The Right’s Dangerous Christian Drag Show


Cue the lights. Strike up the band. It’s showtime again in America.

Every single day they brazenly parade around in front of us: in our neighborhoods, on our timelines, in our school board meetings, in stores in front of our children.

They shamelessly don their cheap, glittery regalia, meticulously transforming themselves into a sickening inversion of who they actually are, putting on an unnatural false persona designed to indoctrinate young minds by passing as something they’re not. It is a vile bait and switch that decent human beings should be sickened by.

The political Right is the worst kind of drag show: that of hateful, heartless bigots pretending to be Christian.

The Conservative charlatan commandeering of Christianity in America began a long time ago with Christian Drag OGs like Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart, but it wasn’t until 2016 that it received a presidential seal of approval to leave the megachurches and unashamedly go mainstream. The show has now reached Capitol Hill.

No longer content to keep their perverse religious performance art to their church buildings and tent revivals, they’ve brought it into the places our laws our made, into the spaces where we shop, into the institutions where young people’s minds are shaped. More than subjecting unwilling spectators to their subversive charade from a distance, these theological thespians are taking it right into their bedrooms, into their bathrooms, into their very bodies. It is no longer merely a pathetic sideshow to be ignored by passersby, but a circus they’re all being pulled into.

Now, we’re subjected to an entire political party and a large swath of its base who regularly impersonate Jesus while having no interest in a word of his teachings. From a distance, to the unobservant they appear religious but when you get up close and see them in the raking light of day the cracking, clumsily-applied veneer shows itself.

This is a counterfeit Christ.

There is no love for neighbor here.
There is no compassion for the poor, no care for the sick, no food for the hungry, no welcome to the stranger.
There isn’t a trace of a benevolence that declares the peacemakers blessed,
no gentleness that condemns the retributive violence of the sword,
no sprawling hospitality declares God’s love for the entire world,
no empathy that speaks of Christ inhabiting the imprisoned and alone.

In this antithetical Christian drag show, there is only aggression toward the immigrant, fear-mongering war rhetoric,
posturing “come and take it” gun bravado,
and predatory, hollow culture wars against the least of these.
There are book bans and AR-15 pins and rainbow shirt boycotts and legislated misogyny and white supremacist dog whistles—all slapped with an awkward pastiche of religiosity that discerning eyes can easily see. And those with such eyes need to find their outside voices now.

People here whose hearts earnestly desire to emulate the expansive empathy and exhaustive love of Jesus should be the most outraged at the way these theological cross-dressers are making a mockery of their faith tradition. They should be rightly sickened that they are doing such willful and irreparable damage while costumed as Christians, because they are making it virtually impossible for the watching world to separate a compassionate Jesus from the disfigured monstrosity in front of them.

It’s not enough for decent people who aspire to the best of religion to say, “I’m not like them” and to remain silently complicit. In the absence of loud sustained opposition from human beings who actually do seek to love their disparate neighbors and welcome more people to the table and to wield a faith that does no harm—the pretenders are taking over.

This dogma-and-pony show isn’t just making Jesus irrelevant to an entire generation of people, it is shaping policy for us and for those who will inherit this place from us. It is renovating our laws and determining what we can read and how we can choose healthcare and who gets a vote and who finds refuge and who is allowed to marry.

We deserve better than a theocracy crafted by imposters.
We deserve a nation free from compulsory, fraudulent religion.
We deserve to be emancipated from their performance.

Enough of the Conservative Right’s sickening Christian drag show.

Bring up the houselights, strike the stage, and close the curtain.

Get involved in your local community, leverage your social media platform, speaking into your social circle, show up at school board meetings, support local politicians— and most importantly, vote.

We need to shut this show down for good.


My Woke Liberal Agenda

A stranger recently exposed my secret.

He visited my Twitter page after my lamentations over yet another mass shooting, to announce that it was actually my fault.

Never mind that I’m vehemently anti-gun proliferation and have never owned a weapon of any kind, as such minor details proved inconsequential in the face of his confident and pinpoint diagnosis of the matter.

“It’s people like you are the problem here!” he chastised me. “Politicizing a tragedy, disrespecting shooting victims, and inciting hatred—you’re causing this violence!”

At first, this seemed like a completely nonsensical accusation but he stated it with such conviction that I simply had to reconsider.

People like me?” I thought to myself. “Could I, in my resistance to guns, actually be to blame for a country with all these mass shootings?”

I began to mount a fierce protest, when he interrupted me.

“You liberals and your agenda are the real danger here!”

Then it hit me.
I realized that I’d been found out.
My cover had been blown.
I’d have to come clean and cop to the charges.

I knew I needed to make a full confession to my social media prosecutor and to the watching world—so here it is,

My “Woke Liberal Agenda” on gun violence:

Not normalizing the fact that tens of thousands of people are murdered each year in American schools, churches, supermarkets, and playgrounds—and calling out the professed Christians worshiping the guns used to kill them.

Asking why, in their rabid and incessant defense of the 2nd Amendment, Conservative American gun lovers willfully overlook both the “well-regulated” and “Militia” portions.

