Category Archives: Kingdom of God

Discrimination Based on Fear is Still Wrong

hidden-figures-desktop-all-platforms-front-main-stageWe watched the movie Hidden Figures recently and there was a lot more to it than I thought there would be. I’m an avid space enthusiast (fits with being a Trekkie) and I enjoyed seeing the early days of Project Mercury portrayed on film. It’s something I’ve read about in great detail but never seen in this way.

What really caught my attention, though, was seeing the reality of living in a segregated society. I didn’t live through the 1960’s (I’m too young to have been around then) and I have never experienced something like that firsthand. There’s one scene in the movie, for example, where one of the main characters has to go into the “white” section of the city library because the book she’s after can’t be found in the “coloured” section. When the staff find her there she’s escorted out by police.

In another scene, one of the other main characters has to walk half a mile to use the bathroom because there’s no “coloured” one in the building she’s assigned to work in. I can’t imagine having to live like that, nor can I imagine how the society of that time thought this was OK. When this comes to the attention of her supervisor, he takes a crowbar to all the “coloured women’s restroom” signs on the campus and tells her to “pee wherever she pleases,” and that “at NASA we all pee the same colour.”

I think that most of us who see this movie, or any other dealing with similar subject matter, can’t help but be touched by seeing scenes like that. Offended, even. I mean, how could society justify treating people like that?

What I really don’t understand, and what bothers me still even now several weeks after seeing the film, is how we can be offended by such beliefs when they apply to one group and yet look the other way (or even endorse them) when they apply to a different group. You’d have to be living under a rock the last few months not to have at least heard of the different “bathroom bills” that have popped up across this country and the controversy they are causing. We are as a society again trying to regulate where people can pee. Simply put, if it was wrong to do so with black people then why is it OK to do so with trans people?

I realise that for many this is a very complex and touchy subject and I’m not even going to try to examine all angles of it here. We’d be here all day and then some, and it’s not really my point. All I really wanted to do with this post was pose the question I raised above. If it’s wrong to isolate one group within our society and discriminate against them on the basis of one or two characteristics then how do we justify doing it to another?

In James 2 the characteristic in question is wealth. James was concerned his audience was honouring wealthy visitors at the expense of poorer ones. As the English Standard Version puts it, they were showing “partiality,” and James’ instructions were simple. Don’t show partiality. Love your neighbour as yourself, no matter who your “neighbour” is. Treat everyone the same.

When we discriminate against people, no matter what the characteristic is we’re going by, it says more about us than it does about them. When you favour a wealthy person over a poorer one you either want something from the wealthy person or you believe money is more important than people themselves. In the case of discrimination based on race or gender identity, the likely cause is fear. Fear of what’s different. Fear of what we don’t understand. And I understand that fear. I’ve felt it myself.

The thing is, when we’re faced with that fear we have a choice. We can choose to give in to our fear and use it to justify hurting others or we can choose to set it aside, reach out in love, and work to understand. No matter how great our fears may be, discriminating based on those fears is still wrong.

The United States as a Christian Nation

us-flag-crossBefore I get into this, I want to say upfront that I am very much aware that this is a touchy subject for many. The idea of the United States as a “Christian” nation is one that many people, especially here in the South, hold dear. I don’t want to bash that belief and I also don’t want to unnecessarily offend anyone. That being said, given the current focus on “religious liberty” legislation this idea has great implications not only for the political rights of those we disagree with but also for the progress of the gospel within this country. For those reasons, we need to look at this.

I also want to be upfront about the fact that I am Canadian. What I know of this country and its origins I didn’t learn the same as did those who were born and raised here. And that’s fine. My point in this post is actually not to discuss the founding of this country at all. (I am about the last person you would want doing that.)

I also don’t have a problem with Christians wanting Christian politicians in office. It’s only natural for people to support political leaders who believe as they do regardless of who they are, and we all do it whether we identify as a Christian or not.

