The Christians Who Defunded Jesus

The President’s proposed budget and the GOP’s recent maneuvers preceding it, seek to drastically reduce or eliminate funding for programs and services that tend to the urgent needs of our most vulnerable, most on the margins, most threatened citizens—the working poor, the hungry, the homeless, the physically sick, the mentally ill, the disabled, the elderly, those in public housing.

It’s a clear, shameless assault on those Jesus called “the least of these;” the ones he lived in solidarity with while here. He told those who would aspire to his likeness, that their treatment of such marginalized people was a direct act, either of affection or neglect toward him. It was the very measure of their religion. In fact (contrary to what preachers have led you to believe), Jesus says that it is in their response to the marginalized, not any altar call or magic prayer or baptism—that their salvation or condemnation comes.

Many Conservative Christians have long contended that the Church not the Government should care for people, and so they’re currently applauding these tactics by the White House. The problem is that they—the people who voted-in the politicians currently dismantling healthcare, de-funding public schools, and eliminating meal programs—are the same people filling many of the country’s churches (which apparently were already supposed to be doing this least-loving.)

Then exactly where and when is this love going to make an appearance? 

Right now, I don’t see these Christians rushing en masse to come to the aid of the poor and the homeless, to immigrants and refugees and to those on the margins. We’re not witnessing an overwhelming outpouring of compassion from Conservative church folk who have declared that they’re going to repair the homes and make the lunches and pay for the surgeries and watch the children for the millions about to be kicked to the curb by this President and his Leadership—and we shouldn’t be holding our breath.

The truth is, if these same people who call the Evangelical Church home had been following Jesus’ example all along we wouldn’t be having these conversations, would we? If these professed men and women of God were truly burdened to love their brothers and sisters as they would Jesus, this would be a non-issue. But we do have this epidemic of poverty and pain and hunger, and the disheartening truth is that these Christians are the very people always loudly telling the least to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,”—neglecting the fact that they have no boots to begin with, and now we’re cutting funding to get them any. These people don’t see the ironic tension of a supposedly “Christian nation” that can’t or won’t care for its most vulnerable, brimming with followers of Jesus in leadership who somehow can reason that not feeding people is compassionate. For some reason a country supposedly filled with followers of a man who spent his ministry years healing the sick—is resistant to universal healthcare.

If I could have 30 seconds with the Conservative Church; with these professed men and women of God who are applauding the President and these policies, I’d say the following:

“If feeding and caring for people is indeed the sole role of the Church and not the Government, why are so many people still starving, still hurting? You’ve been open for business for 2,000 years now—supposedly the business of reflecting the character of Jesus and replicating his life. How much longer is it going to take? Just what in the hell have you been waiting for? When in God’s name are you going to tangibly demonstrate an empathy that resembles Jesus, because from where I’m standing, all I can make out is a whole lot of self-righteous judges who seem determined to pass the buck, unwilling to show empathy, and violently allergic to really loving the least.”

To be honest, I’m not convinced that many of these Republican Christians want their Government or the Church to lift people in need. I think they’d prefer to live with the fictional narrative that poor people are poor because they’re lazy, that those in need, are so because of some moral failing or bad decision. This story allows them to keep the stuff they have, to ignore the call to love their neighbor as themselves, and to feel morally superior in the process. 

Jesus says that whatever we do to the poor and the hurting and the hungry—we do to him. That should be a terrifying proposition to supporters of the President who claim the Christian faith or call the American Conservative Church home. This Administration and the many Christians who co-sign its actions toward those who are the most in need of compassion and mercy in these days, are saying with great clarity: “Move along Jesus, we don’t give a damn about you.”

This is what happens when the least are treated as less-than. This is what it looks like when the Church abandons its namesake and tells him to fend for himself. 

Forgive them, they know not what they do.

 

 

 

If I Have LGBTQ Children (Four Promises From a Christian Pastor/Parent)

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll have LGBTQ children.

