Christianity is NOT “personal relationship” with Jesus

Maybe you’ve heard it in your own church. Maybe in your grade-school Sunday school class. I know I certainly heard the phrase (and believed it) when I attended church camp for the first time in  7th grade and ‘got saved’.

And you might even see it on well-meaning facebook pages today or in a tweet.

“Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”

But I’ve got news for you.

The Bible doesn’t teach that. Nowhere in scripture, unless someone is really trying to make certain verses mean something they don’t, does it say we, as believers, are to have a ‘personal relationship’ with Christ.


How did such a theology come to pass, then?

It’s generally impossible to trace the origin of the idea, some will say it began in the 60s and 70s with the “Jesus People” movement. Others might recall hearing it earlier from the pulpits of Southern Baptist churches in the post-WWII era when men were coming home, trying to make sense of the horrors of war and trying to find peace.

However it started, one of the go-to verses used to ‘prove it’ is the story of the Prodigal Son.  God, the father, watching for his son, embracing him when he returns home.

It’s all so warm and fuzzy, isn’t it? God loving each of us so much that He wants to be our personal Father as if no one else mattered, not even the son that stayed home the whole time.

But that is not the lesson of the Prodigal Son.

As with any verse or story in the Bible, context is everything. The Prodigal Son story is part of a lesson containing several parables. All of them about lost things. A lost sheep. A lost coin. A lost son.

What started this lesson was some Pharisees and ‘teachers of the law’ muttering about Jesus welcoming ‘sinners’ and eating with them. The lesson is about going out and finding those who need love and forgiveness the most. Not about a personal God.


So what DOES the Bible teach if not a ‘personal relationship’?

The opposite, actually. Christianity is supposed to be a communal experience. There can be no such thing as a ‘lone ranger’ Christian.

*gasp* “Blasphemy!”

No, it’s not.

I know some of you are thinking “what about those who have to remain in hiding? what about those alone in prison? They’re alone and they are still Christians.” Ok, sure, but how did they become Christian in the first place. Someone somewhere taught or gave them what they needed to make them part of the Body of Christ.

That is the lesson of the Bible. That we are together. The Body of Christ. Brothers and Sisters. Fellowship of believers. Before Saul/Paul’s conversion, he was searching for “those who belong to The Way”.

When Jesus taught us to pray he said “OUR Father…” not “My Father…”

More than anything, belonging to Christ means belonging TOGETHER. Our relationship is to be with the rest of the Body and worship God. Not a relationship with God and worship the church.

Isn’t it time we got back to real relationships (in whatever form those take, be they in a physical location like a church building or a digital location like a facebook group) rather than a personal relationship with our idea of God?

Recommended reading: “My Imaginary Jesus” by Matt Mikalatos

Why it’s sinful *not* to be affirming of LGBTQ+ persons

Author’s note: I am a heterosexual cis male, married for 30 years to my amazing wife. I cannot begin to comprehend the issues experienced by my brothers, sisters, and non-binary family. I am trying, but even if I can intellectually grasp the things going on I will never fully understand.
This piece is not intended to imply that I ‘get it’. Rather it is directed at the church (in general, not all churches) to encourage Christians to really, honestly consider their stance on the LGBT+ community members and why they think/feel the way they do. Most of what is presented here is opinion (mine) but I hope to reach people. Love is love. Let love be love. God is love. God loves you in spite of what anyone else says.

There’s a phrase used often in Christian churches and by Christians, meant as a positive, but is actually a negative. I hate it. Hate. It.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin”.

The implication of this quote, in my mind, is that while a person has to be loved, there is something about them that is hate-able. Something that has to be changed. Forced out. Destroyed.

I hate the phrase. I don’t use it (anymore). It’s not something Jesus ever said. It’s not something He ever implied.

What makes this phrase particularly despicable is that it is almost always used in only one context. You don’t hear it used to talk about alcoholics or divorced couples or other ‘sins’, but only and specifically about homosexuality.

Love the LGBT+ person, hate the LGBT+ out of them.

Force them to change until they aren’t LGBT+ anymore. By any means necessary (in some churches).

And I’m here to tell you, as a Christian, as one who has spent a great deal of time studying the Bible, who has taken some seminary classes, who has studied some of the Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic as exists in the manuscripts we have that have been translated into our modern English Bible, that that way of thinking is so seriously so shockingly wrong that not only is it bad, it’s sinful.

It is literally a sin not to be accepting and AFFIRMING of everyone, especially LGBT+ people.

Let me say that again.

It is a sin NOT to be affirming of LGBT+ people.

Not just accepting, affirming.


A sin the church immediately needs to stop.


What does that mean, affirming?

In this context, let’s define how it’s different from just accepting. Many churches and churchgoers claim to be accepting. But going back to that despicable phrase accepting means only that you are doing the first part,  the “love the sinner” part. I accept you, the person. But I don’t welcome all of you. There’s a part of you that is ‘bad’.

That is the way most churches define accepting. We’ll let you in, but we’re still going to try to change you.

Affirming, on the other hand, is very different. Affirmation, in this context, is to value, uphold, defend. It’s beyond accepting to the point of “I defend everything you are”.

To affirm LGBT+ people we need to uphold and defend everything they are.

But what about that verse in Leviticus? What about that verse in Romans? What about…. what about…. what about….?

I am not going to rehash the entire “Biblical” argument ‘against’ homosexuality. Much has been written on the topic, including by me. If you don’t understand how the traditional interpretation of the Bible against homosexuality is wrong (not the Bible, the INTERPRETATION of those verses in the Bible) then I strongly encourage you to do some homework. For starters, I recommend this blog post by my friend Mark Sandlin.


That being said, here’s my bigger point, my biggest point:

You cannot love someone into changing what they are.

The church cannot love people into changing their core being.

People cannot be loved into changing the way they were made.


Not long ago, my church had a good ministry called “Celebrate Recovery”.

(There are issues with the way CR is executed at many churches, and the source materials are very anti-LGBT+, so I won’t recommend it for all churches, rather this is just an anecdote of my own experiences as it relates to this blog post.)

CR is heavily based on the concept behind Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery group programs, that together people can change things we struggle with. We were a very small church so we had a very small group. Within the group, we had several ‘issues’ that we were all trying to help each other with. Substances, yes, but other addictions and behaviors. I won’t ‘out’ anyone, and I’m not quite comfortable sharing the reasons I was in the group but I’ll make my point (while respecting the anonymity of others).

“The guys” and I spoke a lot about a lot of things in our group. But above all, we acknowledged that for better or worse there were ‘things’ that were ‘built in’ to us. That we were ‘wired’ a certain way. Some of those things we needed help with because, ultimately, medically, they were self-destructive, literally. Others we needed to learn to live with. And others we actually needed to embrace because if we’re built that way, and God doesn’t make mistakes, then we should not only learn to live with it, we should take joy in who we are.

If you’re at all familiar with AA, then you’ve probably heard the Serenity Prayer. In many places, they use the ‘abridged’ version, but in CR we used the entire prayer:

God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Serenity, acceptance, courage, living, enjoying, trusting, and ultimately, happiness. It goes beyond just saying “oh well, this is how it is”, it’s finding peace and happiness in the things that are part of what we are.

And that is how the church should be! In the bigger, broader, greater sense we need to take JOY in our differences. Just as we wouldn’t kick out someone who was struggling with addiction to substances that damage their body, we shouldn’t kick out people who identify their gender or sexuality differently than how we view as ‘traditional’ gender and sexuality.

I am in no way comparing gender identity and sexuality to alcoholism. The latter is a disease that can (and in thousands of cases does), if ‘given in’ to, kill you. The former is, well, what it is. But in both cases, the church should view them as ‘the way people are wired’, rather than accepting the disease by shunning the other.

I hope that makes sense. What I’m trying to say is that we, the church, have been hypocritical and that, in itself, is a sin.

But let’s go further.

There’s another expression that gets thrown around a lot in the Christian community:


What Would Jesus Do?

