How I got here: Why a Conservative Christian Changed His Stance on Gay Marriageable

nyt-scotus-2015-largepromo-newcredit

Hello. My name is Fletch. I have something to say.

I, as a disciple of Christ, affirm gay marriage.

I have been asked how I could come to such a conclusion. How could someone who, in high school, was against same-sex marriage have their mind changed so drastically?

It all started when I went to college. People warned me about going to school. It would be a place where I would simply be force fed opinions and be left with no room to think for myself. The funny thing is that both my undergraduate and seminary have proven to do the exact opposite.

I learned a lot of things while attending college. Church history, Christian Theology, Biblical Theology, World Religions, Hermeneutics, psychology, how to write an effective and proficient exegesis of scripture, vestiges of the Trinity, the recapitulation of Christ, etc.

But do you know what was the most dangerous thing I learned in college?

I learned how to do research.

These are a few of the Facebook comments that ended up on my page after I shared my stance on same-sex marriage.

These are a few of the Facebook comments that ended up on my page after I shared my stance on same-sex marriage.

Many have asked me in my recent declaration in support of gay marriage to supply biblical evidence. I have refrained because I do not believe that the bible should simply be used to refute others or used in a cherrypicking way to prove a point. The bible is a dynamic narrative, and must be treated as such. It is part of the overall story with a contexts that needs to be taken into account. So, I will not pick a verse to prove a point, I will tell you, in brief, my journey toward this understanding.

I went through several stages in my understanding of same-sex attraction. I asked lots of questions in my research.

Is it a sin to be gay?
Does someone choose to be gay?
Does the context of those verses in the Old and New Testament really discuss monogamous relationships?

I was not content with being told what to believe anymore. So I began to do this research while talking with many friends, as I do not believe anyone person has the right to form an opinion on their own. It must be done in community and in dialogue.

So I began to talk with friends and my professors. We talked a long while. I learned that one of them had a son that was gay, another a daughter who was. But none of them left me with a simple answer like, “Well…what does the bible say?” If they did they would not have been good professors. My friends and I were not content with such answers either. I did have a few who refused to budged on their stance, but that was fine. They were still very valuable in their perspective. We are still friends and get together when we are near one another.

But I was not taught in school that same-sex attraction and acting on it behavior and acting on it was permissible. No. Never did a professor at the school of theology I attended ever tell me that it was permissible. They did however tell me to keep searching for truth. So I did.
They did not want to give me a quick answer. I knew that at this point of my college career there was so much more than going to class and getting lectured.

They showed me where to go to and how to find answers to topics such as this…

The library.

So I went there and began to read many, many books, from all sides of the issue.I read essays that made me cringe in their obvious biases and essays that were so poorly written (like this blog post) that I had to fight to find anything worth keeping. I read book after book about multiple perspectives. I found a good middle ground, but I did not stay there. That was my sophomore year of college. I was happy where I was settled on this issue. I thought I was done. But I was far from it.

I read a lot in school. It was very informative.

I also met many gay people in school, both men and women. Ate lunch with them, went for walks, talked to them, got to know them. The only difference between them and me was that I was attracted to someone of the opposite sex, and they were not. I began to really question my own thoughts on the matter. I remained vigilant in my research, and it was not until a couple years later that I would affirm same sex-marriage.

But I could not for the life of me simply accept that they were shrouded in sin for being gay. I needed to know more.

Where was I in my thinking as a junior in college?

I was welcoming, but not affirming.

I thought that acting on same-sex attraction was a sin, but being gay was not. It was only a sin as someone acted on their desires.

That was a safe place for me to be.

I began to be much more tolerant, loving, and accepting of those around me. I did not believe that being gay was a choice and not something someone could control. How did I come to this conclusion? I asked one of the psychology professors at my college who provider me with her research. She sent me papers on this topic of whether or not being gay was a choice. Yes I read essays that spoke against that viewpoint, but felt that it was laced with biased opinions. Regardless of whether or not I found the research compelling, I did not find it my right to decide whether or not being gay was a choice.

