On Learning To Love Offensively (For Those Weary From The Fight)

Person in field

This is getting simpler.

I’ve recently found a clearing of sorts; a place where my mind and my spirit are finding peace and rest no matter how loud and ugly things get—though it wasn’t always this way.

For a long time I let the angry, mean-spirited, violent noise get the best of me. That happens to so many good people out here trying to change things, trying to care about stuff that matters, trying to help build the world they wish to see.

Spend enough time in the thick of the fight and you become conditioned to it, poisoned by its cynicism and contempt, hardened by its continual cruelty. Face the world in a battle posture long enough and you lose the ability to live any other way.

Too many people can only function if they have a villain to war with, a cause to rail against, an evil to condemn.

I’m conscientiously objecting to that fruitless war these days. I am trying to find a better way to fight.

More and more, I am letting what and who I care deeply about drive and move and fuel me. It allows me simplicity and clarity:

I abhor racism and bigotry, so I strive to see and treat all people equally and individually. 
I detest homophobia and transphobia, so I care for and support my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and their families.
I believe all people have the same inherent value, so I push back when that value is disregarded or disputed.
I believe no religious tradition has the market cornered and beauty and truth, so I advocate for all faith perspective, not simply my own.

I believe fully in gender equality, so I do my best to advocate it.
I find poverty detestable, so I look for ways to contribute to eliminating it.
I can’t stomach hatred in the name of Jesus, so as a Christian I try daily to reflect Christ’s love as well as I can as often as I can.

In short—I am learning to live and love offensively.

I no longer allow myself to be burdened with those who see me as an enemy. Their perceptions are formed from a distance anyway, and so I simply refuse to be defined by them. The more you know who you are, the less threatened you are when someone attacks you and the less interested you are in attacking back.

I am not very concerned with convincing others to agree with me either. I simply speak my heart clearly and continually and unwaveringly, trusting that those whose hearts echo mine will come alongside me while those who disagree will still be forced to hear me.

I spend less and less time these days being baited into verbal public battles, as those rarely do anything for the dignity of either side. I do not feed those who thrive on confrontation, as it takes my time and energy from those who need me; those who are so often forgotten, ignored, or drowned out by the din of social media shouting matches and endless culture wars.

More and more, I simply live to be the antidote to the things I find hurtful or damaging in the world, rather than arguing with those I believe are being hurtful or damaging. There are certainly times to identify dangers and to call out injustice, but those pale in comparison to the countless moments that simply require personal goodness.

Friends, there will always be those whose medium is vitriol, whose currency is condemnation, whose agenda is provocation, but resist responding in kind because that only conforms you to their image.

If you claim Christ, until you have a Christianity without venom you don’t have one that resembles Jesus quite yet. As a person of faith, this is the only kind of religion I am interested in.

Maybe you are like me. Maybe you’re bloodied and weary of the fight, but finding your second wind and discovering a better path, one less mired in sarcasm and less toxic to touch. 

Maybe you’re intentionally walking away from the war trenches, so that you can move toward the hurting, the unloved, the waiting—and respond.

If so, welcome.

This is the beginning of a holy movement in the world.

This is the stuff real revolutions are made of. 

May you fight well.

May you learn to love offensively.


94 thoughts on “On Learning To Love Offensively (For Those Weary From The Fight)

  1. I must live in a bubble – I read and hear stuff all the time coming from Christians who disagree politically, on the LGBT group, what Church and Christianity is all about, but I don’t run into these angry, mean spirited, hateful people that you often write about. I find the Christian community at large being very loving and grace filled even with those they deeply disagree with. I hope I stay in this bubble :-), the Christian world you’re surrounded by must be very wearisome. Hope, peace, love and blessings on you and yours.

    • I agree with you to a certain extent. I don’t know any Christian personally who has been outright nasty to anyone in th e LGBT community, but I have seen homophobic behavior amongst Christian celebrities. Like John MacArthur’s turn your gay kids over to Satan rant: https://youtu.be/tWYAwknMlH4 . Also, most Christian people I know love FAUX News and agree with so much of the lies and vitriol that comes out of there. A friend of mine runs an important ministry where I live. He actually believes that there is no racism in America. He believes blacks have it just as good as whites. I tried to reason with him to no avail. He even defended the Duck Dynasty grandpa when he spewed his racist ideology. Look, I know my friend loves Jesus, but I find so many of his political dogma incredibly offensive. I find much of what my Christian friends believe and support incredibly offensive and that’s aside from their beliefs on homosexuality.

    • I see it everyday in people who profess to be Christians. Every. Day. All I have to do is open my Facebook and scoll through the racist, homophobic vitriol and feel physically ill. Christians professing their love for Christ and condemning anyone who do not believe exactly the same. It’s the reason Ive decided to stay away from FB a for the foreseeable future. I envy you your bubble.

    • Feel blessed and praise God for that. There are Christian Communities that emulate the love of Christ. I am part of one now, but I have been in congregations that haven’t shown a Matt 25 love and have, in fact, spoken against the poor and strangers… Meanwhile, I will pray that your community will continue to be a light in a dark world.

  2. Thank you for the encouraging words.

    I find myself TOO often “baited” into defending my beliefs. I need to learn to “let it go” and just proclaim what I believe and let those who hear, hear, and those who reject, reject. It’s up to the SPIRIT, not to me, to change hearts of stone into hearts of love.

    I just wish I’d remember all that more often.

  3. Thank you John so much for this post! I really needed to hear this today! Thanks for helping me stay grounded and to fight the urge to respond to every hateful comment I receive on social media. Your the best and I hope to actually get to meet you someday in person. Your blog has been a real life saver for me and many others. Keep on sharing from the deep places of your heart, I and many others are listening and are thankful for your gifts. Be Blessed 🙂
    Mitch Reid

  4. this touched me deeply. I am a Gay Christian trying to stay true to my faith and navigate the anger and hostility out there. My fellow Christians seem to feel that if you profess to be Gay there is no way you can be Christian. With every fiber of my being I don’t believe that but it is widely accepted so many of us do find ourselves defending our position. I am not a person that loudly speaks my mind publicly nor do I chose to be very political. I just want to be accepted as Christian in my little part of the world. Thank you for such comforting and peaceful words.

