Tag: spiritual (Page 1 of 2)

Essentials For Dealing With Christian Trump-Supporters

Let’s face it, living in MAGA world is vomitus. With every Trump tweet, gathering, speech, and interview, it all makes us want to sprawl feverishly to the barf bucket. Yet, perhaps what can even be worse, is finding ourselves in proximity and conversation with our Christian, Trump-supporting friends and family. From Facebook posts and pictures, to yard signs and flags, nothing triggers the gag reflexes more than a slice of white, conservative Christian, privileged pie. 

Most of us want to get along and find ways to create peace with all of our friends and family. But, when it comes to our Christian, Trump-supporting tribe, we find ourselves at a loss. We fidget, bite our tongues, look the other way, and Google search the best methods of people-avoidance, camouflaging an emotional breakdown, and stopping ourselves short from punching them in the throat.  

Are there any solutions for dealing with a Christian, Trump-supporter that can actually work without losing ourselves and our insanity? 

Here’s some ideas that are working for me.

1- Understand, You Won’t Change Their Mind-

If changing the mind of your Christian, Trump-supporting friends or family is your goal, chances are, you’ll be pitching a tent in the land of disappointment and frustration. To be sure, the rare moments when we influence change are wonderful, but harboring this expectation is often counterproductive.

Instead, set your mind on engaging your friends and family for other reasons such as a) being true to yourself b) standing in solidarity with those who are oppressed or have little-to-no voice c) or chasing evil out of the shadows. 

A change of mind most frequently happens when there has been a change of heart. A change of heart happens best when there has been an experience that causes the person to genuinely consider the possibility, ”Maybe I’m wrong?” Know for sure, that until this soul searching occurs with real motivation, a change of mind that turns a person away from supporting Trump is unlikely. Unfortunately, all the facts, statistics, and elegant arguments we bring to the table, matter very little (if at all).  

Remember, their change of mind and heart isn’t up to you, and certainly, it’s not your responsibility.  

However, the best way to lay the groundwork for transformation is to listen first and repeatedly put forth the question, “Help me understand…” For example, to your Christian, Trump-supporting friends or family members, you can ask, “Help me understand, how can you, as a Christian, support a President who displays so many attitudes and behaviors that are deemed immoral, sinful, and hateful in any religion, let alone Christianity?

Stick with that formula. Rinse and repeat. 

Listen and ask, “Help me understand…” 

Then, if you feel like responding, you can focus your response by staying true to yourself with words like, “I respect your views, but if you’re open, here’s what I think…” 

Or, you can focus your response by speaking up for those who have been oppressed or have little-to-no voice. For example, you could assert, “I just think it’s sad that we live in a country so obsessed with guns that children have to live every day in fear of school shootings.” 

Or, you can focus your response on chasing evil out of the shadows. For example, you could ask, “Why is it that 60% of conservative Christian pastors admit to having problems with porn and yet you support a President who has committed adultery multiple times and boasts of ‘grabbing pussy?’ Help me understand.”  

Whatever you do, as much as possible, stay calm and collected. Don’t become the evil done against you, and certainly, don’t lower yourself to their misery.

Chances are, you aren’t going to change their mind, but you will be able to look yourself in the mirror as you honor your soul, do your part to thwart the powers of evil, and let the least-of-these know (who are watching–and they are watching) that they have been heard and have a person in you who stands in solidarity with them and will be their voice where they have little-to-none.

2- Stop Talking About Jesus- 

When it comes to our conservative, Trump-supporting, Christian friends and family, we gotta stop talking about Jesus.

Why? Because, for many, they don’t give a rip about Jesus. Their support of Trump isn’t about Jesus and their faith hasn’t been either. If it were about Jesus, they wouldn’t be a right-wing, conservative Christian and they wouldn’t support Trump. 

So, instead, focus on their selfishness

Hold up a mirror to their unrelenting desire to lord their values and assert dominance in all of society, even at the cost, suffering, and unfair treatment of all others. Open the sewer of their insatiable hunger for white, conservative Christian privilege at the expense of the freedom and equality of others. Focus on their willingness to give unlimited pass to sin, immorality, violence, and duplicity in order to protect and prosper their way of living. Focus on their willingness to take up arms but refuse to wear masks. Focus on their willingness to let people suffer and die in the wake of their religious pursuits and ideologies. 

Focus on their racism. 

Pull back the scab of their hypocritical treatment of a black President over their lust for a lying, bullying, unrepentant, white President who beats the drums of nationalizing their faith. Focus on their willingness to allow (and even foster) systemic racism while turning a deaf ear to their white privilege. Open the playbook of their double standards towards their own protests versus the protests of the black community. Focus on their highjacking of America in hopes of ridding it of true diversity, human equality, and religious freedom.

Focus on their failure to love their neighbor as themselves

Shine a light on their unwillingness to welcome the foreigner, give hospitality to strangers, treat the immigrant as a citizen, heal the sick, feed the poor, and place their needs last and those of others as first. Expose their worship of economic systems that exploit the vulnerable, subdue the minority, and coddle the rich. Reveal their deep lack of love for their enemies and their allowance of violent, profane rhetoric towards those they hate. Focus on their microscopic policing of the lives of others while spiritually rationalizing their own debauchery. Pull back the curtain of their oppression of women and the LGBTQ community under the guise of asserting morality, when instead, it’s really about thwarting those who would threaten their patriarchy through the emergence of true equality.

Focus on their hate.

Focus on their brutality.

Focus on their inhumanity

Stop talking about Jesus.

Start talking about the hypocritical, selfish, racist, unloving, bullying, judging, and uncompassionate person their faith and support of Trump has led them to become.

3- Take The Abortion Card Out Of The Game-

You know as well as I do that white, conservative Christians would love for us all to believe that, despite some of them having a distaste for certain attributes of President Trump, they give their loyalty to him because they see him as anti-abortion and pro-life. In their reasoning, this issue supersedes all others. They argue that the protection and preservation of the most vulnerable of human life is paramount. 

Indeed, this justification by conservative Christians may help them feel good about themselves as they believe that they are taking the higher road and aligning themselves with the Bible and God’s will. However, in truth, for many, their stance against abortion is the ultimate cop-out. Where all other excuses for their support of Trump have revealed their hypocrisy, their position against abortion is the last card in their deck, and it too, is the ultimate bluff. 

To be sure, many progressives greatly dislike the idea of abortion, but also dislike the subjugation of women’s rights, the denial of science, and the belittling of medical truth, especially at the feet of a brutal, hypocritical, conservative Christian patriarchy. In fact, I’ve never met nor heard of any progressive, pro-choice person who cherishes the idea and act of abortion. For them, this issue of abortion is both complex, heart-wrenching, and grey in nature. 

However, this is not the case for much of white, male-driven, conservative Christianity. With their obvious preferences of school shootings over gun control, children in cages over welcoming the foreigner, police brutality over police accountability, mass incarceration over racial justice, a rich-favored economy over care for the least-of-these, the military industrial complex over universal healthcare and economic justice for all, and the worship of a god who joyfully sends those who don’t subscribe to their faith system to a hell of eternal torment, their priorities and values are crystal clear. There is almost nothing “pro-life” about right-wing, conservative Christianity. And quite frankly, when it’s all said and done, they don’t give a shit. With tremendous fear of losing control, power, and privilege, instead of coming clean of their duplicity, they cling all-the-more tighter to their MAGA hats. Indeed, their vehement declarations of being pro-life and anti-abortion are the ultimate cop-out. 

