Misogyny In The Church Must Go

As Sarah Bessey pointed out when she started the #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear on Twitter, sexism isn’t limited to Christianity or religion. It’s a problem on a global scale, and it needs to be exposed regularly. In fact, I’m making it my duty to make it as awkward as possible for anyone I hear saying anything sexist and you should, too.

#ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear

Although I am a feminist and advocate for women in general, I’m still working to deconstruct the sexism that was programmed into me for 30 years. I don’t always get it right (as Lindsey is fully aware), but I also have ZERO desire to have even a hint of misogyny working through me. Frankly, I wasn’t even aware that I was sexist at all, but luckily I’m married to someone who is happy to help me grow in feminism.

One day she sat me down and began destroying the foundation on which society and the Christian Church had subtly programmed its sexist ways in me. At first, I was a bit defensive, “I’m not sexist! I’m a feminist for crying out loud.” But piece by piece, Lindsey broke that shit apart. It’s disturbing how often I told her “no” regarding her dreams and desires favoring my own.

I’m done pretending that the Bible is “God’s holy word,” or “infallible.” That’s just plain ridiculous when viewed from any perspective outside the fundamentalist construct.

The Bible is not god.

The Bible is often elevated to that status, which is called idolatry by any other definition, but I assure you it’s just a book. Men wrote (plagiarized) the Bible, and they did a really shitty job of it. The Bible is chock-full of misogyny, and it’s time for Christians to stop defending it.

Call it out! Name it! Accept that the authors were assholes, but don’t defend their unrighteous behavior! At least give an excuse worth listening to, “The Bible was written in a time a place when women were undervalued. Similarly, women were undervalued when the U.S. Constitution was written, but we amended the Constitution. We recognize that the Bible is full of dehumanization, and it’s wrong.”

As Sarah Bessey pointed out when she started the #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear on Twitter, sexism isn’t limited to Christianity or religion. It’s a problem on a global scale, and it needs to be exposed regularly. In fact, I’m making it my duty to make it as awkward as possible for anyone I hear saying anything sexist and you should, too.

So, I leave you with the words of (mostly) women who face this daily (Note: if you don’t see what’s wrong with these, you’re either accepting of or numb to sexism — or you’re the sexist. Just so we’re clear on that.)

Our Revolution

This is our revolution. Millennials and other like-minded people are keen. We are capable. Together in solidarity, we will stand up to fear and not back down. We will eliminate homophobia, sexism, and the classifications of race by fully accepting each person for who they are without any expectations of changing them.

We will educate our children to do the same and to treat each person with kindness, respect, and impartiality. The generation following after us will not be afraid to fall in love with a person whose skin color differs from their own. They will openly celebrate one another falling in love regardless of gender or religious upbringing (if any).

Perhaps now more than ever, minorities and their allies lament with fear and angst. I never understood that until I expanded my table to include them. To be entirely fair, I still don’t fully understand it because I’m a white, privileged, heterosexual man.

Throughout history, minorities have suffered tremendously. One might think that we’ve made progress—that we’re better off today than we were even 100 years ago. Until Trump was elected President, I would have agreed with those sentiments.

What I’m not saying is that all Trump supporters are racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexists. I’m not saying that. Trump is, but not all of his followers are.

I’m convinced that this was the last political grab (forgive the pun) for the presidency for which the Baby Boomers will be able to take credit. That’s the good news. Four years from now the Millennial generation will overwhelmingly outnumber all the rest.

Politics aside (take a deep breath), let’s back up for just a minute. To their credit, the Baby Boomers were the first to teach their children that it’s okay to ask questions. I think we owe them a great deal of ‘thanks’ because this is a game-changer, and it’s something that we’re passing on to our children. They were the first to tell us, the Millennials, that it’s okay to question authority; it’s okay to challenge the status quo. They said that just because something has been done a certain way or just because something is accepted as true for any length of time doesn’t mean it’s right.

Well, we listened.

Just because marriage has traditionally (especially from a legal perspective) been between a man and a woman doesn’t mean it should only be that way. A select group of people should not get to determine who any individual is permitted to fall in love with, marry, and raise a family. My opinion is that anti-LGBT people are disgusted by the thought of two same-sex or transgender people having sex. I don’t think it has anything to do with tradition. The only traditional aspect of it is sex and poorly taught/accepted religion.

Religion is also something we question. If you wonder why or how so many Millennials could jump ship, allow me to elaborate. The authors of the Bible and just about every other religious text presented their explanations of the unknown by adopting the idea of a supreme being. I’m not saying they were wrong to assume that a higher power exists, but they never left room for the mystery. Everything is conveyed as fact when the authors had no way to prove anything they claimed. “You should just believe what I’m saying” doesn’t work anymore. We’ve grown tired of being manipulated by our “lack of faith.”

I’m personally agnostic–drawn to the mysterious and unknown. I openly reject teachings, writings, or teachers who profess that any higher power permitted and encouraged rape, slavery, sex with children, war, murder, sexism, racism, homophobia, fear (including ‘Hell’), and all things not love. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any religion free of these, and the majority of them won’t rescind or even admit these teachings are wrong. That leaves me and millions more leaving in droves. #byefelicia

Righting The Ship

This is our revolution. Millennials and other like-minded people are keen. We are capable. Together in solidarity, we will stand up to fear and not back down. We will eliminate homophobia, sexism, and the classifications of race by fully accepting each person for who they are without any expectations of changing them.

