Category: news

Left Christianity

a snarky take on progressive faith

With all that is crazy and ugly in American Christianity, there is always hope. After all, Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion or jumpstart an old one. He wasn’t into nationalism or populism. He was never about getting rich or powerful. Jesus came to give us a different way to engage with the world, a new set of Kingdom-minded ethics that will always be in conflict with the prevailing empire of the day. The way of Jesus is still very alive; you just might not find in a church.

I’ve recently had various conservative trolls calling me out and trying to find a label that fits my faith, worldview, and ethical system. While that I appreciate their efforts, labels are not what interest me; action is. Labels are effective tools for tribal identity, but they are also effective ways to categorize and wholeheartedly dismiss a person or a group. Labels are what are polarizing our country. We cease to see the individuality of people and only see the broadly painted groups to which they ascribe.

For contrast sake and to feed the trolls a bit, we’ll seek to find out more about the Christian left. It’s not about answers but pursuing what is happening within progressive Christianity. With our show, it’s never about the point. It’s all about the conversation, and we’re not seeking labels but always seeking how to right the ship of American Christianity and put it back on the path of being like Jesus.

We also delve into the alarming fact that 51% of Christians have no idea what the Great Commission is. This is a symptom of why the faith has gone off the rails. If you don’t know what Jesus is about, how could you possibly understand how to move the faith forward? Things like this scream to why the religious right has hijacked Christianity. If we don’t know what it means to follow Jesus, then why do we call ourselves followers of Jesus? Maybe this is part of the problem with American Christianity.

 

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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Why I’m Easter Pissed

A snarky and pissed-off contemplation on Easter
“Perhaps because our culture and politics have gone so off course, with values so contrary to those of Jesus, more and more people intuitively recognize that His vision of God’s kingdom-a new world of compassion, justice, integrity and peace- is the Good News they’ve been searching and waiting for.”
― Tony Campolo

Easter is now weeks passed. The annual pep rally for Jesus is now a fading memory. It’s a sad state of the church when Christianity has become a spectator sport where the faithful are now just really consumers. With most churches in America investing countless hours and funds to put on a self-serving benefit concert in the name of Jesus, what are they actually left with? In the wake of Resurrection Sunday, let’s delve into the ancient Christian practice of missing the point. With Easter, we miss the point and here’s why I’m Easter pissed…

Jesus resurrected means that we are called to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth. It’s not a moment to look back on; it’s what pushes us forward. To simply look back and have a pep rally does nothing for what Jesus did and continues to do. We’re supposed to be God’s hands and feet in a hurting world. That means we’re supposed to oppose evil and fight for those who are hurting, oppressed, maligned and forgotten. The resurrection speaks to the fact that unjust and oppressive economic systems and policies are not part of God’s ethics. It also speaks to the fact that misguided and corrupt political systems and churches are also not part of God’s Kingdom. For me to believe in the resurrection means I’m supposed to be pissed at the state of the world and in turn go and try to fix it. Easter’s not all about the afterlife, it’s firmly rooted in the here and now.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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The Gaslighting Church

A snarky take on distortion, lies, and misinformation.
“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in the new shape of your own choosing”
~George Orwell

Gaslighting happens when you don’t expect it; that’s why it works so well. We’ve become accustomed to hearing phrases like “alternative facts” from the White House, but this type of manipulation happens every day, even in churches. With the recent scandal at Willow Creek and countless others, we’ve seen powerful men, systematic coverups, and smear campaigns that seek to quiet the accusers. It doesn’t always happen in big public spectacles. It often manifests itself in smaller more insidious ways.

Gaslighting is psychological abuse and when it comes to the church, it’s also spiritual abuse. False information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own perception. The powerful use tactics like shame and guilt. They twist scripture and feign piety in order to maintain control. None of this is new. Power breeds corruption and the way pastors and clergy wield power over their congregations can be downright twisted and sick. It’s all about control.

The saddest part is that none of this has anything to do with Jesus. The Kingdom of God that he was ushering in was led by servant leadership. It was about grace and compassion, not coercion. Theology was never meant to be a weapon, and the role of pastor was never meant to be that of an authoritarian. None of this is right.
Join us as we delve deeper into this topic and outline the warning signs of gaslighting in the church.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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The Roots of Racism in American Christianity

A snarky take on God, gold, and glory – the roots of racism.

America has a history of using faith to justify a whole host of sins. Topping that list is racism. It’s our country’s original sin. With that being said, how can Conservatives idealize America as a country founded on Christian values? Jesus certainly wasn’t a racist, so why do so many of his followers still cling to hatred and bigotry? It just doesn’t make sense. A majority of American Christianity definitely has a problem with self-delusion and hypocrisy. So how did all of this come about?

This week, we sit down with Rhonda Ragsdale, a social justice educator. Rhonda has a Master’s in U.S. History, Southern History, and Sociology. She’ll walk us through the historical roots of racism and how, especially in the South, those roots are indelibly intertwined with religion.