I concluded, however, that it was not a choice, and that my friends who were gay were then called by God to live a life of celibacy.

I felt that the passage in the New Testament affirmed what the Old Testament has said. That gay acts were sinful, but being gay was not.

That, again, was a safe place for me to be. I did not rattle too many cages as I made many pastors and mentors happy in knowing that I would still preach against acting on their same-sex attraction.

This was my senior year. But I couldn’t stop there. I had to do more research.

I wanted to look deeper into the same biblical passages that helped me draw my conclusion that being gay was not a sin, but the acts were sinful.

I did this research on and off until I finally had an opportunity to produce a paper on it in my masters of ministry program. My journey in actually studying this topic had made it close to 5 years. I did not wake up and instantly look at those texts differently. I began to look at it the way it was intended…with the eyes of those who first wrote them. Context became more key in my study.

What became interesting is that as I began to study the proof texts that I used to vehemently oppose same-sex attraction and action, I started to see what exactly was going on in the context of those passages when they were written.

These are those passages:

Genesis 19. Sodom and Gomorrah. Probably the most used proof text in opposition to same-sex attraction, behavior, and marriage. Many have come to view the sin of the residents of this village as sex with men. But that is a large misrepresentation of this passage. 

I believe the issue goes far deeper than the fact that these men desired to have sex with these two male visitors. The issue was inhospitality and rape. These villagers wanted to rape two men just coming for a visit. Next thing we read is that Lot offered his daughters to be rapped in their stead! The place of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitable, and judgement was reaped because the residents were more concerned about hedonism than serving God. Gods judgement was not in regard to same-sex attraction, but the desire to rape and be inhospitable to those around them. Remember when I said that the Bible is a narrative with a context? Check out Ezekiel 16 and tell me what you find to be the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The misuse of this passage is almost proof that many Christians want to isolate the issue of same-sex attraction by calling it a greater sin. It is easy to misrepresent a passage of scripture when your need to prove a point outweighs the need to understand the context in which it was written.

The issues within the Leviticus and Romans passages are also not about monogamous same sex relationships. The issue in Leviticus deals primarily with gender roles of that time. Engaging in homosexual acts was punishable by death because the man took a passive role. The issue was of ritual purity. In Romans the issue is not against monogamous same-sex relationships, but rather the gender roles of both men and woman being challenged. 1st Corinthians deals with acts of rape, not monogamous same-sex relationships.

If one takes time to look at the cultural context of the passages used to refute same-sex relationships, it is easy to see that they do not discuss same-sex attraction in the context we understand it today. The context today would be monogamous relationships, or marriages. The bible affirms monogamous same sex relationships.

Probably the most dangerous thing I was taught in school was how to do research and have educated conversations with those who disagreed with me. It has led myself, and many others, to come to the conclusion that same-sex relationships are not in conflict with scripture.

People will read this and still think that I am still missing the mark. That I am someone who is grabbing onto the coat tales of society and going for the ride. I came to these conclusions through prayer, dialogue, and careful research. I presented a different conclusion when I presented my paper in school. I played it safe. I didn’t want to rattle the cages.

But I continued to meet gay and lesbian people who serve Jesus in their local congregations, communities, and nonprofits. How could such people be shrouded in sin?

I do not buy it anymore.

But why did I decide to share my thoughts? What use is it? What could a straight, married, Christian have to gain from support such a cause? Could I have just continued to hold these affirmations and remain silent? Yes. I could have. Remaining silent, however, would not help anyone.

I have nothing to gain for sharing my affirmation. If anything, I have lost credibility. But I needed to share my stance. I needed people to know that they are not alone. We need more people who support this cause to come forward and support the LGBT community. There are still many issues that need to be brought to the public’s attention. Let’s continue to fight for equal rights. #lovewins

For more information, please go to www.hrc.org.

