Tag: living

The Conservative Christianity That Is Killing You

Sometimes in life, we don’t realize the things silently destroying us from within—false beliefs we have long held to be true, misplaced values we have long embraced as being invaluable. As humans, we can be so attracted to the path of least resistance that we become willing to reject the kind of positive change that would free us from our prisons. To think that we could be wrong, misled, or have wasted our lives on things found to be untrue or uncertain is a daunting proposition of regret we’d just as soon put to death, even if it means resigning ourselves to a life holding fast to the lies.

For years, as an Evangelical pastor, conservative Christianity was gutting me from the inside out, stealing the very life it promised to give. I thought I was breathing the ultimate way of living only to realize I wasn’t breathing at all. Sadly, nothing would have changed had I not been confronted by the pure Gospel of God’s Grace and awakened to the heights from which I had fallen.

In fact, if you hold to the beliefs I once did, you are determined that outside of your conservative, Evangelical way of thinking and believing, there is no other way, no other truth, and no other life. For some, even as you watch your marriage erode, your children suffer the rejection and abandonment of your condemnation, your faith-performance fall short, your hypocrisy grow, and your hate and intolerance overtake you, nothing will loosen the grip you have upon your conservative faith understanding. Even as we speak, your fingers are twitching and your mind is rushing ahead to the bullets you’ll fire in the comment section of this post. You have it all lined up and justified in your mind and heart, along with the biblical passages and interpretations to build your defense.

Yet, little do you know, the conservative Christianity that is killing you. Perhaps you would do best to ask your spouse—even better, to question your children. Ask your enemies, those you deem to be sinning, or with whom you disagree. Ask the females, the minorities, the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender people among you, or perhaps just ask the less fortunate.

If they are honest and objective, they will tell you the dark, diabolical tale of what conservative Christianity has truly done to you.

But if not them, maybe, just maybe, your conscience has been speaking, crying out to be heard. Deep down you sense something isn’t quite adding up, there are pieces all together missing. You quickly subdue the tensions in your soul, the questions that tremble below, and cue the rationalizations. Yet, now is as good a time as any to give way to honesty and awaken to the truth that is so desperately trying to set your free—conservative Christianity is killing you.

It’s Killing Your Inner Peace and Joy– For how can you have any peace when so many things in your conservative faith-understanding are deemed to be unresolved? Your eternity, your closeness with God, your divine acceptance, your faith status—unresolved, unresolved, unresolved. One day you’re close with God, the next you aren’t. One day you’re eternally secure, the next day you’re not. One day your life enjoys the gleam of God’s favor, approval, and acceptance, the next day, it doesn’t. How can there be any peace when so much of your faith and spiritual life hinges upon you, your capacity to believe, believe correctly, and spiritually perform? Nothing is ever settled or certain even if you are convinced you’ve measured up. For it’s impossible to know for sure when your good has been good enough. Maybe there is something God sees that you’ve tragically missed.

In front of the mirror of conservative Christianity, all one can do is pretend, medicate their fears and doubts with self-righteousness, and live a life of angst with one eye open, as even our best days will always fall short of a God who suspiciously gazes upon us through the eyes of an incomplete score card.

And so I ask, with all due respect—where is the joy in pretending? Where is the peace in always having an endless, ever growing list of things one must do, become, and overcome that are in fact impossible to ever satisfy? The spiritual gymnastics required to fool yourself and others into believing you are truly happy and fulfilled are daunting in number and surely a hell-on-earth way of living.

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the real faith-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “peace” nor “joy,” it would be—never ending, unresolved PRESSURE.

It’s Killing Your Relationships- For how many miles of emotional and spiritual distance have you carved into your relationships with people because your conservative faith-understanding requires you to do so? You can’t just love for the sake of loving, connect for the sake of connecting, or enjoy people for the sake of enjoying people—that would be preposterous. Rather, every person you meet becomes a kind of spiritual project, a potential convert into your faith-understanding, or a shiny new visitor for your church. You measure people spiritually by what you believe is a God-given specialized capacity to have “discernment,” lest you become unclean, dirty, or condone evil. In order to gauge what kind of relational approach your conservative faith prescribes at any given moment, people and relationships have to be rigorously sifted, sized up, and labeled—lost or found, friend or foe, faithful or unfaithful, real Christian or wolf in sheep’s clothing. More so than not, unless they believe and act like you, people are largely designated as a problem to be fixed—and you, the perfect one to do the fixing. If they resist or even refuse—eventually disagreement becomes disappointment, disappointment becomes disapproval, disapproval becomes distance, distance becomes disconnection, and disconnection becomes damnation. Why? Because the one thing that’s largely missing for your conservative faith-understanding is true, unconditional Love. For love is never love if, based on what another person is or does, it can ever grow into hate, conditions, or condemnation.