“Well,” some church leaders might say, “Jesus was a good Jewish man, He would have followed the Old Testament which says in Leviticus blah blah blah…”

But we actually KNOW what Jesus would do. Because we know what He DID. At least some of what He did as recorded in the Gospels.

And what He did was this: love people.

Let me rephrase that: He DANGEROUSLY loved people.

By far the best example is the woman caught in adultery. (Again, not comparing being LGBT+ to adultery, but bear with me.)

To paraphrase the story, the religious leaders of the time brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. By their laws, it was required she be executed by having rocks thrown at her until she was dead. A brutal, painful, and I imagine a slow way to die.

So they bring her to Him and say “what would you do? Our laws demand she be executed!”

Jesus says “let those among you who have never sinned throw the first stone.”

One by one they drop their stones and leave.

That took some serious guts.

By the law that these religious leaders followed (most of which was made up junk on top of the laws of Moses that they claimed to have followed), they could have not only executed her, but Him as well. On the spot.

In the story, the Pharisees pose the question and Jesus doesn’t immediately answer. He IGNORES them and bends down and writes something in the dirt. (We don’t know what it was, he could have been playing tic-tac-toe, who knows?) They ask him again, and he tells them “if you’re sinless, throw the stones” and GOES BACK TO WRITING IN THE DIRT!

He not only takes a dangerous stand, He has the gall (from their point of view) not only to take a stand against them but to basically blow them off.


He loved her, in spite of her actions, and he did so in a way that could have immediately resulted in his death.

And this isn’t the only example.

There’s the Samaritan woman at the well. The Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed. The centurion and his servant, the possessed man who lived in a graveyard (a Gentile – non-Hebrew – which we know because the people nearby raised pigs)…

These are all people that the religious leaders of the day saw as outsiders or worse. Even his closest disciples were sometimes like “Dude, what are you doing?”

Jesus loved people, no matter what their condition, location, or circumstanced and He did so dangerously. Wrecklessly.

And then He told us to do the same. The greatest commandment. The one He said that all the others hang one: “Love your God and Love Your Neighbor as yourself”.

While Jesus took these words from the Old Testament laws, He also flipped them. While the Old Testament command to love God was an order, something you had to do, and the rules about your neighbor were things you were to avoid (“don’t do this to them, don’t do that to them”) Jesus used a very different word.

That word is “ἀγαπάω” (agapaō). You might have heard the English word “agape” (ah GAH peh).

Rather than being passive or an avoiding of certain actions, agape is ACTIVE. And not like an order, the Greek word implies a flowing out, something that exudes from you.

Like joy.

A way to think about it is a child at their own birthday party. Imagine that joy, that delight and squealing with happiness, as love for your neighbor.


But then Jesus goes further. Who is your neighbor?

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan. But what many modern readers miss is who the characters are in the story.

There’s the victim. We don’t know who he is. The only thing Jesus tells us is where he was coming from and where he was going. Other than that we don’t know his nationality or anything. Generic man.

There’s the robbers. Mentioned in passing, they beat and strip the victim. They’re not important to the story.

Then there’s the three main characters.

A priest. A Levite. And a Samaritan.

The priest and the Levite are important people. They work in the Temple and care for it. They teach the law and lead the songs and more than anyone else they should know what God wants people to do.

Think of them like a preacher and a worship team leader. They stand before the congregation and teach people about who God is and what God wants.

But both of them leave the victim there. Broken and bleeding and naked, they ignore him. Worse, they go out of their way to go around them. Like road-kill. Imagine you’re driving on the road and there’s a large animal, maybe a deer in the road. What do you do? You go into the other lane to get around it. That’s what these guys did to the victim.

But then there is the Samaritan. It’s important to know that this guy is a Samaritan. To the people Jesus is talking to the very word Samaritan would have been shocking.

To be blunt, the Israelite people of Jesus’ time saw the Samaritans as… well, mutts. They were the descendants of Israelites but they had ‘muddied’ themselves by marrying outside the tribes of Israel. But WORSE, they had also polluted the religion of the Israelites and worshiped God in places other than the Temple.

To the Israelites of Jesus time, they were, in essence, terrorists.

But here comes this Samaritan, and he sees the victim that the priest and Levite had ignored and had gone out of their way to avoid, and he takes the poor guy and not only cares for him, but when he has to continue on his way pays the inn keeper to care for him and to send him the bill.

And Jesus holds this guy up as the example to follow. Someone who everyone sees as a terrorist is the example to follow in loving your neighbor.

Love dangerously. The Samaritan loved the guy dangerously. He didn’t know who the guy was. If the victim was also a priest or a Levite they guy would have acted violently toward the Samaritan, but he didn’t care and took care of the guy anyway.

Love. Dangerously.

The greatest commandment. To paraphrase given the example Jesus gave in the parable: Love God and Love even those who are extremely different from you and do so in a way that risks your own life.

If that is our greatest commandment, and the word Jesus used implies an active, flowing, uplifting love, then to do any less for anyone in our midst is a sin.

And that includes not only includes but INSISTS the LGBT+ community.

To not affirm people as they are, as they define themselves (if such affirmation is not including self or other harming, like addiction) is, by definition, breaking the greatest commandment.

And to break that commandment is the greatest sin.

This entire post is way off on a rant and ramble, but this is something I feel very strongly about.

Love is love.

God is love.

WWJD? Love.

Too many people, too much of church teaching hinges on a couple of verses that are taken completely out of context and in our English Bibles are translated improperly. Homosexuality, in the context of the Bible as a whole, is not even really there. It’s not in the Ten Commandments, it’s not in any of the teachings of Christ and I, personally, feel that we as a church, as a faith, as a community need to move beyond it to the bigger broader teaching of Jesus. And that is to love, to actively, violently, DANGEROUSLY love people where they are. As they are. To AFFIRM them as they are, so long as what they are does not involve self-harm or other harm. And if it does then that is the part we heal. Everything else we embrace.

To do any less is breaking the greatest commandment. And is the greatest sin.


Ok, I’m done ranting. I love you. I violently dangerously love you. I mean that.



10 Lies That Have Been Told To The Church

AManSitsPrayingPromo1500Dearest Church,

I am writing to you today to discuss with you a very difficult topic. This is going to be hard for both of us, but I really hope you’ll take the time to read this and to really think about what I’m saying before you just get mad and lash out.

So here goes:

You’ve been lied to. A lot. For many many years.

Now before you react, please just hear me out. Some of this is going to be hard to accept, but you’ll know I’m telling the truth if you just listen.

I’m not talking about the Bible., The Bible, by itself, is a wonderful thing. It tells and important story. It gives us some amazing lessons. Above all, it gives us hope. It’s an amazing amazing book. And deserves to be read and revered.

The problem comes when someone picks something out of the Bible and they build a whole “thing” out it. When they ignore the entire story of the Bible, when they force us to focus on a few verses and build an entire “mission” out of pushing that agenda they’ve created for themselves, we run into trouble.

You know who I’m talking about. He’s on the radio all the time. Sometimes he’s on TV. At first he seemed OK, but over time he’s developed an entire career around his message.

And it’s all a lie. Lie upon lie. Lies and more lies. But you, dearest Church, may not recognize them. So let me bluntly, honestly, lay them out for you. You might not believe them at first, I know I didn’t WANT to believe them when someone pointed them out to me, but trust me, you will be better for knowing.


Lie number one:

The United States of America is a Christian Nation Based on Christian Values and/or is God’s Chosen Nation

I have no idea where this came from. The basic premise is that just as the nation is Israel wasIn_God_We_Trust_AFA_Poster_in_New_Philadelphia_High_School God’s chosen nation during the time of Moses and after, the United States of America is now God’s chosen nation during this time in history.

That must be in some lost or forgotten Testament of the Bible because as the Bible reads now I don’t see that at all.

Now, granted, some of our Founding Fathers were religious men, or at the very least theists (meaning they believe in the existence of God but not necessarily the Christian God), but as many, if not more, were atheists or agnostic. And yes, some very general “Christian” principles are part of the writings that our country is based on, it is arguable that they are EXCLUSIVELY Christian. In many people’s eyes, these things are just common sense and common decency. And many other countries of the world have these same principles in their founding documents or common legal writings.

