I’m a Christian Pastor. Evangelicals Have to Be Defeated in 2022.

I’ve been a pastor in the church for over two decades, much of that in predominantly white churches in the American South.

I’ve spent countless hours in church staff meetings and men’s Bible studies and youth pastor conferences.

I’ve stayed connected on social media with thousands of people still there in those churches. I read what they share and post and amplify and I know how they think and what they believe.

I need you to understand something and I say it without any hyperbole: white Evangelicals need to be stopped, now.

If the 2022 midterms elections allow Republicans to gain control of Congress, Conservative Christians will decimate this nation, and LGBTQ people, Muslims, women, people of color, and non-Christians will never have equality under the law again. We will all be at their mercy—and they will no longer have use for mercy.

This is not alarmist, sky-is-falling histrionics, it is the clear and sober forecast from someone who knows these people better than anyone. Over the last decade and a half, as my theology shifted and my beliefs grew more and more progressive, I’ve been a kind of undercover Liberal in an increasingly extremist movement, that while once relegated to minor fringe noisemakers is now at the precipice of Roman Empire-level power. They are less than two years away from having a dominance that they will wield violently and not relinquish.

I watched it all unfold from the inside:

I was at a North Carolina megachurch when Obama was elected and I saw the shift take place firsthand. I saw the fear slowly being ratcheted up and the agenda become solidified and the prejudices leveraged.
I was speaking regularly at the Billy Graham headquarters when Fox News reporters and Republicans like Sarah Palin started walking the halls with frequency.
I saw the messages at pastor’s conferences grow more incendiary and urgent, and heard the supremacist dog whistles become louder and more frequent.
While many decent people around this nation celebrated the progress of a black president and the many civil and human rights victories and gradually let down their guard—the white Conservative church set off the alarms and prepared for a holy war.

Yet, they were still a largely powerless, dying dinosaur until 2016, when Donald Trump acquired the presidency and gave the Evangelicals the perfect amoral partner to serve as the biggest bully pulpit they’ve ever had. Combine that with a fragmented Left, a general fatigue by the larger population, a ceremonial victory in Congress (thanks to Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema), and Republican attacks on voters’ rights— and we are now a hair’s breadth from the subjugation of diverse humanity here.

These are not followers of Jesus despite the trappings and window dressing. They are Jesus-less extremists: blind zealots for nothing but power. They have been conditioned by decades of polluted theology and FoxNews alternative facts to see diversity as a threat, to see progress as attacks on America, and to interpret more people being treated with dignity as oppression of white people.

Trust me when I tell you that we won’t recover from the theocracy Evangelicals are constructing once it is established. If we fail in 2022, they will have a political power that will render every election null and void, and we will never have a voice again in our lifetimes.

Women will lose autonomy over their own bodies.
LGBTQ people will have the rights to marry and adopt taken away.
People of color will be fully squeezed out of the electoral process.
Immigrants will be denied access to opportunity and refuge here.
These are not creative projections. They are precisely what Evangelicals have repeatedly stated as their intentions, and they’re closer than they’ve ever been to having a rubber stamp.

We can still stop it, though.
We just need a unity and coordination that transcends theirs.
We need a sustained, passionate, dedicated defense of humanity that rivals their relentless assaults on it.

I hear many people say they’re terrified, but being terrified alone doesn’t do anything but help these people.
Be terrified and get angry.
Be terrified and get busy.
Be terrified and go to work.
Be terrified and fight like hell.

I wish more decent people in America remembered they are among the vast majority instead of acting as if they are helpless victims of Republican Christians. We could defeat them, and we need to. We just need to stop lamenting how much damage they are doing and start doing something to oppose them.

We’ve seen this play out throughout history and we know how it ends. We know what unchecked religious extremist is capable of and we know the cost of the silence and inaction of good people. We also know what people are capable of when they refuse to accept fascism and white supremacy cloaked in the Bible and wrapped in the flag, when they fight for something inherently good together.

As someone who knows just how much these Christians have lost the plot of their faith tradition, believe me when I tell you that they cannot be allowed to steer this nation. It will not end well for the disparate people who call it home or who one day wish to.

Love and equity and diversity are in the balance.

It’s time we made a choice.

It may be the last one we get.

It’s Courageous to Be LGBTQ and in the Closet, Too

As an affirming student pastor, I have been given a profound gift.

For decades, hundreds of people (many of them in their teens and early twenties) have entrusted me with a truth they often felt they could not reveal anywhere else: the revelation of their identity and the orientation of their hearts. It has been a truth often delivered through a shaking voice and a trembling body and a flood of tears.

