Due to the response of today’s message on Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, specifically regarding the subject issue of homosexuality, I’m posting my message notes here for review.
Download: Corinthian Love Redefined
Due to the response of today’s message on Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, specifically regarding the subject issue of homosexuality, I’m posting my message notes here for review.
Download: Corinthian Love Redefined
I’m very pleased to announce that my most recent novel, The Sky Riders, is now on Audible.com. While this does little to appease current fans of the series who are eagerly awaiting the long-overdue second book, it does give a fresh avenue for new and old fans alike to enjoy the story.
This whole endeavor is thanks to, in no small way, the insanely talented voiceover actor David Rheinstrom. From his very first audition, I knew that I wanted David to read the manuscript. His characterizations, in particular, brought my story to life in a way that not even I had anticipated. By the time the final chapters were recorded, something magical had happened to me: I’d forgotten that I’d written the story. That’s about as high a praise as I can give. With David reading, Aria-Prime is a real place, and Junar, Liv, and Haupstie are people you’re sure you’ve met before.
Thanks again to all the fans of this book for your encouragement. You inspire me to keep writing, and with favorable winds, I may get this second installment wrapped up before too long.
Fly or die,
While I sought the council of close friends in the lead-up to Sunday night’s publishing of my article on The Church and the Myth of Christian Nationalism, I received more feedback after its posting. I read and weigh every comment that comes in (regardless of whether or not I reply), but it was healthy criticism from a few of my most respected confidants which pointed out issues I need to address by way of this addendum.
It is worth noting that in light of such a polarizing election, my aim is not to quantify every statement I made, nor is it to give voice to every possible scenario that needs voicing. I would remind anyone that still feels I’ve failed in one aspect or another to remember this is a blog, not a book or a thesis, and these are my thoughts in a limited state expression over a short period of time. I’ll let that speak for itself.
First, a point of apology, and then a point of additional clarification.
It was conveyed to me that whatever exceptions I attempted to give in not lumping all those who voted for Trump into a negative category failed. I am sorry. This was not my intent nor is it my sincere belief. I have family members, friends, and coworkers who voted for Trump. I do not believe they are guilty by association of the sins I listed. My family and closest friends assumed the best of me, as they know me, while those distant did not (neither would I assume them to). This failure is a product of both poor written expression and an ardent passion for those I perceive are suffering. While civic leaders and political commentators may be able to engage in such missteps, as a pastor, I can not, and I lost some of my good audience because of it. Again, my sincere apologies.
My fundamental point was to argue that we, the church, must be stronger and firmer in the face of any view, system, or person that is seeking to do others harm, especially those who are “perpetually disenfranchised” as Dave Chappell so eloquently put it. As Christians, we have a prophetic responsibility to critique power and its use and to always consider the views of the marginalized when so doing precisely because it concerns them the most. I understand that many felt being firmer meant voting for Trump; they didn’t think I was hard enough on Clinton. Others, who felt being firmer against oppression was voting for Clinton, thought I did not adequately credit her. Yet to be clear, I do not think either candidate was the one that would’ve liberated those under oppression. For me, one was so offensive in his speech toward those who needed help that it disqualified the hope of any future promises in their favor; the other is so used to a life of unchecked political power that it’s permanently impaired her ability to lead with integrity.
As I wrote initially, I don’t know what the proper electoral move is in such a case, and I do not believe a third party vote is a wasted vote for too many reasons to list here. That may indeed be a cheap default position, but it is the honest one for me. I maintain, however, that we, the church, must do a better job of calling out grievous behaviors sooner than we did, regardless of who we thought was the better choice.
Thank you for reading. I look to the future with deep hope, ready and willing to give our president-elect a chance. My prayers are for him and his family, and that his administration will exhibit as many of the ethics of God’s eternal kingdom as possible during his term.
It’s taken me the better part of six days to write this post. I’ve started it seven times and stopped just as many. Finding the right words has been more difficult than I expected.
I have only a few acquaintances that were truly happy about the election results. Many felt dirty about their vote (on either side of the aisle), and even more felt dirty over the entire process. I think most Americans with a conscience would agree. This was a very small percentage’s ideal campaign.
The unexpected blow, the one that finally gave me the insightsI needed to write this post, came when sitting with friends who are minorities. I’ll give voice to their issues in a moment.
Statistically speaking, of the white voters at New Life, in my own church, 8 out of 10 voted for DonaldTrump last week. That’s a very high figure, even among pollsters.
I think very few of them actually “liked” Trump; of those who do, we all know them on Facebook.
But given my demographic’s tendency to be suspect of immigrant non-assimilation, to view the Left being complicit in minority economic suppression in urban environments, to oppose anything that threatens the physical ability to defend private property, and, most of all, to refute abortion at all costs, it’s at least understandable to me why so many felt that Trump was their only choice.
Suggest a third party candidate or mention not voting and most white evangelicals will balk. The stakes are too high to merely cast the “send a message” vote. Doing so would mean missing out on valuable Supreme Court nominations, ending the flow of special interest funds, arresting the downward spiral of lost American jobs, and finally being able to thwart foreign enemies hostile to the pursuit of freedom. All of these, it’s reasoned, would have lasting impacts for the next several decades. And so, in our minds, we’d rather win with a less-than-scrupulous candidate than lose to someone far worse. Trump, in white evangelicals’ minds, truly is the lesser of two evils.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, to everyone’s utter amazement, Trump won. I’m sure it was startling even for his campaign. I literally thought Google was playing one of their classic gags on my iPhone. But they weren’t.
Within hours, the backlash began.
