• First, Christians didn’t want to bake wedding cakes for LGBTQ couples, but now a right-wing pastor, Lance Wallnau, is claiming that an ‘anointed cake’ freed a man from homosexuality. What’s next, donuts that cure heresy? Wait, I may need a dozen of those. Either way, this is Pat Robertson level craaaaazy. [JMG]
• An Alabama church wants to have their own armed police force. I thought the Bible was supposed to be the sword of the spirit, but apparently, someone’s been watching a little too much John Wick. This is what happens when the non-violent Jesus isn’t sexy enough and the church feels that all of this trusting in God business is way easier when you’re packing heat. Who would Jesus Shoot – WWJS [Huff Po]
• Enough of all the bad, want to hear a story about how the government is actually working together to make a positive change? Full Frontal with Samantha Bee aired a segment about the passing of a bill that will allow thousands of rape kits to be tested. This renewed my faith (briefly) in humanity and government.
• We’ve got Nerf darts all over our house, but I’ve never once picked one up and thought, “I bet this can break the sound barrier.” Apparently, I was wrong. So much for being soft and safe. [Uproxx]
If you see any snark-worthy news that’s either good or bad, feel free to send it us: email@example.com. Have a great week!
• Everyone beware the dastardly anarchists of Portland! They’re sticking it to the man and creating havoc by… fixing potholes on the city streets? Yep, you read that right and Portland is having nothing of it. Join the resistance and fix something that helps the greater good. [Huff Po]
• A rabbi, a priest, and an atheist smoke weed together and talk about religion. Yep, it sounds like a joke, but it’s a beautiful picture of different viewpoints bonding (and bong-ing) around a common table. How about giving up preconceived notions for Lent. Anyone with me?
• We can’t have all good on the list this week with Trump’s new proposed budget torpedoing everything left in the government that was compassionate and beneficial. With planned cuts to the EPA, the Endowment of the Arts and even Meals on Wheels in [NPR] & [Huff Po]
• So guess what? While the governmental good gets the ax, the military and the wall get funded? Yeah, that’s a bad as bad can get. [ProPublica]
• Need some palate (or soul) cleansing after those last few points, how about some Bonhoeffer? Read about how Dietrich Bonhoeffer can speak to life in the Trump age. It’s an outstanding reminder of how we can (and should) learn from history and those that came before us. [Englewood Press]
If you see any snark-worthy news that’s either good or bad, feel free to send it us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great week!
Ever wonder what a conversation would look like between Jesus and President Donald Trump? Well, wait no longer. Here’s the Snarky Faith interpretation of a hypothetical interaction between the heavy-weight savior and the orange-light-weight POTUS. If you didn’t catch this on our show, here’s the dramatic reading of Karl Giberson’s satire “Jesus at Trump Tower.”
You can find Karl’s original piece here: [Huff Po]
On the eve of Super Tuesday, I have only one message for you… get off your butt and vote! Sure, there’s plenty of reasons as to why not vote, but I’ll give you three compelling reasons to go out and vote.
I know. I know that you’re feeling disenfranchised about the whole electoral process and I’m with you on that. It’s a broken system run by broken people… but the same could be said for the institutionalized church. A handful of you show up a few Sundays a month to waste an hour of your time, so I digress. Here are my 3 main reasons to get out and vote.
Here are my 3 main reasons to get out and vote:
It’s your minimum, basic, civic duty as a citizen of this country. Voting is like paying for parking tickets, watering your lawn or being picked for jury duty. No one enjoys it, but it’s kind of like the kale… we know in the long run that it’s part of the greater good. So hold your nose and enter the voting booth.
There are other issues and candidates at stake. I hear your pain, no one wants to go on a double date with the Orange Don or Crooked Hillary. I completely understand. They’re like that couple that keeps texting you to hang out. When it comes to voting, there are more pressing issues on the ballot than those dysfunctional two with power issues. I voted early and there were 26 other issues on the ballot. If you can’t stomach the options for commander and chief, just remember that there are other things going on in the country and your local community. Let your voice be heard.
If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain for the next four years. Yes, I know that harping and complaining about politics is an American pastime, but if you don’t go and vote I’m not going to let you have that right. You’ve been revoked. If you can’t bother to get up off your butt and vote… you just need to remain silent for the next four years in regards to politics. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Shush.
