Tag: life (Page 1 of 5)

Thankful For Nothing

In a world of everything, I am thankful for nothing.

I know, it feels like everything—that thing that you did…

You made a mistake, you screwed up—words you said, choices you made, plans you created. The moment got the best of you, it wasn’t supposed to happen that way—everything spiraling out of control. The crack on the ceiling became the whole house falling. It was bad—really, really bad.

So now, you run, but you can’t run fast enough—the medication, can’t medicate deep enough. Your success, can’t be successful enough. What you want to let go, won’t seem to let go—the guilt, the shame, the cost, the regret. At times, it’s all so overwhelming. What you did, it feels like—everything.

In your mind it’s haunting you, certainly this is all reason for His doubt, reason for His questioning—reason for your one-eye-open living. Will you get the ax? Will God storm out of the heavens like a drunk out of a bar—put you in your place under an angry thumb? Is this the time you pushed Him too far?

I know, it feels like everything—that thing that happened to you…

They stole your innocence, betrayed your trust—said terrible things, did terrible things. It wasn’t fair, wasn’t right—completely wrong in every way—stealing things that can’t be replaced. The hurts run deep, straight to the arteries of your soul—you’ll never be the same. Tragedy has many faces—some innocent, some not. You weren’t suppose to be alone, but now you are—the chair where they sat—now empty. No greater pain you have ever felt than being without, being alone—once loving in the physical, to now love in memory only.

So, you run, but you can’t run fast enough—the medication, can’t medicate deep enough. Your success, can’t be successful enough. What you want to let go, won’t seem to let go—the bitterness, the anger, the revenge—the hurt, the loss, the emptiness. What happened to you, it feels like—everything.

That’s why, in your mind, the questions pound you—is He real, was He asleep at the wheel? How could this ever happen under a God who’s supposed to be so loving? Beating His chest, crying every tear, feeling hung out to dry—perhaps these doubts should have been doubted long before. What you thought was a trust now seems so un-trustable.

I know, it feels like everything—what you are doing, who you are becoming, the life you are living…

The real you, the fake you, something in between—your secret thoughts, insecurities, desires, dreams. Passions in your heart—if only to love and be loved in return—declared of value, overflowing with worth. Fully accepted—never to die with your song still inside. You’ve got one life—air to breathe, breaths to take. Am I good enough? Am I like-able, love-able? Do I qualify “as is,” or something different? Status, labels, “likes” on Facebook—I don’t want to waste anytime. Fit in here, fit in there—maybe have no fit at all. Am I getting this right? Doing this well?

And so you run, but you can’t run fast enough—the medication, can’t medicate deep enough. Your success, can’t be successful enough. What you want to let go, won’t seem to let go—the insecurities, the uncertainties, the voices in your head—the naysayers, fair-weather players—the push to be seen, heard, affirmed, believed.

What you are doing, who you are becoming, the life you are living—it feels like—everything.

That’s why, in this world of everything, I am so thankful for nothing.

For nothing can subtract from God’s love for you. Nothing can change His mind, reduce His delight—kink the garden hose of His favor drenching you.

No mistake, no miscue, no atrocity—nothing of you can edit anything of Him.

All decided, once and for all—God’s perfect, unconditional, unrestricted love. Always has, always is, always will be, for there is nothing more pure and more sure than God’s heart—His love, His affections for you—nothing.

There’s nothing for Him to reexamine, to revaluate, to retract—nothing from Him withheld, reserved, restrained.

Nothing.

Nothing else is God but love—perfect, eternal, unconditional, unlimited love. All, poured out for you, for me, for everyone.

In a world of everything, I am thankful for nothing.

For nothing can improve upon the you that God has already finished—there’s nothing of blemish, nothing of sin, nothing of darkness in you within. Nothing to work on, nothing to strive for, nothing to earn—you are whole, complete, righteous, forgiven, forever pure. It’s nothing of what you do, only everything of what He did—there’s nothing left to do, only everything to believe, in Him

It’s not about what people think—not what people say. Not the height of your attitude, not the depth of your gratitude—nothing half empty, nothing half full. Nothing of your religious effort, believing, or work—nothing at all.

Nothing to fear, nothing of which to be ashamed, nothing of tarnish upon your name.

You are righteousness, when you get it all wrong—you are success, when failures go on and on—you are whole, even as it all unravels to the ground.

As He is, so are you—nothing less than the beauty of Jesus—nothing.

In a world of everything, I am thankful for nothing.

For nothing is the sum distance between you and God—He is beside you, within you, all around you, as you. Nothing closer, nothing thicker, nothing more real than the realness of His hand holding yours—you have never been alone.

He is your strength when yours is nothing—He is your guide, when your sight sees nothing. He is your hope, when hope seems like nothing.

Grace is awakening to the hug God has always had around you—a Grace that nothing can remove.

So, in a world of everything, I am so thankful for nothing.

Absolutely… nothing.

For in the nothing, I find everything for which to be thankful…

Nothing.

 

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.

I’m Sorry Church, My Hope Is Gone

I’m done.

It doesn’t matter what flavor—conservative, progressive, or something in between.

I wish it were different, I wish it wasn’t true.

I’m taking the card out of the deck.

Not playing, not going to be played any longer.

This is where I exit.

