Tag: religion (Page 2 of 4)

What The Boycott Of Target Says About American Christianity

No, not every Christian is lining up to enlist in the boycott of the popular, big-box store, Target. In fact, there are significant amounts of faith-embracing people who are flat out appalled at the notion and embarrassed by this latest temper tantrum waged from within our Christian community. Yet, there is no denying the growing, aggressive movement among large numbers of conservative Christians licking their chops in hopes of making Target pay deeply for their inclusive, store-wide stance that allows the transgender community to use the restrooms of their choice. From vehement, media pleas to war-crying online petitions, once again, it’s game on for conservative, Evangelical, American Christianity.

Yet, make no mistake, this is far beyond a mere game. The civil war of the twenty-first century is here, waged by Evangelical, conservative Christianity upon the LGBT community and their supporters—the periscoping of Target, just another battle of many on the horizon. Sadly, the sounding of these trumpets from atop the walls of Christianity to summon its adherents to boycott the enemy is indicative of a much deeper cancer widely spread within the gates of much of American Christianity.

The truth is, anyone can hoist the most eye-pleasing, Jesus-intentioned flags for all to see, but one’s true colors are no greater revealed than in the facing of a perceived enemy.  How we handle our adversaries is truly who we are at our core.  For much of American Christianity, the satellite imagery has been rendered, the toxicology reports are in, and once again, what the latest boycott of Target says about the true state of American Christianity— it’s not pretty.

We Are Still Blind To Our Privilge And Arrogance- At the end of the day, nothing says “pompous jackasses” like a religiously driven boycott. Sadly, our faith is filled with convenient presumptions we joyfully hold over people as fact, taking Jesus, His Gospel, and inspired words about Him, and morphing it all into a god of our own image—privileged, elitist, temperamental, and arrogant. This is the pride-lifted throne from which all boycotts are decreed.

Through the narcissism with which we have shaped the ethos of our Christian culture and message, it’s as if Jesus was literally born and raised in America and our nation is exclusively favored and set apart by God Himself, founded on the Bible and all that is holy—and we, the special, gold-dusted Christians who have been given the one-of-a-kind, inside scoop into all that is Jesus and His desires for the world.

Drunken by the poison of our spiritual arrogance, we posture ourselves as the sole authors of genuine family values, true interpreters of scripture, exclusive discerners and dictators of moral purity, and the only possessors of what’s best for our country and world. This is our nation, we are God’s favored, and it’s our God-given mandate and responsibility to see to it that you become one of us and enlist in our spiritual empire. Don’t be fooled by our over 30,000 different denominations of self-declared faithful who read the same bible and arrive at completely, diametrically-different conclusions—look away, there’s nothing to see here, trust us, we’re still the experts on discerning all that is spiritual and true. Because one thing we know for sure, our Jesus loves you so much that if you don’t respond to His love with careful precision, He will drop-kick you into a hell of eternal torment—and that’s what we call, good news.

So, like a slick used car salesperson, we strut around our cultural parking lot, many of us completely ignorant to the crap we are selling, some of us hoping nobody looks under the hood and kicks the tires enough to reveal what we refuse to see, just how truly delusional we have become. So much, that with no pause in our steps, little consideration for reexamination, and no check in our spirit that perhaps we are wrong and have much to learn, we steamroll ahead having raped the Jesus of the Gospels into a white, gun owning, bible-thumping, Republican male who drives a Ford pickup truck, bumper-stickered with Jesus statements purposed on convicting the world. He lives in a two story house with a white picket fence, a dog named Spot, and cable TV in every room. On Sundays, with His leather-bound, name-engraved Bible in hand, He adorns the most popular, program scheduled, state-of-the-art church in town where the worship leader is often found requiring the jaws of life to get out of their culturally relevant, skinny jeans after the stage smoke clears. Beyond that, His primary calling is to meet with like-minded, like-colored, like-believing, like-living people, get into a good sin-management program, and morally police the world.

Problem is, this monster that we have made of Jesus is nothing like Jesus, and who we have become is nothing like who He is—nothing makes this clearer than our arrogant, elitist, privileged response to transgender human beings simply desiring to use the bathroom of their choice based on their true gender identity.

Do we seek to listen? Do we consider new revelation in light of new information? Do we humble ourselves under the person of Jesus, the only Word of God?  Hell no. Once again, we just can’t wait to belly up to the bar of our spiritual addictions, drink down the belly shots of our self-righteousness, and drunkenly declare to all who would oppose us, “we are right, you are wrong, we know what’s best, and everyone who disagrees are simply deviant peasants who deserve a good flogging”—all sending the clear, central message of our twisted faith understanding, “be discipled or be drop-kicked, assimilated or shunned, the choice is yours.”

The World Still Knows The Heart Of Jesus Better Than We- Have you noticed? The “world” isn’t, in fact, the prowling boycott-bully pacing back and forth on the block—no, we are. That’s why there’s a deep awakening of people in our country to the tragic reality of our day that if you want to truly experience Jesus, the last steps your feet should take is to shadow the doorsteps of a church or adopt the American distortion of Christianity into your life—nothing will set your soul on a trajectory spinning it further away from the heart of Jesus.

Yet truthfully, it’s been that way from the beginning. The people closest to Jesus who should have known Him best are the ones who are, in fact, revealed to know Him the least, and the ones who are declared the sin-bathed outsiders on the fringe, worthy of the deepest wounds condemnation can cut, are in fact, the ones who resonate with His heart, most.

With every boycott, with every legislation of discrimination, with every weaponized chorus of “Jesus Loves Me” purposed on snuffing out the voice and dignity of the transgender community, we declare to the world from the stench within our hearts, “If you’re looking for Jesus, if you’re looking for compassion, if you’re looking for equality, dignity, justice, and basic goodness, you’ll not find Him nor these attributes among us—we worship a different god of our imagineering”

Until love becomes our core and Jesus our center, the world will increasingly discover the truth—to become one of us and live more like us is a drastic downgrade of Jesus-distancing proportions, and to be of the world—far more spiritual and in tune with the heart of God.

Oh, the irony of it all.

Our Best Ideas Are Still To Boycott- Because boycotting is what desperate, shallow Christians do who, in the caverns of their true convictions, have turned their faith into a Jesus-insultingoffensive pillaging of the cross and the Gospel it reveals.

For Jesus did not and would not ever boycott. Rather, He served as a cosmos-vibrating megaphone of heaven declaring that from the bottomless well of love, faith, and the exampled ways of the Master, there are always better options from which to draw no matter the day, hour, or circumstance. In an age where we have more revelation, information, and examination than ever before of all that Jesus was, is, and inspires, the reality that boycotting is still on the list of our best ideas speaks to the mal-transformation our dysfunctional Gospel has rendered to our hearts.

We have become the barbarians of the world, and it’s high time we see it—a people who can’t help ourselves from punching something different and calling it faithfulness.

Nothing reveals the alarming level of our school-bully ignorance and militant faith than our boycotting of a perceived enemy.

If ours is a love at all, it is a deeply distorted, diabolical, and diseased one.

We Are Still Selfish, Whining People Who Refuse to Serve- Nothing unveils the true motto behind the bulk of American Christianity like a good boycott. As much effort as we muscle into our full-court press to convince ourselves and the world around us that “it’s all about Jesus,” the truth is, “it’s all about us.”  Why can’t we simply be honest enough to align our verbiage with our actions? Most everything we do says, “me, me, me.” It would all be completely excusable and even understandable if we were five year olds. Yet, we’re supposed to be the light of the world, not the spiritual toddlers of it.

It’s so predictable. We don’t get our political way—here comes a temper tantrum. Someone or something stands in question or opposition to our agenda—we kick and scream. Transgender people want to use the bathroom of their choice—up come the marbles as we huff and puff our way home, conspiring in our “conservatives only” tree houses with crosses on top, plotting our pubescent path to revenge.

We are spoiled, whiny, spiritual brats who think the mission of Jesus is to preserve and expand our American, Christian empire of morality dictation and ideology assimilation. All, while Jesus washes feet, embraces the outcast, and affirms the condemned—but let’s not let Him get in the way of our crap-slinging crusades.

Why can’t we just love for the sake of loving, serve for the sake of serving, and trust the One who holds all the stars in hand with the rest? Even if your conclusion is that the transgender community is in error, the way of Jesus is to serve all the more, not all the less—even to the sacrifice of our perceived safety and convenience. This is the Jesus of cross, but sadly not the Jesus of conservatism.

While Jesus brings the Kingdom of God through unconditional serving, we bring the Kingdom of hell through our unconditional self-centeredness—for we have proven beyond a shadow of doubt that there is no instance in which we won’t believe and act upon what we deem to serve our best, ideological, self-serving interests, in blatant defilement of the Gospel we claim to hold so dear.

We Are Still Satisfied With Any Ignorance That Supports Our Intolerance- Boycotts don’t materialize out of thin air. Nobody rallies against a company like Target over transgender-friendly bathrooms who first hasn’t been trained in an American Christian, spiritual concealed-weapons discipleship class that teaches a strategy of when engaging the enemy, “shoot first and learn last.”

We say we start from the Bible, but we really start from our bigotry and the assumption we know better. The truth is, when your righteousness is derived apart from Grace, you have to contrive ways to justify yourself—putting people down in the name of Jesus to affirm oneself has become our goto drug of choice. Somehow we have swallowed the lie that to be “set apart” means to be “better” and “above,” when in fact, it merely means to be “different,” yet still thoroughly “equal” under Grace. Yet violence, discrimination, condemnation, and boycotts gain no fuel in a Kingdom of equality—rendering us with nothing left to do and believe in a land where all is Grace. To be sure, one can disagree with another without being accurately labeled a “hater,” but you can’t refuse to listen, learn, and stand beside a fellow human and not be considered one.

The world is truly asking, “Is there a caboose to this train? Because we’ve seen this all before.” Any smell that fits within your flatulence somehow is deemed appealing and true, and the rest we are supposed to believe, somehow is automatic crap—science, facts, truth, experience, information, revelation.

We aren’t learners (disciples), we are ignorers—so insecure in our faith that our skeletal creeds shake at the thought of considering new information and new revelation.

When was the last time you built a relationship with a transgender person? When was the last time you listened to their story? When was the last time you researched the transgender topic, purposely desiring to open your mind to various viewpoints and schools of thought?

Chances are, the last time was never. Why? Because to learn would be to expose the ugly face of our flesh contrived, Christian faith hidden under the make-up of our own chosen ignorance.  We’d have to look into the mirror and be real about what we see and believe—and that’s a series of falling dominoes we’re just not willing to push.

So let’s just admit it, we’re blind and we like it that way.

