Tag: grace (page 2 of 10)

No, Conservative Evangelical Christianity, This Isn’t About Sin

If there’s one message that much of right wing conservative Evangelical Christianity desires for all people to hear with crystal clarity, it’s their frequent declarations of that which they vehemently stand against and hope to convince the world they should do so as well.

Vigorously combing the sands of our culture with their high-powered sin detectors in hand, much of conservative right wing Christianity seems to revel in moments where they can point the finger at perceived sin and parade their admonishment of it. Their aggressive stances, statements, and resolutions against the LGBTQIA community, including the recent “Nashville Statement,” are some of the many striking examples. To be sure, conservative Evangelical Christianity would love nothing more than to have us all convinced their agenda is altruistically focused on what they perceive to be sin and its negative impact on people and society.

Not true.

In fact, there’s something much deeper and disturbing under the surface.

For if the focus, mission, and heart of conservative Evangelical Christianity was truly pointed towards confronting sin and its devastating effects, several things would be happening that certainly aren’t.

Conservative Evangelical Christianity would be aggressively focused on their own sin, not others’. The teachings of Jesus that call our attention to give personal sin far greater importance than the speck perceived in another, would be given top priority. The primary sounds you would be hearing from conservative Evangelical Christianity would be the continuous cries of their own repenting for the countless atrocities that have been wielded from their system and manners of faith. Statement after statement and resolution after resolution would declare their continued remorse and commitment to personal change and soul searching. Thousands would be desperately ridding their lives of gluttony, greed, judgementalism, racism, sexism, bigotry, legalism, discrimination, imperialism, nationalism, and countless double standards. Churches would be selling their multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facilities and moving to much more cost effective solutions in order to gain the resources to reach the “least of these” instead of building ministry empires and franchising Jesus. Countless churches would be begging for mercy in response to all the ways they have put the color of carpets, the style of music, their personal preferences, the worshiping of the Bible, their spiritual navel-gazing, and the keeping of traditions far ahead of extending the love of Jesus to people. The world would tire of hearing the deafening laments and pleas for forgiveness pouring out endlessly from conservative Evangelical circles—if it was all about sin.

Conservative Evangelical Christianity would be communicating far more Grace and kindness. In fact, conservative Evangelical Christians would be ascribed as undeniably being the kindest most gracious people on the planet, trumpeting the message of the pure Gospel of Grace at every opportunity—knowing and teaching that, “It is God’s kindness that leads to repentance,” and “It’s the Grace of God that teaches us to live rightly.” Sin would be taken so seriously that pure Grace would be valued as the only solution. Change away from sin would be so important that kindness and Grace would be uplifted and protected as the only catalysts to freedom. All because, nothing else works and we don’t have time to waste prescribing the cancer and not the cure—if it was all about sin.

Conservative Evangelical Christianity would be truly and completely trusting the Spirit. For the Christian calling isn’t to change people, but to love them unconditionally while the Spirit does what only the Spirit can do. In the presence of perceived sin, conservative Evangelical Christians would be doing everything possible to get out of the way of the Spirit and to doubly make sure they didn’t serve as a detriment or distraction to the Spirit’s work. They would be so sensitive to this movement in people’s lives that to potentially error on the side of thwarting God’s transformative hand through fostering guilt, shame, and condemnation, would send shivers down their spine causing them to value restraint above all else—if it was all about sin.

Conservative Evangelical Christianity would be serving and loving to the extreme. In fact, conservative Evangelical Christianity would be declared the greatest friend a person could have, especially those labeled as “sinners.” The way conservative Evangelical Christians generously served, put their needs aside, and extravagantly loved people who have been marginalized, condemned, and demonized would be so world-renowned that people might become attracted to engage in sin or experience religious oppression just for the overwhelming love and selfless serving they would receive in response from conservative Evangelical Christians. In fact, the unconditional love and serving of people deemed to be sinning would become such a priority for conservative Evangelicals, there would be little time for much of anything else to do, dream, or desire—if it was all about sin.

But sadly, it’s not, and these actions, values, and attitudes are rarely seen within much of right wing conservative Evangelical Christianity.