My need for you has healed, my trust in you has been educated, my respect for you has opened its eyes.

I’m sorry church, my hope in you is gone. And I’m thinking, this time, it’s gone for good.

It’s not that I ever worshipped you or let you take the place of Jesus. Stupid me, I just believed that “church” could truly be a place or a people where loving well is the highest value and exercised commodity. Yet, as inclusive, loving, and accepting as even the most beautiful ecclesial wrapping paper may appear, underneath, there is always a lurking spirit of Empire building at the heart, overshadowing all the good people. Slice it, dice it, cut it wide open—at the core, I’m sorry, I’ve tasted and seen, and it isn’t good.

I deeply wish my experiences proved otherwise, I wish I could come to another conclusion. I’ve tried—even after all we have been through, I’ve held out hope. But I can’t turn off what plays out right in front of me over and over again. What we have in so much of American Christianity is beyond simple human error, imperfection, or oversight, but a callous lust for personal gain and all the blatant disregard for people and integrity that comes with it.

Who has the fanciest facilities, the latest technology, the most inspiring worship, the best sermons, the slickest branding, the most followers, the highest attendance, the greatest programs, the fastest growth, the largest book sales, the most podcast downloads, the most speaking engagements, the coolest look, the best theology, the purest doctrine, the strongest scholarship, the most attended events, the highest influence.  

                                                                                                                           

Church is big business—progressive or conservative.

Sadly, its darkened fruits dangle clearly in the wind, for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

We have become experts at gathering in exclusive tribes with shared creeds as the inside handshake. Cool pastors lunch tables where few are ever allowed or invited. Ideological forts where conformity is the bridge to the door and the key to enter in. Celebrity leaders dressed in the latest fashions with polished appearances and presentations to impress and entice the masses. Little pink spiritual houses for you and me, as far as the eye can see.

No real place for the misfit or the in between. The prophet, the questioner, or the one lagging behind. No bigger tables, just bigger egos wrapped in inclusive spirituality and sprinkled with unconditional love glitter. Looks so good on the outside, but tastes of death in the middle. There is always something more at stake, a deeper lure underneath, than loving simply to love, and that being enough–period, end of sentence and sum of aspiration.

Perhaps it really is true, there is nothing new underneath the sun. All is meaningless, especially what church has become, conservative or progressive.  

Good men, women, and children rarely win, even within, of all things… church. Instead, to survive and stay the course, your hands must become callous, your heart quickly attuned to self, your ears oblivious to honesty, and your mind unshakably focused on more, better, and further. These are often the drugs one must take, the humanity within that must be turned off, and the integrity that must be subdued to survive and participate.  

“But not my church” is the pre-prescribed opioid that keeps things from ever getting better. Surely, not that blogger, not that pastor, not that speaker, not that author, not the group, not that leader, not the person in the mirror.

The bar my family attends for food and drink, the cubicles in which I work to live and breathe, the nature in which I roam, the secular in which I live, all are far more spiritual, holy, and pure, at least for me.  

I’ve cursed you, spit at you, praised you, believed in you, and died a thousand deaths for you. But now, as I follow Jesus towards the anew He is creating of me, I must leave you as I acknowledge the lamp going out deep inside of me, not because darkness has won the day, but because Dawn has come and awakened my entire being.

Today, I resign from being a guinea pig in the emotional and spiritual slaughter house of gaslighting Empire Christianity.

It’s all yours—take it, have it. 

I’m done. Never coming back. Never looking back. 

I’m sorry church, my hope is gone, because my life is finally beginning. 

I’m breathing for the first time, and with all due respect and love, it’s oh so good.

 

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 Supporting Christian, Where The Hell Is Your Rage?

(Cover Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

I really want to know.

You say you love Jesus, trust the Bible, and faith is the most important thing in your life.

You want me to believe that you are in divine harmony with the heart of God and aspire nothing less than to reflect Him throughout every area of your living.

You tenaciously use the Bible and its verses to give justification and foundation for your every move, belief, and desire.

The bumper stickers, coffee table books, memes on Facebook, and the pictures covering your walls, all seem to point to one who is most certainly, “sold out” for Jesus.

Surely, you are familiar with the clear communication of the Bible as to God’s special love and value of children.

Surely, you are equally in tune with the many verses that demand our unconditional hospitality and sacrificial service to foreigners, immigrants, and the like.

Surely, you are not ignorant of the resounding biblical denouncement of leadership characterized by greed, lust, dishonesty, bullying, and self-centeredness.

Surely, you are more than familiar with the nonviolent example of Jesus and His willingness to confront religious oppression and stand in solidarity with the least of these, especially those who are deemed, “sinners.”

So, with all due respect, as surely as all of this is at the forefront of your faith, I surely want to know…

Where the hell is your rage?

You’re not blind, you’re not ignorant, and you’re not incapable of discernment. No, in fact, you are fully accountable and fully responsible. Every week, you see President Trump display clear and blatant traits that are not only grossly unbecoming of basic moral leadership, but nothing even close to that of a Christian—much the opposite.

Where is your rage?

You certainly aren’t afraid to name the names of those you believe to be errant and sinning against your Creator. Sermon after sermon, article after article, interview after interview, all point specifically to those you believe to be living counter to the ways of God with stern warnings against admiring or supporting them. Yet, when has President Trump ever been a subject on that list?