Our Faith Is Still Fear Driven- With every boycott, legislation, and Youtube rant we declare to all that has life and breath that our God is small and our doubts in Him, great. For what kind of God do we believe in with such fear in our hearts? Lions, tigers, and transgenders, oh my! The world is collapsing, our country is falling apart, our women and children are in grave danger—all because transgender people simply want to pee in peace. Seriously?

You say it’s not about transgender people, but rather the ones who will “fake it” in order to “make it” with women and children in a restroom stall near you. All, while there is a statistically far greater chance to be molested or sexually assaulted by conservative politicians in the very same, said locations. But let’s not let the facts stymy the fears we so desperately need alive for our Christian brand to survive.

The very anxiety we drink deep down into our faith is the very horror we disperse ever so widely. Sleeping with one eye open, we hope the world will join us in our misery. We are not a free people, we are a “fear” people. Nothing is jockeying for more human companionship than fear, and we have become its “hoe.”

Yet, the perfect love from God that casts out all fear is the very love we insist on conditionalizing to ourselves, and thus, the very love we cannot give unconditionally to another. Fear has become our master, and boycott-like behavior, our sacrifice of praise.

No wonder so many detest the idea of believing as we believe, because it’s not belief we have, it’s fear—boycotts that confess that God is surely dead, and so is our faith,

Love Is Still An Inconvenient Accessory- Far beyond the boycotting of Target, it’s become all too clear that virtually everything we say, do, and believe reveals the disturbing reality that, for most of us, this “unconditional love” thing has become a sharp edge in our stool. To love without condition, restraint, or reservation is so painful for us, the tension and displeasure in our bloodshot eyes says it all. Like a hard poop, we push it out because we basically have to—it’s the “Christian” thing to do. For to us, truly “unconditional love” is the foolishness of misguided progressives, the waywardness of a world seduced by the darkness, and the hallmark of Christians who are water-downed.

If we could just somehow usurp this “unconditional love” thing, our faith would be so much easier—boycotts as far as the eyes can see, unlimited enemy condemnations to fill up our joy—political ploys here, marginalizations there. Oh, what a wonderful Christianity this would be.

Looking like a breakdancer on crack, we try to dance our way around it by “hating the sin and loving the sinner” while demanding that “love” is an attribute of God, but not the sum of His nature. Yet, confronted with buzz saw of Jesus’ pure-love example, our duplicity and schizophrenic love is found out and confronted to its abominable core.

The world knows true love far better than we do—understanding that anything that is not unconditional love is not love at all.

Is God utilizing the boycott of Target? Damn straight He is—to further reveal the entrenched evils of American Christianity and pave the way for a worldwide awakening to Grace, justice, and equality.

Christian, You’re Worried About Transgender Bathrooms? Seriously?

Christian, I’m not buying it one bit—all your huffing and puffing about the morally deplorable and safety-shattering realities that would become if transgender people were allowed to use the public bathrooms of their true identity and choice.

I gotta give you props, you don’t let the paint dry in stepping up to the plate to bark out against all the wrong things—showing the true teeth of your creed. You want to convince me that there is something alarming of which to be afraid that should awaken in me dire concerns for my country, family, and children. Yet, the truth is, you’re more desperate to deflect attention from the real issues than Johnnie Cochran in a murder trial. The rest of us, Jesus lovers and alike, we’re hip to all the smoke and mirrors you position in an effort to justify your inner hate and religious arrogance against that which you don’t understand or agree. Quite frankly, you’re going to have to do a lot better than this if you want to be taken seriously. Your ignorance, pew-packaged talking points, and religious ideology of self-righteous superiority show up like skid marks on a 5-year-old’s underwear—you’ve crapped your pants, and we know it. All these religious charades you tout in hopes we will go nose-blind to your stench, would all be so laughable, if it wasn’t all so serious.

You’re a Christian parent, for crying out loud, who sexualizes your young daughters with dance and cheerleading groups pimping every hoochie-mama gyration their makeup ladened, pubescent bodies can muster in skin tight uniforms fit for a Beyonce’ video, all while forty-five year old men who live in their mom’s basements hoot and holler in the audience—and you’re worried for your kids about transgender friendly bathrooms, and you want me to be too?

You take your sons to stand in line for hours at the local GameStop, licking your chops to purchase the latest violent, salvage, blood spewing, graphic video game because “boys will by boys” as father and son imagine, enact, and fantasize violence—and you want me to be worried about transgender friendly bathrooms?

You friggin put Sundrop in your kid’s Sippy Cup. You send your children to school with a lunch bag laced with Little Debbie Snack Cakes, Cheese Puffs, a slice of baloney and a 25-grams-of-sugar loaded Juice Box.

You’re a parent whose life revolves around the activities and temper tantrums of your children as their demands drag you around like a dog on a leash—and yet you’re worried for your kids about transgender friendly bathrooms?

You teach your children to disrespect adults and throw shade at their teachers because in your mind (and now theirs) it always has to be the teacher’s fault. Whose else could it possibly be?

You think the best God-honoring activities to solicit the spiritual growth of your children are to jack them up with Bible drills and memorization contests, and outsource them to every vacation Bible school program you can map out on your GPS—and you want me to buy into your worry about transgender friendly bathrooms?

You’re a parent who spoils, over schedules, and parades their children around like a circus show because your self-worth is tied to appeasing the opinions of others, vicariously living through your children, and winning the competitive-parenting game that rules your every move and Facebook post.

At a blink of an eye, you’ll lay down wads of cash for the latest pair of Nike shoes, Vera Bradley purses, and concert tickets to Miley Cyrus, just because they ask, and you can’t stomach their displeasure.

You give little to no pause to publicly scolding your children with harsh rants of profanity. You watch porn on your computer one moment, sing songs of Jesus on your church’s projection screen the next, and then sit the family down for Sunday evening devotions like nothing ever happened.

More Republican politicians get arrested for sexual acts in public bathrooms than transgender people—and you want me to be worried about them taking a piss in a public bathroom?

The truth is, what should be frantically sending parents and kids into the streets screaming with fear isn’t transgender people showing up in a restroom. Hell no, we should be going bat crazy at the thought of the likes of your ignorance, arrogance, and hate bellying up to pee beside us or take a dump next door —hell hath no violence, harm, and fury like a conservative Christian.

If there is any social terrorism going on, monsters showing up in your local water closet, you’ll have a lot better chance at finding the culprit by looking into the mirror than under the bathroom stall.

When we finally see you as a Christian refusing to boycott things that are simply more humane than you, punch things just because they’re different, and wallow in the shelter of your religious pride and ignorance, then we may just give serious ear to the things for which you want us to be concerned and afraid.

Until then, we’ll kindly love people and treat them equally, fighting for their divine dignity, rights, and respect.

Spoiler alert, that’s what Jesus would do.

That’s what Jesus is doing.

Hate it for you.

Christian, Find Something Better To Do (Stop Bullying The LGBT Community)

We get it, you think it’s all so wrong, offensive, and dangerous. Homosexuality is a grotesque abomination, and transgender people, a product of out-of-control sexual anarchy. To have it all just go away—your secret prayer. You hate it, everything about it. The conservative America of your dreams, where people think, believe, and live as you do—with little white churches and women in kitchens, it feels like it’s all slipping through your fingers. To the privileged, the emergence of equality always feels like war.

Your best idea? Fight back, give them hell, that’s where they’re all going anyways, right? Condemn, discriminate, marginalize, and demonize every face that bares the image of that which you would eradicate. Silent treatments, church discipline letters, legislations, a swift kick in the crotch—whatever it takes. Sure, we hear the talking points that plead your obligation to the “clear teachings” of the bible. We hear your messages of believed hope that a cure is just a sobbing, knee-bent, repentance session away. Besides, you’re just doing your job—the sum of your faith, to wield your sword in defense of a holy God. You want us to believe your cause is filled with such divine honor—the purity of God’s holy word and His people, the safety of women and children, the rights of faithful, Christian business owners are all in the balance.

Your love-dilemma is sady all so clear—to worship your god and proclaim his gospel with all your heart, mind, and soul requires you to pump the breaks at ever turn and love people with restraint and carefulness for fear a sinner might actually conclude that love is all that’s needed, and from God, all that’s given. To be sure, you have my deepest sympathies, for what a hell it must be to live and love like that.

Correct me if I’m wrong. Love—this is what you call it, is it not?  This is what it looks like, among those in your faith franchise, to “love God and people” in adherence to your mission statements. With the same breath with which you praise His name, it seems you have no problem, not even a prick of reservation in weaponizing a good dose of shame and packaging it as love. You know it hurts, you know is destroys, you know it kills, but you pull the pin anyway—the shrapnel of condemnation blowing gouging wounds deep into the soul. The cold, resolved look on your face tells us you’re ok with that, because that’s what your sin-focused version of Jesus requires, and what best justifies and validates your faith. In your mind, God loves people where they are at, but He doesn’t leave them there—and somehow, it’s your job to do the policing and the rehabilitating. 

When it’s all said and done, like a needle needs a vein, your brand of Jesus needs an enemy—it’s a kind of spiritual addiction where one can easily become a special kind of junky, and not just a junky, but a bully. For what’s a bully to do without someone to bully? What’s a spiritual junky to do without a fix of people-condemnation from which to pull a rush of self-righteousness? Those are the ultimate questions for your Jesus-hijacking religion. You know exactly what you are doing, yet you do it anyways—like a spiritually pubescent, playground bully whose best idea for free time is to find someone to devour.

It’s no wonder that everything you do and say falls flat, because your every move and motivation is lined with fine print, hurt, condition, self preservation, and self justification. This is what we see, and the impact your walk is making.

Truth is, Jesus has far more noble things for you to be doing than throat-punching the LGBT community and calling it a handshake.

In fact, when all heavenly power and authority were given to Jesus, His first impulse was to kneel down and wash feet—and that, without condition nor agenda, serving humanity because it’s the God-thing to do.

So let me ask you, where do we see you bowing down, harnessing all power and authority, having an overriding impulse to serve the LGBT community, without condition nor agenda? Where do we see you on hands and knees, dying to serve this community?

In the face of harsh, spiritual conservatism, we see Jesus boldly breaking religious laws to render aid to the outcast—healing and feeding the broken, going against fundamentalist grain for the sake of a fellow human because it’s the God-thing to do.

So, let me ask you, where do we see you doing whatever it takes, even rebelling against popular, modern conservative Christianity in order to help the LGBT community? Where do we see you breaking free, blazing through religious barriers to be unconditional love to this marginalized community?

