Election 2016: Where Have All the Reasonable, Decent GOP Christians Gone?

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To My Many Reasonable, Decent, Faithful Christian GOP Friends: 

As the months of this Presidential race have dragged on I’ve noticed your quiet withdrawal, your slow disappearance, your gradually silence. I’ve watched the noise become louder, the rhetoric angrier, the tone more menacing—and the sanity surely fleeing.  

Through an entire RNC convention I’ve watched it all unfold; every fearful, violent, venomous, hate-filled, hope-deprived minute and I’ve been waiting for you to say something; words that bring some compassion and unity and benevolence. The fact that you haven’t is frankly heartbreaking.

Since I know you are a Christian and that you take your faith as seriously as I do, I keep wondering when you’re going to stand up and speak the love of Jesus into all of this sickness. 

I wonder why you don’t tell your party leaders to stop brokering in fear; of Muslims, of people of color, of the LGBTQ community, and to stop perpetuating violence and war and dread. It’s disgusting and there’s nothing about it that is faith affirming, and friend if you don’t say it, who will?

We don’t need to align politically, but the fact that we share something far deeper means I expect you to speak now in a voice I recognize. This isn’t about politics anyway, it’s about your religion mattering in the most fundamental areas of life and affirming the inherent worth of all people, and right now you’re dropping the ball by your silence. You are culpable for the acrimony and hatred because you won’t condemn it. That’s always been how the world works.

I honestly can’t tell if you’re terrified or embarrassed or silently amen-ing what you’re seeing right now, and I should be able to tell. Whatever your faith convictions are, they are of little consequence if they stay concealed.

If building walls and bombing the world and “eye for an eye” and “America first” is really what you believe we’re called to, then say it. But if you don’t, I wish you would say that too because the loudest voices are screaming that the sky is falling and people are believing it and running terrified.

I grew up believing God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear and I thought you did too, and that’s what has me at a loss.

In the Gospels, when the disciple Peter is asked if he is associated with Jesus, he denies him, later saying he doesn’t even know him. It isn’t anything he does that rejects his faith, it’s what he refuses to do. Like it or not, you are denying Jesus in these moments as you tolerate words and conduct that are diametrically opposed to his life and ministry. 

You no longer get a pass to simply claim Christianity and go about your business while all Hell breaks loose around you. Those days are over. 

You’re either going to step up now and emulate Jesus, or you’re going to willingly abandon him in, and in the process align yourself with some really dark ideas that the Christ of the Gospels spent his lifetime condemning and pushing hard against.

We’re supposed to be on the same side, you and me: the side of love and mercy and justice and gentleness and joy; the side of loving our neighbor and of turning our cheek and washing feet. I’m waiting for that from you. The world is. If our faith doesn’t transcend man made politics, it isn’t worth much. If we can’t be united love for all people, we’re the worst kind of clanging cymbal.

“What will it profit a person if they gain the world but lose their soul?” Refuse to affirm your faith in these days, and I fear you may find out.

You are not the enemy. I believe that with all my heart.

Hatred will always be the enemy, and right now it feels like that hatred is winning because good people like yourselves are staying silent.

I love you but that’s just the way I see it.

I hope you find your voice.

I hope you speak soon.

If You’re LGBTQ, Here’s What One Pastor Really Hopes You Know

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Yesterday I had coffee with a wonderful new friend who identifies as Transgender. She and I were talking about the incredible damage done to so many people in the LGBTQ community at the hands and words of those in the Church, and what a barrier it’s been in their and her spiritual journey. It was a fresh reminder of how much pain Christians have generated.

A little over and hour later I was online engaging a professed Christian man who was incensed at my support of LGBTQ folks. After realizing that all his threats of Hell, his dire warnings of my impending meeting with Satan, and his admonishing me as “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, “false prophet”, and “apostate” did little to dissuade me, he leaned back on the angry white Christian guy’s go-to Hail Mary closer: he outed me.

“You support gays so much. You may was well just admit it and tell your wife that you are gay!”

(Yes, because that’s totally how that works.)

As I considered how to respond to such a loving, compassionate, and intellectually brilliant tactic, I realized two things:

One, as a fully-affriming LGBTQ ally, the accusation of being gay isn’t at all an insult to me—something which didn’t seem to cross his mind.
And two, he was using other people’s very identity to try and shame me.

The first realization amused me. The latter one really ticked me off. I thought of my new friend. I thought of so many people I know and love. I thought of people I love but will never meet and who might be following that thread, those for whom such wounds are a daily occurrence. I felt burdened to speak to them.