I ask you, where is your rage?

You have eyes to see innocent children being tear-gassed at our borders through the calculated permission of President Trump and his administration. You hear the broad labeling of human beings seeking asylum as “gangsters,” “rapists,” “criminals,” and “animals.”

With your clothes still freshly smelling with the scent of the church pew from which you raised your hands in praise of the immigrant Jesus, how could this ever become justifiable for you? How many “last straws” does it take to finally draw out any humaneness that might somehow still remain in your faith?

For Christ’s sake, where is your rage?

Why aren’t you frantically loading up your church vans, setting up youth bake sales, and leveraging every “mission” dollar you can commandeer to get your “sold out” self to that border and defend the most vulnerable? I mean, you don’t seem to have any problem sending them shoeboxes at Christmas when they’re miles away and no real threat to your privilege or the cleanliness of your sanctuary carpeting. But all of a sudden, when they show up at your Inn, spraying them with toxic chemicals becomes your best idea?

Why aren’t you demanding that Trump and his administration stop condemning and marginalizing those whom Christ demands we give special aid, service, and sanctuary?

No, don’t even take one step towards trying to convince me that you don’t like it nor support it, all while you refuse to engage your voice with shouts in fierce defiance. I’m not buying it one bit.

In fact, I’m going to ask you again, where the hell is your rage?

Show me.

You say you want America to be filled with Jesus, but seem to have no problem with policies that keep the poor at arms length. You say you want America to be filled with Jesus, but seem to have no problem with a president who desperately wants to keep minorities and immigrants from threatening white power and privilege. You say you want America to be filled with Jesus, but support a president who wants to erase those you deem to be deplorable, just because, in your mind, they sin differently than you.

Do you not see the duplicity into which you have been deceived?

For heaven’s sake, where is your rage?

You see the very people Jesus died for, being crucified. You see the very children Jesus drew up into his arms and sat upon his lap, being denied, denounced, deported, and demonized. You see the very people Jesus bent over backwards to feed, being starved and left to hunger. You see the very people Jesus baptized in Grace, being soaked with chemicals. You see the very people Jesus wrote with divine penmanship into the fabric of all creation, being condemned, marginalized, abused, and erased. You see the ways of Jesus being nothing less than stomped upon, twisted, and raped by the people who claim to know Him best.

And yet, at most, your lips can only muster a whisper, but largely, remain oh so eerily silent.

And so, I ask you.

Holy crap, where the hell is your rage?   

Sadly, I think I know.  

It’s buried deep underneath your white, male, heterosexual, conservative Christian privilege—the true god of your worship.

That’s why he’s president. That’s why you support. That’s why you fashion the hat. That’s why you rationalize. That’s why you entertain darkness as Light. That’s why you’re numb and refuse to engage. That’s why there is no rage.

And, that’s why Jesus weeps and vomits out your tepid faith.  

For hear me and countless others, and hear us well.

Until we see your rage, we only see your evil idolatry of self.

As we all wonder, along with Jesus, perhaps, that’s all there is.

 

Grace is brave. Be brave

 

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

There is no greater evil being wielded upon the planet than Conservative Evangelicalism, and Chris Kratzer’s life and ministry journey are undeniable proof. In Leatherbound Terrorism, Chris tells of his 21 years as a conservative Evangelical pastor and the radical change of heart and mind that led him to walk away from it all. With a new sense of faith centered on Jesus and His pure Gospel of Grace, 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.

If Today, Your Heart Breaks And Your Hope Is Fading

There is perhaps no heavier and more gruesome weight to bear than to be a person living under the oppression of another.

Good people with worthy causes never seek nor require the submission or subservience of a fellow human being. Rather, only the heart captivated by the evils of privilege, power, and greed would ever connect its mind and actions to that which desires to rule and control.

Sadly, spiritually justified and inflamed by conservative Evangelicalism, we now live in a culture where white, male, heterosexual, conservative Christian privilege is clawing and scrapping for dominance. A dominance that is apparently willing to adopt nearly every form of oppression and abuse to accomplish and secure its aspirations. Emboldened by the lusts of entitlement, the good-ole-boys club that has become of much of right-wing Christianity now licks its chops at every opportunity to push their sexist, racist, self-serving, duplicit, and bigoted ideology onto the center stage of America.

What started with the rape and murder of the American Indian and the brutal slavery of black people, has now poured over into the condemnation of the LGBTQ community, the abhorrent discrimination of women, and the ruthless exploitation of the least-of-these. It is becoming all too clear, as history reveals their blood ladened trail, that conservative Evangelicalism in America will seek, kill, and destroy anything that presents a threat to their power and privilege. No woman, no minority, no disagreer, no individual, and no free thinking freedom-lover is safe.

In fact, now like never before, at the hands of much of conservative Evangelicalism, women are openly and permissively seen and treated as objects of male, sexual gratification and service, the LGBTQ community is openly and permissively seen and treated as divinely declared abominations, minorities are openly and permissively seen and treated as inherently inferior, and non-believers and non-conformers are carefully marked as the enemy. Indeed, the horrific realities portrayed in the popular television show, “The Handmaid’s Tale” are what life truly looks like if conservative Evangelicalism gets its way. Sadly, there are no exaggerations.

