Tag: justice

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

You’re right.

I did it—I dropped the “f-bomb.”

I could have easily chosen a different word.

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

But I didn’t. Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave, Be brave.

Give a f**k.

Life After Conservative Evangelical Christianity—Hope For Those Who Hurt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t give up.

Don’t give in.

There is always hope.

There is always righteous resistance.

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

What’s It Going To Take? A Pastor’s Plea To Affirm LGBT

You are a good person, perhaps a Christian. Maybe even a leader or a pastor. Your heart is to follow Jesus and to be faithful to His purposes. The important things you are accomplishing for the cause of Christ haven’t gone unnoticed. You’re living out your faith with noble intentions from the framework of your experience, understanding, and conviction.

Yet, there are issues in life that change the course of history, starting with the challenging of our own creeds and spiritual assumptions. The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender realities being one of those, especially within Christian circles.

For some, you are familiar with terms like LGBT. Others, your awareness is more centered on homosexuality in contrast to heterosexuality. When it comes to sexual and gender manifestations, there is a large expanse. It’s complicated stuff, with lots of moving parts. All of us having a certain level of understanding, if nothing more than how charged, difficult, costly, and controversial these issues can be.

Maybe you have already drawn your conclusions, carved a line in the sand. It’s all an abomination. The clear teachings of the Bible make it perfectly clear. Any other theological landing point is a slippery slope to hell. Nothing is going to move you, sway you, or alter your view.

That was me. The pastor who could look out upon a congregation. With no restraint, no hesitation, no pumping of the breaks. Telling those gathered in my polished preacher’s voice, it’s all a sin and unless met with repentance, every last one of them are on a fast track to hell. Gladly receiving the high-fives from those who agreed.

Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. I understand exactly where you are at.

Maybe you are questioning. It’s all a bit fuzzy to you. You see both sides, swinging from one end to the other. Looking down at the fall between the two trapeze. To grasp for the other side, making the leap, the blood wells up in your head, your breath is constricted in horror. You gaze ahead to the relational dominoes that would crash to the floor if people knew just the doubts you were having, let alone the new position you might be taking. The deconstruction of your faith, the footings of your creed. If only it would all just go away. Indecision, straddling the fence. It’s all too much. So, you just keep swinging.

That was me. The pastor trying to stand for everything, and therefore standing for nothing, and with no one. Lukewarm and loving it.

Been there, done that. The middle ground is the lowest ground.

Maybe deep within, you believe in God’s affirming heart for LGBT people. You have studied it out, covered the chalkboard with new equations, new summations, new conclusions. Like Nicodemus, in the dark of night, you have come to Jesus. Learned His heart. Yet, it’s your secret stance. Only known by you, perhaps a few others. Adding up the costs, the conversations to take place, the meetings to meet with, the look in people’s eyes, the locking of their wallets, the removal of their memberships. The de-friending, the demonizing, the de-humanizing. The firing, the resigning, the transitioning. The tally on the receipt, the numbers that result… it’s too much. The cost is just too much.

That was me. The pastor, who with money he didn’t have, planted a church, starting with seven people. Nurtured it, fed it, changed its diapers. Knowing full well, just a year in, if people knew my true heart, it might die. I could lose everything. Friendships, family, systems that held me together, clients in my bi-vocational work.

But then, the awakening. Truth. Jesus. God’s heart.

Christian, do you realize the spiritual, emotional, and physical torture LGBT people experience, almost exclusively at the hands of our Christianity? Thousands of gay and lesbian people commit suicide every year. Others, walk a daily living hell of discrimination, hate, bullying, violence, abuse, marginalization, and condemnation. A staggering 41% of transgender people attempt suicide because of societal non-acceptance.

Certainly, that has to bother you, at least register a blip on your radar screen, does it not?  No, maybe it’s not happening in your leather-bound, steeple-topped world, but it’s happening in God’s world. And quite frankly, He’s pissed and so am I.

Can you even begin to imagine what’s that like? Every moment of every day, dehumanized and demonized. A breath among them is rarely taken without a whiff of pungent bigotry stinging every fiber of their being, burning clear down to their souls.

Folks, this is disgusting, outrageous, and dripping with pure evil. And who are the ones leading this frontal of death towards the LGBT community?

