Before I get started on this costly piece, I want to make one thing clear as the clearest thing: I love where I come from. I will forever be thankful for where the seeds of my faith were planted and for all the sources that nurtured it. Nothing has changed that. I know Jesus was there and is still there. I’m speaking not of one specific church or group of people, but of the whole “non-denominational” denomination of Christianity in which I was raised — which is really pentecostal, evangelical, charismatic, etc. It’s where I’m from, but it’s no longer where I’m home.
It’s painful when God is leading you to a place where other people who have been important on your journey cannot follow. Don’t judge them, nor judge where you’ve been. God was “back there” too, and still is. Don’t let your heart be arrogant now. But also… don’t stop walking.JONATHAN MARTIN
A few days ago, I shared an article about how Sean Feucht’s ongoing worship concerts across America are the nail in the coffin of the writer’s evangelical persuasion. Less than a year ago I was listening to Feucht’s music and impressed that he was running for Congress. But as he got louder and his positions became clearer, as he leaned over a desk to touch the garment of the President, as he amplified his voice over those of Black mourners, as he compared his inability to sing in a building — for the protection of others — with Israelites enslaved in Egypt, I realized… I don’t get this. I don’t like this. I don’t think this is Jesus. This doesn’t feel like my Jesus.
This year I’ve dug into and torn apart what I believe. I’ve watched as leader after leader has been forced to take a stance on divisive topics; Feucht is merely the loudest of many. And I’ve become a different Christian than I once was.
I remember arguing with a friend in high school that Sarah Palin was everything because she was pro-life. I was aghast that a Christian could think otherwise. I remember feeling anxious and angry when Barack Obama won that election. I remember many years later debating with my brother-in-law about letting Syrian refugees into Canada. I asked him if he would let terrorists into his home. (I mean what even!?)
I’m so repentant for those and many other errors in judgement.
Fast forward several years and… I remember breaking my phone screen the night Donald Trump won the presidency. I was in a room with Christians who were thrilled, which made me so confused. I remember watching the deluge of glee from Christians on Facebook who declared God’s plan was being fulfilled and Jesus was returning to the White House — as if the Omnipresent had ever left! I was stunned, devastated, and enraged. I went to work the next morning to find coworkers and clients heartbroken to the point of tears. When I looked one way I saw jeering Christians who were becoming strangers and when I looked the other way I saw mourning strangers who were becoming friends.
This isn’t actually about politics; this is about my faith. But unfortunately it’s politics — mostly American politics — that have catalyzed a shift in my faith. This year has unsealed the Pandora’s box of many ugly things. It’s been a year of pushing coming to shoving and it’s revealed some unsightly, crushing things. These are things that I halfheartedly suspected were there under the niceties, things that have come grinning to life like the creepy clown of 2020. I want to close the lid, slam it shut and break some fingers, but, like poison, it all needs to come out.
I’m skirting the issues here. Let me just say it.
I’m disappointed with Christians who are so vehemently pro-life that they vote solely on that issue, while they are not willing to adopt, foster, meet the needs of the homeless and poor, help single parents, nurture teenagers in trouble, support sex education, or provide birth control. I don’t think it’s possible to be pro-life when life starts at conception but — apparently — ends at birth. Because that’s as far as support for those lives is going, by the way. I don’t think it’s possible to be pro-life while opposing immigration, asylum seekers, and the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. I don’t think it’s possible to be pro-life as well as pro-gun, pro-death penalty, pro-sexism, pro-racism, or pro-privilege.
I’m repelled by Christians who think their job is to be a saviour on a stage, not a lover in the lowlands. It’s not servanthood or leadership if it’s not sitting with the broken, lamenting with the mourners, and putting the last firmly in first. It’s not an accurate portrayal of the Good News when smiling faces and loud speakers smother the sounds of trauma and abuse. It’s not worshipping in spirit and in truth when it’s drowning out the voices of the oppressed and breathing life to self-serving rebellion. It’s not turning legitimate protests to praise when it’s actually protesting imagined persecution.
Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.RALPH WALDO EMERSON
I’m unimpressed that “standing up” for man-given rights has taken precedence over honouring and serving. Fighting tooth and nail for personal freedoms doesn’t fit in the Upside Down Kingdom. Exclusive borders and nuclear safety nets don’t resonant with confident trust in a good God. Hoarding of resources and turning away from community need doesn’t align with other-centred, self-giving love.
Fear doesn’t stop being fear when it’s renamed wisdom or tradition. Power grabs don’t stop being power grabs when they’re called rights and freedoms. Privilege doesn’t stop being privilege when it goes unowned. Self-service doesn’t stop being self-service when it’s called “rising up,” “burning,” and “being bold.”
Boldness in pursuit of Jesus should look like servanthood, selflessness, and sacrifice. What makes Jesus a lion is that he’s a lamb. It doesn’t make sense but that doesn’t make it less true. Have you ever read the Gospels? Jesus didn’t make a whole lot of logical sense a lot of the time! His way is different and it’s the only way to true life. Living and loving like Jesus is not about enforcing standards of morality, singing in a building, or keeping our nations “strong and free.” Living and loving like Jesus is about preferring others, carrying crosses, and laying down lives. It’s not safe, it’s not sensical, and it’s not self-driven. It’s harder, it’s scarier, and it’s counterintuitive. We may not like it and we may not want it. It may cost us everything. But it’s the only way.
Jesus’ invasion by birth into the dark time of tyrant kings gives us a choice: we can trust in the armed brutality of violent power or we can trust in the naked vulnerability of love. It seems like an absurd choice, but only one of these ways is the Jesus way. We have to choose between the old way of Caesar and the new way of Christ. It’s the choice between the sword and the cross. We have to decide if we’ll pledge our allegiance to the Empire of Power or the Empire of Love, but we can’t do both. Following the Jesus way of loving enemies and doing good to those who hate us isn’t necessarily safe and it doesn’t mean we won’t ever get hurt, but it does mean the darkness won’t prevail.BRIAN ZAHND
Jesus was neither a Pharisee nor a zealot. He was a healer, a teacher, a lover, a forgiver, a foot washer, and a lamb. Until I see him in a blood-rimmed robe with eyes of fire and a double-edged sword, the first described Jesus is the one I will follow and seek to reflect. If that means I wear a mask for the rest of my days out of love for my neighbour, so be it. If that means I love kids I will lose, so be it. If that means I will be passed over for promotions so a minority colleague gets a fighting chance, so be it. If that means I overhaul my internal world, so be it.
I’m not here to win, to be free, to get my way, or be on top. I’m here to love.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?MATTHEW 16:24-26
One more thing: am I afraid that I’m wrong? Do I doubt these conclusions? Do I worry that the big bad wolf of the left has got me? Do I wonder if I’m deceived by the spirit of the world, the spirit of humanism? Sure, yeah. It’s hard to dispel the fears of my youth. But I know Jesus knows my heart. I know he knows I love him and want to love like him. If I’m wrong, this is the side I want to be wrong on.