Tag: pastor

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.

Trump, LifeWay, and Eugene Peterson—Conservative Evangelicalism Personified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Why We Should All Be Thanking Mark Driscoll

The story of Mark Driscoll is like an onion, with every layer that unfolds the eyes can’t help but burn to tears —sadness, frustration, astonishment, disgust, empathy, a full range of emotions. What he has done, said, and represented at times is nothing less than chilling. Sexism, misogyny, blatant bully-leadership, abuse of ministry funds, bigotry, not to mention the Evangelical family secret… hyper-Calvinism. One time, describing America as a “pussified nation” dominated by feminists and “chickified dudes.” One face-palm after another.

As you’ve probably read, Mark took a very short time away from ministry after a scandalous exit and ultimate resignation from Mars Hill Church. Many of his supporters and ministry partners, running full throttle for the exit signs. During that season, in the minds of most, his choices and actions didn’t demonstrate a genuine process of humbling and change. At best, it’s a mixed review. Now, months later, he’s back at it, starting a new church.

Where some might want me to attack Mark and kick him to the curb, I can’t. Furthermore, it’s not my place. Despite the darkness of his deeds, the destruction wrought from his ego, He’s a fellow human being. We all make mistakes and lose our way. The Grace that is sufficient for me, I am sure is more than sufficient for him. If Mark should be sentenced to a spiritual life of stacking pins in a bowling alley, then so should I, and so should you. Grace is the great equalizer, putting us all on the same playing field and on the same team. We all need Grace, equally. None are better, only different.

But that didn’t stop Jesus from staring down evil, addressing it as so. The truth is, we have a problem. A huge zit on the face of our modern church-world. On the surface, it looks like “pastoral celebrity”—not just pastors, but anyone building a personal kingdom. Bloggers, leaders, speakers, artists, authors, all candidates for being seduced into this horror show. What are pedaled as visionary dreams and difference-makers, are schemes and attention-takers, all achieving one radar averting goal…the validation-creating, insecurity-healing, and significance-gaining of the individual leading the show. It all looks so spiritual, but really so selfish, when one sees what’s below.

To be sure, there are many within our Christian community who receive the label of “celebrity.” And though not perfect, they are wearing it well. Their extensive reach, success, and large followings weren’t sought out, don’t rule their hearts, and they aren’t exploiting their platform, rather humbly using it for good. What is a very difficult walk, they are walking very well.

Sadly, in the sea of spiritual celebrity, this is not the norm.

Yet, the numerous Mark Driscolls of our Christianity aren’t the real problem, it’s our Christian culture that seeds and enables their existence. The illness we have become, is what gives birth to the reality of their formation. The x-ray is on the light board, we are the disease, and they, a mere symptom, a surface manifestation. Spiritually engineered from the incubator of our Christian culture.

In fact, the truth is, we should all be thanking Mark Driscoll. His story is the alarm that should be grabbing us by the ears, the stoplight that should be slamming our breaks. The fever, the itchy red rash that calls us to the doctor, realizing there is a much deeper problem at stake. And maybe, just maybe, before it’s too late, we’d embrace a cure before our cancer overtakes.

Problem is, we are so far gone. Color blind for sure. What is fire-engine red, begging us to halt, we see as grass-growing green, signaling God’s favor to press through. Intoxicated by the sound of our own Christianity.

As hard as it is to hear, the diagnosis is clear. We are the “something” going on behind the person these people become. Get out your pen and paper, we owe not our condemnation, but our apology for the creation of each and every one.

For we are the Christians who see Church as primarily where Jesus exists and works. It’s all about church. Church, church, and more church. Not just church, but gatherings, groups, conferences, concerts, followings of people. The larger the crowd, the more legitimate the ministry, the greater blessings of the Savior.

For us, the goal and sum of the Christian life is church, cross-topped corrals of church-people pursuing churchy things, as different as some may seem. Organize it, maintain it, whatever it takes to keep it going. And if church isn’t for you, something is wrong with you. Damaged goods, subtly not one of us. You’re not a true leader until you are a church leader. The big dance, where big leaders go.

