Our Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, we listened.

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

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

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

Righting The Ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sea of Bodies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear me now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safe Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not about them anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear Is A Bitch.

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

Existential angst. A Western luxury?

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

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

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

— Fear —

It’s everywhere.

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

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

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

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

Why? Control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a feminist.

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t believe Jesus was supernatural.

I don’t believe in the “end times.”

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

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

I swear… a lot.

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

Fear is a bitch.

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

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

Let’s go through one final exercise.

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

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

Governments are a bitter memory existing only in history books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What feelings did that conjure up?

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

#lovewins

Fear, Love, and The Forgotten Jesus

Love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You get the point.

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

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

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

But then, Love.

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

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

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

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

Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Love,

David Dietz

Red-Letter Story

In my past life, I was a Worship Pastor. A lot has changed since then, but my love for music hasn’t.

I just finished writing a song (video & lyrics below) about this journey, and I want to share it with you. I gave away all of my recording equipment when I started this journey, so please forgive its raw nature.

First, a little background…

I have had much to say on the subject of “my journey” I’ve been on for the last couple of years.

I’m convinced that the life of Jesus trumps whatever else we may concoct during our spiritual lifetimes. It’s learning that which brought me to the place I am now.

I no longer worry about the battles and struggles over “grace vs. truth,” “sin vs. mercy,” or “love vs. death.”

The “truth” is that Jesus was “Love,” “grace,” and “mercy.” Arguing over anything regarding the Bible is a waste of time, in my opinion, and I’m weary of it.

I don’t have the energy to “define sin,” or anything else along those lines.

“Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

If we all die and there isn’t anything beyond this life, I’ll die happy knowing that I wasted my life loving everyone. Honestly, that’s all that matters to me anymore.

Enduring the twists and turns of this journey caused me to question everything I’ve ever learned spiritually.

I don’t regret a bit of it.

In my “Deconstructing Faith” series, I elaborate more on that. The message I’m trying to convey in all of these posts is that it’s not worth getting bent on trivial conclusions about the Bible.

I think, as Jesus followers, if we were all really honest, we’d admit that we’d follow him anywhere — even if it were counter-biblical to do so.

That’s where I’m at. I feel that much of Jesus’ life is counter-biblical, and he’s more important in the end. But I can’t pretend that this is a happy, fun, or even crowded place to be.

Living out his life is a lonely place. It’s a painful place. But it’s the right place.

For those on a similar journey, I’m still here. I’ve loved being a part of your lives and having a window to your journey. If you’d like to share your story with me, please visit my “Contact Me” page, and shoot me an email. I’d love to get to know you more!

Red-Letter Story:

On this dark and lonely highway
My mind is fixed on you
You said come and do it my way
Walk a mile in my shoes

I’ve been walking it seems like forever
And I’m not making any ground
It’s getting cold out in this November
But I refuse to turn around

There’s graffiti all around me
With words resembling you
And the art is captivating
But the story isn’t true

I feel your love now burning inside me
Should I paint it on all these walls
Do I tell your red-letter story
Or not say anything at all

What do I say to the face of my enemy
Knowing that you would love them as you love me

I feel your love now burning inside me
Should I paint it on all these walls
Do I tell your red-letter story
Or not say anything at all

With your love now burning inside me
I’m gonna paint it on all these walls
Compelled to live your red-letter story
I can’t be silent anymore

Compelled to live your red-letter story
I can’t be silent anymore

BONUS! I just remembered this song I wrote about 3 years ago. It seemed even then that there was something in me about Jesus’ name being equated to “Love.” I didn’t realize at the time how much that would mean to me. At any rate, enjoy!

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.”

Equality in Leadership

This is a topic that has gone through a complete transfiguration in my mind over the last few years — a change for the better. I can’t tell you how much sexism gets under my skin now. To me, it’s worse than having shards of wood shoved under my fingernails.

Even as a young boy, I defended girls. A buddy and I saw a boy picking on a group of girls once. They were screaming at him to leave them alone. He was a known bully on the playground, so my friend and I went over there and took care of the problem by kicking his ass — that wasn’t the best choice either. I should have let the teachers know what was going on.