What I do want to look at is this idea that the United States as a country has a special place in God’s eyes. Whether or not that’s true I don’t know. This country doesn’t really show up in Scripture and I’m not one to presume to know the mind of God. What I do know is that the theology behind such a view can get us into trouble very quickly. For example, every now and then you’ll see 2 Chronicles 7:14 on a billboard outside a church or serving as the basis of a sermon. In the English Standard Version it reads, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The usual takeaway is that if we get enough people here to genuinely do that then God will hold up his end of the bargain and America will prosper.

Will he do so? I don’t know. What I do know is that this verse represents a very specific promise given within a specific historical context to a specific group of people who had a specific kind of relationship with God. The people of Israel had a very unique relationship with God as seen throughout the covenants of the Old Testament, and it is to them, in the specific context of the dedication of Solomon’s temple, that this promise is given. (The context of 2 Chronicles 7 tells us that Solomon had prayed to God and this promise is part of God’s answer.)

As Christians our relationship with God is very different, and as far as I can tell no group of people has had the same relationship with God that Israel had either before or since. Personally, that’s a good thing. Israel’s relationship with God was governed by the Law, and when the Apostle Paul gets into a discussion of circumcision in Galatians 5 he illustrates just why it’s such a good thing we’re not under the Law anymore. In Galatians 5:3 he says, “I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.” There is no way any of us are capable of keeping the Law in its entirety which means a) we’re screwed without Christ and b) why take us as a nation back to the Old Testament and the Law? That theology is troubling at best.

We need to move forwards and in light of who we are and who Jesus is. Engage with the people around you, celebrate their differences, reach out to the marginalised and give hope to those who have none. That’s the way Jesus shows us in the Gospels and, in the end, that’s what really matters. Electing Christian politicians who then pass legislation restricting the rights of non-Christians in the name of religious liberty won’t bring hope to those who have none. Engaging with them, respecting them, and showing them real love just might.

Another Question of Culture

cultural-diversityAs a Canadian living in South Carolina, cultural differences come up every now and then. Whether it’s bigger things like hair length and earrings on men, or smaller things like the fact that no one here realises just how much better Tim Horton’s is than Krispy Kreme, there are things that, on daily basis, I just don’t always see eye to eye on with the people I’m around. It’s given me a different perspective on things, one which at the same time I both appreciate and hate having because there are days when it drives me nuts.

Anyways, I’ve noticed over the years I’ve been involved in the church in one way or another that similar cultural issues exist there, too. In John 17:16-17, Jesus says of His followers that “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth;your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” As Christians we’ve taken this to mean we’re not supposed to be like the people that we’re around who don’t believe as we do, and from that we’ve come up with all kinds of questions. These questions are typically put forward as some version of “Is it OK for Christians to ________?” “Dance” and “drink alcohol” are two of the most common things I’ve seen fill in that particular blank. 

In many ways we as Christians have set up our own culture as well. “Christian subculture” was a term I heard a lot growing up in the Church and it’s true. We have our own radio stations, our own concerts, our own stores, and even our own health insurance providers. And in all honesty, there’s nothing wrong with that (to a point). Every group of people the world over has its own ways of doing things and its own defining characteristics.

The problem comes when we insist that people have to look or act a certain way, or do certain things, in order to belong to us. If you live in the South, how many times have you seen someone looked down on because they’re not in church on any given Sunday? Yes, we’re meant to be a family and yes, we’re meant to do life together, but there’s a huge difference between that and showing up to hear some guy speak while surrounded by people you hardly know and could care less about. (And please don’t hear this as just me bashing the South. I’ve seen the same thing with Christians elsewhere as well.)

“Who we are” and “This is how we do things” become “Who you have to be” and “How things have to be done.” It becomes less about valuing our differences and more about control. Cultural differences exist the world over, and Christianity looks very different from one country to the next and even within countries from one group to the next. (Case in point: how many denominations exist within the U.S. alone?) And that’s the way it should be.

In the U.S. in particular over the last few decades we’ve taken this effort at control to the national level. We fight the “Culture Wars.” In short, we don’t approve of something or we don’t believe in something so we think no one else should get to do that, either. People of faith in this country are but one group among many, and a group that is itself split up into many smaller groups. Conservative Christians are but one voice among those groups, and yet we think we’re the “right” voice with the “right” to tell everyone else how to live. It’s sad, even more so when you consider that we as a whole don’t see it.