Jesus aimed the tractor-beam of His ministry towards the inclusion of the very people religion left out—women, children, foreigners, those deemed to be the “sinners,” the “unclean”, the sick, the outlaws, and the murderers, all because it’s the God-thing to do.

So let me ask you, where do we see you aiming the sum of your energy, efforts, and influence towards the inclusion of the LGBT community? Where do we see you fighting for the equal rights, the human dignity, and the justice of the religiously discarded and dehumanized—this entire community?

There are only two occasions on which Jesus is specifically recorded as being angry.  In both moments, it was at people who were withholding grace, because getting up in the face of grace-withholding people is the God thing to do.

Fine, you think LGBT is a sin, that’s your conclusion. So, let me ask you, where can we see your anger on display towards people who are withholding grace from the LGBT community? Where do we see you passionately denouncing condemning rants and judgmental allegations?

Unconditional, serving, grace-giving, people-embracing, condemned-defending, religious rule-breaking, all-inclusive love is the only thing on God’s “to do” list.

My simple question for you is, is it on yours? And if not, why?

Christian, find something better to do, stop being a bully, and calling it believing.

The only one being fooled, is you.

Why Modern Christianity Makes People Vomit

It’s not a new revelation that modern Christianity is on the decline, especially the American brand. There are growing numbers of good, thinking people who are vomiting out the spiritual elitism, arrogance, and religiosity that oozes out of the pores of countless Christians and their church culture. Yet sadly, as many that yell “fire” in hopes to solicit a cure, most Christians simply resolve to bury their heads in the sand and cling to their black and white, cut and paste spiritualities. Like Linus with his blanket, nose-blind to their own reality, many Christians refuse to let go of the very things that make them stink—sending many, kneeling to the porcelain altar, vomiting it all out.

There are real reasons for all the upchucking— many that are hard to hear, but nonetheless, true. I don’t pretend to believe any of this will make much of a difference, only that someone should have the guts to unveil the true reasons for all the spewing.

We Know You are Faking It-  When the Christian life is centered on one’s spiritual performance, the best anyone can do is pretend— we know you’re pretending.

What you are proclaiming as the cure is really the poison. Your focus on sin, sin-management, and personal, spiritual improvement only imprisons people to the futility of their efforts to get better—leaving them addicted to the lie that if they would just try harder, pray longer, or do more spiritual things, one day they’ll arrive. We see you drink in the motivational messages, the calls to “get radical” for Jesus. We hear the fear tactics and religious prescriptions, the weight you place on guilt and shame. We see the wads of cash you lay down for the latest “to do” books on Christian living and the conferences that peddle them. It’s all about you and your quest to become somebody for Jesus.

Yet, we aren’t fooled, for all the WWJD stickers lining your bumper, we see that nobody is living it like you pretend to be. We are wide awake to the spiritual game of competitive Christianity you are playing.

The truth is, your faith is undoable, leaving people with the only thing left to choose— look the part, go through the motions, and hope nobody sees behind the veil to the ghost town of your spiritual life. There should be no surprise to see countless people simply opting out, realizing it’s more genuine to stay home than it is to be a part.

Grace is the only power that changes anything. Grace proclaims it’s not your performance that defines you, it’s Christ’s. Grace awakens us to the reality that we are already whole, complete, sanctified, justified, pure, holy, righteous, and saved—with no reason for any sense of guilt, shame, fear, or condemnation dwelling in our lives. The very things your modern Christianity are trying to work into our souls are the very things Jesus erased. The Gospel of Jesus is all Grace, or it’s not all Gospel. Grace levels the playing field—none are better, only different.

Yet sadly, Grace isn’t sufficient for you. You’d rather play a losing game and gather others around the misery of your hopeless spiritual plight, while believing its salvation—addicted to the Law you are pimping as Gospel. All, while the spiritual and moral decline of those under your legalistic chemtrails increases all the more as they breathe in your toxin—sending the masses vomiting to the hills.

You Say Stupid Stuff You Think Is Spiritual-  The talking points you’ve cocked and loaded for any given moment, the spiritual cue cards ready for the perfect “Christian” response, the cheesy Facebook memes with outdated fonts and clip art, all leave people inwardly concluding, “Gag me with a multi-colored pitchfork.”

We can tell, though perhaps your intentions are good, you don’t have much of a grasp on the script you are repeating, and for some, there’s a sure void of genuine heart behind what rolls off the tongue. Things like, “I’ll be praying for you,” “God will never give you more than you can handle,” “You just need to press into God more,” “Hate the sin and love the sinner” all render people flat and spiritually comatose.

Chances are, it really wasn’t about actually praying, and even if you do pray, does that mean God will now magically release a blessing on one’s behalf that He was withholding in wait for your petition? Who’s in control of God anyways? You? God? I have a hard time believing a pithy little statement asserting what “God gives you to handle” is going to resonate with a dying cancer patient and their desperate family. Does God really “give” that stuff out anyways, and out of the goodness of His little heart, stops just a wee-bit short of “too much?” Besides, how exactly does one “press into God” more? Is there a special valve you push, some hip-posture you take? What does that even mean?

How about just genuinely caring about people beyond a prepackaged response, getting involved in their lives, walking with them a mile or two, and leave the Christian talking points on the pew.

You Suck At Being Human-  It’s pretty obvious, at least the impression you create— you care more about rule-keeping, creed-following, and church-life than you do about real people, especially those who are offensive to you.

Surely to your surprise, when onlookers observe your Christian life they conclude that becoming more like you is a downgrade, not an upgrade. For to walk upon your path and adopt your values is to become more judgmental, arrogant, phony, exhausted, and legalistic —loving less, enjoying less, and being free… less.

It’s all a drag, a constant spiritual skate on thin ice— parsing every word and action. You boast of a freedom that looks more like prison. You can’t love simply for the sake of loving, there always has to be a catch— some kind of condition, restriction, or spiritual agenda. It’s all so complicated and involved. Line after line of fine print— swimming in a sea of forever pretentiousness.

Why can’t you just be human?

Like Jesus.

Your Worship Is Empty-  For all the subwoofers, intelligent lighting, video packages, church-franchising, and skinny jeans, as much as you may have a heart to “reach” people, you come off like a microwaved hamburger; done on the outside, still frozen in the middle.

Sure, people come, and it all may be musically, visually, and architecturally impressive, but a show never changed anyone; at least, not in the right ways. Where are the choruses, “My life sucks right now, and so does God?” I know, that would be too raw and real to where many are truly at I guess— doesn’t fit a starch-ironed, pleated theology, or look good on LED-shaded projection screens. Since when is a healthy faith journey simply a matter of inspiration, cutting and pasting bullet-points, and conjuring up the determination to give another college-try at becoming a better, “sold-out-for-Jesus” person the upcoming week.

By the way, how’s that going for you— all the “becoming a better person for Jesus” stuff? Well, I can tell you— the world sees, that behind all the religious theatre, it’s not. Nobody is getting fooled, but you.

Why? Because light shows, movies, television specials, clever spiritual acronyms, inspiration, and self-determination never changed anyone. Only Grace can, and does.

Shows are easy— loving people, giving Grace, being real… much more messy—all that money can’t buy.

The world is insulted that you approach them like a commercial audience to be inspired into a sale.  People are too smart for that, and quite frankly, too valuable and filled with divine dignity to be belittled by your spiritual snake oil.

We see the show, but not near the genuine, humble love for people. That’s why we vomit it out. Away from us you evil doers, you worship God with your lips, but your heart is far, far from Him.

You Think You Have It-  So drunk on the sound of your own voice, as if God allotted you exclusive awareness to all things Bible and its proper interpretation, you cling onto your truth as if the Deity has trademarked your understanding.  No room for questioning, no room for thinking, no room for living to the beat of an alternative drum—if only to assimilate us all into the collective of your spiritual Borg.

You are always right; a true, genuine follower of Christ—everyone else, some shade of rebellion and unfaithfulness—desperately in need of your discipleship. We, the wayward, dwelling somewhere in the darkness cast by the throne upon which you sit— as you spray on your favorite morning perfume, “Arrogance” by Chanel Evangelical, we can’t help but be confronted by the stench that falls. What you smell as flowers, we smell as feces.

It’s all so convenient, so intoxicating— that you have “it,” and everyone else, by your declaration, does not.  Oh, how our gag reflexes can’t help but spit out that attitude, and all that comes with it.

You See People As A Project- We are the potential notch on your “conversions” belt. Like Chia Pets, ordered for a rainy afternoon, you pour yourself into our lives for one underlying purpose— to see, if upon us, your ideology will grow.

Everything you do, even the love you express, has an agenda in the shadows—not that we become fellow “learners” with you, but rather, that you are the “learned,” and we are to learn to be as learned as you. Your’s is not an introduction to Jesus, but an induction into religion.

We sense the fingers crossed behind your back, hoping that by your efforts and clever ministry strategies we might start saying the right things, doing the right things, believing the right things, all because you befriended us in fulfillment of your pre-packaged, purpose-driven mission statement.

It’s what you think you are supposed to do, but ironically, what we see Jesus never do—treat people like a project.

You Read Into A Book And Turn Off Your Brain-  The Bible is everything to you— and by “everything,” I mean everything.

It’s your salvation, justification, license for condemnation. It’s your indoctrination, discrimination— not the just the Bible, but your literal, black and white, leather-bound approach. Like a deer caught in the high-beams, you’re entranced by its religious capacity to condemn and self-justify— blocking your ability to see its Light and rendering you as an obstacle to God’s intention.

Whatever lines you auto-tune to echo what you want them to say— those becomes undebatable to you— more definitive and directional than Jesus Himself. To you, the Word hasn’t become flesh, He has become fine-printed in the nuances of your interpretation.

Forget all the science the screams for an old earth. Forget the eyes that clearly see evolution within Genesis creation. Forget the brain in which a God who is Love can’t compute a God of eternal, tormenting hell. Forget the grey, the mystery, the journey, the humanity within every word and page.  Forget those, who lives were immersed with Jesus, yet completely missed His essence because they had their heads buried in the words.

You personify the Bible as God’s plan to turn off a thinking brain and a beating heart— best used to win arguments, justify hate, and draw lines in the sand as to who is in and who is out, right and wrong, and good or evil.

What God created to be a launch pad to a Jesus encounter, you have reduced to a roadmap from Jesus, declaring of which, you hold the navigation key.

All your Bible-thumping, memorization, proof-texting, and debating squeezes the abdominals to a full-on upchucking.

You Unify Around What You Are Against-  The motto of the sum of your Christian philosophy, “Don’t drink, don’t chew, and don’t go with girls that do.” Don’t do this, don’t do that, we are against this, and we are against that.