Why?

Because here’s the revelation of the century, for so much of conservative Evangelical Christianity, it’s not about sin and it never has been.

It’s about power—their power.

Sin has been used, abused, and fabricated into an ultimate diabolical distraction away from their primary aspiration and goal—power.

For if it were all about sin, there is no clearer example than much of conservative Evangelical Christianity’s election and continued support of President Donald Trump. It would have never happened, but it did. Why? Because it’s never been about sin, it’s always been about power.

Conservative right wing Evangelical Christianity, we’re not fooled—at least not anymore.

What’s the bottom-line allure beneath your insistence on biblical inerrancy? Power

What’s behind your aggressive necessity to continuously condemn and demonize the LGBTQIA community? Power

What’s at the center of your determination to believe in a hell of eternal torture for those who believe differently than you? Power

What’s underneath your mixed-gospel filled with conditions, loopholes, “to do” lists, and spiritual gymnastics? Power

What’s at stake behind your continued manifestation of sexism, nationalism, and elitism? Power

Power to condemn, power to control, power to Lord over, power to legitimize your existence, purpose, and actions, power to spiritually justify hate, and power to manipulate people into your fold.

No, conservative Evangelical Christianity, this isn’t about sin—it never has been.

It’s always been about power.

Thankfully, the good people of Nashville will have nothing of it, and neither will I nor countless others.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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.

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.

What Is The Douchebag Density Of Your Christian Life?

Never has there been a greater disconnect between conservative Evangelical Christianity and its awareness of the evils it has adopted. Its blind capacity and determination to condemn, judge, discriminate, marginalize, and force its ideology upon the masses is at an all time high, not to mention its legalistic and exclusive understanding of the Gospel.

In response, numerous terms like “modern day pharisees” and “right-wing religious nuts” have been coined for the purpose of giving voice to the experience of the religiously oppressed and calling out the privileged, judgmental, and conservative Christians that are causing such emotional, spiritual, and physical damage—leaving countless cringing with seemingly endless face-palms.

No, the world doesn’t need more verbal ammunition for labeling and name-calling, that’s for sure. However, the Christian world certainly and desperately needs more mirrors upon which to reflect and awaken to the privileged religious spirit viciously rampant within. In fact, every new negative term that’s invented to describe conservative aspects of our modern Christian faith is a direct result of its continued unwillingness to listen, be humbled, and smell its own stench.

As a result of the growing callousness, ignorance, and aggressiveness of much of conservative Evangelical Christianity, a new vernacular Sheriff has trotted into town with a shiny new descriptive word in hopes of being heard.

“Douchebag” is here, and it’s not just an emerging racial slur to describe white privileged people in general, but it’s also becoming perhaps a surprisingly perfect match and mirror for taking a hard look at the true essence and nature of our own Christian faith while putting a descriptive finger on what many experience in the presence of privileged conservative right-wing Christians.

To be sure, there are many with good hearts and intention who are truly unaware of the evils they have adopted or empowered within conservative right wing Christianity. The manipulative, controlling, seductive, and conforming powers of conservative Evangelical Christianity are a sure force to be reckoned with.

Yet, intended or not, in the minds of many a good people, conservative Evangelical Christians have largely become nothing less than consummate “douchebags”—some, exceedingly and extensively.

So, to those who have ears, let them hear. To those who care, let them care.

Look in the mirror, search your soul, take surgical inventory—here’s a few characteristics useful to discern the overall “douchebag density” of your Christian life.

You Defriend People on Facebook for “Unchristian” Posts- Nothing says “I’m a douchebag Christian” like believing your faith makes you better than others while being so insecure in it that you can’t handle differing views nor being in community with people whose attitudes and actions challenge or even offend your faith understanding. The “sinners” and the “offensive” of Jesus day knew Him as a sure “friend.” Sadly, many today know us best as sure “douchebags” because, whether intentional or not, our Facebook pages serve as a clear reflection of our overall Christian arrogance, judgmentalism, and elitism.