So why is this a thing?

Because, generally, Americans think they are better than everyone. We like to hear that we’re the best country. That everyone wants to come here because we’re best. And why are we the best? Because God must approve of what we are doing by blessing us with wealth and military might.

Ugh. I call bullshit. Pardon my language, but I really can’t think of a better word. Other places in the world have fantastic health care, lower crime rates, almost zero poverty and zero unemployment. These places are, from a common man’s perspective, much better places to live. But they have fewer millionaires, so they aren’t the best. The reason they have fewer millionaires is because they put people above business. The exact opposite of what we do in the United States. America is the best if you scratch and beat and claw your way to the top, crushing people along the way.

How very Christian.

No. America is not God’s chosen nation. Christians are God’s chosen nation. We’re a nation of faith, not a nation of money and might or geography. We’re supposed to be a nation of love and caring for each other and the world, not a nation of government and guns.

Please, stop and consider. You’ll know I’m telling the truth about this lie.


Lie number two: 

There are groups of people that God hates, therefore it’s your job to hate them as well.

1280px-GodHatesPepsiYou’ve seen the picket signs. “That” church in Kansas is on the news all the time for going to funerals and other events. “God Hates Fags”. And while, outwardly, you the Church, reject their ways, inwardly you  agree with what they say. God does hate Fags. And He also hates Muslims. And He hates alcoholics. The list goes on and on.

And because God hates these things, you’re obligated to hate them too. Hate them with a passion. God needs you to do His hating for him here on Earth.

Now there are things God hates. The Bible makes that clear:

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
– Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)
 Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God,  and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates.
– Deuteronomy 16:21-22 (ESV)
(God speaking through the prophet Isaiah):
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
– Isaiah 1:14 (ESV)
“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. – Isaiah 61:8 (ESV)

And there are a few other similar verses I didn’t include for the sake of brevity, but these make my point. I don’t see anything about skin color, where people come from, who they love, how much money they have, what they do for a living….. All those things you’ve been told to hate because God hates them? Where are they in the Bible? And where does God command you to do His hating for him?

You’ve been lied to, church. God is God. He doesn’t need you to do His hating. He needs you to be aware of what He hates so you don’t do it. What he need you to do is LOVE. The word hate shows up in the (English) Bible 127 times. Most of those verses are about a person hating another person or the actions of another person. Only a few are about God hating something. The word LOVE shows up 686 times.* And many of them are commands to one person, or to us, to love another or to love all men. God commands us to love, he doesn’t command us to hate.

And to make matters worse, you don’t differentiate between things and people.  Oh sure, you say “love the sinner, hate the sin”, but you don’t see the sinner as a PERSON, you only see sinner and therefore only see the sin.  All you do is use labels. Gay. Muslim. Unwed mother. Divorced. But people are PEOPLE. People are not the labels we put on them. They’re not (only) sinners. They have jobs and lives and feelings and families and are more than just a label.

Please, Church, think this through for yourself. Again you’ll see that you’ve been lied to. Your purpose is not to hate, never to hate, always to love. And to love selflessly, completely, and insanely. Love PEOPLE. All people. Leave the hate behind.

*Results are from the English Standard version. Different versions may have slightly different counts of the words ‘hate’ and love, but the verses, the lessons, are identical in meaning.

Lie number three:

It’s important to use any political influence you have to enact laws that will force others to live as you believe God intended, even if they reject your God.


By all means, vote, run for school board or mayor or city council or anything you like if you are able. I think it’s very important for everyone to be as politically active as they can be.

But I also believe that being politically active means you have a responsibility to everyone and not your own interests.

Dear Church, you have been told a huge lie in this area. You have been told that the only thing you should be doing, politically if you should be politically active at all, is forcing everyone to live as God intended. Or rather, as someone has told you God intended. Abortion. Marriage rights. Climate change (or rather the non-existence thereof). You’ve been told these are religious issues and they are the most important things to the religious voter and therefore it’s your responsibility to vote for the candidate that has God’s interests at heart in these things. And to hell with anyone that disagrees or will be harmed by the actions of that candidate.

There are important things that need your political attention. Your local school board. The city council. Whether a bond measure that will fix that dangerous bridge at the edge of town should be passed. Those are important things. Very important things to your everyday life. And there are important things at the state and national level too, things you’re probably ignoring because you’re too busy listening to that guy on the radio saying that abortion is the most important issue of our time and that same-sex marriage is a sign of the Apocalypse.

Dearest Church, you were never, ever called to force people, through legislation, to do things or not do things. You can argue that Jesus was not aware of the democratic process and therefore never spoke of it, but that doesn’t excuse you from trying to force your neighbor to live in a way that is detestable to him or her. You were never intended to take over the government to do God’s will here on earth. God is GOD. God’s will won’t be thwarted by the actions or inactions of man. God doesn’t need your vote. Your neighbors do. Your kids do. The stop sign that needs to be put up at the corner of Main Street needs your vote.

You can’t legislate morality. You can’t legislate love or choices. Oh sure, you can make them illegal, but the legality of something doesn’t mean it can or will end. In fact doing so could have disastrous effects. Something that is safe and legal can become dangerous.

Vote. Run for office. Support your candidates, but do so intelligently. Do so in a way that loves your neighbor, not fans the flames of division.

Lie number four:

There’s only one kind of Christian and anyone that is not the same kind of Christian as you is doomed to eternal Hellfire.

Why are there so many denominations within Christianity? Especially in the United States? According to the 2006 1280px-Christianity_Branches.svgYearbook of American and Canadian Churches, there are 217 Christian denominations. Two. Hundred. And Seventeen.  That seems insane to me.

But you have been told, Church, that yours is the only one that is “right”. Yours is the only true denomination and everyone that doesn’t attend with you on Sunday morning is doomed. They’re all going to Hell. It doesn’t matter if they sing the same songs as you, it doesn’t matter if they use the same Bible as you (translations are huge problem too, aren’t they? But that’s for another discussion), it doesn’t matter if their building is exactly the same as your’s, if they aren’t part of your denomination then they are lost. They’re cursed to endure eternal Hellfire.

It must be true, right? Because (insert name here) founded your denomination because they learned/discovered/were told by God Himself/told by an angel that all other churches were wrong/corrupt/used the wrong translation/allowed women to do stuff/didn’t allow women to do stuff/followed the wrong Jesus.

And obviously your guy is right and all those other guys that claim the same thing are wrong.

Denominationalism is both the best and worst thing to happen to you, Church. On the one hand, it’s made you bigger, it’s made you stronger, it’s made you look and learn and study and debate and discuss things. But on the other it’s made you smug, it’s made you feel superior, it’s made you argue, and in some cases it’s even made you kill.

Worse, it’s made you tell people they are going to Hell. That they are going to be eternally punished because they are just not right with God. That they are doomed to eternal Hellfire because they are Catholic or Anglican or Lutheran or whatever – because they don’t go to the same building as you, they are just not perfectly right with God they are doomed to burn forever.

We even tell it to children. Little children that aren’t really able to make a decision on something as important God. We tell them they are not right and they better get right or they’re going to die forever. That’s practically child abuse.

Are there ‘bad’ denominations? ‘Bad’ congregations? Well, sure, probably. But is it YOUR job to to judge them? Everyone you see, every face, is beloved by God. Consider how much God wants to punish anyone He loves.

You can’t be sure that everyone that doesn’t attend your church, that isn’t part of your local congregation is ‘wrong’. You should instead, assume, that they are all loved, because they are.

Lie number five:

Eternal Hell Fire.


I had started to write a whole big discussion on the debate as to whether Hell is real or not. Instead I am going to put my personal opinion and the entire theological debate aside to get to the real point I want to make:

The point of Heaven, of Jesus’ death on the cross, of fogiveness and redemption is NOT simply to avoid Hell.

I say again: there is more to being a Christian than just avoiding Hell.