When you try to control others, you hurt them. When you’re afraid to lose your own culture, and justify that control with fear, you do far worse. I mean think about it. Why are we so suddenly concerned with “religious liberty”? Could it be that if we lose the physical representations of our “Christian” culture, the institutions and the radio stations and everything that goes along with it, we wouldn’t know who we are anymore?

It’s time for us as conservative Christians to give up control, to stop using religion to harm people, and to instead reach out and engage with the people around us. In focusing on what culture is right and what offends and what’s wrong we’ve lost sight of the people. That, I think, is what really offends. We’re not of this world, sure, but we’re still here and we’re still apart of this world the same as everyone else. We need to start acting like it.

We Don’t See It Coming

986e4e52caf224f30f5dc6d8c7fb1adaAs Baptists and as Christians we don’t really seem to give a rat’s behind about the hurt that we’re causing LGBTQ people. Our position is what it is, it’s based on biblical “truth,” and if it causes harm oh well, that’s not our problem. Seriously, most of the people I have reached out to on this subject over the last few months refused to even entertain any position that would value these people as they are and for who they are. So in today’s post I want to try something a little different. If we don’t care about the hurt that we’re causing others, maybe we’ll care about the hurt we’re causing ourselves over this.

Since Trump was elected we have pursued a number of different pieces of religious liberty legislation. The idea is that we’ll protect ourselves by making it illegal to discriminate against Christians in this country. (We say we’re protecting people who hold religious beliefs, but the way these things are worded suggests we really only have one religion in mind.) Texas, Mississippi, and Tennessee are three of the states where we’ve succeeded in this effort to one degree or another. What we may not realise is that with these so-called victories we have provided a legal precedent for denying the rights of one group in order to protect the rights of another.

Here’s what I really don’t get. That precedent will come back to haunt us in the future, and we don’t see it coming. We act as though the current political climate in this country will continue forever. Either that, or by the time it does change that religious liberty protections will be so entrenched in the law of this country that they’ll be untouchable. Neither one of those assumptions is valid. There will be another Democrat president, if not in 4 years then in all likelihood in 8. And given the new found presidential love of executive orders, nothing is set in stone anymore. How hard will it be, given the precedent we’ve provided, to argue that in order to protect the rights of LGBTQ people the rights of Christians must be limited or denied?

There will be a backlash, and we don’t see it coming. Think I’m wrong? Look at it this way. One of the most repeated statements I’ve heard conservatives make regarding the transgender community in particular is that it’s all in their head. It has no basis in reality so why should we entertain their beliefs? How hard would that sentiment be to turn around and apply to us as Christians? We follow a man who, if he existed at all, lived and died some two thousand years ago and yet we say we can talk to him whenever we want. How hard would it be to argue that that is all in our heads?

We are setting ourselves up to lose everything we’re so afraid of losing, and it’s all because we’re afraid. We have this place in society (at least as we see it) that we don’t want to lose. We have institutions that we’ve spent decades building up, if not longer, that we don’t want to lose. We have this vision for this country that we don’t want to lose. And that leads me to the underlying cause of all this. We’re afraid because we’ve made this world the goal. We’ve forgotten that we don’t belong here, not really. We’ve forgotten Jesus’ statement in John 17:16, referring to us, that “they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” And in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

And so we’ll lose everything we’re working so hard to protect, and we’ll cry persecution when it happens and claim that it’s only happening because we’re not of this world and that’s why they hate us. The truth is we’ll have only ourselves to blame. The sad part is even then we probably won’t see it.

Let’s Discuss a Few Things

AM17-logoWith the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting starting this week I’ve been more active than usual on social media recently in an effort to raise awareness regarding the negative impact that the Convention’s position on LGBTQ issues has on LGBTQ people. While I am pleased to see organisations like Faith in America taking a very bold approach to directly engaging the Convention on this problem, I have also seen concerns raised by Christians as to just what those of us who support the LGBTQ community are trying to accomplish in raising these issues with the Convention. I wanted to take a few moments to address those areas in hopes of clarifying a few misunderstandings.

