The Great Ruler’s Message – a short story

There once was a great ruler (The Ruler). The Ruler reigned over all the land, and there was none greater than he. He took the best of all he owned and freely gave it to his people. His love for them was steadfast – unrelenting; some say it was a reckless love.

The Great Ruler was unlike any other, in that his rule wasn’t enforced by demand. He was a quiet and gentle ruler. He desired his subjects to choose to love him as he loved them.

Most of his subjects were good and kind. Although The Ruler did not require their allegiance, they served him faithfully and feared him with a kingly reverence that was due him.

There were others, however, who did not honor The Ruler. Their hearts were selfish and filled with disdain toward others.

These unsubmissive subjects (The Unsubmissive) were thieves, murderers, and belligerent; they were judgmental, arrogant, and respecters of no one. They would take from the poor, and mercilessly kill those who didn’t conform to the “socially acceptable way.”

They were even abusive to their own wives and children. They wanted no ruler, and they sent that message to the him by allowing hate to reign supreme in their hearts.

The Ruler’s faithful subjects (The Faithful) were furious at The Unsubmissive for their thankless and treacherous ways. They fashioned their own swords and weapons of many kinds and set out to demand respect for The Great Ruler.

The Unsubmissive weren’t afraid at the revolt. It seemed the fight was a welcomed one, and it so it endured.

The Great Ruler’s love for those who dishonored him was unwavering. He sent messengers to the battlefields urging The Faithful to retreat. It was not his desire that any should perish.

Likewise, he begged those who hated him to reconsider. The Ruler knew that his request to The Unsubmissive would likely fall upon deaf ears.

He was proved right.

What greatly surprised The Ruler, however, was that The Faithful refused to lay down their swords as well.

Their allegiance was true, but their ability to listen to The Ruler’s plea was clouded by their judgments against The Unsubmissive. The Great Ruler’s heart was broken.

He didn’t know what to do.

The Great Ruler, lost in his grief, was visited by his son, a young prince (The Prince) who came to him with an idea. The Prince suggested that perhaps The Ruler’s people would respond to his love if he were to send The Prince out to model The Great Ruler’s love for them.

The Great Ruler hadn’t considered this because he desired to rule from his throne — not forcing any of his subjects to love him. The Prince knew this and he assured his father that he wouldn’t disobey his wishes.

He would live with the people, peaceably demonstrating The Ruler’s love for them, while also expressing to them how The Ruler genuinely desired to be loved in return.

Reluctantly, The Ruler allowed his Prince to go.

The Young Prince, having never been outside the palace walls, was surprised at what he found in the kingdom.

He learned that many of The Faithful had written rules and commands in the name of The Great Ruler. The Faithful knew that the heart of their Ruler was for them, so they established these laws to try to bring order to the chaos.

The Prince quickly learned that the authors and enforcers of these laws weren’t easily swayed.

They had convinced themselves, and others around them, that these rules were the way of The Great Ruler; and they were quick to judge those who wouldn’t abide by them. Many of those judged — Faithful and Unsubmissive alike — were put to death for treason against The Ruler and their laws.

To be one of the law-lovers was to be favored, elite, accepted.

The Young Prince realized that he couldn’t begin his mission by teaching these law givers. They didn’t even recognize The Prince as The Great Ruler’s son because their hearts had become more faithful to their laws than to The Great Ruler.

So The Prince set out to befriend those who everyone else despised because they were the only ones who might receive him and The Great Ruler’s message.

He entered the circle of the outcasts.

He chose fishermen and prostitutes. He chose thieves. He chose the poor and the homeless. He chose the sick and the maimed.

These subjects had nothing to offer The Prince, and he asked nothing from them. He simply desired their affection as freely he offered his own, and they gave it to him.

It wasn’t long before the outcasts began to recognize who The Young Prince was. News quickly spread that The Great Ruler’s son had come to live with his subjects.

Stories were shared throughout the kingdom — how he lived as a homeless man, how he joined their celebrations and provided wine, how he visited the sick, and dined with thieves!

From dining tables and street corners, from hillsides and mountain tops, everywhere he went The Prince told the subjects of The Great Ruler’s love.

As word spread, crowds of people were now rushing to hear his message.

His message never changed, but the subjects wanted to hear it over and over again. He gladly shared it, but occasionally changed his approach.

When they asked him who The Great Ruler was, his reply seemed foreign — they didn’t believe it could be so simple.

“My father, your Ruler, is Love,” The Prince said.

“But we’ve been told that in order to receive his love, we must follow the law!” The Prince replied, “I have come as the fulfillment of your laws. The Great Ruler requests only your love and for you to love your fellow subjects.”*

Encountering his love, many were persuaded by The Ruler’s message just as The Prince and The Great Ruler had hoped.

The authors and enforcers of the law were outraged when they heard his message. They said, “Who can make such claims? Only The Great Ruler can say these things! Are you The Great Ruler?”*

The Young Prince replied, “I and The Great Ruler are one — our love is for all mankind.”*

Sensing the hostility of those against The Great Ruler’s message, The Prince fled and hid from his persecutors.

He sent a message to The Great Ruler that said, “Father, I long for the time when these subjects can be with us and witness our rule of love, which comes from you. You have loved me from the beginning. Father, you are just; The Unsubmissive and the authors and endorsers of laws do not know you, but I do. As for the followers whom I love and have loved me, we speak of your love often; and I will continue to speak of your name (Love) — in order that your love, which you openly lavish on me, will be in them. And my love will also be in them. Together, Love will rule their hearts.”*

The Prince gathered his closest friends together for a meal.

Dining together he told them, “You and I are one. My body is yours, my blood is your blood. You are my hands and my feet. The message The Great Ruler has given me, I now give to you. Go and share it all whom you encounter. Tell them of my love for you, and your love for me. Tell them of The Great Ruler’s love for them! The desire of The Great Ruler is that none should perish. His love is above their laws; his love is greater than their disobedience. Love wins the hearts of The Unsubmissive. Go, and be unto others as I have been to the outcasts — as I have been to you.”*

That would be The Prince’s final meal with his friends.

The message of love and acceptance The Young Prince gave angered the authors and enforcers of the law. They said he was “a heretic spreading blasphemy.”

They couldn’t accept that The Great Ruler could love and accept anyone freely. Afterall, how could any ruler desire unsubmissive subjects? Surely he required everyone to follow rules and regulations in order to be loved and accepted as members into his kingdom.

One beloved follower of The Prince had his heart deeply sown in a desire for wealth. He hadn’t understood the message that The Prince had come to give him.

This beloved follower left and went to tell the enforcers of righteous living where The Prince was hiding. In exchange for his information and leading them to The Prince, he was given a great sum of money.

The beloved follower proved his misunderstanding of the message that The Great Ruler gave by betraying The Prince with a kiss.

How deeply The Young Prince was hurt by betrayal in the act of love — a kiss.

Another beloved of The Prince was outraged by this act! He picked up a sword, and attacked one of the soldiers there to take The Prince away.

The Prince immediately scolded his beloved follower saying, “Have you not heard the message of The Great Ruler? Do you not understand who I’ve called you to be? Know this: there remains only one way in which I can share The Great Ruler’s message with every subject, and it must be this way. Let them take me.”*

The Young Prince was brought before the authorities, and they inquired of him, “Are you the ruler of these subjects?”*

The Prince replied, “This is not my kingdom. If it were, my subjects would be fighting now for my freedom. I have come to demonstrate the message of truth — the message of The Great Ruler.”*

Indeed The Prince was about to show all of The Great Ruler’s subjects exactly what that message was.

He had spoken of it once with his friends saying, As my father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you subjects, because a subject does not know The Ruler’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last… This is my command: Love each other.”*

So it was that The Young Prince was sentenced to death. He would go to a sure and painful death to ensure that the message of The Great Ruler was known.

At the place of The Young Prince’s death were two other men also being put to death. Both were unsubmissive subjects of The Great Ruler.

One of them turned to The Young Prince and said, “I have disrespected The Great Ruler, and I am getting the punishment I deserve. Will Love’s kingdom remember me?” The Young Prince turned to him and replied, “You have understood The Great Ruler’s message, and you are in Love’s kingdom.”*

The Young Prince breathed his last breath shortly thereafter, yet the message he brought remains today.