In fact, it should be of no surprise to anyone that, for many conservative Christians, their stance on abortion isn’t about being “for” Jesus, not even close. Instead, it’s about being “against” the full fruition of women’s equality, the sexual accountability of white men, and the cessation of their religious dominance to dictate the lives of all others. This is why they support Trump under the guise of being anti-abortion. Clearly, the only lives that matter to him are his own and that of white, male-driven, American, conservative Christians. There is almost nothing “pro-life” about the presidency of Donald Trump, and many white, conservative Christians are totally cool with that as long as he joins them and leads the way in dismantling the enemies of their pursuit of supremacy. 

When it’s all said and done, history and statistics tell the tale, many of our conservative, Trump-supporting Christian friends and family members are only as pro-life and pro-birth as it benefits their white, conservative Christian supremacy. Hard to hear, but true.

Trust me, if white, conservative Christian men could get pregnant, abortion would not only be legal, it would be biblical, easily accessible, and free. Not just that, but probably offered next to the church coffee shop or bookstore in the lobby after Sunday services. 

4- Love From A Distance- 

See, spiritual issues are huge, and anything to do with Trump is, at the heart, a spiritual issue. 

With our Trump-supporting Christian friends and family, asserting your beliefs and values is absolutely crucial. To not do so can mean leaving others in harm’s way because of our failure to resist. If we don’t take a stand, who will? 

However, when we keep our conversations with Trump-supporting Christians centered on the core issues of spirituality and integrity, we expose the cancer of their evil system of beliefs. When this happens and the truth is revealed, don’t be surprised when the gloves come off and the monster is unleashed. This can even become emotionally and physically violent and personal boundaries need to be set and respected.

Most certainly, as courageous as we want to be, there is a time to step back from the battle and love from a distance. When a person’s behavior or words become harmful to you or others, there can be no more “agree to disagree.” In those moments, it may be very important to continue to assert your views, but from an emotional and even physical distance. To do so is not giving up or bowing down to their views. Instead, it’s either creating space to stay in the game for the long term, or acknowledging that the circumstances are simply beyond your influence. 

The noble goal that declares, “I am not going to let politics come in between my relationships” is admirable, but often unrealistic and even cowardly. These are highly critical times and highly critical issues that define who we are and desperately affect the lives of many. Taking a stand is absolutely essential if the context for change is ever going to be established. Unfortunately, this can cost the price of important relationships, even family. Yet, this is a cost that must be paid. Thankfully, where possible, loving from distance can allow the needed separation without completely abandoning the relationship.

Yet, sometimes you have to pull the parachute before you crash into the ground. Walking away from debates, arguments, guilt trips, passive aggressiveness, and outright evil before they destroy you must be an option on the relationship table. If being you requires appeasing them, it’s time to love from a distance. Perhaps, a very long emotional, spiritual, and physical distance.

Indeed, these are relationally anxious, stressful, and divisive times that cut the core of who we are, what we believe, and what we value. 

Now more than ever, it’s time for us to take our stand.

Be you. 

Believe what you believe.

Find your voice.

Stand for the least-of-these.

Never give up, and never give in.

 

Grace is brave. Be brave. 

 

The You God : Embracing Your Own Spiritual Journey

Embracing and taking your own spiritual journey, that’s the point. Your journey is your own journey. It’s the essence of your creation. It’s everything. 

You are the You God. 

Everything you need is within you; the mind of Christ within you, the presence of Christ beside you (in full union with you, but yet fully distinct), and all around you in all things. Yes, the cosmic Christ. The universe in, beside, and all around you. There is no place where “I Am” is not. 

So much (if not all) of everything you seek, you already possess. In fact, God never intended His Word to be written on an external page, She already placed it in the depths of your heart. The Bible has never been the goal or finish. You are the goal. You are the finished. 

Jesus is the Word made flesh, and through His complete union and communion with you and the deposit of His mind with yours, so are you. You are a Word made flesh, with the potential of an ever expansive path of revelation rising up from within.

In fact, the externalization of the internal Word into a secondary/written Word (the Bible) actually leads to deep vulnerability and manipulation by the snakes of darkness. Make no mistake, it is evil that tries to entice and distract you from what you already possess within; every spiritual blessing. That’s why the dark deeds of men and women are always rationalized, at some level, by quoting from words written about God by men on pages (the Bible) deemed by them to be sacred and infallible. It’s the perfect scheme.

For God didn’t pen the Bible. He penned you. You are the You God. Taking your own spiritual journey, that’s the purpose.

Three beautiful, cosmic altering things happen when we embrace and focus on this journey…

God Speaks To Us Clearly and Identifiably

To those willing to rest, rely, and listen, God speaks clearly and identifiably to us from within.

In many instances, it is an undefinable experience that rings true to the soul. For me, in these moments, God often speaks ahead of my questions and thoughts. She knows my mind before I do, and speaks to it before I do. It is not a distorting, demanding, or taking-over experience. Instead, it is a gentle, friendly, available, and offered one. For God never insists upon Her own way, nor takes the wheel of our minds. She only assists, where assistance is allowed; never dismantling the difference between us.  

I have found, the more I am willing to rely on Her voice within, the more my journey is revealed. 

In contrast, I am amazed how many give little question to the words of men written in the Bible, given in counsel, or preached from pulpits, yet tremble with skepticism towards the capacity of people to hear God speak from her Word within with clarity, accuracy, and assurance. It is written in creation and the constructs of the soul that the guideposts for all that God is, speaks, and commands is Love. This is the litmus test for all discernment. Interesting, however, is the sure reality that a simple glance at Christian history reveals that the reading of the Bible (not the Word within) often leads us away from this cosmic truth instead of towards it. 

Yes, the soul and the conscience can be distorted and led astray from the Word within and God’s speaking to us. But this is not the root that lies within each one of us, nor can it ever be destroyed. It is eternal. True Love is clear, and pings and pierces the heart when it reaches it. 

Problems come far more from external distortions, not internal ones. Far more abuse and waywardness comes from listening and internalizing the human, external interpretations of God, not Her internal revelation, Word, and presence within.

In fact, if there is a spiritual war we must fight, it would be this one; resting in the Word within versus resting in the Bible. For in many instances, they are incompatible and lead us in opposite directions.

We Rest In His Presence Within

When I focus on embracing and taking my own spiritual journey, I grow in my capacity to rest in the Comforter within. His words increasingly overshadow any others. When they speak words of assurance from within in contrast to the anxiety around me, I can better rest in them instead of panicking from what I fear with my eyes, thoughts, and fears. 

In this way, His words become a foundation for the fielding of all others. No, not leading us down a path of denial, but instead, wrapping our hearts and anchoring our emotions upon the spiritual journey we are taking. A journey with the Comforter; a journey with the One who knows all things, sees all things, and whose future is in full communion with yours. No thing, no person, and no reality is more connected to your journey than God. The more we embrace our journey, the more we embrace God.

Therefore, when we hear in our depths Her speaking, “It’s going to be o.k,” we can learn to trust those words to the capacity they actually alter our emotions and perspective.  

For no other voice, opinion, person, or plan is in full communion and union with you and your spiritual journey, only God. This is where our rest belongs and best occurs.  Faith is not believing in something outside of you, beyond you, separate from you, ahead of you, requiring of you, or distant from you. Instead, it is resting in all that is beside you, within you, in mind with you, in communion with you, all around you, in Love with you, and inseparable from you—Jesus.

Make no mistake and live not in denial, clinical depression and anxiety are real things that can require clinical solutions. Yet, we should never underestimate the power of resting in the presence of the Comforter within to help lead us to clearer thoughts and the embrace of comforting realities in contrast to the irrationalities that can tractor beam our thoughts and emotions. 