You Say Stupid “Christian” Things- Perhaps your heart is centered on all the right motivations, but with every “I’ll be praying for you,” “I’m too blessed to be stressed,” “God never gives us more than we can handle,” “hate the sin, love the sinner,” and “you just need to press into Jesus,” you might as well write “douchebag” upon your forehead. People are smarter than that and sense that true faith can’t be canned with religious talking points, clever sayings, and oversimplified sentiments that ultimately serve as a cop-out to truly walking an authentic journey of faith. Nothing spells “douchebag” like prepackaged cut and pasted spiritual cue cards that leave people comatose with every attempt at a perfect “Christian” response to a life and faith that most certainly isn’t—perfect.

You Practice Escapism Parenting- With every effort to separate you and your children from what you believe is a carnal world of “lost” and lesser people, you’re adding serious poundage to your douchebag density. For nothing says “douchebag” like limiting your children to “Christian” or “Christian only” groups, clubs, schools, and activities. Teaching children that people who believe, act, and live differently than you are intrinsically to be avoided and seen as an inferior is nothing less than evil. Racism, sexism, discrimination, elitism, xenophobia, hate, classism, self-righteousness, and bigotry are all learned attitudes and behaviors. Every parent home-schools their children no matter where their children attend school—you are the ultimate example and teacher in your children’s lives. Nothing screams “douchebag” like modeling and teaching a curriculum to your children that sees people of differing beliefs, lifestyles, status, colors, nationalities, and genders as being intrinsically dangerous and an automatic enemy to ones faith.

“All lives matter” is Your Goto Answer to “Black lives matter”- When your level of compassion is so lacking that you are devoid of the capacity to navigate the nuances of racism and discrimination in such a way that lifts up the broken above your concern for self, you have no business complaining when people crown you as douchebag royalty. The very fact that “black lives matter” is a necessary declaration in our society is reflective of the disturbing reality that all lives don’t truly matter to your faith. No wonder why pungent words like “douchebag” must be called into commission to give proper voice and reflection to the evils of right-wing white religious privilege.

You Believe in Hell But Sit On Your Leather Bound Couch- How easy it is to be all about a hell of eternal torture when you don’t believe you’re going there, but all your enemies surely will. The reality that you believe in an eternal hell for the unbeliever, proclaim to have the cure, but don’t spend every waking moment of your life frantically and desperately trying to keep everyone on the planet from going there, elevates you to nothing less than beast-mode levels of douchebag-ness. How one who truly believes in hell could ever have time for flashy worship services, weekend long conferences, cozy small groups, hour long prayer meetings, and creating cheesy Facebook memes is beyond the comprehension of many who gaze into your faith. It all reeks of spiritual hate, phoniness, and unfortunately, being seen as a sure “douchebag” Christian.

You Say You’re Pro-life But Use The Bible For Death- There is no doubt that faithful interpretation is required in understanding and applying the Bible. Yet, where sound interpretation leads you to a crossroad of understandings, instead of moving in the interpretive direction of Grace, unconditional love, inclusiveness, equality, affirmation, nonviolence, forgiveness, peace, and life, you choose every way possible to march down an interpretive path that leads to condemnation, conditions, legalism, sexism, violence, fear, labels, judgmentalism, greed, privilege, imperialism, war, and death. You don’t have to harbor such beliefs and attitudes to remain biblically faithful, you choose to—period. Which, in the eyes of many, is a sure manifestation of what it means to be a “douchebag” Christian—and a highly dense one, at that.

You See People As Projects- While you’re sending the sure message to everyone in your path, “I need to fix you in order to love you,” the world is crying out with its passionate reply, “If you’d just love me, there would be nothing that couldn’t be fixed.” No matter how much awareness the Spirit reveals of your incapacity to change people, you seem further emboldened to see it as your calling and responsibility to do just that—change people and spiritually police the world. To you, everyone is a project first and a person last, if a person at all. If you want to shed some serious “douchebag” pounds, make it your life and purpose to love people unconditionally and leave it at that—period, full stop.