    • You do not owe those people any explanation either. Your faith is between you and Jesus—not you, Jesus, and Fred. If someone does evil to you in an illegal way because you are different from other people in some way, then it is between you, Jesus, and your lawyer. I wish more LGBTQ people would bring their lawyer into the picture when some injustice arises. Get some copies of your lawyer’s business cards and be ready to hand them out when someone treats you me. Just hand it to them and say, “We’ll be talking to you soon.”

    • I for one do understand how you feel and what you are saying. There are Christians who battle their own personal demons everyday and yet their faith is not called into question as yours is because you are Gay. Being as God created you.

  5. Recently inmates of a maximum security prison in Texas conceived, and with help from the outside, held an Interfaith Retreat. A representative of each faith, including Judaism, Islam, Wiccan, Buddhism, Catholic Christianity, and Protestant Christianity (both the same faith but with some different views), to make a presentation of their beliefs. The other listened and asked questions. No one was allowed to argue with them on the correctness of their belief. I had the privilege of presenting a short message to the brothers in white in that unit last Saturday, and I encouraged them and us to continue the dialogue. Its easy; when you come across a person of another faith, you ask them, “How do you practice your religion in the Connally Unit?” Then shut up and listen. The brothers in white are way ahead of the World in many ways. Try this approach to evangelism: “Tell me about your religion” and then shut up and listen, not your head, smile, look them in the eyes. Don’t give your opinion, it doesn’t need to be heard. If pressed, admit to being a Christian, but leave it at that, and ask another question of your new friend. You don’t have to be incarcerated in a prison to do this.

    • I like a lot of what u said there because people should see the humanity in others from different backgrounds & of different beliefs, should be able to have peaceful, pleasant discussions w/ other people of different faiths, & it’s a good thing that that organization facilitates that & fosters peace, but the way u say “admit” to being a Christian sounds like u think a Christian should be ashamed of being one. It sounds like admitting to a crime. You also don’t say “if asked” but rather “if pressed.” That makes it sound like if a person asked what your faith is u still might not answer unless the person asks u again or pressures u. I’m sorry, but if Jesus had had that attitude & taught his students to have that attitude then many millions of people around the planet would never have even heard of Christianity. In fact, Jesus & his disciples were proactive. Obviously, a maximum security prison is a unique environment w/ some violent people, but just because some things need to be done in a certain way in there, it doesn’t mean free people have to do things the same way. Imagine if we ran our lives as free people the way everything is done in a maximum security prison. (?)

      If someone asks u what u believe in when it comes to religion/spirituality & u just say “I’m Christian” & that’s all u say (u said “leave it at that”), how do u know if they even know what that means? You need to be prepared to answer someone’s question w/ a little more than that. I’m sorry, but by saying a person should leave it at that, u might as well criticize Jesus himself then, because that’s not what he did. There’s something wrong w/ a scenario where someone actually comes out & asks u about your religion & u still won’t let them know any more than just “I’m Christian.” What are u afraid of? All I can think of is that maybe you’re ashamed of being a follower/student of Jesus. IF so, Jesus doesn’t deserve that. IF it’s about being afraid the other person might not like what u believe or not like u, all I can say is u can’t be a Christian & put popularity ahead of what Jesus taught. Jesus said anyone who was not willing to acknowledge him in front of others would be someone he would not acknowledge in front of his father in Heaven. Jesus said the one who loves him is the one who actually does what he says to. The longer a person is a Christian, s/he needs to learn how to share it w/ others nicely & respectfully, & be comfortable doing that – otherwise they’re not doing as Jesus taught. I’m not saying recite the entire Bible at the person, but surely u can boil it down to a few sentences about what Christianity actually is. If someone actually asks u about your religion & they’d get upset if u don’t keep your reply down to 2 words, then they’re the one w/ a problem.

      • I think what he’s ^^^ ultimately trying to say is to LISTEN. Don’t take what he said too personally or too far. He’s simply saying LISTEN TO OTHERS FAITH BELIEFS AS WELL. SHARE WHEN IT’S YOUR TURN. People need to quit reading between the lines and interpreting others views as they see it. Keep it simple. Just LISTEN. Expand when the conversation deems necessary. Peace and blessings to you.

    • I do Reconciling Ministries – working with churches and families in trouble. That is exactly what I do. Too often, we are so busy formulating our answers to the other person, preparing to defend ourselves, that we don’t listen to what they are saying. I have one speak his/her peace – then the other has to paraphrase what they said, until both agree on what was said; then the other gets their turn – same deal. It’s amazing how, when one has truly “heard” the other, and the other realizes they have been “heard,” how walls come down, and people can begin to work on their differences in a more respectful way.

    • I think what he’s ^^^ ultimately trying to say is to LISTEN. Don’t take what he said too personally or too far. He’s simply saying LISTEN TO OTHERS FAITH BELIEFS AS WELL. SHARE WHEN IT’S YOUR TURN. People need to quit reading between the lines and interpreting others views as they see it. Keep it simple. Just LISTEN. Expand when the conversation deems necessary. Peace and blessings to you.

  6. Thank you John, I have been struggling with the same and praying about how to handle feeling like I’m in a constant battle. It is like you wrote this with me in mind. Thankful how Jesus used you to answer my prayers. I REALLY needed to hear this today.

  7. Yes!! I understand totally the constant buzz of negativity was too much and I’m learning not to tune in. I say let them argue with themselves and one another. In this I have peace

    • My church has shuned us because our daughter came out of the closet.
      I had to search my soul on what to do . Should l stay should I go. It was a hard decision because family was involved.I just can’t support people that proclaim someone can’t receive Jeusus because of the way God made them.You have helped me keep my faith intact.Our faith is not based on what we do or how much we love God. It’s about how much we know that he loves us. The answer is infinitely.He knew us before the earth was even formed.
      Love well my friend

      • I think that’s the answer to this problem as well: “God loves us.” If we understand that God is God, and we are not; God does not need defending – our defensiveness arises from our own needs and desire toward self-justification; if our trust is in God, and we believe that all things are in God’s hands – then we will find little need to attack when we are attacked, or to justify ourselves. It’s a hard lesson to learn, though! It takes a great deal of spiritual maturity to come to that realization, I believe.