Word of protests, marches, and rallies spread quickly. Defiant rants exploded on social media. Opposition signs clouded every news source from Left to Right.
People were upset.
Minorities were upset.
“I didn’t want to leave the house tonight,” said one friend who will remain anonymous.
“I’m afraid,” said another, also anonymous. When I asked for a specific reason why, she replied, “There’s a new sense that it’s suddenly okay to be vocal about your racism.”
As first I thought they were overreacting. Until I started asking questions, putting myself in their shoes, and reading dozens and skimming hundreds of reports on the sudden uptick of unspeakable racist behavior across the country.
“It’s permissible now to be a bigot in public.”
“I am intensely conservative in a lot of ways and pro-life views are one of my top three issues in voting,” said another friend. “But right now, I’m keeping my head down and my mouth shut, trying not to let on how horrified I am by some of what Christians, I once admired, are saying.”
Several more of my black friends couldn’t even find words to answer simple questions that were posed to them. Sitting in the presence of their silence made me self-aware that I was unready for this reaction, unready for the pain I saw in their eyes. All at once, I realized the emotion that was intangibly but viscerally swelling in the air.
Dozens of friends overseas have asked me who I voted for. In their eyes, Hillary Clinton was the obvious choice. That didn’t surprise me. Their media tends to paint Left-leaning candidates in very pure light. But they failed to point out her establishment cronyism, countless spats with FBI investigations, numerous lies made under oath at congressional hearings, and countless life-costing failures in foreign policy.
Even if those things were diligently pointed out, she hasn’t been what her opponent is in the eyes of the nations: a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic bigot. Regardless of her stance on abortion (something I’ve needed to point out to my global friends, as world media also tends to downplay this fact), Clinton has made efforts to be seen as mostly sympathetic to humanitarian issues.In other words, she hasn’t asked for a wall against Mexicans, she hasn’t singled out “all Muslims” in speeches, hasn’t asked to defund sanctuary cities for refugees, hasn’t made obscene sexist remarks on a national platform (though she’s been accused of covering up plenty), and she’s consistently stood with minority movements including Black Lives Matter.
I say mostly sympathetic to humanitarian issues becauseClintonfails to stand in the gap for the neediest people group in the world, those most at risk, those most fragile, most vulnerable, voiceless, and helpless: our unborn babies. How anyone can say they’re for protecting those most at risk but endorse full term abortions is the epitome of what it means to be deceived.
My implication here is not that she is the better choice over and against Donald Trump, as so many often presume. Clinton wasn’t the perfect choice, to be sure. I sure didn’t vote for her. But I think what my international friends were really asking was not how Hillary Clinton lost but how Donald Trump was able to secure 81% of the white evangelical vote as the exit polls showed.
And my Christian minority friends are wondering the same thing.
Let me be clear: not every person that voted for Trump is a racist. I have very good friends who voted for him for their own reasons, many of them outlined above. I don’t hold their reasoning, or their vote,against them. Arguably, to arrive at any sense of reason within this election is a feat of extraordinary resolve. Their logic is their own, and, truthfully, plenty of it made sense, though I could not personally pull the lever for Trump.
Many reasoned that Trump had the pro-life vote over Clinton. I agree. He garnered much of the Christian vote because of it, even if reluctantly. The problem, of course, is that the Christian vote shouldn’t be pro-life about babies alone—it must be Pro-Life for everything living. This means a deep antipathy toward violence, a hatred of anything that limits equality, resistance to policy that marginalizes people based on race or economics, and a stern and adamant rebuke of enforcement that is anything less than humane.
For most reasonable people, we all knew going into the voting booth that we were dealing with levels of evil to choose from. In fact, not a single person I talked to was 100% sure who they were voting for the morning of the election. I don’t ever remember anything like this before. And no one I spoke to was naive enough to think there was actually something “good” to come of all this.
Or did they?
“Trump is God’s man,” one Facebook friend wrote.
“We have one final chance to turn this nation around!” wrote another. “If we don’t elect Trump, our country is doomed!”
“This is the church’s last chance to shine! Without [Trump] winning this election, the church will be crippled forever.”
Shares and likes populated in the hundreds.
It was bad enough that many Christians nodded in agreement when Trump began generalizing Mexicans; I wonder how often any of them visit churches south of the border and address congregations. It was bad enough that other Christians whitewashed Trumps deplorable and filthy speech toward women, even toward his own daughter; I shutter to think what conditional expectations they’re raising their children with. It was bad enough that some Christians cheered when an entire worldwide demographic of religious followers were slandered; I doubt that many of these brothers and sisters in Christ have thought through the cost of loving our enemies precisely when the enemy doesn’t reciprocate.
But when fellow Christians asserted that Donald Trump’s success in a political election predicated the church of Jesus Christ’s influence in the country—that somehow Trump was God’s will—that’s when they tipped their hand and crossed the God line.
This is nationalism in Christian clothing.
This is exchanging the Christian birthright of being God’s “new version of humanity,” as famed theologian N.T. Wright calls it, for a flicking flag and an ambient anthem. The church was never told that its fruitfulness was to be conditional upon the success of a political party. This is where the toll taken by the Christian Coalition still has teeth. To hear many of these Christians talk, you’d believe an American flag will be flying high somewhere in the new heavens and the new earth.
While I am blessed to live and hopefully die in the United States of America, you can be certain that I am not an American Christian, but a Christian who happens to have an American Passport. That is because American nationalism, just like Roman nationalism, is antithetical to the kingdom of God.
In a world that was saturated in empire, Paul knew all too well that if he didn’t secure Jew-and-Gentile harmony within these newly formed communities known as churches, they would not last to the end of the century under Roman rule. This is precisely the urgency that we feel undergirding every line of every letter he wrote, extolling them to a new pattern of reformational living.