Nothing enflames the passion of your cause more than to discover a new enemy. If you can’t find a real one, you simply string one together—homosexuality, liberality, wars against Christianity, prayer in schools, transgender equality—always some ax to grind. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails than to be absent of sin-targets for which to take your self-righteous aim— those who sin differently than you, your favorite sitting duck.

It’s all so obvious as you live out your religiosity, love is an accessory, and apparently so is giving a damn. Satisfied with taking shelter behind the walls of your spiritual pride, you refuse to reexamine, to fully consider, “maybe we’re wrong.” Besides, there’s way to much too sin to point out to ever begin to look at your own.

Communing around the sacraments of your hate, you hijack Jesus, and make him the hood ornament of your world bulldozer— known best by all the things you are against, not the common sense, Jesus-things you should be for… unconditional love, grace, humility, selflessness, serving, sacrifice… and on, and on, and on.

All, while more and more good, thinking, love-believing, grace-intoxicated, Jesus adoring people, vomit it all out of their mouths— and rightly so.

Get in line behind Jesus, all ye fellow heathens, He is joining us—leading the way of gag…

“I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking… you make me want to vomit.” -Jesus    (Revelations 3:16  MSG)

What Has Your Christianity Done To You?

There’s a diabolical way Eskimos kill wolves. Taking a long knife, they coat the blade with frozen blood, placing it upwards in the snow. The wolf smells the blood, feverishly starts licking. As the blood-sickle numbs the wolf’s tongue, their clueless to the moment the razor-thin edge slits it wide open, shifting the animal to consuming its own blood unaware. Doing so, in a frenzy of oblivious delusion, the wolf literally drinks itself to death. What tastes like it’s yielding life, is actually ending it.

Look in the mirror. There’s blood all over our mouths. Dripping down.

Not just your mouth, but your hands, your feet, you heart, your soul. The outside sees it, smells it. Don’t you? Like rag-shirted zombies that think they are alive, believe they’ve been resurrected. Groaning, moaning, needing someone to devour. The walking dead.

What’s happen to you? What’s happen to us? The people we’ve become.

These words, not trying to be destructive, just trying try be descriptive. This is life and death.

Most Christians don’t even realize what their Christianity has done to them.

Hard to see it, even harder to say it. But, you’ve become a monster.

Not just you, all of us.

Look at ourselves. The heights from which we have fallen.

In the Garden of Eden, it was enough that God is love, you were fully human, created in His image to fully love. It was as simple, complete, and beautiful as that. Nothing to add. The Gospel of the Garden. Life as it’s intended. Everything to enjoy. Freely loved, freely loving. Bliss upon bliss, heaven forever. The ultimate life. An eternal flow of endless loving and being loved, all without limits, without restriction. Seated high, only shadowed by the angels. Imagine the freedom, the release to love expansively. The forever smile that reality painted on our souls.

But then, numb to the scheme, we fell for the Law. We bit the lie that there are conditions. Conditions, limitations, expirations to being loved and to loving. It’s not free, to give or receive, nor is it to be freely given or received. Lies upon lies, licks upon licks, swallowing the evil whole. In so doing, in our condition-believing, we didn’t become more human, we actually became less. Our souls slit wide open. Our hearts bleeding. Our fall from Grace, by falling for the Law. Confusion set in. What felt like distance from the Divine, was all in our minds, not God’s heart. That’s what conditions do, they taste like life, but are sure death. Projecting onto God a reality that is not His, not ours, not anyone. God didn’t go there, we did.

Jesus came to reveal, to lift the veil, to change the mind, to sober the trance. To awaken us to what has always been, that God loves humanity as if the Law never existed. In His heart, the timelessness of eternity, conditions never have. No fine-print, demands, or a distance. From Moses to Jesus, God’s ardent revelation to humanity of the dance-of-death created by the futile pursuits of human performance and God appeasement. It doesn’t work. The diabolical drama of the Law, with all its systems and calculations, is not just undoable, it’s errant. A wrecking ball, a blade in the snow to all that is truly God and life giving. Jesus, revealing God as Law-fulfilled, condition-less. For if the Law, in writing or Spirit, were inerrant there would be no Jesus, the Word, the Way, the Life.

In fact, the only two people in Scripture that Jesus proclaims are people of “great faith,” were both Gentiles, not Law-conscious, condition-believing Jews. One was a Roman and the other a Canaanite. What they had in common wasn’t an off-the-chart spiritual record, it wasn’t some laser-like capacity to point out sin. It wasn’t even church-attendance or ardent-worship awards. Rather, what was intrinsic at their core was that both of them had no awareness of the Law, no sense of a God of conditions, none at all. They shared the untainted, un-seduced clarity of mind and heart to see and believe in God as He truly is. Their “greatness” of faith was in direct correlation to their awareness of the “greatness” of God’s unconditional love. These weren’t conditions to God-relationship that were being pushed aside, overlooked, or covered over. In the framework of their God perspective, there weren’t conditions at all. Jesus sees this, their eyes-wide-open awareness of the true nature and heart of God, and declares, “Now these guys, they get it.”

Later, when Jesus points us to the spearpoint of God’s Old Testament intention, the summation of all that can be summed up, He pleads for one thing, genuine God-love and the loving of our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Don’t be duped by your Christianity. In these words, Jesus isn’t pushing for us to press into the Law, meeting more conditions and expectations, getting more religious and ambitious. Actually, He’s begging you to see the imprisonment that comes with it, and our forever release from it. As if it never existed. That Good is good, and His love endures forever.

For how can you truly love without reservation, believe without inhibition, with complete mind, heart, and soul, in a God of conditions? How can you truly love anyone, in any way, with love-limitations? You can’t. If it’s not unconditional love, it’s not love at all. If it’s not an unconditional God, it’s not God at all. It’s Satan’s slick substitution… religion. That’s what you’re feverishly licking. Drinking death, believing it’s life. You’re not loving God and people, you’re religion-ing God and people, and calling it life in Christ.

Jesus is yearning from the depths of His being for our return to being fully human…

Fully human… awakening to the awareness that you are unconditionally loved by God who is nothing but love.

Fully human… loving humanity without condition, without restraint nor reservation.

Fully human… seeing the goodness, the divine hand in all God has created.

Fully human… embracing our release from the Law is if it never existed.

Why? Because Jesus knows, only then do we have the capacity, the freedom, the genuine desire, the rest within our mind and heart from which to truly see Him and therefore to truly love Him, manifesting that love to ourselves and to others. A rebirth, a new creation, a new species, a return to being fully human.

Free to be loved fully, free to love fully. No brake pumping, no leash pulling, guilt tripping, fear mongering, no if, ands, or buts.

This is heaven come down, to love lavishly as you are lavishly loved. To see no conditions, to give no conditions. No governor on the love accelerator. No chains, no ceiling, no amount that it is “too much.” Grace upon Grace, upon Grace, upon Grace, all the more. More and more love, as far as the eyes, the heart, and the mind can see.

Free at last, free at last, thank God, we are free at last.

God created you to be fully human.

But that’s not what you’ve become, that’s not what your Christianity has done to you. Not to you, not to us.

We’re not fully human, our Christianity has made us into something far less.

We’ve made God into a schizophrenic drunk, storming out of a bar, wrapping His arms of love around you one moment, sending His son to secure the world’s salvation, only to drop-kick countless souls into a hell of eternal torture, while singing choruses of divine justice and holiness, with beer steins raised, as He winks at you with a grin in His eyes. He’s no more than the elf on the shelf, watching, judging, waiting for that opportune moment to push humanity under His thumb and yank us all back from too much happiness. Never knowing when you might push Him too far and dislodge the pin of His wrath-grenade. His love is the warm-up band, the appetizer for the main thing… your repentance, allegiance, rule-keeping, and good behavior. Don’t give Him what He wants, you don’t get what He’s got. The valves are turned off, the supply is sanctioned, and a blockade is formed, welling up to an eternal separation of fiery, skin melting despair.

You don’t need Hollywood to know that anything with more than one head, one heart, one vision is a monster.

This is what we’ve done. All of us.

Turned God into a monster, a two-headed, two hearted, two-visioned monster. A crazed, conflicted god who loves… but.

Sadly, the very image we’ve made of God, is very the person, the very people we’ve become…

Sure, you love people… but. There’s always a “but.” “But” this, “but” that. Your “Sir Mix-A Lot” version of love sings, “I like love with big ‘buts’ and I cannot lie.” Always with a condition, some kind of spiritual fine-print. A loop hole, a way out. Checkpoints here, checkpoints there, gotta make sure it doesn’t go too far, too soon. Grace is dangerous, you just can’t go around giving it to everyone and anyone. Always stopping short of acceptance and affirmation, as if yours are the hands that wield God’s stamp of approval. Your love is labeled, compartmentalized, predicated to those who are willing to subscribe to a terms of agreement. Dished out for free, but with silverware you have to pay for. Your love is not love at all, it’s a monster. And we, the walking dead, devouring whole groups of people… enemies, people with whom we disagree. Races, genders, gay people, transgender people, the rich, the poor. Killing countless with the poison we are pimping as love. Casket, after casket, after casket.

Sure, you have faith… but. There’s always a “but.” You just can’t let go of your addiction to the sound of your own performance. To-do lists, rules to keep, sins to overcome. It’s all so flesh intoxicating. Building your kingdom, your own following, your own story of success. Jesus and you, changing the world. Sounds so spiritual. Trying to line it all up, to fruit-up the vines, all to convince yourself of what you are not; that you are lovable, valuable, qualified, and worthy, as is. Dare I say, forgiven, equal, and whole. Nothing to improve, heal, or reconcile that Jesus hasn’t already. The self-righteousness is bleeding out of your every pore. All your hand raising, money giving, engraved Bible studying, self-promoting, enough is never enough. So much going on with your lips, but your heart, it’s restless. More and more to do, to become, to improve, to achieve, to show. Building your tower to God, calling it faith and faithfulness. Like Mary in the scriptures, making sandwiches Jesus never ordered. To believe is to rest. But on the bed of rest, you will not rest. You got to have some skin in the game, a security blanket of your own weaving. Jesus is not enough. The cross not finishing. His Grace, not sufficient. With every striving and trying, doing and performing, your proclamation of un-faith. Hoping to sign-up the world to chase with you on the this endless treadmill of spiritual, hypocritical exhaustion, praying they won’t see it’s all one big veil to an empty life. Your Christian life is no life at all, it’s a monster. And we, the walking dead, devouring people into this slow death of spiritual futility disguised as faith.