Advertisements

Indiana, Jesus, and Marriage Equality

One day I found myself driving to work and noticed several vehicles with the blue and yellow equal sign sticker. This sticker is a

photo.jpgstatement. By placing this sticker on your car you are letting all of those around you know that you support the Human Rights Campaign. I wanted to know how I could get some of those stickers.

I went online and googled, “equal sign sticker” and found it. On this particular site I found that you had to donate money to receive a sticker. I donated and received 5 stickers in the mail a couple weeks later. They are now sitting on a shelf in my house without use.

I do not know how my family, friends, or faith tradition will respond if I put it on my car. I support the Human Rights Campaign. As I believe that no one should be discriminated against based on any reason, including sexual orientation. But I find myself uncertain to whether or not I would still be accepted in my “group” if I put that sticker on my car.

You see, I came from a conservative Christian home who held that marriage was between one man and one woman. But I have grown away from those roots, and now find myself questioning whether or not it is Christian to stand so aggressively against something.

But my time as an adult has resulted in me asking this question, “Can a Christian support something without supporting it?”

These thoughts arise mainly due to a recent bill that has been passed in the state of Indiana. It has left me undone.

I have remained silent on this issue for too long, and it is about time that someone from the Christian tradition stood up for those who are being silenced. That is what has been done for a couple millennia, is it not?

This bill being passed in Indiana has got me all out-of-sorts. It is now legal for a business to refuse service to people from the LGBT community in the Hoosier State.

And without end, I have seen scores of Christians supporting Indiana in this bill that seeks to isolate a group of people. And without fail, Christians are lining up to shake the hand of Indiana.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 8.16.45 PM

I find this bill detestable. Sure it does not “target” the LBGT community. But lets be honest, it is. While we are at it, why don’t we pass a bill will refuse services to divorcees, alcoholics, people who shave, eat pork, or who have had premarital sex. I mean, if we’re able to create laws and force people out of our businesses for behaviors we disagree with, why stop with same-sex marriage?

Let’s just go back to allowing businesses to deny service to people based on their color.

Or…

What if I told you that you can support marriage equality without supporting marriage equality?

I have many friends who I consider colleagues from many faith traditions, and those who are atheists. They find this perspective refreshing. I hope that there are others that will as well.

Regardless of how you feel about this issue of same-sex marriage, you are able to support something while still being against it.

In other words, you can respect the choices of those around you, and not be a bigot about it.

There are many who believe that marriage is reserved for a man and a woman, and that anything outside of this is detestable to God. But that is a viewpoint that is unique to mostly conservative faith traditions. And presently, there are churches that have opened their doors to the LGBT community in full acceptance.

But I still support people who hold tightly deeply seated convictions. If that is what your faith tradition holds to be true, then practice that in your home and your faith tradition.

I grew up in the church. My dad is a pastor, and my parents are good Christian people. They taught me this from the very start of my faith journey, “You can’t force people to do things they don’t want to do.”

Now, there is a debate with whether or not the practice of homosexuality is a sin, but that is for a different blog. The point of this post is to point out to people that you will not always agree with the decisions of others. And in the United States, that is perfectly okay. As an American, you can support a person’s right marry who they wish, while still holding to what your faith tradition holds.

Why must the church spend money, time, and energy on protesting same-sex marriage? If you don’t believe that same-sex marriage is appropriate, then don’t support it. Marriage in the faith tradition I grew up in is defined as a monogamous union between a man and a woman. I encourage and implore people to remain close to their convictions. However, I do not believe that Christians who do not affirm same-sex marriage have the right to create laws that inhibit people from practicing something they simply “disagree with.”

But why is it that a group of Christians have taken one apparent “sin” to this extreme?

Jesus talked about lots of things. I want to take a moment and show you what he said about same sex-marriage:
Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 10.26.30 AM Thought provoking.

It is unclear to me why there are Christians who feel it is within their rights to discriminate against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people. Why do Christians find this “sin”to  paramount all others?

