Tag: violence

The Conservative Evangelical War On Easter

There has been no greater and deceptive evil wielded upon all the earth than right wing conservative Evangelical Christianity. For history tells the tragic tale of the countless lives that have been emotionally, spiritually, and physically destroyed and the good-hearted people who have been led astray and spiritually imprisoned by this diabolical system of faith.

Sadly, this toxic brand of demonic spiritual trickery is not without a past as throughout the Scriptures, the religious people who postured themselves as being full of the divine and uniquely centered on faithfulness were often revealed to be those who were furthest from truth and the sure enemies of God. In the presence of Jesus, so much of what appears to be sacred is revealed as scandal, and that which is condemned as scandalous is revealed of its true sacredness.

In the same way, across America, conservative Evangelicalism arrogantly trumpets an infallible understanding and exclusive authority on all things Christian. With a plastic white Republican Jesus as the hood ornament of their world bulldozer, they scan the cultural horizon eagerly waiting to demolish anything they deem to be sin or an enemy to the full fruition of their dominance. Yet tragically, with their assault-bibles in hand, like a mentally ill child-killer armed for destruction, they break down doors in pursuit of their adversary only to find it’s the Bethlehem-born, crucified, and resurrected Jesus of Nazareth and His pure Gospel of Grace. For in all of history, there has been no greater affront to the heart of God, the true person of Jesus, and the Easter He brings for all of humanity than right wing conservative Evangelical Christianity.

For Easter is the message that violence never wins. Not knives, not guns, not missiles, not crucifixions, nor even proof texts. In fact, the cross bears undeniable witness that the ultimate expression of divinely sanctioned power and favor is not aggression, bullying, revenge, greed, punishment, dominance, political gain, religious control, nor prosperity, but rather, service and sacrifice on behalf of the least of these.

Yet sadly, like the religious and political elite that murdered Jesus, conservative Evangelicalism is addicted to power and privilege with a willingness to harbor and exude nearly every form of spiritual, emotional, and physical violence and oppression in order to obtain and protect it. Through Easter, what Jesus resurrects as the ways of non-violence, sacrificial service, and the denouncement of every form of spiritual, emotional, physical, religious, and political greed, conservative Evangelicalism is quick to nail back upon the cross and crucify to death, lest the nationalization and globalization of their white, male, heterosexual, conservative Christian privilege be thwarted and dismantled.  

Easter is the declaration that all are equal and divinely affirmed. For Grace is the great equalizer, none of us are better, only different. That Jesus is “all and in all,” what could possibly be clearer? For Easter is God’s vehement decree on behalf of all humanity that condemnation from the divine is impossible and human equality is irrefutable. This is thy Kingdom come—white, black, brown, male, female, gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, transgender—all are equally beautiful God-adorned threads in the divine tapestry of humanity. For equality is what the Gospel looks like when manifested upon the earth.

Yet sadly, the very same religiously oppressive spirit that flogged Jesus beyond recognition, finds its returning demonic manifestation in a conservative Evangelicalism that whips, beats, and pulverizes anything and everything that breaks the mold and refuses to conform to their ideology of privilege. Leading the way in the influence of transgender suicides, the spiritual rationalization of sexism, the barbaric continuance of racism, the insatiable discrimination of minorities, and the ruthless condemnation of the LGBTQ community, conservative Evangelicalism pimps a full-court press towards the goal of firmly putting to death the human equality and divine affirmation of all humanity that Jesus so purposefully gave His life to resurrect.    

Easter is the revelation that heaven is all inclusive. To the temper tantrums, dismay, and sheer disgust of the religious, Easter reveals a God who is far greater than any one creed and devoid of the exclusiveness many so desperately desire Him to embrace. The evil religious lines that are drawn to distinguish the faithful from the faithless, the believers from the nonbelievers, and the heathens from the saints are all obliterated by the One whose resurrection erases all labels and undermines their religious application. For under Grace, there is no “in” or “out,” “saved” or “lost,” or “faithful” or “faithless,” there is only people created in His image and included in His Trinity from the foundations of eternity—period, full stop. Therefore, Easter is the certainty that Hell, wrath, and divine hatred are the propaganda of the religious who desire control and submission above all things. In fact, nothing disarms and renders impotent the power and legitimacy of a false gospel more than when its fiery hell of religious construct is shown of its blasphemy, and heaven is revealed of its all inclusive beauty. For Jesus didn’t die to save us from an angry God, but to save us from believing He is.

Yet sadly, the fear-mongering religious who love to draw lines and build separation, and ultimately sentenced Jesus to his death because he wouldn’t hate, exclude, and condemn all the right people, are the very same ones who today worship a god who conveniently drop kicks all their enemies into a hell of eternal torment and rescues all the “good” people for an eternal home of white picket fences, two story houses, leatherbound name engraved Bibles, and Kari Jobe worship cd’s. For nothing wages war against the resurrected Jesus who reveals the inclusivity of the divine like the contrived god of conservative Evangelicalism whose exclusivity and wrath seem to always bend and sway to every pretentious wish and pursuit of right-wing religious conservatism.