  8. Well said my brother. Thanks for all you do and the love that you try to send. My the great spirit continue to bless you.

  9. My daughter has been sending me your feelings and Christian views. I am so appreciative. Your views are very close to mine but you’ve helped me to see some of my failures also. I thank you so much, I can see where I need improvement! But what if I’d like to know how to apply this loving view w/my forty year old alcoholic & ex drug addict son. We’ve been dealing and trying to help him since he was about 14. In & out of rehabs, jail, and prisons. In & out of our home. We don’t allow this behavior in our home so he leaves w/a woman sober & in a matter of weeks he’s back! We are in our 60’s now and very tired of living in his cycle! Please help me to know where we are failing. And yes he was molested by a neighbor when he was around 8-10years old. He never told us the truth til he was in his twenties. We would appreciate any words. And yes I read the Bible and pray but as you can imagine I am trying to keep my faith working.

    • I feel for you. My parents killed my 2.5 year old sister with an aspirin overdose in 1936. They always told me that she died from pneumonia,. Long after they died, my first cousin went to the State Library and Archives in my state and pulled the official death certificate for my sister. There it was plain as day—aspirin overdose. It had me really busted up for about 6 months that they would spend a lifetime lying to me about that. The best way for you to get advice for coping with your son is to go to local Al-Anon meetings in your area. Al-Anon is different from Alcoholics Anonymous. It is a program designed to help the nonaddicted family members of alcoholics and drug addicts. I know there must be one in your area because they are nearly everywhere. Peace and love to you and yorn.

      • Hello dover1952. I’m so sorry for the loss of your sister. I’d like to offer a thought in case it would help. I’m wondering if the newspaper article actually said anything more than “aspirin overdose,” since that’s all u mentioned it said. My family knew someone whose toddler got to a bottle of medicine back when the bottles didn’t have Safety Caps, & the child swallowed them as if they were candy & died. If all that I had heard was that their child died of a medicine “overdose,” I wouldn’t assume there was foul play. In this case, the parents were devastated and blamed themselves, which is an extremely hard or nearly impossible thing for people to deal with. In a case like that, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it was far too emotionally difficult for them to speak the truth & they instead would say something else – just to protect their sanity because of how much they loved that child and how devastated they were at the child’s loss.

        • Hi Alona. It was not in a newspaper. It was on the official state Certificate of Death that the law requires to be accurate, and it is listed on there by either the attending physician or a coroner. She did not die at home. She died in Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1936. What went on the Certificate of death was totally in official hands from start to finish.

    • Hello Patricia. My heart So goes out to you & yours, including your son!! God bless u for having tried all that u have tried!! This is a reply to a comment u left more than 3 months ago, so I hope it will still have a chance of being helpful.

      Since your son has been in & out of rehabs, I have 2 thoughts to offer {not as an expert or drug counselor, which I’m not, but just as a thoughtful, loving, intelligent person who cares}. 1) I wonder how long he’s out of rehab in between rehab, & how long he’s in rehab when he’s in there. The reason I wonder is: I once saw a Dr. Phil show where Dr. Phil told an alcoholic that she had so much alcohol in her system from so much drinking over the course of time that even if she stopped drinking right then & didn’t take another drink, it would still take something like (approximately) a few months to get all the alcohol out of her, if I remember correctly. So she would have to be in a residential facility for that long for it to help her. So, I would think if a person only goes into the kind of rehab that’s just a couple of weeks or so, it wouldn’t provide the needed break from alcohol because it’s not long enough.

      2) I once read a book (after the year 2000) with a person’s true story of her husband’s terrible drug addiction & how he finally got free from drugs. It all started when he was a kid and there was an accident that he got a devastating injury from (through no fault of his) & he was hospitalized & became addicted to painkillers as a kid. If I recall, it progressed to him making his own drugs at home. He tried rehab a couple of times (if I recall correctly, it might’ve been 2 different facilities) without success from either place. Finally, a prayer-circle was tried at church with a bunch of people all praying for him to become sober – and just like that, he simply woke up one day & went cold-turkey sober! I could never forget that testimonial. I know that the prayer of one person can be everything, but I do think that sometimes a prayer circle of a group of people can be even more effective than 1 or 2 people praying alone. I wish you and yours all good things! From the heart. <3 <3 <3

  10. Your website has helped me not to feel like a broken Christian. There is hope for hurting Christian parents of gay children. You dignify the LGBT community and you extend unconditional acceptance for ALL God’s children and are educating the “church” to begin the dialog within. When we told our Christian friends of 20+ years about our son, they were judgmental, removed us as friends, and eventually ostracized us in God’s church, People don’t understand that your son or daughter isn’t the only one who has to leave the closet. Their family (sooner or later) has to come out, too. The mean-spirited rejection from our friends caused us to leave our church of 25 years. It’s no wonder why gay believers walk away from the church, and gay non-believers will never enter in.
    Today I have found my new life motto: “I AM the antidote”!

    • “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
      That no flesh should glory in his presence. (I Corinthians 1:27-29)

      Also, there is one basic thing you have to understand—that the members of your church do not understand—it is that all Christians are broken people. There is strength in knowing you are broken. You, me, everyone—and an occasional shepherd boy. Let me show you what God does with broken people:

      Think on this some—and blessings to you.

    • wordmeister31850, my personal way of seeing it is this: I follow our Lord, and I know that Jesus had a hard time getting through to most of his disciples, & he was able to more & more as time went on, but I think that even once they got the Holy Spirit they were still human & capable of a mistake, unlike Jesus.

      I didn’t see it anywhere in the New Testament that Jesus himself said anything against gay people. There are, however plenty of direct teachings of his about feeding the hungry, helping the poor, not being materialistic, sharing with others, doing service for each other, etc, etc, but: I know that a lot of people who consider themselves Christian who are against homosexuality in the name of Christianity are the SAME people who do not like helping the poor! I’m not saying every person who considers himself or herself to be Christian & is against homosexuality is like that, but many are. To some extent, what do those things have in common as a motive, at least for a lot of people (not all) who are against both gay people & helping the poor – I think the common thread w/ a lot (not all) of those people who think that way is this: simple Elitism.