Jesus did, however, teach us that we are not to treat people the way they were in the Old Testament. But where do we see an example of this? I’m so glad you asked:

John 8:2-11
“At dawn [Jesus] appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman Now what do you say? They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are thy? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir.”

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go and leave you life of sin.”

Now, as I said, this blog is not meant to deal with the issue on whether or not homosexuality is a sin. But as we can clearly see, Jesus has changed how we treat those who are caught in what the church has called sin.

Jesus dealt with people differently. Even to those who are caught in sin, we are to speak life, not death. We are to speak love, not detest. We need to stop reacting the way people did several millennia go. People change. Society has moved on. Let’s stop treating people terribly.

Seth MacFarlane, lover of Science and Star Trek, pokes fun at people who are afraid of progress.

Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, lover of Science, and former Star Trek guest, pokes fun at people who are afraid of progress.

Jesus was moving people forward. And in this instance, he was calling the pharisees to rethink their understanding of a systems that dealt with sin penally. Jesus was about some better. Something greater. He was ahead of his time, really. The church is to be a people who speak life, not detest.

People in the church who stand against same-sex marriage being practiced in their faith tradition should continue to hold to those convictions. Marriage is a sacrament to many, and should be treated as such. But that does not mean that they an usurp the rights of others.

Marriage equality can exist without everyone supporting it. It was not until 1967 that interracial marriages were legal in all states. It is 2015. It is time that humanity stopped allowing prejudice to run their existence. That is my call to the members of the conservative evangelical community. Let people practice what they wish to practice. Stop usurping the rights of others, and start taking responsibility for the things Jesus actually talked about.

I implore all people to hold firmly to their convictions. Just do not think for a second that I believe it is appropriate to behave as the the state of Indiana has.

How Star Trek will finally come true

A follow up to “Sin is a Problem, not an excuse.”

ideas.ted.com

QWA-category-30years

The technology advances of the last 30 years were great. But they’re just the start. What’s most exciting is still to come, says Nilofer Merchant.

In the next 30 years, the full Star Trek story will actually come true.

Already, we’ve seen many of the show’s far-fetched ideas come to fruition. Everyone now carries a communicator, aka the smart phone. We have medical devices that test for diseases with light, not by drawing blood (like new tests for anemia by TED Fellow Myshkin Ingawale). Anyone who heard the order, “Set phasers to stun,” given by the Enterprise crew, will appreciate tasers delivered by drones, as recently happened at South by Southwest. The universal translator is real. Bionic eyes like those of Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge now allow blind people to see. Cisco regularly advertises “telepresence.” Even tribbles — those small furry soft creatures that could relate to your emotions —…

View original post 571 more words

Sin is a problem, not an excuse.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 8.54.31 PMI recently watched a short clip from Bill Gates’ Facebook page that featured Neil deGrasse Tyson. It gave me hope. He is an agnostic. He has no problem with looking 15 years down the road and saying that it is possible for for there to be an end to hunger, poverty, and war. This man does not affirm or speak against any existence of God, yet he has visions such as these. He is not bogged down by ideologies that inhibit him from seeing the possibility of great and wonderful things.

It breaks my heart to know that I also have shared similar thoughts with colleagues, pastors, and people in the congregations I have served in. Yet I always get the same answer.

“There is just too much sin in the world. Sin is the problem.” 

I hate that answer. Is it a theologically legitimate to say that sin is a problem? Sure. But it is not an excuse. It is unacceptable to assume that poverty, racism, sexism, and war will be at the forefront of humanity for all time in the already. If that was the case, then there is no use for the church. Jesus should have just remained. But he did not.

We live in the ‘already’ part of things. There is a ‘not yet to come’ in the kingdom, but I do not believe it will happen all at once like a magic trick.

Jesus established a community of faith. A church. A people who cares fort the sick, the naked, the imprisoned, and those in poverty. Jesus did not come to do some cool things and then simply leave so that things could stay the same.

No.

Jesus came and lived. He came to establish a new reality. To show humanity what it was intended to be.