The Great Ruler still has unsubmissive subjects, and there are even still some enforcers of the laws the authors penned those many years ago.

But there are new followers of The Prince who still earnestly share the message he gave.

The message from The Great Ruler and his Prince is this:

“I am the way — the path; My path is love. I am the truth; my message of truth is that I love all mankind. I am the life. No subject may approach my father, your Great Ruler, except by Love’s way; love The Great Ruler, and love your fellow man as your Ruler and I have loved you, and you will find life.”*

 

* All scriptures used were derived or paraphrased from: The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows, and Orphans – Part 3

Links: Part 1 and Part 2

DISCLAIMER:

I know that even just one of the things listed on the title of this post is highly controversial, let alone 4! I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how to voice my thoughts as lovingly as possible, so please continue to bear with me as I get that lined out. With that said, please note that I’m not targeting anyone with this post. Any references to churches or Christians aren’t meant to group all churches or Christians together. There are so many of them getting it right on these issues; I’m simply stating where I stand on these issues. These are my thoughts and convictions. Any insulting, bashing, or dehumanizing comments will be removed.

Before I begin:
I’ve received lots of emails, comments, Facebook messages, etc. from both sides of these issues. The messages coming to me from complete strangers in the LGBTQ community, and stories from women who have had unwanted abortions have drowned out the noise from the negative messages I’ve received. I found myself so moved, so humbled, that I was moved to tears – asking God, “Who am I that you’ve given this mandate to write? Who am I that complete strangers are willing to share their stories with me?” – I’m honored by your encouragement, and your kindness, but even more so by your openness to share your stories with me. THANK YOU!

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows, and Orphans:

In Part 1 of this series, I gave my testimony in regard to the LGBTQ community. Part 2 contained my thoughts about abortions, my experience with widows, and my knowing I sweep the topic of orphans under the rug.

In this post, I’m going to give my opinions on all of them.

LGBTQ –

I stand with them, I support them, and I’ve chosen to love them. Why?

I’ve chosen this stance because I have LGBTQ friends now. Growing up in the Texas Panhandle, finding an “out-of-the-closet” person wasn’t just rare, it was almost nonexistent. That’s progressively changed as more people have found the courage to be open about who they are. The way I was taught in church, coupled with the fact I’d never known an LGBTQ person made it easy for me to condemn that lifestyle.

I’ve also matured spiritually and in understanding to the point that I’m comfortable enough to ask the hard questions. Please note that I’m not accusing anyone else of not being at my level of spiritual maturity. I’m definitely not intending to convey that at all! Rather, I’m insisting that my own level of maturity was lacking.

I simply accepted what I was taught or what I heard others say on a given subject, especially if it sounded smart. The more confidently someone gave their opinion or interpretation, the more confident I was to repeat them verbatim.

I won’t go back through my testimony and my stance with the LGBTQ community. If you haven’t yet read it, I invite you to do so here.

Based on my own personal conclusions and interpretations of the Bible and of Jesus in regard to LGBTQ people, I couldn’t justify inequality towards them any longer. I’ve since come to be friends with many in the LGBTQ community, and I’m positive that I’ve made the right decision.

The alternative, in my opinion, is a stance that looks nothing like Jesus – or very little, at best.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is just an excuse not to fully love and accept the person that is accused of what the accuser considers “sin.”

My conclusion on the matter is that refusing equality isn’t any different than the way black people were treated (3/5 of a person?!). It’s not any different than justifying slavery. I see it as the same type of inequality that placed women as inferior to men (that’s still happening, by the way).

Christians were on the wrong side of history in those instances. 10, 20, 30 years from now, however long it takes, I’m convinced that we’ll look back at LGBTQ rights the same way we look at those examples of inequality in history.

A differing religious perspective than my own doesn’t justify treating any human wrongly by devaluing them. Just because something has been interpreted a certain way for an extended period of time, preached incessantly, and shouted loudly doesn’t mean it’s right. I am by no means saying that “my way is right, and only my views are correct.” On the contrary, my views, conclusions, and interpretations are my own. After much consideration, I’ve simply changed my mind from the views I previously toted.

There’s a shift taking place currently, and churches all over the world are beginning to recognize the error that’s been made concerning LGBTQ people. I, for one, stand unapologetically with them – just as I stand with minorities, against slavery, and for women’s rights.

Abortions, Widows, and Orphans –

In Part 2, I shared some of my thoughts on abortion – as of the writing of this post, that was yesterday.

I’ve already received emails from women sharing their heartbreaking stories with me. These ladies haven’t been able to open up to many about some very hard choices they’ve made. I just can’t even begin to imagine…I don’t want to imagine.

I’ve expressed my position of a pro-life stance, and I stand by that. That’s as honest as I can be about it. Excluding something going terribly wrong with a pregnancy, rape, etc., I have a conviction that bars me from blatantly ending life “just because.”

I’ve explained that my definition of sin is “anything that would dehumanize a person.”

I believe that opens the umbrella wide enough to include sins of morality (murder, rape, abuse, etc.) and an individual’s personal convictions too.

It is my opinion that blatant disregard for life – born or unborn – is an act of dehumanization, and that is sin. Are there extenuating circumstances that can unexpectedly happen? Absolutely, and at that point, my opinions and convictions don’t matter. When it comes to that it’s the job of the mother, her doctor, and whomever she chooses to be involved to make a decision that I can’t fathom being faced with.

Call to action (please note the disclaimer at the beginning of each of these posts) –

I want to encourage you to think before you speak. If you get absolutely nothing from this series but that, I’ll call it a win.

You have no idea who you’re in the company of, including who your children may be (maybe you do know). Speaking hatefully, or using derogatory language is like a knife to the heart of those who may be in your presence and could be LGBTQ, or someone who’s had an abortion.

I know the language all to well because I’ve used it. “That’s gay” instead of “That’s stupid.” Saying “you’re such a fag” instead of “what a jerk.” 

Don’t do it. It’s no different than calling a black person a “nigger.” It’s shameful, it’s hurtful, it’s degrading, it’s wrong.

What if’s:
What if your kids grow up hearing you using that terminology, and they turn out to be an LGBTQ person? Are you going to be someone that they’ll trust to open up to? Do they know that you’ll love them, or are they living in fear of being kicked to the curb? Worse, are they terrified that they’ll be humiliated in front of your church by having the pastor “cast out the LGBTQ demons?” What if you are their pastor?

Gossipping about who you’ve heard may have had an abortion is just as dangerous. The person you’re speaking to may have had an abortion, and you don’t have a clue about it! In fact, what if your daughter is the person you’re sharing the gossip with, and she’s had an abortion? Do you think she’s ever going to be able to share her story with you now?

What if it’s your best friend, and they’re LGBTQ or have had an abortion? What if they’re gauging your relationship on knowing whether or not you’ll hurt them? If you make just one comment, you not only can close off that part of the person from ever being open to you, but you may just lose your best friend. In fact, I’d say you’ve just lost them. Your relationship may continue, but it won’t ever go any deeper than it already has.

Churches and Christian friends:
You’re so eager to speak out against LGBTQ as “sin.” It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that condemns those people of what you consider sin. It’s easy to get swept up in the truth parade and say “the truth is…” or “the Bible says…”.

Really what you’re saying is “my belief that I refuse to be teachable about is…” or “my interpretation of what the Bible says is…” — the “truth” we’re speaking of is subjective because it’s based on your personal convictions, it’s not objective truth based on moral absolutes; your interpretation of the Bible is just that – your interpretation, and it may be wrong. Mine can be wrong too, and in fact I believe the views and interpretations I had previously about LGBTQ people were wrong.

As for abortion, I’ve already said that I agree with the majority of Christians that ending life is wrong, even though it’s not as black and white as I feel we’ve made it out to be. Speaking up and bringing awareness about it is great. That’s what peaceful protests are for.

But let me ask you this: what are you doing to fix the problem otherwise?

If you’re able to persuade a woman in a healthy pregnancy to have the baby, or get a law passed making optional abortions illegal, are you just as passionate about adoption? What about foster care? As a church, are you willing to open a group home and provide those children with love and care?