To that end, with every headline it seems we are frightfully moving closer to the evil, dystopian dreams of right-wing Christian conservatism. And now, with the recent, deplorable, and national mocking of Christine Blasey Ford, the belittling of female sexual assault survivors, and the rushed and manipulated confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it’s enough to make ones heart sick and hopes surrender to the darkness.

For sure, these are terrible, frightening times that we live in as an evil Empire rises and breathes its fire from white privileged steeples everywhere.

Yet today, if your heart breaks and your hope is fading, there is good news that comes forth from our shared misery.

For out of the ashes of our disdain, you can be well assured…

Your Soul Is Calibrated To The Divine- Though, at times, it may feel much the opposite, there is nothing wrong with you—I promise, and I repeat, there is nothing wrong with you. Your disgust, as you gaze upon the nation and people we are becoming at the hands of right-wing religiosity, is not a sign of illness nor insanity, but rather, a sure declaration of beautiful health and clarity. With every prompting swelling up from within to vomit in dismay, the goodness of your heart is ringing true with divine confirmation. For this you must know, God also hates so much of what our nation has been and is now aspiring to further become. With every moment of brutal injustice, discrimination, condemnation, greed, violence, and the religious rape of Jesus and His Gospel of Grace, a soul calibrated to the divine cannot help but to become enraged. In times like this, it’s a painful thing to have a heart in sync with the Creator. Yet, this is the bravery that is needed for these important hours. A bravery of heart willing to endure the burden of being good and of God in a bad world of evil.    

You Are Further Awakening To The Darkness- Every time a woman opens her eyes and sees the sexism she once believed was her God-given role in life as now being abusive and contrary to the heart of God, a human being awakens to the darkness. Every time a white man or woman acknowledges their inherent privilege and falls to their knees in repentance for their ignorance and callousness, a human being awakens to the darkness. Every time our hearts mourn all the more deeply in witness of the manifestation of religious greed, injustice, and oppression, we are further awakening to the darkness. In these times, to have a heart filled with brokenness and a soul standing at the edge of hopelessness is to be a human being further awakened to the darkness that would devour us. And in this awakening to the darkness, we are further embracing the Light, knowing the difference that we might finally enter the fight instead of becoming its victim.  

Resistance Is Its Own Victory- No heart that collides with the person of Jesus can avoid the call to resist the ever reaching venomous tentacles of the conservative Evangelical Empire. For it is our good responsibility and highest honor to stand in solidarity with the least-of-these and to never surrender the values of Grace, unconditional love, equality, truth, justice, freedom, and divine affirmation for all. Not because we are superior, but because our redemptions our mutually intertwined. We are brothers and sisters—none of us better, only different. In our willingness to unravel from the fetal position of despair and stand tall in our commitment to resist, we break the cycles into which the enemy would have us forever seduced. Resistance is the refusal to allow evil to be done against another, and the refusal to become the evil done against us. In so doing, we have already won—breaking the chains, unleashing our hearts, partnering with the Divine, and standing on the right side of history. This, is its own victory.

Change Is A Vote Away- In the end, grab ‘em by the ballot box, I say. Not just in the elections, but in all of life. Decide to be a person of true equality where many will discriminate and cling to privilege. Choose to be a person who speaks out where others remain silent. Embody the bravery to stand in solidarity where others shrink back into the shadows. Take hold of the moments to be the nonviolent change you desire to see.

Every day we cast our vote.

When facing that bigoted family member with whom we fear their rejection or the awkwardness that would surely ensue. In the words of LGBTQ affirmation we so desperately want to type into our Facebook status, cringing in panic at the relational dominoes that might soon tumble down. In the store where the person standing in front of us is being discriminated, and yet everyone remains unengaged. In the workplace where closed door sexism runs rampant, yet a call to HR would jeopardize everything. In church, where deep down inside you know better, but the cost of resistance, free thinking, and charting a new course comes with a price seemingly too high to pay.

Every day, in every moment, we cast our vote.

Yet today, if your heart truly breaks and your hope is truly fading, may this be the day your bravery becomes more powerful than the Oppressor and the oppression they hope to bring, that our future might not become the sum of our fears, nor the result of yielding to them.

Be like Blasey.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

 

Purchase Chris Kratzer’s new book, Leatherbound Terrorism…

Conservative Evangelical Christianity, Tell Me, What Am I Supposed To Do?

We’re not face to face, so these words must serve the hope of connecting my heart to yours.

There’s a lot I really want to say, and even more that I hope you will hear.

Yes, I’ve changed—nearly everything about me. I know that can be a hard pill to swallow, especially the way our spiritual paths seem to be diverging, and at times, causing great tension between us. I’m a different person now, having traveled a complete one-eighty in beliefs, values, faith, heart, and my sense of self and purpose. I understand where this onset of change is met by the glares of your disapproval and anxiety. Perhaps to you, it feels like it’s happened overnight, but I can assure you, it’s been a long time coming.

Regardless, the truth is, I’ve stepped away and outside of the conservative Evangelical faith I once held so closely. My mind has been changed and my heart has outgrown the beliefs to which I once subscribed—not in some kind of arrogant way that renders me better than you, only different.

It’s all very concerning and perhaps even offensive to you—I understand.