We Need Not Compare Nor Explain, We only Love

Sadly, we live in a world of comparisons. Not just that, but also in a world of explanations. Often times, we want everyone else’s journey but our own. What they have seems so much better than what we have. And, at times, we feel the need to give explanations to why certain things happen in other people’s journey. We want to give answers and reasons, often out of the goodness of our hearts. And perhaps even more so, we can even feel the desire to have explanations to what’s happening in our own journey, especially when we compare them to what’s happening for other people in their journey. 

During a recent health emergency, I asked the Jesus within, “With so many people who don’t get good news in times of trauma, why me?” His sensed response… 

“This is your journey. Love does not require to understand another’s journey, nor compare it. Love comforts, celebrates, mourns, uplifts, and empowers the journey of others, but it does not seek to explain nor judge the journey of others. Love, peace, and faith do not flow from understanding, nor do they always create it. Instead, they free us to fully walk our own journey, and fully walk with others in theirs.”

When we embrace and take our own spiritual journey, we grow in our capacity to resist the need (and demands) to explain our lives and choices. This is our unique and exclusive journey with and as the divine. We need only compare ourselves and our lives to the Love that lives within and guides our journey. This is the true freedom we have in Christ who is in, with, besides, and under us all and all things. Without the debilitating gravity of comparisons and explanations, we can increasingly love others and ourselves without restraint, requirements, nor conditions. We love because we are love; not to appease, benefit, explain, compare, control, nor conform. 

Our capacity to truly love rests in our willingness to embrace and take our own spiritual journey; a journey that is explanation and comparison proof.

For you are the You God. 

Now, embrace it.

Take your own spiritual journey.

 

Grace is brave. Be brave. 

No, Christian, I’m Not Your Spiritual Bitch

I wonder if you can truly handle what’s on my mind. You’re not going to like it, I suspect, which is probably why I never give it full flight—at least, until now. Honestly, I just can’t shackle the voice in my soul any longer. Neither can I expect you to reconsider your ways if I’m not forthright with their true effect upon my life—however brutal these words might be perceived.

You believe it’s your job to change me, to partner with God to lead me to repent of my sins, surrender my life, and follow the Jesus of your understanding. In your mind, if your divine tag team efforts with the Father don’t work, my eternal destiny could be one of hellfire and forever torment. With such a daunting possibility at the forefront of your beliefs, I appreciate your concern and respect your efforts.

Yet, underneath and far beyond that, it seems you’re pridefully convinced that it’s your special responsibility to point me to the towering endless ladder of your customized, “to do” and “not to do” steps. If my careful ascension isn’t forthcoming and certain, in your mind, I’ll never be successful at activating the neon “Genuine Christian” sign you have conveniently dangling from the top—all to my sure demise and doom. Measuring up and fitting in are of the highest importance. No area of my life seems off limits to your inspection, assessment, and admonition. In the end, it feels like I have become, for you, some kind of Chia Pet-for-Jesus, where you’re hell-bent on making it your personal project to grow me into a “fully devoted follower of Christ” that, in reality, actually looks mostly like you. Oh, the horror that will ensue if I fail to come into compliance and therefore reap the consequence of your rejection.    

Still, I’m going to assume that your intentions are met with a goodness in your heart. Yet, all the same, I’m not so ignorant to be devoid of the awareness that some of the greatest of evils have started from the good intentions of people who feel spiritually justified in their actions—especially Christians. In fact, if I’m honest, more so than not, your efforts to save and sanctify me, no matter how well intended, leave me feeling thoroughly defaced as a human being, raped of dignity, condemned unfairly, and judged highly hypocritically. How could that ever be the work of Jesus?

That’s why today is the day of my emancipation.

I mean no disrespect nor lack of love in saying so, but I’m finally breaking free from your apparent determination to convince me that my future and my worth are somehow tied to your spiritual opinion, discernment, evaluation, counsel, influence, and religion. I’m pushing past the seemingly required belief that God is specifically using you to save me from Himself and all that He will do to me if I don’t love Him back in return; of course, with compliance to all your specifics. I’m breaking the chains of, what feels like, your continually condescending glare into my soul that clearly sees me as an inferior person who needs your intervention, lest I perish and waste my life.  

Why such resistance and seeming rebellion?

Because the mind of Christ within me has overridden your mind that’s trying to conform me. With heaping helpings of Grace overflowing, He has convinced me of perhaps the most important and liberating revelation of all, “I’m not your spiritual bitch.”

I’m not a misprint in need of your correction. I’m not a floundering vessel requiring your rescue. I’m not a lost cause simply absent of your assistance. I’m not a notch on your belt to appease your quest to earn favor with your deity.

I’m not a blemish the requires your erasing. I’m not a vote deserving of your hacking. I’m not a shame that needs your permission to be unashamed. I’m not a sinner in need of your salvation. I’m not a question mark that needs your answer. I’m not a disease that needs your cure. I’m not a stronghold that requires the strength of your religious prescriptions. And most of all, I’m not an inferior human being whose hope lies within your privilege.

No, I’m a beloved child of God—not by your doing, approval, or securing, but by His.

In fact, here’s what I’ve discovered in my awakening to Love and Grace, yours is not a position from which you should have any position in my life, anyways—only Jesus.  

Besides, the God I know, who lives and dwells within me, the One with whom I have full communion unconditionally, would never use hurtful, selfish, inhumane tactics postured from religious pride in order to bring about goodness in me and from me.

So, you can stop pretending I’m your patient and yours is a medicine I need taking. You can stop putting Laws where there are none, and conditions where there never have been. You can stop pimping God as punishing, the Bible as perfect, and your interpretations as exclusively authoritative. You can stop touting your spiritual gymnastics, spiritual navel gazing, and highfalutin exegesis. God’s not impressed and I’m no longer listening.  

Why?

Because…

I’m not your spiritual bitch.

And neither is He.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

 

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Maybe, Just Maybe, If You’d Stop Quoting The Bible At Me

I get it, you’re passionate about your beliefs—that’s highly admirable.

Much of what you hold to be true and the framework of your worldview are founded upon your understandings of the Scriptures.

For you, the Bible is the perfect Word of God without any mixture of error, and your interpretation of it is believed to be grounded in ultimate truth, faithful scholarship, and divine discernment. In response to a world deemed to be in serious moral and spiritual decline, you see the Bible serving as an anchor for Godliness and the transformation of our planet. In your mind and heart you genuinely conclude, if more people believed like you and subscribed to your biblical understandings, it would be an instant upgrade to their life and a sure improvement to the world at large.

Therefore, when you the quote the Scriptures, your desires are most assuredly noble and good-hearted. No one can deny your commitment, resolve, and tenacity towards your faith, the Bible, and a desire to make a difference.

Yet, perhaps what you don’t realize is how you come across in your use of the Scriptures and some of the messages you’re sending in doing so—intended or not.

When you quote the Bible at me, it feels like you care more about winning an argument than winning my heart. In fact, sometimes it seems like you’re inspired most by the prospect of somehow putting me in my place—pacing for the opportunity to engage in debate. With every verse you position to convict, condemn, and admonish, apparently you understand the Bible to be “useful in teaching and correcting” the way a tightly wound parent might deem a paddle to be useful in painfully punishing their child—any love you may intend to communicate is severely lost in translation. In fact, as much as I may desire to conclude otherwise, with every proof text and citing of Scriptural support, it feels like the Bible has become for you, less of a mirror in which to examine yourself, and more of a missile to launch at others. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d actually start believing you might truly want to know me, understand me, and even love me.