We will educate our children to do the same and to treat each person with kindness, respect, and impartiality. The generation following after us will not be afraid to fall in love with a person whose skin color differs from their own. They will openly celebrate one another falling in love regardless of gender or religious upbringing (if any).

Our children will know the sacred history of native and indigenous peoples and how they value the earth and every living thing. They will be informed and encouraged to study science, climate change, and the mysteries of space. We will teach them to respect and accept people groups from every nation, not to build walls on the borders. This country will be for, as Emma Lazarus said, “…your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”

Our children are learning by our example that women never play second fiddle to men. Women can become President, CEO, Senior Pastor, Mom, remain single, or get married. They will understand why women will receive equal pay in proportion to men. We’re teaching them that the sick injustices projected on to women are not only unacceptable, but they are also disgustingly wretched.

My generation and my children’s will end the objectification and sexualization of women. Whether a woman is in a pantsuit or a bikini, wearing a sweater or naked on the beach, her body is not the property of anyone–not even her partner. Her clothing or lack thereof, even her very presence, is an expression of her individuality, not an overture for sexual advances.

If you are a minority, if you are afraid, if you are anxious, stand by me. If oppression plagues you, if you need someone you can trust, I and others are here for you. If you need reassurance that the world will change, rest easy–we’re changing it.

I leave you with the song and lyrics “Imagine” by John Lennon:

“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.”

A Cesspool of Hate

In my last blog post I spoke of a “sea of bodies” that we’re wading through. That was in light of the recent terror attacks around the world (Turkey, Pakistan, Paris, Orlando, etc.). It was infuriating to me that the world blew off the Iraqi, Turkish, and Pakistani attacks. Equally maddening is the cesspool of hate Americans seem to be gleefully splashing in.

Black lives matter.

Sure, one could “correct me” by saying “all lives matter,” and they’d not be wrong; absolutely they do! But the problem is that until black lives matter, gay lives matter, Muslim lives matter, women’s lives matter, and non-American lives matter, then not all lives truly matter.

My friend, John Pavlovitz, says it best:

“The trigger only has one purpose: to be pulled.
The bullet only has one purpose: to penetrate.
The gun only has one purpose: violence.”

He’s exactly right. We could go around and around all day long about the circumstances in which the trigger is pulled, but the fact remains that it’s meant “to be pulled.”

Glorifying guns above the lives of others seems to be the American way (‘Merica). More to the point, it seems to be the white, straight, NRA flag-waving way.

Let me be clear–I’m not placing the blame on the guns. I’m placing it on the gun owners with their fingers on the trigger, both literally and figuratively (including irresponsible, hate-filled police officers).

I’m all for 2nd Amendment rights, but allow me to pose the following thoughts:
What if black lives mattered? What if gay lives mattered? What if transgender lives mattered? What if Muslim lives mattered?

Undoubtedly, many would cry out, “They do matter!”

There’s an exercise I go through in my mind on a regular basis I’d like to take you through. Of course, these questions are rhetorical.

How would you respond if your child wanted to marry a black person (presuming your child isn’t black)?

What if your child told you she/he was gay and she/he was in love?

If your child fell in love with a Muslim, how would that make you feel?

How would you feel if your child fell in love with a transgender person?

Absolutely “all lives matter,” but black people are fully aware of the prejudice held against them. Many, in fact, vividly recall what a segregated life was like.

Black lives matter.

Muslim-Americans, like the Japanese-Americans of WWII, face constant discrimination and are suspected to be terrorists.

Muslim lives matter.

The LGBT community live their lives in continual fear, wondering if they’ll even make it home alive that day (many continue to live “in the closet” for this very reason).

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender lives matter.

By no means am I saying straight, white, gun toting lives don’t matter; they do. But they (I) haven’t been historically enslaved to rapists, suspected of terrorism on a daily basis, or threatened with death for falling in love with a heterosexual white person.

LIVES MATTER.

Businesses, churches, organizations, and individuals who place contingencies on promoting, loving, and accepting others based on reasons of color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation should immediately reconsider their positions on those issues.

The fetor of those who bathe in the cesspool of hate is repulsive.

They’re not fooling anyone. They smell like shit.

A Sea of Bodies

I’m struggling today. There is a sea of bodies surrounding all of us, but it’s largely been ignored.

I don’t even know how far back I have to go to start counting the bodies. Is it Columbine? The eradication of Native Americans? Neanderthals?

No matter where these tragedies occur, the sea of bodies are still collecting, forming an ocean that is becoming increasingly more difficult for the general public to ignore–but I’ll be damned if they aren’t giving it their all to quietly sweep it under the proverbial rug.

I’m going to be as blunt and brutally honest as I can about all of this.

When this happens on American soil, Americans (media/politicians included) weep. When it happens on foreign ally soil (especially those in good standing), Americans weep and “pray for ____.”

When it happens to Pakistan and Turkey, pack up the fanfare; let’s go home. ***Cue mindless scrolling on Facebook. #ignorethosewholookliketerrorists

Sure there are those who will “Pray for Turkey,” but forget about seeing the masses weeping with them. Forget about the media plastering it everywhere.

Just forget about the people of Pakistan and Turkey–they look too much like ISIS.

I actually saw people on Facebook saying things like, “Good! Let them blow each other up! Saves us the trouble.”

THAT attitude is precisely why world peace hasn’t been achieved.

Hear me now:

Inevitably, when something happens at home or on friendly soil abroad, we weep for a day and the conversation turns to gun control, immigration reform, or mental health. But until individuals (you and I) recognize that hate cannot be eradicated by guns, wars, or doctors, the process of hatred will continue. The status quo will not change.