I’m not sure if other parents think about this, but I often do.

Maybe it’s because I have many people in my family and circle of friends who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning. It’s in my genes and in my tribe.
Maybe it’s because as a pastor of students, I’ve seen and heard the horror stories of LGBTQ Christian kids, from both inside and outside the closet trying to be part of the Church.
Maybe it’s because as a Christian, I interact with so many professed followers of Jesus who find “homosexuality” to be the greatest of sins, and who make that abundantly clear at every conceivable opportunity.

For whatever reason, it’s something that I ponder frequently. As a pastor and a parent, I wanted to make some promises to you, and to my two kids right now…

1) If I have LGBTQ children, you’ll all know it.

Our kids won’t be our family’s best kept secret unless they choose to be. Whatever about their lives they wish to share will be shared with joy and without apology.

I won’t talk around them in conversations with others. I won’t speak in code or vague language, I won’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, and I won’t try to spare the feelings of those who may be older or easily offended or uncomfortable. Childhood is difficult enough, and most LGBTQ kids spend their entire existence being horribly, excruciatingly uncomfortable because they need to be inauthentic. I’m not going to put my children through any more unnecessary discomfort, just to make Thanksgiving dinner a little easier for a third cousin with misplaced anger issues.

If my children come out, we’ll be out as a family.

2) If I have LGBTQ children, I’ll pray for them.

I won’t pray for them to be made “normal”. I’ve lived long enough to know that if my children do come to identify as LGBTQ, that is their normal.

I won’t pray that God will heal or change or fix them. I will pray for God to protect them, from the ignorance and hatred and violence that the world will throw at them simply because of who they are. I’ll pray that God shields them from those who will despise them and wish them harm; who will curse them to Hell and put them through Hell without ever knowing them at all. I’ll pray that they enjoy life; that they laugh and dream and feel and forgive—and that they love God and all people.

Above all, I’ll pray that my children won’t allow the horrible treatment they might receive from some of God’s misguided followers, to keep them from pursuing God.

3) If I have LGBTQ children, I’ll love them.

I don’t mean some token, distant, tolerant love that stays at a safe arm’s length. It will be an extravagant, open-hearted, unapologetic, lavish, embarrassing-them-in-the-school-cafeteria, kissing-them-in public kind of love.

I won’t love them despite their sexuality and I won’t love them because of it. I will love them for the same reasons I already do; simply because they’re sweet and funny and caring and smart and kind and stubborn and flawed and original and beautiful—and mine.

If my kids are LGBTQ, they may doubt a million things about themselves and about this world, but they’ll never doubt for a second whether or not their Daddy is over-the-moon crazy about them.

4) If I have LGBTQ children—I have LGBTQ children.

If my kids are going to be gay or bisexual or transgender or lesbian, well they pretty much already are.

God has already created them and wired them, and placed the seed of who they are within them. Psalm 139 says that God “stitched them together in their mother’s womb”. The incredibly intricate, microscopic stuff that makes them uniquely them; once-in-History souls, has already been uploaded into their very cells.

Because of that, there isn’t a coming deadline on their identity or orientation that their mother and I are working feverishly toward. I don’t believe there’s some magical expiration date approaching, by which time she and I need to somehow do or say or pray just the right things to get them to “turn straight”, or forever lose them to the other side.

They are today, simply a younger version of who they will be—and today they’re pretty darn great.

I fully realize that many of you may be offended by all of this. I know my words here may be especially difficult if you are a religious person with a particular theological stance. Perhaps you find the whole topic unsettling.

As you’ve been reading, you may have been rolling your eyes, clicking the roof of your mouth, or drafting familiar Scriptures to send to me. You may be praying for me to repent, or preparing to unfriend me, or writing me off as a sinful, evil, Hell-bound heretic, but let me say with as much gentleness and understanding as I can muster—I really couldn’t care less.

This isn’t about you. This is a whole lot bigger than you.