We are the Christians, who equate spiritual maturity, skill, and evidence of God’s favor with followers, buildings, baptisms, books, speaking schedules, blog “hits,”and “likes” on Facebook. God must be doing something great, a special work is surely at play. Look at all the subscribers, the listeners, group members, all the people, it can’t possibly be a charade. Look at those buildings, so modern and easy, as far as the eye can see. Look at how busy, how in demand. Wow, how anointed they must be. 10k followers on Twitter, the number they follow, only 10, surely that’s the mark of Christ within. Superstars of Jesus, rockstar prophets for our day. Dare I say, if Hitler lived among us, he’d have the very same. Tons of followers, “hits”, and “likes” on Facebook. Branded to the nines, slick social media presence, lots of lipstick to hide behind.

Territory, market, fan-base, all must be preserved. The celebrity lunch table, exclusive to the cool dudes. Whatever it takes to get to the next level, step on you if they must. Platform creation, platform preservation, platform elevation, at all costs. We are truly in the age of franchised ministry, and we the spiritual consumers who drive it, and make it breathe.

We are the Christians who believe the goal of the Christian life is to be successful for Jesus through personal performance that creates appeal. Be all you can be, Jesus and me. Do more, become more, live the Christian dream. Prosperity, happiness, pleated and ironed, the spiritual Hollywood scene. We, the narcissists on our personal quest for Jesus to show us how to perform at our personal best. Enough is never enough. Give me more to do, a way to overcome, something to convince me that I am worthy to be loved. Tell me it’s reachable, something Jesus and I can achieve. Inspire me with the Kool-aid, I’ll drink anything for a remedy. Keep me thirsty, keep me hungry, I’m addicted to the hope, that within me and Jesus, our efforts combined, I can become whole.

We are the Christians who believe it’s best to get your spiritual growth spoon-fed through like-minded, public figures you can adore. Just give me something I can worship, fabricated into an idol of my own ideals. I know about Jesus, but furnish me something real, something for the in between. We all need a savior when the Savior is not enough. Identity, worth, and significance are best measured by spiritual accomplishment. So surely, my side-kick savior has the goods that I need, simply look at all that they have achieved. Besides, leadership is best validated by the creation of a personal brand that gains and keeps spiritual consumers. When I see this, it’s gotta be the trough for which God wants me to eat. Surely, He doesn’t want me thinking on my own.

No wonder there are so many Mark Driscolls, this is who we have become. Church-addicted, consumer-minded, performance-driven, platform-worshipping, appearance-seduced, franchise-focused, me-serving, success-intoxicated, personal kingdom-building Christians who drop their jaws in surprise and disgust when all that we are gets super-sized and personified by some among us, for all to see in public light.

Yet Jesus chose purpose over celebrity, message over crowds, the cross over appeal, commissioning over franchising, serving over being served, Grace over performance, and sacrifice over personal gain.

There will always be Mark Driscolls among us, until Jesus becomes our game.

We should all be thanking Mark Driscoll for showing us that for which we should be ashamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christians, that’s who.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s it going to take?

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

What’s it going to take?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desmond Tutu said it this way…

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

James, the brother of Jesus said it this way…

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

Jesus said it this way…

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

What’s it going to take?

For some, it’s already too late.

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

Grace is brave, be brave.

Affirm.

If You Didn’t Before, You Do Now : A Pastor’s Love Letter To The LGBT Community

I’m not sure how this all started. All I know is, it has.

You are of the LGBT community, I am not, but I might as well be. You have a LGBT child, I do not, but who knows what could be.

A pastor who was once lost in anti-LGBT’s ignorance and delusion, now a pastor whose fight is to bring Light to the confusion.

Your story is my story, and my story, your story. Not exactly, but yet exactly—a glue that cannot be unglued from what God has knit together. You in my heart, and my heart with you—together.