If you are doing those things, I sincerely applaud you! You’re an AMAZING PERSON! Thank you! But these points I’m making aren’t for you. They’re for everyone else (including myself – I’m getting to that).

People are so quick to give the numbers of the millions of babies that have been aborted, but the silence is deafening when the number of millions of children to be adopted or fostered is mentioned.

Facebook is like an offering plate at church for everyone to place their favorite memes into concerning abortion, but adoption/fostering posts might (possibly, maybe) only get a “like.” It’s more likely that those posts are just quickly shuffled off the screen.

I can say all of these things because it’s who I’ve been.

I’ve already admitted that I don’t want to adopt – I don’t. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other opportunities in front of me to take care of widows and orphans.

Volunteering at the nursing home was a great option. Churches are usually pretty good about having a ministry that will look after widows. They’ll visit with them, make sure their house isn’t falling down around them, or give them rides to church functions. GREAT! Keep doing that! If you’ve never been involved in some type of widow(er) ministry, get involved! It’s worth doing, and if your church doesn’t have one, start one.

Fostering a child has been something Lindsey and I have talked about since we were first married. Between having kids of our own, and moving like every five seconds, it’s been something on our back burner. Recently, it’s a topic that we’ve brought back to the table, and one that we’re seriously considering.

It’s my belief that if you’re going to openly oppose abortion, you don’t have the right to sit back and do nothing about orphaned children. Get involved by becoming a mentor, help at a group home by volunteering your time, make donations to nonprofits whose sole purpose is to care for them, start your own nonprofit, have your church start a group home, consider adoption or fostering…

There are so many ways that you can be involved, but ignoring the millions of children that women have so generously born into this world isn’t an option.

I’ve said this in another post, and it’s become my anthem. So, I’ll say it until I quit breathing:
If love doesn’t win in everything, with everyone, every time, without conditions – even if it goes against your religious beliefs – then you’re doing it wrong.

Let’s get it right on these issues, friends. I haven’t been getting it right 100% of the time, but I’m certainly trying to correct my course.

1 Corinthians 13, ” What if I have the gift of prophecy, am blessed with knowledge and insight to all the mysteries, or what if my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock, yet I live without love? If so, I am nothing. I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts.

Paul boils it all down for the believers in Corinth. Religious people often spend their time practicing rituals, projecting dogma, and going through routines that might look like Christianity on the outside but that lack the essential ingredient that brings all of it together—love! It is a loving God who birthed creation and now pursues a broken people in the most spectacular way. That same love must guide believers, so faith doesn’t appear to be meaningless noise.

Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete.” – The Voice

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows, and Orphans – Part 2

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

DISCLAIMER:

I know that even just one of the things listed on the title of this post is highly controversial, let alone 4! I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how to voice my thoughts as lovingly as possible, so please continue to bear with me as I get that lined out. With that said, please note that I’m not targeting anyone with this post. Any references to churches or Christians aren’t meant to group all churches or Christians together. There are so many of them getting it right on these issues; I’m simply stating where I stand on these issues. These are my thoughts and convictions. Any insulting, bashing, or dehumanizing comments will be removed.

Abortions:

I’ll begin by saying that I’ve never been faced with the decision of my wife having of an abortion. That’s something that I’ve had to think about when pondering this series of posts. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in the shoes of someone that is faced with that.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you that whenever the topic of abortion is brought up, I instinctively have a go-to thought process. It’s shameful and embarrassing for me to admit, but that usually consists of a slutty woman who can’t pay her bills and doesn’t want to have a kid.

How shallow is that? Why is that my go-to scenario?

I’m sure that’s how society has programmed me, or maybe it’s just that I’m really that shallow. I don’t know.

In reality, that’s only one of a million possibilities as to why someone would consider having an abortion. Perhaps that person was raped. Maybe she was told that having this baby would certainly kill her. It could be that this woman is a single and successful business woman, and the timing isn’t right.

Another confession…

I have to admit that no matter the scenario, I still thought that she should learn to either keep her legs closed or use protection.

I’m sure you can tell that this isn’t a prideful moment for me. These inner thoughts are truly humbling to admit.

How is it the woman’s fault for being raped? I mean, c’mon! Shallow.
How is it her fault if the baby were to have a serious congenital defect? Shallow.
Was she fully aware that having sex this time would cause her to conceive? Shallow.

People have sex, the sperm fertilizes the egg – TADA! She’s pregnant. It happens, and it’s not my place to judge the people involved. It’s my job to love them – unconditionally – regardless of whether or not they’ve had an abortion.

With that said, I will say that my convictions follow a pro-life stance. If a person is considering an abortion, that’s between them and whoever else they choose to be involved in making that decision. If they ask for my input, I’ll give it. That’s the only time I’ll give it. I don’t believe it’s the job of the government or anyone else to get in the way.

The reason I feel this way is because I’ve never had to make this decision. God forbid Lindsey were ever raped or her life threatened by an unborn child. I don’t know how I would react under those circumstances, and I hope I never have to find out. Therefore, I cannot judge someone else by a standard that I can’t measure for myself.

If you’re pregnant, and you’re unsure what to do, please visit with a licensed counselor and your doctor. Find a pregnancy assistance facility that can also give you information or provide you the proper counseling. Those people are hoping that you’ll come to them first.

WIDOWS AND ORPHANS:

“Abortion is murder!” just rolls off the tongue of many (not all) pro-lifers. The Bible just doesn’t really have much to say about abortion even though abortions predate biblical times (source, and here, and here, and here).

There were also widows and orphans in biblical times, and the Bible does mention them. “True religion…is taking care of widows and orphans…”

This is something else that I’ve had to consider when contemplating this series. In my past, it was easy to get swept up in the pro-life message that abortion is wrong. At the same time, caring for the children that would be otherwise orphaned is something that was swept under the rug.

Lindsey and I made it a priority to take our kids to a nursing home once a week last year. We intentionally chose to visit the older folks in the “mentally unstable” ward – folks suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and the like. Although most of them didn’t remember us from one week to the next, we loved getting to know them. It was so funny to get to hear some of their stories.

That’s a practical and relatively painless way to care for widows.

But when it comes to orphans…

My default (again another humbling moment) is to disengage from the conversation as quickly as possible.

Years ago, Lindsey brought up her desire to adopt.

HELL NO. Just no, and no.

She was devastated by my response, and we even went to a counselor over the issue. I can’t say whether or not choosing not to adopt was the right decision for us, but I have to admit that it’s one that I don’t regret. Not even to this day. I regret how I responded, however, and I think I absolutely could have handled it more delicately. I think there are people that should adopt, and I’m in complete support of them. Each of my siblings has adopted, or are in the process of doing so.

There are people that medically haven’t been able to conceive, had miscarriages, and some that just want another baby. There are also my friends in the LGBTQ community that want kids of their own. That’s great! But to this day, I just haven’t been able to come to terms with it for myself and our family. Is it a heart issue for me? Fear? God’s plan?

Whatever the reason, it doesn’t negate the fact that I know there are other ways for me to care for orphans. But even those topics have been met with a broom head and a dustpan.

I’m going to intentionally end this post here regarding abortions, widows, and orphans. In my following post – Part 3 of this series – I will go into more detail, and into a “call to action,” so to speak, on all of these topics. I’ve put the “disclaimer” at the beginning of each of these posts not only for them individually, but also in preparation for Part 3.

THOUGHTS:

As I’ve been discovering the Jesus model to life, I’ve been challenged to my core on so many different things. Most of what I’m writing is the testimony of my personal convictions after I’ve been challenged in those areas. The purpose in my decision to go public with this testimony is multidimensional.

  1. I have been compelled to tell my story.
  2. I want those on their own journey to have someone to relate their experiences with.
  3. My hope is that those who have been affected, either negatively or positively, by others (or myself) in regard to the given topics, will know that people can change. I’m evidence of that.
  4. I yearn with the depths of my being that the perspective I provide will resonate with others who are like my former self, and inspire change. If not change, I hope it provides light to be shown on a facet that perhaps you haven’t seen before.

I pray that Love will be shown through to you in every post I write.