Most of the time I have known their families, I’ve known the faith they were raised in, I’ve known the schools they’ve attended and the friends surrounding them and the churches where they’ve worshipped. Because of that, I’ve understood why they were in the closet: because the closet was a shield, a precious line of defense against the taunts and threats and bruises they would sustain were they to step outside of it. The closet was a place where safety came at the price of their silence, and that was a transaction they felt they needed to make.

Sometimes young people shared their stories with me because they wanted someone to help them begin to share that story with their families and friends; to walk with them on the terrifying journey out of the closet. We would talk about specific people in their lives and work through the very specific hows and whens of revealing this news. We would rehearse conversations or arrange meetings or craft letters, all to make the coming-out process as devoid of turbulence as we could make it.

But more often, these middle school, high school, and college-aged students, simply needed one human being in whose presence they felt safe, so that they could continue living with a secret that for any number of reasons, they were not yet able or ready to reveal, and I was honored to be that person. Many of them have since come out to the world, or perhaps to a select few. Others are still living in the closet, five or ten or 15 years later, and though I grieve that because I wish for them the exhale of being able to be fully themselves around everyone all the time—I do not respect them any less because they haven’t yet felt ready to expose their hearts to the world in that way.

On Pride month, we who strive to be allies and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community loudly celebrate human beings who step out into their truest truths, and we should. It is a personal act of unthinkable courage to be a publicly authentic human being when doing so exposes you to such cruelty and ignorance, when it is so emotionally and physically treacherous.

But it is a no-less courageous act to live partially-concealed, when the people you most need to be protected by feel the most dangerous to you; when the circumstances of your life do not allow you the option of physical separation or financial independence— or simply when your emotional reserves do not feel sufficient to sustain the responses that may come as a result. That doesn’t make you less strong or less brave or less honorable, it simply makes you not yet ready. That is not a character flaw or a moral failing, it is simply part of your authentic journey right now. Feeling obligated to share what you are not prepared to share is as much an unfair burden as being forced to be silent. You get to be ready when you are ready.

To my LGBTQ+ friends who have made the difficult decision to walk the rest of this journey with your truth fully exposed, I am so in awe of your strength and your courage, and I do celebrate you because you are so worthy of that celebration. You deserve to be received and loved without caveat or condition.

But to my LGBTQ+ friends currently in the closet, I want you to know that I see you there; that I know there is nothing you’d want more than to not have to couch every conversation or alter your words or manage your social media or conceal your honest feelings. I know that you too, want to be fully seen and fully known—but that now is not the right time for you. That makes you no less strong or courageous or worthy of celebration.

Whether you need another few days or a couple of months or several years, know that I am in your corner, I am for you, and that I and so many others—are so very proud of you.

I Don’t Want Bipartisanship With Bad People

For months I’ve been hearing about pursuing a bipartisan America; about this nation needing to forge a new spirit of political collaboration if we ever hope to bridge the massive divides here.

I’m tired of hearing that.

We all know how we got here.
We’ve all lived through the past five years.
We saw the “both sides” rhetoric in Charlottesville.
We saw the George Floyd murder.
We saw the violence against the BLM protests.
We saw the support for Kyle Rittenhouse.
We saw the conspiratorial pandemic denials.
We saw the anti-mask defiance.
We saw the legislative attacks during the election.
We saw the terrorism at the Capitol.
We saw the lack of response by the Government.
We can’t apologize for seeing it and we can’t be gaslit into thinking that we didn’t see it and we can’t be guilted into forgetting that we saw it.

The divides here in this country are not arbitrary and they are not meritless.
They exist for a reason.
They are here because some of us simply refuse to tolerate racism and sedition and the systematic extermination of diversity here, and we need to remember that.
This is not blind tribalism, this is our shared decency rejecting something so very indecent.
We need to stop talking about bipartisanism in America and start talking about humanity before it’s too late.

The idea of bipartisanship suggests that there are two very different but equally valid sides represented at a given moment. This is inaccurate in this version of America.

Knowingly perpetuating a dangerous lie of election fraud, is not a valid side.
Fighting a thorough, objective examination of the deadly attack on Congress intended to overturn an election, is not a valid side.
Legislatively cancelling the votes of people of color is not a valid side.
Justifying the murder of unarmed people of color by law enforcement, is not a valid side.
Voting unanimously against COVID aid while opposing masks and vaccines in the wake of 500,000 deaths, is not a valid side.
Taking away the rights of women to have autonomy over their own bodies, is not a valid side.
Demanding that teachers no longer teach about racism in America, is not a valid side.