When you quote the Bible at me, it makes me wonder if you really know what you believe. I mean no disrespect, but at times, the way the Scriptures roll off your tongue so automatically and instantly, it feels a bit pre-packaged and cut and pasted—like you haven’t taken the journey of authentic believing. The memorization of verses takes only the efforts of our brain and can be a deceptive spiritual veil to an empty life. Meditation requires the soul searching of the heart and personally encountering Jesus. My sense is that people who truly know Him, genuinely wrestle with their faith, and are treading deep into the Bible, spend far less time in need of quoting it to others and using it to justify their every belief. For the mind of Christ within them has taken the lead and what they believe is far less a product of simply the Bible saying so, but much more that Jesus has said so in their Spirit. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more inclined to consider that you’re actually speaking from that which Jesus has authentically revealed to you and what He might truly desire to say.

When you quote the Bible at me, I get the sense that you believe to know all the answers. Sometimes, it’s even hard to get a word in edgewise. It feels like no matter what I say, somehow I’m always off the mark or completely wrong all together. For every thought I have, you seem to have a Bible verse cocked, loaded, and ready to counter it. All of which leaves me wondering, if you have all the answers already, why do you position yourself as desiring conversation? Perhaps, you’re hoping to change my mind, or simply enjoy hearing the sound of your own. Either way, the more you appear to have all the answers, the more I become convinced you probably don’t. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d hear the sounds of your listening and learning instead of the chalkboard screeching nails of presumptuousness.

When you quote the Bible at me, it smells of religion, not revelation. No, God never changes, but what He reveals of Himself and how He reveals Himself certainly does. Yet, with nearly every verse you quote it feels like you are desperately trying to protect and prosper the religious spirit and your long-held beliefs, instead of exuding a humility and openness to encounter fresh revelation. In fact, if I’m honest, it comes across at times as if you’re afraid of what God might reveal. It’s as if the Bible has become for you, less of a catalyst to encountering Jesus, and more of replacement for Him. All of which leaves me wondering, if God desired to grow you beyond your current Scriptural understandings and interpretations, would He even be able to do so? Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more inclined to believe you possess the capacity for divine discernment and the journey needed for wisdom.

When you quote the Bible at me, I feel like a project. At times, the way you use the Scriptures, it seems like your ultimate goal is my conversion, conformity, and compliance to your beliefs and biblical interpretations. If I have a change of mind or repent of my erring ways in response to your Scriptural interventions, a rousing moment of high-fives with your fellow Christians is surely just around the corner. You “caught’ me, “won” me, or “discipled” me into your fold, and now I’m yet another “catch” to be mounted on your spiritual mantel. I mean no disrespect in saying so, but it feels like the way you use the Bible is more like a cattle prod than a stable, and I, more of a project than a person. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more willing to open the gates and consider that you have a genuine care for me and my best interests.

When you quote the Bible at me, I wonder what you’re trying to hide. Maybe it’s just me, but I have found, those who are constantly quoting the Bible with proof texts, debates, and scriptural arguments are often the ones concealing deep levels of spiritual immaturity, doubts, duplicity, and even carnality. In fact, Satan is described as knowing the Scriptures quite well all while completely missing the heart of Jesus—obviously. The more you quote the Bible at me, the more I begin to consider, maybe this is all just a big show of biblical smoke and mirrors concealing a cowardly wizard hiding behind a leather-bound name-engraved curtain. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d feel a lot more comfortable in extending trust, respect, and credibility.

When you quote the Bible at me, it feels like you’re just another one of “them.” You know, those Pharisee types that Jesus loved, but aggressively challenged. At every turn, they were using their understanding of the Scriptures for the condemnation of others and the justifying and puffing up of themselves. In one place, Jesus spoke of spitting repugnant people like this out of His mouth, and quite honestly I don’t blame Him. Sometimes, the way you quote the Bible at me, it makes me want to vomit too—if only a simple right cheek sneak would do. For it all comes across so pretentiously, my entire being can’t help but want to expel it.

When Jesus referenced the Bible, He did so primarily to reframe it and reinterpret it through the lens of Grace, love, and Himself.

I’m no spiritual giant, but I have a hunch we would do well to follow His example.

Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I would respect you all the more, have a greater desire to give serious consideration to your claims and creeds, and be far more apt to conclude that Jesus is truly working in and through you.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

A Pastor’s Desperate Plea To Justin Bieber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for listening.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Let’s All Just Start, By Trying To Be Christians Who Give A F**k

You’re right.

I did it—I dropped the “f-bomb.”

I could have easily chosen a different word.

Maybe “flip,” or “damn,” or “crap” of “rats” or even “shit.”

But I didn’t. Why?

Because, none of those forced me out onto the ledge of your potential rejection, shaming, and condemnation in quite the same way.

Perhaps like never before, in consideration of all the factors, I have dripped the sweat, counted the cost, and looked square into the face of your disapproval, knowing for sure the cataclysmic series of dominoes that could fall in response to this one article. In fact, in some ways, I could be, I surely am—risking it all. One word, one simple word, could set into motion a tsunami of distancing, disassociation, and abandonment from which there could be little to no recovery or return.

It’s all so sad, isn’t it? No, flat out disturbing. Not only how quick we are to summon people onto the plank of our disapproval, but how little pressure it takes for us to buckle under another’s.

Above all else, it seems we Christians have become cowardly wimpy people who care most about ourselves, vigilantly shielding our lives from what we fear the most—rejection, the true kryptonite of our faith living. We’re so married to perceptions, our platforms, reputations, and the god of approval. When it’s time to take a stand, travel uncharted waters, speak fiery light to the darkness, and defend the oppressed—when it’s all said and done, we’re most concerned about perceptions and their personally felt consequence.

Instead of counting the enormous cost of being silent, complacent, disengaged, blindly compliant, and politically correct, we’re addicted to the personal ramifications of truly giving a damn no matter what. So many of us simply refuse to be bothered outside the comfort of our pristine black-and-white pre-packaged starch-pressed Americanized Christian lives. When push comes to shove and we are cornered into our moment of truth—our followings, relationships, ministries, popularity, image, comforts, acceptance, and approval reveal themselves to be the true gods we worship. As Jesus leads us onto the path of becoming the Good Samaritans of our day, thwarting the countless religious crucifixions of the God-imaged, and facing the evil religious systems of much of modern Christianity—our withheld actions, tempered empathy, and shrinking back speak to the true confession of our heart. “Sorry Jesus, when it’s all said and done and it matters most, I just don’t give a f**k. My life, my stability, and all that I have and built, is just too important to risk. I won’t say what truly needs to be said, I won’t do what truly needs to be done, and I won’t pay the price of what it would most certainly cost. Oh yes, I love you Jesus and all people—but I’m sorry, not that much.”

And so I ask, with all due respect. If you’re uncomfortable with the title of this article, just wait until you’re confronted with these questions.

Whose life, besides yours, will finally become important enough to be worthy of your unrestricted risk?

At what point will spiritual integrity and human dignity become important enough for you to truly consider, perhaps your anti-gay interpretation of the Bible is misguided at best?

How many lives and minorities must be destroyed before you give aggressive consideration to the presence of racism and privilege in your own life and worldview?

How many parents of LGBTQI children must lay sleepless at night, feeling alone, frantically afraid, and viciously condemned before you have the courage to chart a new path of compassion, solidarity, and understanding towards this entire community?