Until we recognize a person is more than their religious beliefs, more than their color, more than their gender, more than their sexual orientation, that they are indeed a person, there will be no change. People will be killed because they’re not “normal.”

It baffles me to think that we are soaring through the universe inside our solar system on a rock that miraculously contains life, yet we somehow still believe that we have control over something! It boggles my mind that we can’t recognize that–that life is sacred–that we’re all part of the human race.

Killing one another over the inconsequential only proves the ignorance of mankind and its fruitless endeavor for control in an uncontrollable environment.

What should be celebrated and found to be beautiful, our differences, are precisely the things ripping us apart.

What’s happened in America, Paris, Belgium, Pakistan, and Turkey are indeed tragedies, but it’s what happens in our every day lives that spark those tragedies.

When you encounter someone who believes differently, looks differently, or lives their life differently, remember that you’re both blazing through our galaxy at 514,000 miles per hour, and by some miracle, you’re both magnificent, exquisite, living beings.

Weep with those who weep. Mourn with those in mourning. Protect the innocent being ridiculed because they’re “different.” Don’t turn a blind eye to the sea of bodies.

Stop hurting one another–especially with silence towards hate and injustice.

Safe Spaces

It occurred to me at some point along my journey that people need safe spaces–places where they’re able to remove their mask and be fully themselves.

Living in the wilderness of north eastern Minnesota has its perks. The wildlife is beyond incredible! This morning I was gazing out my picture window watching the deer feeding in my yard. Last spring I got to see a doe, fat and pregnant , quickly followed by two adorable fawns weeks later.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching the momma doe carefully teaching the two fawns. Their cute spotted bodies soon turned to thick, heavy winter coats, and they followed her all winter long.

They’re still with her today, but now one of them has turned a majestic golden color, and has sprouted a couple of antler buds on his head. They’re beautiful creatures.

One thing caught my attention this morning, though. As I watched them grazing, I noticed them flinching almost continually.

My mind began to wander, and I played out the life of a deer in my head.

How terrible it must be to have to constantly look around for danger! My two dogs are occasionally part of that problem by chasing them around, but there are also wolves, coyotes, bears, hunters, cars… things much more dangerous than my two yippy pups.

A deer’s entire existence is laced in fear, but they always have a fallback.

Without hesitation, anytime I’ve seen a deer get spooked, it immediately retreats to the cover of the forest–to its safe space.

Like the deer, we’re hardwired to seek out these safe spaces.

Some of us may find our safe spaces among a group of friends or family, at home, in church, in a Facebook group, at work or school, around like-minded people, or somewhere else.

This is why we find it so disturbing, like a punch to the gut, when tragedy strikes. When events like the Orlando shooting, Columbine, Aurora, Paris, 9/11, and the OKC bombing happen, it ushers in chaos; our “safe spaces” have been breached, and we feel compromised.

It’s easy to want to point fingers, too. Attention is quickly turned away from the victims and placed on things like guns, “gay agenda,” or worse, blanketing entire groups of people as suspects.

Of course extremists like the KKK, ISIS, and the like exist, but we have to be cautious when identifying them. Just because someone identifies as a person of the Muslim faith, it doesn’t make them a terrorist.

It’s not about them anyway.

The response your experiencing is because a safe space has been invaded, and the reminder of exposure has been brought to your attention. Just as the deer wandering through my yard have the impulse to run, so do we.

Instead of defaulting to a fear-based reaction and getting riled up, I’d like to encourage you to recuse yourself from the situation by retreating to your own safe spaces.

It’s okay to separate yourself from tragedy. It’s okay to escape to places where you’ll be loved. It’s okay to only surround yourself with those you trust the most.

It hurts to see safe spaces be invaded. Those killed in Orlando thought they were in a safe space with like-minded people. Students of Columbine were safe at school. Folks at the Twin Towers were just going about their daily routines at work.

We’re left with painful memories. We’re left scared, feeling helpless and vulnerable.

But don’t make the mistake of hurting others in your grief. Please remember that the victims have friends and family who need your love and support. Remember that the victims aren’t the problem. Remember that the suspects have loved ones who may be grieving.

Remember that placing the attention where it doesn’t belong may only make things worse. Remember that reacting in fear is less powerful than responding with love and kindness.

Remember you have safe spaces to run to, and either get alone or be surrounded by loved ones. Remember that everyone else around you is also acutely aware that they’re also exposed.

Remember that you are a safe space for someone else. Gather up your babies, hold your friends and lovers closely, find your safe space. Remember hate can be overcome with love. Remember that.

Fear Is A Bitch.

A friend posed a question for a group of us to think on the other day.

Existential angst. A Western luxury?

My answer to the group was that anxiety isn’t a ‘luxury’ by any means, but it’s certainly prevalent throughout the Western culture.

That got me thinking, “Why is anxiety so common?”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure these things out. The answer to my own question is every bit as common as anxiety itself.

— Fear —

It’s everywhere.

