Not My Christianity

It was 2005 and I was at my first official church face to face interview. We were gathered around a future parishioner’s dining room table and they asked me the questions they had come up with. Among some of the standards, they asked me this:

What is the biggest theological issue facing the church today?

This was one I had been waiting for, it was the height of gay ordination issues, and I knew where I was and I was unapologetic about it. I also knew that this was *all* the church was talking about and they wanted to know if it’s *all* I was going to talk about.

I talked about Matthew 25- to clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned. I saw their heads nod and their tension release, and so I added, “and we HAVE to find a way to reclaim Christianity from the radical right and not be afraid to evangelize progressive Christianity.”

Some strongly agreed, others thought the first part of my answer was “nice” enough to forgive what I just said.

I grew up with spurts of Catholicism and Methodism but my formative years were spent in the Southern Baptist church and I knew exactly how dangerous white evangelicals could be.

Over a dozen years have passed since I made that comment and last week, I knew we had failed, so far. Since becoming a Presbyterian in 1998, I’ve been working to spread the good news of progressive Christianity but it has not been enough.

 

For years Progressive Christians fought for gay rights, women’s ordination, women’s health and anti-racism. But as a whole we have not done enough. It is time for us to get out of our bubbles and stand up.

So fast forward to Sunday morning. I wasn’t preaching due to Stewardship Celebration Sunday, my role was to give the Call to Stewardship. I had mixed feelings about not preaching, but I now realize I wasn’t in a state to. I was pissed, I’m still pissed.

When I awoke this morning, I had nothing but sorry and anger, then the spirit moved and got to church and wrote this call:

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” -Luke 21:1-4

If we take the story of the widow’s mite on face value we are supposed to empty our bank accounts into the church’s account. (I mean, if that’s what God is calling you to do, who am I to stop you!)

But our world does not work that way, and I’m not sure Jesus’ did either.

“All she had to live on” is a phrase that has haunted me since the beginning of my ministry. What does it mean and how does it work?

Stewardship is about more than money. We talk about time and talents, but we need a new kind of stewardship in our world today.

A kind of stewardship that actually follows the teachings of Christ and the will of God. Not the false gods of prosperity we have created, but the God of love and justice, mercy and compassion.

We are called to give this world, “all we have to live on” because Christ taught us that people are more important than property, the prophets called for justice comes rolling down like a stream and we have polluted that stream with false idols and prioritizing ourselves over others and creation.

Today, here, now, is a call to discipleship. Will we be willing to put “all we have to live on” into what we believe? We will be willing to reject false teaching? Will we begin to truly understand that Christ has no hands but ours?

Are we willing to devote our lives to God and reject sin? Are we willing to stand up and claim our Christianity in the marketplaces? Are we willing to stand up to others who claim the same God and say, “I am a Christian, and God is a God of love, not hate.”

Now is not the time for random acts of kindness, but a wearing of the banner for the world to see.

All I have to live on is this: I am a Christian who condemns violence, who condemns hatred, who believes in peaceable living for all, who sees that it is my responsibility to care for the widows, the orphans, and the refugee.

Even Christ made a mistake, seeing the Syrophoenician woman and her daughter and less human than he, with her different color skin and her weaker gender, they were compared to the likeness of dogs, by Christ. That’s how strong the influence of power can be, the world convincing us that I and mine are better than you.

Give it up, Christ says, give it all up, just as this woman did. Take her example and literally, publicly, put in your two sense and surrender the thing that makes you powerful in this world.

Will you? Can you? Devote your whole self to God and serve Christ and the world with all you have?

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I share this with you because progressive Christianity cannot be indifferent to our faith any longer. We are so afraid of offending others that we have forgotten who we are.

If you want to answer this call then here’s what needs to happen. You have to stand up to injustice wherever you see it. You have to get involved politically. You have to find ways to give your privilege and power away and make room for others, YES.

But wait, there’s more. 

You have to know and study your Bible. You can’t be afraid of words like “Jesus”, “sin” and “judgement”. You need to be able to speak passionately about God, Christ, and faith and how your faith aligns with your politics.

Jesus never shied away from politics. Evangelicals don’t see them as two different things and neither should you.