Sure, you have Grace… but. There’s always a “but.” We need to have a balance. It’s just can’t be all good news. God’s not soft, He’s rock-sovereign. Condemnation, sin-deciding, it feels so right, so good, so leather-bound biblical. Bringing another low, putting them in their place. Discipline, confronting, punishment. Positions, platforms from which to look down. The Bible says… the Bible tells me so. Verse quoting, debate engaging, enemy declaring. We gotta speak the truth in love, the proctologist who’s smiling so gently with his truth-finger up your rear end. Playing spiritual doctor, posturing yourself as the divine physician. As if your eyes can x-ray the disease, and you’re skilled enough to cure it, let alone, the one commissioned to do it. It’s all one big game of spiritual hide in seek in compounds with crosses on top. Talking amongst ourselves and judging the world. Spiritually navel gazing as we complain about how bad the world is, with thankfulness for how good we are. The Bible replacing Jesus, words about God trumping the Word of God. It’s all so convenient. Yet, all so irrelevant. The world and Jesus, just wants to spit it all out of their mouths. Your Grace is not Grace at all, it’s a monster. And we, the walking dead, imprisoning the very people Jesus has set free.

No one falls from the Law, you only fall from Grace, the summit of all that is God and all that is good.

Oh, how we have fallen, the decay that has set in.

We’ve swallowed the blade whole, numb to the death we think is life.

You call it a Gospel, but it’s no Gospel at all. It’s the worse news ever. That God loves you… but, that I love you… but.

That’s not heaven, that’s hell.

A two-headed Monster.

That’s what we have become, what our Christianity has done.

Religion creates the illusion you are experiencing and pleasing God when in reality you are hiding from Him and missing His heart.

We, who so boastfully declare to have it, have completely missed it.

They, the world, are not the monsters, the ignorant, the inhumane, the Godless… we are.

Most Christians don’t realize what their Christianity has done to them.

It’s about time we do.

To Those Hurt By Franklin Graham And His Supporters

There’s is no denying the hurtful, deplorable words recently communicated by Franklin Graham to the LGBT community.

His timing, message, and condemning posture are extremely disappointing and disturbing at best. The hateful march of many of his supporters rallying around their captain has left ditches full of casualties, shot at point-blank range with fiery darts of condemnation, hate, and judgment.

Yet Franklin Graham and his supporters are a symptom and product of a much deeper cancer in our Christian culture, the Evangelical highjacking of the Gospel, God, and what it means to follow Jesus. Until this spiritual disease in our nation is healed and the heart of Christ reclaimed, this religious spirit will continue to spread and spew its vomit. Hurting, harming, misleading, and destroying the lives of many in its path.

For those of us who are of the LGBT community or allies thereof, these are difficult times requiring great courage, honesty, togetherness, patience, faith, and Grace. Now more than ever, it’s time to be brave.

There is real hurt, pain, and hardship caused by those who would use Jesus to spiritually justify their bigotry, hate, and the pimping of a Gospel that is no Gospel at all. Never apologize nor shrink back from your cries being cried and your voices being heard. We must never become the evil done against us. We are a people of love because God is love. But that does not mean for us to be silent, or perfectly varnished in our feelings or even in our expressing. Jesus confronted the religious spirit of His day openly and honestly, and we are no less Jesus in our doing so.

In fact, in two instances, Jesus is specifically recorded as becoming angry. Not violent, but angry. Both times, at people who interestingly enough, were withholding Grace.

It is indeed right and salutary that we should be emotional, even carefully confrontational where we see Grace withheld, and condemnation and judgment its replacement. Opening wide the floodgates, with honesty in our sails. Yet, all a river leading us to become servants, lovers of our enemies, compassion overflowing. A stream that cannot be stopped, because love is unstoppable. For that is the gift of an enemy, that we learn to love anyway. Furiously and fearlessly.

Even as we hurt, even as we cry, even as we confront, even as we defend, even as we are crucified, we love anyway. Washing the very feet of those who would stomp on ours.

Please understand, Franklin Graham’s voice and those of his supporters, do not represent the Gospel nor Jesus. That is my opinion. His words, their words, are nothing like Him, nor the Gospel He brings. For God is love, Jesus is Grace, and His message is peace. Love, unconditionally without conditions. All affirmed, all included, all delightfully delighted in Him and by Him.

Just imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham. Immersed in a religious system at such a level that few ever have the discernment or courage of heart from which to break free. Constantly placing the footings of his faith, life, relationship with God and self on his performance. Forever being preoccupied with sin management, rule-following, and closeness-keeping with God. Imagine, the daily spiritual struggle and unrest in his life. Always having to live up to spiritual expectations, sleeping with one eye open, justifying and medicating shame with self-righteousness. Believing in a Gospel where God loves you… but. If you don’t do this, or you do that, all could be as nothing. A God whose justice, holiness, and love look like the eternal torture of billions of people who simply didn’t follow certain prescribed religious steps and expectations. Where there is no room for incongruent thinking, spiritual exploration beyond the tracks. Where you never get to fully love without restraint. There is always a governor affixed to the pedal of your heart. I love you… but. Just imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham.

I, and others, have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt. And I can tell you it’s a living hell that you’re fooled to believe is heaven.

The more Franklin Graham and his supporters speak, the more our hearts should be filled with deep sadness, even compassion. If it hurts so much for us to hear him, imagine what it feels like to be him. For the language he speaks out, is first the language he echoes to himself, believing God first decreed it. And perhaps there is not greater hell then self-condemnation, growing full term into religion, all the while believing its the best of heaven. Imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham. We are getting a mere taste of his reality.

Be doubly assured, God is working in Franklin Graham’s life just as He is with you and me. Not through punishment, fear, guilt-trips, manipulation, rules, or condemnation. All through Grace.

In the same way, we can be, we must be… a manifestation and message of Grace to him.

Especially as it hurts, even as it hurts. Where life is a cross, not a couch. This is when Grace is most convincing.

To hurt and to give Grace at the same time, is to be fully human, fully Jesus. On the cross, blood flowing down, agony upon agony, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Grace upon Grace.

For Grace is the only thing that changes anything and anyone. Grace wins where everything else does not and cannot.

At the heart of Grace is… forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what Franklin Graham has said is now somehow true or acceptable. It doesn’t mean what he has done, is somehow now approvable. It doesn’t mean the hurt should somehow now be instantly removable; the anger subsided, and the injustice now somehow justified. It doesn’t mean any of that. For him or anyone else beside him.

It does mean, however, we emotionally release the false-accusers in our lives of the debt they owe that they cannot or will not repay.

Franklin Graham and those among him, they owe, and they owe big time. An apology, innocence returned, sleepless nights re-slept, tears removed, depressions lifted, tragedies averted. They owe big time. We all have our list.

Yet chances are, they cannot or will not repay. That apology is not coming. The affirmation is not coming. The compassion is not coming. The change of heart and mind… not coming.

Forgiveness means we no longer live with the bitterness, longing, and emptiness that comes from the expecting, even the demanding of a return. It gives us the power to be free, to never let the lack of integrity in another become the lack of integrity in us. To sing choruses crying, “It is well with my soul” not because it is necessarily all well with them, but forgiveness has necessarily made it all well in us. They no longer rent space in our heads, nor can their words unravel what God has knit together. Forgiveness has developed our immunity from the false-accusers within our faith. For we know who we are, and Whose we are. Beautifully and wonderfully made, the divine artistry of our Maker.

Forgiveness is releasing our offender only to realize we were the prisoner.

Franklin Graham, to all who gather around him, we love you as is. There is no condemnation for you, not from God, not from me, not from us. You are unconditionally loved without conditions. None of us are better, only different. We consider you, and all among you, cherished members of the family, completely included and affirmed.

To those who have been hurt by Franklin Graham and his supporters, walk with confidence today, that you are loved, affirmed and celebrated by your Father in heaven. Your LGBT child is loved, affirmed, and celebrated by your Father in heaven. Nothing to change, nothing to be rearranged. No sin, no darkness within. None.

You are secure in His arms of approval and pride. You are the joy set before Him, His affections are ever upon you. Unmovable and undeniable.

Lift up your head, lift up your head I say! You are the revival God is bringing to the world.

For such a time as this, you were born.

Be brave!

Love furiously and fearlessly.

Be brave!

Learning To Love ISIS, Starting With The ISIS In You

Everything is spiritual.

We can mud-sling political views around. Debate historical data. All, painting each other into corners. We may feel a release, but there won’t be a resolution.

ISIS is a spiritual manifestation and a human problem.

On the surface, it reveals itself as terrorism, murder, hatred, war, and violence. Terrible realities, worthy of our anger and conversation. Yet underneath, there is a cancer much deeper, a catalyst much darker. Until this is healed, there will be no healing. It is beyond the reach of missiles, religion, sanctions, politics, rhetoric, ideologies, and war. All, perpetuating the cycle.

Everything is spiritual. Requiring spiritual evaluation and application. This is why we must talk about the root of all that is terror… condemnation.

It’s a simple story.

In the creation poem that opens its scroll at the front of the Christian Bible, God speaks the world into being. With hands coursing His artistic beard, He pauses between breathes to evaluate His living imagery. In rhythmic cadence, with each step He declares, “it is good.”

Soon after, the Tempter in serpent form, exploited the Garden of its goodness, playing his sole card of condemnation, the only one in hand. The first human ones bit the bluff, that God is holding out because of something they can’t handle. Convinced they lacked in some way, unworthy of the worthiness etched into their being. What was natural became naked, and the yarns of shame and guilt slithered their coil through the threads of inherent goodness. It is a complex weave. And we, are a complex people in the arduous journey of trying to unravel from condemnation’s relentless entanglement.

This is the story of every human being, bobbing and weaving, wrestling to come out from under condemnation believed. The genesis of all contortions, twisted personas, and justifications. It is the root of all sin. The birth of all religion. Compelling us into the dance to heal or conceal a shamed heart. All of us have a life that tells a unique, complicated story and reveals a personal shaping from our quest to be released from the lie we swallow as truth… condemnation.

This is the essence of all religion. The soul trying to heal its concluded unworthiness through efforts of appeasement and pleasing… people, self, Gods, standards, expectations. A never ending list.

Religion, it is a contrived system, all to place the conquering of condemnation in human hands and within human reach. It has names like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, but it’s reach is far greater, and origin far more universal. For it is first a human system, and then a human system falsely projected onto God. Starting from humans, and within all of humanity. Religion is not of God, it’s of us.

Living up to the Jones’ next door, or living up to a Diety in heaven, it is all equally religion. Striving to feel good about you, people feel good about you, a Being above to feel good about you. It’s all religion.

People pleasing, God pleasing. Earning self approval, God approval. Call it what you may, a path, a pursuit, a faith. Jesus calls it religion. Evil, from its beginning, especially in what it becomes at its fruition.