Let’s cover some of today’s fear driven topics:
1. ISIS (interpreted as all Muslims/Syrian refugees) want to destroy America.
2. The Mexicans are going to take over America–“Build a wall!” (I guess the white Canadians are okay)
3. The “gay agenda” is stripping our freedoms, and God is going to destroy America like Sodom and Gomorrah.
4. Transgender people are rapists creeping in bathroom stalls.
5. Believing differently about–or rejecting belief in–God/Jesus could mean eternal torment.
6. The NRA says “Obama wants to confiscate our guns.”
7. Democrats are dictators.
8. Rejecting the Bible, in part or the whole, is blasphemy (but worshiping it is okay).
9. Equality (women in leadership, women as pastors, LGBT marriage/rights, #freethenipple, legalizing immigrants, minimum wage, etc.) will cause civil unrest and lead to the collapse of the economy.
10. Money (do I need to add to this?)
BONUS: 11. Speaking up (giving one’s opinions/thoughts, being true to one’s self) could mean being shunned.

These are just a few fear driven examples, and you undoubtedly were able to think of a few that could be added.

People are so attached to their fears that they will lash out in anger when they’re challenged. Don’t believe me? Pick any one of the above examples and post it on Facebook and see what happens.

When a person’s fear is challenged they’ll react negatively; it’s a coping mechanism–one we’ve been trained to use–and it stirs anxiety.

Why? Control.

Control is how we keep people around us and the masses subjected or how we offer ourselves the illusion of peace.

Let’s go through an exercise and see if what I say is true.

Total acceptance of every word of the Bible as God’s word is required. It’s otherwise seen as opposition to God, and you may be subjecting yourself to destruction of some kind.

Guess what? I disagree with a lot of the Bible.

Afraid of what I just said? Did it cause a reaction inside you?

How about this:
I voted for Bernie Sanders and joined the Democratic party this year.

I have gay friends, and I’m excited when they meet or marry their partners!

One of my favorite Facebook friends is the mother of a beautiful transgender girl, and I wear an “I’ll Go With You” button in support of transgender people (pssst… there may be LGBT people in your family, or you may give birth to them one day).

I sauna naked with my friends–men and women (I don’t with certain people out of respect); I think topless beaches are okay, too. I also support the #freethenipple campaign.

I’m a feminist.

I believe there’s life outside of our planet, and I love science. I believe our planet is millions/billions of years old.

I believe President Obama when he says, “I do not want to take your guns away.”

I think Donald Trump is a deplorable xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic racist.

I think we should have an open border policy–Mexican and Canadian.

I believe white privilege is an accepted, unspoken American reality that most American’s don’t know exists because they’re either white or privileged.

I don’t believe Jesus was supernatural.

I don’t believe in the “end times.”

I think hell is a made up idea used to control people in order to get them to act or believe a certain way–and it works.

Am I an atheist? Nope, but I have dear friends and family who are, and I won’t EVER try to convert them. I’m not concerned for their eternal outcome.

I swear… a lot.

What kind of responses did that conjure up? Anger? Sadness? Anxiety? #same?

Fear is a bitch.

I want nothing less than to pull the veil away from your eyes to reveal the tangled web, the matrix that exists and its headquarters centered around fear. Fear is not God’s way; it’s man’s way of controlling others.

Think about it. If the news media didn’t report on anything fear related, there wouldn’t be any news today! (Bob Ross’ reruns of “The Joy of Painting” would be a great substitute for those time slots)

Let’s go through one final exercise.

Imagine the entire world, all of it, living in complete unity. I know this can be difficult, so I’ll try to paint the picture.

There is absolute peace–no wars, no fighting, no guns, no bombs stored for a rainy day.

Governments are a bitter memory existing only in history books.

Equality isn’t an ideal held by one group; it’s at the foundation of the entire planet–the standard by which we live. Men and women are equal, racial differences are celebrated, love is love, gender identity is understood, children are fully people. Each person has a “seat at the table,” and “the table” is round.

Religion is accepted everywhere, by all people groups, as “God is Love,” not “I’m right, you’re wrong.” No one is trying to “win souls,” or convert anyone else. Each person’s beliefs, or lack thereof, are respected and honored.

Chasing wealth is silly because money is no longer the pursuit of anyone. Owning more “stuff” and being selfish with possessions is wasteful, extravagant, and boring. Each person is comfortable and content with their lifestyle of simplicity.

Being successful isn’t a selfish pursuit to be “on top.” Success now directly affects each person in the community because they’re counting on each individual to provide for the good of the community based upon their skill set. There are farmers, builders, shippers, cooks, geeks, musicians, actors, doctors, etc. each offering their goods and services for the benefit of all.

When a person’s house burns to the ground, the entire community shows up to rebuild it. While the new house is being constructed, the family is taken in by the community, cared for, and loved.

Life is sacred and honored with the highest regard–all life. Animals aren’t kept in feedlots and treated inhumanely. Bugs aren’t killed with pesticides, or plants with herbicides. Trash isn’t thrown into oceans, rivers, or lakes. In fact, all “trash items” are 100% biodegradable or recyclable because the earth is recognized as a living, breathing thing. Disdain for any form of life is unthinkable.

There aren’t fences, county lines, states, or territorial borders of any kind. All are welcome to come and go wherever they choose. People are welcomed with open arms into every community they visit.

Angst isn’t a continual emotion to be battled. It’s a rare emotion that is quickly relieved by the outpouring of love freely given by the community–shame and bullying don’t exist.

What feelings did that conjure up?

Perhaps there are still feelings of anxiety around what you’ve been taught to fear, such as accepting all religions, equality, or being a tree hugger. If so, it only emphasizes my point about the controlled environment that exists.

Whatever the case may be, this is my dream. It’s a dream of peace. It’s a dream of true love. It’s a dream where necessity consists of community. It’s a dream rid of fear and control.

I want to spend the rest of my life around people who are love-minded and in pursuit of that dream; where being controlled by fear isn’t an option.

