LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows and Orphans – Part 1

DISCLAIMER:

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

LGBTQ:

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

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

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

Nevertheless, I relented.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends, may I encourage you to do the same?

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

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

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

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

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

America, The Beautiful

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

PREFACE:

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

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

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

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

America, The Beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Conversation Done Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIM:
Definitely, continuing the conversation would be great!

MY TAKEAWAY:

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

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

The Baby and The Bathwater

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

Last night she was right again.

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

Last night she was right again.

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

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

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

Damnit, that stings!

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

To those I’ve offended:

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

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

RIGHT THE SHIP

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

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

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

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

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

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

To those on a spiritual journey:

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

My repentance:

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

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

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

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

Embrace Your Journey

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

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

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

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

 

Before you begin…

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

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

 

To start with…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mid-journey…

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

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

 

The end…

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

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

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

NOT ALONE

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

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

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

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

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

Deconstructing Faith – Part 2

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

Deconstructing Faith – Part 1 can be found here.

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

https://youtu.be/zXSVgmDAll4

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

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

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

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

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

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

I questioned the Bible.

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

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

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

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

Wait. Should any of the Bible be interpreted literally?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ouch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Now I can sleep at night.

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

Deconstructing Faith – Part 1

I don’t know what the ramifications of writing this series of posts will be, but I honestly don’t care. My website is called “Heretical Love” for a reason.

Many of you know that I’ve been on a spiritual journey. I’m sure you’ve at least gathered as much by reading some of my posts either here or on Facebook. There’s a lot that I’ve learned, and a lot more that I’ve unlearned. I don’t know what the ramifications of writing this series of posts will be, but I honestly don’t care. My website is called “Heretical Love” for a reason. Please know that I know there are churches out there doing great things and helping lots of people. I’m just not onboard with it anymore.

deconstruct

It all started a couple of years ago when Lindsey and I read a book. The book, titled “Pagan Christianity” written by Frank Viola, forced me to think outside of my comfort zone. I hated it in the beginning. Lindsey can attest that I would interrupt her from reading the book aloud, sigh often, or just throw my hands up in the air in protest. That’s when it occurred to me that I wasn’t approaching this with a teachable mindset…like, at all. So, to avoid repeating the agony that was experienced in the reading of the Table of Contents, I decided to change my mindset for the actual book. Turns out, Frank had done his research. The information and historical background that he provides to our modern version of Christianity was invigorating. I honestly found myself floored by all of it!

Why hadn’t I heard any of this before? Why was I a full-time minister, and how had I come to that place without ever knowing any of this history? It’s simple, really. I was raised and taught what my parents were raised and taught what their parents were raised and taught. By the time I reached full-time ministry, like most of my family and friends before me, I was part of a well-oiled machine. I didn’t need to know any of the modern church’s history (or at least very little of it); I just needed to know how I fit in the machine.

After finishing the book, I realized that there is a drastic difference between the American church (the organized institutions) and The Church (the Bride of Christ, the organism). Now, I had always heard pastors say something like, “The building isn’t the church! If it ain’t happening outside of these 4 walls, we’re doing something wrong!”, but the disconnect from the organization wasn’t ever made. In other words, this building may be called 1st National Church of Divinity, but outside these walls we’re still 1st National Church of Divinity – the organized institution, not The Church. All of this may not be a big “AHA!” moment for you, but it was for me.

Here’s why: Jesus never referred to his Bride as the 1st National Church of Divinity. He never said, “Go therefore and build buildings, collect ye their tithes, pay thine pastors, woo unbelievers into thine programs!” That’s absolutely ridiculous.

In Jesus’ tenure they never promoted him and put a pulpit in front of him. He was homeless. Paul’s (failed) attempt to supply the Church of Jerusalem through tithing was his idea. Cherry-picking the Bible to formulate a prosperity gospel through the damaging idea of tithing – or for any other reason – is wrong; however, giving freely of yourself to those in need isn’t. I have M-A-S-S-I-V-E issues with a “non-profit” taking in and redistributing more money to and amongst themselves than they what they give to those actually in need.

spending-priorities-of-Jesus

After reading Pagan Christianity, a few other books, and knowing what the Bible says – or doesn’t say – I decided that I could no longer continue collecting a salary working as a full-time pastor for reasons of conscience. Also, Jesus is completely capable of wooing his Bride unto himself! He doesn’t need the help of the 1st National Church of Divinity. He doesn’t need them strategically planning to target a group of 30 year old single moms with 2 1/2 kids. That’s called stalking, and Jesus would likely be quite jealous to find out how they’re attempting to steal his Girl. He just said to love her. Quit picking and choosing, and just love her. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t look like you, speak the same language, worship God (or the same god) as you, if she’s atheist, or even in your same city/state/nation. NONE OF THAT IS YOUR CONCERN. Love her. Take care of her. That is all.

I could go on for days telling you more about what I’ve learned/unlearned after reading Pagan Christianity, but I’d rather continue with my story and have you read it for yourself. If you care to waken from your sleep, to become conscious of the machine you’ve been in your entire life, if you want to know that the matrix exists in the form of the 1st National Church of Divinity, read Pagan Christianity. Read it with your arms laid down, with a teachable mind, and with vigor to know who you truly are.

Quote from the movie “The Matrix”:
“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Part 2 and beyond of my story requires the red pill.

the-matrix

 

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.”

Humanity at Home

The Pope is coming to the “City of Brotherly Love.” It’s a really big deal for a lot of Americans, and a particularly big deal for the homeless community. Wait…what? The homeless community? That’s right, the homeless folks. Why is this such a big deal for the homeless? I’m glad you’ve asked! I’ll elaborate.