But, with all due respect and love, please tell me, what am I supposed to do?

What am I supposed to do when everything you taught me to be true and life-giving simply doesn’t work? Being the best person I could be for Jesus was my ultimate goal—just like you wanted. I tried, I really did—praying, studying, worshipping, serving, giving—checking off every item on the list.

Yet, as much as I don’t want to disappoint you, there was this moment where I came to the edge of all that you had poured into my life. It was there that I took an honest look into the mirror and engaged in a thorough evaluation of my long-held beliefs. In that pivotal moment of clarity, I was confronted and collided with the undeniable reality, none of it was working—at least, not for me.

In fact, when I pulled back the curtains, a startling phenomenon appeared. Please don’t take this as being hurtful, demeaning, or lacking respect, but I can’t deny what my eyes were seeing. Everyone was faking it just like me—not because we wanted to, but because truth be told, that’s the best one can do while on the religious treadmill of conservative Evangelical Christianity. I know that’s hard to hear, but it is—reality.

All the formulas for prayer—didn’t work. All the steps for overcoming sin through behavior management—didn’t work. All the attempts to press harder into Jesus and lift Him higher—didn’t work. All the inspired teachings on growing the garden of my spiritual fruits—didn’t work. All the verses memorized, recited, declared, displayed, and prayed over—didn’t work. All the increased commitments to church, cultivating my relationship with Jesus, and becoming a promise-keeping man of God and spiritual leader of my home—didn’t work.

Not only did it not work, but it all left me exhausted, discouraged, empty, ashamed, and feeling even more distant from Jesus and the people He desires for me to love. At first I thought, surely the problem is with me, I must be doing it wrong somehow. Now, I’m not so convinced. In fact, not at all.

With all due love and respect, when nearly everything you taught me about the Christian life and growing spiritually erodes me into a phony, self-righteous, faking-it-to-make-it kind of person, tell me, what am I supposed to do?

What am I supposed to do when your spiritual prescriptions seem to bring far more death than life? I’ll never forget the moment, it was like no other. Face to face with a living and breathing human being who was desperately seeking hope and life, I sought to be the good and faithful Evangelical, taking everything that you taught me to be true and life-giving and apply it (verse by verse and line by line) into this broken, sin-labelled, religious oppressed person sitting right in front of me.

She had been brutally condemned by nearly every person and spiritual entity in her life, and was grasping at my counsel for one last ray of hope. Yet, with every conservative Evangelical prescription and pre-packaged talking point that vomited off my lips, it all fell flat and reeked of death, leaving this beautiful person all the more closer to giving up as the fading light behind her eyes was now all but snuffed out. What was “biblical” in your eyes brought death to hers.

In a way like never before, the alarms went off inside of me, “something is seriously wrong, and I just can’t do it anymore.” I mean no disrespect in saying so, but this whole, “hate the sin, love the sinner” crap is nothing like Jesus. Broken people didn’t cringe at His presence and leave defeated, instead they clinged to His every being and walked away with affirmation, freedom, and unstoppable courage. I know this will be met with your displeasure and even disagreement, but the cat was out of the bag and I could no longer deny it—the more of a conservative Evangelical I became, the less Jesus I portrayed. I’m sorry, when enough is enough is enough—tell me, what am I supposed to do?

When the fruits of being a conservative Evangelical leave broken people more broken, loved people feeling less loved, and Jesus curled up in the corner crying in disgust at the judging, condemning, pretentious people we have become, tell me, what am I supposed to do?

What am I supposed to do when most everything about conservative Evangelical Christianity turns out to be one big scheme? As hard as it is to say, and perhaps even harder to hear, there is no denying the conservative Evangelical fruit dangling off the tree. I’ve tasted and seen—and so much of it, it’s not good. Look around, just open your eyes to see.

It’s not about Jesus, it’s about power. It’s not about Jesus, it’s about personal ministry empire building and fame. It’s not about Jesus, it’s about million dollar state-of-the-art worship auditoriums carefully staged with tattooed skinny-jean wearing song leaders. It’s not about Jesus, it’s about the commercialism and franchising of His name. It’s not about Jesus, it’s about a false gospel of conditions, to-do lists, sin-management, spiritual performance, and a self-righteousness that seeks to leverage control by keeping people fearfully addicted to the cancer not the cure. It’s not about Jesus, it’s about spiritually policing the world, looking for ways to lift the sins of others above the weight of our own in order to justify hate, discrimination, judgement, and the condemnation of others. It’s not about Jesus, it’s about white male heterosexual privilege and perpetuating the conservative Evangelical Death Star that seeks dominance in every sector of society. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but with every bite deeper into the fruit of conservative Evangelical Christianity, it all becomes blatantly clear—it’s not about Jesus, and truth be told, it never really has been and probably never will.

When countless LGBTQ people are bullied, driven to depression and suicide, mocked, marginalized, and rendered as sinful abominations who need to repent, or else. When women are treated as second class citizens and a lesser vessel best suited for the kitchen, church nursery, secretarial services, sexual exploitation, and lower wages. When global warming, genuine scientific discovery, and the consideration of fresh biblical understandings of Scripture are eagerly dismissed in exchange for greed, a 6,000 year old earth, and the spiritual justification of condemnation. When homosexuality is vehemently demonized and labeled a sin despite sound biblical scholarship that refutes such claims, yet racism, supremacy, gluttony, duplicity, discrimination, greed, violence, xenophobia, and nationalism are met with ambivalence and a deaf ear. When countless conservative Evangelicals elect and continue to support a pussy-grabbing, racist, greedy, childish, adulterous, vulgar, inflammatory, discriminating, bullying, and war-driven President, please tell me, what the hell am I supposed to do?