Needless to say, voting often doesn’t make a huge difference in the big races, but in the smaller local races, it can be a big deal. Complain all you want about so many things… but just complain to yourself as you wait in line on Super Tuesday to vote.
Everywhere, wherever you may find yourself, you can set up an altar to God in your mind by means of prayer.
– St. John Chrysostom
A few weeks ago, I was preaching at a church and my friend, Joe Sanchez, was leading worship. One of my passions has been to find ways to work secular songs into the worship portion of a church service. I love the way truth can permeate through an honest song. That rarely happens in modern worship music. Joe reworked Jeff Lynne’s song, Lift Me Up, and it became a beautiful addition to my morning message.
I thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy.
In contemporary Christianity, we draw all sorts of lines that end up being unhealthy. Those lines warp the lens of how we see culture. They also warp how we live out the ways of Jesus.
Look no further than social media to see how many Christians like to share their love in the form of accusations, finger-pointing and hateful, name-calling. I’d rather they trade the strong talk for a strong drink. The sad fact is that much of Christianity has an issue with seeing things in a metric of sacred versus secular. It’s a division that’s borne out of the pit of hell (if you believe in hell) and something far, far away from the life God calls us to.
When Christ looked at people… he simply saw people. He didn’t see the labels or judgment. How have we so easily lost this in the church?
Once we start seeing people as the other or put value judgments on them, we cease to see their humanity. When we cease to see the humanity in others, we no longer see them as a person created in the image of God. If we can’t see God’s creations anymore we most likely can’t see God at work in the world. At that point, our faith becomes twisted and rigid and then it spirals downward towards bitterness. Then the cycle continues. Wash, rinse and repeat.
To grab hold of Jesus means we must love. It’s not a conditional command. It’s not a commandment with exceptions. Loving others is just that plain and simple. All of life is spiritual. It’s almost as if Jeff Lynne was echoing Jesus when it said, “love is what I want.” There are no boundaries besides the ones we make. To simply push the point further, I’ll refer to Madeline L’Engle who put it so eloquently by saying, “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” This includes every decision we make and every judgment we cast. We are either choosing to embrace that fact that life is spiritual and God is at work or not. So if we’re not living that way, can we really call ourselves followers of Christ?
We can’t be in the business of lifting others up out of their brokenness if we’re in the business of keeping them there. To begin to see the sacred in the secular begins to change the way we engage with the world. It takes the focus off of us and places it in God’s hands where beautiful things await us.
I was recently contacted about Jim Kast-Keat’s latest project: The #30SecondBible. When I first read the title, I laughed. How can someone summarize a book of the Bible in 30 seconds? Well, I was wrong.
Their website describes the project like this:
“The #30SecondBible series features dozens of voices reflecting on the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, you will hear summaries of each book and reflections on the good news they contain. This is the Bible for busy people, thirty seconds at a time.”
These bite sized snippets are rich with insight and perspective. It’s been a joy to watch through them during this Lenten season. The different videos feature contributors from the likes of Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Diana Butler Bass, Rev. John C. Dorhauer, Rev. Emily Scott, Doug Pagitt, Rev. Will Gafney, Ph.D., Kent Dobson, Mike McHargue, Rev. Jes Kast-Keat, Rev. John Russell Stanger, and more.
When any of us look at the American church, it’s so easy to see a myriad of problems. It’s similar to a kid’s birthday party with a piñata where everyone knows it’s there, and the entire purpose of a piñata is to smash it to bits.
When looking at the problems of the church, some of the big ones would be lack of diversity, fear-mongering and a political erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction and the church… what? Well, it’s like a dose of Viagra and always pops up in the wrong situations. Think of all of the Christian boners: Franklin Graham, Ted Cruz and basically anyone who visits the creation museum. Those are easy targets because they stick out and are akin to punching a kitten.
That’s not what I want to talk about. I actually want to dialogue about something more sinister; something that lies below the surface. Something evil that happens every Sunday in pulpits and in fellowship halls. I’m talking about how Christians like to classify people.
We assume there are the good ones and the bad ones, right? There are either the just plain evil ones or backsliding ones (hello people who happen drink or watch Deadpool). It’s judgy and an aphrodisiac of most conservatives. It excites them in a dirty, dirty way. Even the term backsliders sounds like something you find streaked in the rear of your tighty whiteys. No one wants that. Essentially it harkens us back to those old, silent, keystone cop films. There are the good guys and the bad guys. Everyone knows which is which. It’s just that simple, right?