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows and Orphans – Part 1

DISCLAIMER:

I know that even just one of the things listed on the title of this post is highly controversial, let alone 4! I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how to voice my thoughts as lovingly as possible, so please continue to bear with me as I get that lined out. With that said, please note that I’m not targeting anyone with this post. Any references to churches or Christians aren’t meant to group all churches or Christians together. There are so many of them getting it right on these issues; I’m simply stating where I stand on these issues. These are my thoughts and convictions. Any insulting, bashing, or dehumanizing comments will be removed.

LGBTQ:

I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a converted ally and proponent of the LGBTQ community. I was “in the closet” on this issue for nearly two years, but I couldn’t withhold my convictions any longer. This was undoubtedly a shocking revelation to many of my friends and family. Heck, it may be a shock to some that are just now reading this about me!

I believed all of my life that anyone in the LGBTQ community were sinners and destined to spend an eternity in hell. I reluctantly watched a documentary on the subject after the persuasion to do so from Lindsey (my wife). She had watched it a few days before, and it really got her to thinking. Before watching it, she suggested we do so, and my reaction was anything but compliant.

I said, “Why in the hell would I watch something as stupid as that? Do you expect my mind to be even remotely swayed?”

Nevertheless, I relented.

The documentary titled “For The Bible Tells Me So” is available to watch on Netflix. It’s also available to watch at Youtube for $2.99.

When the documentary was over, I sat in silence staring at the screen for a solid minute. I turned to Lindsey and said, “hmm…”

The documentary was far from “stupid,” and it absolutely had my mind doing cartwheels.

Fast forward to where I am today, and I’ve read, watched, listened, and discussed with others about this topic at length! I’ve read books about it, researched the Greek and Hebrew meanings of the words used in the Bible, watched pastors deliver their sermons on the subject via Youtube, listened to lots of pastors, authors, and doctors talk about it, and I’ve had good conversations about it with others. NOTE: I’m not a person that likes to have someone “tickle my ears,” so I’ve sought out opposing arguments on the topic.

The only solid conclusion I could come up with is that there isn’t a solid conclusion to be drawn – at least biblically speaking.

You might be saying “How can you say that there’s not a solid conclusion when the Bible clearly states that ‘homosexuality is an abomination’ ? What about Sodom?” 

I can say that because I did the research. I looked at the terminology used in the respective languages in which it was written, looked at the context, looked at the time and place it was written, and I considered to whom it was written. At the end of the day, I can tell you that the muddy water is muddy. There are good arguments in both directions of what the biblical authors meant, and how the terminology could be translated.

As for Sodom…what about it? It’s not a story about homosexulality. My interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is that the cities were destroyed by God because they refused to be anything but abusive to strangers, outcasts, the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged.

There is that one part where dudes were crying out for Lot to release the angels to them so they could gang rape them – to which Lot’s reply was to offer his virgin daughters (a whole other conversation to be had!). Why would Lot offer his daughters to a group of homosexual men wanting to rape male angels? It doesn’t add up because it’s not a story about homosexuality. Rather, it’s a story about dehumanization.

After digging until I was satisfied, and still was left empty handed, I was left exactly how I began – staring blankly; dumbfounded.

Some may try to paint the picture of Jesus and his response to prostitutes and to the woman at the well, and compare those to how he would respond to homosexuals. That doesn’t work either. Jesus was telling them to “go and sin no more” because their actions were devaluing/objectifying of themselves (again, dehumanization).

LGBTQ people aren’t doing that. The majority of them are normal, everyday people just like you and I. They’re seeking committed, fulfilling, loving, long-term relationships. They’re not engaged in dehumanization; not even the “Ts.”

Transgender people are people. Their gender identity is irrelevant. Treating them as if they’re mentally unstable because they identify as the opposite sex than what they were born is sinful (dehumanizing) – just as it would be sinful (dehumanizing) for them not to be true to themselves by being someone they aren’t on the inside.

The argument can be made all day long that “God made LGBTQ people male and female, and for them to try to be – or be with – someone of the opposite sex is sin.” – You know, the whole “Adam and Steve” thing–but sin according to who? I’ve already pointed out that the terms used biblically can easily be argued in their interpretations, and at best it’s a longshot to try to pin it down with any certainty.

So as a Jesus follower, naturally I decided to line up how I should respond to the LGBTQ community in accordance to his example. When Jesus spent time with outcasts, did he condemn any of them to hell? What about the prostitutes? How about the tax collectors? The poor and homeless?

In every single case, the only response that Jesus gave was one of love – inclusion – acceptance – forgiveness – peace – healing – restoration. The only time he encouraged someone to change their lifestyle was when they were sinning against (dehumanizing) themselves or others, or against God (turning over tables).

As I said, I had to decide how my response to my LGBTQ friends would be – how I could best reflect Jesus.

Friends, may I encourage you to do the same?

Slandering anyone, using derogatory and hateful language, condemnation, abusive behavior, and pointing out what you think is “sin” goes 100% completely against who God is – Love. I’m deeply burdened by the way I practiced all of those things so regularly that it became a part of my daily life. I can only pray that anyone I knew when I acted in such a way will miraculously see this post and forgive me.

To my LGBTQ friends (and their families and friends):

I love you. I accept you for who you are – exactly as you are! Know that the love and complete acceptance of Jesus is yours. He would never ask you to be someone other than who God made you to be. Be true to yourself. Know that there are others like me that haven’t always looked at you as I do now, but there is hope! I’m a perfect example of that hope.

When you need someone to hear you, I’ll be here waiting. If you need someone to talk you off the ledge, call me. If you want my phone number so you can call me, it’s yours. Just ask.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made! God made you that way.

America, The Beautiful

I’ll begin by stating that I am apolitical. I certainly have my beliefs and convictions, but I don’t believe that it’s our job as Christians to “occupy our government.”

PREFACE:

I fear that we may have lost sight of our calling as Jesus followers. It’s the whole reason I started this blog to begin with. I told Lindsey (my wife) before creating this blog that I “feel compelled to write. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how big of an impact I can really make, but I have to try.” As I’ve composed these posts, the reasons become more and more clear.

The early posts were rough – for me and for you. I can assure you that my heart was/is for you, but I came across as a pretentious jerk. I still stand by the meat of those posts, and that’s why I haven’t taken them down or revised them; however, my goal now is to speak that message with a loving voice.

There will still be times I speak with righteous indignation, but it’s not because I’m right and you’re wrong. Rather, it’s because there are areas I see that we are missing the target. Of course it’s not always the collective whole, and that’s where I previously made my error. There are many Jesus followers getting it right.

I’ll do my best to point that out along the way, but I’m not going to stand by and not point out the places where we can make significant improvements. In my public apology, I made the comment, “Don’t opt for the liferaft when you can right the ship.” To that end, and to avoid jumping ship, posts like this one (and others to follow) will be written in an effort to call the Church back from the liferafts.

America, The Beautiful.

I’ll begin by stating that I am apolitical. I certainly have my beliefs and convictions, but I don’t believe that it’s our job as Christians to “occupy our government.” I’m not saying that Christians can’t be employed by the government. Certainly Christian influence should be a part of it, but so should opposing beliefs. Let me explain.

The reason the Founding Fathers established our government the way they did wasn’t for Christians to monopolize our country’s belief system. Quite frankly, it was the exact opposite of that. They knew that a government operating from a religious platform would be dangerous and capable of terrible things. They knew this better than most because they came from such a government.

When government makes decisions based on religious ideals, it ceases to work “for the people.” As much as it may pain you to hear this, President Obama was correct in his assessment of the U.S. Government when he said, “We are no longer a Christian nation – at least not only a Christian nation…” He’s absolutely right, and anyone trying to change that and monopolize our government with one set of religious beliefs or ideals would be going against everything our country was founded upon.

Just as adamantly as Christians remain true to their beliefs, others follow their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) in kind. There is no way that I can logically explain that the way I believe is right, and their way is wrong (nor would I anyway). People have tried for thousands of years, and it’s why war exists today.

War isn’t about the struggle for land, oil, or the expansion of empires – at least not entirely. Generally speaking, wars are fought because one side believes their way to God is correct, while the other side believes they’ve got it all figured out –  the disagreement can’t be settled amicably, so fighting ensues. The refusal to respect fellow human life over a belief system leads to dehumanization (sin) – to death.