Not out of some benevolence, as if you were some come kind of mission, but out of pissed-off objection to truths that have seen their evil omission. This is a violent world, and you, a prime recipient. Blind spots here, ignorance there—religion, both the product and the primary cause. You are a beautiful creation of the Creator and the victim of a darkness that only Truth can give pause.

A terrible, disgusting injustice has been done, you have been lied to flat out, and lies about you. Poisons of the Poisoner, hate from the Hater, deceptions of the Deceiver—proof texts, and cons from the removal of context, all from the Accuser. The waterfall of evil’s river, holding you under with shame, it’s time for the captive to be set free, to awaken to your true Name.

“Beloved”

There is nothing to be changed, not a problem to be solved, nor a choice to regret—no shame from which to hide, or a mistake for which to apologize. Nothing to cure, run from, remove, discipline, or overcome. You are not a blemish solved by Grace or some sympathetic exception, but a divine creation, no less than all the others, you are God’s intention.

Tolerance is reserved for things that annoy us, acceptance reserved for that which we deem abnormal. Run from it, all of it, a spiritual veil to an empty offering. Beauty and blessing are things to be desired—you deserve to be desired and I, desire you.

From the affection of the Father, the pride of His gleam, His favor poured over—I desire you.

I want to curse dark skies with you, wrestle out depression’s claws with you. I want to battle haunts in your head, stomach rejections’s vomit with you. I want to stand in “straight” lines, dine at homophobic tables with you. I want to walk on broken family glass with you, pull back the knife in your hands with you.

I want to catch fading breaths with you, beat ignorance’s chest with you. I want to dance in parades with you, laugh to the point of peeing with you. I want to rejoice at the dawn of a new day and celebrate the God-affirmation of being lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or gay.

If you didn’t have before, you do now—a warrior defending your side, a wing under which you can reside, a protector proclaiming your innocence, an ear that hears with no pretense, a mutual tear crying, a mutual heart sighing.

You have never been alone. You are not alone. Not ever before, not now.

Let’s take this hill together, run the race together—until strength we have no more. Let’s raises our glasses, stand up to the masses, “greater is He that is in us, more are they in heaven that are with us.”

Never giving up, never giving in—we will not stop, we will not retreat, we will not be silent

No chance, no way, not ever.

This is our day.

This is our time.

This is our life.

This is our truth!

If you didn’t have a pastor, you do now—never received a love letter from a pastor? You have now.

It’s about damn time.

You deserve to be desired, and I… desire you.

What if you’re Wrong? A Question for Every Anti-Gay Person, Pastor, Father, Mother, Friend.

So, you believe homosexuality is a sin, whether it be in practice, orientation, or both. Maybe you have studied the issue, or just assimilated the beliefs heard from others. If you have become familiar with any or all of the six passages in the Bible that seem to specifically address the issue, you interpret them as condemnations against homosexuality and proof that God declares it all as sin.

From that belief, your actions and attitudes have formed.

Perhaps you have adopted a posture that concludes the most faithful response to this issue is to “hate the sin and love the sinner.” It feels spiritual and gracious to you. Maybe you are even willing to go so far as to conclude for yourself and underscore to others an understanding that the sin of homosexuality is no greater than your’s or any other’s. Therefore, in your mind, homosexuals aren’t necessarily better or worse than you, just different in their sinning. In your church, family, or community they may even be, not only welcome, but wanted. Yet, at the end of the day, their homosexuality is seen as a sin problem nonetheless. Jesus died for “them,” just like He died for you.

On the other hand, maybe you hate homosexuals and have no restraint in saying so with all the lingual colors afforded you. Confident in your biblical grooming, you may even assert that homosexuality is a special kind of sin, more sinful than any other. To you, all homosexuals are self-declared exclusively by choice. You may or may not, out of the kindness of your Christian heart, allow them in your presence or fellowship, but they are at best, a deplorable kind of abomination in your sight, and less than qualify for any kind of harbor, inclusion, or acceptance in your church, family, or community. With your Bible in hand, and perhaps a picket sign or two, you declare in either speech or action, “God hates fags” and therefore, deep down, at some level or another, so do you.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of response, at the end of the day, in your judgement, homosexuality is a sin, it’s never acceptable to God nor is it ever His will or within His design. Therefore, “repentance” is ultimately the only answer, whether empowered by Grace or Law or some mixture thereof… change, confess, move away from sin, apply the power of Jesus to overcome, turn or burn… however you want to put it …that’s the answer, that’s the cure. Until then, there is still a “problem,” an “issue,” an “abnormality,” a “sin.”