You Live The Competitive-Christian Life- Though you may never admit it, so much of your Christian life is about appearances and comparisons—at least, that’s the way it seems. From all the “Christian” bumper stickers on your car, to your hands raised the highest in worship. From the pictures you post on Facebook of your highlighted Bible, to elaborate displays of your children’s trophies from Bible memorization contests. From your public declarations of your latest fast, prayer challenge, or Bible reading goals, to the pride in your voice when you subtly complain of your over-scheduled church life. From your inability to simply use the restroom without thanking Jesus or saying something “Christian” for all to hear, to being super quick and eager to whine about how bad the world is but how great your faith is to overcome. It all feels like your Christian life is a constant one-upping of everyone else—leaving many with no other choice but to summon forth the only seemingly appropriate term, “douchebag.”

To be sure, no one likes being labeled, boxed, or called a name—we are all more complicated than that. However, if the term “douchebag” is so offensive to you and seemingly unfair in declaration. Perhaps it’s time to make sure your Christian life isn’t a fitting reason or cause for its use.

“Don’t be a douchebag” -Jesus

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

Conservative Christian, I Beg Of You, Why Can’t Love Be Enough?

Why don’t people go to Church?

Why do many cringe at modern Christianity with their gag reflexes in full bloom?

Why are conservative brands of faith losing so much of their credibility and influence?

Do we really want to know—could we handle the truth—would we even listen to their reason?

It’s not because of some kind inherent distaste for Jesus and a rejection of His Truth. It’s not from a deep dark cultural stronghold of apathetic spiritual laziness. It’s not because of some depraved aversion to God and holiness rampant within society. We may wish it were all so easily wrapped up and reasoned away with the simple declaration that the “world” is showing itself to be as hopelessly lost, blind, wayward, and carnal as we deem them to be—but they aren’t.

In fact, the Light God has placed within all people shines into the religious darkness of our day, revealing a disturbing manifestation humanity can’t ignore—the reckless tampering and deep distrust of Love within conservative Christianity. For all of our spiritual fanfare, many rightfully discern that something is deeply askew among us, and though they may not always be able to put their finger on it, they can’t shake the unsettling in their spirit. The one place, the one people with whom love should boldly rule the day, be adored in all its splendor, and lifted high up above all things, is among Christians. Yet, the loudest confession heard around the world from the megaphone of conservative Christianity is sadly this—”Love isn’t enough.”

Try as we might to frantically plaster heaping loads of lipstick upon the pig of our conservative brand of Christianity, people aren’t stupid. The Judas that is conservative Christianity has sold out Love in exchange for power, betrayed Grace with the kiss of control, and crucified it all into a self-righteous religion for the privileged—daring to pimp it as the one true authentic way of Jesus.

Instead of being unified by love and that being enough, we insist on gathering in cookie-cutter groups of like-minded people corralled together by a laundry list of beliefs, values, and vision we must agree upon to have membership, relationship, and community with one another. Love takes a back seat (if a seat at all) and must first yield to our creeds instead of our creeds first yielding to Love. Hollow Churches of fake unity span the horizon as far as the eyes can see—people resign themselves to going through the motions and agreeing on the surface in order to fit in and meet expectations. Love doesn’t rule in our churches, rules rule in our churches. Compliance, conformity, conditions—everything but Love. Spiritual growth is restricted and restrained—coloring outside the lines of conservative ideology is shamed, even if just for a season. Where Jesus wants to build longer tables where every creed, orientation, gender, belief, color, status, shape, and nationality has a seat, we build taller walls of every spiritual, relational, and physical dimension and try to sell it to the world as true community.