There’s a Christian (or rather he calls himself a ‘Conservative’) comedian that  I’ve seen a couple of times. Both times he does a ‘rant’ at the end of his show that ends with this: “So, you say, mr funny guy, that I should only believe in God so I don’t go to ‘Hell’? Pretty much.”

NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO!! A buzgillion times, no.

If you are just looking for ‘fire insurance’ I think you are missing the point. If God is real and you believe He’s real and you believe that Jesus did what He did, then you need to do more than be content that you aren’t going to Hell. If you aren’t moved to respond to God with love and compassion and giving to your fellow man, then do you really actually believe?

Hell is not the point. Heaven is not the point. Love is the point.

Lie number six:

You have to like things that are “Christian” like movies and music and books while ignoring or even destroying movies, music, and books that are not “Christian”

Not all that long ago we heard a lot about Harry Potter book burnings. We sometimes hear about this leader or that holding a Quran burning. When I was in high school the big thing was to burn ‘bad’ music. Kids would bring their Kiss and AC/DC tapes to church and throw them in a fire. The kids would then be presented with a pamphlet that gave them Christian alternatives to popular artists. (“If you like Boston, you’ll like Petra”, that kind of thing.)

I mentioned a Christian comedian in the last section. He is actually kind of funny. Not brilliantly funny, but kind of funny. Mediocrilly funny.

And that kind of describes most things in Christian culture, mediocre. Christian music, Christian books, Christian comedy, Christian kids shows… all of it is really, honestly, pretty mediocre. I would even go so far as to say that mediocre is the high mark and most of it is really terrible.

“Oh, but I like Third Day! And I like that movie with Nicholas Cage in it!” That’s OK, you’re allowed to like what you like. Even if it is pretty mediocre in my opinion.

But the problem isn’t the quality of Christian music or films. The problem comes when church leaders insist that you have to ONLY like stuff you find at a Christian store and must forsake things in “secular” culture. Worse, you have to actually despise secular things so much you have to destroy them. And also push the Christian stuff on your kids and family.

If you want to be sure to push your kids to listen to AC/DC, tell them they aren’t allowed to listen to AC/DC.

Now, granted, the Bible does say “Do not be conformed to this world…” (Romans 12:2) and “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever isjust, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8). But what do those MEAN? Do they mean that everything that is labeled “Christian” is ‘good’ and everything “Not Christian” is ‘bad’? Are we to avoid great works of are in the museums of Paris because we don’t know for certain that their artists were Christians? Should we only look at things Thomas Kincade paints because we know he’s a Christian (or at least claims to be?) Are we to avoid great works of classical music because we don’t know if the composers are now in Heaven? Should we only listen to Micheal W. Smith and Amy Grant because we know they are Christians (or at least claim to be?)

How insane is that?

I don’t think that’s what the Bible is saying. I think the point is where you put your love. What do you love more? The music of Led Zepplin or your kids? What should you love more? The books of JK Rowling or your neighbor? Should we set fire to everything that we see as ‘bad’? Becasue after a while, if we follow everyone’s opinions of what we think God wouldn’t like, that fire would get pretty huge.

The bottom line, though, is what is the intent of people telling you to only shop for music at Family Christian Stores (or similar places)?

They’re trying to get you to buy stuff. They’re trying to get you to spend money and make a profit. Yes, even Christian stores are there to make money. And that, honestly, is a worse sin than listening to the Beatles, simply aquiring things, filling our lives with things.

And that, just getting more an more things, is more conforming to the world than the things themselves.

Lie number seven:

You need to be afraid. Very very afraid of a whole long list of things. And if you’re not afraid you’re not faithful enough.

Isis. Big government. Iran. Syria. Terrorists. Fluoridated water. These are all things that I’ve heard political candidates, who refer to themselves as Christians (and are running because “God told them to”), say we need to fear. And that’s only a few of the things we should fear. And it’s not just politics, too many church leaders are preaching fear. Fear of everything from immigration to what’s in our food.

Why do they want us to be afraid?

One answer. Control. If you are afraid, then you will cling to the thing or person that you think has the way to keep you safe. In the case of the church, most often it will be the leader telling you what to be afraid of. Obviously they have ‘the answer’ because they’re talking about it. In some churches, it’s  guns. God gave us guns to keep us safe.

No, I’m not kidding. I know one right here locally.

But you know what the Bible says?

Fear not.

Fear not, Abram, I am your shield”
Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is”
Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring”
Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord”
Fear not; do not be dismayed.”
fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God”
fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
fear not, for I am with you”
Fear not, I am the one who helps you”
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine”
Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it?”
fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings”
fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage”
Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Fear not, I am the first and the last”

All of these are either God speaking or Jesus.

Now the Bible does say we should fear God. For example, Acts 9:31 – “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

But did that mean they walked around, cowering in fear of what God would do? And how do we reconcile that with the “comfort” of the Holy Spirit?

The word in Greek (the earliest manuscripts we have of most of the new testament are in Greek) here is “phobos”, the root of the word we use in English as “phobia”. But in Greek, as in English, context is everything. Phobos also means “astonishment” or “amazement”. They weren’t afraid of God while being comforted by the Holy Spirit, they were AMAZED by what god was doing. They were ASTONISHED. Not cowering.

If we follow God. If we call ourselves Christian, then we have nothing to fear. And Isis and Iran and fluoride are nothing.

If we put our trust in God, then why are we talking about this stuff?

Granted, we shouldn’t be stupid about it. But we can talk about common sense ways to deal with terrorists and war without giving in to fear.

Lie number eight:

The Bible is perfectly clear on how we’re supposed to feel about just about everything, especially concerning the actions of other people.

There is only one thing to say about this. The Bible is not an instruction manual. It contains instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and what to do if Israelites found mold on their walls, but as for things like sex, marriage, medicine, education, and so on, the instructions are either obsolete or not existent.

Certainly the principles that the Bible teaches can be applied to you life. But if you think the Bible is meant to be a step by step instruction manual for every little part of your life, then you haven’t read it.

A huge part of the Bible is history, history of the Israelites. And instructions for how they were to live in the desert and the promised land. Other parts are songs and stories. And there are letters.

Certainly there are things to be learned. But it’s not a sex manual. It’s not a marriage manual. It’s not a medical journal.

And above all it’s not a political manual on how to govern people that don’t believe in the Bible. It’s not something that is meant to be used to clobber people that don’t believe it. It’s not meant to be a book of laws to dictate the lives of people everywhere.

We don’t get to say “The Bible says this is wrong, so you shouldn’t do it”. I’m not talking about things that are obviously wrong, like murder. There are law codes that pre-date the Biblical record that show that there are things, like murder, that are pretty commonly agreed upon as wrong. But there are other things, like eating pork, like having tattoos, that we can’t insist on making law because “The Bible is against it”.

And yes, I am tap-dancing around Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion. These are two things , among many, that the Bible is not clear on – I don’t care what anyone says, there is nowhere in the Bible that definitively says “do not get an abortion” or “do not let two men enter into the contract of marriage”. And nowhere does it say “enforce these laws I have given to you upon all people everywhere even if they don’t agree with you”.

It just doesn’t. I challenge you to show me where the Bible says any of those things. Not your “interpretation”, where it definitively says it.

You can certainly use the Bible to guide your life, but you have to agree that it’s not a step by step instruction manual for anything other than things that applied to the ancient Israelites. Now if you want to follow those instructions, more power to you, but I think you’ll find their treatment for things like leprocy to be far less effective than modern medicine.

Lie number nine: 


Pretty much everything taught in churches about women and their place in the church and society is a lie, so it’s hard to narrow it down to one lie.  Even in my own church there is a ‘tradition’ that women aren’t allowed to speak during the service. Oh, they can talk to greet people, they can sing, but they can’t read a verse from the Bible, nor can they lead prayer or do the Lord’s Supper meditation. (Our current preacher is trying to change it, but is’s been engrained into our congregation for so long that it’s really hard to shake it.)

One preacher even offered that women are meant to be Baby Makers. And that’s it. That’s their only job. And if a woman doesn’t want a child, she’s condemned to eternal Hellfire (see previous sections for my opinion on that).

(He didn’t last long at our church and I honestly don’t know where he is now.)

