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.”

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.”

Line in The Sand

I’m grieving today. To be honest, I’ve been grieving for a while, but today and yesterday are different.

Jesus followers — especially American — are divided. It’s no longer a Baptist vs. Methodist, Catholic vs. Lutheran, or Assembly of God vs. Church of God rift.

It’s now Jesus vs. America.

As Jesus followers, we don’t have the luxury of getting to choose when we’re American and when we’re followers of Jesus. There’s a reason that Christianity isn’t a political side.

Jesus isn’t a right wing or left wing American citizen. He’s not part of any political party. I’ve become more and more convinced that as his followers, neither can we be.

We are set apart — part of another kingdom. If we are to be “Christlike,” then we don’t have an option of choosing when we are so, and when we aren’t.

Either we are Jesus to the world 100% of the time, or we aren’t 100%. It can’t be both. There’s not any gray area checkbox to check saying, “I like Jesus, but I’m only going to be like him when it’s convenient,” although I often wish there was.

Jesus didn’t say that we only have to love our enemies when they’re playing nicely in our sandbox.

He said, You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard of justice and punishment: take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say this, don’t fight against the one who is working evil against you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, you are to turn and offer him your left cheek. If someone connives to get your shirt, give him your jacket as well. If someone forces you to walk with him for a mile, walk with him for two instead. If someone asks you for something, give it to him. If someone wants to borrow something from you, do not turn away… But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you—in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven… It is easy to love those who love you—even a thief can love those who love him. And it is easy to greet your friends—even outsiders do that! But you are called to something higher: Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.

How is God perfect, and how can we be perfect like him? God is Love. Love is perfect. We can be made perfect by being Love to others.

Love isn’t a politician. Love isn’t an American citizen. Love is something higher. Love is perfect.

Derek Webb wrote a song called “Love Is Not Against The Law. (<– song)” His words are fitting:

Politics or love
Can make you blind or make you see
Make you a slave or make you free
But only one does it all

And it’s giving up your life
For the ones you hate the most
It’s giving them your gown
When they’ve taken your clothes

It’s learning to admit
When you’ve had a hand in setting them up
In knocking them down

Love is not against the law
Love is not against the law

Are we defending life
When we just pick and choose lives acceptable to lose
And which ones to defend

Because you cannot choose your friends
But you choose your enemies
And what if they were one
One and the same

Could you find a way
To love them both the same
To give them your name

Sure, we may be taxpaying American citizens, but Jesus drew a line in the sand 2000 years ago. Wind may have blown that line and caused it to fade, but I can assure you that it still exists.

He is either Love or he isn’t. You, likewise, are either Love or you aren’t.

American politicians are stating where they stand by choosing whether or not to acknowledge minorities (immigrants, refugees, the LGBT community, non-whites, etc.) as people. Many of them are choosing to go against Love’s way, and so many of you are cheering them on.

Friends, we’re either Jesus followers, or we aren’t.

I love you all so very much — so deeply! My heart is aching to hear your words of anger, hate, and fear! I’m broken knowing that I’m now separated from you.

I’m grieving today knowing that I’m choosing to walk away from you. I’m dropping stones and crossing to the other side like so many other Jesus followers have done.

I stand with Love. I cannot ignore the faces of the outcasts. I cannot ignore the face of Jesus. I’m saddened if you disagree.

“I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother hungry or cold, when you saw a sister weak and without friends, when you saw the least of these and ignored their suffering, so you ignored Me.” – Jesus

Inscription on the Statue of Liberty, by Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

YOU are not your body!

Unfortunately, links in this post will be classified as NSFW

Society has robbed you of who you are. They say you’re too fat, too skinny, too whatever…

Somehow you are your body.

Impressions of ourselves have been cheapened by the opinions of corporations marketing goods.

It’s still taboo in many cultures to be naked in public, but commonplace in so many other societies around the world. Those cultures (and some places stateside — I live in such a place now) view nonsexual nudity -without- using a sexual lens — rightly so.

The purpose of this post isn’t to debate nudity, generate “shock value,” or convince anyone that public nudity isn’t wrong, but I’ll briefly explain how my perspective has changed.

I honestly don’t take issue with public nudity; it isn’t offensive to me.

I’ve matured in my thinking and met people who’ve challenged me to think differently.

Growing up I viewed nudity with an “objectifying” eye. Seeing a naked person was a sexual thing for me. It’s why pornography found its place on my computer screen, like millions of other screens all over the world.