Instead of simply loving people and that being enough, we treat them as projects—a spiritual notch for our religious belts. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we not only have the calling but the capacity to change people, even ourselves. What only the Spirit can do, we have hijacked into our own personal and corporate mission. The truth is, we don’t trust the Spirit, nor Grace, nor Love to do what only the Spirit, Grace, and Love can do—quite the opposite. Rather, in order to legitimize our own efforts and justify our fleshly interventions, we declare pure Grace to be cheap, unconditional Love to be dangerous, and the Spirit needing our involvement. While Jesus’ greatest concern is that people get more than enough love and believe in it completely, our greatest fear is that we would grant too much of it and cause people to trust it too deeply. You say that God loves me where I’m at, but enough not to leave me there—which is of course, where you see the beginning of your mission to try and fix me. I say, God loves me enough that He doesn’t need you to repair, change, confront, or direct me—His Grace is sufficient, His Spirit fully capable, and His Love is more than enough to do the trick—with or without you. See, that’s the real kicker, isn’t it? For if God ever did use you in another’s life to help in the molding, it would be through the fruits of the Spirit not the nails, crosses, proof-texts, and conditions of your conservative methodology. Why? Because I, like everyone else, am a divinely made person not a church mission project.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore our unity could be founded not on a contrived fabricated alignment of ambition, thinking, and believing, but on a genuine willingness to agree to disagree and embrace our differences—all at the table.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore the everything of what we had in common was our mutual respect of all people of all faiths, backgrounds, and settings as created and divinely imaged by God Himself no less than we or anyone else—no more discrimination, marginalization, or people-judging.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore we became a people of genuine equality, where everyone is beautifully different, and beautifully no better or worthy—no more one-upping, privilege-seeking, or people-labeling.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore the Spirit was given full trust and freedom to work in the hearts, minds, and souls of people as we simply loved them unconditionally—no more strings attached, fine-print, deal-breakers, or hidden expectations.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore loving people (beginning with ourselves) was the only “to do” if there ever needed to be a list—no more people-policing, sin-managing, fruit-inspecting, God-appeasing, faith-proving, self-improving, or becoming all-you-can-be for Jesus.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore we became a people best known by “the greatest of these is love” instead of “the greatest of these is us”—no more violence, condemnation, and insisting on our own way.

For sadly, we have made Jesus into so much of everything He is not and following Him into such a tiring, empty, phony, love-less, and selfish pursuit. If only we could see what we have become and the people who are dying on our vines, destroyed at the feet of our conservatism. The shade we throw at the world is scorching good people, nailing Jesus back upon the cross, and declaring to the planet, “Love doesn’t win, Grace isn’t sufficient, and Hell is the heart of the Father for people who don’t love Him back in return.”

Conservative Christian, I beg of you, why can’t love be enough?

Why can’t love be enough as the sum and singular message of the Gospel of Jesus?

Why can’t love be enough to bring us together and graft us into authentic community?

Why can’t love be enough to fulfill and maximize our divine responsibility and care for people?

Why can’t love be enough to make our worship attractive, churches deemed as successful, and our faith relevant?

Why can’t love be enough to drive our aspirations and quench our thirst for significance?

Why can’t love be enough to guide our exegesis, calibrate our theologies, and dictate our use of the Scriptures?

Why can’t love be enough for those with whom we disagree, believe to be sinning, or even show themselves to be an enemy?

Do we really need all this other stuff? Nationalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, judgmentalism, self-righteousness, selfishness, and elitism? Bible-weaponizing debates, clubs with crosses on top, and a gun-carrying, militant, Republican version of Jesus who feeds the multitudes but denies healthcare to the hundreds of thousands?

Is this truly the heart and way of Jesus?

I just want to love God, myself, and people without restriction, conditions, or limits. I want to be free to journey with Jesus, fully abandoned to where His Grace might take me. I want to experience the joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction of a life lived outside the confines, condemnations, and religious rule-keeping of religion.

With a world watching, waiting, and carefully listening to the beat of our hearts in hopes of seeing Jesus.

Conservative Christian, I beg of you, for the sake of heaven and all humanity, why can’t love be enough?

Why. Can’t. Love. Be. Enough?

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.

Check out Chris Kratzer’s new book getting rave reviews… Leatherbound Terrorism.

In Leatherbound Terrorism, Chris chases the evils of conservative Evangelicalism out of the shadows and gives powerful voice to the cries of the religiously oppressed. Confronting issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, religious greed, hypocrisy, nationalism, white supremacy, privilege, and the weaponizing of the Bible, Leatherbound Terrorism pulls no punches. Endorsed by best selling authors Steve McVey and Baxter Kruger, Leatherbound Terrorism will challenge you, inspire you, and most certainly cause you to rethink your faith and life.

Trump-Loving Conservative Christian, Excuse Me For Expecting You To Act Like Jesus

What was I thinking, right?