How many sisters, brothers, children and family members alike must you shame, condemn, or reject all together before the carnage of so many destroyed people and relationships compels you to have the courage to fully examine the evils of embracing such a legalistic, graceless, bigoted, and twisted brand of faith, and do the hard work of thinking for yourself and questioning long-held beliefs?

How many times must we Christians be on the wrong side of history, before we muster the bravery to pump the breaks, jump ship, and disarm the right-wing conservative Evangelical machine whose worship of the Bible and their interpretations of it have been the catalyst to some of the most diabolical evil atrocities and injustices ever manifested on the planet—all in the name of Jesus?

How much regret are you willing to risk and careless damage to the lives of good people around you, simply because you refuse to listen and give genuine consideration to opposing views in light of fresh revelation?

How many mass shootings, suicides, murders, wars, holocausts, and people imprisoned by depression, shame, and religious condemnation must ensue before the non-violent, all-inclusive, sacrificial, serving, welcoming, affirming, forgiving, equalizing, non-discriminating, unconditional-loving, pure Grace message and Gospel of Jesus will be given top priority by you—met with your willingness to move His Beattitudes from being a faith accessory or flat out inconvenience to becoming your main way of living, no matter the cost?

Perhaps you’re offended that my heart is no longer afraid of your religious glare of disapproval or the ramifications that might come my way—as your voice of displeasure, disassociation, and pity no longer haunt me. Or, perhaps you’re most uncomfortable and even resentful of the freedom within me to live at peace without your affirmation, and instead can confidently speak my truth without reservation.

For Grace has given me, perhaps, the greatest gift of all—the power, joy, and honor of being a Christian who is compelled to give a f**k, when to do so stands as my moment of truth and another’s hope, healing, and salvation. My heart has been captured and my soul is convinced, nothing is more important than standing for truth, defending the religiously oppressed, proclaiming the God is who is Love, and manifesting His Gospel of unconditional love, acceptance, and affirmation for all—no matter the cost.

Go ahead. Pull your support, remove this post, de-friend me, or curse me all together—but here’s the stone cold truth I hope you’ll consider.

The world will keep on ignoring your message, the poor will keep starving, and black lives will continue to not truly matter. Transgender people will still keep committing suicide and the LGBTQ community will continue to be mocked, marginalized, and condemned in every arena. The religious evils rampant in much of right-wing conservative Christianity will still keep flourishing, minorities will still be discriminated, and racism will still divide us. Millennials will continue to exit the building, atheism will be ever increasing, human rights will keep on being denied, and women will still be seen as second class humans, Christians, employees, and citizens. All, until we start becoming Christians who not just give a tear, a thought, a sympathy, a glance, a nod, or a condolence, but actually love Jesus and love people enough to give a f**k, no matter the cost.

While you’re building your multi-site church campus, planting the next “Elevation,” or becoming the next famous Christian writer, preacher, or blogger. While you’re getting voted into elected office, preserving and protecting your income and way of living, counting your followers on Facebook, keeping your relationships peaceful, and enjoying your privilege—a whole world of people are asking, why should I believe in your God, worship His name, and sign up for your way of believing and living, when at the end of the day, no matter what person, truth, tragedy, injustice, or evil is before you, you simply don’t and won’t give a f**k?

Until we love Jesus who is Grace and people unconditionally to the point of truly risking it all, the one thing the world knows for sure—we Christians don’t know the true nature of God, the value of people, and what it means to love. In fact, all we probably have is just another worthless, impotent, and destructive religion and its spirit working within us.

Every time we buckle, every time we choose comfort over resistance, every time we opt to place our interests over truth and justice, the world screams out a resounding sigh, “we were right, it’s all a fraud, nothing ever changes.”

So with all due politeness and respect, please save your “you’ve gone too far with this one” and “my how you’ve lost your way” comments for someone else. For I fear, that’s the very kind of religious pretentious attitudes too many of we Christians have selfishly adopted that are enabling catastrophic problems and postponing and preventing countless much needed solutions.

Perhaps you would have said it differently, or chose a phrase devoid of profanity, but don’t miss the pure metaphor behind it all as to what it must look like specifically for you to love enough to stomach the risk and go the distance to be a true force of Grace and the God who is Love in the lives of the oppressed, religiously abused, and discarded.

Now, like never before, we must set into motion and call up from within our souls the courage to rethink, reexamine, and reconsider everything we think we know that years of unchallenged faith tradition, believing, and doing have lured us into—a spiritual complacency that has us nursing at the breast of evil while being convinced we sit at the table of Jesus.

Until our theology is Love and our countenance is sheer bravery no matter the cost, we will forever be leaning on our own understanding and enabling evil to live and flourish to the detriment, dehumanizing, and destruction of God-adorned people.

Grace is brave, Be brave.

Give a f**k.

Trump, LifeWay, and Eugene Peterson—Conservative Evangelicalism Personified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Dear Conservative Christian, What Am I Supposed To Believe?

I’m trying to understand, I really am.

I hear what you’re saying—the deep confessions of your conservative brand of faith. You’re passionate, determined, and believe strongly in your way. I respect the veracity of your convictions—that, we have in common. Yet, if I’m honest, more so than not, I’m left scratching my head in utter confusion. I listen to your speaking and then take notice of your doing—finding it very hard to pull together much consistency between the two. I want to believe in the best, applaud your efforts, and grant you a fair shake, but the discrepancies I just can’t seem to ignore.

You say that conservative churches are warm and welcoming—I guess I’m wondering, to who? If I color outside conservative lines or commit a moral miscue, I’m quickly distanced, given the cold shoulder, or even sent to the curb. If I believe differently or entertain some serious doubts, I’m rushed to a Jesus-101 class or a small group for the spiritually lost and confused. You may allow a member of the LGBTQ community to sit in your velvet padded pews—certainly, your hands are open to receive their Sunday offering. Yet, all bets are off when it comes to teaching Sunday school or having equal footing in your community. Thousands of people from every walk of life have real stories of fierce condemnation, marginalization, and demonization at the hands of your organized conservatism. Yet, you gregariously claim a genuine desire for everyone to come and attend your church. I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but what am I suppose to believe? Putting two eyes on what’s in front of me—you’re telling me this is warm and welcoming?

You say you’re all about Jesus—I guess I’m wondering, which one? The Jesus who won’t accept anything less than multi-million dollar state-of-the-art buildings, slick branding, and the worshipping of His Glory with perfectly timed smoke machines, stage-lighting, and Anthropologie-fashioned leaders sporting tattoos and skinny jeans? Or is it the Jesus whose greatest delight is in seeing the franchising of His church and the endless consumerism of His Name? Maybe it’s the Jesus who pours out special anointing and favor upon celebrity pastors and applauds their book deals, conferences, private jets, and their ego-driven personal empire building? Or maybe you mean the Jesus who clearly states, “Above all else, carpet colors, stained glass windows, keeping current members happy, and holding strong to traditions is ultimately what really matters most.” I’m trying to see things through your eyes and makes sense of your perspective, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what it means to be all about Jesus?

You say the “least of these” matter—I guess I’m wondering, to what extent? I’ve been to plenty of your conferences, especially the ones bent on church growth and financial campaign success. The mantra I keep hearing repeated is deeply unsettling—giving to the poor and serving the community bottom lines on being good for the offering. The “least of these” are en vogue and good for big budgets, people get emotional and open their wallets. Taking every opportunity to show carefully crafted videos of all your do-gooding and generosity makes it look so spiritual and less self-serving—oh the privileges of being so privileged. Of course, people don’t contribute directly to the specific need. Rather, it all goes into the master budget fueling the master ego of the charismatic visionary master pastor. When ministry to the broken and outcast doesn’t empower the conservative Evangelical church machine, all of a sudden, taking care of the “least of these” isn’t quite so appealing. Just ask the Transgender community or your messiah Donald Trump—banishing whole groups of God-imaged people to undergo “reparative therapy” and cutting millions from receiving healthcare for the sake of the wealth of the wealthy. I know it may sound cynical and even a bit crass, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what it means and looks like when the “least of these” truly matter?