When a person is photographed, or painted in a sexually objectifying manner, a line is crossed; that’s pornography. That’s when a naked person has been dehumanized — many times against their own will or knowledge.

I absolutely believe that publically exposing yourself for the purpose of being seen by others in a sexual manner is wrong.

Discretion and knowing the company you’re with is a must.

A naked person in a traditional sauna, on a designated beach, in a Korean bathhouse, breastfeeding a baby, a nonsexual photograph or video, beautiful artwork, etc. shouldn’t be used for objectification or as a means to sexual fulfillment. Clothing on a person in this sense is irrelevant to the fact that they are a person; their naked body isn’t to provide you with a peep show.

— Moving On —

I’ve read a few articles of people — mostly women — who’ve had the courage to stand up for themselves — for real beauty!

This article is about 8 moms who visited a beach — going “mostly naked.” It’s a wonderful testimony of new moms rebutting the adage that “stretchmarks and muffin tops are nasty,” “big hips and thighs are unattractive,” and “only skinny is pretty.”

I love how these women not only shed their clothes in public — having found their true value and identity — but they also threw their inhibitions to the wind posing for a group picture!

Articles about someone learning to love their real self are inspiring!

These are exhilarating “I get it” moments; times when a person realizes that their body is just that, a body.

Celebrating that moment with a topless group picture on a beach tells me that something magical just happened within their minds! They’ve just learned a person is so much more than a body.

That’s incredible, they’re incredible, and I wish with everything in me that the rest of the breathing world would also “get it” by breaking the mental connection of nudity and sex.

In the appropriate moment, that connection is a wonderful thing, but in public, it’s certainly not an invitation for you to objectify anyone.

Recently I came across the fascinating story of Essena O’Neill (website). She also has a couple of Youtube videos on her website telling her story (this one is my fav).

From the age of 12, Essena idolized models. By the time she was 19, she had a full blown modelling career of her own.

She spent hours retaking hundreds of selfies for her Instagram just to “get the right one,” and “all of them were fake.”

She sucked in her tummy, wore push-up bras, and posed just the right way to get exactly what she and her sponsors wanted; a beautifully accentuated body.

She’s since deleted all of her social media pictures because “they aren’t real.” Now, in breach of contract, she’s quit modeling. Being a “real person” living a “real life in the real world” is more important to her.

From skinny models, to new moms —  poor self image is reeking havoc on people everywhere — especially on women. It’s wrong, it’s disgusting, and as a male feminist it really pisses me off!

The self-consciousness only exists because our minds have been warped to conform to society’s perception of what’s acceptable.

Why do ladies feel like they have to conform to the cookie cutter mold that society says they do?

It’s a massive grievance for companies to get rich making you feel like you don’t measure up.

Is it wrong for a mother to breastfeed her baby in public? Is it wrong for a woman to celebrate a breakthrough by realizing, as a person, she is more than a body?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Whether or not you celebrate by shedding your bikini (or even move from a sweatshirt to a bikini), hear my words: YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY! 

Your job isn’t to insure that others aren’t viewing your body in an objectifying manner. That error is on them to work out!

You are a wonderfully made, exquisite soul, complete with skin.

— You are beautiful exactly the way you are! —

Don’t waste your life being concerned how others view your skin — it’s not worth your time or stress.

Your skin is a trivial part of who you are!

Love your body, love yourself, be yourself — and celebrate those who have the courage to do the same!

Below are some articles related to this subject that I wanted to share (NSFW): 
1. http://aplus.com/a/megan-jayne-bodyposipanda

2. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-21182/how-8-new-moms-learned-to-love-their-bodies-photo.html

3. http://www.letsbegamechangers.com/

4. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/femail/video-1092814/Photographer-captures-beauty-mothers-stunning-series.html

5. http://metro.co.uk/2015/11/02/public-health-england-encourages-mums-to-break-down-barriers-and-breastfeed-in-public-5475815/

6. http://www.buzzfeed.com/southerndisposition/25-historical-images-that-normalize-breastfeeding-jlw6#.bqzk49Aar

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.

The Wrong Gospel

Was I really that person? Did I really think that way?

There once was a lady who had feet that were a knotted mess. Her feet looked that way not because of any sort of disease, but because she refused to take good shoes from the incoming donations in the community in which she served. Instead, she would dig through the piles of shoes until she found the worst pair available. She didn’t want those in need to be stuck with the worst pair. So, many years of being selfless took their toll on her feet. Her name was Mother Teresa, and these are her feet.

mother-teresa-feet

I think they’re beautiful. They perfectly capture what the actual gospel looks like. Mother Teresa’s name will live forever; not because she was better than anyone else but because she loved better than most.