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good,” he wrote to five small churches in the heart of the Roman empire, to Christians he had never met.
“Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor,” he charged them, certain that this sense of shared care would preserve them against the coming hostilities. “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord,” he urged, aware that they would be tempted to grow weary in doing good.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer,” he went on. Then, sure that Rome would not attend to the weak except to slaughter them, or to the refugee accept to enslave them, he added, “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”
If I, as one who is inferior to Paul, weep in reading these next lines, I must believe he wept as he penned them.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
Those words surely echoed in the hearts of those disciples who were crucified. Those Christians who were fed to lions and sawed in two. Those who were hung, who were burned alive. If they heard Paul, if they heard Jesus, the last words on their lips were, “I bless you.”
His tenor rising, Paul doesn’t let up.
“Live in harmony with one another,” he pleads. “Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.”
Associate with the lowly? Don’t claim to know it all? What political ethos has ever embodied such tenets?
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
How could Paul know so well what Christians living 2016’s America needed to hear?
At the end of his sweeping charge not to take vengeance on enemies, something Paul only could’ve learned from close examination of the life of the Messiah that he so radically followed, Paul ends with what may be one of the most reformational statements of the New Testament.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
What possessed him? What conviction gripped the soul of this Apostle to the Gentiles? I think that Paul believed if the church didn’t live this out, no one would. It is the church’s responsibility, and it’s alone, to manifest the realities of God to the earth, to be the outpost of heaven.
This is why blacks feel betrayed.
This is why women feel betrayed.
This is why Mexicans feel betrayed.
This is why Muslims feel betrayed.
Not because America let them down. But because the church did.
We may very well have voted for the pro-life candidate, but it appears as though we did it at the cost of blacks. Of Mexicans. Of Muslims. Of women. And I, for one, believe that the cost was too great.
“I don’t understand how the first time [Trump] said something blatantly racist, he wasn’t just told to take a seat,” said a conservative black friend in confidence. “I don’t understand how my actual brown-skinned life got put on a balance scale against the hope that he was actually telling the truth about his picks for supreme court justice.”
What was the alternative? Not vote? Possibly. Vote for one of the pro-life third party candidates and lose the election altogether? Possibly. I wonder if either of those would have been better than what we’ve created now: an air of suspicion among those who were looking to us for trust and safety. But what is certain is that we didn’t do what we should’ve done, which is now hindsight: Decry outrageous behavior from moment one.
Every minority friend I’ve spoken with did not see Clinton as the best answer or even the person to vote for; they know, better than anyone, that policy hasn’t changed under the Obama administration. What minorities wanted was for the church to be the church and see through the charade. They wanted the church to bemoan all unscrupulous conduct, Left or Right, and refuse to play the game even if it meant losing the White House. They were looking for 8 out of 10 evangelical whites to say that protecting babies’ lives and minority lives mattered.
“The fact remains that the people who are blatantly racist see Trump as their best hope to have the country they want,” said a black friend. “And that should’ve been a wake-up call for all of us.”
Even as I finish this, we’re learning from tonight’s 60 Minutes interview that Trump is already backpedaling on some of his major campaign promises—less than one week in. Certainly, I’m grateful that he’s backing away for the ledge of his polarizing campaign promises. But was it worth it? Is a more tempered president-elect worth the damage caused by endorsing a zealot?
Yes, it’s too late to undo the election of 2016. But, Christians, it must never be repeated.
In a world where the term euangelion, good news, meant that “Caesar is Lord,” the first century Christians hijacked it, forever connecting it with the message of God’s covenant faithfulness to all of humanity through Christ. “The good news,” they would have told you, “is that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.”
For those Christians who feel afraid and betrayed, I want to let you know, Jesus is Lord, Trump is not. The world is not worthy of your worry, sweet friend. Come, little sheep, do not be afraid. The light is shining brightly. Not all evangelicals are suspicious of you, but we understand it may be a long while until we win your trust back. I’m so sorry.
For those Christians who feel like the church just got saved in this election, I need to remind you, Jesus is Lord, Trump is not. Be mindful that when you presume God’s activity is dependent on a political leader, you are not only undermining the movement of God’s Spirit in the church, but you are slandering every Christian church in every nation that doesn’t have “God’s man” in an office. My fear for you is that where a Clinton victory would have snapped you awake and made you more reliant on the church, a Trump victory has coaxed you further into a sickening lethargy that believes a President, not Jesus and his church, is God’s hope for the nations.
Your hope was never in Rome, and it is not in Washington DC.
You are the beautiful bride of Christ, and your hope is in King Jesus. Be the church, not in spite of the mess we’ve made, but because we—not a political party—were charged to be the salt of the earth and the light on a hill. Our holy calling is nothing less and could not possibly be more.
Be the church.
Please read Addendum: Apology and Clarification
• • •
Our head isn’t in the game because, like my high school soccer team, the white church has focused so much on our past “wins” against racism—racism that polls show the majority of white Americans think is a thing of the past—that we’ve failed to recognize the enemy in our own house. And what a foe it is.
The past few weeks have been exhausting for me. When news first broke of Andrew Sterling’s death in Baton Rouge, followed almost immediately on my news feed by Philando Castille’s murder, I had a feeling something would be different about these incidents. Little did any of us know that what awaited us was the horrible murder of seven police officers in Dallas. And something was different. I could’ve never imagined the contests I’d be embroiled in by the following Sunday.