I’m choosing my tribe–a tribe of community, love, peace, acceptance, and equality. Are you in my tribe?

UPDATE:

I wrote this post last week, before the shooting in Orlando. My heart is broken over the blatant disregard for life.

I’m also disgusted by the fact that the shooting immediately led to another damned gun debate.

Friends, it’s not about whether or not we have stricter gun laws, although it wouldn’t hurt. The bigger issue is the hate, intolerance, bigotry, and fear that burns inside of some people.

Sadly, not even the worst mass shooting in American history will change the hearts of many. Even More disturbing, religious extremists–Muslim, Christian… pick your poison–will continue to hold tradition in higher regard than the Love they claim that drives them.

Last I checked, Jesus didn’t teach extremism except where love, tolerance, acceptance, and peace were concerned.

#lovewins

God In A Box

Preface:

I’m not the easiest person to get to know. There’s a lot that goes into that–I’m introverted, I’m analytical, and I’m a critical thinker. To get to know me typically means that I’m getting to know you first. I’m establishing a base in which to work from.

That doesn’t mean that I’m judging you exactly; I’m just trying to figure you out.

Once we’ve established a relationship in which I’m able to reciprocate my thoughts and feelings, I’m not quite as reserved.

You’ll rarely if ever, hear me speak intellectually in quick reaction during a conversation; rather, I’m studying the conversation. My thoughts and opinions are deeply calculated.

My wife is about the only person who ever gets to hear me just start talking. (That comes back to bite me in the ass. I say stupid shit when I don’t think it through completely.)

In my blogging world, I’m really stepping outside of myself in order to share what I’m learning.

What I share is partly based on life experience, hours of research (reading books, listening to lectures, watching documentaries, etc.), and conversations with people I’ve learned to trust.

I do not enjoy speaking, listening to, or writing about things that have little interest to me. When I do speak/write, I’ve made the calculated decision that it’s worth my time.

This website is worth my time; however, over the last couple of months, there’s been less I’ve felt compelled to speak to. I just don’t have the energy–or time–to whip out a new post every day, but what I do write doesn’t come to you frivolously.

God In A Box:

Many of you have come to know me through my writing here. Some of you have known me personally for a period of time. There are also those of you who have known me all my life and those who don’t know me at all.

Those who are just getting to know me now are getting to know the new me.

I’ve always been sort of the “black sheep” who wasn’t afraid to question the status quo. But the questioning of who I was and what I’ve believed my entire life didn’t begin until around 2014.

Most of my friends and family had no idea I began down that path. Being the reserved person I am means I internalize my critical thinking. The only person who truly knew my journey every step of the way was my wife.

Because of that, I can see that everyone who has known me for an extended period of time may want more details about my shift. This comes from a place of genuine concern and love for me, I know that.

I know this because if the roles were reversed, I would have those same feelings and thoughts–only mine would remain unspoken (I think you’re beginning to understand how truly reserved I am).

I’m genuinely grateful for your love. I don’t want you to feel like you have to “sweep things under the rug,” or like things are now awkward between us.

I do not feel awkward with my evolving understanding of God, and I’m clearly not sweeping it under the rug.

I also don’t want you to feel like you’re obligated to pray me back to righteousness; I haven’t departed. Respectfully I’m asking that you don’t try to convince me of the “errors of my ways.”

What I’m learning, the positions I take, and the views I hold of God in my journey will not be evangelized out of me–just as I cannot convince you to believe as I do.

My discoveries aren’t something that I can forget or be prayed out of. I’ve made the reference to the movie “The Matrix” a few times before, and that’s how I feel about what I’m learning about God, religion, and my journey (like I’ve been unplugged from the Matrix).

I don’t mean to say that I have a greater understanding of who God is than you do. I’m simply saying that I haven’t come to these conclusions lightly.

There’s no way I can jot down everything that’s happened to bring me to the place I am now, especially in one blog post. Instead, I will speak to the concerns I know some of you may have and summarize where I am now in my journey.

I know the concerns, believe me, I know them.

My son, brother, cousin, nephew, friend is walking away from God. He’s listening to lies. Satan is warping his understanding of who God is. What about his family? He’s supposed to be the ‘spiritual leader’ of his wife and kids! What about his kids? What are they going to grow up believing? Why aren’t they in church? Why doesn’t he believe the Bible? How can the Bible possibly be anything but ‘inerrant?’ He says he’s agnostic now–what is happening? How does his relationship with Jesus tie in with all of this? I’m afraid for him. I’m concerned he’s going down a path that will lead him directly into darkness. What if he or his family were to die and go to hell? What if he’s wrong about everything? What if Love isn’t enough? How can Love be found outside of Christianity?

I think that’s about the size of it. Those would be the questions and concerns in my mind if the old me were staring at the present me.

The simplest way I know how to answer the old me is to do it like so: If “fear” were a person, I would say to go back and begin every question/statement above with “Fear,…”–as if you were having a conversation with Fear.

What I can tell you is I’m unafraid. I’m not shaken by my discoveries, nor is God.

That wasn’t the case for me when I began my journey, but as I’ve gone along the way, I’ve only known complete peace and trust.

There was a small stint in which I felt very alone. That was primarily due to our move away from Texas to Minnesota. We knew nobody, and for a person who is as reserved as I am, that is a daunting place to be.

It didn’t last long, however, and I can say now that we love being in MN! We have a new tribe of people that we’re doing life with, and they’ve made this transition easier.