Area # 1 – We Want to Rewrite Scripture

The issue here, as I understand it, is that as the Bible calls homosexuality sin (see Leviticus 18 and 20) and we want the Convention to treat LGBTQ people in general, and LGBTQ youth in particular, with the same openness and respect they show to everyone else, we must therefore want to rewrite Scripture in order to remove these passages and any others similar to them.

Speaking for myself, I have no desire to rewrite Scripture and I would not support anyone who does. I have spent the last year praying and searching through the Scriptures in order to find room there for LGBTQ people as they are and for who they are and in a positive light. We have room in a “Christian” worldview for everyone else, so why not them, too? It’s a sad commentary on our Christian culture today that I had to do that, but I am grateful for the experience because it’s given me the confidence I need at times like this to speak out. I wanted to be able to love them for who they are and as they are without trying to force them to change anything (because I strongly believe they don’t have to) but at the same time I wanted to remain rooted in the core tenants of my own beliefs (such as respect for the authority of Scripture). For me, it was Romans 1 and 2 and Genesis 1 that opened my eyes. In addition, there are interpretations of Scripture, valid interpretations, that provide positive room in the Christian worldview for LGBTQ people. Again, it’s sad that we even need to be told this, but there you have it.

I’ve heard it said many times in church, “Come as you are.” We even have worship songs along that line. All we’re asking is that the Convention take LGBTQ people as they are, no strings attached, without trying to force them to change or trying to convey the idea that they even need to.

Area # 2 – God Said It So It’s Binding

I’ve heard this one repeated often in the last few days, and it honestly pisses me off. The gist of it is that God has said in His Word that same-sex attraction is a sin and sorry but if we’re going to obey Him than we have to tell LGBTQ people that who they are is sinful in God’s eyes and they need to repent of it.

If you ever have the privilege of meeting and getting to know members of the LGBTQ community, you’ll find very quickly that they have been through hell. Many of them have spent years coming to terms with who they are and how they feel. Some have spent most of their lives doing so. And once they have come to terms with it, they’ve given up everything to live as who they are.

When we come across a person like this, who’s quite likely been rejected by everyone close to them, the best, most-loving response we have is, “I’m sorry, but I’m bound by obeying God to tell you that He hates who you are?” (Or something to that effect.) I mean, really, that’s the best we’ve got? Not an ounce of compassion or understanding or even the slightest effort to see life through their eyes? Not even the tiniest attempt at respecting them enough to say hey, maybe you are born this way? If that’s the best we have then I fear we’ve become no better than the Pharisees of old, who “load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46 NLT) The really sad part is that we actually think we’re being loving when we do this.

In Conclusion

If we really want to be loving, if we want to really represent this Jesus we claim to know, then we need to change the Convention’s policies to let these people into our churches as they are and without trying to force them to change. Talk to them. Get to know them. See life through their eyes. They are truly beautiful people, made in God’s image just the same as you and me. Any response we make that values the legalities of Scripture more so than the heart of the person in front of us only makes us more into Pharisees (the one group in the New Testament, remember, that Jesus opposed more than any other; not a group I want to be a part of).

Now that we’ve clarified a few things, what’s stopping us from loving and accepting these people as they are?

What are we known for?

MV5BMTYyMTcxNzc5M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTg2ODE2MTI@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_We saw Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales this past weekend and without giving away too much in spoilers let me just say it was the emotional, fun-filled adventure we’ve come to expect from these movies. There’s this one scene in particular that got me right in the gut. If you remember from the end of the third Pirates movie, Jack Sparrow lost the Black Pearl (again). And if you remember from the fourth one, Blackbeard shrank the Pearl and stuck it in a bottle. Well, there’s a scene early on in this one where Jack is on the beach with no ship and no crew and he stares out towards his beloved horizon and holds up the Pearl, still in the bottle, to make it look as though she’s sailing through the waves once more. It’s heartbreaking to watch. I mean, here is what he wants more than anything else in the world, the very thing that makes him who he is, and it’s the one thing he just can’t have. And in the very next scene he gets fall-down drunk and barters away the last real piece of his identity as a pirate for one more drink.