You’re not the one I waited on breathlessly for nine months.
You’re not the one I wept with joy for when you were born.
You’re not the one I bathed, and fed, and rocked to sleep through a hundred intimate, midnight snuggle sessions.

You’re not the one I taught to ride a bike, whose scraped knee I kissed, and whose tiny, trembling hand I held while getting stitches.
You’re not the one whose head I love to smell, and whose face lights-up when I come home at night, and whose laughter is like music to my weary soul when the world seems wrong.
You’re not the one who gives my days meaning and purpose, and who I adore more than I ever thought I could adore anything.

And you’re not the one who I’ll hopefully be with when I take my last precious breaths on this planet; gratefully looking back on a lifetime of shared treasures, and resting in the knowledge that I loved you well and was loved well by you.

If you’re a parent, I don’t know how you’ll respond if you find out your children are LGBTQ, but I pray you consider it. I pray you prepare yourself.

Because one day, despite your perceptions of your kids or how you’ve parented or what signs you did or didn’t see, you may need to respond in real-time, to a frightened, frantic, hurting child; one whose sense of peace and identity and acceptance, whose heart and very life may be placed in your hands in a way you never imagined, and you’ll need to respond—and I don’t want you to blow it.

If that day should ever come for me as a parent; if my children should ever come out to me—as much as I m able, this is the Dad I hope I’ll be to them.

 

5 Truths About White Privilege for White People

 

The first time I heard the term white privilege, I did what many white people do. I leapt immediately to defending myself from whatever accusations those words generated in my mind, choosing to passionately present the case for my innocence rather than simply listening.

In the years since then I’ve learned a bit, thanks to some good and really patient people who cared enough to endure my ignorance and give me time to step outside of my experience enough to see more clearly. It’s a daily endeavor and I have a long way to go, but for those reading this who happen to be white—here are a few truths I wished I’d understood better back then. 

Privilege simply isYou are privileged whether you believe it or not. The way the world sees you has made a difference since the day you showed up on the planet. Your pigmentation has come with certain advantages and exempted you from specific obstacles and there’s simply no way around it. If you are a white person living in America or many other parts of the world, you have had the luxury of feeling as though your skin tone is somehow the default, the baseline; that you are the standard against which others are measured and referenced. This matters because it has altered your daily experience of the world and your very sense of identity. You’re not privileged if you’re white and mean or white and racist or white and a jerk. You’re privileged solely because you are white.

You don’t have to feel your privilege for it to be real. In fact, the essence of privilege is that its effects are so subtle and so built into your daily experience from birth, that they are hardly noticeable. They are givens that are givens to you precisely because you look the way you look—but these realities are not at all universal and that’s the rub here. Like breathing, privilege is simply a reality of life that you are largely unaware of. Over time, you may learn to see it on display in certain moments and precise ways, but the greater truth is that privilege is at still at work even when you cease to be aware of it.

Privilege isn’t personal. This isn’t about whether you “like” people of color, whether you have black friends or not, whether you listen to hip hop or not. It’s not about whether or not you vote Blue, or whether you do or don’t or say whatever you believe “racist” things to be. In many ways, this isn’t about you. The heart of privilege is that it is a systemic reality; you are part of a larger truth that is far greater than your individual experience or personal actions—as important as those things are. Recognizing privilege isn’t just about policing your behavior or monitoring your thoughts, it’s about purposefully pushing back against systems that nurture injustice and inequality in our culture, in the workforce, in our government.

You can have it tough and still be privileged. Like many white people, the suggestion of my privilege initially felt like a statement that my life was free from discouragement, pain, or hard work. I rushed to present my life resume and to detail the hardships I’d experienced as a way of refuting the charges I imagined levied against me—but this was and isn’t helpful. Of course you can be white and work hard and face disappointment and prejudices of some kind. You can be white and poor, white and unemployed, white and struggling. But the truth of privilege, is that even on our worst day, our color is a help that will always shield us from the greatest adversity, the kind that people of color encounter with great regularity.

