Not many enjoy dealing with negative issues, certainly I don’t, but the reality we face is daunting—much of modern American Christianity is a kind of full blown, DEFCON 5 mess. Are we intrinsically bad people? No, of course not. Is the bulk of Christianity in dire straits? I believe so.
Whether by eyes-wide-open intention or some kind of unconscious seduction, many of us who claim the name “Christian” have sadly become some of the most hateful, selfish, condemning, privileged, demanding, and arrogant people on planet earth. I wish this weren’t true, but unfortunately it is—American Christianity’s overall deplorable state is the pink elephant in the room draped with blinking lights and sounding alarms that somehow is still being ignored by many of us who refuse to see beyond our ideologies and listen beyond the cooing sounds of our own ignorance.
Like an alcoholic in denial of their disease, many of us have gone nose-blind to the stench of our religious breaths. Sadly, as virtuous as our pursuits may seem and our intentions might be, we are drunk on everything but Jesus, who is pure Grace. We are the wasted guy at the bar who thinks their high is so spiritual and worthy, totally oblivious to the superficial buffoons we have become—a laughing stock to the world of the highest cringe-worthiness, increasingly dangerous to ourselves and even more so to others.
Despite the divine-pleasing nobility we seek, our creeds and our creed-doing are so far gone from Christ and His earthly essence that our wayward faith looks back from some distant planet and dares to declare it’s the world that’s moved away. We are self-professed experts at label giving, boasting of a “biblical” accuracy to put names to the sins and the sinners we decree. Yet, more and more, it seems our credibility to even place the title “Christian” on our own backs is showing itself to be anything but an act of genuine, on-target appropriateness.
Oh how we have fallen from Grace and stand in diametrical contradiction to the very label we profess—”Christian.”
A Christian is supposed to be a person who, first and foremost, is resting totally in Grace—as was Jesus. Grace is the Gospel—anything less or added along side is nothing but deceptive, cruel, bad news. Grace alone is our salvation, our sanctification, our justification, our preservation and our summation. To “believe” is to simply rest in Grace—to be awakened to all that God is (Love), and all that humanity is (sons and daughters of the living God)—whole, righteous, and fully alive because of Jesus’ performance, not ours. By Grace, from Grace, and through Grace, Jesus is the author and finisher of everything about everyone. To love Jesus is to love pure Grace, to believe in Jesus is to rest solely in Grace. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sadly, most Christians, especially Evangelical conservatives, aren’t resting in Grace but fidgeting in their souls, putting their trust in some level of spiritual performance for the existence, quality and closeness of their relationship with Jesus. They don’t believe they, or anyone else, are truly a finished work of Christ through the cross, but rather that one must embark on a spiritual process of sin-management, life-change, and evil-overcoming in order to establish and maintain a working relationship with God—what many call “becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.”
In technical terms, they think the Law, in all its forms of religious rule-keeping, is actually doable. If you just pray enough, press into Jesus enough, get radical enough, keep your sins at bay enough, subscribe to the right belief systems and complete the right steps enough, your spiritual faithfulness will result in a wellspring of life leading to blessings from God now, eternity with Him later, and a superior standing over the rest of humanity. God loves you “but,” if you don’t love Him back through a life of rule-keeping, expectation-meeting, church-playing, correct doctrine-believing, radical-serving and sin-overcoming, all bets are essentially off.
In essence, those who subscribe to this self-righteous way of living are ironically the ones leading the way at watering down sin as they pridefully lift up some kind of system of human capacity that’s able to overcome it—believing within the application and declaration of religious effort and striving there is life. A life, for them, that is attained by leveraging Jesus and mixing Him into a cocktail of personal performance they believe will satisfy the thirst of God and cause Him to release a sum of blessings and favor that wouldn’t be otherwise rendered. If one can just bolster enough spiritual steam and put Jesus in their pocket along the way, the conquering of sin is just a few sermon bullet points away. The need for Jesus is reduced to a pawn in their spiritual game purposed on check-mating God into being required to love, bless, and keep them because they, through their spiritual gymnastics, have fulfilled the just requirements, checked the boxes, and have done their part.
Because they have this lessor view of sin, they also have a lessor view of Grace and their need for it, reducing the cross to an ongoing, open-ended negotiation instead of a once-and-for-all, one-and-done salvation. Attend just about any church in America and you will experience this “Jesus plus me-and-my-faithfulness” concoction that’s sadly bottled as the Gospel.