Don’t believe me? Just look to the last election. 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. 80% of them voted for cosplay cowboy and part-time pedophile, Roy Moore. Then look at the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s the largest non-Catholic Christian denomination in the United States. The whole reason they use the moniker “Southern” in their name speaks to how they were founded by splitting from Northern Baptists over the issue of slavery. Christianity has a long history of being used to justify slavery and racism, but it shouldn’t be so.

In theory, shouldn’t the religious be less bigoted? That’s just not the case in reality. We see American Christianity continuing to be used to justify right-wing ideologies and push hate against groups it opposes. Faith was never meant to be weaponized. How did we get here? Hint: it’s all about God, gold, and glory.

Join us as we talk about racism now and racism then and just how we got to where we are at. One thing is clear, none of this has anything to do with Jesus.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

You can find Rhonda Ragsdale on Twitter: @ProfRagsdale

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The Cult of Christian Celebrity

A snarky take on pastor worship

There is a toxic culture swirling around American Christianity. No, not that one. No, not that one either. Okay, fine. There’s a myriad of toxic issues with Christianity in America, and today we’re going to delve into the cult of Christian celebrity. It’s one of those silent faith-killers that most engage in but never realize it is happening. In the shallow end, it’s simply idolatry, but if we go a bit deeper, we’ll see it’s insidious nature of eroding faith and pushing it miles away from anything that has to do with Jesus. That’s no small problem.

From Steven Furtick to Judah Smith, these pop-theologians push their brand of faith to increase their market share and increase their own wealth. They are the boy-band versions of Christianity, all style and no substance. You might as well have Joey Fatone preaching.

You also have the Jim Bakker and Joel Osteen types who are more like the Home Shopping Network of Christian values. You can have Jesus all for the low, low price of $49.95.

Then, you have the ones like Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress who push their political agendas on their followers like Dick Cheney with a shotgun. They’re taking no prisoners and again, none of this has anything to do with Jesus.

It’s easy to blame the shepherds or charlatans (and we will on the show), but on some level, the congregations and followers also share an equal amount of blame as well. Following Jesus was never about safe spaces or comfort. It’s not about insulating yourself from culture. Jesus was about pushing boundaries pride and self-indulgence into a place of grace and humility.

Christianity in America is broken. There is a way out, but are we willing to take that path and step out of the cult of Christian celebrity to begin to think for ourselves and do the hard work of following after a wild and loving God? The choice is yours.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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Christian Films: An Interview with Critic Brian Skutle

A snarky take on what happens when the message overtakes the medium

Christian film has gotten a bad rap. Too often do we overlook the quality of faith-based films. I’m just kidding. This isn’t that kind of show.

This week we are joined by Brian Skutle, a film critic at Sonic Cinema, and we talk through all of the ways that Christian films suck. These films make the critical mistake of putting the message over the medium as they sermonize their way through the celluloid. It’s not about engaging with faith and culture in real, honest and authentic ways. That would actually be refreshing.

This industry is more about finding new ways to be as irrelevant as possible within the context of common culture. They’re hoping to present Christ-centered messages in the hopes of reaching the lost.
But let’s be honest, the people this genre is trying to reach has no interest in these films.

If that’s true, then who are Christian films trying to reach? Their main audiences are the faithful Christians who need to have their worldview constantly massaged and confirmed in unrealistic and cheesy manners. It’s all about preaching to the choir, but when does the choir ever learn anything new? It’s quite the conundrum that we’ll gladfully exploit for laughs.

We’ll also talk about Kirk Cameron, Kevin Sorbo and other D-list actors that have found renewed success by stumbling into this genre, and before you think they are just trying to do God’s work, just remember that it’s also about finding new ways to get money from the Christian masses. Join us as we snark our way through why the term “film” should be used lightly when describing Christian cinema. Is there a better way that faith should interact with art? Of course, there is. This just isn’t the answer.

You can find out more about Brian and read his film reviews here: www.sonic-cinema.com and www.patreon.com/soniccinema.

Check out our crossover podcast with Sonic Cinema here: Sonic Cinema Podcast – Episode 29

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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Recovering Evangelicals

A snarky take on the road out of Evangelicalism

Kirt E. Lewis is ex-military, an ex-pastor, an advocate and an author recovering evangelicalism. Aren’t we all? Join us as we talk about his journey in and out of evangelical Christianity. We’ll discuss the problems with toxic and misguided Christianity and Donald Trump’s America as well. Krit has background working with Wold Relief in refugee resettlement in California. He has a heart for the immigrant community and we’ll talk about the ways to move forward and advocate for the marginalized in our society. So as you could have guessed it, Kirt is right within our Snarky Faith wheelhouse. We shouldn’t be discouraged by the state of faith in America, we need to pave a new way forward.