Christians, that’s who.

Do you realize the Bible, particularly in regards to LGBT, isn’t nearly as clear as you think it is? It’s not the slam dunk we have swallowed as truth. There is only one Word of God, Jesus. The rest our words about God requiring deep contextualization, discernment, and evaluation. Those six verses that we cling to, seemingly condemning LGBT people, are at best a house of cards. We’re slinging marshmallows, arming them are missiles.

But chances are, you won’t hear any of that. The fingers in our ears feel safer. The reality that you, and a whole spiritual system within Christianity could be completely wrong, is perhaps just too much for your pride and faith arrogance to compute. So excuse me, if while you smoke your unnatural cigarettes, sign your unnatural divorce papers, and stuff your faces with all kinds of unnatural, I get a little smirk on my face when you try to get all Bible on me, preaching to me how “unnatural” those LGBT people are.

I know. You think from where you sit, it’s your job to tell the LGBT community the error of their ways, the consequences of their choices. Eternity is in the balance. Sadly, that’s what love looks like to you. But that’s not what Jesus looked like to anybody. You are going to have to re-image Him into a vehicle of your own agenda to arrive at a spiritual license for your condemnation, judgement, self-righteousness, and hate. Sure, you can proof-text a couple passages into compliance, but you’ll never contextualize Jesus and justify that evil prowess.

Christian, do you realize, the LGBT community is not a manifestation of choice or decay, but of God’s delighted design. They didn’t sign up for this like a gym membership. There is no upgrade God is downloading, a change that God is desiring. He didn’t make a mistake. There is nothing to improve, overcome, or revamp.

These are human people. Living, heart-beating, lung-expanding, emotion-feeling people. Beautifully and wonderfully made by the artistry of the Master.

But perhaps that river of revelation hasn’t flowed to the banks of your spirituality. Why? Because you haven’t listened, you haven’t truly befriended, you haven’t humbly sat at the feet of the LGBT community, washing, serving, beholding. You haven’t looked into the eyes of their soul, stood under waterfall of their struggles, internalized their suffering. And therefore, you have missed Jesus, the Living Water, right within your midst. You have become the very people who have received Him not. Leaving your mind, your heart, your faith unchanged, hardened by your unwillingness to repent in response to the kindness, goodness, and holiness of God created in every LGBT person.

The Holy Spirit is charging into the temple of our Christianity, flipping the tables, revealing the truth that in the spiritual x-ray of all that is LGBT, we are in fact the cancer, we are the sin, we are the abomination… not them. And most tragic of all, the wages of our sin has become their death. The wages of our ignorance, the wages of our silence, the wages of our complacency. The wages of our bench sitting, comfort idolizing, spiritual pride, and cowardice… everyday, becomes their death.

Whoever you are, wherever you are at, I am not asking you to go against your conscience, but for Christ’s sake, I am asking you to open your conscience to the transformation of the Holy Spirit.

For the love of God, listen to your heart, listen to the voice of Jesus.

If God, in scripture, affirms the wild donkey that serves no redeeming purpose, the Ostrich that sucks at parenting. Just because they breathe, He pours at His full delight and pride. How much more does He affirm all of humanity, His best idea, one-of-a-kind created in His image? That’s reason enough for the God of the universe to love unconditionally, affirm unlimitedly… just because we breathe.

What’s it going to take?

How many more LGBT people have to commit suicide, begging for life to end? How many more LGBT people have to crawl through this living Hell, tasting the ever constant spit of Satan upon their face as he uses Christians to mouthpiece his declaration that God hates them. How many more LGBT people have to breathe their last, foaming from the mouth in the stranglehold of bullies and bigots? How many more parents of LGBT have to weep until their eyes bleed. Fearing for their children’s lives. Closing the drapes, curling up into the fetal position, all but giving up. How many more LGBT souls condemned, lives destroyed, families broken apart, faiths unraveled? How many more LGBT people have to die at the altar of our Christianity?

What’s it going to take?

But what about my reputation, what about my congregation, what will my family and friends say?

I say to you, who gives a shit? Don’t you get it? Lives are at stake. This is not a joke. We Christians have gotten this completely, emphatically wrong. Search you soul, deep down, you know you have tasted the poison we are pimping as fruit.