But faith, lived out well, is never that easy.
So that brings me to Saturday Night Live. Take for instance the recent SNLs sketch called FBI Simulation, and it features the elusive Kevin Roberts. Who is Kevin Roberts? That’s a fair question. And the answer is: He’s the coolest bitch in town.
Take a moment to watch it here:
Viewing this sketch, reminds me of one of the central problems of Western American Christianity… our sin of judging others. We take a cursory view of people, and then presume to know their stories, ambitions and motivations.
The sketch surrounds FBI recruits at a simulated gun range where they have to make spit-second decisions on who’s the good guy and who’s a threat. That’s where Kevin Roberts enters. He’s an animatronic enigma that doesn’t seem to fit into reality. Is he good? Is he bad? Why does he want a donut? No one may ever know.
In the church, we tend to respond to the Kevin Roberts of the world like the cadet in the sketch does… he shoots the guy that doesn’t fit the predisposed mold of good guy or bad guy. Roberts doesn’t make sense in our paradigm, and in return must be taken out like he’s bad.
We all do this in life. We judge others, fitting people into our preconceived notions and killing off anyone that doesn’t fit into our assumptions. It’s black vs. white. It’s good vs. bad. It’s boiling down the world into a simplistic way that makes us feel comfortable. If we know who is outside the tribe, then we know who is the “other” or bad guy.
But Kevin Roberts breaks the convention. The mould doesn’t fit. It presses us to think beyond our simple categories and classifications. He doesn’t fit into an easy type. So what do we do? We kill off the outliers. If they don’t fit, they must be bad.
The problem isn’t with the categories… it’s with us… the Christians. When we look at Jesus, he defied classifications, and always moved to the marginalized in society. He gravitated away from the one percenters and the religiously pious because they assumed that they had already figured out life. Their belief system was already stagnant and set in stone. There was nothing he could do with people that have already assumed that they have figured “it” out.
But the Christian faith isn’t about those people… even though they populate our American churches and sing our hymns. They’re pious posers… like Kylie Jenner on Instagram posting to women the picture of beauty while actually being the epitome of plastic surgery and fallacy. We worship the thing we hate most. But I digress in the snarky jabs of pop culture that verge on becoming the very situation that I’m raging against. My apologies.
Back to SNL. In the sketch, the FBI trainee stuck in the simulation decries, “If being a field agent means dealing with human puzzles like Kevin Roberts, maybe I belong behind a desk.”
If we as Christians assume that our role in God’s Kingdom is to be the guy behind the desk, or the bouncer or door keeper of who says who doesn’t get in… then we’ve missed the entirety of Scripture. Our call as the faithful is be loving, caring and welcoming of those who don’t fit into society’s assumptions and categories. Simply put, we are called to love those that others don’t love. We are called to love everyone who exists outside of our man made boundaries and classifications.
Basically put by Jesus and the Jewish tradition that came before him, we are called to love our neighbors. In the scriptural context, our neighbor is anyone outside of ourselves. With this, there is no room to judge others.
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
-T. S. Elliot from Ash Wednesday
The journey of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, Lent is seen as a holy season meant to prepare the faithful for Easter through self-denial and letting go of things while we focus inward on our spiritual pulses. For me, I want to do quite the opposite.
Over the years, I have seen my vision for this season change. Lent draws me to notice the beauty of life in its’ fragility. There is a simplistic beauty to the thought that we come from the earth and, in death, return to it. I see Lent as a time that reminds us to live well.
Think of those things that create mental clutter and drive us to be robots in our every day lives.
Think of those things that eat at our souls and drive us to live on impulse and oppression.
Think of those things that prevent us from noticing the simple rhythms of nature and the world around us as we speed along to survive our busy days.
Think of those things that fill our to-do lists and subtly eat away at our souls.
Think of those things that distract you from being truly you.
Those crosses marked in ash on our foreheads call us to remember that Jesus lived passionately on the road to his death. Frankly, those passions paved the road before him. He recognized that death was never meant to be the focus. He simply knew in life what truly mattered. So instead of giving up things like chocolate or alcohol, let us give up those things that prevent us from truly living. If life is fragile and brief, then we should embrace the words from Andy Dufresne in the movie The Shawshank Redemption when he said, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”
So what are those things in your life that are distractions? What is preventing you from living and loving well?