When it comes to human rights, my church has always been in the fray, rolling up our sleeves and getting messy. From local needs and causes to international ones, from controversial guest speakers to costly projects, I’ve been so proud of the charge we’ve lead. As such, on that Sunday, I expected to fight against the world when it came to championing black lives. Instead, I faced members of white churches and members of my own church.
Much like this presidential election cycle has brought to light issues that have been festering in the hearts of voters for years, this second week of July brought to light attitudes which, personally, I was naive to think weren’t present. Facebook truly lets people say things that are in their hearts that they would rarely say in public, at least not face-to-face with people they respect.
Every argument, every talking point, every quarrel has a common thread: none of them are from the black perspective. Not one. They are from whites, white homes, white churches, and white news machines. Not a single contentious white person that I’ve spoken with has been able to respond to me when I’ve questioned whether or not they’ve asked a black person what they think about any of this. The truth is, many whites care more about the opinions we can derive from news sources than we can from those the news is about. We care more about the opinions we come up with, those seemingly logical arguments that ensure our safety and security than we do about the opinions of blacks.
“Well I have plenty of black friends,” is a common retaliation from those I’ve encountered. But have we spoken with them? Have we asked them to bare their soul to us? And if their responses sound oddly like our own, have we ever considered that if our public rhetoric matches that of those in white news, that they’re fearful of telling us the truth? I wonder how many are standing in our churches, afraid to speak. I wonder if their desperation to find a place of worship exceeds their fear of being shunned. How noble. And how tragic.
My black friends have been pulled over for tail lights being out, only to be handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car. Multiple times. Unwarranted. That’s never happened to me. As children, my black friends had squirt guns taken away by their parents for fear that someone would misappropriate it for a real gun. That’s never happened to me. My black friends were regularly followed home at night by cop cars while on their college campuses. That’s never happened to me. Whether you chose to recognize it or not, our society has built a culture of trust around her white citizens and a culture of suspicion around her black. It’s on every street corner, every college campus, in every grocery store, and yes, even in our churches.
Most whites, probably including you, don’t have original first-hand experience with growing up in inner-city neighborhoods, participating in civil rights marches, or working and playing in environments where we are perpetually suspect. Therefore, it is perhaps one of the grossest misuses of our privilege to so easily buy in to and regurgitate rhetoric that has not originated from our own life experience. We would not want it done to us, so we should not do it to others. Of all the news to believe, wouldn’t we want to hear from our neighbors first? Wouldn’t we give those that the news is actually about the first right of refusal in speaking to us about what’s happening on the streets?
The truth is, we’d rather believe what’s fed to us online and on TV than we would do the hard work of building meaningful relationships with those who we have seemingly nothing in common.
Our head isn’t in the game because, like my high school soccer team, we only like playing well on our home field. We like our team’s plays, our coach’s terminology, and our crowd’s cheering. We only like when we win.
Speaking the Same Language
One of the things that inspires me about black culture in the United States is the emphasis placed on community. To make my point by contrast, nowhere have I ever heard whites use the pronoun the white community to discuss large-scale social issues. We never talk about things that are important to white culture, or how things are affecting whites. We’re just us. But to blacks, the black community is an all-encompassing term that gathers anyone of color into the fold. What effects one of them effects all of them. There’s such a deep sense of personal identity because of a shared struggle that, right or wrong, they all benefit or suffer from one another’s behavior.
I recently heard a story from a black man who said that when another person of color starts acting up in a public place, he immediately thinks, “Oh, no. Please, stop. You’re just going to make things worse for all of us [blacks] tomorrow.” That’s because things are felt by a community. In no context have I ever looked at another white person doing something stupid and thought, “You’re going to make things so hard for me tomorrow as a white man.” I simply thought, “Wow, you’re foolish.” And that was the end of it.
For whites, our identity is almost exclusively wrapped up in who we are as individuals. Our world revolves around our safety, our family, our job, our church, our state, our nation. We have a deep sense of personal ownership in nearly everything we do, even when discussing massive entities. We use terms like “my company” for the firm we work for even though we have nothing to do with corporate ownership.
While much of this attitude is honorable, and it’s something I’m proud of as a white man, it’s also extremely debilitating when trying to understand a culture that doesn’t have this mindset.
In the black community, when one person suffers, they empathize; in the white community, when someone suffers, we sympathize. In the black community, when one person wins, they all feel as if they’ve won; in the white community, when one person wins, we are happy for them (if not secretly jealous).
It’s for these reasons, and many more, that the black community sees injustice done to one member as part of a larger systemic problem done to all members. This mirrors how God weighs individual sufferings as corporate sufferings. Oppression has a powerful way of uniting those who suffer commonly while dominance insulates those who benefit from the comforts of narcissism. This is why there are black riots in the streets when a black man is gunned down by police, but hardly a tear shed by whites. Accordingly, if a white person doesn’t perceive that they have racist tendencies in his or her own heart, then it’s written off as someone else’s problem. “Me? I’m all right,” we say. Because we’re individualistic in nature. You may be fine, my friend, but for a people whose worldview is about community and systems and congregations, we are not fine. We are complicit because we’re a part of a larger community. “How horrible to be lumped in with others just because of the color of my skin,” you might say, to which I reply, welcome.
To miss the significance of this is to fail to place yourself in someone else’s context. What’s the importance of adopting someone else’s perspective? Someone else’s language, culture and ideology? If you’re a Christian, try asking Jesus.
If Jesus acted like many of us, he would’ve shown up on Earth in a celestial body. Not flesh, but something heavenly, because it looked better, smelled better, bled less, and ached less. He would’ve disregarded Aramaic as a language and instead insisted that everyone try learning the native tongue of heaven, then he would’ve written anyone off who didn’t bother to pick it up quickly. He would’ve abstained from all customs, traditions, and cultural nuances, because He’s God, after all—what good are those?—and then imposed only ideologies which were eternal.