We often withhold saying simple words of encouragement because we take for granted that people hear them enough or that they don’t need them, but this of course is rarely true. Sometimes we just need to say everything.

If you’re reading this and you identify as LGBTIQ here’s what I really hope you know:

You are not an abomination to God.
Anyone with even a cursory understanding of the Bible knows that this is a completely irresponsible use of Scripture, and that using such a loaded word for another human being simply because of their gender identity or sexual orientation or because of the person they love is a reckless bastardization of the Bible and distortion of the heart of God.

Refuse to wear this label. It doesn’t belong to you. You are far too great for it.

You are not a mistake.
The same God we credit for the stars and the sea and the butterfly’s wings created you. This means you are made of the same stuff God is and with the very same care. Never allow someone to make you feel as though you are at all an error in need of correcting, that you are somehow less-than. You are intentional and perfect.

Even if it has taken you some time to figure out who you are, God has always known.

You are not broken.
Your gender identity and sexual orientation are not flaws or moral defects. They are not signs that you are damaged and to be repaired. Your intelligence and character, your humor and capacity to love, your gifts and passions, your goodness and humanity all comprise the sum total of who you are and it is a thing of beauty.

You don’t need fixing.

Know these things, friend, and know too:
You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.
You are originally beautiful in ways that are entirely specific to you.
You are beloved as you are without alteration or achievement.
You are a walking freakin’ miracle.
And you are the Church, if you choose to be. You don’t need anyone’s consent or permission for proximity to Jesus. He is as close as this breath you take.

I’m sorry that you may not have heard these things enough by those claiming Christ, especially from those closest to you. That is their sin, not yours. It says more about them than it ever could about you. Yes, you have missed out by being disconnected from spiritual community, but that community has dearly missed your presence too. And understand that just because people have hurt you in the name of God, doesn’t mean they speak for God. The damage they have done was done to you without God’s approval. It is not of God.

And this is all true, not just because some white cisgender pastor says so—but because these things simply are. This is already your identity without me saying so of course, but if it encourages you at all to hear these words from a pastor and a father; if they make you feel seen or valued or supported and they give you a bit of hope today, then please hear me. 

Let the words seep deep into the marrow of your spirit and live lighter today.

You are fully loved. You are enough. I hope you know that.

 

 

25 Reasons Why This Christian is Proudly #NeverTrump

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I’m a Christian and a pastor and I stand fully against Donald Trump.

Here are 25 reasons why, in no particular order:

1. Because peace-loving Muslims should have as much religious freedom in America as peace-loving Christians.

2. Because LGBTQ people are beautiful and they deserve every right and liberty this country has for its citizens.

3. Because I have a wife and a mom and a sister and a daughter who I love and respect.

4. Because Black Lives Matter.

5. Because character still counts.

6. Because declaring war isn’t something responsible leaders do cavalierly or for cheap applause.

7. Because a person’s right to marriage shouldn’t be the jurisdiction of someone currently on their third.

8. Because to legitimately claim Christianity you need to at least slightly resemble Jesus.

9. Because we’re all immigrants here.

10. Because I teach my son not to be a bully.

11. Because “being on TV” isn’t a credential.

12. Because Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and this wasn’t it.

13. Because religion shouldn’t be a costume you put on only when it helps.

14. Because this isn’t the Wild West and we don’t duel with pistols in the streets.

15. Because intelligent adults don’t say “The Blacks”, The Mexicans”, and “The Gays”.

16. Because diversity is inherently American and exclusion is not. 

17. Because people who flee war, oppression, and violence should not be greeted with more of the same.

18. Because a man talking about a female rival’s physical appearance or sex life is Jurassic behavior. 

19. Because “an eye for an eye” is actually the opposite of Jesus’ teachings.

20. Because we don’t need politicians who feel compelled to talk about their body parts.

21. Because using violence to silence dissension is a dangerous business for a Commander-In-Chief.

22. Because fear and hatred shouldn’t be political currency.

23. Because racism and bigotry are things we’re trying to destroy, not elevate.

24. Because America is already great.

25. Because my personal faith would feel fraudulent and useless if I didn’t.

If your politics don’t align with the above statements, you might well be tempted to label this as an unnecessarily negative post and dismiss it all as divisive. On the contrary, it’s a hopeful affirmation of what I believe and of the kind of world I’m fighting for my children to inherit. It’s also fully conducive to my faith tradition. Jesus didn’t just preach love, he also pointed his finger squarely in the face to the hateful and essentially said, “This is not my way!”

You may be able to use your religion to justify supporting Donald Trump, but I can’t. You’re more than welcome to disagree with me and to vote your conscience. I’m not here to debate your conclusions or critique you for having them. That’s actually the point of all of this.