Shame is the wrong response. Many white people, once faced with the understanding of the advantages they’ve been afforded because of the color of their skin, choose to withdraw into a place of guilt and shame. They make the moment of clarity about feeling bad about themselves. This is a selfish response that is itself a form of privilege, because it centers your experience and it changes nothing about the reality of the systems that are preferential to your pigmentation. I began to understand my privilege once I realized that it didn’t require an apology, just a response that intentionally leveraged that privilege for justice. White people, we don’t have to be sorry for being white, we just have to be aware that being white has been a help and it gives is a platform and influence which we get to use to do something beautiful. The redemptive response to the truth of our privilege isn’t shame—it’s movement.

This is certainly not an expansive or deep understanding of white privilege. For that you might look here or here or here or here or here.) Better yet, you might sit down with a person of color and ask them what white privilege means to them, and instead of defending your position or refuting their feedback—simply listen.

 

The Christian Right Was Right


I confess that I was dead wrong about this. I have to hand it to the Christian Right, they knew what the heck they were talking about all this time. They knew this was going to happen and predicted it with astounding accuracy, over and over again.
 
For decades they tried to tell us that the sky was falling, that devils were walking among us, that the end was so very nigh. For years and years they lamented the approaching devastation and tried to prepare us like good prophets do. They pounded their pulpits with ferocity and thumped their Bibles with abandon, forecasting this country’s certain doom—and we didn’t listen. We rolled our eyes and dismissed them as out-of-touch, hypocritical, religious zealots whose hold on reality was tenuous at best. And yet, they had it right all along.
 
It turns out that every single one of their raw-throated, brimstone-breathing prophecies were true:
 
That the wolves would come in sheep’s clothing to devour the innocent.
That there would be a twisting of the Scriptures to justify vile evil of every kind.
That people would do what was right in their own eyes and make themselves into the very God they most worshiped.
That money and power and pride would be too seductive to avoid for far too many.

That the Church was in danger of being polluted to the point of death.
That the least of these would be discarded and brutalized.
That good people would be preyed upon by opportunistic monsters.
 
These sage prognosticators had everything about the approaching disaster correct—except its source.
They neglected to predict the actual genesis of this great decimation. Because it wouldn’t be the Gays or the Muslims or the Atheists or celebrities or street people or tattooed women or sexually active teenagers as they’d so foretold. It wouldn’t be transgender men lurking in bathrooms, or brown-skinned suicide bombers from some distant cave, or any of the countless boogeymen they told us were hiding in the shadows to bring terror. No, the encroaching danger was a whole lot closer than all that. 
 
For years The far Christian Right has been warning us about Godless hordes coming to destroy America and it turns out this was true—it’s just that the words were autobiographical.
 
As a lifelong Christian I’ve had a sick sense of déjà vu watching politicians professing to be followers of Jesus dismantling every program designed to care for the vulnerable and the hurting, seeing the way the powerful are being awarded greater power, watching empathy vanishing and hatred skyrocketing. I’ve heard this story a million times before; proclaimed on Sunday mornings from pulpits, unleashed in religious social media rants, and shouted through bullhorns on street corners. I knew this was coming, or at least I should have. We all should have. These harbingers of doom were absolutely right to warn us—and ironically they were the very ones they were warning us about. In the sickest kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, they were the plague of these days that they said would come.
 
It would be the preachers and the evangelists abandoning the heart of Jesus, perverting the words of the Bible for their agenda, selling their souls for a high place overlooking the world. They would be the very false prophets they told us that we should like hell run from. These supposed disciples of Jesus would be the ones to betray him with a kiss and send him to a bloody, undignified end.
 
Yes, the Christian Right was right, evil was going to run amok through the world and terrorize the lives of ordinary people and make a mockery of God. And that is what it is surely doing in these days.
I owe them an apology.
I should have believed them.
I once was blind, and now I see.