I’ve also made friends with folks the world over via Facebook and through this site. We speak of God often and carry invigorating conversations. They make me a better person, and I’m grateful for their friendships.

I’ve come to know people of other faiths, atheists, and those on journeys like my own. Doing so has expanded my understanding greatly, and I have greater respect for those people now–where prior to this journey, I was completely opposed to listening to their stories.

Where I am now is difficult to put into words, but I’ll try to explain it some.

I’ve come to understand that I’ve been wrong my entire life to believe that Christianity wasn’t a “religion.” I remember regurgitating phrases like, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”

It really doesn’t matter what gift wrapping you put on the box, the box is still a box. In this case, Christianity is a religion; it’s a box.

There are so many different varieties of religion–let alone varieties of Christianity–but what I’ve discovered is that it’s impossible to put God wholly inside a box.

Fear and manipulation are also found in religion, and I don’t believe God to exist in those places either; therefore, I cannot be a part of it.

Belief in hell, a place of eternal torment, is fear driven and anti-Love. It’s also a man-made idea that is only found within the confines of religious traditions passed down. I don’t believe it to be an inspirational writing given by God–ever.

Sure, there are great things we can learn from sacred texts and teachings passed down, but I don’t view them as I used to. I see them now as man’s attempt to explain God.

Taking the Bible as “God’s literal word” is bibliolatry, and no different than idol worship. Even the authors noted that their writings were inspirational. It’s an attempt to gift wrap God between a front and back cover, and he doesn’t fit.

From the earliest points in history, we have records of people groups giving their ideas of who God is. I’m grateful to those people for expressing their thoughts, but in the end, that’s all they are to me.

Please understand that I do NOT condemn you for believing the way you do. I do not think little of you, or think you’re stupid or any less enlightened than I am. I’m just looking at all of this from an entirely different perspective.

Love doesn’t fit into a box.

I choose to model my life after the life of Jesus, not because I believe he was the “son of God,” or because I’m “trusting him for salvation,” but because he modeled God’s love to me better than anyone else.

His life was more inspirational to me after taking him out of the religious box I had him in, and I’ll never regret making that decision. I might add that from my perspective, Jesus took God out of the religious box of his day.

My friend, John Pavlovitz, puts it this way, “You can’t go where God is not anyway, and so the most faith-affirming decision you can make right now is to trust that wherever you place your feet, even if it is outside of religion—it will still be holy ground.”

I’m leaving God in a new place I’ve never known before. I’m choosing to leave him in a place of mystery.

In this place, there’s no need to define heaven, hell, or sin. Honestly, there’s no need to have anything concrete. God is God, I am not, and I cannot possibly begin to define him or his character outside the frame of Love.

Outside of Love’s frame is wonder and mystery. It’s like exploring areas of space that haven’t been seen. Inside of Love’s frame is the beating heart of God. It’s all the security I will ever need.

I don’t need questions to be answered, nor do I feel the need to answer them myself.

I am content. I am happy. I’m loving those around me, and we’re exploring God’s wonder together.

I leave you with the words of Jesus:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

The Wagon Trail

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been writing about “finding community.”

There’s a feeling that comes when you find yourself alone; one that’s raw, numbing, and yet leaves you confidently satisfied.

I’ve never been more secure in my beliefs than I am in this moment. My journey has led me to research topics I never considered prior. I’m a better person for it, at least I am in my own eyes.

Along the way, my wife has been a rock. Sometimes, when I would venture further than she was comfortable with, that rock would come flying toward my face. Nevertheless, she’s been an incredible person to bounce all of my seemingly crazy ideas off of.

In the process, she’s also come face-to-face with things that have caused her to be reshaped. I couldn’t be happier than to be with her on this journey.

But even with an amazing partner to share this journey with, it’s still like we’re riding alone on a wagon in the middle of a prairie–just the two of us with our two kids.

There’s always that hope that you’ll come up on another wagon on the trail.

That’s exactly what’s happened for me over the last few days.

On this journey, I’ve met people who have similar stories to mine. There are funny stories, stories of deep hurt and heartache, love stories, and stories of hope.

I love getting these stories directly via email, but since I quit blogging as often, those emails have also slowed.

In my last blog post, I told you about how I cleaned up what I was seeing on Facebook, and from whom I was hearing from there. I don’t regret that at all, and I still LOVE the solace that decision has provided.

Since then, I’ve found myself only going to a couple of particular places on Facebook to see what like-minded folks are up to.

In one of those places, I identified a handful of people who sounded a LOT like me! That place had grown exponentially over the last couple of months, however, and it caused me to begin pulling away.

I’m an introvert, and I’ve never been a huge fan of large crowds of people–even virtually.

I was having a conversation with one of the people I’d met in this now growing garden, and this person told me how much they were able to relate to me through my story, and wondered if I had any knowledge of other like-minded people.

That’s when it hit me! Yes, I do know of other people! Why hadn’t I come up with some way to organize this group of people so we could find community with one another?

CIRCLE THE DAMN WAGONS, PEOPLE! Let’s have a party!

So we have, and I can’t begin to tell you how overjoyed all of us are to find each other!

We have people from all over the U.S., U.K., and Australia.

We’ve been able to identify this space as a safe place for us to be completely vulnerable. More than that, we’ve found this as a place to be accepted–loved.

We’ve set the table, and we’re having a blast sharing our stories, pain, sorrows, and laughter.

We made the decision early to leave an empty seat or two at the table for others who are like us to fill. We’ll even add another leaf to the table when it’s time.

To my knowledge, none of us have ever met in person, but it feels like we’ve known one another all of our lives.