Feeling like Charlie Brown, flat on his back with stars spinning around his head after Lucy exploits him once again with the infamous kick-the-football trick—how could I be so stupid?

I guess I should have known better, history tells the tale. Conservative Christianity in all its many forms has sadly been an undeniable contributor to more human atrocities than perhaps any other faith group. The Crusades, the pillaging of the American Indian, the rise of Nazism, black slavery, sexism, the demonization of the LGBTQ community, and the onset of Transgender suicides are just a few examples. Find me a place where discrimination, spiritual oppression, bigotry, sexism, racism, imperialism, and the drums of war abound, and there you will have found, in some order or fashion, the direct influence of conservative Christianity.

Yet, with all your state-of-the-art worship facilities as far as the eye can see, and books upon books about Christian living. With million dollar celebrity pastors, inspirational conferences, hip concert t-shirts, and clever bumperstickers calling me to repentance. With all your sin-busting accountability partners, schools, colleges, and radio stations. With Bibles for every interest group and study guides to go with them, you almost had me reconsidering—maybe you’ve changed?

The way you quote scripture so easily and raise your hands in worship so passionately. The way you claim the inside scoop to all that is truth so confidently, and put on such a glistening smile so convincingly. The way your children win top prize at nearly every “Bible memorization” contest, fold their hands in school prayer, and have those cute little “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets. I mean, just the sheer mass and volume of scriptural Memes that daily adorn your Facebook page—certainly, you’ve turned over a new leaf and things must be altogether different.

No more bigotry, discrimination, double-standards, self-centeredness, legalism, condemnation, and overall spiritual nastiness—it’s a new day with an all new heart for Jesus, right?

Just when I started to believe again—renewed my hope in hope. Just when I was ready to be the proud prodigal father and usher in a planet-shaking party. You elected him, you support him now, and the love affair still continues. Trump—the bright orange flare shot out of hell as a sure sign and declaration that nothing about conservative Christianity has changed, but tragically has become far worse. Even Satan himself tires of his tomfoolery.

Never has there been a more childish, dishonorable, arrogant, hypocritical, salacious and unpresidential President in all of American history. Worst of all, apparently none of that matters to you and some within your tribe actually celebrate it. The nationalism of your conservative faith, the preservation of your privilege, the full fruition of your xenophobia, and the expanse of your spiritual policing, are apparently worth the hypocrisy it’s costing you and the countless lives it’s destroying. Hell has no fury and Jesus has no enemy like a Trump-loving conservative Christian.

With all due respect, your diabolical joke-of-a-gospel is no Gospel at all—seducing people into a pretentious, performance-driven, self-righteous, elitist, white-centered, male-dominated cult that looks nothing like Jesus, all while pimping it as biblical faithfulness. It’s a grand cosmic scheme, whose primary purpose is to spiritualize hate, discrimination, greed, imperialism, violence and condemnation—turning Jesus into the hood ornament of your world bulldozer.

Yet, the best ideas you’ve contrived in defense of your creed and its orange-haired messiah, is to point fingers at Hilary’s mistakes, diminish Obama’s presidency, and bullhorn your talking points and proof texts in hopes of drowning out your dissenters.

Well, excuse me for expecting you to act like Jesus.

Excuse me for being a tad bit embarrassed when you dare to call yourself a Christian.

Excuse me for getting upset when I see you leave the poor helpless, deny healthcare benefits, and prosper the rich at the hands of your ruthless insatiable appetite for power and privilege.

Excuse me when I vomit at the sound of your empty, self-aggrandizing worship while you belittle, ostracize, marginalize, and build walls against refugees, foreigners, and immigrants.

Excuse me why my neck veins bulge at your condemnation of the LGBTQ community with greek words in a book that were not translated to mean “homosexual” until conveniently in 1945, by conservative Christians.

Excuse me while I raise my eyebrows at all your legalistic self-righteous sin-inspecting ways, while your make-up ladened daughters dance in two-piece costumes, sixty percent of your husbands and pastors watch pornography, and your divorce rate is higher than that of atheists.