While you are dreaming of your future, keeping your ministry aspirations alive, holding on for a life of financial security, family peace, and basic hopes and comforts. There is a whole group of LGBT people dreaming they don’t wake up tomorrow, praying on their hands and knees to die. That’s their dreams.

For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. He went the distance, risked everything, did whatever it took. What was the joy? The full affirmation, the full salvation of all, you and me, just as we are, beautifully and wonderfully made. One and done on the cross. You don’t die for that which you don’t first love and affirm.

So I ask you, what is the object of your joy? Is it your wallet, your pay check, your church attendance, your friendships, family, reputation, ministry? Is that the ultimate, deepest object of your joy?

For Jesus, it was the least of these. The broken, the marginalized, the condemned, the hurting, the discarded, the bullied. Those drifting in the sea of injustice.

Isn’t that enough for you? The life, the wellbeing of a mutual, human being. Their dignity, their divinity?

What’s it going to take? Tell me. I’ll write, pay it, do it.

Your affirmation of what God already has, could be the difference-maker in a life. Hope where there was no hope. Changing everything.

Desmond Tutu said it this way…

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

James, the brother of Jesus said it this way…

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

Jesus said it this way…

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

What’s it going to take?

For some, it’s already too late.

But for others, before it’s too late… I beg you, affirm what God already has.

Grace is brave, be brave.

Affirm.

Guns, Jesus, and Me

From time to time, I am honored with the request to write about certain subjects. This is one of those instances.

Many of my readers know I am a LGBT affirming pastor and write extensively and boldly on the issue.

Yet, I have found within myself more apprehension to communicate my thoughts on the topic of “guns” than with perhaps any other subject I have written on thus far. The emotional angst and passion of views towards this topic seems uniquely, politically charged, and at times, more toxic, polarized, and widespread than what I have witnessed among the most controversial issues of human sexuality.

Given this climate, I want to be absolutely clear from the start. I am not a progressive, conservative, or liberal in the sense of some simplistic, political label one might try to tag upon me. I am a human being trying to see God, my life, and the world through the lens of Jesus. Loved by the Father, made whole and complete in Christ. Grace upon Grace. That’s who I am.

As did Jesus, I vehemently resist becoming a political pawn used by any side for the demonizing of opposing viewpoints and the people involved. Let it be loudly heard, this writing serves no purpose, political or otherwise, in minimizing the perspectives or personhood of anyone, particularly those who would disagree with my conclusions.

Rather, I write, first and foremost as one, loving and standing with all people, all created in the image of God, seeking the way of Grace for my life. Not that I agree, support or promote every action, belief, or viewpoint of another. Hardly. But that I stand with all, mutual sojourners on this complex journey of life, deeply grateful that God stands with me, right in the midst of all my “me-ness” with pride, acceptance, and steadfast belief in me… fearfully and wonderfully made by His hands. Promising over my every moment, “never will I leave you nor forsake you.”

I will do no less for any other.

So to all my friends with guns and varying viewpoints regarding such, there is no distance, condemnation, nor disbelief in you. Not from me. We are all humans… together. Beloved by the Father of Lights, His Grace being sufficient for all of us. None are better, only different.

With that said…

In my faith, I find Jesus to be the sole window through which I see God, my life, and the world. Everything begins and ends with Jesus. He is the lens through which I must see, understand, and interpret all things.

God is love. Jesus is Grace. This is the sum of all that I believe to be true and life directing.

If I am to believe in Jesus, I must believe in Jesus… all the way.

If I am to believe in Grace, I must believe in Grace… all the way.

Either Jesus presents me with the best way to live, to understand God, and to see the world, or He does not. Either the Kingdom Jesus manifests is the best way to do life or it is not. There is no in between.

I find in Jesus, no model for violence. Not even a loop hole, nor an extenuating circumstance. That Jesus declared, “I do not come to bring peace, but a sword” is not a physical assertion condoning violence, but a spiritual articulation of the power Grace wields to renovate our lives and the world. When Jesus turns over the tables in the temple, this is not an act of violence harming humans. Not a chance. Not even close.

There is no example, blueprint, or receipt to be found that shows Jesus purchased nor promoted for us any tenet for violence in our Christ-following or Kingdom-bringing. None.