For the ultimate manifestation of condemnation is religion. The ultimate expression of religion is… violence.

Just ask Cain and Abel.

A mere stones throw from the Garden, the first act of terrorism. From condemnation’s stem, the religious barbs grow. Cain and Abel believe they must please God, offerings of show. Covering over guilt, justifying their concluded lack. Cain and Abel enter the sanctuary to perform their religious act.

Cain’s perception? God sees his offering as inferior compared to that of Abel. It’s lacking, unworthy. He is therefore, lacking and unworthy. Internalized condemnationSentenced to disapproval, the cell is too much. If only to break free. To even the score. To bring one down, to lift one’s self up.

Murder, terrorism, its origins the same. Cain bites the bluff and kills out of shame. All in attempt to clean, clear, lift, and better his name. To win at playing this religious game.

Be it Christianity, Islam, or ISIS, there is no difference. The root of terrorism is condemnation fully grown into religion.

Violence is born out of people who see the lowering, hurting, or death of another as a path to the validation or justification of self. It is born out of those seeking to perpetuate or defend the religious system they use to justify away concluded condemnation. For the death of their religion is the death of their self-justification, the self-healing of self, their very salvation.

All the way to believing they are better, instead of only different.

Crusades, planes, bombs. Christian or Islam, makes no difference. All is religion.

Isn’t that what most of Christianity has become, just another religion?

Isn’t that who we are as people, mostly religious in prescription?

Living to overcome condemnation through our performance, be it spiritual or secular, it makes no difference. Causing us to believe we are better than another, where in truth, we are only different.

All is spiritual, and most all, have simply become religious.

In doing so, terrorism is already here.

For we are a terrorist nation, because we are a religious nation. Our violence just looks different.

Infidels declared. Homosexuals, transgenders, all condemned. Those on the left, those on the right. Immigrants, refugees, or somewhere in between. Pro-life, pro-choice. Those who have, those who have not. All sighted as targets, candidates for open season. None, it seems are exempt from hate. We are a hating, violent country, because of our religions.

Where we are a religious person we are a terrorist person, our violence and evil nonetheless violent and evil.

Bringing people low to lift ourselves up, terrorizing with the planes of our disapproval. Crashing people to pieces to fabricate an affirmation of self and shame’s removal. Pushing people behind simply to get ahead. Pimping dreams that are merely schemes. Condemning, judging, isolating, labeling, all to win in this religious game. Ultimately, to believe we are better, instead of merely one in the same.

Missiles of marginalization, bombs of bigotry. Shrapnel-laced blog posts, and weaponized rants of ideology. Whether it’s a pen or a pipe-bomb, legislations, labels, or land-mines, they are nonetheless, mere extensions of a heart poisoned by religion. Purposed primarily on justifying ourselves, our faith system, or our position.

Even that we are better, instead of merely different.

Murdering people, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. All is terrorism, nonetheless.

Just ask Jesus.

For Jesus, to hate in heart is to murder in action. At the core, either choice changes not our position. To pray “thy Kingdom come,” to give Jesus your adoration. This diagnosis must become our admission. We all need Grace, and all equally. Non are better, only different.

There is ISIS in us all, because there is the religious in us all.

This is the true battle within and without. Where external or inner condemnation attempts to engage our performance, spiritual or otherwise, to cover over or rise above areas where one feels lack. Be it appeasing a God, living up to religious standards, using success to medicate inner insecurities, bringing another down to lift one’s self up, ISIS is within us all. To choose religion over Grace.

Grace is God’s best idea to show the heart that believes it’s condemned, that there is no condemnation to believe. Grace is based on the eternal truth, that through Jesus none are condemned, none are lacking, all our whole, righteous, complete, and without blemish, all because of Jesus’ performance, our only hope.

Religion is based on the lie from Satan, that all are condemned, lacking, incomplete, poisoned, and their only hope ultimately rests in some level of their performance to appease an angry, conditional-loving God who requires something of their actions to trigger His.

Where we choose religion over Grace, ISIS is not just them over there, it’s you and me, right here.

Until the world awakens to Grace and dies to religion, there will always be an ISIS within and without.

Until you can see the ISIS in the mirror, you will not see yourself in ISIS. We are all human, none are better, only different. This is the scandal and humbling of Grace.

Terrorism is a complex issue that needs many levels of response.

But until we believe within Grace lies the way, we really don’t believe Grace all the way, and we will forever miss its capacity to heal the true root of all that is terrorism, and rid our planet of its power.

Until ISIS is you, you will not believe you need the same enormity of Grace necessary to be given, for ISIS to be no more.

You can’t give what you don’t have, and you don’t have what you don’t believe you need.

Religion, retaliation, revenge, only serve to arm and rearm.

Only Grace, disarms.

Our only chance to find true healing, of the ISIS within and the ISIS without.

Why I Wish I Were Gay, And Maybe You Should Too

Some of my gay friends would do just about anything to not be gay. Not out of some confusion complex or deep inner shame, but solely because of the abuse, condemnation, and flat out emotional torture they endure from our bigoted culture. For many, there are times of deep introspection, the searching for self-affirmation, navigating through a jungle of external to internal condemnation. I would never wish this experience on anyone and deeply empathize with their journey. The walk of being gay is uphill at best. It can be a special kind of living hell. Day by day, by day, no rest.

Yet, at times, I do wish I were gay.

Being gay affords an intrinsic discovery of profound awarenesses and the development of a depth of personhood that is to be highly prized. Gains that can tip the scales of loss and yield a treasure, over flowing. A vault of gold that only being gay can unlock.

At times, I wish I were gay.

Being so, you quickly find out with whom there is true friendship and true family. There’s no wasting time spending years in veiled relationships only to find out it was conditional love all along. The reality of people is quickly chased out of the shadows. There’s a kind of weeding out, a stripping down. Surface pleasantries and sunny-sky friendships quickly lose their appeal. One possesses a kind of relationship authentication system, revealing who is truly with you and who is truly not. And that, sooner than later. How much relational longing that only ended up in disappointment could have been usurped had I only been gay. Years of giving headspace to people who don’t matter. Tirelessly coaxing people into having an interest in my life and desperately trying to keep them caring. Some heterosexuals claim to have a kind of “gay-dar.” A radar-like sense for who is gay and who is not. Well let me tell you, gay people have a “crap-dar” I quick sense of who is full of crap and who is not.

Oh how at times, I wish I were gay.

I would have jettisoned the Evangelical brand of Jesus much sooner. The house of cards that is much of modern Christianity would have blown over in the wind of my God-breathed homosexuality, revealing religion’s evil scheme. To think about all the years I spent completely oblivious, clueless to this legalistic, self-righteous, elitist, religiously-spirited, arrogant, condemning, and theologically twisted take on Christianity. The blindest of the blind. Never seeing my faith from the other side. Therefore, never seeing faith at all. Rather condemning, judging, misleading, and flat out being wrong. A complete and utter jackass in the name of Jesus. Oh, the shame that could have been averted from the show-stopping, jaw dropping discovery that what I thought was the Way, was no way at all.

Had only I been gay.

I would have known more; earlier, faster, deeper, quicker, of what it means to be truly human. To be humane. To love without condition. To be loved without hesitation. For love that hesitates is no love at all. All that religion and conservatism wanted to rid me, God wanted to give me. My humanity. Not a disease but a divinity. You don’t learn to truly love until you learn what it feels to be truly hated. That’s the gift of an enemy, that we rise above to love, anyway. None grow to be more accepting than those deemed unacceptable. Loving, than those deemed to be unloveable. There is a special sound that Grace makes, a special sound that Grace quakes from those who are gay. Compassion for human suffering, a tolerance for intolerance. Grace upon Grace. None are better, only different. These are the diamonds of being gay.

Oh how I wish at times, I were gay.

To rest in my identity in Christ would have come much sooner. Years spent people pleasing, God pleasing. As if people pleasing and God pleasing were possible. Believing in a God who is displeased, full of an anger that needed to be appeased. What a freedom there could have been, more towards the beginning not the end. That God is Grace. He is love. Perfectly loving me, always delighting in me. Without hesitation, but complete affirmation. He is so much better, so much greater than I ever believed. Higher, deeper, wider, stronger. One can never exaggerate the goodness of God. Seeing Jesus through the lens of being gay, one can see God as being fully grey, loving every shade.

It’s never been about me, and all my me-ness. It’s only and always been about Him, and His loveliness. To finally awaken, to breathe for the first time, when having thought I was breathing all the time. This is what happens, when what you once believed and have been told is that you are breaking the mold, turns out to rather be the Father’s fashioning of a wholeness to behold. Held in the same hands as the stars. That you are.

Had I only been gay.

I would have loved the Bible as I’ve come to love it now, in all its complexity and errancy. The progressive revelation of humanity’s experience with God, completely completed in Jesus. The perfect Word, not a page, but a Person. Longing to reveal Himself to me and through me, as Love. Not a weapon, but a whiskey, intoxicating me in one hundred proof Grace, drinking in the forever favor of His face. Used by the religious to condemn. By Jesus to reveal the beautify of the Father. The beauty of them in which the world sees none. Only a quest from a heart pierced by religion’s claws sees the true divinity within us all. Not just a book, but an anthem affirming all of life.

How at times, I wish I were gay.

Playing in the garden of vulnerability, watching flowers grow in colors of uncertainty, learning to stand in the tension and stay connected with those stretching the connections. Where honesty and openness lose their threatening, and cuts and scars need no pre-packaging. Learning and living in true worship. Hands in the air with words singing, “Oh God, my life sucks and I’m having serious doubts about You.” Beautiful songs that need not reach the throne, because He has already drawn near, long before. Weeping, crying, laughing, living, struggling, searching, learning, questioning… all together. True community. Wanted, welcomed, celebrated, affirmed. Where church happens best where the marginalized, discarded, condemned, cast out, are happening most.

Had I only been gay.

I would have come in touch with my racism much sooner. The inner bigot that was me. The false accuser declaring what is no error, to be error. For this is the bottom line of homosexuality, where the heart meets heaven. No choice, no sin, no different than the color of a person’s skin. To be against one who is gay, is to be against myself, and myself against Him. To stand in opposition to the handiwork of the Creator who created me from within.

If only I had been gay.

To experience such revelation, to have this awareness, discover these discoveries, to garner pure wisdom. To love deeper, be known more fully, embrace more widely, to see more wholly. His beauty, His favor, His essence, His plan.

Sooner, clearer, greater… the heart expand.

To finally see, scales falling from our eyes, the evil so many of us as Christians have embraced and become, you ought to wish you were gay.