The Crusades were based on this belief, as were the Roman rule, the Holocaust, the never-ending war between Israel and their enemies, and even ISIS/IS/ISIL/SIC/Da’ish. Those are just a handful of examples of a history littered with war in the name of God. Let me again point out that they all completely believe(d) that God is/was on their side. There’s no talking them out of it, just as there’s no talking you out of your personal beliefs. I don’t mean that to be taken negatively. Rather, my intention is to point out just how strongly everyone – no matter which side of the aisle they stand – believes the way they do.

I will happily argue against any Christian or other religious group wanting to “take this country (back?) for God” — jumping on liferafts. I understand that what they mean by that isn’t that they want a war; instead they want their idea of morality to reign supreme. I get it. But separation of church and state was instated for a reason.

Peaceable protests are also legal for this reason. If you don’t agree with a decision the government is making, let them know! Call your congress leaders and tell them, start a petition, hold respectful rallies, but don’t do it in the name of God. God can take care of himself. He is Love, and any display parading him otherwise only causes hurt, bullying, fights, hate, and discord. That’s a rather powerless and antagonistic representation of Love.

America simply cannot be a Christian-only nation, and I hope it never is. The day America caves on the issue of separation of church and state is the day we become exactly what we had been liberated from.

The multiculturalism – the melting pot that is America – is what makes it beautiful. It’s the very thing that the Founding Fathers thought of when they spoke of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It’s what provides us the opportunity to disagree with one another while still allowing for a reciprocating love and respect for the life of each person or group of people to be expressed.

It’s a beautiful thing to honor and respect each person and the beliefs they’ve spent a lifetime cultivating. We all have those liberties. Let’s keep America beautiful.

Christian Conversation Done Right

I had a great conversation with a friend yesterday that I felt ought to be shared. I obviously won’t share his name or information, but I was so excited to have a conversation that wasn’t started in attack mode!

I had a great conversation with a friend yesterday that I felt ought to be shared. I obviously won’t share his name or information, but I was so excited to have a conversation that wasn’t started in attack mode! He didn’t question my beliefs, try to throw scripture in my face, or even tell me that I was deceived. Below is the majority of that conversation. Enjoy! (Used with his permission)

HIM:
Hey David, I started reading your blog posts. I’m glad your writing about your journey. I have had friends who have gone through the same journey, but they don’t have the ability to write out their struggles, thoughts and feelings. I am always seeking understanding from other viewpoints so I can be a better communicator.

Your posts help me understand your perspective and that’s really valuable. I agree on a lot of the issues, I may not agree on some of the solutions, but I think above all we agree that no one has a the full revelation of God. We all view things through our experiences, hurts, and triumphs and it’s important we respect and honor people through our differences.

I admit I haven’t gotten through all the posts yet, but I do have a question.

I understand we love everyone regardless of identity and sin, but sometimes I find the gospel is a powerless victim to the abundant love message because it no longer has the right to change people.

When a child hears he must change, but it can be misconstrued as hate. The child’s view of love may be complete acceptance. When a father tells his child to change from destructive behavior, the father sees it as love.

So my question is, do we have a revelation of the Father’s love or the child’s view of love?

That would be an interesting blog post to read! Thanks for taking a risk and stepping out.

ME:
Before I begin, I’d like to make sure that you’ve started with my post, “The Baby and The Bathwater.” In it, I cover how I’ve admittedly used a tone in my previous posts that didn’t reflect Love. My intention in this conversation and future posts is to speak my thoughts, interpretations, and opinions with Love. I’m a work in progress when it comes to my writing. I’ll get it right.

Ok, I’ve been thinking about your question/statement. First, I think you have to decide how you interpret the gospel, and what you think it is. Second, you also have to decide what sin looks like in light of that, and how the “love message” affects both sin and the gospel from your perspective.

For instance, I believe the gospel and the “love message” to be one and the same. I take the perspective that Jesus’ life was a reflection of the father. Who is God? God is Love. “Jesus, what is the MOST important command?” – “Love God…love your neighbor.”

In other words, “Reflect God’s love unto Him and to everyone else. Be Love (as God).”

As for sin, there are moral absolutes that certainly qualify as sin: murder, rape, abuse, etc. All of the rest that most of Christianity would classify as “sin” is, what I believe to be, that which falls under personal conviction.

Example: It’s definitely not as taboo today as it was even 20 years ago, but a lot of the Christian faith finds it sinful to drink alcohol. Personally, I don’t take issue with it at all. In fact, I really like beer, Lindsey likes wine/mixed drinks. We have friends that we enjoy spending time with, and we’ll all hang out and have a couple of drinks together (or even homebrew together). I don’t have a conviction of sin concerning alcohol.

I know others that definitely do. Some of them just feel super convicted about it, while others are former alcoholics. Drinking for any of those folks would be sinful because they’re going against their convictions.

See the difference between the moral absolutes and personal convictions? Sin is definitely sin no matter how you cut it, but I submit that what may be sin for you might not be sin for someone else – save the moral absolutes.

Moreover, I believe that all sins of morality fall under an all-inclusive umbrella. That umbrella of sin is anything that dehumanizes a person. If you really think about it, can you think of one moral absolute that doesn’t consider that? I can’t. Actually, even convictional sin falls under that umbrella because you’d technically be dehumanizing yourself by sinning against your convictions.

Therefore, the gospel at its core requires a change. It requires Love – respect of all human life. Without that, the gospel is simply rules and regulations that men have conjured up out of their own personal convictions. The true gospel necessarily is Love. If we as Jesus followers understood that about Jesus – about the gospel – and followed it blindly, how much different would Christianity appear to the world?

HIM:
Well we agree on a lot! And I’m in the middle of processing a lot of this so forgive me if I ramble.

Alcohol for me was a personal choice that wasn’t a sin until I started abusing it, so now I don’t partake. That’s my personal conviction not a moral absolute. I will warn people because of what I went through, but it’s not a “don’t drink or you’ll go to hell” thing.

Part of the danger, I think, of everything being acceptable – and not warning people about it – is people like me who go too far and have to find their way back.

It reminds me of the scripture everything is permitted but not everything is beneficial. We need wisdom married to grace. I agree there are moral absolutes. I think though the Bible sets a higher standard than what our culture would say are the moral absolutes. There lies the gray area.

What is absolute truth? Does culture shape truth? Does the gospel change when culture shifts? The impossible rules of the Old Testament meets the impossible grace of the New Testament and we’re in middle putting together all the pieces. Is it love to never tell someone what they’re doing is wrong? Jesus told the women in adultery to go and sin no more. I’m not talking about yelling this out on the street corner, but out of relationship with people, iron sharpens iron, you become closer to Christ together.

We all have to change. That was the reason for my first question. Does the gospel have the right to require change? And you agree it does with the moral absolutes. But does it go deeper?

I have the desire to get so close to God that I won’t haggle over what is sin to me, and what lines can’t I cross. I think the more our focus is on Christ the more the debate subsides. Religion that is sin-focused causes death, relationship that is Christ-focused inspires life.

I do believe that grace goes hand in hand with repentance. Turning away from sin and toward God. Unfortunately, Grace is sometimes viewed as a get out of jail free card. I think it’s important to love people to Christ and show them grace that leads to repentance, not grace that leads to them away from God.

Ultimately, people need to see the love of the gospel, and the power within that changes hearts. I don’t need to debate people out of sin, the conviction of the Holy Spirit works fine. I just need to be there as we pursue God together.

ME:
Yup! I’d also add that Christians should be careful when saying things like “the Bible says…”

The reason being that the Bible might not actually say what they think it does. It may read that way, but there’s a lot more to take into account.

The Bible is full of poems, hymns, mythology, history, and spiritual stories. All of that needs to be taken into account before quoting or reading it a particular way.

It’s also written to particular groups of people in particular places at particular times and cultures. That also has to be considered.

Lastly, the Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek primarily, with some Aramaic as well. Jesus spoke in Aramaic, so we literally have authors recounting his life and stories about 40-95 years after his death, and penning it in a different language than what Jesus spoke. I’m not saying they got it wrong, but I am saying that we definitely can.