I wish things were different, but I can’t be silent, this is the most anti-Christ, anti-Jesus-like way to believe and live—flipping Jesus the middle finger while we pat Him on the back in declaration that what He did on behalf of all humanity was pretty damn good, but not quite good enough—Jesus got us so far, but there is a significant amount of human pedaling to muscle in order to open up the heavens now and get us in later.
The truth is, for most Christians, we aren’t resting, trusting, and believing solely in Christ alone, but something much different and deeply sinister—and our performance-driven, legalistic, self-improving, judgmental, conditional-loving and pretentious faith is all the world needs to see as proof. We don’t truly worship Jesus, we worship Jesus plus “us”—Jesus plus repentance, Jesus plus church attendance, Jesus plus spiritual notches on our belts, Jesus plus this, that, and everything else. At the end of the day, we don’t truly love Jesus, rather, we are using Him like a street corner prostitute to empower our spiritual joy ride of self-righteousness, self-justification, world-judgement and world-condemnation. We want as much Jesus as we need in order to get what we want and yet maintain a sure level of control, superiority over others, and self-righteous satisfaction.
That’s why words about Jesus (the Bible) are more important to us than the living Word, Jesus Himself. We don’t interpret the Bible through the person of Jesus—as did Jesus. Rather, we interpret it through the lens of our selective agendas, self-justification, and a need for some skin in the game to quiet down our restless faiths that are afraid to acknowledging the full ramifications of Grace—you aren’t in control, He is; your performance doesn’t matter, only His does; you aren’t any better than anyone else, only different. In our minds, when Jesus doesn’t do and say what we need Him to do and say, we scramble for something or someone else to legitimize our convictions and justify our religious agendas—enter, the Bible.
Let’s be honest, we aren’t totally in love with all of humanity—as was Jesus.
We aren’t totally impassioned with equality and justice for all people—as was Jesus.
We aren’t totally focused on helping people see themselves through the lens of Grace instead of sin, guilt and shame—as was Jesus.
We aren’t unconditionally loving the broken and discarded, and confronting the religious, legalistic and Grace withholders of our day—as did Jesus.
So many of the things that are primary to Jesus aren’t even on the bus of our religious joy ride. Instead, we have become consummate, spiritual mixologists—diluting the purity of Jesus and His Grace with our religious additives and preservatives, pouring it all into our crystalline clubs with crosses on top and calling it faith and faithfulness—hoping the world will drink from the very same poison that’s killing us, while sadly we believe it’s bringing us Life.
We say we love “justice,” but it feels so much more like we love “just us.”
We say we love “Jesus,” but it feels so much more like we love “judging everybody but us”
We say we’re all about “Love,” but we have polluted Him and His affections with so many “conditions.”
“Evangelical,” “Conservative,” whatever name you want to hoist is fine with me, but with all due respect, please stop calling yourself a “Christian,” it simply doesn’t fit. The Christ you claim and the Christ you proclaim is almost nowhere to be found within all the spin, conditions, and condemnation riddled in your game.
Call yourself religians, sin-managians, world-judgians, homophobians, sin-hatingians, discriminatians, mixed-gospelians, legalismians, churchians, conservativians, bible-thumpians, church-franchisians, empire-christianityians—whatever title floats your boat, but please reconsider calling yourself a Christ-ian.
It’s all too obvious you are comfortable with making the world into an all-you-can-judge buffet as you cling to a bipolar God and a book you can wield to justify your angry deity, inner underlying hate, and an addiction to self-righteous justification. No doubt, the rest of us are beginning to clearly understand that because of you, to self-identify as a “Christian” in America today is to position oneself as a rabid porcupine in a world of balloons—rightly predisposed as haters, bigots, egomaniacs, ignoramuses, and overall life deflators.
For this, I am actually glad. It’s high time the people of Jesus put faith-handles aside and let our actions speak louder than a title ever could.
Let’s all stop worrying about the label and determine to be the Love.
Let’s stage our love and grace do the talking and the persuading—the best way to reveal the Who we are trusting. For by the way we love without restraint and adore without limits, people won’t even need to ask, they will simply know—Love has come to town.
But how will they know it’s Jesus who is the subject of our souls? Because Jesus is Grace, nothing and no one else truly is, and people aren’t stupid.
It’s sad, but true, the more I become unchristian, the more Jesus recognizes me as His own.