Elevating such positions by implying that they deserve an equal seat at the table is simply reckless. To claim a desire to work with the violent lunacy of Marjorie Taylor Greene or the nonsensical, ignorant gun lust of Lauren Boebert or the unabashed sedition of Josh Hawley or the blind obstructionism of Mitch McConnell—is at best disingenuous and at worst, moral complicity. Throughout our history there have been moments when unequivocal stands against an existential threat need to be made. That’s where America is right now.

For months, Democrats have been begging Republicans for a bipartisan investigation of the January 6th terrorist attack on the Capitol, and they have steadfastly refused. This is because the attack itself was partisan. That was the whole point: to overthrow democracy and deny the voice of the majority and silence an entire group of Americans.

Since the moment the halls of Congress were breached, Republicans have laughably declared the real culprits to be BLM, ANTIFA, and the “Radical Left.” If they really believed this to be true, they’d be loudly demanding an investigation right now—but they are refusing it.

The only reason for a political party to resist documenting information about the Capitol attack, is because they planned, supported, participated in, and stood to benefit from it—period. Had the coup attempt been successful and the last guy was still president and Republicans now had the majority in Congress, do you really think they’d be talking about bipartisanship? Of course not.

There are no false equivalencies to be made here at this place and time in the history of this nation. This abomination of a political party is now nothing more than a death cult whose sole platform is appeasing, pleasing, and defending a wannabe despot. To elevate them to something worthy of partnership is political treason and theological heresy.

To entertain conspiracy or abide terrorism or enable bigotry in the name of some ceremonial both sides-ism makes a mockery of the costly battles so many vulnerable communities have fought before us, in order to make this a place where blind nationalism does not rule the day and where a minority of extremists cannot have their way.

I don’t care about bipartisanship, I care about protecting humanity.

If the fight for that humanity places me on one side of a partisan political line, that likely points to the inhumanity on the other side of it.

I will not partner with terrorism and I refuse to make peace with white supremacy and I will not cooperate with fascists.

I’m not apologizing for that and neither should the rest of us.

 

If MAGA Christianity is Christianity—I’m Not a Christian and Neither is Jesus

I used to think I was a Christian.I’ve been a pastor in the local church for twenty-five years and a believer for most of my life. I’ve spent decades studying and teaching, working in the church, leading retreats and mission trips, caring for the needs of people, and working to emulate the Jesus I found in the Gospels.

I’ve tried to perpetuate the compassion of his teachings, his heart for the poor, his love for the vulnerable, his ferocity in the face of injustice. I’ve been burdened to expand the table of hospitality and opportunity to include more people. I thought that was the point, here.

I was either wrong about myself or wrong about Jesus. MAGA Christians tell me so.

Every day I get Christian family members and former church friends and total strangers, writing to let me know me they feel sorry for me, that they’re worried for my soul, that they’re praying for my immediate repentance, and to remind me that I’m not a “real Christian.”

That used to bother me.

Now, it encourages me.

Now I see that their “real Christianity” isn’t anything I want to be a part of anyway.

I know that they are worried for and offended by me, because I’m trying to live out the teachings of a Jesus they no longer seem interested in listening to, because they’ve embraced the very kind of movement Jesus spent his life opposing.

They still read those Bible stories imagining that they’re the heroes, no longer seeing that they’d have really had a problem with Jesus.
They’d have despised his pigmentation, abhorred his calls to love their neighbors, and sickened by his socialist leanings.
They’d have lamented how “woke” he was.
They’d have justified his murder.

I know that the Jesus of the Bible would be least welcomed by these red hat-donned professed patriots out here waving their truck flags and thumping their Bibles and rattling their constituency—for a bigoted theocracy that looks more like the violent might of Rome than the interdependent, generous community Jesus was building.

I see that they are living an inverted religion that is antithetical to his teachings and morally upside-down when compared with his example.

Now, I realize that whatever worldview they embrace isn’t something I have any interest in holding onto.

If being a Christian means embracing a man who boasted that he could grab women by the genitalia, I’m out.
If being a Christian means denying the votes of people of color or justifying their executions at traffic stops, I’ll pass.
If being a Christian means nurturing mindless conspiracies and shunning safeguards and stoking hate crimes, I’m gonna opt out.
If being a Christian means pretending a deadly terrorist attack on our Capitol was just a “group of tourists,” I denounce it as a my former religion.

I’m going to keep pursuing a life of goodness and meaning; one marked by love, one burdened to be helpful, one resembling the open-hearted compassion of the Jesus I read about.

But if this malignant MAGA hate-cult is practically speaking “Christianity” now, if this is by default what this religion is, then they’re absolutely right about me not being a Christian.

Then again, if they’re now the standard bearers, then Jesus wouldn’t be considered a Christian either.

Guess the two of us will be out here together fighting for a love they have no interest in.