All-in-all, I just try erring on the side of Love and grace. If our response to any person is other than that, we’re failing to live the gospel properly, in my opinion.

HIM:
I do believe in the inerrancy of the Bible so we probably disagree there, however I don’t believe in the inerrancy of its interpretation. Context, purpose, people, and culture all have to be studied to understand the Bible fully. There can be abuses in interpreting scripture wrongly, but at its core, an errant Bible to me would mean an errant faith.

Biblical Greek was one of my favorite subjects in Bible school. There truly is a lot to learn from the original language. I think the important thing to understand is to not just sit in a pew and hear these words taught to us but truly study the bible and show ourselves approved.

You have really stirred me up to study more and show myself approved. So thanks for that! I’ll be reading your future posts! And don’t give up on the Bride of Christ. She’s a bunch of dirty, messed up, shofar blowing weirdos, and sometimes I can’t stand them, but Jesus died for Her just like he died for me and you.

I’ll pray through this journey that God reveals his heart to you more and more. You have been given a charge to wake up the church from its slumber, it’s pointless debates, it’s flashy programs, it’s expensive buildings, and simply love people to Christ. Keep strong!

ME:
Thanks, bro. I appreciate you taking the time to start a conversation. Let’s continue it in the future.

HIM:
Definitely, continuing the conversation would be great!

MY TAKEAWAY:

THE NEW YOU
As you’ve read, we have areas that we disagree with one another – grace, love, inerrancy of the Bible – but in the end, slandering each other wasn’t an option. None of us have everything figured out, and it’s likely nobody ever will. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have good, meaningful conversations that help us learn and grow.

As I’ve read back through this post, I can see that there might be some things we didn’t discuss in as much detail as either of us really wanted to. If he’s up to it, perhaps we’ll pick up where we left off and let you in our future conversations as we go deeper.

The Baby and The Bathwater

My wife, Lindsey, is an incredible human being. I cannot begin to tell you how many times she’s been right on so many different topics.

Last night she was right again.

My wife, Lindsey, is an incredible human being. I cannot begin to tell you how many times she’s been right on so many different topics.

Last night she was right again.

There are times when we sit down to have conversations that I get completely blindsided by what she says. Knowing I’m a stubborn ass, there are a lot of times when she has to come at me with righteous indignation. This conversation was one of those times, and boy did I sit there afterward feeling like a complete failure – that’s a great thing! That meant that I had heard what she said even though I didn’t want to hear it. But I’ll be damned if she wasn’t right, and I needed to hear it!

There aren’t many people in my life that have a place to speak truth to me. I’ve written about this here. That post talks about how Love trumps truth, and I stand by it completely. Lindsey is one of the few people that has the relationship with me to speak truth so I can hear it, and I treasure it dearly. She used truth to show me where I’d been missing the target in regard to loving others.

The topic of our conversation was simple: “You’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater – you’ve learned to love the outcast, but you’ve now written off the Bride.”

Damnit, that stings!

Of course, being the stubborn person I am, I immediately put up my defenses. I didn’t want to hear a bit of it! She pointed out how I’ve done well to learn to love those we feel are being rejected by the church, but at the same time I’ve completely rejected the church. This is a fine line to walk for sure, but it’s one that I can admit now that I’ve been on the wrong side of.

To those I’ve offended:

To keep this as short and sweet as possible, I’ll try to break it down as simply as I know how.

After reading Pagan Christianity, Lindsey and I discovered that there are many things that we believe the American church is doing wrong. That’s not a bad thing; it’s not even a negative thing. Learning about church history and why/if things ought not to be done a particular way can be a powerful lesson! The problem Lindsey pointed out is is how I took it to the opposite extreme. Instead of taking my newfound history lesson and righting our family’s ship, I opted for the liferaft.

RIGHT THE SHIP

I did that by assuming all pastors, churches, Christians are wrong. I know that’s not true, and I’ve even pointed out in some of my previous posts how there are a lot of churches doing things right and accomplishing awesome stuff! …Regardless of my knowing that, I still made a mistake. I mistakenly grouped all of them together and refused to be a part of the collective Bride.

The truth is that there are many churches doing great things and loving others well! There are churches that are accepting the outcasts – proving to them that there are bodies of believers that will openly love them and – without exception – allow them to take their place by operating in the collective Body. Even though I see the difference now between the institutional church and the organism that is the Bride, that doesn’t mean that the Bride isn’t or can’t fulfill its calling within the institution. That’s where I made my error.

As for my approach to my blog posts, I’d like to publically apologize if I’ve come across as an asshole – especially to those that are in churches. If I’ve offended you by making it seem as though you aren’t operating as part of the Body, I’m wrong in that, and I’m sincerely sorry. Throwing the baby out with the bath water wouldn’t be right here either. To that end, the meat in my posts will stay, but I’ll certainly attempt to use grace in my future posts.

It’s also my belief that if we choose God – if we choose Jesus, we’re dutifully called to gather together for the expressed purpose of worship. I feel like there are a million different ways to worship an eternal God, and gathering in a building that has an institutional title nailed to the door is definitely one of those ways. It absolutely meets the criteria, and I’ve wrongfully interpreted that by grouping that form of worship with what I feel the American church has gotten wrong.

Of course, you can gather together anywhere, any day, any time and accomplish this inside or outside of a building. I know that – I believe in that. I haven’t done that. Not even at home where it matters most.

So, to Lindsey, Ryan, and to Addie – I’m sorry. I’ve been wrong. You deserve better, I deserve better, God deserves worship – at home, with friends, in a church building…all of those things are inconsequential so long as it happens.

To those on a spiritual journey:

No matter what you learn, never get to the place where you make the mistakes I’ve made and outlined here. Choosing Love is always the right choice, defending outcasts is the right choice – but choosing also to love those you find yourself in disagreement with is also the right choice! It’s not that I didn’t love them in the depths of myself, but I didn’t reflect that properly. Instead, I came across as cynical and self righteous. When choosing to give Love away, choose to give Love to everyone.

My repentance:

Derek Webb has long been a favorite songwriter of ours. Recently, we’ve begun to listen to his songs in the light of our learned experiences, and they’re absolutely beautiful. Our favorite album of his is called “The House Show.” You can listen to it in its entirety here on Youtube. One of the songs that he wrote and performed on that album is called “I Repent.” I’d like to share pieces of those lyrics with you as part of my own repentance, and I’d also like to invite you to listen to the song here: I Repent by Derek Webb.

I Repent:
I repent, I repent of parading my liberty.
I repent, I repent of paying for what I get for free,
and for the way I believe that I am living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide, 
I am wrong and of these things I repent.

I repent of wearing righteousness like a disguise
to see through the planks in my own eyes.

I repent, I repent of trading truth for false unity.
I repent, I repent of confusing peace and idolatry.
I am wrong, and of these things I repent.

Embrace Your Journey

If you find yourself questioning the status quo, be encouraged! You’re not alone. In fact, I’ve come to discover whole communities of people that have done the same, walked where you’re walking, and learned/unlearned what you have.

As I’ve written the story of my journey, I’ve had lots of people email me and PM me on Facebook. They’ve been able to identify with me on many of the topics I’ve written about. Today, I want to encourage those that have reached out to me as well as those that haven’t, but maybe you’ve also read part of your story within my own.

I can’t begin to describe the overwhelming wave of emotions that are involved when you find yourself on a rollercoaster of a spiritual journey! Maybe this isn’t a fair assessment to make, but it seems to me that most people won’t ever find themselves questioning their faith – at least not to the degree at which I did. I find that most folks are content to chill in the raft of their upbringing on the Lazy River of mainstream Christianity. To be honest, I often find myself wishing I could just go back in time, sit in my own raft, and sip on a pina colada. On the other hand, I’m so grateful for what I’m experiencing.

If you find yourself questioning the status quo, be encouraged! You’re not alone. In fact, I’ve come to discover whole communities of people that have done the same, walked where you’re walking, and learned/unlearned what you have. If you’re reading this now, you’ve obviously found someone that fits that criteria, and just to show you know you’re not alone, I’ll share some of my emotional experiences and advice with you.