Oh, how at times, I do wish… I were gay, and maybe you should too.

Maybe… you should too.

If You Really Were “Unashamed”

Rallying kids to bring their Bibles to school, Facebook status pictures declaring “I’m a Christian,” Sharpie pens used to write “I am unashamed” on a hand or two. Really, this is the best idea we can come up with to present Jesus to our planet?

I know, you feel attacked as a “conservative” Christian, believing there is a growing “war” against your flavor of faith. You fear you aren’t getting your “way” in American culture, and in your mind, it’s all going to straight to hell… homosexuality, gun control, religious discrimination, loss of “family” values, and on and on. Shoot, old episodes of “Leave it Beaver” are even hard to find these days. Stop the madness.

And then, your freedoms. As if somehow they are under vicious attack as well. Last time I checked, you can still pray, worship, study, and do everything Jesus exampled. No, not where separation of Church and State applies. It’s been that way for how long now? But evidently, that’s not good enough as you conclude your leverage and influence is slipping. Truth be told, the rules have long been bent on the side of extending Christian favor in American society. That things are perhaps leveling a bit is truly nothing to get your panties in a wad. In fact, it presents great opportunity, maybe not for your religiosity, but for Jesus. Besides, worst case scenario, don’t we believe in the God who holds all the stars in His hands? What posture of fear or angst could we ever take if we were truly “unashamed?”

Do you really want to represent Jesus like that spoiled kid in the sandbox who always has to get his way, whines when he doesn’t, and pushes people around? Do you think we Christians getting together and standing sideways against the world as we declare our “unashamed” Christian allegiance, is making any impact at all? Congratulations, you are “a Christian.” We get it. Your Facebook status, twitter tags, t-shirts, and body art declare it. Applause, applause, you got your kids to carry a Bible to school. Wow, you are so faithful and uber-devoted. Your “Braveheart” battle field defense of team-Christian has even Mel Gibson taking notes.

Though it may look and feel all Jesus-serving to you with high-fives and spiritual pats on the bottom from your church-peeps, the rest of us aren’t fooled at all. Nope, we’re actually repulsed. And quite honestly, we are ashamed, not of the Gospel, but of your religious, elitist, pretentious, “I am… unashamed, a Christian…look at my Bible… blah, blah, blah…” stand against the world and all that you deem wrong, offensive, or unfair. Your version of Jesus and His Gospel has become so “spit it out of my mouth” worthy. I’m struggling for words right now to describe the taste on my tongue, so how does “crap” sound to you? Defensive, self-serving, arrogant, religious.

If you really were “unashamed” of the Gospel…

Your outward obedience and spiritual show would be flat out nothing to you, and the spotlighting of Jesus’s obedience, the complete sufficiency of His Grace, and the beauty of His perfect love would be everything.

You’d be licking your chops for opportunities to declare to the world, “we are unashamed of you.” Writing it on the hearts of every kind of person of every kind of lifestyle, skin color, creed, status, morality, nationality, or background. Not resting until all are aware, and never forget the Father’s true heart for them.

You’d care less if the world is accommodating your Christian agenda and values, giving them fair play and perpetuation. Simply serving people, unconditionally without conditions would be opportunity overflowing.

You wouldn’t be so cocked and loaded to defend Christianity, rallying the troops to demonstrate your resolve. To simply be Jesus to your neighbor, defending the poor, the marginalized, and the ones so confidently deemed to be sinning. That would be your cross.

You’d be far less interested in appearances, people knowing you are a Christian and a devoted player on the team. That people would see Jesus, His ardent delight in them that compels His eternal smile and forever embrace. That would be heaven to you.

Things like “bring a Bible to school” would be so less attractive to you, and show itself to be ridiculously self serving and lame, while washing the feet of those you least like and who are least like you would become so compelling.

If you really were “unashamed” of the Gospel…

You’d be brave with Grace, believing it all the way, daring to live it… all the way.

You’d be reading the world, the Scriptures, and the issues of our day through the lens of Jesus.

Jesus who is Grace, and Grace which is the Gospel.

But perhaps there in lies the crux of the matter… maybe it’s more like you are “unashamed” of club-Christianity, but Grace is another story.

Grace disturbs you, it shakes your foundations, it levels the playing field, and renders all your religious posturing and precepts as gonging, clanging cymbals… out of beat. A Grace that strips all the religious playing cards out of your hands and in return gives you plowshares. But you want to point fingers, not plow. You want to proclaim your faithfulness, not plow. You want to protect your agenda, not plow. You want to promote your ideology, not plow. You want to perpetuate your brand, your team, your institution, not plow. And then you wonder why so many don’t respond to your religious, Christian whistle blows, follow your cadence, or stay committed to marching in your band.

The more you religiously declare “I am unashamed” the more you in fact show yourself to be “ashamed,” not of your religious allegiance, but of a Grace that renders your allegiance as filthy rags, and admonishes you to serve rather than be served, love rather than label, and accept rather than condemn.

You see the house of cards your conservatism has built falling to the ground, one scriptural contextualization, one church statistic, one condemning, bible thumping Christian at a time. And so your best idea is to dig your religious heels in the ground, do something that looks and feels spiritual to show the world, you still mean business, and your God isn’t dead. All while, refusing the cure… Grace.

At best, your freedom to be religious has been challenged here and there, but not your freedom to be Jesus, if it’s Jesus you are truly “unashamed”… to be.

Is Evangelical Christianity The Wizard Behind the Curtain of America’s Moral And Spiritual Decline?

I am not a fan of being on the communicating end of negative things. Most people don’t enjoy that role, I certainly don’t. As one who has to field a lot of critical knocks on my own door, I know what it feels like to be misunderstood, misrepresented, and criticized irresponsibly. So, as I write about things that are not so positive regarding Evangelical Christianity, I do so with much carefulness to avoid becoming a part of the problem, as I truly desire to be a part of the solution.

As I address issues related to Evangelical Christianity in this writing, I am well aware that many Evangelicals, many of which I have as close friends, have wonderful hearts, do great things for Jesus, and are not aware of any harm in which they may or may not participate by being connected intimately or in part to Evangelical Christianity. That was true of me when I was an Evangelical pastor. In fact, I would suspect many Christians who would fall into the category of “Evangelical” don’t even realize it, nor have they considered any negative ramifications to the beliefs they hold and the Evangelical culture thereof.

Yet, when I observe something so alarmingly and clearly wrong, harmful, and deceptive, I feel a responsibility to at least articulate what I see and believe. Not with a spirit of condemnation, but with one of deep concern. No one person or group is perfect. Certainly, not I. For so many years as an Evangelical, I didn’t realize what I was truly participating in and what its ramifications truly were in people’s lives.

From as early as my boyhood sand box experiences, I have learned that many of the people who are repeatedly pointing at problems and things they don’t like from an aggressive, self-righteous posture are often those themselves who have something to conceal. From the bully on the playground to the podium pounding preacher, behind nearly every harsh, judging, fear-inducing, intimidating, and problem-pointing finger is often a Wizard of Oz like coward hiding behind a curtain, concealing the real issues.

The overarching chorus of Evangelical Christianity for years has been that the world is bad, needs to repent, and become like them. They passionately declare their morals, beliefs, and standards are not only the foundation of America, but that which is needed to reverse, what is in their minds, a terrible, declining culture. There is an inner consensus among many Evangelicals that if people just believed, lived, and acted like them, America would be a much better place.

Spokespersons and leaders of Evangelical Christianity such as Franklin Graham almost weekly, make public statements repeating this rehearsed theme that the world is bad, needs to repent, and become more like them in adopted values and lifestyle. A prevailing sentiment seems to suggest that if we would just return to the days of “Father Knows Best” where everything was seemingly simple and clean, things would be so much better.

Many of these statements, communicated in many and various ways, are often textured with judgement, fear tactics, and condemnation of a world that, in their minds, is not so simple and clean anymore. The underlying message is, “we know best.” “We are right, you are wrong, we have it, you don’t; repent, turn to our Jesus, become one of us, or pay the price.” Like in a scene from The Wizard of Oz, from behind the curtain, as the room fills will smoke and the volume knobs of this rhetoric is turned up with deep, Darth Vader tones, many approach the microphone to communicate their displeasures and religious prescriptions at the world, all while declaring it to be “the Gospel.”

Years ago, this Evangelical wizardry was directed against divorce and remarriage, later the issue became blacks marrying whites, today it’s homosexuality and gay marriage.  All with the same battle cry, “we are right, you are wrong; repent, turn to our Jesus, think, believe and behave like us, or pay the price.” This has been the underlying missional/discipleship philosophy and posture of Evangelical Christianity for decades. “You are lost, we are found, our job is to get you to our Jesus and “disciple” you to think, believe, and behave like us.” The world is our project, people are a notch on the “got saved” belt. Baptism is an initiation rite, and membership is the entry way into our club.

Of course, it’s never articulated like that, but having been an Evangelical pastor for many years, I know this to be true. This is their Gospel, this is their “salvation,” this is the Evangelical “vision.” In Evangelical Christian produced movies, tv shows, concerts, churches, books, and alike, this is the flavor of Gospel being communicated.

Recently, many Evangelical Christians and leaders have turned up the heat on declaring that America is in desperate moral and spiritual decline. As they gaze out into the world and even within their own organizations and churches, they realize there is a growing number of people who don’t believe and behave as they prescribe. In their mind, the world has turned away from their brand of Jesus, Bible, and Church, and therefore is the cause of all things that are eroding our culture. With labels like “lost,” “sinner,” “progressive,” “liberal,” people who don’t fit their mold become the mission to change, and if resistant, become a kind of enemy.

Yet, like in the The Wizard of Oz, things are not always as they appear.

While smoke billowing Evangelical Christianity declares the world bad, those unlike them the source of blame, and the solution being to repent to their Jesus and learn to think, believe and behave like them, there is a coward pulling the strings behind a curtain. In fact, the one pointing fingers at all the problems in the world has in truth, ironically, become a major contributor to the existence of those problems. Yes, pull back the curtains and see for yourself, Evangelical Christianity is perhaps the greatest contributor to the moral and spiritual decline of America they so detest.

Now, this a bold statement that will surely offend many and likely cost me in relationships and otherwise.  But before you write me off, disown me, or label me a heretic, hear me out.

God is love. He loves everyone unconditionally. Love is not a characteristic or attribute of God, it is who He is. God can do nothing else but love.

Out of His nature, which is love, it is articulated in scripture that through Jesus (the personification of Love), the Old Covenant of Law given through Moses has been replaced with a New Covenant of Grace given through Jesus.