      Then there’s politics. The leadership of one side of politics tries to divide people & gain votes by being against a hot-button cultural issue such as gay people’s rights at the same time that they want to cut help for the sick & poor from the budget – all while they support Fortune 500 corporations such as ExxonMobil getting away w/ paying ZERO taxes!! (That last part there – trying hard to slash poor-children’s nutrition programs, for ex., while supporting corporations like ExxonMobil paying Zero taxes: that right there is EVIL – and I think many of those politicians don’t really care about the gay issue personally but care about getting donations from rich corporations & they just use the gay issue to gain more votes as a COVER for what they really want to accomplish – the money stuff. Frankly, as far as that goes, what I see is an absolute prejudice Against the poor.

  11. John, you so often speak my heart, I think you must be peeking into it! I am so weary of the haters also and just want to get on living out Christ. Thank you.

  12. I wonder if the fight is not between love and fear, and always has been. This oil and water mixture is noted best biblically in I JN 4:18, but to all of us who like John are choosing not to fight fear with fear and fire with fire, I JN is an epistle worth reading for our comfort and reassurance. Romans 12, also. John, I applaud your approach to the battlefield. To trust in the cross of Christ is to trust in love’s victory.

  13. Geez John. I do not know. I struggle with this myself—but the kernel of difficulty within it makes it a difficult struggle.

    My acquaintance Doug Frank out at The Oregon Extension once said that the only problem with fighting pharisees is that engaging in the fight against them will turn you into a pharisee. Of course, no one wants to BECOME the evil they are fighting against, and some might argue that I have already done that—and I will confess it—sometimes when I see a Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical letting go with their usual insensitivity, self-righteousness, harshness, meanness, downright unreasonableness, etc. (list is a mile long) on some poor soul (like maybe a homeless man, a poor person, or a sick person), I do indeed feel that if I had a double-barrel shotgun in hand, I could actually blow the pharisee away in a moment of outrage and actually enjoy it—but I would feel wrong, sad, and regret it when the rage wore off. I am just not a violent person and would normally do such a thing. So, I just settle for leaving the scene and muttering the words “two-bit bastards” under my breath as I walk away.

    Some in the Christian community would say it is wrong to be angry with these pharisees because anger is always wrong—but we feel what we feel—anger just happens. However, others in the Christian community would say that from a Biblical perspective it is never wrong to be angry at evil—that indeed—one should always be angry at evil and the awful things it does to people. It is a difficult question—and where exactly are the boundary lines on something like that? Do you really inevitably become a pharisee by fighting pharisees—and if so and you stand down—then is the whole world and everyone in it to be left at the mercy of the pharisees among us? Is this what Jesus wants us to do? Are we to just roll over and play dead as millions of people are shipped off to the gas chambers, ovens, and crematories—and let God take vengeance on them later in his own time? Would it not be better for real Christian people in the here and now to step in early and end the evil before it ever gets to that point? This is the classic Dietrich Bonhoeffer dilemma. What is the right thing for a Christian to do? Early on, Bonhoeffer thought the right thing to do as a Christian was to roll over, play dead, and just hope the horrors would never materialize. This is what most of the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany did. Rather than confront the evil and turn it back early when it was still weak and vulnerable, they just waxed passive, rolled over, and played dead in the name of Christian brotherhood with all mankind—turn the other cheek and hope for the best. Bonhoeffer later changed his mind and repented of his passivity in the face of so much evil—and realized that he could have done something to stop it—but unfortunately for him and millions of other people—it was too little—acted on too late.

    I watched an interesting, three-part documentary on religious fundamentalism last night. It was taking an honest, worldwide look at the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism (Christian fundamentalism, Hindu fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, Buddhist fundamentalism—the whole bag). According to the documentary, all of these fundamentalist movements worldwide, as it turns out, share a common thread. That thread is FEAR OF ANNIHILATION (fear of being religiously, socially, culturally, and subculturally annihilated by the natural process of sociocultural change that happens across time). Being a professional anthropologist, whose business is human culture and society, I can say that, along with death and taxes, the only other thing that is just as inevitable in this world is CULTURE CHANGE. It has ALWAYS happened over time, it is happening now, and it is going to continue happening as long as people live on this Earth. Change is an inevitable constant in human cultures all around the world. Religious fundamentalism is an attempt to stop that culture change and roll it backwards to a much earlier and “safer-feeling” cultural time and place that one’s heart moons for with deep sincerity in hope that one can avoid the annihilation that one fears so much. The only problem is that it does not work, and it never will work. It is like trying to prevent the sun from rising or the ocean tides from coming in. Human culture ALWAYS changes over time—ALWAYS.

    Perhaps I am a fundamentalist too in my own way. I possess this same fear of annihilation. For the past 20+ years, I have studied Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism. As a result of those studies, I have concluded that both are evil and dangerous—evils calling themselves good in our times and masquerading as the representatives of Jesus Christ on this Earth when in fact they are representing Satan unawares. As Jesus said of them so long ago, “these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” From the measurement of fundie minds and hearts, especially those with money and leadership, that I have been able to measure (however humanly and poorly) across that 20+ years, I have concluded that these movements are dangerous. Given political and military power—which they openly admit that they are seeking—I have no doubts—no doubts whatsoever—that the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals (under just the right evil leadership) would annihilate my church (United Methodist Church), every other mainline Christian church in the United States, any other Christian houses of worship that disagree with them, and all nonChristian houses of worship. Their purpose is to takeover and annihilate others in the United States to prevent themselves from being visited upon by the annihilation that they so much fear—religious, societal, cultural, and subcultural annihilation. Under “just the right” evil leadership, I have no doubts whatsoever in my mind that most Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals—if they ever get sufficient power—will one day ship millions of Christian and nonChristian people who disagree with them off to concentration camps, gas chambers, and crematories—and turn American society and culture into a religious-totalitarian Hell on Earth every bit as bad as anything the Nazis, ISIS, or Taliban could dream up. And it will all be done one day “In the Name of Jesus.” The leaders of the Christian Reconstructionism, Dominionism, Theonomy, and Seven Mountains Movements have already made it clear that they are that LEADERSHIP and that they stand ready right now—this very minute—to step in and takeover as that evil and heartless leadership when the time is right. If you doubt me on this, I would suggest that you read the following detailed analysis from the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE), which pretty much matches all of the independent research on this subject that I have done on my own over the years. Here is the link:


    So, in light of John’s main post on his blog, the Dietrich Bonhoeffer decision stands before me right now, before John, and before all American Christians who do not subscribe to Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism. Do we enter into our personally created cocoon of self-protective love, peace of mind, and passiveness (roll over and play dead) that will give Satan and the unloving enemies of Jesus Christ the free and open road that they desperately want so they can EASILY turn the earth into a graveyard and a living Hell in the name of Jesus? Or do we Christians and nonChristians stand up with the red words of Jesus against the evil and fight Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism while they are still weak, vulnerable, and easily subject to being stopped without any sort of violence. This is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer decision. It is key—and it stands before each of us right now ( you and me) in the year 2015. Do we band together and stop this evil Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical nonsense in its tracks right now, or do we roll over in our peace cocoon, play dead, and allow another unspeakable evil to engulf the world, take the lives of millions, and turn the Earth into a graveyard. Please watch this free 20-minute episode at the following link, hear what Rod Serling has to say at the end of it, and never forget it:


    Never forget it.

    • Wow…that was a powerful response and completely on key. I have been thinking the same things. I have been considering leaving my church, but I am battling with the idea, the spiritual call within me to stay and be a voice of reason. The Church I am going to is a UMC but is completely against Gays having marriage and are close to intolerant of them. I had not realized that until one day I stepped into my Church and the atmosphere had changed-quite literally. I didn’t feel comfortable and I no longer felt the spirit in the Church. The Pastor gave his sermon that day stating the the UMC has decided not to support Gay marriage or rights and that they never will. The bible is clear on how to treat homosexuals and marriage, etc. I was so disappointed. I wanted to walk out. But, I didn’t. I wanted to stand up and scream “How can you call yourselves a Christian Church and advocate for the discrimination of an entire group of people, especially since they don’t even choose this life? What’s next? Jews? Catholics? Can you not even tell that the Spirit of the Lord himself has left this place?”
      I have not gone back but once and the Pastor won’t even look at me as he knows I have a Gay brother and support Gay rights. And yet, they still want me in the Church. But, why? Why should I go there if you can’t respect me as a person, but one who disagrees with you? Why should I change what I fundamentally know in my heart and down to my soul is the “right” one for myself spiritually? That God loves Gays as much as anyone and Jesus died for them too. I don’t think I am a savior or prophet. I am just a human being who is tired of seeing the “evil” of this world win. To feel the spirit leaving a Church that was so full of the spirit when I first went there. I just feel sad when I go there now. Members are leaving the Church now because of what the Pastor said. He made a post about it on the Church FB page. And he said he could not tell them what they wanted to hear just to keep them. I understand what he means and I don’t want to be one of those people who wander from Church to Church to find people that believe like I do. But, neither do I want to be a hypocrite and stay.

      • I am in exactly the same position. The Sunday after the SCOTUS decision, our pastor got up and made a big production about how our church will never cave to social pressures, and if you’re on Jesus’ side, you’re never on the wrong side of history, blah, blah. It literally made me sick. I left and haven’t been back, though my husband still attends. I’m attending an affirming church 20 miles away. I don’t like going alone, but I just can’t stay in the old church and love the new one.

  14. Reblogged this on Don't Push Send and commented:
    As I work on building Don’t Push Send, I continue to be inspired by some of the great writers in the blogosphere. One of the inspirations behind my renewed efforts in this space is John Pavlovitz, the author of the blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said

    On queue, as he always seems to be, John kinda hits the nail on the head in this post. For me personally he highlights the struggles I face as I try to set the direction for this blog, and inspires me to stay above the ugliness that characterizes so much of what we read in our virtual on-line world. And while I do not identify as a Christian in the traditional sense of the word, (I’m a Unitarian Universalist . . . more on this in later posts) I’m totally in sync with the Christianity that John Pavlovitz reflects in his work.

    Expect to see more of John’s thoughts reblogged here.

  15. This reminds me of the general ethos I see coming from Pope Francis. Even when he writes whole papers to the world against capitalism and the ways we are hurting the earth, he still is most known, in my mind and many others’, for perpetual acts of genuine kindness and the spreading of dignity for all persons. Plus, anyone who reads his top ten ways to be happy interview, sees he just isn’t defined by the culture war but by something else.

    • Yes. The pope is a pretty cool dude with his head screwed on straight.

      (“He is not!!! He is not!!! He is not!!! Hal told me that he presides over the whore of Babylon during these end times!!!”

      Ny-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a. Shaddup!!!

  16. Of course, I am talking about peaceful, nonviolent resistance here of the Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. type. It is resistance with a loudly raised voice and the soundly written word that is always there to shout down the evil and never give it a moment’s peace, never allow it any sort of victory, never give it any quarter, and ensure that anything that looks like a victory is only short-lived—and comes to nothing. I think all Christians and all ordinary people with no religious faith need to be aware of the threat here and be ready to counter it in our own way (John says love offensively for him. Good and so be it). For me it is to confront the evil with a loud mouth that is bigger, better, and more articulate than theirs. For you the nonfundie reader, it may be some special kind of nonviolent resistance that is all your own. So be it.

    However, I think the key thing is to understand that the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals with evil intentions were allowed to get where they are today because good Christian men and women, starting about the year 1970, decided to be silent, look the other way, roll over, and play dead in the vain hope that ignoring the fundie nonsense would just make it somehow go away. Some claim that this apathy was intentionally done in the interests of avoiding interdenominational strife and preserving Christian brotherhood and sisterhood. The main problem with that is that the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have never recognized any such brotherhood and sisterhood. They have always despised our churches, and they have always been at war with us in one way or another—even when we insisted on being at peace with them. God only knows the Roman Catholics can attest to that!!! There is no such thing as preserving a Christian brotherhood or sisterhood when, in fact, the most militant side has never recognized the existence of such a thing, except perhaps when the illusion of it supported some specific and evil purpose they had in mind.