That is why I I believe that visions like Tyson’s are possible.

What do we think? That Jesus is just going to come back and wave his magic wand and make everything right all at once? If so, couldn’t he have done that the first time? No. Jesus came and lived to show us what it means to truly live.

We need to stop using the Problem of Sin as an excuse for everything that is wrong in the world. There are plenty of people 1948127_1019300608099343_1212709444254433496_nwho have been saved and redeemed from their sins to become something more. Active people. A people who demonstrates what the salvation of the world looks like.

The way things were intended to be. The Bible is a book written by a people who understood that God was not content with the way things were.

We often look to the garden as the time when everything went to Hell. But why do we not look to creation narrative to consider that it shows us something better? (Even if one looks to this story as not being literal, it still holds true to theological and biblical precepts.) It shows us how God intended things. Why do we look to the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and assume that it is horrible legalism, instead of God working with a people to make things the way he intended?

Why do we look to the prophets as foretellers, rather than mourning speakers against injustice?

Throughout the narrative of scripture we see God calling humanity forward. Calling his people to be something more. Jesus came so that the not yet can become even more increasingly possible. God is calling humanity forward.

Why do we look to Jesus as simply coming to save individuals, rather than establishing the church to do something? Jesus came to save us from sin, not give us a temporary bandage until he comes back.

The church is to be a people that continue the work that Christ began. To take part in bringing about a new world order. I do not think that Jesus will simply come and take away human free will, and make everything better in an instant.

No the church as been established to do something, not wait. It is easy to be satisfied with the already part of things. To think that it is a stagnant thing. That we are simply still at the place of the cross and resurrection, and now we are waiting. No. At the start of Acts we see that the writer wrote that we heard about the things that Christ began to do and teach.

Began.

In the book of Acts we read about how the church started. How they became a people who had everything in common, and that no one was without.

Why can that not be how the world is? The church lives in the world and the church is to demonstrate what things were supposed to look like. Why can the church not become so vast that everyone from all corners of the world worship in like and all stand against the same injustices? Can that not be a reality? Instead of taking part in wars, could we not instead take part of ministries that help break the cycle of violence?

My last post talked about how my wife and I are done going to church, but not done with church. But I am still someone who believes that going to church is important. I am even one of the sacramental types who believe that worship needs to have a balance of word and table. But worship is only truly effective if people are obedient to the word of the Lord.

I want to see a people who gather on Sunday mornings and worship the all mighty God as one, but I also want to see this church exist outside of the walls of where the church gathers.

I want people to start to look at church differently. I want people to look at the church and see a peculiar group of optimist that do not see the world going to hell in a hand basket, but a people that is not satisfied with the problem of sin.

I think there will be an end to war, hunger, racism, and poverty. Why can we not as a body seek this now. Are we really satisfied with waiting? Jesus didn’t give us instructions on how to idly wait. Jesus came and lived instructions on how the church can make a difference in the already, while eagerly awaiting the not yet kingdom. Let’s bring more of the not yet into the already. Let us not be satisfied with this thought that we need to wait for Jesus to come for things to be made right.

Jesus’ words in the Lord’s prayer are not requests. They are demands.

“Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.”

Jesus was doing more than simply saving humanity from something. Jesus was saving humanity to something. To be a people that have been intended from the start. Jesus came being fully human. He died and rose so that we can live the way he did on earth.

We are not saved from sin to get to heaven. We are saved from sin to be apart of bringing heaven to earth. The kingdom has come, is coming, and will continue to come.

Since that is the case, why do we not as a people live more optimistic lives? Why can there not be an end to poverty and an end to war? If the people of the church are to live as exemplifiers of what it looks like to be human, shouldn’t that be attractive to people?

Jesus came to take care of the sin problem. Not just cover with a blanket. It is in the life of Jesus that we see how things are supposed to be. And he called for his followers to care for the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned. The problem is sin is a problem. But it is not an excuse or a reason for the church to not be a people who seek to bring about a better world.