But dang it everyone, why do we do this? Why do we insist that women don’t have a real place in any part of the church?

I don’t… I can’t…. I don’t even know what else to say on this topic other than EVERYONE THAT TRIES TO SUBJUGATE WOMEN IS WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG! God made men and women in his image (Genesis). If women are in the image of God just like men, then they deserve an equal place in the church, in the workplace, and in the world.

Period. The end.


Lie number ten: 

You must always be happy. Even though you need to be afraid (see number eight), you must always be happy. Happy happy happy. Because you’re “saved” and you are “loved” so be happy! And if you’re not happy, you’re obviously not faithful enough.

There is even a “churchy” word for this. Pollyanna. Someone is a ‘Pollyanna” if they are always happy. You can recognize these folks because they say things like “God is blessing my socks off!” and “God couldn’t bless me more if He tried!”

But there is a worse side to this than someone who is just so fake happy all the time.

I’m going to get a little personal here.

I struggle with clinical depression. I take medication for it and it’s pretty well controlled, but some days are a real struggle. Doctors and psychiatrists say it’s a disease. I don’t like that because in my mind a disease is something really medical like cancer or diabetese. Something you can look at in your blood and see that something is objectively not right. Depression isn’t like that. it’s not like there is something that is in your blood that you can look at and say “yep, that’s not right. (I have seen medical journal articles that there some promising tests being done that could lead to a test that could definitively diagnose the chemical imbalance that causes clinical depression, but it could be years and years before it’s a reality.)

One thing I hear all the time, all the freaking time, is “You’re depressed? Pray harder!” and “If you have enough faith, you wouldn’t be depressed” and “God loves you! If you knew that you’d be happy”.


God never promised you’d be happy all the time. God never promised you’d never be sick. God never promised you wouldn’t have or get a disease. But Peter wrote, “Cast your anxieties on him because he cares for you”. No where does it say you will never have those anxieties. Or any other problems.

Faith is not magic. Faith is not a miracle cure. Faith, in faith itself, is nothing. It’s in where your faith is placed. Can God heal me of depression? sure. Will He just because I have faith in him? Maybe, maybe not.

But the fact that He hasn’t (yet) is no indication of my faith. At all.

Anyone that tells you they are always forever happy because of their faith is a liar. It’s not possible to be always forever happy. And not being happy, or not happy,  is not an indicator of faith or love. Depression, or any other psychological or medical condition is not an indicator of being sent to hell.

Drop it with the freaking hell stuff already.




I stumbled across this interesting little gizmo. I forget where, initially, but a Patheos blogger discusses it here.

That it does is take every apparent contradiction in the Bible and link it all together. You can move your cursor over every arc and it will show you it’s connection to the verses that seem to contradict each other.

BibViz Project – Bible Contradictions, Misogyny, Violence, Inaccuracies interactively visualized

Some of the things it connects seem like a stretch, or at least pointless, like “Does God work on the Sabbath?” But others are real head scratchers, like “Can God do anything?”

I love and respect the Bible. It’s the written basis of my faith.

But unlike others, I do not believe the Bible is, in its entirety, is the word of God. I believe it contains the word of God, but it also contains human communication. I also don’t believe it was written by God. I believe God guided the authors, but ultimately it was written by men.

As such it’s important, vitally important, to know where the Bible contradicts itself. Or at least seems to. (I don’t believe all the contradictions on this site are, indeed, contradictions, due to the “humanness” of the authorship as I mentioned above. There certainly are contradictions, but I think a lot can be solved by know where God is speaking and where men are speaking.

I’m kind of off on a rant here, but it’s important to approach the Bible, if you approach it all, with respect not only to it’s Godliness, but also to it’s humanness. Not everything was written to be taken literally, not everything is written for all people at all times, and not everything needs to be hammered into your brain. Sometimes people are just talking to other people. Sometimes it’s history, sometimes it’s poetry and sometimes we just need to get the gist of it and not waste a lot of time comparing every jot and tittle to every other jot and tittle.

Ok, end of rant. But I hope you enjoy this website and can learn something from it.

Defining the Christ-Centered Church

Disclaimer: I cannot claim credit for this model. While what is written here includes my thoughts and feelings, the original idea and the original pictures (that I reproduced because I could not find the originals) belong to someone else. I could not find the original blog post from which they came. If you are the author please let me know. I will gladly credit you or remove this post according to your wishes.
As a boy my family sporadically attended the United Methodist church in the small Nebraska town where we lived. At the time it was (and I believe still is) the only church building in town.  As is the habit of the Methodist church, sometimes they’d move the pastors around. By the time I graduated high school, three different preachers had come and gone.  I can’t speak for all Methodist churches, but in our small town we were definitely Pastor centered. Each brought changes that were not always welcome, but because he was the ‘head’, the people had to go along with it. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood why the Methodist churches do things the way they do, especially in small towns, but the impression it left on me was hard to shake.
Like all churches, the Methodists claimed to be “Christ centered”, while at least to the eyes of a young boy being Pastor centered.  But what does it truly mean to be a Christ Centered church? Is it just teaching the Bible? Sharing some songs? Having a cross on your steeple or sign? What does that even mean?
It might surprise some of you to know that the term “Christ Centered” does not appear in the Bible. When the Bible does talk about Christ and his relationship to the church, it uses terms such as “Christ is the head” (Ephesians 5:23) that He is a shepherd (John 10) He is the vine and believers are the branches (John 15:5), you might even infer that Christ calls himself the cornerstone (or keystone/capstone) (Matthew 21:42). But no where is he called the “center”. That’s a term that came later. It’s not a bad term, in fact it’s a great term, but what does it mean to be a Christ Centered church?
Take a look at this model:
How most people view the Christ-centered church

 This is how many “church people” see the church. The larger circle is Christ, the small ones are people, and the largest one represents the church. If Christ IS the center, then those closest to Him are IN the church, and those further away are OUT of the church. Theres an easily recognizable border between one and the other.

You’re IN if you’re “Born Again” or “Baptized” or “Filled with the Spirit” or … or… or…  (lots of different churches use lots of different definitions about what it means to belong.) And while I agree that the concept behind these terms is important, I don’t think they fully describe what it means to keep Christ at the center of the church and, ultimately, our lives.

Drawing lines isn’t the best way to describe any church. When you do that, someone is always on the “wrong” side of that line. And when someone is on the “wrong” side, that inevitably leads to permission to leave that person out, to exclude them, to say they are “wrong”, to tell them they need to “get right”, that their thoughts and opinions are “unbiblical”…. we in the church find lots of ways to tell people they are on the wrong side. But what does the church look like to those that are on the “wrong side”?

What the Christ-centered church really looks like

Here’s what the church looks like to people that don’t know where the line is. To people that are not part of the church. When you’re at the mall or driving down the interstate, or sitting in a movie theater, you don’t know who is “in” or who is “out”, unless they tell you, and even then you can’t really be sure. Without a church service going on, you can’t tell which people are “church” and which people are not “church”. Everyone pretty much looks the same. Without some example in their words or deeds, people that are “in” look just like people that are “out”.

 There’s a danger here. When you can’t tell who is “one of you” it’s really easy to take one of two extremes, assuming that all are equally “Christ Centered” or all are equally “non-Christ Centered”. You’re not ministering to them because you see them as all “in” or you’re not ministering to them because you see them as all “out”. That’s not to say you’re going to stand up in a movie theater and start preaching or handing out tracts (there’s a time and place for everything), but neither should you avoid an opportunity if one presents itself because you’re assuming that someone else will do it (because that ‘someone else’ knows if that person is ‘in’ or not) or that the person doesn’t really need it because you want to assume they are “in”.

Both of these models are wrong. While looking down from above it looks like Christ is the center, it’s not really how the church IS, or better still, it’s not how God sees people. There’s a better way to look at people rather than “in” or “out”.

What the Christ-centered church really is
Picture this. The arrows, vectors, are the paths of people’s lives. A vector shows not only direction, but magnitude – strength or force. The vectors here show not only the direction of people’s lives in relation to Christ, but how hard they are working on going the direction they are.