    So, I am going to resist. If some Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical tells you that you must kick your LGBTQ child out of the house, shun them, and disown them in the hopes that the inflicted pain and torture will simultaneously appease God and somehow cause your child to abandon an inherent physical condition they have no power to change, I am going to be there telling you to keep your child, hug your child, love your child with all your heart—and tell the fundies to get lost. Jesus told them to get lost in Matthew 23—and you can too. The fundies claim that the love Jesus advocated in the New Testament is wrong because (and this is a quote) “love is by its very nature soft on sin.” Jesus never says anywhere in the Bible that love is wrong because it is soft on sin. The fundies hate the love Jesus advocated because they do not know what it is and because they possess none of it. It is a foreign body to them and who they are—alien—distant. They love hatred. They practice hatred. They are hatred. Anyone who has ever dealt with them one-on-one in an argument knows this. They are by nature unreasonable people who reject facts as a matter of faith—and with great ignorance and stupidity in the process. In doing so, do they reflect the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit? No way—because the members of the trinity are neither ignorant nor stupid. They believe in the facts because they created the facts.

    • Noting your thoughtful comments to John’s blogs, and this one in particular, I think as a United Methodist ordained elder and also a licensed psychotherapist that you are very wise to seek a happy medium between fighting evil with evil and not fighting it at all. Your implied question is “how can we overcome evil if we do not renounce it at some level?” As our UMC baptismal vows state, we commit to renouncing evil and social injustice in all its formats, but we rarely if ever have conversations about “HOW in the hell do you do THIS??????” This is what bugs me the most sometimes about mainline churches. We refuse to ask hard questions or talk about the elephants in our rooms. Which is why I like your comments. My hope is that we will learn from scripture, as John has, how to overcome evil with good. In the book I’m in process of writing, “Love’s Resurrection: it’s power to roll away fear’s heaviest stone,” I contend that fundamentalist fears of extinction produce controlling behaviors that perpetuate fear. We too easily get hooked by these fears and produce our own counter-controls that perpetuate our own fears. John seems to have discovered this hook and is swimming past the lure. He lives on to produce influencing behaviors that are motivated by love and perpetuate love. I believe his approach will overcome evil’s “controls” with love’s “influences.” For you as an anthropologist, I believe, Dover1952, you are also helping shift our culture from fear’s evil to love’s good. Thanks again for the helpful conversation!

  17. John, do I understand you right?
    Do you say that instead of fighting injustice and evil, Christians should (for the most part) simply not be like that?
    When blacks are unjustly arrested, Christians should simply… not be the kind of people to arrest blacks unjustly?
    When people refuse to employ someone because he is gay, is the answer to… be the kind of person who, if you were an employer, would have employed them equally?
    When a woman is oppressed in her marriage and her church tells her to just submit more, is the solution… to be the kind of guy who would not have oppressed her, if she was married to you?
    When a child is abused, is it right for a Christian to simply say: “Well, I will treat children well!”

    To simply be a nice guy does not solve anyone’s problems.

    I wanted to quote Martin Luther King here on the strident clamor of the bad people and the silence of the good people, and Martin Niemoller on not speaking up because he was not one of those they came for. (I am sure Niemoller was a nice guy and MLK had reason to call the silent ones the good people, they acted very unlike those who committed the offenses) But you probably know those quotes already.

    • It is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer question—like I said—and the question of whether fighting pharisees turns you into one. My real point in the two long posts above is that this is a hard not to crack. One approach says stand down and let God take care of the problem in his own time—and forget about the suffering and carnage that ensues. The other approach is that if we are the disciples of Jesus and the Kingdom is to be on Earth as well as in Heaven (as the Lord’s prayer says), should we intervene against evil in a nonviolent—but powerful—way.

      And YES. I do drink my own Kool-Aid.

  18. Pingback: On Learning To Love Offensively (For Those Weary From The Fight) | john pavlovitz | Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

  19. Thank you, as always for the voice of reason and love, of forgiveness and restitution, of wisdom and compassion, of mercy and tenderness. I have myself often retaliated in kind to the cruel, insulting, judgmental, critical voice and I am beautifully rebuked by your post. Thank you!

  20. Interesting. Do you ever feel so uncomfortable with how others may react that you feel like you want to give up the blog completely? (Not saying you should, just asking), and if so, how do you combat that?

      • Just so you know, I DON’zt mean any harm or anti disrespect to John. I’m asking out of personal experience actually. There have been times when I have felt like shutting my blogs down (especially my first one; I haven’t), because the stress has nearly did my head in. I just wondered whether he’s been through the sme thing.

        Your blog is great, John.

      • I was advising him not to answer because every person has psychological weak points. As any competent psychotherapist will tell you, knowledge of those weak points and how to take advantage of them is often the key to pulling of an especially successful attack against a person like John–a few weeks of pounding on the weak points hard enough—-and the person buckles under the strain. Sometimes psychological predators with an issue and an ax to grind will float a question like this one of yours on-line in hopes that the person to whom the question is posed will blurt out those psychological weak points and thus become self-complicit in their own destruction at the hand of another person. This was just my way of saying to John that it is best to avoid answering questions like this where numerous others can see the answers. I am sure that you personally meant no harm. Blessings and peace.

        • Thanks dover.

          I simply don’t address people who question whether or not I should be doing what I’m doing. I know why I do it and I know the good it does in the world, and I rest in that, regardless of the attacks.

          Appreciate you having my back!

  21. You are always going to have enemies and battles. Your only option is which side are you going to join and do battle. To give up and give in is to join the opposing side. Ephesians 6

  22. There is so much beauty in this blog and it warms my heart to overflowing proportions. I walked away from our church six years ago because my beautiful son came out to me in his moment of desperation. My son was raised in the Christian church. He sat through many sermons that berated his so called “lifestyle choice”. I homeschooled all five of my kids and raised them on the Bible. My son read the Bible cover to cover many times over. The night he came to me and asked, “Mom what is the worst thing your child could ever tell you?” I thought about it long and hard and could see his utter desperation flowing off his face. I replied, “That you didn’t want to live anymore!” He said, “No Mom that’s not it, although I’ve tried to take my own life, that’s not what I need to tell you,” He went on to say, “Mom, I’m gay!” We cried together and I reassured him that we would get through this together no matter what. Deep down I knew my son was gay as early as three years of age. I denied it because of what our church taught, what the word of God said. After all we were Sunday school teachers and conservative evangelicals.