There are a handful of people in history who have done so, and all of their names go unforgotten; names like:

Mahatma Gandhi
Martin Luther King
Nelson Mandela
Oskar Schindler
and of course, Mother Teresa

They cared more for others than they did for themselves. Their lives are filled with acts of defiance bravery, selflessness, and love for others.

They took a stand against the status quo – the mainstream trains of thought. They were compassionate, defenders of the innocent, a voice against injustice, keepers of the homeless, friends of the poor, and provided refuge to the outcast.

For some, it cost them their lives – the others wasted their lives for this cause. They lived the gospel.

That sounds a lot like the Jesus I’ve read about.

They lived his life within their own – “To live is Christ.” Did they walk an aisle and pray a “sinner’s prayer?” I don’t know, and quite frankly I don’t care.

I no longer stand by the modern ideas of salvation. I think they chose the gospel that so many of us have forgotten today. Today we have a newer gospel, and it looks nothing like the one any of those people (including Jesus) lived out.

The Prosperity Gospel is a sham. It’s wrong, and it’s captivating the hearts of millions of Christians.  The only people getting rich from it are the mega-church leaders making that shit up.

We’re so deep in consumerism that we’ve completely lost sight of the gospel that Jesus lived.

Look, I’m not saying that working 9-5 and paying your bills is bad. I’m saying that there is a divide between the American Dream and the Jesus gospel. It’s a chasm that millions are trying desperately to jump across – to the wrong side of.

sheep

That leads me back to my original two questions: Was I really that person? Did I really think that way? Well, yes I was, and I did.

The Prosperity Gospel is appealing because it provides Christians a way to be both “saved” and “blessed.” The blessed life that Jesus spoke of wasn’t one that lands you the newer/better paying job, allows your favorite player to catch the game-winning touchdown pass, or provides you with that $400/month car lease.

Being a Jesus follower requires your life to be transformed. It requires you to look like him; to do the things he did.

But that isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t sell, so instead we have pastors teaching that putting your best foot forward, staying positive, and giving them money will revolutionize your life. By “life” they mean that you’ll magically receive whatever you’ve been reaching for – health, wealth, etc.

As if somehow money leaving your bank account and going into theirs – or their ministry’s – will buy you a miracle.

How in the hell did we get here? How did this become equated with living like Jesus?

How cheap we’ve made his life and the life of those that have lived as he did. It’s no wonder that Christianity has no appeal to those outside of it. We’ve prostituted the Bride of Jesus to the highest bidder, and sold her off as a cheap whore.

The Prosperity Gospel doesn’t have room for selflessness. It’s a consumerist model that only gives birth to selfish hearts.

Christians today are so caught up in this whirlwind – like I was – and fighting about whose theology is right that they’ve become irrelevant.

They’ve even begun fighting about how to be relevant!

Modern Christianity as it appears today is a lost cause in my book. I can’t side with it any longer, and I can’t afford to waste any more time debating the Bible – especially when it’s become a breeding ground for hate, intolerance, and manufactured doctrine.

Instead, I’m choosing to live like Jesus did. I’m choosing to be selfless like Mother Teresa was.

I want to defend the persecuted – and if that means I’m defending those being persecuted by Christians that don’t look like Jesus, so be it.

You may not see it, but there’s a line being drawn in the sand – not by me, but by humanity. This complete disconnect has to be rectified. The side on which you stand is up to you.

I choose Jesus – I choose humanity – I choose Love.

“The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it.” – Steve Jobs

Love Thy Neighbor

Refugees…there are tens of thousands of them – like right now, desperately trying to escape the grip of war. These are people – men, women, boys, girls, young, and old. They’ve been peddling along trying to live their lives as normally as possible. When all of a sudden, a bunch of extremists get together and decide it’s time for a new genocide. #refugees #hereticallove

In this photo provided by UNHCR officials and taken on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. Syrian refugees cross the border toward Iraq at Peshkhabour border point at Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has set up an emergency transit camp in Irbil, where around 2,000 refugees are camping out and UNHCR officials say some thousands of refugees have been streaming into northern Iraq, many coming across a newly-constructed pontoon bridge over the Tigris River at Peshkhabour. (AP Photo/HO)
(AP Photo/HO)

Refugees…there are tens of thousands of them – like right now, desperately trying to escape the grip of war. These are people – men, women, boys, girls, young, and old. They’ve been peddling along trying to live their lives as normally as possible, when all of a sudden, a bunch of extremists get together and decide it’s time for a new genocide.