Excuse me when I choke on my spit, when you stand on the sidelines of everyone’s sexuality, as if you have the divine authority to dictate every play—especially when it seems like your the one with the issues, wanting most to get into the game.

Excuse me for the face-palm when you put on display the full fanfare of your racism, deprecating people of minority who protest, express rage, and demand rightful justice in ways that are not to your privileged comfort or liking.

Excuse me when I grow in anger and frustration with every legislation you seek to impose that reverses the desegregation of our school systems, Christianizes public education, and further turns our country of religious freedom into a totalitarian Christian state and nation.

Excuse me when I laugh in disgust at all your boycotting, demands, and vacillation with Transgender people in bathrooms, when more sexual crimes are committed in public restrooms by Republican politicians than have ever been committed by a Transgender person.

Excuse me when I cringe at all your claims to be a people and a faith that are pro-life, when you portray God and interpret the Scriptures in every way possible that justifies the spiritual, emotional, and even physical death of the people with whom you disagree or deem to be the enemy.

Yes, excuse me.

Excuse me when I call you on the carpet for electing and supporting a President who couldn’t even meet your church’s requirements for serving in the nursery.

To be sure, we’re all saved by Grace, but this is getting ridiculous.

Where you take and deny, Jesus gives and blesses.

Where you build taller walls, Jesus builds longer tables.

Where you judge and condemn, Jesus loves and embraces.

Where you huddle in like-minded clubs with crosses on top, Jesus is serving and unconditionally loving the masses.

Where you quote and proof-text, Jesus redefines, reinterprets, and puts love at the highest place.

Where your faith seeks to make the most of you, Jesus seeks to serve the least of these.

Where you smite, deny, and demonize the enemy, Jesus is giving Grace and loving scandalously.

Where you elect, embrace, and support such a Christ-less president, Jesus asks the sure question, “are you serious?”

You want to silence my rants, convict me of overgeneralization, and declare me to be equally as judging. To that, my response is pure and simple. As much as you tout yourself to the world as being all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips—excuse me for expecting you to act like Jesus.

What was I thinking?

Evidently, just because there’s a cross on top, a Bible in hand, or verses in a Facebook post, doesn’t mean there’s Jesus—in a building, mind, or heart. In fact, more and more, it’s becoming a sad indication, He’s probably not.

Trump-loving conservative Christian, excuse me for expecting you to act like Jesus.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Conservative Christian, If You Really Loved Me, Would You Please Just Listen?

I know you disagree with me and so many aspects of my life—that’s one thing that seems to be overflowing with clarity.

That’s o.k, it really is, you are welcome to your own perspective.

To you, my nonconservative choices, values, beliefs, and even the very essence of who I am as a person are deemed to be suspicious at best, certainly inferior, and likely in desperate need of repair and a strong dose of repentance. In step with the marching orders of your creed, you pace back and forth, waiting for opportunity to put my faith and life through your conservative curling iron in hopes of straightening me out. You say you love me and it’s all from a heart of genuine concern—I want nothing more than to believe you, I truly do. Yet, it feels like everywhere you touch upon the fabric of my life, you’re insisting on your own way while claiming it to be God’s—desperately trying to unravel and pull apart what I’ve actually come to believe and cherish as the divine tapestry of my life.

You want all the Scriptures you so confidently quote, the stern warnings about hell, and your passionate lectures on all the ways that I’m desperately misguided to feverishly call my soul to attention. You want your guilt trips, silent treatments, and glares of disapproval to magically solicit an urgency within me to wake up and change. You want all the articles, books, and sermon videos barking the bullet points of your faith to bring me to my knees, surrendering in agreement and tearful repentance. Yet, deep down inside I have this ancient, Jesus-embedded sense within me that I just can’t ignore—if you really loved me and were truly being used by the Spirit, you’d simply listen.