In our first image, the dot closest to Christ seemed to obviously be the most Christ centered, Christ-loving, person, definitely ‘in’. But in this image we can see that this perso
n, while they seem to be closest to Christ, is actually moving the wrong way. Their life is going away from Christ. In the first image, the one furthest away was obviously ‘out’, but here we see that not only are they moving toward Christ, they are working really hard at it. There are a couple that are closer, they have less distance to go, but they’re barely moving. Others have stagnated, they’re going sideways in relation to Christ.

But there’s one that best represents what the church should really want to be, what everyone wants, or should want. The U-Turn. Someone that was trying to run away, but has turned their life around. We as the church best represent the Christ Centered church when we are the ones that help that person make the U-Turn. Or when we share the stories of our own u-turns. While we as the church should always strive to be moving toward the middle, more importantly we need to be the ones pointing people to the middle, to the center, to Christ. Not with picket signs and sermons and other ways to tell people they are going the wrong way, but with love, gentleness, and respect for them as people that God sees as deserving love, gentleness, and respect.

How do we do that? How about this: 

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27 NASB) 

and this: 

“And whoever… gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42 NASB) 

and this: 

“[Jesus said] Come, you who are blessed of My Father,inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)

and this: 

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Are we moving toward Christ in our lives? Or do we think we’re already there? Are we helping others do move toward Christ? Or are we leaving that to others? A Christ centered life, and a Christ centered church, is not a destination, it’s not something you can ever be totally certain that you’ve “arrived” at. Rather it’s the journey, the ever prayerful, ever searching journey that should define us as a Christ centered church and a Christ centered people.

My Creed

Recently there’s been some talk about this blog. I’m not sure what’s really going on as no one is really talking to me about it, except for one fellow that pretty much asked me to take down some stuff because it was… well confusing I guess. And it was. I needed to do some work on those posts and instead I just kind of abandoned them.

But regardless I sort of feel that I need to clarify what it is that I believe. For my own piece of mind if nothing else. So you’ll forgive me if I steer away from the usual political/satirical posts that have been here in the past.

With that I bring you this:

My Creed

I believe in God that Father, who created everything. 

          How did He create it? I don’t know. But I do know that there are things that can be seen with our eyes, through observation and study. Zoology, biology, geography, anthropology, paleontology, astronomy…. these are things that cannot be ignored in favor of a world view that just throws these things away. God didn’t give us eyes to see and minds to think only to have us ignore the world around us. Does that mean the Bible can’t be trusted? No. Does that mean we need to reject science in favor of the Bible? No. They exist in the same universe. They aren’t opposed to each other. In fact there isn’t “Bible” over here and science over there as so many would have us believe. They can co-exist. The Bible isn’t a science manual and science manuals aren’t the Bible. It’s unfair to make them enemies. Creation and Evolution are part of the same thing. 

I believe in Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of God. Born of a virgin. Crucified to redeem us. Risen from the dead.

     This is one that so many non-Christians trip over. Son of God. Born of a virgin. Risen from the dead. Redeem mankind by allowing Himself to be killed. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around these things. Even for people of faith when they sit and think about it too long. Why was a horrible painful death needed? Why wouldn’t God just ‘fix’ things? Why send his son? And what’s with the Trinity? Is Jesus God? So God killed himself? That’s all so… weird.
     And it really is. I could write many blog posts about it and still not have something that would make sense to most people. And I would love to talk to you about it if you’d like, but let me be the first to say that sometimes I don’t get it either. And I will also be the first to say that some things I just can’t explain to perfect satisfaction. “Why believe it if you can’t explain it?” Well… again, that’s for another time. So let’s just focus on Jesus.
     The Virgin Birth. Necessary for Jesus to be who He was? I believe so. Crucified? What’s that about? Well, it was a common form of execution in those times. Lots of evidence has been found for that, though the exact methods varied. The cross was probably used the most, though trees and posts and fences were used too. But why?
    This is where some people will disagree with me. The most common theology is that Jesus was the Final Sacrifice under the laws of Moses. Under those rules, a lamb was sacrificed to pay for one’s sins. Jesus was The Lamb to redeem everyone. There are issues with this view that make it difficult for me. The view that makes much more sense is the ransom view. A ransom needed to be paid and Jesus’ death paid that price. His resurrection was proof that the price was paid. It’s not a popular view in this day and age, but it is a view that is found in the writings of the early church (writings by church leaders 100-1000 years after the events in the Bible.) Origen, Pelagius, and Saint Athanasius are only a few that wrote about this view.
     There is much more that can be said here, but it would take too much time and space to explain it all. So let’s press on.

I believe in the Holy Spirit

     The third part of the Trinity. The Holy spirit is that part of God that lives and acts in the hearts of people here on Earth. Not through faith healers on TV, not through speaking in tongues in some weird church service, but through the quiet leading and guiding of people that will let themselves listen. In my opinion, these are the people being arrested for feeding the homeless, the ones opening their doors in cold weather to keep the poor warm. They are the ones visiting prisons, helping those with addictions, holding a sign at a gay pride parade that says “I’m sorry for how others have treated you, you are loved”.
     I’m off on a rant. Moving on.

I believe in One Church.

     And no, that doesn’t mean MY church is right and YOUR church is wrong. It doesn’t mean that that denomination over there is bad and this other one is good. It means that there is one, and only one church. Not a building, not congregation, not race or any of that. All Christians are one. Together we are the One church, no matter where we live or what our differences are. We are one.. The one Church. And there are differences. But there’s a quote attributed to many different writers that reads “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” No matter the source of this quote, it is as things should be. All of us as Christians can agree on some things that are essential. On the rest we should not be so nit-picky, and at all times we need to practice love and generosity.

I believe in the Bible.

     This is where I got into trouble recently. And maybe I should address this as it’s own topic, but it flows from all the rest.
     The Bible has become so…. I don’t know. Some people assume we need to take it as it is, word for word, as literal, as actual, as 100% the word of God. Jesus believed the old testament, therefore we should to.
     And that’s where I argue. I do believe the Bible is the word of God. BUT, the Bible contains both divine and human communication. The human part can be seen in the letters from Paul that make up much of the New Testament, such as the writings in Titus chapter 3 where Paul writes “When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.” If we are to take every word as literal and divinely inspired, are we therefore waiting for Artemas and Tychicus to come to us so we can then go to Nicopolis to visit Paul who is spending the winter there? That’s ridiculous. Not every word is meant to be a rule or a commandment.
     It’s important therefore to figure out what part is meant to lead and guide us in our lives and what part is human communication that can be safely… well, ignored isn’t the best word, but accepted as what it is.
     I also don’t think that every word of the Bible can be taken as literal history. For example, the parables of Jesus. Are these actual things that actually happened? Was there literally a man that built his house on the rock and another on the sand? Maybe, but maybe not. Is it less true if it’s not TRUE? Does the fact that it’s a story make it less true? What about the psalms? Like the 23rd. Were there literal green pastures that David laid in? Was there a literal valley of death that he walked through? Is that psalm less inspira
tional if it’s not literal? What about psalm 91? Verse 4 says God will cover you with the feathers of His wings? Does God have literal wings with feathers? Is it less true if it’s figurative rather than literal?
     And the book of Genesis. This is the heart of my trouble. I suggested in another post that the stories of the Garden of Eden and Noah’s ark don’t need to be literal to be true. Do I personally think that these events happened? At one time, no. At another, yes. At another, no. I struggle. But I like to think I struggle well. (Anyone that doesn’t struggle with what they believe isn’t doing it right in my opinion.) But regardless, the first few chapters of Genesis don’t have to be taken as 100% historical – in my opinion – to be 100% true and 100% trustworthy. Like the parables of Jesus they don’t have to have literally happened to be literally true.
     Some took this to mean that I was saying throw it out. You can’t trust it. That’s not what I said at all. I also suggested that maybe these stories came from an earlier source than Moses. Well, if they are history, they would have to. If Moses wrote Genesis, as most believe, and these things happened long before Moses was born, then SOMEONE had to tell Moses about them. Could God have just told these things to Moses? Well, sure. But it’s equally possible that while living in Pharaoh’s palace as a child Moses could have heard these stories, or read them. Or a visitor from another land brought them and shared them. We don’t really know. Does that make them less trustworthy? No. But does that make them historical? I don’t think it has to. Does that mean we can’t trust them and have to accept the purely scientific view? No.
   But in the end, how much does our salvation as Christians rely on the book of Genesis? It doesn’t change who Jesus was or what he did or what he does if Genesis is taken out of the Bible. Or Leviticus. Or Habakkuk.
     In every bit of the Bible, we can take comfort that it can be trusted, and thankful that it’s here for us to study, but if we’re going to elevate the Bible to the same level as God Himself, then we’re going to miss out on what God can and will do for us NOW. 