We’ve seen this before, and sadly, Christians have been the cause of most – not all – of them. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, break out an Encyclopedia (or read here), and look up what happened in the Crusades, the Holocaust, heck even the extermination of Native Americans.

It’s not a pretty history for any of the culprits involved, but it’s happening again at the hands of the radicalists that are known as ISIS.

If these refugees met the stereotypical qualifications – you know: white, and European people – Americans would be singing a different tune. Unfortunately, they’re not any of those things.

These folks happen to be Muslims. Because of that, a solid portion of the American population – Christians no less – are completely resolved to letting them rot in the streets of Europe. Helping Muslims is simply out of the question.

They could be terrorists disguised as normal people! They’re all probably suicide bombers just trying to sneak in our borders to murder us in our sleep.

Right, that’s one way to avoid being a person. That’s not the only garbage excuses I’ve heard either.

Case in point, one of the many pictures I’ve seen floating around on fellow “Christian” Facebook pages in recent days:

borders

 

This kind of thinking absolutely disgusts me! It’s wrong on so many different levels. It’s incredible to hear the same people spouting off about being pro-life screaming even louder, “Death to Muslims!”

The hypocrisy and double-mindedness is thick, and it stinks! It smells like shit, and it shows the rest of the world just what they already knew about the Jesus these hypocrites represent.

The American version is a gun-toting asshole that could care less about others; especially others that believe differently than what the American church allows. Let that sink in a minute…

Can you actually see Jesus decked out in camouflage, AK-47 slung over his shoulder ready to fire at any refugee/Muslim that may try to cross a border for safety?

Nope. You can’t. That’s the answer you’re looking for. At least that’s the answer staring back at me when I look at Jesus.

Jesus never once instructed anyone to hate their neighbor. He never said to leave those in need hungry, thirsty, and without shelter. He never said to build a bigger wall around your borders to keep the less fortunate out [*ahem* Republican candidates].

Rather, Jesus was really good about loving others. Before the automatic picture of Jesus loving someone that looks like you pops in your head,

Jesus-Christ-Wallpapers
let me stop you. Instead, let me paint the picture of Jesus that is far less common.

Jesus, who spent a good portion of his time homeless, smelled. He was dirty, sweaty, and probably reeked of fish. The company that Jesus kept also replicated this. He and his disciples didn’t go to work every day inside of a mega-church preparing the weekend’s sermon, music, and video announcements for consumers/spectators that were just like them. They slept in the dirt (or mud when it rained), fished for their food, befriended prostitutes and tax collectors, and hid from the mega-church leadership (they were called Pharisees back then).

Jesus also defended the sexually promiscuous, the divorced, and even helped a Roman soldier’s daughter. Jesus, the one that was supposed to be the king to liberate the Jews from Rome’s grip, was showing love and mercy to their greatest enemy; the enemy the Jews feared and despised hated the most.

Another instance I think about is when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, and the Roman soldiers went to take Jesus into custody. Peter grabbed a sword and cut off the guard’s ear. Jesus could have easily put up a fight and possibly escaped, provided his disciples could hold them off, but he didn’t. In fact, he called Peter off and scolded him for fighting.

Then, Jesus did the unthinkable! He showed kindness and love to the arresting (now earless) soldier!

He. Was. Love. To. The. Freaking. E-N-E-M-Y! 

I know national security is important, but at the cost of likely innocent lives trying desperately to escape an enemy? I have a hard time with that. Also, it’s difficult for me to consider the refugees as our potential enemies when they’re obviously being slaughtered by ISIS.

I don’t see them looking at ISIS with a smile and a wink. I see sheer horror on their faces.

homeless-jesus

If we are truly Jesus followers, how can we possibly consider taking a stance that differs from his?

Let me help you again. We can’t.

It cannot be a part of who we claim to be, and if it is, then please quit referring to yourself as a Jesus follower when you’re not.

Love requires sacrifice. Love requires selflessness. Love requires kindness. Love will never be the wrong choice even if you get hurt in the process. Love will never be filled with regret. Loving people – even if they don’t look, think, or believe like you do – will “never fail.”

Love will sleep in the dirt, defend the persecuted, and show mercy to its greatest enemy.

Also, just because someone labels him/herself as “Muslim” doesn’t make them your enemy. That’s just another bad excuse to not be who you claim to be.

Be like Jesus – be filled with Love – show it to your neighbors around the world. Go “love thy neighbor.”