You can find out more about Kirt and his writings on his website: https://kirtelewis.com

We’ll also hit on the death of Billy Graham. And as you can expect, it won’t be a reverent eulogy. So before we heap generalized and sentimental praises on the deceased, take a listen. Dr. Graham may not have been the gleaming light of Christianity we all like to think of. He sewed many seeds of toxic faith and led us to where we are today. Did he lay the groundwork for the rise of the Religious Right, End-Times conspiracy theorists, and, yes, even our beloved (sarcasm) Orange Messiah, Donald Trump? So thanks, Dr. Graham?

And hey, isn’t Franklin Graham basically the Donald Jr. of Christianity? I’ll let you be the judge.

Maybe I’m a heretic or maybe I’m right. Most likely, I’m somewhere in between. It wouldn’t be Snarky Faith without a sarcastic journey into the grey areas of faith.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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Another Shooting

A snarky talk about guns in America

Another mass shooting, another day in America. This is becoming all too common. The shooting in Parkland, Florida is just a symptom of a larger problem plaguing America. This week we’ll talk about the tone-deaf response from many Christians and the NRA funded enablers in Congress. This isn’t the world our children deserve, but unless we make a change, it’s the one they will inherit. We mourn the losses, but also look for a way to change the pattern. As Christians, we should seek tangible and coherent answers to gun violence. We can’t let the lure of American Christianity inform our perspective. Jesus calls us to non-violence and that must be the only way.

We also catch up with documentarian Christopher Maloney and talk about his film In God We Trump that premiers at the Big Sky film festival this past week. Chris journeyed across the country interviewing people about the Trump’s evangelical backed win. His insights informed this relevant documentary that’s a look at how evangelical Christianity brought us to the breaking point in America.

If you’re interested in hosting a screening of the film, you can sign up at www.InGodWeTrumpFilm.com.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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Grace is Brave

A snarky talk about grace

This week, we sit down with author, Chris Kratzer. Chris was a pastor for 22 years before he had enough of the hypocrisy and bigotry in the church. He completely walked away from ministry and almost everything Christian, yet he couldn’t shake his love of Jesus. His message of grace may be in line with orthodox Christianity but not so much with evangelicalism. Captured by the pure Gospel of God’s love and compassion, Chris now focuses on communicating the message of wholeness, equality, affirmation, and the beauty of Jesus, particularly as it relates to life, culture, and church. This interview is a wild, snarky, and fun ride that’s fueled by grace and Chris’ unique outlook on life and spirituality. He is an inspiration to all of us who love Jesus but don’t really know what to do with the church anymore. Let us join in on Chris’ assertion that grace is brave. May we all seek to be brave.

You can check out his work here: http://chriskratzer.com. You’ll thank me later.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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Who’s Right in the Gun Control Debate?

In the wake of yet another horrific mass shooting, we are caught in the middle of another name calling tug-of-war between gun-rights advocates and gun-control advocates.

One side paints their opponents as backwards rednecks that will tolerate mass shootings as acceptable losses so long as they get to keep their shiny sticks that go “bang-bang.”

The other side believes their adversaries are emotionally driven, naive socialists who want to take everyone’s guns away to make way for a new communist regime.

But is there any common ground?

What if both groups really want the same thing?

What if both sides actually want to prevent gun violence and future mass shootings?

I know it seems hard to believe that both sides have a common goal, but what if we assumed the best about each other?  And we try to believe that we all want to prevent our children from being victims of another mass shooting…but we have different beliefs on how to achieve that objective?

What if we tried to understand that gun-rights advocates really believe that the best way to protect our families, homes, schools, and our children is to have freer access to guns?  And that gun regulations make our families and children less safe?

What if they’re really following Jesus’ warning to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Mat 10:16) in this dangerous world and to be prepared because “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36)?

What if we really truly believed that gun-rights advocates believe that more guns makes the world a safer place?

And what if we tried to understand that gun-control advocates really believe that the best way to protect our families, homes, schools, and children is to have less guns in the world? That the unrestricted access we have to guns in our country makes us less safe?

What if they’re really following Jesus’ command to “put away your sword, because those who use the sword will die by the sword” (Mat 26:52)?

What if we really truly believed that gun-control advocates believe that less guns makes the world a safer place?

So what do we do when two groups want the same thing, but have directly opposing solutions?

Can we set our biased emotions aside, stop vilifying the other side, and try to believe that we all want the same thing?

And what if we actually made room for the possibility that our solution to the problem may be wrong?  

Because what were doing right now isn’t working.  People are dying.

If handing out guns to every man, woman, and child means that no-one else ever has to die from a madman hunting them…then I’ll be the first in line to hand them out.

But if turning in our weapons means that not one more man, woman, or child has to die needlessly from a bullet…then I’ll be the first in line to hand in my gun.

Or maybe there’s a solution in-between the two extremes we can discover…if we choose to respect each other and believe that we all want the same thing.


Joel Varner has served in ministry for the past 15 years. He is a pastor in Albany, Oregon equipping and training missional community leaders. Joel works with his wife Brenna, of 14 years, and their two daughters. You can find him on Facebook.