We’ve had discussions of meeting together via Skype in order to have more “face-to-face” visits. I’d love to actually meet my new friends one day.

For now, none of that matters. We have community, commonality, and respect for each person and their journey. We’ve found our place along the wagon trail, and set up camp.

It’s proven beneficial for me to have taken the time to go through the process of elimination on Facebook (previous post). They’re going to gut me for pointing this out, but in this case, it adds up: “pruning the vine” really did bear fruit.

To my wife, Lindsey, I love you. You’re amazingly beautiful in every facet. I’m grateful to you for partnering with me on this journey.

To my friends with me in this community, I love you, and that’s not bullshit. I’m truly grateful to have you as part of my story, and I’m excited to learn more of yours.

Adding to the Noise

You may have noticed that I haven’t been nearly as active with my blog posts. A lot of that has to do with the passing holiday season. Ours wasn’t quite as chaotic as we’ve been accustomed to. This was our first time to spend our holidays 1200 miles from “home.” We missed getting to see our friends and family, but we loved the intimacy we shared this season.

There’s more to share about why you haven’t heard from me. Mainly, I haven’t had a lot to say.

That may come as a surprise, but it’s true! It didn’t really occur to me until recently as to why that was.

I can assure you that It’s not been for lack of trying to think of content to post. I’ve put in lots of time doing that, but I just couldn’t come up with a hot topic, something edgy, something…heretical.

When I finally took the time to ask the right questions, the answer was obvious.

Instead of asking, “what should I write about?” I instead asked, “why can’t I think of something to write about?”

DUH!

Just before Christmas I decided to do some much needed housekeeping in my social media worlds–Facebook in particular.

I narrowed my “friends” list from over 450 to 150. I’ve also spent a good amount of time “unfollowing” and “unliking” people or feeds that cause me to be angry or that bring unrest in my life.

Since then, I’ve watched my feed for folks “sharing” things that rub me the wrong way. When I see something that does that, I choose “Hide all from… stop seeing post from this page.” (I’m not hiding posts from the friend–just posts they share from another Facebook “page” that causes me to stir.)

What does all of that have to do with me posting an article on my blog?
EVERYTHING!

Most of my posts have been inspirational writings that stem from things I’ve seen on my social media feeds. Those feeds caused me to get upset about the injustice, bigotry, hate, fundamentalism, and judgmental religious crap I was seeing.

When I turned off the noise, I was left in silence; peaceful, restful, beautiful silence.

When I get on my social media outlets now, I’m left with posts that actually interest me. My screen isn’t filled with rubbish.

I’ve also noticed the change it’s made in my personal life. I don’t carry my phone anymore. I used to be a mindless drone staring at a screen at any given moment. My family caught on to that, and they called me out on it.

I carry my phone at work, but when I get home, it goes on my nightstand. I’m not even remotely tempted to go pick it up and look at it. I’m not worried what others are saying about me or my beliefs anymore because I no longer expect to see any of it.

I’m free!

I’m free to say what I want, when I want, how I want, without fear of backlash. Only now I don’t feel the need to justify any of what I have to say because most of the people left listening already agree with me.

I don’t feel the need nearly as often to say something “heretical” because I’ve taken the microphone away from the majority of those calling me a heretic.

Don’t get me wrong–I still have things I want to say, and I will say them. The urge to speak to mindless arguments and topics that are considered “hot topics” in the religious or news realms has dissipated. It’s all noise, and right now I don’t want to add to the noise.

Right now, the solace in the silence is sweet. I’m going to soak it up for as long as I’m able, and I’d like to invite you to this gem of a place.

Fear, Love, and The Forgotten Jesus

Love.

It’s not something that we can easily encapsulate in a one-sentence description. In fact, there are complete libraries on the subject. It’s an ambiguous subject, and one could spend their entire life trying to understand it — what a fantastic idea!

In a world wrought with hatred, indifference, intolerance, and so many horrible things, there stands Love, like a beacon of hope.

Occasionally I question why we don’t choose Love in every instance, in every circumstance of life. Maybe it’s just easier sometimes to choose something counter-Love. Perhaps getting angry and vocal is the path of least resistance. That’s something I have to check myself on often.

I’ve discovered that until recently, I had never fully given myself to Love. Granted, I’m still learning about Love and all its facets, but choosing to seek Love out has opened my eyes to a whole new dimension I never knew existed!

Loving Jesus wasn’t ever something I found difficult to do; that is until I uncovered just how deep that rabbit hole went.

I was content loving baby Jesus. I was content loving savior Jesus. Keeping “Christ in Christmas” was easy; keeping him on the cross was too.

Choosing to fill in the blanks of his life and modeling my life after this other Jesus who showed up wasn’t isn’t easy.

This other Jesus, who I call “the forgotten Jesus,” presented himself to me, and it’s when things got real.

Questions began racing through my mind:
“Wait, you didn’t mean to love everyone, did you? What about Muslims? They’re going to sneak into my house and slit throats — that is if our own government doesn’t do it first! This is why I need my guns! What about LGBT people? I can’t love and accept such willful disobedience! What about…”

You get the point.

Learning about the forgotten Jesus — the Prince of Peace, the great Lover, the guy not operating with fear tactics, the Heretical Lover — forced me to question my beliefs, my understanding, and my position on Christianity.

I was happy toting my gun, voting Republican, helping my wife to be submissive to me, and telling the world just how much I loved Jesus, while regurgitating scriptures to “help you” in your walk. That’s not difficult, and in fact it’s really the norm in the Bible Belt.