Most Americans are able to stroll through their mundane lives every day without having to give much thought or attention to anyone else outside of their circle. They wake up, shower, maybe eat a little breakfast, pick up their $5 coffee on their way to work, punch in and out, and head home. Granted, there may be some variety in there somewhere, but the storyline is predictable.

There’s another side to America that many prefer not to think about. On the other side of the tracks, these folks wake up in their cardboard box (or tent if they’re lucky), gather what little belongings they have, and head toward their most profitable street corner to lay down their dignity and pride to beg for food, money, or a ride somewhere. These are the homeless people. The vast majority of these people don’t have the comforts of taking a hot shower much less eating a meal or being so frivolous as to spend $5 on a cup of coffee. Somewhere along the way, life threw them a curveball, and they struck out. Sadly, we’re not as far removed from their lifestyle as we think we are.

Life could very well throw any of us that same curveball, and one way or another we could end up warming ourselves by a fire-in-a-barrel under the bridge with them. I know right now you think it’s frustrating to have to sit and wait 20 minutes for a table to come available at your favorite restaurant, but imagine waiting for hours in the wind, rain, snow, or ice to eat a meal at a soup kitchen. Imagine having to stand in line for hours hoping for a one night stay in a shelter with a bed and pillow under your head, only to be the next person in line to be let in but the first person turned away because they’re “at capacity.” Imagine the smell radiating from your body because you can’t remember the last time you had a shower. Men, imagine not being able to shave your face – ladies, your legs and armpits – for months, even years! Imagine lice, bed bugs, flies and pests relentlessly bombarding you and you having no way to find relief. Imagine having to drink dirty rain water from the side of a street curb just to quench your thirst.

Now, imagine doing all of that with your children by your side.

That’s the reality of the American homeless community. They’re scattered all over the United States, and some cities are better to their homeless people than others. The reality of their condition remains the same for most, however. I’m sure some of what I’ve described may sound like a stretch, but I can assure you it’s not. I’ve worked full-time at a homeless mission, and I know first hand how very real all of what I’ve told you really is.

I have a bone to pick with you, Church (you – the one reading this article – not the 1st National Church of Divinity on the corner lot). If you think it’s okay to ignore the person holding the piece of cardboard with something scribbled on it, you’re wrong; it isn’t (don’t worry, I have my hand raised too. I’ve been guilty of this). I know how it goes. You see the homeless person standing at the corner, and the light turns yellow, then red too quickly, and you’re stuck at the light. Now it’s the task of trying not to make eye contact with this person. Otherwise, they may approach you and ask you for money. They probably want it for booze and cigarettes (0r worse), and I’m not going to give anyone any of my paycheck-to-paycheck income. I have bills to pay and kids to feed too, you know… Yep, I know. You can see how easily that scenario was typed on to this page. I completely understand, and you’re absolutely wrong.

My wife – Lindsey – and I were talking with our (then 6 and 7 year old) kids one day about God meeting needs. They had been memorizing Philippians 4:19. When my wife asked them how God meets the needs of others, we received a reply from our 7 year old son that we didn’t anticipate. You see, Lindsey and I are now in our 30’s. We’ve been around the Spiritual Block a few times. We know all of the “right” answers to give on any given topic. In this case, we would have said that God meets the needs through faith, prayer, miracles, hard work, etc. These are all of the “right” answers. My kids aren’t polluted with all of that yet, so Ryan gave a more honest (and correct in my opinion) answer to that question. When we asked, Ryan replied, “God uses people.”

Us: …

Us 5 seconds later – staring at eachother: …

Us when it registered: Uh, yes!

God uses people to meet the needs of others. Do we pray, have faith, work hard, hope for a miracle? Absolutely, but in the end, it’s people that help in our time of need. We may have that miraculous check appear in our mailbox when we need it most, food may show up on our table, or our electric bill may get paid in full at just the right moment, but God didn’t hack the system and fudge the numbers to make any of that happen; people did it out of their own good will.

I’m rallying behind the homeless mothers with their children living in the parks of Philly awaiting the Pope’s arrival. I’m figuratively standing alongside my hairy/unbathed brothers crying out for humanity. Church (you – the one reading this article – not the 1st National Church of Divinity on the corner lot), it’s time to show Love to these people. It’s time to quit shirking your responsibilities to be Jesus to the least onto the shoulders of the government. It’s ridiculous that the government has to take a stand to be humanitarians at home because The Church (you – the one reading this article – not the 1st National Church of Divinity on the corner lot) refuses to do anything but ignore Her brothers and sisters. I don’t buy the stories anymore. I can’t sit back and listen to one more person say, “I can’t afford it” when they’re blowing $400/month on a car lease, $5/day on coffee, $100/month on TV service, and whatever other luxuries our paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle provides.

That’s not Jesus. Allow me to remind you who Jesus was. He “had no place to lie his head.” He said, “true religion is caring for the widows and the orphans.” He told the rich man to, “…go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Jesus wasn’t telling the rich man that money was bad. He was telling him that he cared more about his money than he did about others. Jesus wanted him to learn what it truly looked like to love someone more than himself, so he extended an invitation to the rich man; give your money to the least, and I’ll show a life filled with love. The rich man decided to stare at the red light waiting anxiously for it to turn green so he could drive away.

Pope Francis

Since the majority of Americans identify with the Catholic faith, the Pope’s visit is a momentous occasion. The homeless community see it that way too, but they’re crying out for Pope Francis to use his voice to rebuke the Church (you – the one reading this article – not the 1st National Church of Divinity on the corner lot). They’re believing God to meet their needs through faith, prayer, miracles, hard work, etc., but the reality is – to say it as my son did – “God uses people.” Go be Love to them.