My question for you is… what if you’re wrong?

I know, it’s all so clear to you. The biblical texts, the studies, the nature of it all. But, what if you’re wrong? What if it’s not so clear, the studies not so definitive, the unnatural not so unnatural.

What if you’re wrong, like Paul in Scripture, who actually believed it was “unnatural” for the Gentiles to accept Christ and be included in the fellowship of believers? By the way, you know who the Gentiles are?  You.

What if you’re wrong, like countless Christians throughout history who read your same Bible and vehemently concluded its support for racism and slavery?

What if you’re wrong, like court reporters and clerks in the 1960’s who, citing Biblical grounds, refused to document and issue interracial marriage certificates because they believed them to be committing sin?

What if you are wrong, like the Southern Baptist denomination, who finally in 1995, apologized to the black community for its role in using the Bible to endorse racism and slavery?

What if you are wrong, like the Pharisees, who believed they knew and lived the Scriptures better than anyone, but were shown out by Jesus to not only be in biblical error, but completing absent of understanding in regards to His heart and essence?

I mean, just imagine if Hitler had only considered, “maybe I am wrong about the Jews”

Imagine if the Christian theologian John Calvin had only considered, “maybe I didn’t read this text right?” before brutally burning one of his critics to death, all in the name of biblical faithfulness mind you.

Imagine, just imagine.

Imagine, if you’re wrong about homosexuality and homosexuals.

What if ignorance has eclipsed your understanding, not unlike the kind Hosea spoke of as the prime destroyer of people?

What if mistranslation, proof texting, and a lack of proper contextualization has rendered the Scripture as saying that which God never meant it to?

What if your unyielding grip on inerrancy has become in fact, your own spiritual death hold?

What if your fear of being wrong and therefore having to deconstruct and rebuild one’s heart, mind, and faith is preventing you from the guidance of the Spirit?

What if peer pressure and the gravity to conform to the prevailing Christian “norm” is squelching the wind of Jesus from His revelation in and transformation of your life?

What if homosexuality isn’t a sin, and now you don’t have a “sin” that you are confident can never and will never apply to you from which to comfortably condemn others and drink from the intoxicating chalice of self-righteousness that medicates your own inner shame, insecurity, condemnation, and guilt?

What if, like your heterosexuality, it’s not a choice, any more than the color of your eyes?

What if… you’re wrong?

If I am wrong, the Holy Spirit will simply pursue me with correction, go around and ahead me to thwart the misleading, and work in the lives of homosexuals to lead them to “repentance.”

However, if you’re wrong…

You have condemned, marginalized, persecuted, and falsely judged an entire group of God-imaged people.

You have labeled as sin, that which is not.

Some of you have disowned your own children. Labeling them, casting them out. While God declares “I will never leave you nor forsake you” you have abandoned, or at best, distanced yourself from that which God purposed you to forever enwrap.

You have put barbed-wire fences where God meant for tables.

You have been a contributor to the depression, the isolation, the terror, the suicide, and the living hell of countless people.

You have participated in nothing less than the new racism of the 21st Century.

And worst of all, you have joined the choir of the False Accuser, singing songs of pure evil, believing them to be hymns of the Savior that reflect His heart and mind.

You have partnered with Satan in the stealing, killing, and destroying of an entire population of God’s beloved.

…all, in the name of Jesus and biblical faithfulness.

Honestly, I am o.k. if somehow it turns out I’m wrong.

My question for you is, how can you ever be o.k. with the possibility…  you are?

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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