Most of you who’ve spent the time getting to know me over the last couple of years probably didn’t know that side of me — luckily. You may think I’m making this up, but I’m not. That was me. I was in my comfort zone…

But then, Love.

When I began to question everything — the Bible, God, Jesus, atheism, agnosticism, the American way, intolerance, etc. — and removed myself from the church system, I was suddenly face-to-face with the forgotten Jesus.

It was Jesus as I’ve never seen him before. If you understand what I’m saying, you’ve likely met him too. I’m still not able to adequately describe him or really put him into words, but I’ll try.

I’m not referring to the facet of baby Jesus, nor the one bearing a cross. I’m not even really talking about the facet of the one healing the sick, walking on water, or raising others from the dead. I’m certainly not referring to the warrior Jesus who’s supposed to come riding on a white horse and separate heads from shoulders.

Then who is this Jesus I’m talking about?!

Exactly.

I’m talking about the Jesus on the narrow path. The one who can walk a camel through the eye of a needle. The Jesus, who when robbed, will chase down the thief and give him his coat also.

The Jesus who introduced a new idea of who God is — an idea of God that hadn’t been expressed in scripture as Jesus was now presenting (his description of God is actually more counter-scriptural).

This is the Jesus who wasn’t blowing smoke about loving others sacrificially.

This Jesus would diffuse an execution of a prostitute because he had a genuine love and respect for life. This is the Jesus who understood that if others could grasp this message, it would literally change the world.

His isn’t a message of “my version of religion and name for God is the right one.” His message is obscure, but only because it’s been wrongfully smeared by bad Christian rhetoric and dogma.

This Jesus put a price on Love. True love will lay down one’s life for another — Muslim, gay, black, homeless, rich, democrat, republican, prostitutes, poor — all of these are inconsequential.

His focus wasn’t on conversions from hell bound to heaven bound. Jesus wasn’t a sin-focused or sin-driven person. He wasn’t driven by an afterlife, and he didn’t instill fear into the hearts of his followers to insure they remained faithful.

He was a love-focused, love-driven person whose intent was to show others how to do this life right.

If we don’t learn about this Jesus and begin to learn how to live like he did, then the status quo will remain the same.

Fear tactics will run their course, refusal to acknowledge all life as sacred will continue, and wars will be fought in the name of God — who, by the way, I don’t believe would ever justify blatant disregard for any living thing — at least not the forgotten Jesus’ version of God.

This Jesus didn’t give an assignment to save others from a damning afterlife. He gave the commandment to love others in this life.

He isn’t reactive, but with love, is proactive.

Finding this Jesus isn’t easy — following him is even more difficult. It’s not a popular place to be. I’ve found it to be cold and lonely here, but others are beginning to find their way here, and we’ve found community together.

In this community of Jesus followers you’ll find open hearts and minds. You’ll find people willing to love you exactly as you are, regardless of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, or creed. You’ll find others who know the price of love, and will unashamedly love you as their Jesus would.

You’ll be in a community willing to lay down arms in hopes that life will be treasured, not squandered. This is a community that will choose to give their own lives when necessary, just as the forgotten Jesus did in order to magnify Love — not magnify gun rights, death, war, intolerance, and being “right.”

To those of you who are with me in this community: Be encouraged! You’re not alone, and you’re doing wonderful things! You’re loving others well, and lives are being changed because of it. Be bold by allowing others to see the real, forgotten Jesus. That’s who they desire — they need to be loved as he would love them, especially if they’ve been mistreated or share a different religious belief than yours (or none at all).

To the one with the heavy burden, the mistreated, the outcast: I’m sorry. I’m sorry if who you are has caused others to treat you with anything other than love. I’m sorry if your race, skin color, or religion has caused others to treat you like a terrorist or belittle you in any way. I’m sorry if your sexual orientation has encouraged others to tell you that God’s love and full acceptance of you isn’t yours; it is. I’m sorry if you’ve been told that being “unequally yoked” — be it with a person of another race, sex, or religion — is wrong. Really, what it boils down to is this: I’m sorry if you’ve been told that love is conditional in any way. God’s love isn’t conditional. His complete and total acceptance of you and love for you is yours — exactly as you are! You are his creation, and it isn’t the place of any other person to judge his creation. Be yourself, be awesome. Allow God to love you, and reflect his Love to others. They need that Love too.

To my atheist and agnostic friends: I love you. I accept you as you are. You probably roll your eyes at much of what I say, but I don’t care. A lot of what you say or post is hilarious to me! I’m sorry if you’ve been mistreated by Christians or anyone else (including me!). It’s not my place to tell you that you’re going to hell (as if you could, right? 😉 ). You’ve been shown a poor representation of the forgotten Jesus I represent. I have an unconditional desire to get to know you more. Heck, I’m one of you! I’ve admitted that I’m an agnostic who has chosen to believe. My promise to you is that I will honor you, respect you, and always treat you with kindness. I am genuinely excited to build a friendship with you!

To everyone: You want to know what our differences are? Insignificant! Our differences don’t change the character of Love. We warp Love’s character by interjecting our opinions, differences, and difference of beliefs. That’s how gun rights, war, terrorism, hatred, and intolerance are justified. Seeing a person as their race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, gender, or any other “difference” is an injustice to that individual or group. When we instead choose to see another person as a person by honoring, loving, and respecting them, LOVE WINS. That’s the character of the forgotten Jesus I’m talking about.

With Love,

David Dietz