So what is my point? I am an irrational optimist to some. But I believe that as humanity was intended for good, I do not believe that sin needs to have it’s victory. Sin does not have the final say in my life. And I do not believe it has to reign today.

Is sin an problem? Yes. Should it be an excuse to why we as a people do not look at the future of humanity with optimism? No.

Confessions of a Ministry Graduate: Why my wife and I are done going to (but not done with) church.

High Hill Church and Cemetery on CR 535 north of Neely's Landing 10-30-2011

My wife and I have some things to so say. These are not excuses. These are pleas. We are nailing our theses to the door. 

“Where are you guys going to church?” Well, this is awkward. We rarely know how to respond.

How do we tell some of our closest friends that we don’t attend church anymore? These were the same people who we attended small group with at our private Christian University. We sat next to them in chapel.

How do we tell people that we have not gone to church since I left my previous Youth Pastor assignment? It took some time to come up with the best answer.

“We are looking for a church.” That was true. Google was our main search engine to find a church.

“We are hoping to find a community of faith soon. Where do you go?” This was also true. We added their church to our google search engine list.

But eventually we came to this answer when we spoke to people. It became cumbersome to have to keep telling people we were looking, when in reality we really stopped even trying for months. We finally came to this answer.

“We are wounded. Taking a break is the best thing for us now.”

My wife and I have been hard working members of the church since we were children. Goodness. We met each other in a Christian ministry class at school. It was only days after we started dating that it soon became realized that we both had a call to ministry. But it was no longer two separate calls. We are both compelled to do something.

But right now we are done. We don’t go to church anymore.  We are two 24 year old married Millennials who are done.

This will frighten many people. Some of our closest friends will read this blog and want to message us right away. We invite that. Family members will wonder what happened to the young pastor and his wife. “Why are they no longer going to church?”

The answer is simple.

“We are done.”

We are done with the the scores of evangelicals more concerned about banning same sex marriage and keeping Christ in Christmas than on preserving marriage as a sacrament and keeping Christ in Christian.

We are tired of so-called followers of Christ more concerned about starting $4 Million dollar building programs than feeding, clothing, visiting, and healing the underserved.

We are indisposed about hearing Christians talking about how “blessed” they are in their home and with their families when, right down the street, there is a malnourished family who can barely make ends meet.

We are sick of being told we have to choose between affirming the theory of evolution or believing that what the Bible says is literal.

It is far too evident that many in the church are more concerned with a stance of a particular political party, than on what actually falls in line with the progressive narrative of scripture. This is later translated into people being more concerned about one’s rights than one’s responsibilities.

We are done with Christians believing that we are simply “saved to get to heaven” and that we await this glorious rapture from this earth, when in reality scripture mentions nothing of the sort. We are sick of Christians taking every part of Jesus’ words literally, except the words that talk about His kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.

We are tired of hearing about holiness being exclusively about sexual purity.

It sickens us to see so much pain and suffering daily, while we continue to see members of the Church simply catering ministry to themselves.

We are done going to church. Yes. But we are not done with church.

We have gone church to church for the past 24 years. I am a pastor’s kid. My wife has gone to church just as long. We know the principle behind it.

But we don’t want to go to church. We want to be a part of the church that gathers.

We have shared these thoughts with friends before, and often get the same response: “Well, it has to be about what you get out of it.”

No.

Absolutely and unequivocally, no! That is part of the problem. Church has become so “new and relevant” that it is disconnected from it’s own heritage. People are more concerned about what fits their own preferences than going to a place where they can be used and engaged.

Church is not supposed to be an individualistic evangelical activity where you go to get your dosage of Jesus. Church is a place where the People of God gather and live as the embodiment of Christ. The church is to be a people whose lives say, “We are what humanity is supposed to look like. We are a preview of what is to come. Come and join us.” The church is a people. A people who demonstrate what it looks like to be like Christ. A people who gather to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

We don’t go to church anymore because we do not feel we are a part of anything. We are expected to simply go and be content with the way things are. We have even been patient and tried to make a difference, but it was met with so much opposition, that enough was enough.