Wondering why these same folks seem far less passionate about the 1st Amendment, when people like me suggest that their guns and their gunlust may actually be the gun problem we have here.

Asking why America has the highest gun homicide rate of any developed country—and suggesting that it has something to do with the NRA’s influence on the gun laws of this country, the number of guns in the system, and the cowboy culture created around them.

Forcing Republicans out of the bed they’re in with the NRA, because their continual expression of “thoughts and prayers” when followed by complete inaction—may as well be bullets for the next mass shooting.

Mentally ill people and criminals not having access to handguns—and asking Republican leaders why they removed the barriers that made such things difficult and why they have continually defunded mental healthcare.

Respecting mass shooting victims enough to talk about them while the world actually gives a damn about them—and before they’re soon replaced the next day or the next week by more mass shooting victims we’re told that it’s “too soon” for us to talk about.

And while we’re at it, here’s the rest of my woke Liberal Agenda:

Demanding that the actual history of America be taught to American children, including the parts white Conservative Christians find uncomfortable.

Insisting the LGBTQ human beings be given every right to govern their bodies, define their families, marry the person they love, and live free of the moral views of strangers.

Pushing back against Nazis, white supremacists, and racists—whether they’re marching in the streets or marching through Congress.

Ensuring that women and have autonomy over their own bodies and that their doctors get to advise them on their healthcare decisions, not Republican politicians.

Exposing a white Evangelical Church that passionately cultivates contempt for LGBTQ people, for Muslims, for non-Christians—and wants to escape culpability for the violence this visits upon them.

Contending that people fortunate enough to be born in America aren’t more inherently valuable or more deserving of liberty than those who were not born here.

Affirming that God is neither white, nor male, nor American, nor Christian—and that God doesn’t specifically bless America.

Demanding that no one have to choose between life-saving care or paying their mortgage.

Opposing any religious tradition that attempts to contest with musty doctrine, what Science has made clear about this world.

Insisting that the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we’re sitting on be protected from degradation—not subjected to it by those of us fortunate enough to be here.

A diverse and equitable nation that makes room for more than just white American, Republican Christians who were lucky enough to be born here.

Yeah, you know—now that I see it all in black and white like this, I suppose it is dangerous: fewer guns, more barriers to having them, less money for gun lobbyists, Christian politicians and leaders who actually resemble Jesus—and equality for people despite their gender identity, sexual orientation, physical condition, religious tradition, pigmentation, or nation of origin.

I could see how someone could view that as a problem, how it could feel threatening.

Yes, I stand here accused of this subversive, dangerous, supposedly America-destroying woke Liberal Agenda.

And I’m guilty as charged.


American Christians Need To Kiss White Jesus Goodbye


Growing-up I lived with an image of Jesus.

I’m talking about a literal picture that inhabited our family room, my Catholic school hallways, and the homes of many of the Christians I knew.

With angular features, blue eyes, and flowing golden hair this Jesus was calm, quietly confident—and decidedly white.

And it was this depiction of Christ that quietly shaped my working theology and my understanding of the world in ways I’m only now just beginning to understand and slowly learning to jettison.

There is a subtle racism that so many white Christians are born into, one that runs silently in the background of our spiritual operating systems. When the Jesus you see in your head looks like you, it’s almost impossible not to view yourself and others with a distorted lens: one where you are more in the image of God than another, more possessing of dignity, more deserving of respect, more worthy of love.

While I would never have taken direct ownership of any overt bigotry as a young man, (and certainly would have violently rejected the label of racist), looking back now I’ve been able to see how my whitewashed portrait of Jesus told me a false story about God and about people of color. It made me more fearful of difference and less compassionate toward strangers who didn’t look like me.

I’ve slowly come to realize the invisible barrier it has often been to me more clearly seeing and being moved by the inequity around me. Sure, I’d say that God so loved the world but subconsciously believing that I was what God looked like, insulated me from the suffering outside my window when it proved too frightening or inconvenient.

It’s clear that generations weaned on white Jesus have altered organized religion here. In these days when we are experiencing a renaissance of open racism in America, the silence of so much of the white Christian Church has been conspicuous and damning.

The defiant refusal of so many white Christians:
to utter the phrase “Black Lives Matter,”
to recognize the disparity of experience across color lines,
to name the violence against black men by law enforcement,
to condemn gerrymandering and voter suppression,
or to reject a political party brazenly marginalizing the voices of people of color
—tells me that they still unknowingly worship and serve a very white Jesus and still probably see God as ultimately in their image.

And this is rendering too much of the white American Church a quiet, complicit spectator right now, when it should be fully engaged on the front lines of the work of peace and justice. It should be confronting its own. It should be facing itself. The Church should be the greatest adversary to white nationalism instead of its most powerful ally.

America has never been a “Christian nation,” as Conservatives claim, but for most of its history, power and privilege have been in the hands of religious white people with a Caucasian Christ. These folks have written the story of faith and race in this country—and it is a tragedy. It needs to be rewritten in realtime right now, and this is the critical work to which we are called.