If you need the title “Christian” to be one and to do His work, then perhaps you have missed the entire point of who Jesus is and the true nature and essence of what is truly His work.
Perhaps the less we call ourselves “Christians” the more we truly show ourselves to be one.
And more importantly, the more the world might believe in the One and only who is Grace.
Some people talk about putting Jesus first in THEIR life. The first among many additions. He IS our life and the life of all who inhabit this planet. We need no labels just gratitude for the Grace who dwells in us all! You hit it out of the park, Chris!
This is the best retaliation against all the “christian” hypocrisy that pervades the world… to ignore the Grace and Love that is Jesus is to spit upon He that you wave like a flag of privilege. Thank you!
Thank you, Chris, for stating it so clearly. Keep putting it out there. Those that want to hear it will hear it and heed the call to Grace and Jesus, but the majority will sadly wallow in the law-keeping Pharisaical brand of their religion which stinks in His nostrils, I believe. This is precisely what He meant when he talked of the narrow way and the broad path that leads to destruction.
Can you write a post on Grace and Love and how we can better let go and rest in His finished work?
Well that gets us to Romans 5 now how about the rest? So many darned Romans 5 type blog posts but when are you going to press on and find the personal answer and then lead others in the way.
Jesus: Come and see.
I have a suggestion for a name change…
“I Hate Conservative Christians.”
It would be much more descriptive of the drivel you post.
“Gay bars are more than just licensed establishments where homosexuals pay to drink. Gay bars are therapy for people who can’t afford therapy; temples for people who lost their religion, or whose religion lost them; vacations for people who can’t go on vacation; homes for folk without families; sanctuaries against aggression.” -Richard Kim
“It is hard for us straight people to grasp the sense of violation felt by the LGBTQI community when gay bars are criticized, much less attacked violently as happened this week in Orlando.
It is important to remember the role of intolerant religion in targeting the LGBTQI community for judgment. Just because we did not take up the gun ourselves does not excuse us. It is religion and religion alone that has painted a target on the backs of that community.
It is not enough for our religion to be tolerant, or even “gay friendly.” These people are being slaughtered in our name. We are called to do justice- which means protecting the LGBTQI community from our fellow religious zealots who would do them harm.”
Jim Rigby, St. Andrews, Austin Texas
Thank you for writing this. You were able to clearly and concisely explain a concept that I have struggled to put into words for my own searching heart.
Thank you Margaret for your readership and comment!
Chris, I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now and find that you are right on point with just about everything you publish. Of course, you are going against the mainstream of American Christianity, so expect backlash and the ever familiar “shaking my head” as they quietly dismiss you as a pissed off “Christian” and walk away.
Before I ever came out, I had been struggling with my attraction to women while married with two little girls. Being an avid reader, when faced with a thought or problem I can’t seem to solve, I read everything about it that I can find. I don’t give myself the luxury of reading things that agree with me, but try to find those things that leave me squirming a little. At any rate, I read a book by Brennan Manning that changed the way I look at the believer’s life, The Ragamuffin Gospel. Rich Mullins, a renegade Christian artist who struggled with alcohol, wrote the foreward. He was killed in a car accident in 1997, within a few weeks of Princess Diana’s death in Paris. Manning, a former priest within the Catholic faith is a recovering alcoholic, who details his struggle in the book and also has a Grace awakening. After reading this book, I began to see that the religious ideals I had grown up with in a Southern Baptist home, weren’t altogether right, as I had always believed. Grace is only given lip service at best in the Baptist church.
Then began my own Grace awakening. It has been almost 20 years and the woman I fell in love with during that time has come and gone and is with someone else now. It devastated me as she was the reason this all began, or rather I believe, God allowed it to happen to bring me closer to Him. I regularly face criticism and condemnation from my family who tell me that God won’t bless me if I continue in “this lifestyle” I have chosen.
My beliefs now closely align with yours and I admire you so much for stepping up for the LGBT community. Thank you for your words and your awesome presence in a dark place. You are a modern day Jeremiah or Isaiah, speaking out when it isn’t always popular or the thing that most people want to hear. Please don’t burn out or ever think that what you are doing is a waste of time. It has helped immeasurably. Thanks.
Wow, such powerful words and story. I am deeply grateful for you and your encouragement! I truly hope one day we can meet, for now I’ll just hug you through this screen. 🙂