We were brought into the Principal’s office and asked why we beat him up. We told the principal what happened, and he thanked us and sent us on our way. The bully was spanked and sent back to class.

Most of those girls are still good friends of mine to this day.

Fast forward to the present, and I’m still the same boy, just older and equipped with a fully developed frontal lobe. Don’t get me wrong, I’d happily step in and defend a woman at any given moment, but I wouldn’t likely default to “ass-whoopin’ mode” without trying words first.

So, here I am — using my words…

I’ve always been for equality where women are concerned, save church leadership; let’s be honest, what I really mean is the Senior Pastor title.

As far back as our human history goes, women have been subservient to men. There are a million reasons why, but I’ll focus on just a few.

Women are typically smaller and physically weaker than men. In early history, this fact placed men over women as leaders for reasons of wellbeing. Men were the caretakers of women — protectors. Men were bigger, stronger, faster; able to ward off danger.

Due to modernization, that changed. The world developed and strengthened through advances in shelters and dwellings, self defense, and technology. Today, women largely have nothing to fear that would require the presence of a male for security.

Men have also ruled because of knowledge and education. Women have historically been associated with inferiority in philosophical, medical and religious traditions primarily due to the unavailability of education to them. That’s changed in recent history.

Thankfully, most of the world has discovered that women are more than capable of learning and leading.

But I’d like to focus on a point I mentioned above — religious traditions. Only in this living generation’s time period have we seen women allowed into clergy roles, generally speaking.

I’m so grateful that there are many churches getting it right on this issue. My purpose in bringing this topic up isn’t to say “there aren’t any churches getting it right.” That’s not true, and I congratulate those doing so.

I do, however, think that all churches ought to continually evaluate their employment and opportunity policies regarding women.

To say that women can volunteer only in certain places of the church, be employed in the Children’s Department, Worship Ministry, or some place other than the Senior Pastor’s position is an injustice.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that men and women can work side-by-side in those areas of the church, and they should! I think this is one way that churches are getting it right!

But when it comes to women being elders, deacons, or the Senior Pastor, most churches are missing the mark.

 

History Lesson:

Paul wrote a couple of key letters that Christians often reference regarding women in church leadership. The first was the letter he wrote to the people of Corinth. The second was the first letter he wrote to Timothy.

To the Corinthians, he wrote, “Wives should be respectfully silent at the gatherings, as they are not allowed to speak; and they should yield themselves to those in authority just as it is written in the law. When they want to learn anything in particular, they should ask their husbands when they get home. It creates a shameful situation for them to speak at church.”

To Timothy, “Now, Timothy, it’s not my habit to allow women to teach in a way that wrenches authority from a man. As I said, it’s best if a woman learns quietly and orderly. This is because Adam was formed first by God, then Eve. Plus, it wasn’t Adam who was tricked; it was she—the woman was the one who was fooled and disobeyed God’s command first. Still, God, in His faithfulness, will deliver her through childbearing as long as she remains in faith and love and holiness with self-restraint.”

Paul wrote to the Corinthians in reply to a letter they’d written him. They wanted to know what to do when women interrupted their gatherings. Women hadn’t been allowed to worship inside the temple before as men had. Now they were playing catchup learning the elementary things that men had learned from childhood.

Paul’s reply was specifically to the Church at Corinth. He didn’t give this instruction to any other church he had established. In this reply, he wasn’t saying “women aren’t allowed in leadership.” Rather, he was instructing husbands to fill in the blanks with their wives at home so they were all on the same page when meeting together. In other words, teach the elementary things to your wives at home, so the rest of the time you can all be home in time to watch football.

There’s too much to cover here regarding the letter to Timothy, but I’ll send you here and here to read more.

For me, the portion written to Timothy boils down to poor interpretations and cultural perspective.

If Paul didn’t want women in leadership, he should have fully considered that before placing Junia, Euodia, Syntche and Priscilla in it.

 

Today’s culture doesn’t match the Corinthian, Ephesian, Roman, Colossian, or any other culture 2000 years ago. The likelihood of Paul writing the same instructions to us today as he wrote to those is nil.

Heck, he didn’t even give the same instructions to each of those cultures then!

I firmly believe that it’s time for women to lead!