The more this season of our nation unfolds, the more I’m convinced I am that white Christians need to reject and discard this whitewashed image of Christ, not because we’re ashamed of our whiteness but because we don’t want to make an idol of it the way too many Republicans and Evangelicals have.

America is here in this place of violence and acrimony and disconnect, largely because white people of faith have failed to accurately recognize and fight for the divinity in their brothers and sisters of color, and it’s a flat-out sin worthy of our full repentance. We cannot be silent in these days or we will be proving our allegiance is not to God but to our own likeness and self-preservation.

Until the white Christians can clearly picture the God reflected in all of humanity equally, we will continue to purposefully or unintentionally devalue those who look or talk or believe differently than we do. We will continue to tolerate or nurture the very racism that still so afflicts our nation.

I am determined to living the rest of my life as a Christian humbled by the presence of Christ in those around me. As a white follower of Jesus who wants to be part of a more redemptive season in America’s history, I’m saying goodbye to White Jesus so that I can fully find him in the eyes of all my neighbors.



How You Die When Someone You Love Dies


At one time or another you’ve probably heard someone say that when a person you love dies, a part of you dies too.

I used to think that was just a beautiful figure of speech, a touching poetic image that spoke symbolically to the depth of our profound sadness and loss.

That is, until a decade ago—when I died.

My father passed away suddenly and I’ve written a great deal here about the road I’ve traveled since then. It’s one that’s meandered from the night-time depths of heaving sobs, to sweet sunrise moments of incredible gratitude. Most of the time I’ve naturally grieved his loss from my life; the absence replacing his presence.

But in the time since my father’s death, I’ve come face to face with the me who also left for good on the day that he did.

Over the course of our 44 years together, my dad and I did lots of really great stuff—just the two of us. As you do when you lose someone you love, I often find myself randomly rewinding to those places and times in the past, to remind me of the love and adventures and the laughter we shared. One of those cherished memories was of the Saturdays in my early teenage years, when I’d accompany him to a local indoor flea market at the New York State Fairgrounds. Times were tough for our family then (though I was quite oblivious), and my father was selling athletic shoes on the side to help keep our heat on and our pantry full.

It was an incredible struggle for him and I’m sure from his perspective, a pretty rough time.

To me it was like Christmas at Disneyland.

I’d get up before the sun on Saturday and help him load up the shoes into massive hockey bags and off we’d go. We’d usually eat breakfast from one of the vendors on site in the damp cold of the early winter morning. (I can still taste the bagels grilled on a huge flat top with gobs of butter and smell the bacon that had been crisping up next to them). Once things were up and running at my dad’s booth, I’d head off to explore the flea market, which may as well have been an amusement park to my ninth grade brain. I spent hours and hours looking through racks of record albums, digging through old comic books, trying out stereo equipment, making handmade buttons with silly catch phrases on them, and checking out cute girls at the other booths.

Between all of that, I’d hang out with my dad and watch him do his thing with customers, trying to be helpful where I could. Later we’d pack up everything and usually head back home after lunch. They were precious times.

There are lots of other things that happened during those weekends he and I spent together at the flea market: more stories, more conversations, more meals, more funny anecdotes—but I no longer have access to them.

That’s what people never tell you about the real, fundamental, life-giving stuff you lose when someone you love leaves.

You lose the part of you that only they knew.

You lose some of your story.

It simply dies.

My dad was the only one there with me during those special Saturdays, and now that he’s gone there’s no one to go to to help me relive or revisit or remember them when I want to. There’s no one to help fill in the gaps of my memories, no one to give me the pieces of life that belonged only to the two of us—and I hate that.

Any part of those days that exists outside of my memory is unavailable to me.

One of the great things about having people who love you and who’ve lived alongside of you for a long time is how they can surprise you, how when you’re with them they can dig out a story or unveil something about you that you had totally forgotten about or had never known at all. My dad would do that all the time, matter-of-factly tossing off a random memory that allowed me to see myself through his eyes. It was like having a small lost part of you suddenly and unexpectedly returned to you.

As much as I miss my dad (and I do miss him terribly) I miss the me that he knew, too. I grieve the loss of our shared story.

I mourn losing the childhood me who napped with him on his bed, the teenage me who spent those priceless Saturday mornings with him, the college aged me who fell asleep while he drove the four-hour trip back to college, the middle-aged me who made him laugh with silly stories of his grandkids.

Just as sure as he isn’t coming back, neither are those parts of my story because he was their co-owner.

Friends, as you grieve for those who are gone, know that it’s normal to also lament the part of you that they’ve taken with them.

While those experiences formed you and reside deep in the fabric of your very heart, in ways that certainly transcend your memories, the painful gaps will still be there in what you lose without their eyewitness testimony.

Those aren’t just flowery words meant to simply paint a picture of grief, they’re a vivid description of real, personal loss.

A part of you does indeed die when someone you love passes away.

May they, and the unique part of you they’ve taken with them both rest in peace.


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