 

Before you begin…

If you’re married or have a significant other, talk to that person about your intentions! Going at this alone isn’t a good idea, but more than that, it’s not really fair to just go at something like this without fair warning. No matter how much you prepare, I can assure you that this journey will get a lot messier than you ever expected it would! If your partner isn’t aware of your intentions, that mess is going to pile up fast, and it’s only going to create a barricade between you. Not cool. I was upfront with my wife, Lindsey, from the beginning. That doesn’t mean my journey was a whole lot easier for her to handle/understand, but at least she wasn’t completely blindsided. Plus, if you go on the journey together, it will hopefully allow you to grow in your understanding and your relationship together.

Take some time to clear your mind. I don’t know what that looks like for you, but perhaps it’s prayer, yoga, exercise, meditation, listening to classical music, or whatever. In any case, know that you’re only going to be able to go as far as you allow yourself to go. To do that, it’s best to approach this journey with an open and teachable mind. Otherwise, you’re just going to get frustrated and quit. If you begin by bringing all of your predispositions and beliefs along with you, you won’t get far. So, take some time and empty your mind of whatever you’re willing to give up.

 

To start with…

I guess it depends if you’re the kind of person who likes to ease into the swimming pool, or just get it over with and jump in quickly. For me, easing in just creates more torture by prolonging the inevitable. I prefer jumping in all at once and getting the shock over with. But since not all people like taking the same approach as I do, I’ll give some recommendations for both options.

My way:
I began by watching lots of documentaries on the subjects that interested me. That was followed by/in conjunction with watching or listening to experts in their respective fields discussing said subjects. This approach is the quickest way I learn. I’m a visual and hands-on learner, so I can quickly grasp something when it’s presented in this manner.

After I watched or heard about all I could find, I then turned to online articles. I discovered people that I hadn’t ever heard of before writing on topics I was just beginning to learn about. That was awesome because their blogs also had communities of folks leaving their two cents in the comment sections. I was able to ask questions and get feedback rather quickly. That also led me to finding some of these authors on Facebook and connecting with them directly. Gold mine!

The bloggers and their followers were also helpful in pointing me to book authors. To date, I have a list of about 10 books that I highly recommend to every single person on a similar journey as mine. I’ll list the books at the end of this post.

The slower approach:
Really it’s up to you, but I think all of the options I listed above are great to use. You’ll obviously want to apply them in the order that best suites your tastes. If you’re an avid reader, start with the books I list at the end of this post. If you like ending your day watching Netflix in bed, maybe you’ll binge watch some documentaries. If you get free time at work, Googling some of the topics/blogs written toward your interests could be enjoyable.

Whatever your decision, I recommend a steady approach. Not only will you be able to retain more of the information, but if you’re not single, it will also allow you to communicate your progress better with your partner.

 

Mid-journey…

Awe and wonder, shock and amazement, and fear of divorce are all some of the emotions and thought processes that ran through my mind. I was wonderstruck by so many of the incredible scientific things I was learning, dumbfounded by some of the teachings I learned growing up (and even more so by what I hadn’t ever learned), and terrified that Lindsey was going to leave me for fear that I was becoming an atheist – again, I’m not.

I’m pretty certain that Lindsey’s emotional joyride was worse than mine was, but what she didn’t understand was a lot of what I was learning was definitely terrifying for me! It’s not an easy thing to do to let go of the safety net you’ve known your entire life! It’s not easy to abandon the comforts of spiritual rebuttals you’ve learned over the years. It’s admittedly an extremely vulnerable place to be when you lay down those defenses. Had I not grown up with any sort of religious background it may have been a slightly easier pill to swallow. Nevertheless, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

 

The end…

There isn’t one. What I’ve discovered is that every single person is continuously learning if they choose to do so. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I’ve been able to learn more about myself and what I’ve chosen to believe – more importantly than knowing what I believe is knowing why I believe this way. I no longer have to rely on handpicked verses and teachings passed around Christian communities for my dogmatic beliefs. The continual revelation and growth available is limitless – that is to say, I know now that I can always be a student and choose to learn.

There is at least a bit of a resolve when you come to the plateau. It’s not the resolution that you’re somehow now all-knowing, but rather you’re able to approach your continued learning process with the correct tools in hand.

Please remember that every person is on their own path – their own journey. You’re probably not fully aware of what that person has learned along the way to lead them to the understanding or beliefs that they now possess. For instance, if someone were to assume that I were ignorant on a particular topic that I’ve heavily researched along the way, making a snap judgement about it wouldn’t likely change my perspective; it would, however, probably usher in hurt. It’s totally possible that you’re able to recognize the place that someone is in along their journey, but if they haven’t asked you for your input, it could be harmful for you to give it.

NOT ALONE

Instead of being quick to point out what you perceive to be incorrect, you could inquire of that person what brought them to that conclusion. Perhaps you’ll learn something along the way.

As John Pavlovitz often reminds me, “What you’ve learned, the journey you’re on is your own. It’s your testimony, and it’s not up for debate.”

Remember that as you move forward in your own journey. Also, don’t forget to contact me to share your story, ask questions, and find a friend! I love hearing from you and sharing in your experiences.

Below is some reading material. I haven’t made it through all of these yet, but I at least know the material covered, and I can vouch for that. I’ve listed them in the order that I recommend reading them. To each their own. Hint: take a trip to your local community library to see if they have any of the books available or could possibly inter-library loan them from a nearby community. Owning them is totally worth it too:

1. Pagan Christianity
2. The Untold Story of the New Testament Church
3. Reimagining Church
4. The Irresistible Revolution
5. Jesus For President
6. Red Letter Revolution
7. What The Bible Really Teaches (This one is deep, and he’s so freaking smart it can be difficult to follow him, but worth trying!)
8. Interrupted
9. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
10. Love Wins

Deconstructing Faith – Part 2

You can say that I’ve “lost my way” with whatever words you want to. You can say that I’m hellbound. You can tell me that I’m dangerously playing with fire. Say what you want. I’m confident I’ve never looked more like Jesus. It’s “Heretical Love” that compels me. Now I can sleep at night.

Deconstructing Faith – Part 1 can be found here.

I guess it’s best to just start at the beginning. I was born and raised into the American Southern Baptist church. If you’re unfamiliar with Southern Baptists, think: hell, fire, and brimstone. In fact, our church (and thousands of other churches) even had this garbage performed:

https://youtu.be/zXSVgmDAll4

If you get the time to watch it, I highly recommend it. It may give you some insight about how NOT to be like Jesus – or possibly give you nightmares. Now that I think of it, Halloween is coming up. It’s appropriate for that. Other than that, it really has no value whatsoever.

Anywho, I left the Baptist denomination when I was 18 and never looked back. I went from the stoic Baptist ways to the charismatic church instead. There I received my “prayer language” – which I openly admit now that I made up over time (if yours is real, more power to you) – and learned all kinds of unhelpful theology.

One of the most damaging things was thinking I needed to be in God’s “perfect will” for my life at all times. I didn’t shake that one until a little over a year ago. That’s the idea that somehow I’m supposed to “supernaturally know” which choice I should make in every situation. I can’t begin to tell you how much stress that put on me! As if the choice I made would either find me with great favor and success, or a ginormous failure. Remember the fear tactic I mentioned before? It applies to “God’s will” too. I’ve since discovered that if I’m living a life full of Love, It’s going to be difficult to screw that up too badly.

Fast forward a decade or so to Part 1 of this series. The brewing storm that began after reading Pagan Christianity had flashed a few lightning bolts, but it was about to unleash its fury! After reading the book, this thought occurred to me, “What if everything I’ve ever learned about Christianity is wrong?” I’m sure you’ve been there, and you certainly understand the sheer terror of that thought – along with the ramifications of exploring it.

Well, back to “The Matrix” we go; I took the red pill and decided to see just how deep that rabbit hole went. I informed my wife of my intentions, and I made sure to keep her up-to-date with everything along the way. Today, we’re nearly at the same place in our beliefs, but during this process she most definitely was not!

I was going to wipe the slate clean. I’ll just forget everything I’ve ever been taught, and start over – question EVERYTHING! And that’s exactly what I did. I questioned why atheists/agnostics believe the way they do, and why science is so important to them. I questioned why other religions believe the way they do.