There is no denying, your heart is good and your intentions are noble. There is no denying, good and great things have come from you and your ways of believing. Yet, when nearly everything about becoming more aligned to your creeds, attitudes, and actions results in a serious downgrade in my life where with virtually every moment I become less like Jesus, increasingly imprisoned to sin, and further nose-blinded to the stench of true evil, what am I supposed to do?

If I’m honest, I would rather hang on a torturous cross fit for the worst of criminals than continue to hang out in an evil system that, in my personal opinion and experience, has ransacked Jesus and morphed Him into a conservative Evangelical tyrant whose yoke is heavy with self-righteousness, condemnation, fear, arrogance, greed, and all things religious.

With all due respect, love, and appreciation, until I see conservative Evangelical Christianity acknowledging its catastrophic fall from Grace. Until I hear the sounds of its repenting becoming louder than the rationalization of its sins. Until I witness the full-force pursuit of conservative Christianity cleaning up its own act while ceasing and desisting from bullying and condemning others. Until I see churches jettison their spiritual club mentalities, fat budgets, and judgmental stances against the world. Until I see pastors fully reject the allure and onset of ministry fame and fortune. Until I see the LGBTQ community being extravagantly served with unconditional love, listening, protection, and true humility—putting their rights and needs above our own. Until I see ministries value and declare women as being fully equal in all things with unrestrained enthusiasm. Until I see conservative Christianity leading the way in thwarting racism, supremacy, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, violence, war, discrimination, and bullying. Until I see a faith that doesn’t encourage me to turn my brain off, reject science, require my wife’s submission, and ask me to pre-qualify people for love. Until I see the ways of Jesus becoming the ways of the conservative Evangelical faith understanding, what am I supposed to do?

Perhaps you’d like to me to sit down and shut up. Perhaps you’d like me to walk it all back and beg for your forgiveness. Perhaps you’d like me to yield to your tone-policing and soften my directness. Perhaps you’d like me to retreat into the land of silence, apathy, and self-preservation. I will not, and in the presence of evil, I cannot. Grace has made it so with a bravery that will not be contained—what am I supposed to do? For He alone has the words and ways of true Life.

I want you to know, it’s never been about a loss of love, I promise—at least not for me. There’s a special place deep within where cherished memories of our togetherness reside, and I suspect they always will. I wish things were different, but sadly they aren’t. We are all human, seeking the heart of Jesus. Which is why I pray you will know for sure, none of this has been easy—not one bit.

Yet, conservative Evangelical Christianity, tell me, what am I supposed to do when my heart has been so confronted and collided by Grace, love, and Jesus that I just can’t believe in you, as you, and be you anymore?

Not because I’m better than you, but because Jesus is so much better than this.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

A Pastor’s Desperate Plea To Justin Bieber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for listening.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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.

I’m Sorry Conservative Christianity, I Just Can’t Do It Anymore

There was a time, I tried.

I wanted to fit in, to be a shining star of conservative faithfulness lighting up dark skies. The dream of being successful for Jesus and gaining the gleam of His eye seemed like the apex of all pursuits. I could feel good about myself as I strapped in and revved the engines of the Monster Truck named “Conservatism,” enjoying a kind of favor that positioned me above a world of sin-obstacles and rebellious human traffic—it was perfect. With conservative Christianity there was a stage upon which to spiritually perform, a pre-defined system of belief to simply absorb and plug in, and a self-validating mission to assimilate everyone and anyone who would listen and buy in. It was all so cut and dry—a faith that was calculable, concrete, and clear in defining who was in and who was out, who was faithful and who was not, and who was right and who was wrong.

Yet now, things have changed—I would say, much for the better. A revelation welling up from my soul of a different way of believing and living has shown itself to be an unstoppable force. I can’t deny the air that I am breathing for the first time and the life it is giving—Grace has awakened me. No, it doesn’t all add up in my mind like ducks marching in a row, but it doesn’t have to when it’s all adding up in my heart and soul.

It’s not that I don’t love you anymore—I do. It’s not that I don’t accept you without conditions—I do. It’s not that I don’t believe you are filled with good intention and tremendous God-adorned worth and value—I do.

I’m sorry conservative Christianity, the bottom line is this— I just can’t do it anymore.

I Can’t See People As Being Inherently Evil And Lost- I’ve come to learn that Grace is the great equalizer—none of us are better, only different. That’s why the religious conservatives sought to kill Jesus and this, His message. When we are all equal before heaven, there can be no controlling, condemning, and fear-driven coercing. We are all loved and accepted equally by the Father—all of us in Christ from the very beginning. Faith is merely awakening to all that has already been given—Grace. People are good, whether they believe incorrectly or behave differently. This is the way Jesus sees all creation, the entire expanse of humanity—I just want to live my life seeing people the way He does.