These are my personal convictions as a father, husband, pastor, Christian—and as a member of Humanity.

Feel free to Tweet, post, or share yours here. #WhyNeverTrump or #WhyTrump

 

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The Day After Election Day

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These are heavy days in America.

The acrimony is escalating, moment by over scrutinized, incendiary moment and chances are it’s sucked you in too. You’ve no doubt succumbed to the surrounding bitterness and allowed your heart to become toxic; poisoned by the false stories of who you believe the enemy to be or who you see as savior.

You’re probably feeling the weight of all the fear and fighting upon your shoulders these days, and it’s left you irritated and tired and sad.

November 8th will surely be a heavy day too.

Very likely on that day, half of you will feel compelled to gloat and the other half to grieve. There will be either total jubilation or complete dread, with either an overreaction.

But I don’t want to talk to you about that day. I want to talk to you about the day after that day—because it matters.

The day after Election Day you’re going to wake up and realize that the sun is still in its usual position in the sky and that you are still in yours there on the ground.

You’ll look around you and see the people you love and the place you know as home and you’ll remember that these things are all still true.

You’ll hear the familiar sounds of voices that are sweet music to you, and you’ll realize that they are the reason to be hopeful.

You’ll see your reflection in the mirror and you’ll realize that you are still you.

The day after Election day you’ll step outside and you’ll walk into the world around you—and you’ll see that you still have freedom:

You still have the freedom to speak and dream and feel and build.

You still have the freedom to choose compassion or contempt for those who are not like you.

You still have the freedom to build a bigger table wherever you gather.

You still have the freedom to be a healer or to inflict injury.

You still have the freedom to speak words that destroy or words that give life.

You still have the freedom to alter the small portion of the planet you happen to be standing on at any given moment.

The day after Election Day you’re still going to be responsible for who you are; for the relationships you nurture, for the way you spend your time and your money, for what you teach your children, for the way you respond to injustice, for the eyes through which you see other people.

You’re going to still fully own you and the choices you make, no matter what happened the night before. 

You’ll still have your faith convictions and those things you claim to believe about this life, and the space and time to prove it.

The day after Election Day you’re going to realize without any hyperbole, that you are America, and that your life will either leave it a more or less loving, beautiful, and compassionate place than when you arrived. 

That’s not to say that the day before doesn’t matter, or that you should remove yourself from the process and stay silent on the way there. Be present. Be passionate. Say everything you feel called to say, and vote the contents of your heart.

But the greatest mistake you could ever make, is either believing that hope is lost or that salvation is secured simply because of what transpires on Election Day. No human being gives your life meaning or renders it meaningless.

You get to decide that: with your voice, your hands, your words, your breath.

The day after Election Day will be the most important day of your life—because you will get to live it.

Be encouraged today.

Be encouraged on Election Day. 

Be greatly encouraged the day after.

 

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Dear Hatred, From Love

Dear Hatred

Dear Hatred,

I trust this letter finds you well.

Actually, from the look of things out there business is booming for you lately. I’ve got to hand it to you, you’ve managed to keep yourself in the news pretty steadily and these days that’s no small feat. Your ability to reinvent yourself is a credit to your persistence and to you knowing your audience. I’ll confess, your brand is a whole lot stronger than I’d realized. Somehow you’ve been able to leverage all that fear out there into a pretty impressive little cottage industry. I see you’ve even secured a Presidential candidate.

To be honest, I’ve been in a pretty deep funk with all that’s happening, myself. For a while I’ve been struggling to find any real momentum; one step forward, eighteen steps back. I’d started to think maybe I was obsolete, like I’d finally become passé; destined to be a dusty relic of the past and relegated to faded t-shirts and power ballads. I was seriously considering calling it a day.

But this morning I realized something: I’m. Freaking. Love. Dammit.

I am the glorious, beautiful response to all the havoc you wreak out there.
I am the relentless dawn that chases away your heavy darkness.
I resurrect all the hope that you seek to destroy.
I am the defiant middle finger raised in the face of death, evil, and your pervasive lie that Humanity is beyond saving.
I am the redemptive song that people keep finding a way to sing together no matter how difficult the days become.

Sure, maybe I’ve had a rough stretch lately, but I’ve been through this all a million times before and I’ve always been able to answer you.

And trust me, I will answer now too.

Let’s face it, deep down we both know how this is going to play out, don’t we? You’ll grab the headlines and make a dramatic statement and chaos will briefly come, and you’ll feel and seem like you’re winning. You’ll get a bit of traction and you’ll celebrate for a moment. But it won’t be long until I rise up and slowly drive back beneath the ground all the terrible Hell that you managed to raise.