    The church was brutal. They ostracized us and told us he needed to change his ways or else he was going to go to hell. To say it was a painful ordeal, is to put it lightly.

    This began my study and research on what it means to be LGBTQ, It wasn’t long before we left the church in its tracks. There is no way in hell that being homosexual is a choice. If so, why would my son choose to be alienated, bullied, and tormented? Why would anyone in the LGBTQ community choice that for their so-called “lifestyle choice?”

    The churches are now saying, “Well I guess people can be born gay, but they just cannot act on it. Being gay is a sin!”

    How in God’s name can something you are born with, be a sin? Where in the Bible does Jesus say being a homosexual is a sin? I know Paul referenced it in Romans? But how can that be. People do NOT choose to be gay. Why would they in such a hate filled society? The religious believe it is wicked, deviant behavior to love someone of the same sex.

    Would you honestly choose to be (so-called) wicked just for the thrill of it? I think not. After witnessing what the LGBTQ community has had to endure due to the ignorance of the self-righteous religious crowd, is abhorrent to me.

    I was under the understanding that Jesus came to relieve us from the law of the old testament. Why is the old testament even a part of the Christian bible?

    I recently had a conversation with my sister who professes to be a born-again Christian. I asked her how is my son living in sin because he was born gay? She stated “We’re all sinners covered by the blood of Jesus.” What does that mean???

    It still doesn’t answer my question. If God created my son to be the person that he is, how can that be a sin? Nobody in the dogmatic church can rightfully answer that question.

    Needless to say, I have completely walked away from the church and my faith has faltered I will admit. It’s not because I don’t love God. unfortunately, it’s because of the “followers” of this evil doctrine. The self-righteous, arrogance, and outright hatred toward another human being is downright disgusting in my opinion. But of course, it is all in the name of Jesus. WHAT? How can that be?

    John, I appreciate your writing. It is genuinely opening my heart to the LOVE of Jesus once again. Jesus is not well represented in our Christian churches and it is truly sad!!! I do want to fall in love with Jesus. The man who walked among all people and was tortured and killed by the Pharisees, because he LOVED ALL PEOPLE.

    Thank you for letting me share my story. God bless ALL PEOPLE! Much love and peace to all you beautiful souls out there.


  23. Pingback: On Learning To Love Offensively (For Those Weary From The Fight) | Don't Push Send

  24. Thank you so much I have never heard it put that way before I struggled all my life coming from a Christian family very strict Christian family I appreciate the message you sent that was fantastic I wish I had you around when I was young

  25. Reblogged this on Trisha Liu @mor_trisha and commented:

    I especially love “I no longer allow myself to be burdened with those who see me as an enemy. Their perceptions are formed from a distance anyway, and so I simply refuse to be defined by them. The more you know who you are, the less threatened you are when someone attacks you and the less interested you are in attacking back.

    I am not very concerned with convincing others to agree with me either. I simply speak my heart clearly and continually and unwaveringly, trusting that those whose hearts echo mine will come alongside me.”

  26. This is well said/well written. I came across this on a friend’s Facebook post. This applies just as much for those of us, myself included, who can be “good without a god.” I’m hoping you also feel the same towards us secular humanists. I’m trying to move towards a more mindfullness way of thinking and this very much speaks to that.

  27. Some words that struck me last week and which seem (to me) to be saying something similar.

    Richard Rohr. Falling Upward.

    “You learn to positively ignore and withdraw your energy from evil or stupid things rather than fight them directly. You fight things only when you are directly called and equipped to do so. We all become a well-disguised mirror image of anything that we fight too long or too directly. That which we oppose determines the energy and frames the question after a while. You lose all your inner freedom.

    By the second half of life you have learned ever so slowly, and with much resistance, that most frontal attacks on evil just produce another kind of evil in yourself, along with a very inflated self-image to boot, and incites a lot of push-back from those you have attacked….

    Daily life now required prayer and discernment more than knee-jerk responses toward either the conservative or liberal end of the spectrum. You have a spectrum of responses now, and they are not all predictable, as is too often the case with most knee-jerk responses. Law is still necessary of cours, but it is not your guiding star, or even close. It has been wrong and cruel too many times”.

    Thank you for your writing John, it is thought provoking and comforting to me.

  28. Pingback: Friday Fives: 5 empowering articles from the week of 7/24 | restoringmyvision

  29. Reblogged this on Because I can… and commented:
    This is an amazing post and addresses so much of what I am feeling and going through right now. I have been trying to put into words how I am feeling and how I want to deal with the injustices in the “Christian” religion and this has given me so much needed guidance.

    • Actually there was nothing negative said toward Rousey at all. I would read that again. I simply question a theological position where someone says they’re OK with two women beating one another up, just not loving, marrying, having families with one another.

      We can ask questions without war, just like I can respond to you with civility.

      Have a nice day.

  30. Pingback: The Townhall’s Future | Untold Stories About Us

  31. It was with much gratitude that I read your beautiful piece on a more human version of the Apostle’s Creed. I hope you have the time to read my response.

    In a few months I’ll turn sixty and, at the same time as I draw close to this milestone, I’ve made the much pondered, sad and momentous decision to stop going to church.

    I’ve been a Mass goer all my life sometimes going a few times during the week. I went to a Catholic Primary School, Secondary School, Teachers College and then I taught in Catholic Schools for about 8 years. I went on to become a business woman, academic and activist and then, for six years, ran a Youth Mass Group, with rock music, our own prayers, some theater and other spiritually creative activities. The oldies hated it but the church was full of young people.

    I married a non-Catholic and adopted 2 Korean children who came to Mass every Sunday and went to Catholic schools.

    With the promise of a new invigorated church, inspired by teachings of Vatican 2, my faith was strong and I was optimistic. I could see the church had it’s failings but don’t we all? The Council of Vatican 2 took place in the first half of the 1960s…the ‘love and peace man’ swinging 60’s. When I was about nine years old, the changes were being implemented in parish communities around the world. That was fifty years ago.