I Can’t Support A Consumer Driven Christianity- For all the books, buildings, blogs, branding, conferences, concerts, movies, ministries, jewelry, t-shirts, stage-lighting, bumper-stickers, worship bands, cheesy comic-sans font-ladened Facebook memes, and church groups and activities, who have we become? I dare say, not nearly as sacrificial, serving, and loving as we are consumer-driven in our faith. In fact, the greatest passion inducer in many churches is sadly the conflicts that center around the style of worship. Nobody prays harder, studies the Bible more, and gets more involved than a Christian who is trying to assert and defend their personal preferences in church. From what I’m learning, the way of Jesus was sacrifice, not spiritual self-absorption—I just want to live my faith in a way that gives and contributes, not consumes with a rampant kind of spiritual appetite bordering on addiction.

I Can’t Live With One Eye Open In Fear Of A Bipolar Deity- The Spirit of Jesus within me has convinced my heart, God is love—wholly, completely, and purely. He has nothing but affection for me and every human being. No condemnation, no punishment, no desire for revenge—He perfectly loves me with perfect consistency. All this fiery talk about hell, wrath, judgement, and God’s discipline—it’s not only all highly debatable and open to be differently interpreted, but all silenced at the foot of the cross. Captured by Jesus who adores humanity without limit or restriction, I refuse to live my life fearing, doubting, and in a constant state of paranoia of a conservatively-imaged god who could love me one moment and cast me into hell the next, simply because I don’t love Him back in precisely all the right “conservative” ways. I just want to live my life seeing God through the lens of Jesus—perfecting me on the cross and perfectly loving me without conditions for eternity. God is for me, whom shall I fear?

I Can’t Ask My Wife To Submit To Me- My soul tires of being summoned to dismiss women as lesser and inferior human beings by a male-driven conservative Christianity that  seems insistent on their sexist way of contextualizing and interpreting the Apostle Paul and his teachings. My wife and I are a team on completely equal footing—for that’s what it means to be one flesh. Jesus speaks, equips, calls and empowers her in all the same ways He does with me—her potential in life, church, family, and ministry is no less than mine. She can do anything and everything with complete freedom in Christ. She is not weaker, less capable of leading, nor deserving of anything unequal because of her gender. I just want to live my life seeing my wife and all women as Jesus does—completely, thoroughly, and unequivocally equal in all things—period, full stop.

I Can’t Deny The Validity of Science- Forcing a literal biblical understanding upon every aspect of an entire world view, to me, is no longer honest nor embracing wisdom. Demanding that the earth has an age of merely 6,000 years, evolution is fake news, and global warming is a myth, is to create a war of intellect, science, and common sense where there need not be. In both matters of the spiritual and scientific, our human capacity to fully comprehend, define, and know for certain is highly limited. Our faith would do well to simply conclude what is truly most important—God created and creates. I just want to live my life with my brain turned on to the awareness that scientific discovery and spiritual revelation don’t have to be enemies, but are important threads that are actually woven together in the great divine tapestry of life. God is neither threatened, separate, nor necessarily contradictory to science and its discoveries—therefore, neither will I be.  

I Can’t Turn Off My Brain, Deny My Individuality, And Freeze Dry My Beliefs- I’m on a spiritual journey, not a destination. God gave me a brain with common sense and a conscience. I’m convinced that God’s desire isn’t that I land in a cold existence of conformity to a certain set of approved beliefs, but that I’m always growing in my awakening to His Grace—forever fluid to where that might take me emotionally, spiritually, physically, and confessionally. Jesus created me as a complicated, unique, divinely loaded individual that should resist all human-born labels that would seek to limit, control, own, cage, or define me. Where conservative Christianity largely desires to assimilate and mold me, I just want to live my life enjoying the freedom for which Jesus freed me.

I Can’t Believe The Bible Is Perfect- Grace has convinced me, nothing and no one is perfect but Jesus. He is the only Word of God, everything else is human words about God. Yes, they can be deemed as inspired, but never infallible—for aren’t we all inspired by God anyways, with a story to tell and perspectives along the way? For how can you not be—He is all and in all things. Inspiration never guarantees accuracy. I’m tired of reducing the Bible to a playbook for living, debate winning, and lording over my disagreers and those conservative Christianity deems to be sinning. I just want to live my life captivated by the mystery, experiences, and faith stories God uses in Scripture to lead me into a personal, life long, and ever expanding encounter with Jesus—progressively awakening to Him who is Grace.

I Can’t Compete With You And Your “Sold Out” Family– With all the ways you say you are so “blessed,” the religious art and nicknacks decorating your house, and the sheer height of your hands lifted up in worship, I simply can’t keep up. For all the times you commit to people, “I’ll be praying for you,” I wonder how you have time for nearly anything else. The never ending litany of Facebook pictures of your highlighted Bible next to a coffee cup, scripture quoting memes, and subtly self-congratulating celebrations of faithfulness, I have a hard time resisting the conclusion that there must be something wrong with me. You’ve got it going on with Jesus in so many ways I simply don’t and can’t. As much as it all seems so impressive, I just want to live my life outside the pressure and lifting up of all that—stuff. You will always be more spiritual and faithful than me. I’m  finally learning to enjoy the joy that comes from being completely at peace with that.