Like yeast in the dough I will quietly and silently do the healing work I do; person by person, heart by heart, breath by breath. And then I will be the one dancing.

You’ve probably noticed that I don’t resort to all the bombast and theatrics you’re known for. That may move the needle and make the news, but it doesn’t last and anyway it’s never really been my style. I prefer to just keep going—and waiting. Because the truth is, goodness is Humanity’s default setting, and when people stop to breathe, when they step away from the screaming fray, when they draw nearer to one another they recognize that goodness in the other’s eyes—and then you’re screwed.

People will always return to compassion and mercy because those are the most powerful forces on the planet. And when they do, they find me there waiting. They embrace me and I them.

Yes, you may occasionally corrupt the system, but I am the system. I am the truth that people know without knowing they know it. I am the deepest sacred place the human heart will always seek as its level. When hurting, grieving, weary souls search for rest, I am where and when they finally find themselves home.

So you can have your eye for any eye, and I will keep making peace.
You can demand revenge and I will keep forgiving.
You can spew venom and I’ll turn my cheek.
You can posture and incite with a closed fist, and I will stretch out my open hand.
You can gloat and brag and feel quite pleased with yourself for the momentary terror you’ve manufactured—and I will press firmly into that which endures and defeats it.

Yes, you are powerful and resilient, friend, but you’ll never overcome me and you won’t outlast me.

No matter what unspeakable damage you do, I will bring even greater healing.

And no matter how much you say I will always have the last, loudest word—trust me on this.

Look around you. Look beneath the headlines and the noise.

Look deeply into the eyes of those who get me and see how much they’re willing to do. My people will not be denied.

You can’t win this one, friend, no matter what you or the papers say.

This place is mine. 

Sincerely,

Love.

 

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Be Careful: You Might Be Passionate, Committed, Earnest—and Wrong

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A year or so ago I was sitting in a hotel coffee shop talking to a young lesbian woman about faith and love and compassion. Just outside the window, pacing in the street in front of us was a man holding a sign that said GOD HATES FAGS. I walked out to where “sign guy” was and attempted to have a conversation with him.

He was pacing back and forth and yelling his throat raw and clearly not in the mode of listening to anyone. After unsuccessfully attempting for a few highly charged minutes to persuade him that his methods were horrible and that he was doing exponentially more harm than good, something occurred to me about this man: We were so very similar, at least in one critical way.

At that moment he was doing exactly what I believed I was doing. He was too was listening for what he believed to be the voice of God and responding in faith. At that moment the story he was telling himself was that he was fighting the good fight. The idea that he could be wrong or hateful or destructive seemingly never crossed his mind. The correctness of his position had already been established and he had moved on to convincing everyone else to agree with him. I recognize that place well. Maybe you do.

This is so often the spot from which we stand, speak, preach, argue, and condemn; the place of unquestionable virtue.

In any sort of conflict, we always assume that our motives our pure, that our cause is just, that our moral ground is higher than those we face. We so very rarely entertain the idea that we could be mistaken or dangerous. In our narrative there is usually a clear villain and conveniently it’s never us. Someone else is always brandishing the black hat.

My work allows me to cross paths with thousands of people each week from all across the planet. Regardless of their politics, religious affiliation, upbringing, life stage, or any other qualifier, and no matter how different they appear on the surface they all have one thing in common: They almost always believe they’re right.

You do too. I know I do.

Whether in a theological argument, a political debate, a disagreement at work, a table conversation at home, or a social media joust with a stranger, we often engage others with the assumption that they need to be taught, enlightened, moved, or overcome. And as a result we stop listening, we stop learning, we abandon humility, and we dig in our heels in an attempt to win.

For the record, I believe Sign Guy was horribly wrong in what he was saying, how we was saying it, and in his near total disregard for the basic humanity of LGBTQ people. But what he couldn’t see about himself, was something most of us are never able to see about ourselves. It is our universal blind spot. We never seem to see our darkness. We always assume that we are only bringing light.

Do have deeply held beliefs? Are you fully invested in those beliefs? Welcome to the club. Most of us feel that way. But the depth of our convictions and the sincerity of our hearts don’t guarantee us moral high ground. That may only be our aspiration. 

These days I’m trying to remember how many times in the past I was so sure of myself, so confident of my position, so fully convinced that I was defending goodness and virtue, and how often I totally dropped the ball. 

Friends, as you face conflict out there, whether up close or from a distance, be careful: you might very well be passionate, committed, earnest—and wrong.

 

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