Wiggle, squirm, do “the dance” as I may. There is no other example that Jesus gives me other than the way of… non-violence.

In fact, for Jesus, the cross is the weapon of choice against all that evil can bring. Not a gun, but a cross.

There is no greater violence than Jesus experienced. Dying for humanity as humanity. In His death, the height of human violence is displayed and in Him contained. Yet in His death, the greater height of Jesus’ non-violent response is proclaimed. Knowingly, willingly, yielding His life in the midst of those would take it.

From a distance, it seems the way of violence is winning…

Jesus speaking against Peter cutting off a soldier’s ear… fail… the path to the cross continues.

Jesus, flogged to the point of unrecognizable appearance… fail… He’s losing the battle.

Jesus, hands and feet nailed to the cross. His sides pierced, suffocated by his own weight and fluid… fail… He’s dying.

Jesus proclaiming forgiveness over all humanity… fail… His breaths still stop breathing.

Jesus, do something, get down from there, defend yourself, open up a can, let ’em have it. You’re losing.

At the cross, it seems that the way of violence wins, overpowers, and claims victory.

But with further review, all the violence in the universe could not overcome the nonviolent power of Jesus Christ.

In His death and resurrection, all of life is made whole. Death is stripped of its sting. The power of sin obliterated. The way of surrender, the way of a servant, the way of Grace forever lifted. A path, a walk, a Name above all names. The banners of peace and non-violence are revealed as forever superior, rising far above all other anthems.

As a recipient of the sum of all human violence, Jesus chose the way of non-violence, the cross, destroying the power of evil within the black hole of Grace. The way of violence is exposed as the loser, swallowed up in love, and powerless to solve anything.

The final scoreboard at cross.  Violence-0  Nonviolence-1.

Grace wins. Love prevails.

In fact, one Bible writer, inspired by this revelation, declared the cross to be the power of God for salvation. ( 1 Cor. 1:18)

“Salvation” (Sozo in Greek) literally means “wholeness” with God, self, and the world. All together known as “peace.” The cross, wrapped in the Gospel, is the power of God to bring all dimensions of peace out of and into a physically, emotionally, and spiritually violent world.

Nonviolence and the Gospel are inseparable. If you remove non-violence from the cross, there is no Jesus on the cross. If you remove the cross, there is no Gospel.

To echo this example forever into our living, Jesus did not say, “take up your guns and follow me.” He said, “take up your cross…”

Sounding into the depths of the human experience, the megaphone of Jesus’ death declares, “don’t bring a gun to a cross fight.”

And here’s the kicker, every battle is a cross fight. The thief in the night, the terrorist on the streets, the gossip in the office. Cross fight, cross fight, cross fight. Grace, forgiveness, non-violence, surrender, even suffering… weapons of divine reckoning. The power of God unto peace and the destruction of all that is evil.

Perhaps, in the laying down of our guns and the choosing of a non-violent way, right in the very face of it, we discover an ultimate sacrifice of praise. To lay down all that is a weapon, to stand in defiance of violence. To boldly say, “In Jesus, is truly the way. I believe it all the way. Even to my own cross.” This is the most powerful force in the universe, disarming evil completely and rendering its systems, religions, and ideologies as powerless in the end.

Until then, the cycle continues.

For violence has never brought peace, just the illusion of it. It may subdue it for a moment, but evil always grows back. And that, increasingly.

How all of this translates into every aspect of our world and living, I am not fully sure. What this means for us as a nation, as a society, I am not fully sure. It is for freedom Christ set us free.

But the question isn’t just, “could we?” but “should we?” Even deeper than that, “Did He?” and “Would He?”

All for which I am certain, is only what this means for me.

In the laying down of my guns, and even my life, I find true life… as Jesus taught I would.

Just imagine, a world unwilling to be provoked by violence into violence.

A world, defiantly determined to never become the evil done against it.

A world, that sees in Jesus, the only way to overpower evil; in all our ways, nonviolence.

Even to the point of our own cross, boldly displaying. Shining light into the darkness.

The enemy, bowing down in awe, disarmed at the soul, confronted with the end of their influence.

All, on earth, as it is in heaven.

Grace wins.

Grace wins.

Thank God almighty.

Grace wins.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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