I Can’t Love People Conditionally- It takes so much work, judgement, reservation, and energy. Who is deserving, who is not? How much is too much, or just right? What’s the perfect mix of conditions, clauses, and confronting? Where does one even begin in mixing a perfect love-with-conditions cocktail? When have they changed, repented, believed, and behaved enough to unlock the door to love or at least let them peek in? The truth is, Grace has shown me, that’s not how Jesus loves me, nor anyone that has ever been or ever will be. In fact, He loves without restraint, conditions, restrictions, or fine print. I just want to live my life with the “love conditions” radar screen turned off, knowing and trusting my purpose and scope is to love people unconditionally and let God untangle the rest. And if I error, I will boldly approach the throne of God having loved too much, if that ever could be a thing.

I Can’t Condemn The LGBTQ Community- There is perhaps nothing that has become more clear to me than the sure reality that the “clear teachings of the Bible” aren’t clear at all. I can’t ignore the real stories and journeys of the LGBTQ community, and the truth they bring to the table. I can’t deny the faithful scholarship of Bible-loving, truth-seeking, Jesus-loving, and unbiased scholars who find no other alternative but to conclude that the Bible is actually affirming of LGBTQ people—as I do. I can’t condemn where there isn’t certain certainty, but rather, the sure potential that conservative Christianity could very well be completely wrong. With an undeniable history of wrongfully judging, disapproving, and damning things later proven to be benign and even divine, I am learning to never lean on a conservative Christian understanding. I just want to live my life outside of the condemning, discriminating, and sin-labeling mantra of conservative Christianity that shoots first and consults Jesus later—if at all.

I Can’t Embrace A Gospel That Is For Me, No Gospel At All- I’ve tasted and seen that God is pure Love and Jesus is all Grace, and now my soul won’t let me consume nor settle for anything less—for to do so would be a blasphemy against the Spirit and His work in me. I believe the Apostle Paul was centered onto divine truth when He charged that a Gospel mixed with any level of Law, conditions, or human performance is in fact, no Gospel at all—even to a level of being accursed. I take sin so seriously that it is my deep confession and personal experience that no one can master, manage, nor overcome it but Jesus, who is Grace. It is the Grace of God that empowers, teaches, and inspires us to divine change and right living—nothing else can or will. The conservative Christian gospel filled with “to do” steps, conditions, rule-keeping, fear-living, and hell-requiring is to me, no Gospel at all, but rather a sure ministry of death. I just want to live my life truly living because my heart has been overcome and irrevocably endeared to a Gospel that is nothing but Grace, life at its very best, and pure freedom.

It’s not that I don’t love you anymore—I do. It’s not that I don’t accept you without conditions—I do. It’s not that I don’t believe you are filled with good intention and tremendous God-adorned worth and value—I do.

I’m sorry conservative Christianity, I just can’t do it anymore.

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.

A Letter From An Aborted Child To Their Mom

Dear Mom,

I know what you’re thinking, how can “I” possibly be speaking?

Everything has a voice.

Every cell in your body has a voice—a memory.

You think of me. Moments, thoughts, feelings, uncertainties, dreams, indecision, the unexpected—I will always be with you.

That’s a voice.

Maybe you didn’t hear me then—lots of distractions, pressures, decisions, competing voices. I understand, but perhaps you would hear me now.

A person is never the sum of a moment or period in their life—they are eternal.

A time, a stage, a segment of their life does not define them or whether they are in fact a “them.” The moment your egg and my father’s sperm united, eternity spoke its creative evaluation and decision that I am a person. Besides, there is no other outcome that orchestration signifies nor grows. Somehow, someway, God or no God, intended or not, positive or negative, the cosmos was aligned to bring me to be, a human. Not as an intention, or a future formation, even if just an egg and sperm together, I have always been a person. That whole conception thing may have been my beginning, but every person has a beginning that does not make them any less a person from the beginning. I was not a “leading to life,” but life from the beginning.

All of this is to say—mom, you have a child, it’s me.

I’m still alive. Both in you, as a memory, and in heaven as a person, for eternity.

You have a child. It’s me. I’m speaking.

Mom, please listen—please.

I want you to know, I understand. Maybe you feel deep regret, maybe it was a confusing time, maybe you didn’t care at all. I understand—life is so complicated.

Yes, I think about what could have been, as probably you do as well. It’s sad, it’s painful, it’s hard—but, I am alive.

I still have a voice.

I want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you that our eyes will meet one day. I can’t wait to wrap my arms around you, I practice for that moment with great anticipation.

I’m not angry with you, I don’t hold anything against you. In fact, Jesus and I have talked, and we both take great delight in you. Besides, on earth, who knows the mistakes I would have surely made, too many to count—reaching out for your patience, forgiveness, and long-suffering. Mom, I have nothing but love for you.

You are not less to me, you always have been more. It’s not about what could have been—it’s about what is, what can, and will be.

Mom, you have so much still to give, to share. You are so beautiful, especially to me.

I pray, in some way, my voice can speak through your voice.

Perhaps in that way, even now, we can be mother and child, together.

A voice of healing.

A voice of hope.

A voice, leading to better understanding.

A voice of clarity within the complexity.

A voice that speaks, from what at first was thought to have no speak.

I love you mom—always have, always will.

I am so proud of you—that you are my mom, always and forever.

I hope you hear me.

Love,

Me

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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