Haven’t we all been there? There’s something that we want, or need even, to make life work and for whatever reason it’s the one thing we just can’t get. And so we lock the desire away somewhere down deep and try to get on with life as it is. We get so busy we tell ourselves we haven’t got time for whatever it is, or we don’t really need it after all, thank you very much. Anything to avoid the pain inside. And who could blame us, really? There are times when I feel this way more often than I care to admit and in all honesty I simply don’t know what to do with the way I feel. It’s far easier to just try to get on with life than to face up to something I don’t even know how to begin to deal with. What exactly is at the root of all this may differ for everyone, but it’s a reality I’m convinced we all face. Black, white, gay, lesbian, trans, straight, it makes no difference. We all want more.

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 we’re told that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” We all feel like there should be something more because there actually should be something more. We’re all missing something. The crazy hope of the Bible is that there is actually something out there, some object or person of desire, which makes this whole damn thing actually make sense.

When I first had the idea for this post I was going to leave it at that. If you feel Jesus tugging on your heart through your desires then I would definitely encourage you to be open to it and respond. That being said, it hit me that this hope is supposed to be largely what defines us as Christians. In 1 Peter 3:15, the Apostle Peter tells us to “always [be] prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” The implication is that Christians are by nature such a hopeful people that those around them can’t help but notice and be intrigued by it.

Is this still true today, I wonder? I remember preaching on this text a couple of years ago and asking those in the audience when the last time was that someone had come up to them and asked why they were so hopeful. For many of those present, myself included, we couldn’t remember when this had happened, if ever. There are, of course, many reasons for that. Hope can be the last thing on your mind when your head hits the pillow after a long day at work and you know when the alarm goes off you have to get up to do it all over again. My point here is not to shame us for this but rather to point out that if we’re not known for being hopeful than we’re probably known for being something else.

If you’re reading this and you’re not a Christian you can probably think of many things Christians are known for, especially here in the U.S. (and not all of them positive). All I have to do is peruse my Facebook or my Twitter feed to know that perhaps more than anything else right now Christians in this country are known for trying to take away the rights of those we disagree with. We’re connected to the Republican party and by God we’re going to use that connection to see this country remade the way God wants it to be. It would be laughable if only it didn’t cause so much pain.

That’s what we’re known for and that’s sad. If you’ve been around a church much at all you may have heard it said of someone that they’re “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” This is usually not a compliment of the person in question. They may, for example, be so focused on being “spiritual” that they don’t have  the time or the inclination to help out their fellow man. Having observed the church in this country over the last few years, and having experienced first hand the pain we inflict on those we marginalise, I have to wonder if maybe the reverse is true of Christianity as a whole in the U.S. today. Are we so focused on this world that we’ve forgotten it isn’t our home? Once we make this world the point, anything’s justified as long as it keeps us in power. We’re the ones who have God’s authority (or at least that’s what we tell ourselves), so why shouldn’t we be in power? And have we become so wedded to our own worldview that we’ve forgotten we’re not the only voice in this culture? Are we so convinced of our hold on the truth that we’ve forgotten the need to treat others with basic dignity and respect?

I would answer yes to all of those questions. We have forgotten so much and gotten so far off track that we think the most loving thing we can do for someone is share our own worldview with them without showing even an ounce of respect for theirs.

People need hope. We all do. If the Bible is to be believed, Christians are the ones who know where to find hope, for this world as well as for the next. If we want to start bringing hope again then it’s time for us to remember just who we are and just what we’re supposed to be about as Christians.

 

 

An Open Letter to All Those Attending the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting

AM17-logoMy name is Mike Shewfelt. I am an ordained minister with the Southern Baptist Convention, and I work with Church for Misfits, a small online community dedicated to reaching out to those marginalised by mainstream Christianity in this country. Through this ministry I have been privileged to get to know many members of the LGBTQ community. I am also aware that the Convention as a whole does not view these people in a favourable light and, furthermore, that much of what is discussed and decided upon by you at the Annual Meeting will have an impact on these people. For all of those reasons, we need to talk.