I questioned the Bible.

That’s when shit got real. Suddenly, after seeing everything from an outside perspective, a lot of the Bible was really weird when read as a literal text. I mean, Noah and the ark? Really? Come on. God made the Earth in 6 days? Adam and Eve being real people – how do we know their names? Even more modern beliefs such as the Earth only being 10,000 years old… Seriously? That’s just silly.

Then I saw other things that didn’t make sense; even in the gospels. If you read them one to the next, there are some pretty clear inconsistencies – insignificant differences? Maybe, but enough to show the Bible isn’t “inerrant.”

About this time, a verse I remember hearing throughout my Christian upbringing came to mind. The verse, in 2 Timothy, said, “All scripture is inspired by God…”

It hit me. I can be inspired to write my blog posts, but God isn’t dictating the words I use on the page. Is it really possible that the writers were using metaphors and mythological stories to try to describe a God so big, one that they couldn’t see, a God able to construct all of creation? Is it possible that they wanted to paint Jesus – a rebel; a humanitarian that caused them to see the woes of the world – with God-like supernatural abilities; hoping that if they did, onlookers would want to love others and live accordingly? Yep. Is it also just as possible that Jesus really was fully as supernatural as was written about him? Yep. Does the historicity of Jesus raise some valid questions concerning Jesus? I think so. Is it 100% possible for us to really know either way without having been an eye witness to it all? Nope. Is hell a made up place to scare Christians into submission? Good question. Could it be that the book of Revelation is a mythological story that cannot be interpreted literally?

Wait. Should any of the Bible be interpreted literally?

I grew up thinking that everything about the Bible was 100% true; that it couldn’t be wrong. I believed all of the stories: Noah, Jonah, Adam & Eve, etc.  I also believed that Jesus was coming back for us anyday. It was also ingrained within my beliefs that questioning the authority of the Bible was sinful (that fear thing all over again).

Christians like to quote Revelation 22:18-19, “18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” – NIV

The thing is, the book has been added to, taken from, interpreted, misinterpreted, and jacked up for hundreds of years. All along, the plagues have left those alone who’ve added to/taken away. Fear tactics. The Bible can be wrong. It’s okay.

I happened upon a 2 part audio lecture about Fundamentalism soon after asking the question of whether or not the Bible should be interpreted literally. Part 1 and Part 2 – a combined runtime of less than 1 hour. That was my first exposure to Fundamentalism, and it finally consolidated everything I’d come to believe into something more finite.

As I began to unravel all of that and make peace with what I’ve come to believe, I wondered if there was anyone else out there who had come to these conclusions. I certainly didn’t know anyone personally. I’d be called a heretic for speaking such blasphemy! Enter John Pavlovitz. My wife, still struggling with the idea that I’m turning into an atheist (I wasn’t. I consider myself an agnostic that chooses to believe in God – John actually wrote on this topic recently), was the first to discover his blog. John is a pastor, author, and now a friend to Lindsey and I. We communicate often via Facebook, and even hang out via Skype occasionally. He was the first person that I found who was vocalizing things I was learning/unlearning.

During my “journey” – as we’ve come to call it – Lindsey made a discovery for herself! It dawned on her that her whole salvation experience was one of fear. She had been scared into the loving arms of Jesus through fear tactics. I’d say that most American Christians have “accepted Jesus” this way. She made the connection that God is Love, but fear was used to force her to God. Her revelation was mind blowing for me. I hadn’t thought of that before! She regrets that her salvation experience didn’t come through a tender wooing. Since then, I’ve made another heretical friend. Her name is Cindy Brandt. Lindsey and I, now determined to raise our kids without instilling fear in their hearts, found a series of Cindy’s of great value. It’s entitled, “Raising Children Un-Fundamentalist.” I’m excited to get to know Cindy more!

With a decent grasp on Fundamentalism in hand, the life that Jesus lived began to make more sense. The “red letters” of Jesus have inspired me deeply. This Jesus wasn’t a hell-damning person at all! Rather, he loved so passionately that it infected everyone he was around – except for most of the Pharisees that were so stuck in legalism that they killed him for his heretical love. I also discovered that I’m not the first to see Jesus in this light.

Thomas Jefferson – you know, the author of The Declaration of Independence, one of the Founding Fathers of America – decided to take a razor blade and glue to the Bible. He scoffed at a good portion of the writings saying that they were written by, “ignorant, unlettered men” who manufactured “superstitions, fanaticisms, and fabrications”, and so he cut away the parts of the Jesus story he felt were made up. He told John Adams what he was left with was, “as distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.” Later, Jefferson wrote, “I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.” He said that Jesus’ teachings were “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.” His piecing of the story of Jesus today is known as “The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” There’s another version that’s easier to read called “The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth in Modern English.”

Why am I even bothering to bring all of this up?

Because it’s part of me now. The Jesus that was so enslaved to dogma and bad theology in my mind isn’t the Jesus that I see anymore. When I look at him, I can’t see him through the fear stained, hell-damning, Where’s Waldo of God’s will, gay bashing, my way or the highway, right wing Republican glasses that I used to wear. I refuse to be bound up in debating the Bible; to be manipulated by others and their interpretations of it. It’s a waste of time and energy, and at the end of the day, more people are damaged by that than are loved.

Have I drunk the Rob Bell kool-aid? Have I become a blaspheming heretic? Perhaps, but I’m in fantastic company. Jesus was one too. He was persecuted/executed for his beliefs at the hands of the Pharisees.

Food for thought: I submit that most Christians aren’t the persecuted ones who Jesus talked about, but instead they may be the persecuting Pharisaical people who he warned others following his likeness about. The heretics that are speaking boldly sound much more like the Jesus I’ve come to know recently than the Christians damning them to hell.

Christianity today sounds like: LGBTQ? Hell for you (that rhymed). Blasphemer? Lake of Fire it is. Democrat? Weeping and gnashing of teeth. John Pavlovitz/Rob Bell? “There’s a special place in hell for people like you.”

Someone, possibly Mahatma Gandhi, once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.”

Ouch.

Can I tell you something? I’ve been wrapped in fear for “coming out” with these beliefs. Fearing that I would be ridiculed by Christians. Afraid for the non-stop bombardment of hate mail (disguised as “loving correction“) and rejection. There’s something very wrong with that. Knowing that there’s something wrong with that is what has given me great courage. If Love doesn’t win in everything, with everyone, every time, without conditions – even if it goes against your religious beliefs – then you’re doing it wrong.

IF LOVE DOESN'TTHEN YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

I’m no longer frightened by idle threats; rather, I’m broken by my previous inability to love someone because they didn’t measure up. I’m horrified by memories I have of making fun of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. I’m filled with remorse for the ways in which I treated the social outcast, homeless, poor, atheists/Muslims/Buddhists/other religions, and the unpopular person.

Aside: I have LGBT Jesus follower/non-Jesus follower friends now, and I love ALL of them! Shout out to my LGBT Facebook friends! Ok, my LGBT friends I know in real life too. You’re amazing people, and I love you for who you are – just as you are. I’m so anxious to get to know you more! You’re all so fun to be around.

I’m disgusted by associating myself with a “faith” that puts the “sins” of others under a microscope instead of oozing with Love for that person. You can try to tell me what the (misinterpreted) Bible says all day long, but it’s no longer my authority. “The Word made flesh” is, and his life will be my testimony.

You can say that I’ve “lost my way” using whatever words/labels you want to. You can say that I’m hellbound. You can tell me that I’m dangerously playing with fire. Say what you want. I’m confident I’ve never looked more like Jesus. It’s “Heretical Love” that compels me. I’ve chosen to worship Love and live like Love, and I’ll never apologize for choosing it.

 

Now I can sleep at night.

P.S. If you’re reading this, and it sounds a lot like your story, and you’ve been afraid to speak out about it – maybe you’ve been looking for someone, anyone that feels the way you do, please reach out to me! I’d love to hear your story! I know how lonely it is in that place, and I desperately wanted another like-minded person that I could connect to. I’ll never uncover you or out you! I’m here for you. You will be safely loved here.