You say that you care about me as a God-created person—I guess I’m wondering, for what purpose? From the moment we meet, it feels like you’re overall intention is to change me into a person who increasingly looks less like me, and a lot more like you. While the Spirit is compelling me to cast off fear and enjoy the freedom to be fully myself, you’re whispering in my ear that being me isn’t good nor pleasing, and freedom is something to actually fear. Not long after I’ve visited your church a few times, I’m being pulled in every direction. From serving in the nursery to attending some class to become a member—ultimately, so I can learn where I should best plug into ministry. Nearly everything you say and do rapidly convinces me—to you, I’m mostly just a fresh piece of meat, not a person. I’m a cog in your ministry puzzle to set quickly into place, painting a picture of world domination with a mission to “make disciples of all people into people just like us.” I’m trying to see the silver lining in it all, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what it means to care about me as a person, a God-adored human being?

You say that you hold the keys to the best way of living—I guess I’m wondering, why does it seem so lifeless and unloving? For all your spiritual gymnastics, fanfare, and adoration, I can’t help but wonder what’s your motivation? It’s like you’re on an endless pursuit to convince God, yourself, and everybody else that you’re really a real-deal Christian. Every moment is deemed a test of your faithfulness—will your performance live up to God’s expectations? It seems like yours is a rigorous life of constant pre-qualifying—afraid to love too much, enjoy too much, and have too much fun—the terrible things that might become. Sin is always on your radar screen as you size-up other people—nearly everything and everyone is branded an enemy. It’s like a disorder of some kind where depravity becomes the lens through which you see everything. The spiritual treadmill upon which you live, always trying to measure up, leaves you exhausted and forced to put on a Jesus-face while deep down inside, the best you can do is fake it. The spiritual growth you say you inspire, feels more like a conspiracy of doctrinal conformity—if not, flat out brainwashing. I’m not trying to be cruel or critical, it’s just an observation I can’t un-see. I truly wish your way of living was an upgrade of the finest, but it feels quite like it would surely be the opposite. I know your heart is good and your intentions are even better, but what am I supposed to believe? Is this truly the best of the best way to live?

You say that the Bible is the ultimate rule and guide for your faith—I guess I’m wondering, why such idolatry, what’s really at stake? I’ve been around the block enough to know, Jesus is the Word, not a set of words and pages in even the most sacred of books. Which leaves me wondering, what’s the big deal? Why is your interpretation the only one that’s real—often pimped as the way, the truth, and the life. Isn’t that supposed be a designation exclusive to Jesus? More so than not, you fire off Scripture like it’s a weapon and your chief desire is mass destruction—always trying to prove a point. It feels like you use the Bible as a crutch out of a lack of personal connection and revelation from Jesus. I appreciate and respect your level of loyalty, but wonder if placing it in a book and your interpretations is what was intended by the Spirit. I haven’t seen one good thing, only evil religion, coming from the building of your faith upon the shifting sands of a book rather than the Person. “What are you afraid of?” is my ultimate question—loss of control, power, and coercion potential? I’m trying to put myself in your shoes and assume the best of your intentions, but what am I supposed to believe? Is this what the Bible is really all about?

You say that your Gospel reflects the true heart of Jesus and God’s plan for humanity—I guess I’m wondering, then why is it so brutal and your faith so blatantly insecure? To think that your conservative brand of believing is so weak that you have to politicize it, nationalize it, demand it, and sleep with the enemy in order to preserve it. To think that you would abandon all moral conviction and spiritual integrity, and vote Donald Trump to be our president—all for conservative Evangelical power and glory for sure. To think that you would resort to insisting on your own way in nearly every public arena. It all makes one truly consider that not only have you lost your bearings, but your faith understanding is cruel, selfish, and entirely bogus. What you declare as the Gospel for all nations seems like in reality, a spiritual veil to a hatred, arrogance, and people-damnation addiction deep within the religious soul. Why else would you insist on a hell for people who believe differently than you? Why else would you declare to be pro-life—until, of course, it applies to the lives that aren’t in step with your ideology, pursuits, and religious thrills? Why else would you have a clear and present history of being on the wrong side of nearly every important issue? I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you hold the heart of Jesus in all that you are and do, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what you call the Gospel, the ultimate good news?

Why not just be honest?

We can handle it, we really can—in fact, we’ve been handling it for years. You might even get some respect, as twisted as that sounds. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern how you truly feel and the content of your aspirations. Just come clean with it—be real.

It’s o.k., we have a pretty good idea what you truly believe and think anyways—for actions always speak louder than words.

We may be welcome, but we aren’t wanted.

It’s not really all about Jesus, it’s really all about you.

We, the “least of these,” matter only as much as you can benefit.

To you, we’re a project, not a person.

Despite how it appears, you’re basically faking it.

Without the Bible and the lording of your interpretation, it would be hard to justify your hate and protect your privilege.

Your gospel leads to a life of spiritual imprisonment—for misery always loves a good bit of company.

No, not every conservative church or person is manifesting these messages, but there are large numbers of people who’ve been tractor-beamed into the Death Star of conservative Evangelicalism. Seduced by the dark side, they have bitten the lie. Many conservative churches and Christians can’t help but spread the same infection, luring people into an evil Empire—despite their best intentions.

I know you disagree, I’m actually glad you do. Now, prove that I’m wrong through a conservative Evangelical revolution of changed behavior and tradition.

Until then.

Dear conservative Christian, what am I supposed to believe?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV)

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.  Matthew 7:15-20 (The Message)

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Hell-Believing, Wrath-Preaching, Fire-Breathing Christian—What If You’re Wrong?

Chances are, it’s a belief you’ve grown up with all your life—God loves humanity so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in order to save us from His eternal punishment of sinners who don’t love Him back in return through believing in His Son and repenting of their sins. As the story goes, through His crucifixion, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment from God that we deserve for sin. God required the death of Jesus in order to forgive sin, and personal faith and repentance are how we benefit from that event. Otherwise, the work of Jesus isn’t applied to our account and we are doomed to spend eternity in a place of unimaginable suffering where our greatest wish is to die, but by God’s design we are prevented from doing so—it’s hell, and it’s forever.

For those who might find this storyline of human redemption difficult to stomach with its dark portrayals of God, the Gospel, and Jesus. For those who wonder how God could claim to be so loving and yet act so sinister in not only imagining this kind of hell, but creating it and making the brutal murder of Jesus the only way out of it. For those who dare to look ahead towards the psychotic duplicity of what it might feel like enjoying eternity in the bliss of heaven while your loved ones scorch in unbearable suffering. For those this whole damnation-thing strikes their conscience as being a bit unsettling, unnerving, and confusing—we’ve been taught a simple fix. Hell is a necessary and natural manifestation of God’s divine holiness and justice. In heaven, we will encounter these attributes so completely and fully that any doubts we might have about God or people suffering eternally will somehow no longer haunt us, but rather rest peacefully and easily upon our souls. So much, that in the presence of God who allows for, created, and sustains hell, we will be forever desiring to sing His praises as millions of others suffer unimaginably.