The point of adopting the worldview of others is that we become as like them as possible to serve them without being noticed. Taking on the conditions of others is the very essence of the incarnation! Without it, we’d never know Jesus. We only know God in his fullness because He chose to know us in ours.
 Black Lives Matter and Racial Tension in America, Research Releases in Culture & Media. Captured: May 5, 2016. https://www.barna.org/research/culture-media/research-release/black-lives-matter-and-racial-tension-in-america#.V5-F55MrK34
 Exodus 3:9 (ESV): “And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.”
• • •
Dear White Christian,
I’m writing to you, specifically those who I’m pastoring within the locality of Jefferson County New York for whom the majority of my life has been dedicated to serving, in the hopes of accomplishing three primary goals. I don’t expect everyone to be helped by this letter, nor those deeply saturated in years of media-endorsed rhetoric; your’s is a longer road which only begins when you unplug. But I do trust that there are some who’ve felt a growing uneasiness over the widening gap between what we’ve believed in the past and what we need to believe moving forward. It is for you that I hope to offer a voice of reason, a glimmer of light in the darkness of negativity.
My first goal is to present alternate perspectives to the many given by the loudest voices within our white contexts; namely right-wing media outlets, and churches that have continually ignored Jesus-centric views on marginalized people groups. Statistically and behaviorally, the right is acting extremely unChristian for those who so adamantly claim to champion the ethical causes of Christ. Tragically, what I hear most are opinions and judgments coming from people who rarely, if ever, take into consideration the side of those they’re deciding for. This mentality is a large part of what’s gotten us here. It fails to embrace empathy, instead opting for self-justification at the expense of the marginalized, an action ultimately rooted in pride.
My second goal is to provide language with which to speak about subject matter that’s largely outside of our purview. I believe there are many people who watch national events unfold who feel helpless in their ability to dialog about them. We’re stuck with words like “frustrated” and “enraged,” and would love to know how to express ourselves more thoroughly, more effectively. For you, may you find new vocabulary, new metaphors with which to explain the complex state of our world.
Lastly, I would like to offer up my recommendations for specific actions. There’s nothing worse than reading someone’s moving call to the streets only to be left on the curb with nowhere to go. While I don’t have the exhaustive list, nor even the best list, I do have a few ideas that I hope provoke others to move forward and add to an ever-growing wealth of shared strategy.
Problems always seem simple when we’re far away. When I see someone bent under the hood of a car on the far side of a parking lot, I assume they just need some jumper cables. It’s not until a mechanic gets up close that he or she can diagnose the complexity of a fuel sensor error and a clogged gas line. In order to understand the problems we’re facing as a nation and as a church we must be willing to get up close and get messy. If not, we’ll continue to misjudge what’s really happening, settling instead for our own false narratives.
Getting Our Heads In the Game
I remember my high school soccer coach yelling at our team during a state finals game. “Get your heads in the game!” he roared at a halftime that found us losing to a team we would’ve beaten handily in any other situation. He rightly perceived that we were being thwarted by two issues, neither of which had to do with our actual opponents. First, we’d become so comfortable beating all the opponents of our past that we’d forgotten to play the opponent of our present. And second, we’d become comfortable playing on our home field, a statistic that bore up against our away losses. Our heads were in the wrong place in the wrong time.
Our senior pastor, Kirk Gilchrist, recently asked our church two serious questions. Why did the civil rights movement of the 1950s die out? He followed it with an even harder question: How was the white church complicit in its demise? If we can stomach a third question, I’d pose: What patterns of silence and inactivity of the 1950s and 60s are still present in our churches today?
These questions, if we’ll let them, should drive our knees to the ground in repentance and our feet to the pavement in action. It was precisely these themes that worried Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. enough to pen his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963. He addressed it to his “Fellow Clergymen,” which were eight well-known white clergymen in the South, and opened by recognizing their beliefs that his “present activities ‘unwise and untimely.’” Sadly, I think his letter is as needed and potent today as it was in 1963.
If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was successful in rallying people to the cause of civil rights, I believe it was because the movement was birthed from the church and then moved into the secular landscape. It captured the spiritual heart of America, not just the intellect. Civil rights, therefore, was a social cause because it was a Christian cause—the two weren’t mutually exclusive. It was believed that God championed freedom for the oppressed far more than the State did (Lk 4, Is 61), and therefore it was the church’s divine mandate to see it played out.
Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets, specifically, warned the wealthy nation of Israel about the blind eye it turned toward the oppressed, the marginalized, the fatherless, the widow, and poor. Whether it was Micah citing God’s call “to do justice,” Isaiah’s rebuke for “withholding justice from the oppressed,” or Malachi’s scathing call that God “will come to put you on trial” for their lack of consideration to those in need, the scriptural calls for change are prolific (Mic 6:8, Is 10:2, Mal 3:5). The book of Proverbs alone gives at least ten critical calls for God-followers to lend their attention to the oppressed (Pv 14:21, 14:31, 28:27, 31:8-9, 19:17, 22:9, 21:13, 22:22-23, 29:7, 17:5).
In the New Testament, Jesus fulfills these prophetic charges of the past by demonstrating compassion to society’s oppressed. From healing the unclean (Mt 9:20, Lk 8:43), to forgiving the impure (Jn 8:11), to granting the wish of a racially outcast “Canaanite” (a derogatory term used to describe Israel’s archenemy and conquered people group almost 1,500 years prior) (Mt 15: 21-28), Jesus drew rebuke from the elite and praise from the poor. His implication that Israel should show mercy to the socially outcast (the Widow of Sidon), and pray for the healing of generals over its enemy armies (Naaman the Syrian General), nearly got Jesus killed (Lk 4:25-28).