There is much more I could put into this personal creed, but these are the essentials. There are other things that lead from this, the concept of sin, the need to repent from it, baptizm, the Golden Rule, etc.

And now that I’ve ranted myself out, I’ll be done.

6 Things the Church Can Learn From Just Chilling The #$%& Out

Today the Supreme Court of the US refused to hear arguments on several same-sex marriage cases. In effect tossing out the cases against the legalization of same-sex marriage and making it officially legal in 11 more states, bringing the total of states in the US that allow same-sex marriage to 30.

(I may be wrong on the exact numbers because as of this time the stories are sometimes vague and often contradictory. One I have been able to verify is the Attorney General of Colorado has ordered all county clerks to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.)

And of course many in the church are losing their minds. The number of angry blog posts, facebook statuses, and tweets has far outnumbered the posts regarding the facts of the matter.

So much energy is being spent by people losing their minds. And it’s not just this issue. Any time something comes up in the news that ‘Christians’ feel is against their scriptures it happens. Hours and hours are spent writing and yelling and arguing and name calling. Hours that are better spent in so many better ways.

So in light of that I give you 6 things the Church can learn from just chilling the @#$& out:

1)  Just enjoy that movie
Almost every year there is a movie that makes us lose our minds. Noah? Oh my gosh! That was so wrong! Not Biblical at all! Transformers? ERHMAHGERD! Dinosaurs are only 6000 years ago and they weren’t robots! New Star Wars movies that aren’t even out yet? FREAK OUT AND LOSE OUR MINDS!! It doesn’t have Jesus in it!

How about we try this. Chill out and just watch the movie. Then good or bad, let’s just talk about it on it’s own merits as human beings and not freak out all over the place? Just try it. And then maybe we can get Chinese food and ice cream after.

2) Music on the radio is more fun than some guy talking

Talk radio shows are everywhere. Even music stations play them late at night and early in the morning. I’m not saying that talk radio shows in and of themselves are ‘bad’, but maybe try this: don’t listen to talk radio. Just try it. For a week. Maybe two. Put on music that you like instead.

Personally I like the oldies channel. (To me, oldies are what I listened to in high school.) God is not going to condemn you to Hell for listening to The Doors instead of Rush Limbaugh. You’re not going to be doomed for hearing Willie Nelson instead of Dr. Dobson.

Seriously, just try it. Just turn of the angry rants and sing along. You might find you like it.

3) Your children learning science/evolution will not turn them into Satan worshippers
Setting aside the pointless argument as to whether evolution is ‘settled science’ or not. (It is, but science is never really settled is it?)

Your children learning it isn’t a bad thing. Seriously, it’s not going to do them any long term emotional or spiritual damage. If you want your children to get ahead in school, college, and life, they need to learn it, whether or not you think it’s real. And this goes for other things like math and history. Teaching them only an ‘alternative’ version of things is harmful to them and to their future.

Try looking at it this way. The ACT/SAT tests require certain answers. Teach your kids those answers even if you and they don’t believe in them. Seriously, they won’t start drinking blood and growing horns if you do.

4) It’s OK that things aren’t ‘Christian’, stop changing history and reality to force things into a Christian mold

This one really gets to me: “America is a Christian Nation!” Um…. ok. Do you have a Christian car too? How about a Christian computer? Or a Christian tree growing in your yard? A country is a political construct defined by its boundaries, laws, and ‘papers’ (In the case of the US that would include the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution). And yes, the people. But ALLLLLLLL the people, not just the people you WANT to include. Other than the people, none of those things is a conscious being. A Christian is someone that has made a decision to follow Christ. Unless the Rocky Mountains or the heads at Rushmore suddenly start talking, I’m going to go with the assumption that the country cannot make a decision to follow Christ.

And guess what? You can’t FORCE someone to follow Christ. So by insisting that we enact CHRISTIAN laws and only have CHRISTIAN politics and so on, you are forcing people to follow laws and rules that they haven’t chosen.

It’s OK! Really, honestly, it’s OK that America is not a Christian nation. Even IF you can prove that it WAS, it isn’t anymore. It’s OK. We don’t have to change how we teach history, we don’t have to change what the news shows us, we don’t have to make things into something they aren’t just to convince our children and others that things are what we want them to be not what they really are.

5) Being friends with someone who isn’t a Christian (and has made a choice not to be one) can be pretty awesome
If all your friends are in your church, that’s great. But if one of those friends is also friends with

someone who ISN’T in your church, IT’S OK! No seriously. And no, you don’t have to go out and try to convert that person. If that’s your thing, fine, but if that person has already made a choice to NOT be a Christian or even (*gasp*) to be Muslim or Jewish or (*double gasp*) Atheist, it’s all going to be OK.

I have many friends, some very
real, some just ‘facebook’ friends, some just casual friends. Few of them are Christians. (*GASP!!!*) No, seriously, very few. All of them (or so I hope) know that I am a Christian. And the reason they know that is not because I’ve directly told them, but rather through my speech and actions. Will I ever ‘convert’ any of them? Why do I care? I mean, yes, I’d like it if it happened, but I’m not going to actively try to do that. Some are atheist, one or two are pagan, at least one is Hindu, another is Buddhist, and one says he’s a devout follower of The Holy Church Of Bill The Cat. And while it’s not a religious stance, two are gay. And they’re all cool and awesome and totally bodacious. If any of them change their mind about their devotion (or non-devotion as the case may be) I would hope they might ask about what I believe, but that’s not why I’m friends with them. I’m friends with them because they are cool and awesome and totally bodacious.

So try it! Go out and make a friend that believes differently than you. The conversations alone will be worth the effort. And who knows? You might find a new best friend.

6)  Not every issue has to be a ‘Christian’ issue

Gas prices. Immigration. Fantasy Football. Breakfast cereal. What do all these things have in common? None of them are inherently “Christian” or “Religious” issues. Yet the church seems to want to Christian-ize everything. So when we talk about Gas prices it’s because the President isn’t a Christian and therefore gas is too high. Immigration? It’s because we aren’t Christian enough to keep them out. Fantasy Football? Obviously my players aren’t praying hard enough before their games. Breakfast cereal? Obviously the most evil thing ever!!! Don’t eat it!!

I might be exaggerating a bit, but so many in the church are convinced that EVERYTHING is a spiritual and therefore a church issue and therefore the church has to be involved in it. Everything from the curriculum at the local high school, to the upcoming election, to the price of beans at the local grocery store. And while, as a Christian, everything in your life should either reflect or enhance that, not everything in the world needs to be Christianized. It’s OK if the kids are reading Spider-Man, it’s OK if your neighbor is listening to Metallica, it’s OK if the beans aren’t grown by a Christian farmer.

And it’s OK for you to not stand up in church and not make a big stinking deal about it. We live in a diverse world with diverse people and diverse tastes and not everything is a challenge to your faith. If it is, then maybe you need to re-examine your faith.

And this includes elections an politicians. Churches and church people need to stop telling people how to vote. It’s OK if this candidate or that one isn’t a religious person. Candidates that present themselves as Christian have rarely turned out to be the best choice in a politician. Politics is a dirty game and someone needs to be dirty to play it. Don’t vote your convictions, vote your needs and intentions. Which candidate, regardless of religion, will do the best job for you? Vote for THAT guy even if he/she isn’t a Christian.


