Tag: peace

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.

Guns, Jesus, and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will do no less for any other.

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

With that said…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace wins. Love prevails.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, the cycle continues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All, on earth, as it is in heaven.

Grace wins.

Grace wins.

Thank God almighty.

Grace wins.

Panic

For those who deal with anxiety on a daily basis, they know how panic can control their lives.  For some, their panic is more circumstantial as it fueled by mainly contextual issues. Maybe they have a test to take, meeting to lead, speech to give, or some other event or situation that raises the level of anxiety in their life to a state of panic.  For others, their panic has a more inward origin, and at times seems to come out of nowhere.  Circumstances in their life seem to present little to no trigger at all to their panic, but instead, it wells up from within.

As one who used to be ruled by anxiety and panic attacks, I know firsthand how debilitating they can be.  Worst of all, it often feels like things will never get better. The idea of one day living a panic free life seems like a hopeless reality.

So, let me tell you, there is hope. You CAN live a panic free life. And chances are, you won’t have to bow down to medications in order to experience freedom from anxiety.

Here’s what’s worked for me…

1) Discover the Spiritual Issues Underneath

I never would have thought it, but much of my anxiety and panic issues stemmed from a faulty, broken view I had of God.

Though it never seemed like it in the moment, much of my anxiety and panic originated from spiritual issues in my life. Anxiety and panic don’t feel or seem very spiritual, but they certainly can be.  In fact, panic and anxiety is the body’s way of alerting us to the fact that something is not well within us. It could be in our thinking, in our feeling, in our biology, or some combination thereof. I would venture to say that most anxiety issues that become biologically driven first started off being spiritually and experientially driven.

The Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear.”  The love spoken about here is God’s love of us. This is a perfect example of how our view of God (spiritual issue) can be directly related to anxiety in our lives.

Don’t underestimate the spiritual issues underneath that are driving the levels and issues of anxiety/panic in your life.

2) See a Licensed Christian Counselor

Getting to the root of the issues that are fueling anxiety and panic in your life are very likely going to require you to get professional help.  Secular counseling can only take you as far your life experiences are concerned, it cannot heal your soul. Healing the soul is a matter of faith in Christ. To heal anxiety you must heal the soul, secular approaches cannot provide supernatural solutions.  Additionally, make sure you find a Christian counselor who practices from a foundation of Grace and is wise in the character and nature of God. The last thing you need is a religiously-spirited counselor adding a bunch of “to do’s” and “rules” to managing anxiety in your life.

Why do I say that? Because the issue of “condemnation” in people’s life is often a big culprit behind the anxiety and panic they face on a daily basis. Condemnation has to do with feeling trapped, forever guilty, ashamed, broken, flawed, and judged. Only God’s Grace can heal those deep issues, not religious rules and actions.

3) Find Issues of Condemnation

One of the issues that pulls the strings of panic and anxiety in people’s lives is “condemnation.”  Living a life free from debilitating levels of anxiety and panic means walking in assurance, peace, and rest deep within your being.  Condemnation unravels this ability.

In my own life, after I solicited professional help from a wise counselor, I learned that deep within me being I felt condemned by God, my father, and the areas of my life I labeled as not measuring up. No wonder why I lived with spiking levels of panic and anxiety from time to time.  Condemnations kills, God’s Grace and perfect love bring life.

Chances are the root behind your anxiety and panic will be an issue(s) of condemnation in your life, real or perceived.

Are there circumstances where a person needs to medically treat issues of anxiety in their life? Sure, absolutely. But ultimately, though medications may help manage symptoms, they cannot provide the cure.  Jesus can provide the cure;  Grace, love, and His favor received through believing, applied to the deep spiritual areas of condemnation and fear within.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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