Let me begin by saying that I understand both the Convention’s general position on matters relating to the LGBTQ community and the logic behind it. To summarize as I understand it, we think they’re living in sin and for that reason being at all charitable towards them would be blasphemous on our part. We don’t accept their position on who they are. We don’t accept that they have rights just as we do. To do so would put us in a position we’re not going to get into and force us to answer questions we don’t necessarily have answers to. And I fully understand that for us these are not easy questions with easy answers. I have spent the last 18 months praying through these questions trying to find a position that both respects the authority of Scripture and respects the position of the LGBTQ community. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is no condition put on that offer, and yet we can’t seem to stop putting one on the Gospel as far as the LGBTQ community is concerned. They are people, too, just the same as you and me, and the fact that I’ve had to spend 18 months praying through issues just to be able to treat them with basic respect and human dignity is pathetic. The reality that we as a Convention continue to refuse to do this is even more so. We are marginalising an entire group of people in this country because we can’t entertain, even for a moment, the thought that they might be people to, just as they are and without having to change to be accepted by God. (It should go without saying that no one should feel they have to change to be accepted by God because no one can be accepted by God on the basis of their own efforts.)

So here’s the deal. As messengers attending the Convention’s annual meeting, you have the opportunity to change that. Southern Baptist churches are largely autonomous, yes, but on an issue like this they will not act without the support of the Convention. Change our policies. Let these people into fellowship in our churches, just as they are and without any conditions. Stop pursuing religious liberty at their expense. Stop trying to take away their rights. The Church is now largely irrelevant in today’s culture. You want to change that? There’s how. And I am not asking you to go against Scripture. I am simply asking you to treat your fellow human beings, created in the image of God just like you and me, with the respect and love they deserve. You can chose to act in a way that gives hope to this community.

You can also choose to double down on our traditional positions. Our stance is such that for many of us the questions raised by the LGBTQ community are ones we’ve never even had to consider. This can be a scary thing, one that keeps us from engaging with those we’re supposed to love the most. I would plead with you not to let that fear continue to drive our actions. If our God is who He says He is, what do we really have to be afraid of? If you choose this route, however, be aware that you will not only shatter whatever little credibility we have left in this country but you will also inflict even more hurt on those who have already endured far too much suffering at our hands.

The choice is yours. I can only hope and pray you will make the right one.

In Christ,

Reverend Mike Shewfelt

On National Day of Prayer and Religious Freedom

I want to apologise in advance if you don’t agree with the views outlined below. Church for Misfits remains a place for people of all views and backgrounds, and that will never change. I see the church as a whole in the U.S. acting in ways that hurt a lot of people. No one within it seems to be speaking out. In short, I feel that someone has to. Again, my apologies if this offends unnecessarily. 

National Day of Prayer was last week and you had to be living under a rock not to have heard something about the religious freedom Executive Order that President Trump took the opportunity to sign. For many it’s probably old news, but I wanted to wait to voice my thoughts on the matter because it’s an issue that has raised strong emotions in a lot of people, including me, and a little perspective is never a bad thing.

What I want to know is why as Christians we think we need something like this. The main focus of the order, as I understand it, has to do with the Johnson Amendment. Basically, it prohibits churches and other non-profit entities from speaking out on political issues. They can’t endorse candidates, for example, without risking their tax-exempt status. While the President can’t eliminate or modify the Amendment without having Congress pass legislation to do so, what he can do is instruct the appropriate government agencies to not enforce the Johnson Amendment when it comes to churches. This is exactly what the President has done, and in his own words he touts it as “giving our churches their voices back.”