In short, the brutal, violent death of Jesus and a hell of eternal pain and suffering have been handed down to us unquestionably as the ultimate reflection of God’s character and His best ideas for how to extend and make real His deep abiding love for humanity.

Maybe for you, these popular teachings regarding God’s narrative of salvation are a comfortable fit and central to your faith understanding. In your mind, if people go to hell, it’s their fault, not God’s. God can do whatever He wants, and if Hell is the setup, so be it. Besides, the Scriptures are clear, people have been warned—believe or burn, that’s the Gospel. If one rejects Jesus and refuses to heed His commands, they’ll get their just reward—an eternity of torture. God is holy, just, and sovereign no matter how vicious and brutal things play out—for His ways are not our ways, who are we to cross-examine the Divine? Therefore, you proudly and boldly declare the reality of a flaming eternity and the glory of God in sending (or allowing) people there who reject Jesus or live disobediently—thanking God, it’s not you, of course.

Or perhaps for you, as much as you dislike thinking about hell and are even inwardly perplexed by its reality in contrast to a loving God, your understanding of the biblical witness and teachings of Jesus seem to leave you no other choice but to conclude that hell is real and real people will be spending eternity in some kind of suffering existence that affords no hope and no way out. It’s not how you would draw it up, and the whole idea is secretly unsettling to you. When it comes to God’s wrath, burning in flames, and the brutal crucifixion of His own Son, you’d just as soon focus on something else and hope it all comes out in the wash. You have your doubts, a lot of questions, and significant uneasiness with it all, but that’s about as far as you’ve taken it.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, chances are, without a hell for unbelieving sinners, the foundations of your faith understanding make little sense and largely comes crashing to the ground. In your mind, if there’s no hell, there’s no purpose for Jesus. If there’s no hell, there’s no purpose for believing. If there’s no hell, there’s no purpose in being a Christian. If there’s no hell, what’s the motivation? If there’s no hell, what’s our message? If there’s no hell, what’s the Gospel? If there’s no hell, what happens to all the effort I’ve put into my righteousness?

So, as difficult, foundation-shaking, and faith-unraveling as this question could potentially be, I’m still going to ask it—what if you’re wrong?

What if hell is nothing like you think?

What if hell (if a place at all) is actually just as Jesus alluded, a literal place (Gehenna) located in Jerusalem associated with the valley of Hinnom that was used as the city dump where a fire was constantly kept to burn up and consume all of the city’s unwanted junk? In fact, the word Gehenna occurs 12 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament, each time being mistranslated to mean “hell” in several versions of the Bible, even though Jesus used it as a clear reference to a city dump.

What if it’s an embarrassingly huge stretch of theological abuse to determine in one moment that the admonition by Jesus to, “pluck your eye out” is certainly not to be taken literally, but yet in the next moment, His literal use of “Gehenna” in the same sentence should somehow be unequivocally understood to refer figuratively to a real place in the bottom of the earth where people are tortured by the wrath of God in eternal flames? Really?

What if the other three biblical words traditionally interpreted as referring to a “hell of fire and eternal torment” actually are grossly mistranslated and don’t actually mean “hell” at all? In fact, Sheol occurs 65 times in the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament, and it simply means “the grave” (the place of the dead) or “the pit.” Hades occurs 11 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament and it is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol. Thus, it also simply means “the grave “or “the pit.” Tartarus occurs only once in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament in this verse: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.” Notice that God casts the angels (not humanity) who sinned down to tartarus and chained them in darkness, to be reserved for judgement.

What if the single word “hell” we use today and associate as “hell” (a place of fiery, eternal torture) is actually not found in the Bible—nowhere, and in no manuscripts? It’s true.

What if, in fact, much of modern Christianity’s convenient love affair with a hell of flames, wrath, and demons comes much more from the influence of Dante’s “Inferno” than ever could be derived from the true words of Jesus?

What if hell is actually a reality experienced in the presence of God, not apart from Him like commonly taught? In fact, two writers in Scripture describe this very notion: “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb,”  and “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” 

What if hell is not the result of God doing something contrary to His nature (love), but rather doing more of it? In fact, the Greek word for “wrath” in the New Testament is the word “orge.” Unfortunately, the way this word has been translated has been shaped greatly by our pre-existing concepts of God as being angry, temperamental, and hell-bent on punishing. The word “orge” actually means “any intense emotion.” It’s from where we get words like “orgy” and “orgasm.” At its core, “wrath” has to do with a very strong passion—not even associated to anger. In fact, the root of “orge” actually means “to reach out in a straining fashion for something that you long to possess.” 

What if the wrath of God is not Him pouring out anger, vengeance, or retaliation, but rather His furious love—grasping, reaching, shaking to possess every person that they might experience His Grace?

What if hell is the experience of religious-hearted people who despise the pure Grace of God and His unconditional love and inclusion of all people into Himself and the Kingdom? In the eternal presence of the white-hot love of God forever flowing out as a river from His throne (Daniel 7:10), their souls are scorched with frustration, rage, and torment as their self-righteousness, conditional love, and religious arrogance, bigotry, and intolerance are exposed—stripped, and rendered powerless and evil. All of it deemed as filthy rags fit for the lake of God’s all consuming fire—the blistering flames of Grace. The presence of all people of every color, gender, orientation, stronghold, sin, and creed sends them into legalistic episodes of uncontainable protest and rage—how can this be, how is this fair, how dare the cross include all of these? Resigned to spend an eternity in the presence of pure Grace, the only way it becomes heaven for them is to do what many will refuse—to repent of their demonizing of God, their worship of the Scriptures, and their own legalistic understandings of it all to the exclusion of truly knowing Jesus and His heart. For the same Grace and love that will be experienced as heaven by many, will be a sure torturous hell for some. Jesus forever flips over the tables yet again, and those whom religion joyously sends to the curb are given a prized seat of bliss, and those whom religion gives elite privilege are found to be pouting and wallowing forever in religious disgust.

What if Jesus didn’t die to save us from white-bearded, angry, and vengeful God, but to save us from a fear-driven faithless life of believing He is?

What if Jesus didn’t die at the hands of a God who required His blood-soaked death in order to forgive, but rather at the claws of the religious and their diabolical systems of evil whose chief desire is to murder pure Grace and all its self-righteous destroying, all-including implications?

What if, in the hands of a world dripping with oppression, Jesus, through the cross, chose the way of nonviolence, sacrifice, service, forgiveness, inclusion, and unconditional love to model and manifest the Kingdom that was already eternally established by His Grace?

What if Jesus didn’t die to forgive us, but to manifest to the world that God already had, long ago outside of time in the realm of eternity?

What if God isn’t schizophrenic after all—harboring unconditional love for humanity one moment and eternal hate the next?

What if the truth is, you can’t reject Grace—you can’t stop its presence, pursuit, favor, or blessings over your life or that of any other, you can only love it or resist it? Loving, believing, trusting Grace fills your life with heavenly rest. Not loving, believing, and trusting Grace fills your life with a hell of frustration, self-righteousness, bitterness, religiosity, judgementalism and angst—as long as you desire, even for eternity.

What if God isn’t an insecure, limited, and codependent parent, whose capacity to save, love, and forgive are restricted to and governed by the obedience (or disobedience) of His children—thus, making them the Lords of the future, not Him?

What if God never changes—He is love through and through, forever and always, no matter what or who?

What if the presence of alternative biblically-faithful interpretations regarding ones understanding of hell and God’s connection to it back you into an interpretive corner, so much that if you believe in an eternal hell of torment and torture for the unbelieving and a God who would author it, you are doing so solely by your own choice?