As one writer described, “you are not under Law, but under Grace.” Romans 6:14b

This is a cataclysmic, cosmic shift in how God relates to people and people relate to God.  Yet, Evangelical Christianity is super slow to the party.

It is a complete transition away from a conditional relationship with God and life that hinges on some level of our spiritual performance, and the ushering in of an unconditional relationship with God and life that is based solely on Christ’s performance. It is not just a move away from the letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law as well. Let me repeat that, “it is not just a move away from the letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law as well.” It’s not just Ten Commandments, Leviticus stuff, it’s any form of work, condemnation, judgement, performance expectation, condition, effort, or striving applied to any spiritual aspect of a person’s life. And let me add this, everything is spiritual.

The Bible in its reading and understanding must be interpreted through this covenant of Grace, whose personification is Jesus. This new covenant of Grace began at the cross.

Grace, with no mixture of the Law (or the spirit of the Law), received through faith, is the pure Gospel.  And Faith, it’s not a work, effort, or doing, it is a rest. It is not a spiritual performance, it is a spiritual awakening to what Jesus has already done, without your faith, worthiness, or participation. It is not “faithfulness,” it is “faith.” And that faith, a gift from Jesus as well.

Because of Grace, Jesus has not only done something  for all people, but also to all people. Beyond having peace with God for eternity, Jesus has made all people into a new creation. At the cross, humanity became a finished work. It was one and done. Period. Jesus didn’t just die as a human, He died as humanity. The old you, was crucified with Christ. Salvation (wholeness) has come.

As a new creation, you are the righteousness of Christ, holy, sanctified, forgiven (past, present, and future), justified, lacking no spiritual blessing. There is no work to be done on your life, you are completely complete. Grace has rendered spiritual growth as something you already are, not something you become or do. The Christian life is not about becoming something tomorrow you are not today through spiritual gymnastics, but about being more of who you already are because of Jesus, through believing. Your performance does not determine you identity, your identity determines your performance. Grace is the beginning and end of everything you are, do, and become. This is the Gospel, that your part is to realize you have no part, only believe. Anything less than this pure Grace Gospel, is Law.

With this in mind, writers in the New Testament, vehemently described how mixing this Gospel of Grace with remnants, portions, or vibes of the Law is not just false and damaging, but evil. Any form of condemnation, work, spiritual performance, earning of intimacy with God, intolerance, judgment, personal striving, finger-pointing, or communication of a God who loves conditionally is to mix the pure Gospel of Grace with Law and to render it a means of death not salvation.

“And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” Galatians 5:4

For this writer, a minimal spiritual performance or act so innocent, symbolic, and simple as circumcision, reflected the presence of the Law and when mixed into a person’s life rendered them severed from Christ. Yikes!

Sadly, knowingly or unknowingly, much of what Evangelical Christianity presents to believers and non believers in regards to the Gospel, discipleship, and the Christian life is a mixture of “Law” at best, if not pure Law. Many of them declare unconditional love with conditions, spiritual growth through personal obedience, sin overcoming through sin management, discipleship through behavior modification and doctrinal unity, and the Christian life an increasing level of personal devotion to Christ. I don’t care how you slice it or how much lipstick you put on that pig, it’s Law, Law, and more Law.

What many Evangelicals declare as needing to have a “balance,” of Grace and Law, one can just hear many of the New Testament writers declaring, “bullshit!” Not because it’s fun to be vulgar, but because of the ramifications of a death cocktail mixture of Grace with Law. Mix the Gospel with any amount, however small, of the Law, and guess what you have? Law. Let me bake you a cake, and drop a wee-little speck of poop into it. Just a smidgen. Don’t worry, you won’t notice. It’s fresh out the oven, you going to eat it?

As one scripture writer discovered, the ministry of the Law is death and condemnation. (2 Corinthians 3:7,9)  That same writer also discovered that it is actually the Law that entices people to sin. (1 Corinthians 15:56) Yes, the Law… in letter or spirit is the great sin enticer; not pornography, Miley Cyrus, rap music, or Play Station.

See first, the Law in all its forms, in letter or spirit, condemns. Find me a person with a sin problem and I will have found you a person with a condemnation problem.

Second, the Law appeals to the flesh. The flesh, is not our evil lustful side as some would have us believe, it is actually when we attempt, through any kind of effort on our part to gain or receive from God something He has already freely given; salvation, forgiveness, intimacy, blessing, favor, righteousness, holiness, sanctification, and the list goes on and on.

This is a futile, evil endeavor. It’s a dead end.

First because God has already given completely that which is trying to be gained, and second, because you can’t gain, earn, or receive anything from God through your performance, effort, pursuit, pressing in, or actions, no matter how spiritual they may seem. To do so, is to fall from Grace and declare the cross as foolish and insufficient, and yourself as capable and worthy at some level or another. That is what it looks like to be deceived, to walk in darkness, to water-down the Law (as you think you can handle it), and therefore, to minimize and marginalize Grace (because you think you don’t completely need it). It is the height of anti-Christ. It is to be bewitched by another Gospel, which is no Gospel at all. And worst of all, it is to entice and imprison people to sin, hypocrisy, and a lifestyle thereof.

The Evangelical prescription for sin is at best, a mixture of Gospel and Law. God loves you, BUT… you need to repent (which in their mind, wrongly means “to change”). Do these spiritual things, apply these formulas, attend these groups, solicit this accountability partner, press into this experience with God, say this prayer, read this book, partner with Jesus, attend this conference, take these steps, believe these beliefs, be all you can be for Jesus, follow these rules etc. etc. Problem is, it not only all doesn’t work, it all makes things worse.

For much of Evangelical Christianity, the Gospel is “behavior modification” through some level of personal effort or spiritual performance. All of this, declaring the Law and packaging as the Gospel, and then wondering why people fall away and morals decline for both nonbelievers and believers.

If you take the Law seriously, if you take Grace seriously, if you take the consequences of mixing any amount of Law with the Gospel of Grace, it is clear that much of Evangelical Christianity has actually been prescribing the cancer, not the cure; at best, withholding the cure. Whether they realize it or not, they have been baking cakes with crap in it, and then wondering why people are getting sick, spitting it out of their mouths, and not getting any better. All while some of them have the gaul to sprout their spiritual feathers, get mad, bark their religious rants, throw up their hands, and act so disgusted (and surprised) when they see a nation that, in their minds, is spiritually dying. Of course it is! That’s what happens when one supplies the cancer as the cure. That’s what happens when you feed people cakes with crap in them.

A few years back, the Barna Research Group showed that the overall divorce rate among Evangelical themed denominations was between 27-34%, while the divorce rate among atheists… 21%.  Evidently, in our country, you have a better chance at having a holy, Jesus-like life out of church than you do in it.  If perhaps the largest Christian representation in America, Evangelical Christianity is engaging in the ministry of the Law, should we be surprised at the amount of spiritual decline we see in America? Should we be surprised that people are seemingly more enticed and imprisoned to sin now, more than ever? That’s what the Law does. Should we be surprised that Christians exposed to Evangelical Christianity don’t get better, and the world that is watching, has become disinterested and “done” with church.

The truth is, the spiritual prescriptions of  much of Evangelical Christianity entice and imprison people to sin, not free them. We can change nothing in ourselves or others. The Holy Spirit does that, and that through pure Grace, not Law or any mixture thereof. The very thing that many Evangelicals declare as too soft (Grace) is actually the one and only thing that has the teeth and grip to change anything.

As one scripture writer discovered, “For the Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, teaching us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” Titus 2:12

What teaches, what changes, what influences?  Grace.

Jesus mentioned that you can sense a certain amount of the quality of a spiritual thing by the fruit it bares.

Much of Evangelical Christianity has sadly produced… 1) selfish, consumer minded Christians who believe that “church” is about meeting their particular needs. Thus, Christianity isn’t growing but is actually in severe decline as believers are continually shuffling around to whatever church has the best show and better meets their needs 2) Christians who believe the Bible is equal to Jesus/God and place their understanding of it over standing with people and declare their particular understanding to be “truly biblical.” 3) churches where Christians mainly talk amongst themselves and judge the world, believing they’re right and everyone just needs to become right like them 4) celebrity pastors and leaders who franchise church, their egos, and a performance-driven, hyped up perversion of the Gospel. 5) churches that might welcome a sinner or two into their mix as they look down upon them as their “mission”, but don’t truly “want” them unless they clean up and adopt their values and beliefs. 6) Christians who believe the Gospel is a mixture of Grace and Law, Jesus does His part, but one needs to do their part, or else. 7) Christians and Christian leaders who believe their job is to point out sin in the world, and declare that God loves people so much that if they don’t say a certain prayer and clean up their act, He will justly throw them into an eternity of torture by demons, flames, and a desire to die that will never be granted; calling it all… good news.

In my humble opinion, no one is perfect, especially me, but that is no fruit.

I believe much of Evangelical Christianity, particularly those who embody a more judgmental, prideful, elitist, legalistic, and performance-driven Christian flavor would do well to repent (which really means to “change your mind”) about Jesus, the Gospel, love, bible, the Christian life, sin, and Church so that these areas and their understanding thereof reflect the pure Grace of God and the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

I believe much of Evangelical Christianity would do well to focus on modeling Jesus who is pure Grace and unconditional love. They would do well to stand with people over and above their biblical stances on the issues. They would do well to learn to rightly divide the word of God between the Old Testament and the New, interpreting all scripture through the lens of Grace as Jesus did.

They would do well to move away from “hating the sin and loving the sinner,” and just loving people, period. They would do well to let the Holy Spirit discern and change people, and instead, concentrate on doing their job, which is to love people, unconditionally. They would do well to direct their finger pointing to the loveliness of Jesus, not to the ugliness they deem to see in people. They would do well to trust Grace to do what only Grace can do, which is most everything they think they are capable of doing and charge everybody else to do.

They would do well to live from a posture of, “all of have sinned and fallen short” as Grace levels the playing field for everyone, and everyone needs Grace equally.  They would do well to stop marginalizing, labeling, belittling, and treating as second class citizens those who sin (in their judgment) differently then they do. They would do well to proclaim that God loves, accepts, embraces, favors, and blesses all people far beyond what they could ever imagine. He is not angry, vengeful, waiting to punish, or licking His lips to pour out wrath, but rather, His love is deeper, wider, stronger, and more generous and scandalous than they ever imagined.

They would do well to teach, preach, declare and manifest Grace, and Grace alone. Shout it from the mountain tops. Let every word drip with Grace. Then and only then, will any one person, group, country, nation, or world change.  This is the Gospel.

It’s all Grace, or it’s not the Gospel.

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work… Romans 1:16

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