Easter is the finality that Grace alone is the Gospel. For there is no other message from the throne of heaven than Grace. There is no condemnation, divine reckoning, nor final examination. All are beloved and masterfully created with an irrevocable divine stamp of approval etched upon every molecule of their being. No one can out run, out rebel, out sin, out betray, out disbelieve, nor out deny the power of Grace nor undo its capacity to capture the most restless and resilient heart. For nothing else heals, repairs, and sets onto a path of goodness and victory other than the Gospel of pure Grace. Everything else is religious pretending, a hopeless fictitious game of God appeasement.

Yet sadly, the pure Grace that Jesus so powerfully resurrects and proclaims with every fiber of His divine being, is the very Grace that sends conservative Evangelical Christianity into full blown fits of rage and declarations of war upon His true Name and proclamation—Grace. For Easter beholds the most important revelation that splits the sides and send crashing to the ground the entire Evangelical empire—”it is finished, it finished, thank God almighty, it is finished.” All is grace, and grace is all. This is the Gospel that conservative Evangelicalism crucifies with blood dripping down. Why? Because everything about their religious system is in the balance. For if Grace is the Gospel (which it is), their faith understanding is most certainly not, having participated in and fostered nothing less than pure Easter-raping evil.          

Easter is the assurance that to believe is to rest. For as well intentioned and spiritual as it all may seem, there is no such thing as a “relationship” with God or “inviting Him into your heart.” These are deceptive religious constructs that forever place ones connection and closeness with Him as being within the reach and responsibility of human control and performance. This is a hopeless arrangement as even on our best day, our spiritual performance will always and eventually breakdown, placing our connection and closeness with God in sure uncertainty.

Thankfully, Easter is the divine reckoning that desires to awaken us all to the sure reality that God didn’t come to sell us a relationship or offer us a divine maintenance plan established by our personal performance and do-gooding. Instead, Easter declares that we are the relationship—living Trinities with skin, established from the foundations of eternity. The Christian life, therefore, is not a process where we feverishly seek to become something that we aren’t already through good behavior and spiritual striving. Rather, it is the awakening to the fullness of who we already are in Christ—whole, pure, secure, and fully redeemed. In simple terms, “there is nothing wrong with you”—this is the Gospel in six words. Belief, therefore, is simply resting in the full sufficiency of Grace alone, a Grace that completely and irrevocably finished its work in you on Easter morn–period, full stop.

Yet sadly, in stark defiance to our unconditional and irreversible communion with God through Jesus Christ, conservative Evangelicalism desperately asserts a religious system of personal faithfulness, rule-keeping, sin-management, behavior modification, compliance, and accountability in hopes of guaranteeing its necessity and capacity to control. This is a foundational pillar within the conservative Evangelical Borg and its quest to addict people to their neverending self-righteous system of Christian being and living.

With every effort to riddle the Christian life and faith with conditions, clauses, and fine print, conservative Evangelical Christianity declares war on the freedom, life, and joy Easter meant to declare and bring.      

Easter is the divine megaphone pronouncing that God is love—unconditionally. Through Jesus’ cosmos-altering resurrection, He puts to death every religious assertion that predicates God’s love with conditions. For God doesn’t, “hate the sin and love the sinner,” He simply loves. God doesn’t, “bless those who bless Him,” He simply loves. God doesn’t, “save those who say the right prayers,” He simply loves. The cross is where God forever removes the word “but” from the vocabulary of heaven. In fact, there was never, “God loves you… but.” There is only “God loves you… period.” To the pubescent protest of the religious, this love-revelation doesn’t reduce love into becoming soft and slippery, it resurrects love into becoming real and divine.

Yet sadly, like the religious people who mocked, ridiculed, bullied, slandered, spit at, and pierced the sides of Jesus, conservative Evangelicalism despises unconditional love and its expression. For nothing sends right wing conservative Christianity into fits of declared unfairness like the full fruition of unconditional Love. Surely, when we all get to heaven, in disgust, the religious will see those they once labeled as the wretched enemy and bury their faces in torment. With joy, the rest of us will see those we’ve always and only known as friends, and lift our hearts in praise. For God is love—always has been, always will be.

With every rationalization of violence and weaponizing of the Scriptures. With every politicization of Jesus and nationalization of conservative Evangelical Christianity. With every pursuit of power, elitism, and privilege at the expense and deterement of the least of these. With every demonization of God through a hell of eternal torment for those who think, believe, and live outside the lines drawn by right wing conservative Christianity. With every condition placed on Love and the giving of it. With every belittling of the Gospel of pure Grace and the burdening of humanity with rule-keeping and self-righteousness. With every condemnation of the LGBTQ community and the flogging of their inherent divine beauty. With every spiritual rationalization of bigotry, sexism, and racism, right wing conservative Evangelicalism declares war against the Jesus of Easter.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” -Matthew 23:37     

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Guns, Jesus, and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will do no less for any other.

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

With that said…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace wins. Love prevails.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, the cycle continues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All, on earth, as it is in heaven.

Grace wins.

Grace wins.

Thank God almighty.

Grace wins.

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.

© 2018 Chris Kratzer

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