We already know what people will say, “Why don’t you guys go still? You can’t be part of the solution if you are not there.” That is true. But we are done being patient. We feel called to plant a church. Causing dissension is not our goal. We are writing this to let others like us know that they are not alone. Would you join us?

Torture Thy Neighbor

Jesus Falls Beneath the Cross

What I am about to say will upset many. But that is fine. I have something to say.

You brood of vipers! How can one claim to be a disciple of the Way and affirm the use of torture for national security. Someone cannot claim to follower Christ and affirm the use of torture!

We share in the body of Jesus Christ. We share in the body of a man who was tortured. Tortured to the point of death.

This can even draw lines between being a patriot and being a follower of Jesus Christ. As a patriot, violence can be considered right. But as a follower of Jesus Christ, it could never be justified or right.

Patriotism is about security of a nation and seeking out enemies. Following Jesus is about suffering and loving our neighbor.

Many would come to me and say, “We are kept safe because of these acts of torture and acts of war.”

I even have people come to me when I declare a disgust for the bombing a Hiroshima. “Do you know how many people would have died if we did not do that?”

We.

By birth I am understood as someone who possibly thinks that was a necessary act. I do not agree. Torture is never right. Bombing is not right. Anything can be justified with certain ways of thinking, but that does not make something right.

People died. People who had little or nothing to do with the war. Christians died in that bombing. I am a member of a denomination that planted churches in that same area during that time. I do not let a nation tell me who or where my neighbor is. The kingdom of God knows no borders. I do not affirm any act that separates members of the church and makes others their enemy. I do not view people through the lens of a nation state.

The kingdom of God does not have borders. One Church. One Mission. The church goes by the liturgy of the church, not of nation state. No one can serve two masters. One cannot support or pledge to a nation that performs heinous crimes against humanity.

The church is not called to be safe. The church is called to suffer. The church is called take up the cross of Jesus Christ, not to take up a sword or waterboard.

Jesus died because he did not live up to what everyone thought a Messiah would be.

People were expecting a Messiah who would fight and wage war against their enemies. But Jesus came with a different message. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who mistreat you.” My enemy is my neighbor. My neighbor is to be loved. My neighbor is not to be tortured. To affirm torture is to affirm an injustice. One cannot not protest abortion and affirm torture.

Both are heinous. Both are crimes against humanity.

Torturing is taking away someones humanity. It is never right. Ever. One cannot be a Christian and support it. I am not called to be a patriot, join the military, support violence, or to safety. I am called to suffer. That does not change by living in a nation state. Fear does not run the life of the church. We have hope in the resurrection.

A member of the church cannot rightly support torture. We must care for and love all people and cry out against any injustice. Torture is an injustice.

He who lives by the sword will die by the sword. Jesus refused to fight. Jesus refused to go to war. Jesus died on the cross. He who lives by the cross will by by the cross.

This post is not about what I am against. No. This post is about what I am for.

I am affirming the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians need not be afraid of any enemy. Christians are not called to fight, Christians are called to demonstrate the love of Christ. Christians are to love their neighbors.

Our neighbor is a member of ISIS. Our neighbor is Kony. Our neighbor is in prison for a heinous crime. Our neighbor is someone who has information that can do harm to an allied nation state.

Love thy neighbor.

What is a way forward? It is the mission of the Church to live as living breathing exemplifiers of Christ’s grace and love. Our actions, convictions, and beliefs need to reflect that liturgy. The church is only the church as it carries out the mission of God. It is hard for a member of the church to take part in that if they have two competing allegiances.

Offensive Christmas

Away-in-a-mangerIt is that time of year. The time of year when we see the Facebook post that say, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I have already seen an absurd picture. See image to the left.

nativity-scene-protest

Facebook is not trying to remove all pictures of the nativity off of Facebook. It is a hoax. It is a hoax created by someone who wants to contribute to a lie that says that Christians do not have the right to freely observe the Christmas Holiday. And you know what else is? The War on Christmas. It doesn’t exist. Just like this picture, there is this fabricated myth that people are trying to take Christ out of Christmas.