There are, obviously many many more things that can be on this list. Share your thoughts and comments and maybe I’ll add them!

Until then, chill out my excellent friends.

Homosexuality (yes I'm going to go there)

Over on our facebook page I have been sharing pictures and stories that have been coming across my feed today. In spite of everything else that’s in the news it seems that the pages and celebrities I follow are all talking about homosexuality. And I think that’s good. It needs to be talked about. And continue to be talked about until it’s not something that needs to be talked about anymore.

Of course the big story on this front is the marriage of well-known actor Neil Patrick Harris (of Doogie Howser and How I Met Your Mother fame – among others) to his long-time partner David.

And I, as a Christian, couldn’t be more…. happy for them. Yes. I am happy that one person that loved another person was able to have a warm and loving ceremony to celebrate their love. The world didn’t end, lions didn’t lay down with lambs, the walls didn’t start bleeding, and life as we know it continues to go on.

But in the religious circles I run, there is outrage. “Horrible example!” they say. “Abomination! I will never watch his stuff again!” they say.

Why? Why are so many Christians and churches so outraged by homosexuality? Why? They point this this obscure text or that one and say “See? God hates gays!” And whenever  a story like this comes out we see that so many in the church are just like the Westboro Baptist folks they claim they are not like. The only difference is they don’t show up to funerals with signs. Other than that they agree pretty much 100% with their message that “God Hates F**s”.

(For a really good approach to these verses from the Bible, check out this article: Clobbering Biblical Gay Bashing)

What is my take on all this?

Is Gay a choice? Is it something that can be “prayed away” or changed? Is it something that you can just ‘not be’? What should we, as Christians, do about it?

Some say the answers are easy. I think, maybe, not so much. (I am in no way shape or form very knowledgeable on this topic. But I have friends and I have kids and I have talked about this with them, so what I present here is things that have been said to me.)

I think that there are people that  are born gay. They are always attracted to the opposite sex. (Same is true for bi-sexuality). They just are.

But I also think that there are some, because of the conditions of their life or maybe a traumatic event, or who knows what, that are born ‘straight’ but become gay. These are the ones you hear about that claim to have been ‘healed’ of it or “found something they like better” in the opposite sex or a million other stories like that. Not all, but some.

And it gets more complex from there. Human sexuality, like almost every other issue in the world, is not black and white. It’s not even fifty shades of grey, it’s complicated and multicolored and messy. To try to push one group or another of people into some box or make them match some definition of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is just…. well, wrong.

But we also need to be aware of those, ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ that feel confused about their sexuality. As I said because of circumstances or events or other things, some might need help. They should be directed to specialists (and not anti-gay specialists, human sexuality specialists) to get the help they need.

And yes. We should pray for them. But not for the gay to “go away”, but for them to be who they were created to be, no matter what that is. For them to be their true self. In fact, we should pray that for everyone.That is what our Christian response should be to homosexuality, or any human condition, for the people involved to be their true selves.

But what about all those verses from Moses and Paul and everything?

Well, what about them? The Bible isn’t a sex manual. Nor is it a manual on “how to make people live the way you want them to”. The Bible is PERSONAL, it’s a message to YOU, not to other people through you – at least not on the issue of sexuality (or what they should eat or how they should dress, etc.) If YOU feel compelled to not be gay, then do something about it. If you feel compelled to not eat shellfish or have four tassels on your skirt, then by all means, then do what you think is right. But the Bible wasn’t written for you to force other people to follow what you think it says.

One thing Bible reading people need to stop doing is STOP BEING SO OBSESSED WITH HOMOSEXUALITY. Seriously, there are hundreds, thousands, millions of other issues that need attention. Not the least of which is the fact that almost 8 million kids right here in the US don’t have enough to eat. Or thousands of wounded and hurting military veterans need medical and psychiatric care. Or women all over the world in abusive and dangerous relationships. There are so so many way more important things we need to be dealing with instead of worrying about who is kissing who.

One final thought.

Arguably, Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. And most certainly he never said anything DIRECTLY about same-sex relationships. What He did say is probably much harder to deal with than the verses about homosexuality. “Love You Neighbor As Yourself”.

I am Pro-Choice, but not Pro-Abortion.

Image Courtesy of

Abortion is in the news. It’s always in the news. I don’t know why but we are a nation obsessed with one side or the other on this issue. Since Roe v. Wade in the early 70s the sides have become bigger, louder, and more entrenched.

Everyone is on one side or another whether they acknowledge that they are or not. Either you think abortion is bad or you think women should be allowed to choose. There really isn’t a middle ground (per-se). Either you want the right to choose kept legal or you want it taken away.

My position isn’t popular among the conservative Christian friends I have. I am Pro-Choice. I have been accused of “choosing death” and “siding with evil” and many worse things that I can’t really put in a public blog post. I did not arrive at my position easily, or comfortably. For much of my life I was very Pro-Life, convinced that all those poor babies deserved to live and that abortion was wrong and evil and…. and… and….

But guess what? My opinion on abortion, on it’s horror and ‘wrongness’ has not changed. I am very very anti-abortion and I will be leading the parade when the last one is performed. Seriously. I hate it.

So many pro-lifers get this wrong. Pro-Choice does not mean Pro-Abortion. No one, not one person, not the doctors or nurses that perform them, not anyone, “likes” abortion. There is no one going around advocating that it’s a good and necessary procedure. (If there is, they’re insane). Abortion is a violent invasive procedure that does damage (albeit temporary) to a woman’s body. Anyone that claims to “like” it is a crackpot.

I am Pro-Choice. I am anti-abortion. I want abortion to end. I want unwanted pregnancies to end. I want every child born in this country (and everywhere in the world) to be a wanted child, a loved child, a cared for child. But until that happens, I have to be pro-choice.

Why? Why do I feel I HAVE to be pro-choice? Simple. Abortion won’t go away just by making it illegal. Illegal abortions were done before Roe v. Wade and illegal abortions are still performed in other parts of the world and when abortion is outlawed in this country illegal abortions will surge.

Do you know the story of Pandora’s Box? No I’m not talking about the radio station or the jewelry company or anything like that, I’m talking about the original story.

The gods had placed all the evil that existed in a box. All the monsters and demons and death and disease and all of that stuff in a box. Locked away. Then along comes a woman named Pandora. She had been warned never to look in the box, but she couldn’t help it, she had to take a peek. The instant she cracked the lid, all the evil escaped into the world. (I can’t help but draw parallels with the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man from a piece of fruit….) Once all the stuff was out, it couldn’t be put back in.

That’s abortion in our modern world. Pandora’s box has been opened and it can’t be shoved back in and locked. It’s out there and it will stay out there. Legislation, constitutional amendment, whatever, it’s not going to go away.

But we can limit the damage. We can prevent needless harm to countless women by keeping abortion legal, safe, and available. But… BUT… there’s no reason it should be common. We can make it rare.

How? Start young. Teach young men and women about sex and conception and contraception and health choices and all of that. We need to make birth control extremely effective, painfully cheap (if not totally free), and above all EDUCATE EDUCATE EDUCATE.

The way to end abortion, the way to be truly pro-life is to make sure there is not one single unwanted pregnancy.

Is this a dream? A fantasy? Consider this:

Colorado claims contraceptive program caused big drop in teen birth rates

If this is true, it means that making free or nearly free contraceptives available WORKS to cut down on the number of unwanted pregnancies. Granted this article only looks at one age group, but even in that population a 40% drop is HUGE!! Carry this to it’s logical conclusion and the light at the end of the tunnel is HOPE of an abortion free world.

So many people are fighting the wrong battle. Hobby Lobby, various Republican politicians, anti-feminists – they focus so hard on trying to get people to stop having sex. And while I am not advocating pre-marital sex of any sort, especially among teens, the reality is people “do it”. You can’t legislate morality (at least not when it comes to sex). What you can do is fight the right fight.

I am Pro-Choice. And proud. And I vote.

What do you think? Share your comments here or on facebook, twitter, Google+, etc. (Keep it polite please).