Again, I wonder why we need something like this. I’ve lived in the U.S. off and on for 7 years now, meaning I’ve been here through a number of elections at all levels of government. As far as I can remember, I have never heard a pastor say, “I’d really like to tell you who to vote for but I can’t because I’m not allowed to,” or something to that effect. Without fail what I’ve heard from the pulpit has always been something along the lines of, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for because that’s not my job. God gave you free will and a conscience. Vote as you feel led to.” The pastors may have voiced their personal opinions in private conversations but they never came up in the pulpit. Granted there are tens of thousands of churches in this country, so my experience shouldn’t necessarily be taken as the norm, but that being said as a pastor myself I agree with those sentiments. As ministers that simply isn’t our job. Furthermore, churches have spoken out on issues of public importance in this country for decades. Sometimes it seems like that’s all we do, whether we’re right to do so or not. I can’t recall churches being told they’ll lose their tax-exempt status for doing so.

In addition to wondering why this is even a good idea, I also see several dangers inherent in an Executive Order such as this. First of all, the Johnson Amendment still exists and will continue to do so until such time as Congress passes legislation either modifying it or eliminating it entirely. What that means, especially if Congress cannot do so, is that a future administration can simply opt to enforce the full weight of the Amendment against those pastors who have used the opportunity created by this Order. In short, Christians in this country are once again quite possibly shooting ourselves in the collective foot.

The greater danger, however, is to those we continue to marginalise. We are not so slowly turning our churches into little more than the religious wing of the Republican party. What will we do when, for example, our churches support Republican candidates but the people we are supposed to be loving and serving don’t? As I’ve written before, our credibility as Christians in this country is pretty well gone. Supporting an Executive Order such as this one simply removes all doubt as to where our priorities truly lie.

Separation of church and state exists in this country and even as a pastor I’ll be the first to say that it does so for a reason. Our job as Christians is to engage with those around us, to love them and to serve them, not to use the government to our advantage at their expense. This Order does not, as many feared it might, give Christians a license to discriminate. That being said, when discrimination does occur, given the strong language supporting religious beliefs found in the Executive Order, who do you really think the government is going to support?

We are, once again, fighting the wrong damn battle in this country.

That Post-Easter Let Down

Easter in the South is a funny thing. Pretty much everybody is in church Sunday morning. It’s a relatively true stereotype that Easter and Christmas are the two days in the year when everybody is in church whether they want to be or not. We actually didn’t go this year (I know; shocking). Part of it was that we still haven’t found a church we want to call home, and part of it was that after working til almost 4 in the morning two nights in a row at my second job I was ready to sleep. So my only exposure to the whole Easter Sunday church thing was through my Facebook feed, where it seemed like everybody, whether they live down here in the South or back up north in Canada, had this “He is risen!” status going on. The Resurrection of Jesus, if you believe in that sort of thing, is what Easter is all about for us as Christians and it was good to see everyone happy and celebrating.

Thing is, not everyone was celebrating. I follow a number of different groups and pages of people who have been hurt by us because of who they are. And on Easter Sunday, they were angry. Frustrated. Resentful. “Happy Zombie Day!” was about the most polite status I saw. It makes me sad… most of us as Christians have no idea these people exist. It’s all wonderful to celebrate Easter and post statuses about it and go to church and do what we’re supposed to do, but when it comes to actually engaging with the world around us, to actually responding to the hurt in this world (especially the hurt that we’ve caused), we… we don’t. We sit in our little bubbles and we offer to pray for people and then we go on about our day.

We have a problem. We’re supposed to be ambassadors for Christ and yet the only message we seem to be giving out to many people is that they don’t matter. They’re evil. They’re living in sin. What is it going to take for us to actually get to know these people? To love them for who they are and not for who we think they should be? What is it going to take?

So About Beauty and the Beast…

Beauty-Beast-2017-Movie-PostersCan we all just chill out? My wife and I saw the movie this past weekend and even now I’m still trying to figure out just what it is that Christians are so enraged about. The entire “gay agenda” in the movie comes down to maybe 12 seconds of screen time. And you know what? If there hadn’t been such a huge uproar about it, I wouldn’t have even known LeFou was gay. And this is why we called for a boycott of Disney? Give me a break. This is why no one takes us seriously anymore.