Christ cannot be taken out of Christmas. Christmas is a holiday reserved for the church, not a nation, or even the world for that matter.

I have yet to see anyone truly trying to remove the the Christ so that all we see is “mas.” The only thing I have really observed is that retail stores ensure that all of their display say, “Happy Holidays.”

I have a question to ask regarding this…Who cares?

So what if we do not see Christmas advertised heavily in retail stores, it is not their story to tell. The story belongs to the body of believers. It is a Christian story. It belongs to the church. The Christmas Story is part of a larger story. A story that the church retells every year.

Who cares if retail stores prefer for people to say, “Happy Holidays.” It is not the job of retailers to tell the Christmas Story. Do Christians really want stores being the main voice in retelling the story of Christ’s birth?

IMG_0417 5I hear people say and post that Christmas isn’t about receiving gifts, yet many Christians seem to want the proponent of consumerism to be the one telling the story. It seems strange that the main cause of distraction from the Christmas season actually becomes the location that people want the story told loudest.

We should be thrilled that retail does not require or allow people to tell people, “Merry Christmas” during this season.

Christianity is not the only religion. Christmas is not the only holiday that takes place in December. Christmas is not celebrated by everyone. Everyone shouldn’t be required to celebrate Christmas. Not everyone wants to take part in this story.

I don’t even like that Christmas is a national holiday. I would much prefer it if it were reserved to the members of the Christian Church. Retail doesn’t tell me when, or how to celebrate the Christmas season. Retail doesn’t get to tell the story. I don’t want them to. A courthouse being able to display the nativity scene does not define the Christmas season.

Besides, Christmas is offensive.

God has broken into human history. The Word has become flesh. Tables have been turned right side up. In Christ we see God’s intent for humanity. The Messiah saves humanity from themselves, by demonstrating what it looks like to be truly an fully human.

Christmas should be offensive. I don’t want retail or the images of the church scattered all over the land to be misinterpreted or misused. Christmas is about the coming of the Messiah. The coming of the Messiah was not what people were expecting.

Retail can’t tell this story, for retail really doesn’t care about the purpose of the Christmas season. The church on the other hand can tell the story. The church is to embody Christ in carrying out the mission of God.

Showing the world what is could be.

What began with the Law and the Prophets, was fulfilled in Christ. Humanity can now fully understand the purpose of the Old Testament. It was a way of life that is now brought to fulfillment.

Christmas is the start of a new thing. The way things are supposed. Humanity can now see what it looks like to be human. To be human is to stand against injustice. To be human is to not live a life of thievery, lying, coveting, and transgression.

To be human is to live as Christ lived.

The way Christ lived was offensive.

He ate dinner with thieves.

Hung out with prostitutes.

He did not condemn. He forgave.

He fed the poor without asking for proof of poverty.

He cured the sick without asking for health insurance.

He was about deliverance, not retribution.

Justice is deliverance in the life of Jesus, not retribution or balancing the scales.

The life of Jesus was offensive. It went against the status quo. It is still not taken to.

Jesus was born to live a life that many found offensive. People should be offended by the image of Christ in a manger. People should be offended when people say, “Merry Christmas.”

There is a war on Christmas. But it does not mean what many think. The war on Christmas is on its purpose. I want Christmas to offend people. I want that offense to give people hope that things are not as they should be. Jesus came to show us what it means to truly live. To many, that is offensive.

To say, “Merry Christmas” is saying the birth of the offending deliver has come.

Jesus was born to live a life that many found offensive.

The church lives out the meaning of Christmas by being obedient to the mission of God. The mission of God is often offensive. Christmas is a story that only the church can tell. And Christmas isn’t even the most important part of the Christian story.

I wish you an offensive Christmas.