And so I ask, with all due respect—how is that religious, relational radar working for you? How about with your family, work, community, or even church? How much true connection, community, and influence do you have with people who look, believe, act, and live differently than you? Jesus had so much that it got Him killed. It wasn’t a conservative faith within Him that nailed him to a tree—far from it. It was the conservative faith around Him that crucified Him and sought to put to death the love-life He came to bring.

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the true relational-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “humble,” “transformative,” nor “gracious,” it would be—pretentiously, selfishly STRESSED.

It’s Killing Your Capacity To Love- For how many conditions must you write into the fine print of the love you give? What’s it like always having to pump the brakes, filter compassion, prequalify affirmation, and love half-heartedly? The greatest fear of your conservative faith-understanding is to give too much love, Grace, and acceptance—convinced of the terrible things people would do. Yet ironically, the greatest fear of Jesus was for people to believe in a God who would restrict love and that people could ever give too much—that’s why He came. For either God’s Grace is fully sufficient, or it’s fully not. Wouldn’t you agree?

Yet, your conservative faith-understanding believes that expressing love in its highest form requires one to boldly confront sin, convinced that withholding or limiting love is at times both helpful and necessary in fostering God’s plan. In your mind, love, by itself, is much too soft, impotent, and permissive. In fact, the centrality of your conservative creed rests upon a fear of hell, the wrath of God, and His holiness in sending un-repenting sinners to an eternity of torture. In your mind, it would seem these dark potential realities justify and even demand your conditional love-giving.

However, have you ever considered that because Jesus confronted all sin, once and for all—there is, in actuality, no more confronting to do? In fact, to confront sin with a prescribed fear of any form of divine retribution is to confess the belief that Jesus didn’t confront sin, or do so sufficiently. That’s why Grace, the only power Jesus ever employed in His sin confronting and ultimate defeating, is the only power that awakens people to a change of mind and a heart of faith.

In fact, when people awaken to the scandalous, divine freedom they have in Christ to choose sin without fear of divine retribution, it is then and only then, that sin loses its power and appeal to be a good choice. Sin is disarmed of its capacity to serve as a form of punishment, guilt, and condemnation, and is instead correctly internalized as that which steals, kills, and destroys the good things in our living.

In the end, because your conservative faith-understanding refuses to surrender to Love and love alone, you can’t imagine how Love alone could possibly win over another. Rather, in your mind, they too, like you, must first become religiously imprisoned.

And so I ask, with all due respect—how does it feel to be shackled to a restricted life of giving love with conditions, believing that’s the height and sum of God’s love for you, sadly convinced that love doesn’t win?

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the real love-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “compassion,” “passion,” or “mercy,” it would be—fine print filled CONDITIONS.

It’s Killing Your Freedom- For when, by your conservative faith-understanding, the Christian life is seen as little more than a test, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to find spiritual rest? When faithfulness is seen as life of sin-management, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to truly be alive, live, breathe, and be burden free? When Church is seen as a building with a cross on top filled with a club of like-minded people, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to actually be the church—anyplace, anytime, anyhow? When love is seen as requiring conditions, limits, and restrictions, how you can ever know the divine freedom of what it’s like to love unconditionally? When hell hangs over your head, wielded by a bi-polar God who draws close to you one minute but turns his back the next, how can you ever know the effortless freedom of what it’s like to love, worship, and adore Him without fear nor obligation?

And so I ask, with all due respect—why is it that the life your conservative faith-understanding wants me to believe is filled with such immeasurable freedom, feels so much more like a life of unimaginable imprisonment?

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the life-trajectory of conservative Christianity it wouldn’t be “limitless” or “free,” it would be—rule-driven, fear-driven RESTRICTION.

It’s true, conservative Christianity IS killing you—taking what God intended to be a life of peace, joy, human community, unconditional love, and life-giving freedom and raping it into a death sentence of religious pressure, relational stress, conditional love, and fearful restriction.

Sounds a lot more like hell to me.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Much More Than You Think

One of the things that breaks God’s heart the most is when we underestimate or under-prize the depth and expanse of His love.

We have portrayed God far too long as primarily a heavy-handed, temperamental judge who takes pleasure in throwing His weight around.  For many, they see God’s deepest desire for them as to spend their life constantly undressing themselves of the garments of sin as they simultaneously try to contribute more good than bad to their performance account.  They sadly see the foundational desire of Jesus upon their life as “Do more good, sin less” That’s the stride and striving of their life.

Somehow, we have called this pursuit “faithfulness.” But this term has really become a spiritual veil to an empty faith. A house of cards covering a secretly abandoned trust. The very thing we call “faith-full-ness” is the very thing that focuses our hearts and satisfactions “fully” on our performance and away from the performance of the only One who “Is good, and sins not.”  We are not trusting, we are trying.