    For some time, the church travelled along nicely becoming more inclusive, allowing the laity to participate in the Mass and the running of parishes and then suddenly, for reasons I don’t understand (though I suspect it has something to do power and the fear of losing it), the hierarchy of the church performed an amazing back flip. It was a tremendous collective knee jerk.

    Now, I’ve finally accepted that the Church is broken and I can’t fix it. I can’t even to help fix it. I can’t even hope that it will be fixed…despite our magnanimous and inspirational new Pope Francis. The Church is broken and my faith is broken. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that my faith in the church is broken.

    Sure, I’m as broken as the next person, despite in many ways having had a blessed life. So I guess I can’t say I’ve had unfortunate experiences that have broken me….well maybe just a few. Only crazy people have no doubts and absolute assurances. My husband says I’m a little bit crazy, just enough to make me interesting but I was worn down by the ever present men on high. The culture of obedience and never questioning the authority of the priests. Quite suddenly, it all seemed a bit absurd and obsolete.

    The sexual abuse scandals and the Church’s response to them and the consequence cataclysmic damage that’s been visited on families and whole communities, was in the end enough to drive me away. That and the fact that women are treated as lesser beings, not equal, not priestly, not credible.

    I know we’re all broken. I know we’ve been taught the God is with us in our brokenness. But to me, it didn’t look as though those priests, bishops and others who work so hard to maintain the organisation of the church, were broken even in the slightest and certainly not as broken as the poor children who had their whole lives ruined…nor the families that had been torn apart…nor the communities in remote areas that were decimated by alcohol and drugs and mental illness and suicide.

    I could relate in a profound way to your version of the Creed, with one exception. I don’t see God as ‘He’. I know we’ve been taught that God is neither male nor female…yet we still refer to God as ‘He’. Not so long ago our Mass was rewritten with much fanfare. My hope that it would be a more gender neutral version of our much loved rite, was not to be. Instead, it’s now even more focused on a masculine God. The priests were not happy about it but still they adopted it like good little robots.

    I know your church is not Catholic. Do you have women ministers in your church? Have there been sex abuse scandals in your church? If so, how did the church respond?

    Now I spend all my time trying to help save God’s Earth, God’s magnificent creation which could, quite possibly be, the only planet in the entire universe brimming with complex and diverse life forms. I organise, I write, I meet, and I fight the utter devastation of mining, urbanisation, pollution and waste. My whole life is now spent trying to have the Australian legislation changed, in order to stop persecuting refugees. I spend all my time fighting for human rights, peace and non-violence and grass roots democracy through the Greens, because they’re the only consistently ethical, global political organisation with great human rights and environmental policies.

    Thank you for speaking my thoughts and feelings in your version of the Apostle’s Creed. It brought more than one tear to my eye!

    ‘May God hold you in the palm of Her hand.’
    Lisa Owen
    Greens Convenor

    • Lisa Owen, hello (from someone in the U.S.). I’m a Christian who was raised Protestant & went to a Jesuit-run college. I’d like to share a thought that I think is important, but 1st: thank u for your efforts on behalf of our world, which of course is very important. Over time, I’ve observed something that I think is sad: if a person who was Catholic leaves the Catholic denomination, s/he usually seems to think ‘it’s either the Catholic Christian denomination or no Christian denomination’ – and s/he pulls away from Christian fellowship / Christian congregation completely. S/he stops going to church. It seems to me it’s because the Catholic denomination teaches that it is the only true denomination (the apostles/apostolic succession idea or claim). I see it in the very language of Catholic people & previously-Catholic people – the same wording you’ve used: they refer to Catholicism as “the” church – as if no other denomination could be Christian or worthy of their consideration. Please consider this: it seems to me that if u think the Catholic church is broken & it makes u not able to continue within it in good conscience, then u are following what u consider to be the teaching of a broken church if u think that church was & is your only Christian-denomination option. I encourage u to explore other Christian denominations. By the way, although I’m not Catholic, I appreciate Pope Francis & think he’s extraordinary. He will be arriving here in the U.S. tomorrow for a visit. He said something in a recent televised interactive communication that has been helpful to me: have courage. 🙂

  32. I love this! Thank you for speaking truth, for pointing us back to Jesus, for loving and trusting and not having to have all the answers. You put into words so much of what I feel. But more than anything your words validate my doubts and questions and give me a safe place to be okay with all of that. You have a gift, and a calling and I’m one of those who walks with you remembering and reminding that all else will pass away, but Love Never Fails.

  33. “The more you know who you are, the less threatened you are when someone attacks you and the less interested you are in attacking back.”

    Yup, that about sums it up.

  34. (Not sure if I put this comment here b4, so please forgive if it’s a duplication.) Just wanted to say that when I see the title, for a moment my 1st reaction is to feel this: ‘who wants to be offensive in loving people?’ & ‘what’s so offensive about loving people?’ (Chuckles!) Just thought I’d suggest the use of the term ‘proactively.’ If not, as my mom would say, ‘just know what I mean when I say it.’ 🙂

  35. Pingback: Love Offensively | As Always

  36. I’m there with you, John. Here is a related Brene Brown quote that makes me giggle. In fact, I’ve made the picture of it my computer background to make me laugh more! “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.” Actually, I’m learning to try and extend to them what I expect of them, “generous spaciousness,” what Wendy Vanderwahl Gritter’s book (same title) is all about. I highly recommend her book!

  37. John, this spoke to my soul. As a life long social activist I often released my outrage on those who were causing others to hurt. More recently I have felt not only that there had to be a better way, but also that our society has become so accustomed to venting their anger and cynicism on each other that it only hurts, but doesn’t change anything. It seems that anger expressed just births more anger. Righteous anger even gets lost in the cacophony.
    So I made the same decision that you have made, and while I am very much at peace with it, some folks seem to feel that I have taken the coward’s way out, or that I have become the academic equivalent of a Stepford Wife.

    Since it has not been long that I have been practicing the new mode, I have not developed the conversation about it. Learning to do it has required all my energy, and I can tell you it has required a lot of strength. From my point of view there is nothing cowardly about the process!

    Now I have your eloquent, rational but deeply spiritual guidelines to work with,
    exactly when I most needed them.

    Thank you again. I definitely note the image of Christ in you.

  38. Pingback: New from John Pavlovitz | Let Your Light Shine

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