of-the-art buildings, slick branding, and the worshipping of His Glory with perfectly timed smoke machines, stage-lighting, and Anthropologie-fashioned leaders sporting tattoos and skinny jeans? Or is it the Jesus whose greatest delight is in seeing the franchising of His church and the endless consumerism of His Name? Maybe it’s the Jesus who pours out special anointing and favor upon celebrity pastors and applauds their book deals, conferences, private jets, and their ego-driven personal empire building? Or maybe you mean the Jesus who clearly states, “Above all else, carpet colors, stained glass windows, keeping current members happy, and holding strong to traditions is ultimately what really matters most.” I’m trying to see things through your eyes and makes sense of your perspective, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what it means to be all about Jesus?

You say the “least of these” matter—I guess I’m wondering, to what extent? I’ve been to plenty of your conferences, especially the ones bent on church growth and financial campaign success. The mantra I keep hearing repeated is deeply unsettling—giving to the poor and serving the community bottom lines on being good for the offering. The “least of these” are en vogue and good for big budgets, people get emotional and open their wallets. Taking every opportunity to show carefully crafted videos of all your do-gooding and generosity makes it look so spiritual and less self-serving—oh the privileges of being so privileged. Of course, people don’t contribute directly to the specific need. Rather, it all goes into the master budget fueling the master ego of the charismatic visionary master pastor. When ministry to the broken and outcast doesn’t empower the conservative Evangelical church machine, all of a sudden, taking care of the “least of these” isn’t quite so appealing. Just ask the Transgender community or your messiah Donald Trump—banishing whole groups of God-imaged people to undergo “reparative therapy” and cutting millions from receiving healthcare for the sake of the wealth of the wealthy. I know it may sound cynical and even a bit crass, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what it means and looks like when the “least of these” truly matter?

You say that you care about me as a God-created person—I guess I’m wondering, for what purpose? From the moment we meet, it feels like you’re overall intention is to change me into a person who increasingly looks less like me, and a lot more like you. While the Spirit is compelling me to cast off fear and enjoy the freedom to be fully myself, you’re whispering in my ear that being me isn’t good nor pleasing, and freedom is something to actually fear. Not long after I’ve visited your church a few times, I’m being pulled in every direction. From serving in the nursery to attending some class to become a member—ultimately, so I can learn where I should best plug into ministry. Nearly everything you say and do rapidly convinces me—to you, I’m mostly just a fresh piece of meat, not a person. I’m a cog in your ministry puzzle to set quickly into place, painting a picture of world domination with a mission to “make disciples of all people into people just like us.” I’m trying to see the silver lining in it all, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what it means to care about me as a person, a God-adored human being?

You say that you hold the keys to the best way of living—I guess I’m wondering, why does it seem so lifeless and unloving? For all your spiritual gymnastics, fanfare, and adoration, I can’t help but wonder what’s your motivation? It’s like you’re on an endless pursuit to convince God, yourself, and everybody else that you’re really a real-deal Christian. Every moment is deemed a test of your faithfulness—will your performance live up to God’s expectations? It seems like yours is a rigorous life of constant pre-qualifying—afraid to love too much, enjoy too much, and have too much fun—the terrible things that might become. Sin is always on your radar screen as you size-up other people—nearly everything and everyone is branded an enemy. It’s like a disorder of some kind where depravity becomes the lens through which you see everything. The spiritual treadmill upon which you live, always trying to measure up, leaves you exhausted and forced to put on a Jesus-face while deep down inside, the best you can do is fake it. The spiritual growth you say you inspire, feels more like a conspiracy of doctrinal conformity—if not, flat out brainwashing. I’m not trying to be cruel or critical, it’s just an observation I can’t un-see. I truly wish your way of living was an upgrade of the finest, but it feels quite like it would surely be the opposite. I know your heart is good and your intentions are even better, but what am I supposed to believe? Is this truly the best of the best way to live?

You say that the Bible is the ultimate rule and guide for your faith—I guess I’m wondering, why such idolatry, what’s really at stake? I’ve been around the block enough to know, Jesus is the Word, not a set of words and pages in even the most sacred of books. Which leaves me wondering, what’s the big deal? Why is your interpretation the only one that’s real—often pimped as the way, the truth, and the life. Isn’t that supposed be a designation exclusive to Jesus? More so than not, you fire off Scripture like it’s a weapon and your chief desire is mass destruction—always trying to prove a point. It feels like you use the Bible as a crutch out of a lack of personal connection and revelation from Jesus. I appreciate and respect your level of loyalty, but wonder if placing it in a book and your interpretations is what was intended by the Spirit. I haven’t seen one good thing, only evil religion, coming from the building of your faith upon the shifting sands of a book rather than the Person. “What are you afraid of?” is my ultimate question—loss of control, power, and coercion potential? I’m trying to put myself in your shoes and assume the best of your intentions, but what am I supposed to believe? Is this what the Bible is really all about?

You say that your Gospel reflects the true heart of Jesus and God’s plan for humanity—I guess I’m wondering, then why is it so brutal and your faith so blatantly insecure? To think that your conservative brand of believing is so weak that you have to politicize it, nationalize it, demand it, and sleep with the enemy in order to preserve it. To think that you would abandon all moral conviction and spiritual integrity, and vote Donald Trump to be our president—all for conservative Evangelical power and glory for sure. To think that you would resort to insisting on your own way in nearly every public arena. It all makes one truly consider that not only have you lost your bearings, but your faith understanding is cruel, selfish, and entirely bogus. What you declare as the Gospel for all nations seems like in reality, a spiritual veil to a hatred, arrogance, and people-damnation addiction deep within the religious soul. Why else would you insist on a hell for people who believe differently than you? Why else would you declare to be pro-life—until, of course, it applies to the lives that aren’t in step with your ideology, pursuits, and religious thrills? Why else would you have a clear and present history of being on the wrong side of nearly every important issue? I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you hold the heart of Jesus in all that you are and do, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what you call the Gospel, the ultimate good news?

Why not just be honest?

We can handle it, we really can—in fact, we’ve been handling it for years. You might even get some respect, as twisted as that sounds. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern how you truly feel and the content of your aspirations. Just come clean with it—be real.

It’s o.k., we have a pretty good idea what you truly believe and think anyways—for actions always speak louder than words.

We may be welcome, but we aren’t wanted.

It’s not really all about Jesus, it’s really all about you.

We, the “least of these,” matter only as much as you can benefit.

To you, we’re a project, not a person.

Despite how it appears, you’re basically faking it.

Without the Bible and the lording of your interpretation, it would be hard to justify your hate and protect your privilege.

Your gospel leads to a life of spiritual imprisonment—for misery always loves a good bit of company.

No, not every conservative church or person is manifesting these messages, but there are large numbers of people who’ve been tractor-beamed into the Death Star of conservative Evangelicalism. Seduced by the dark side, they have bitten the lie. Many conservative churches and Christians can’t help but spread the same infection, luring people into an evil Empire—despite their best intentions.

I know you disagree, I’m actually glad you do. Now, prove that I’m wrong through a conservative Evangelical revolution of changed behavior and tradition.

Until then.

Dear conservative Christian, what am I supposed to believe?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV)

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.  Matthew 7:15-20 (The Message)

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.

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