Meanwhile, God is dancing to gather our attention away from ourselves and our striving. Like a playful, smiling father trying to capture the attention of his preoccupied children, God desires to turn our eyes away from sin and striving to His heart and His cheerful Grace-giving.

What a sobering thought, maybe we have missed it? The meaning and desire of Jesus upon our life. Maybe in all our thinking about sin and doing more good, we missed what our heart and minds were suppose to be captivated by. Has Satan distorted our sights once again with his not-so funhouse of mirrors.

God loves you much more than you think, and probably more than your ego can stand. Isn’t that our resistance? Our ego. We want to earn our part, to have merited our standing. Can’t we just have a little of the credit, or have paid a little bit of the price?  His love for me now has gotta have something to do with my living somehow.  Let me just have a piece of the performance pie, I’ll make the grade, or make up for the grade. Everything else works by a merit system, why can’t Jesus and living for Him.

God loves you much more than you think. He is not mad at you or passive-aggressively waiting to pull the carpet out from under you. He’s not like Lucy who entices you to kick the football with flirts of trustability only to wrench it out of your stride the moment you extend your faith. He loves you perfectly, completely, currently, and eternally. His love is not bound or influenced by your past, present, or future. The Grace card is not a score card, it’s a pre-paid card. You are forgiven all your sins and sinfulness, whether you asked or not. Your only escape from Grace is disbelief not disobedience.  Faith is what makes God’s Grace a transaction applied to your account. What was “paid in full” becomes “applied in full.”  In fact, when you look at the quality of Jesus, He is an overpayment for your transgression.  Faith is not asking for something to happen, faith is believing it has and will happen. While you are striving to live better, Jesus has already made you better. While you are trying to side step sin, Jesus has given you an entirely new walk. While you are trying to do good things, Jesus made you more than good, He made you righteousness.

God loves you much more than you think. He doesn’t want your life, or for you to “give your life to Jesus.” In fact, He put your old life to death on the cross, knowing of it’s deep decay, deceit, and doom. How can you give what you don’t have? The cross was the second flood, this time of blood, drowning the old broken life of sin. You don’t have a life to give. Filthy rags, yes. Life, no. In His resurrection, He made you brand new. When you believe in Him and His work on the cross, you become reborn. What God has done becomes what is now. You are no longer you, you are “Christ in you.” You are forgiven (past, present, and future), righteous, having every spiritual blessing. You are a partaker of the divine nature. Not just a child, but a son (or daughter) of the living God.  You are an heir of the promise of God to rule and reign with Christ now and forever. You are seated with Christ at the right hand of God (from such a high view how can we have such a low sense of self and God).  You are royalty. A new creation. Without blemish. There is no condemnation over your life whatsoever. You are no longer by nature a “sinner.” You are not defined by your performance, but by your faith in Jesus’ performance. Hallelujah!

God loves you much more than you think. He doesn’t want you to live a sin-conscious life of striving, but a Grace conscious life of resting. He doesn’t want you to see yourself as a sinner in obedience training, but a saint in faith training. Right belief leads to right living. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. That’s why the job of the Holy Spirit is no longer to convict you of the sin of your disbelief in Jesus, but to convince you of your righteousness in Christ. He wants you to be free from the painful and exhausting  shackles of religion and all it precepts and prescriptions. No more going through the motions, much more living from your promotion from death to life, solely based on Jesus’ behavior, not yours. His work, not yours.  No more fake it to make it, much more believe it to live it.

God loves you much more than you think. In Him you are successful and significant apart from your achievement. He doesn’t want you living stressfully towards some future success or significance, but from the current and complete success and significance you already are in Him. He doesn’t want you trying to become something, He wants you living from the everything you already are in Him. He doesn’t want you pursuing life from a foundation of performance that can easily break down and brake away, but from a foundation of faith in Jesus who’s performance is perfect with His love, work, Grace and presence in your life never breaking down nor breaking away. Jesus doesn’t want you living with any insecurity, fear, or sense of lacking in who you are. He doesn’t want you walking into any moment or setting with even the slightest sense of insecurity, but with a complete assurance of the royalty and wholeness you already are in Him.

God loves you much more than you think.  He wants your life and living to be wrapped in peace and assurance, knowing of God’s full love and Grace for your life. If you were to do nothing more and become nothing else, He would love you just the same.  He is proud of you, as is. Your faith is what pleases Him, not your striving and do-gooding. You are blessed to be a blessing, so find what you love to do and enjoy God using it to build His Kingdom and manifest His love and Grace into the world. He will lead and prompt you each step of the way. So rest instead of rush. You don’t have to do anything, you get to do it, it’s a gift. Discover the joy that comes from manifesting the Grace of Jesus to the world in the way God designed you to do it, and enjoy it.  He loves you.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! –Romans 5:17

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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