Upon Dr. King’s death, many of the moral responsibilities that churches should’ve carried on largely disappeared, especially in white church. Since it wasn’t directly impacting us, we stopped showing up to peaceful protests, stopped petitioning congressional leaders, and largely withdrew from activities in black neighborhoods. The silence became deafening. With no voice to sound the clarion call, and no central icon to look to for direction, our focus drifted from the ongoing plight of our black kinfolk, appeased by the false security of legislation. Since it was not our freedom to champion, it was not our cause to carry on. Our sickness was one of trusting laws to write on our hearts what only the hand of God can.
I believe the late Supreme Court Justice Learned Hand was well suited to critique the systems of our nation when he wondered if we “rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes.” For all his influence, for all his use of law, he still concluded that the moral fiber of the nation could not be elected, but only projected. “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.” Christian nationalism is the same disease that makes us believe the right President, the right Supreme Court Justices, and the right Congress will turn our country around. Neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights can ensure a people that will follow fast after the ways of Jesus. Only our consciences can do that. And we must find ours again.
 Justice Learned Hand. “The Spirit of Liberty” – speech at “I Am an American Day” ceremony, Central Park, New York City (21 May 1944).
The following letter is posted permanently to this page for posterity. I do not expect everyone to read 10,000 words in one sitting, so I will be publishing it in more palatable sections over the next several weeks on my blog. But for those who wish to read ahead, it exists here in its entirety. I hope it adds meaningfully to your own thinking and dialogue regarding Christianity and race as a white North American follower of Jesus.
Jennifer and I are so thrilled to announce today’s release of “Awaken,” our first full-length record in six years. This album represents some big leaps forward for us in both writing and production. From composition to recording, we’ve been very critical of every aspect of this project, and we think it shows. Each song was written for and tested on own church, making these songs rich in theology and still accessible.
To celebrate, we also have a new music video making its debut today. The song Let The Church Arise has always had a special place in our hearts because of its emphasis on combatting the negative words the Accuser speaks against the Church. Instead, we believe it’s part of our mission as believers to esteem the Bride of Christ and promote her works in the earth. The music video contains footage captured and sent in from Europe, Latin America and right here in the US. We hope it inspires you to promote the work of the Lord in your local church and champion the cause of serving others in your spheres of influence.
We couldn’t have done any of this without our amazing band, crew, sponsors, and the support of our spiritual family at New Life. Special thanks to Jake Desormo, Sam Widrick, Jason Rodgers, Jacob Widrick, Danny Allen and Peter “Daddy” Hopper. Also to Kirk Gilchrist,
Let us know what you think of the album and the music video!
I am loathsome to be a government official in Brussels today. My heart is heavy for them, as what options could’ve prevented yesterday’s bombing? What more could I possibly do if I’m in office at the Grand Place? Surely the circumstances demand a greater response from me and my peers; but what is it? These questions, and a myriad more, are being asked internally and externally, and I’d be heavy hearted in every possible way.
I tend to believe that the human race is intelligent collectively, and does have everyone’s best interest in mind in the best of circumstances. Yet, in moments of crisis, we can not rely on new systems to secure us, only those which we’ve already instituted, hoping they work.
What more can a society do to prevent mass attacks?
There is only so much that technology and manpower can do. In the face of violent attacks attempted against innocent life, it is up to sober-minded government leaders to do their best with what they have in the time they have to do it in. But this will never and can never be an all-sufficient method of bringing the shalom of God to the world.
The superior course of action is the responsibility of those who have insight into the redeeming methods native to the kingdom of God. Yes, I am loathsome to be a government man in these days, and I admire and support all those who are called, but my heart leaps to be a churchman. For here, I can spend my days actively pressing into the mark of Gods high call on my life: to bring his peace “which passes understanding” into the storms of people’s lives. Collectively, I believe that the world will be transformed, that systems will be healed as much as people, until “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and King.”
What is the world’s response to terrorism?
While I cannot speak for governments, though I am committed to and responsible for them operating with increasing integrity, I can speak for Christians. The Christian response must be one that leans into the opportunity of bringing the Good News of Jesus to broken people. But not as some fix-all soterian prescription that can be doled out by paper tracts. We need Christians, now more than ever, who are mature and fit for weathering life’s tragedies with the resolve of heavenly minded citizens. It is not a day to complain about the weather, about appliances breaking down, or relationships falling apart. Today must be a day that we value lost, perishing souls as an insufferable debt that we must redeem.
Today is a day that we do not wait for governments to offer solutions to responsibilities that are uniquely our own as Christians. We can no longer afford to abdicate responsibility to the corridors of legislation which only temporarily secure our peace of mind. We must exercise our evangelical roots in ever moving outward, and not by methods of invasion or intrusion, but through invitation, through actually being the greatest force for good and love on the planet.
Metal detectors, security details, and military efforts have prevented many deaths. But they can not cure the conditions within, nor can they completely deter the actions without. This is where the Church must continue to rise to her place in serving the world.
For every single act of terror, there are 100 acts of sacrificial love and kindness. The goal is not to shame our enemy, but to shame and expose evil conduct, both the violence of our enemy, and the violence within ourselves. Is the bomber with his finger on the trigger lamenting the 100 Christians who made his family dinner more than he is seething against the ideologies that stain his Qur’an? Perhaps the former would do much to relieve the later.