For the results are in—history paints the picture. We Christians have been drastically wrong before—wrong about racism, wrong about equality, wrong about violence and war, the list keeps on growing.

Hell-believing, wrath-preaching, fire-breathing Christian—what if you’re wrong, yet again?

If I’m wrong, then God will most certainly go ahead, around, and over me in a divine full-court-press to scare the hell out of the people I’m misleading—literally. For there’s nothing about me or my message that the Holy Spirit is powerless or unwilling to usurp. Any wayward guidance on my part can easily be reversed by the omnipotent leading of the Father. I would boldly stand before the Throne having exaggerated the goodness, love, and Grace of God—if ever that could be a thing.

But, if you’re wrong, you have participated in nothing less than the evil demonization of God and the sheer blaspheming of His Spirit. You’ve allowed your spiritual laziness, vulnerability to religious brainwashing, and twisted comfort with the notion of people going to a torturous hell and a God who would create it, to win over your heart, mind, thinking, attitudes and actions. You have leaned on your own understanding of the Scriptures to the spiritual abuse of others—imprisoning them into a life of fear as they are raped of their capacity to know the joy, freedom, and peace that comes from awakening to God who is love, Jesus who is Grace, and the Gospel that is truly good news for all.

Hell-believing, wrath-preaching, fire-breathing Christian—what if you’re wrong?

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness… I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love?  -St. Isaac the Syrian

“The flames of heaven will be hotter for some than the flames of hell could ever be”  -Dallas Willard

Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world.”  -Robert Capon

Grace is brave. Be brave

The Real Reason I Don’t Go To Your Church

No, it’s not the music style, the lighting, or the programs.

No, it’s not that I’m lazy, disinterested, or bent towards worldliness.

In fact, I care deeply about spiritual things, long for community, and have a generous heart for serving people.

With your professional branding, elaborate worship staging, cultural savviness, and groups for nearly every interest known to humanity, I can tell you are feverishly trying to crack the code and leverage me into your church gatherings. Even your ministry conferences, flowcharts, and mission statements are centered around somehow influencing me into your kingdom. Like Captain Ahab tempestuously traversing the oceans for the prized moment his harpoon punctures the elusive whale, it’s obvious you long for your efforts to be those that heroically pierce my heart with salvation, lure me into your faith community, and set me on a course to belief and act as you do, all to the praise and admiration of those that align with you spiritually. I see your noble intentions, I really do—all are efforts I truly appreciate.

Yet sadly, the real reason I don’t go to your church still eludes you—perhaps because the answer can’t be bought, programed, built, diagramed, staged, earned, envisioned, emotionalized, focus-grouped, or even prayed into existence. For all the chumming of my life with every strategy, program, and event that could possibly ever be imagined, you’re still yet drastically missing the one ingredient for which my heart and soul hungers the deepest, and could even render it captured. In fact, the one and only thing that truly matters is the very thing rarely ever heard amidst all your ministry chatter—love.

See, the real reason I don’t go to your church, subscribe to your faith understanding, or connect with your spiritual community is actually because of you—you don’t truly love me.

The one thing you so desperately want me to see and believe about your god and your faith establishment is the very thing I don’t see established in you—it’s love—and it’s oh so very clear, you don’t truly love me. With all that your faith, church, and Christian life has become to you, the one thing that hasn’t become of you is the one thing that is so glaringly missing—a simple, true, and genuine love of me.

The real reason—no matter what you might be tempted to conclude. It’s not about your god, your buildings, your beliefs, or your community. It’s actually all about you— that you don’t truly love me.

For if you did…

You wouldn’t even think of putting your rights, comforts, and privileges above mine. Rather, you’d be laying them down for me.

You wouldn’t care so much about bathrooms, wedding cakes, and movie scenes. Rather, you’d be pushing aside every obstacle and looking for every opportunity to simply serve me.

You wouldn’t shame, discard, and condemn the people I love no matter who they be. Rather, you’d love them thoroughly and completely no less, simply because you love me—you know, like Jesus.

You wouldn’t see me as a spiritual project to stuff upon your mantel for all your friends to see, but rather as a wholly divine person already redeemed, simply longing for an awakening—you know, like to the Jesus already in me.

You wouldn’t say selfish things like, “I’m praying for you” as you pretentiously look down your pointed nose and flaring nostrils and determine that if I’m not all that I should be. Rather, you’d vehemently commit your heart to truly understanding, knowing, and loving me—and that, unconditionally.

You wouldn’t want to “reach” me, “win” me, or “grow” me into becoming some robotic, spiritual zombie who believes, looks, and acts mostly like you. Rather, you’d want to love me into the God-adorned person who believes, looks, and acts exactly like the true me, living life as “I” should—in freedom, with only the Spirit guiding me, not you. For don’t you have enough navigating to do in your own life to necessitate in you the trusting of God with mine?

Your theology and Bible understanding wouldn’t be the idolatrous, unmovable, and inerrant foundation upon which you lean, pompously standing as one who holds all the “clear teachings.” Rather, your humility would give way to a love of me that would prevail above all things and become the one and only thing. It would be your vision, denominational mantra, and your ultimate dream—convinced that in all you do for me, you are in fact doing so as your highest and most important way of loving and honoring Thee—you know, Jesus.

You’d be listening, learning, and looking for any reason, excuse, or loophole to affirm me—no, not that there needs to be. That God loves, accepts, and delights in me simply because I breathe, would be more than enough—because that’s the heart of Jesus.

Your default bent, beliefs, and creed would all center on Grace, love, and human equality, not jamming down my throat something you have in your privilege that you believe I need as a remedy to what you see as my depravity. For who do you think you are, anyways? You don’t even know me.

You’d trust the goodness of God so much that potentially erring on the side of unconditionally loving me would not only be deemed as non-threatening, in your heart and mind, it would be concluded to be an impossibility. For with a God of more than enough, who could ever love too much?

Perhaps, most of all, you wouldn’t say ridiculous, stupid things like, “The reason I point out your sin is because I love you” and then expect me to actually believe it—if only I could keep the vomit from dripping out of my mouth. Rather, you’d be begging me to hear one thing, and one thing above all things, “I love you, is the reason I love you.” “Pointing out sin is the job of the Spirit, it’s not for me.” “For who I am, but one who is just like you—no better, only different.”

Yet sadly, you don’t trust Grace to guide, teach, correct, empower, and be all-sufficient, which is perhaps the sole reason why yours is a love that is so alarmingly love-deficient.

You want to change me, I just need you to love me. You want to convert me, I just need you to love me. You want to confront, castigate, correct and conform me, I just need you to love me. There is nothing in all my heart and soul that couldn’t be overcome, if you’d just truly and simply love me. But sadly, you don’t—and even more tragically, because of your faith understanding—you won’t.

Truth is, I don’t need to know anything more about your god or your faith community, because I see everything I need to see—in you, already.

With all due respect and appreciation, you can have all your services, traditions, events, conferences, retreats, revivals, groups, clubs, books, movies, schools, buildings, programs, prayers, and music, because I know true love when I see it—and tragically, I just don’t see it—in you. Don’t ever think you could possibly convince me that the god atop your steeple truly and deeply loves me, when it’s all so crystal clear, from the tippy top to the shallow depths of your own being, a love cannot be found that truly loves me.

Which is all the reason I need to know or ever show as to why I’ll never want to be a part of your church, your faith understanding, or your community.

The real reason?

You.

You don’t truly love me.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  -1 John 4:8

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” -1 Corinthians 13

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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