If women can be doctors, lawyers, President, Prime Minister, CEOs, scientists, etc., it’s time they’re given the Senior Pastor role when applicable. There are so many women out there who are smarter, wiser, and better equipped to serve as the Senior Pastor of a church than many men are.

There are also women who could enhance elder boards and deacon ministries if given the opportunity to do so!

What if equality — not just gender equality — was something the Church took ownership of? What if it became a staple issue that was made a non-issue the world over?

What if equality was equated to loving others passionately, expressively, recklessly, completely, unconditionally — regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or gender? What if we got that part of the Gospel right?

Selfless Holidays

There’s an annual battle that takes place around this time of year. One that has the appearance of good but never actually accomplishes anything. The war waged is Christians versus The World — sometimes it’s really just Christians vs. Christians.

It’s really easy to get caught up in the battle, especially on social media.

The narrative is all too familiar: “keeping Christ in Christmas.”

It sounds great, but the problem is that he never left Christmas. Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Simple, period, end of story.

Digging a bit deeper, you’ll find other religions and nonreligious celebrating this season in their own ways, and that’s where the battlelines are blurred.

People celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanza, or perhaps those just celebrating joy, love, and peace, are often times found in the crosshairs of particular Christian groups.

These folks aren’t trying to “steal Christmas,” or even “remove Christ” from Christmas — as if that is something that could actually be achieved. They’re simply enjoying the holiday season just like the majority of Christians do — buying gifts for one another, spending time with close friends and family, and my favorite, gorging on ridiculous amounts of food!

As I’ve mentioned in my other posts, people of faith — no matter what faith they’ve chosen — are typically sold-out believers in it. Just as earnestly as Christians believe in Jesus, other religions and nonreligious have reached their own conclusions.

The last thing any of us need is to ruin this special time of year by forcing our beliefs on others. I feel we’d all be better served by focussing our energy in other ways.

According to my Googling, in the United States there are:
610,042 people homeless on any given night,
48,100,000 living in food-insecure homes,
and 400,000 children in our foster care system.

IN THE UNITED STATES (1)

There’s been a very particular chapter of Scripture on my mind in recent months. You’ve seen it in my other writings, but it applies here as well.

1 Corinthians 13:1, “What if I speak in the most elegant languages of people or in the exotic languages of the heavenly messengers, but I live without love? Well then, anything I say is like the clanging of brass or a crashing cymbal.”

The noise from crashing cymbals today is deafening!

I created the meme above when I learned of a person on Facebook “starting a movement to keep Christ in Christmas.” This person was offended that Starbucks’ new holiday cups were just plain red — void of snowflakes, reindeer, and trees. It’s precisely what I’m talking about when I referred to crashing cymbals, and it makes my skin crawl.

I never expected my meme to go viral, but it did, and I’m glad of it. Perhaps this post will go viral as well. I certainly hope so.

I propose that this holiday season we come up with some creative solutions to reduce the given statistics above.

I’ll start:

  1. Fill and give a purse or backpack with items helpful for homeless people. Here are some suggestions.
  2. Wear a coat that you can part with, and physically take it off and put it on a homeless person.
  3. Load your trunk with umbrellas to give to homeless people when you see them.
  4. Have your church “adopt” a homeless person (or homeless family), and make sure they have a roof over their heads and hot meals to eat.
  5. Much like #4, reach out to homes that you know won’t have a holiday meal, and provide them with one — or better yet, invite them to yours!
  6. Offer to buy someone’s groceries in the check-out line at your grocery store.
  7. Volunteer at a foster care group home.
  8. Become a foster care parent.
  9. Tip generously — when dining out, visiting a bar or coffee shop, getting your nails done, getting a tattoo or piercing, or getting a haircut. These folks could use all the help they can get! I know… I used to be one of them.
  10. Be Santa. Buy gifts for kids in need, and make this a holiday they won’t ever forget.

Instead of adding to the noise this season, I’m proposing we start a different movement. One that can forever change the way we view the holidays — a movement of loving our neighbors.

That’s one I can get behind, and it’s one that can go beyond the holiday season. Submit your ideas in the comment section below or on social media!

Share this post using: #SelflessHolidays, and let’s be the change we so desperately need.

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