I am not a government official, merely a churchman, but in this case, I believe that it is the Church that has the primary role in bringing the shalom of God to the nations. Let the government do what it is able to in so far as it has a responsibility to protect and defend human life. But even its best and most valiant efforts are inferior when compared to the supreme call of bringing God’s transformational kingdom way of living to the world.
Becoming lost in the minutia of politics, order, laws, even religious ideologies and collateral government atrocities, are all distractions from the supreme point: only Christians acting like King Jesus will ever accomplish what governments can dream of.
We must practice in the house of God what we need to export to the nations. We must get love for enemies right in the house first if we are ever to be expected to have traction in lands and cultures that are foreign to us. We must aggressively fight to dismiss the distractions of the enemy that would seek to get us wrapped up and engaged in superficial debate, and instead, plunge ahead into the depths of God which require us to be loving toward those who need it most: our enemies.
Jennifer and I are heading to Switzerland in May in support of our new album being released in French. This time, however, we’re not going alone. We’re attempting to bring four crazy guys with us—our band.
Watch the hilarious video that our guys made, then read the story. We’re giving away some pretty cool rewards too, so if you’re able to help them along, we’d be so grateful.
I need to do better at pausing to reflect on what God is doing in the “right now” moments instead of what I want him to do in the “someday” moments, no matter how virtuous my intentions may be.
This past Sunday, over 200 people came forward to receive the person of the Holy Spirit at New Life. And so I pause. And I process “200 people” as one person with a story and a family and a future, plus one person with a story and a family and a future, plus one person with a story and a family and a future, until I hit 200. And I marvel in wonder.
These are real lives being touched with the power of a living God, and failing to pause and meditate on the implications of such happenings is a startling disregard—no matter how unintentional—for the work of the Lord “in our time.”
Then I reflect on the fact that New Life, my wonderful church, now has three physical campuses, plus an online presence that reaches hundreds of people each week. All this is happening in a part of the country that many people don’t even know exists (say “New York” to anyone in the world, and they don’t think of cows and lakes and mountains), and in a part of our state that many people have written off as being backward, hick, or irrelevant. And so I pause.
I’m so grateful that God loves Jefferson County. That he loves Watertown, and Depauville, and Carthage, and all the other amazing towns filled with wonderful people. I already thought I loved northern New York, but I’m falling in love all over again, because heaven’s favor is resting on this region. And I’m forever grateful that King Jesus planted my family here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Let’s not miss what God’s doing in our worlds today simply because we’re too preoccupied with tomorrow. Observe, take it all in, and then—pause.
For those that follow me at @thedutchviking on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, you know I’ve been talking about my latest build list for my son’s new quad, a Formula One 220mm by SpaceOne. Due to so many people asking about it, I’ve decided to post the PDF. This is a complete build with links, and includes everything you need a full raving quad FPV rig. Let me know if you have any questions.
Download PDF: Build List – Formula One 220
On such a crucial day in our nation’s history, and however that plays into world history, I felt led to log my thoughts on my response to the US Supreme Court’s decision today to legalize homosexual marriage in all fifty states. This post serves, if nothing more, than for my children to read in the future when they’re old enough. If you’ve stumbled upon this post as an evangelical reader, I hope it brings you stability in what I perceive for many of the Christian faith (though not all) to be a turbulent time; and if you’re someone who endorses gay marriage, perhaps my words will help you at least understand the position of the many Christians that you can’t quite figure out, regardless of how vehemently you disagree.
From the beginning, let me make my position clear, so you can hold my later statements against an overarching view. I do believe homosexuality in lust, in commitment, and in or not in any form of union, recognized or not, is sin and breaches God’s intention in building human kind after his own image. This has been the opinion of the church for many centuries, and it will most likely remain so for many more; I fully concede that it and I may be considered antiquated both now or in times to come. I’m at peace with that. I will elaborate below on some areas where, however, I believe this position alone is inadequate, and where the Church must embrace the nuance of fallen man into her observations if we are to love compassionately.
My doctrine of sin also informs me that all sin is bad, and more than being punished for our sins—a much debated point over the ages—we’re punished by our sins, explicitly, to death should they have their way, because they’re that destructive. Therefore, whatever grace I extend to my own immorality is the same I expect toward other’s. The question for any struggling creature made after God’s image is a simple one: are you walking in sobriety with regard to your lusts? My objective is not to appease them, but to appease him, and bring myself into submission to his design, regardless of my own desires. Jesus as King trumps me as lord of myself if, in fact, I’m submitting to him.
I am required Scripturally to treat all sinners the same, myself chief among them. This means that I guard my language, extend true love, and exercise supreme acceptance wherever and however I have occasion to, in all circumstances. Anything less is anti-Christ in nature, for if he wanted to distance himself from any single sinner, he’d have to have distanced himself from all of us, and should have never arrived on the planet in the first place. If Christians arrive at a place of suddenly loving gay people, this is not a change in theology, it’s abandonment of bigotry. Because if you’re treating a homosexual different than you’re treating a liar, a glutton, a gossiper (this one’s worth repeating), a gossiper, a pedophile, a thief, a cheat, a pornographer, a proud person, an adulterer, or a drunk, then you’re failing at the greatest and only command after loving God—loving your neighbor as yourself. Isn’t it interesting that we have plenty of grace for a pastor struggling with obesity, but we don’t have for one struggling with attraction to the same sex?