You need to quote scripture like the rest of them, and in context.  You need to know your opponent’s arguments and be able to come back with why Jesus would NEVER have responded that way, be specific with examples. Be smart.

And why do all this? Because this is NOT a Christian Nation, but Christian nationalist have taken it over, and it’s past time to take it back.

#notmychristian

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I dedicate this post to my grandfather, who stopped attending church in the 1960’s because it got too “political” during the Civil Right’s Movement. I have learned through my ministry that it is impossible to keep politics out of the pulpit, it is possible to not bully from the pulpit, but if I preach scripture, I preach politics. 

Pulling the Trigger

I’m not the first to say it, this election has been triggering. For immigrants, for People of Color, for women, for men of conscience. For, well, almost everyone.

Today was the latest scandal about Trump’s “locker room talk” in 2005. I won’t even bother linking to an article about it. It’s not worth it, if you haven’t read about it then don’t bother, it comes down to this, rape culture is real.

Several weeks ago something happened in my life that made all the triggers go off. Just about all of them. I was telling my therapist that I was already on high alert because every time I turn on the news I get triggered by something.

I was raw and exposed, again…

Being “triggered” basically means you have an emotional reaction to something that is from your past. It’s like PTSD only hopefully on a less severe level. It could be anything. Smelling old spice aftershave that my grandfather used to wear. Spelling the cologne your rapist was wearing.

The thing about being triggered is even the most self-aware people can be triggered and not know it for minutes, hours, days. Over time I have developed internal “check-ins”. “What’s bothering me?” Oh… that explains it.

Think… anything that comes out of Trumps mouth for the people he is talking about.

Anyway, I was talking to my therapist, “I’m tired of being raw, I’m tired of being exposed, I’m tired of being triggered by everything every time I turn around!”

In other words, I needed to have a little more control.

He asked me a very therapist-y question. “Is there any time in the past where you have had this happen and how did you handle it?”

Okay, fair enough, well played therapist man.

I told him a story of when I was in seminary and I had several issues of “serendipity” or “coincidence” and I decided to make a spiritual discipline out of it. It had happened so many times in a row that I felt like I was out of control.

I felt that these were messages from God that I was not paying attention to. So I chose a number, the trinity would guide me (remember, I was in seminary). If someone came to my mind 3 times in a short period of time I would call them. If I came across a book, movie, someone mentioned “you should do something… go somewhere… think about” if it came up 3 times, I would no longer put it off.

This is a spiritual practice I still do today and has become highly effective.

“So”, my therapist said, “Let’s try it.”

For the last few weeks every time I’ve been triggered by something I used it as an opportunity to release it and extend forgiveness for the thing triggered.

When I was 19 I read the book “Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz. He said something about forgiveness that I have never forgotten.

forgiveness-card

“When you can touch a wound and it doesn’t hurt,
then you know you have truly forgiven.”

It was damning to me. In fact, it was one of those things where I said, “That’s impossible.”

Years later, I know it’s not. It can happen. But like a wound a doctor heals, it has to be checked, and sometimes hurts more to look under the bandage. Sometimes the wound reopens.

When we are triggered we reopen a wound that has yet to be healed. And they’re everywhere. Elsewhere in the book he speaks of having a skin condition covered in wounds that have become “normal” and people without the skin condition are considered the freaks.

If I use his analogy to contemporary issues I could say that the people without the skin conditions are “woke”.

So for the last few weeks I have been trying to see triggering as a spiritual practice. It is time to change the dressing on that wound. Changing the dressing is the healthy way of addressing the wound.

I realized I had a choice, I could ignore it (and the past tells me it will reopen the wound and the pattern will continue) or I could address it. By addressing it, I could use the opportunity to heal to extend forgiveness.

This is what I know. (and yes, I am closely reaching my self-help cliche mark for one post). Withholding forgiveness hurts me more than it hurts you. Throughout the weeks as my therapist and I have talked about how my spiritual practice is going, I have noticed it wasn’t just about needing to be in control of my emotions, it was also about living into who I am.

I am not a person who withholds forgiveness easily, especially people I love and have ongoing relationships with. Triggers are an opportunity to live more fully into my scarred, but healed self.

Funny how God works sometimes…