No, I’m not talking about the kind of listening that’s nothing more than the inconvenient duration of time you’ve silenced your lips while reluctantly waiting your turn to speak. I’m not talking about the kind of listening that’s merely the sum of the moments you’re rushing ahead in your mind to all the ways you’re going to correct me. I’m not talking about the kind of listening that’s nothing more than the pause you give in your rebuttals to humor me with a moment to interject my wayward thinking—licking your chops, poised and ready to shoot it all down. No, I’m not talking about the awkward silence that ensues while your arms are folded and your chin is lifted in obvious disgust. Maybe you call that listening or discerning, or whatever faith term that fits your brand of religious conservatism, but I call it—hate. For nothing is perhaps more antiJesus, demeaning, and drooling with shame and condemnation than a Christian who refuses to listen.

You want me to believe that you love me—I greatly appreciate that. You want me to consider that you were sent by God to guide me—I understand that. Yet, with all due respect, I’m finding it very hard to convince my conscience to open the door of trust when every alarm in my Spirit is sounding to the clear and ever present reality, you aren’t even listening.

You speak, you judge, you correct, you assume, you admonish, you lecture—perhaps all with the most wonderful of noble intentions. Yet, all the while, it feels so reckless, like a sheep being dragged to the slaughter, as you don’t even glimpse beyond the surface to the intricate fabric of my being and the complicated walk upon which I have been traveling. At best, you’re shooting in the dark because you don’t take the time, extend the grace, and embrace the humility required to remove the blinders and truly see me and my story. In fact, at times, it feels like I’m just another sitting duck, traveling across your spiritual arcade, bracing for the impact of your prepackaged conservative bullets. Cocked and loaded, you’ll never hear nor encounter the story behind my eyes—a story that if I told you, would break your heart, humble your faith, and perhaps even cause you to put down your weapons. Maybe, when it’s all said and done, that’s what you truly fear the most and the reason why you refuse to truly listen—it’s all too risky, your entire faith-construct might come crashing down.

The one thing that’s missing is that one thing you seem to be so adverse to giving. It’s all I’ve ever truly wanted—so I’m begging you, would you please just listen?

Listen—with the reverence that completely stops and deeply considers that chances are you have something to learn, change, or reconsider first before ever being granted the green light from God to speak to my Christ-imaged humanity.

Listen—with the humility that, though you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, you certainly aren’t entitled to your own facts, nor the claim that you hold the one-and-only divinely-sanctioned interpretation of Scripture.

Listen—with the self-control that renders the noise of your stubborn insistence to a prison of silence in order to create the openness and freedom required to hear a true revelation from God.

Listen—with the determination to never lean on your own understanding, project your bias, and pepper me with labels.

Listen—with the level of compassion that no matter what you had to say, all I would ultimately hear is that you love me.

For if we aren’t listening deep enough to where we understand with fullness, empathy, education, and humility the very journey, perspectives, beliefs, and values to which we disagree or disapprove in another human being, we aren’t truly listening. For when Jesus left the halls of heaven and became a human being, it wasn’t just an act of becoming human flesh, it was an act of ultimate, divine listening.

So now, when you wonder why I don’t call, why I don’t respond, and why I’ve resigned to love you from a distance. When you wonder why I’m deeply hesitant to visit your church, come to family gatherings, grant you influence, and see you and your conservative faith-understanding as credible. When you wonder why I ignore you on Facebook or de-friend you altogether. When you wonder why the world is increasingly concluding that yours is a brand of Christianity that is filled with self-righteousness, selfishness, and hate. Perhaps you would consider this perspective, it may just be because I, and many others, can’t ignore the screeching reality—you’re not listening.

Say what you want, debate all you like, curl up in the fetal position of your guilt trips, and trumpet your Scriptural proof-texts—my heart breaks at all that we are missing, the time that’s being wasted, the hurt that’s being experienced, and the relationships that never will be. Largely because, like Martha in the Scriptures, it seems you’re insistent on making religious sandwiches of debate, correction, and condemnation that Jesus never ordered, while Mary was learning the true heart of Jesus—to sit down, be quiet, and simply listen.

No, I’m not perfect, I certainly have my faults. But right now, I can’t trust you nor give your voice credibility, not because you aren’t speaking, but because I can’t hear you listening.

Conservative Christian, if you really loved me, would you please just listen?

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak…” James 1:19

Grace is brave. Be brave.

8 Things I Wish We Christians Would Admit

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

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

I wish we would admit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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