As mentioned previously, I’d like to add that I do believe the Church, at present, does lack many good answers in our classic approach to the issue of homosexuality and gender orientation. I don’t believe we have good answers for people in our churches (should they ever feel our churches are safe enough to let their guard down) who have XYY and XXY chromosome composition (the later often referred to as Klinefelter syndrome), nor do we have good answers for people who are born as hermaphrodites (yes, they exist), or ambiguous genitalia. Again, such sensitive circumstances are more common than we might think (statistically speaking, there are ten in my own church—I just have no idea who they are). As a Christian, a pastor, and a human, I should have answers for them, I just don’t at the moment. Perhaps future generations will make progress in this area. I can only pray.
With regard to the Supreme Court’s ruling, there are a number of things we must consider.
First, I have never believed that my government is the kingdom, nor God’s kingdom our government. Yes, the United States and our invented, flawed Constitution may be the best thing going on the planet, and I tend to believe it is, offering the most amount of freedom to the most amount of people—but it’s not divine. Not even close. Only King Jesus is divine, and his kingdom.
This means that it is illegal for me to expect a human system to conform to a kingdom model when only the kingdom can be the kingdom. In other words, God’s kingdom will never be anything else, and man’s governments will never be anything else. And if you’re wondering about Revelation 11:15 (NLT), “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever,” recognize that it all belongs to him, even the broken things, like the United States of America. No where is my government called to reflect Christ, that’s the Church’s responsibility. If the government happens to at times, wonderful; what is it to me? Worldly systems do not change my divine mandate as a representative of the divine.
With my doctrine on sin as it is, my government has already missed several sin-oriented policies which, according to what those on the evangelical extremes are saying about “judgement” and “losing our blessing,” we should have already seen California break off from the continent long ago. What are they, you might ask?
Do we ban drunkenness? Cause that’s a sin. Sure, we have rules against drinking and driving, disorderly conduct. But drunks are allowed to be drunks. And it’s anti-Biblical.
Do we ban lying? Cause that’s a sin. Sure, you can’t lie under oath, you can’t lie on your taxes, and you can’t dish information if you’ve been ordered not to by a court of law. But liars are allowed to lie.
Do we ban overeating? Despite some attempts to tax certain foods or penalize obese people (a problem almost entirely relegated to the US), it’s not against the law to be fat. Gluttons are allowed to glut.
Do we ban gossipers? No, though I wish we would. More damage has been done in the church world by this singular issue than any homosexual has. And it’s insulting to even make such a comparison.
My point is that if you’re looking or waiting for the United States to act like the kingdom, no wonder you’re so distraught today. The US never has nor will she ever. Because she’s not the kingdom. And don’t worry, the land of our forefather’s wasn’t “based on Judeo-Christian ethics” like you perceive she was: slavery is demonic, and we invited a national war that nearly wiped us out because of it.
The greatest point not to be missed, however, is in regard to those Christians who seem to think the other proverbial shoe has dropped. Now the nation is really in trouble because God’s blessing is going to be removed. Unfortunately, much of this apocalyptic thinking has been seeded by a sloppy and dangerous mishandling of the Scriptures in the hands of sensationalist teachers.
Dear Christians, the greatest blessing of God on our human nation is Jesus, and nothing can deconstruct Him. No decision, no action, no pledge, no law. There is no greater blessing to be bestowed, and the Supreme Court can’t “lift his hand” from us; his hand was nailed for us, and when he was raised from the dead, it was laid upon us, right, wrong or indifferent. He’s not changing, he’s not offended, and he’s not going anywhere.
How can I be so sure? If I wasn’t so theologically convinced, all I need to do is observe the nations that would definitely meet the requirements of most Catastrophic Christians. Like China. For all China has done wrong, and I’ve been there to see much of that wrong, the Church is alive and well there. In fact, the Church in China is estimated to be larger than the entire population of the United States.
With regard to humanity and those who are perishing, if we can’t find Jesus doing or saying something, then we shouldn’t be either. Consequently, we should be acting just like him.
Do not be dismayed. And do not play into the enemy’s hands by buying into a false doctrine of sin, or of believing that there’s some other blessing greater than that of King Jesus himself. Jesus is still on the throne and you’re still called to lay your life down for sinners and Christians alike.
Even homosexual ones.
While these upcoming tweets are scheduled for July release on my feed, I thought they should have a home here early. (Thanks, Scot). Happy head-messing!
The Gospel is the proclamation of all that Jesus is, not what we get because of who he is.
Saying the Gospel is all about personal salvation is like saying a car is all about its tires.
One reason many grow weary with our version of the Gospel is bc we talk more about an escape plan than we do about reformational living.
Corporate submission to the King trumps personal freedom.
Loving Jesus because of salvation is like loving your mom because she does your laundry.
Discovering that the Gospel is not about me and all about Jesus is one of the healthiest things an American can embrace.
Jesus is not your life coach. He’s King. Serving him invites the Holy Spirit, and he’ll lead you into all you need in his kingdom.
Our allegiance is pledged to King Jesus, not to a self-help menu.
If you want help, yes, embracing the Gospel will undo you.
Jesus didn’t die to give you personal freedom, he died because he’s the King who comes back from the dead. And he loved freeing you.
Proclaiming salvation is the Gospel is like saying that the scoreboard makes teams win games.
We must return to making the Gospel more about Jesus’ reign (which brought us salvation), not a self-help regiment.
The Gospel is not a gateway drug to lifestyle change. It is the message that Jesus is Lord and nothing else is, including our needs and wants.
Salvation is one benefit of the Gospel, but it is not the Gospel.
We do a disservice to Jesus and to people when we proclaim that the most significant part of the Gospel is salvation.
Emmanuel, God with us, astounds me.
“Jesus is Lord” should upset every balance in your life.
I don’t love Jesus because he saved me, I love Jesus because he’s God. That he does anything else for me at all is unspeakable wonder.