I can’t answer those questions for you, but I’d assume that it wouldn’t take you long to contemplate and realize what they are. For me, when I pack my days so full of ambition and goals, I find myself ignoring the people around me. I don’t listen well, and I’m rarely present. My drive to complete tasks comes at a cost. I become less like myself, becoming blind to other’s humanity and I lose touch with my soul.
Today we focus not on death; that would be too easy. Death is stagnant. Life is organic. We turn to the sober reality that even though our lives may be brief in the whole of time and history, we are also called to live fully while there is still breath in our lungs. This season of Lent calls us to live better while we shed those things that steal life away from us. So go into the world today with sober eyes and full hearts. Live well, love well and remember that what the world needs most is for us to be fully alive.
In this season, we find ourselves neck deep in political-games of words, ideas and most likely empty promises. What matters most? Well, it all depends on where you stand.
In every election cycle, we put our hopes in our votes, assuming those votes have the ability to create change in our world. We go all in on a person we probably haven’t even met. The sad fact for many of us is that we put too much hope in that vote. We invest too much in the promises of politicians to make a difference in our world. Too often, we end up abdicating our role in creating lasting change.
Looking over the landscape of social media, at our best, I see people wanting more for the world as they know it. At our worst, I see many of us raging out into the void with frustrated vitriol in the hopes that we slow down a changing world and return it to a place nestled in the safe care of our own nostalgia. Am I implying that we shouldn’t vote or care about the political process? No, far from it.
What I am advocating is that we take all of this energy that gets wrapped up in the politics and put it to work in the spheres of life that we occupy.
What do I mean by that? Voting is easy. Changing the world is much harder work. Our lives are busy. Pushed and pulled in so many directions. Family, work… we are consumed by responsibilities. We are so distracted by the clutter we can no longer see the wood for the trees. And for what?
One of the reasons we invest our passion and anger in the political process is because it requires little of us. It fits neatly into our lives. We have space to slide it in to our busy schedules without disrupting much of anything. It’s this type of easy advocacy that keeps us believing that we’re doing our part.
As with politics, church and religion also require little of us and seem to exist in order to keep it’s own agenda funded. Both politics and religion seem more concerned with self interest, than actually making the world a better place.
When we look at the words and ways of Jesus, I hear a call to live and embrace a different way of life. Politics and Jesus just don’t mix. The way of Jesus is more primal and requires much more of us.
It all starts with a vision.
Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless…” (Matthew 9:35-36)
Jesus led with compassion inspired with God’s vision for a new kingdom, a new way of living that didn’t operate on the prevailing power structures of the day. Interestingly enough, these powers structures are very similar to ours today. In that time, Rome moved forward with an iron fist and smashed the weak through a show of force. Success laid in power. That power was grabbed from the weak and maintained through cruelty where the lesser in society bore the weight of lofty, self serving ambitions.
Jesus’ ambitions were far different. His vision for the world was one of self-sacrifice and driven by compassion. Ultimately, he saw an existence bathed in God’s shalom. It was a way of life where peace was brought about not through force but through self-sacrifice. Through his eyes, the world wouldn’t be right until everyone mattered and had a voice. It was about the restoration of human dignity where everyone has a seat at the table.
In the world today, such a vision seems idealistic and impractical and easily dismissed… especially by Christians.
We may see Jesus’ example or hear his words of vision without taking ownership. They are simply His cause. We nod our heads in agreement and admiration in the pews on Sunday mornings, but that doesn’t make it our cause.
The biggest problem is that His vision includes us. It’s not complete without us. And frankly, it requires much of us. There’s no way around it. We can’t agree with Jesus and also be a spectator. What ends up happening is that we agree with part or most of Jesus’ teaching and call, but omit the parts that make us uncomfortable.
It makes us uncomfortable precisely because it requires much of us. It’s disruptive to our lives. It’s messy and often doesn’t fit neatly into our cluttered, busy schedules.
In Jesus’ own words
And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
“Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him?And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away.So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. (Luke 14: 27-33)
We all want the easy road. I know I do, but that is simply incompatible with the call of Jesus. You can’t have it both ways. In the same vein, you wouldn’t say you were a vegetarian and then go eat a porterhouse, or embrace the nonviolent way of Ghandi, and then buy a gun.
I know that sounds harsh, but I’m going somewhere with this.
We are stuck in a culture that is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. It’s just that simple. Our lives are so full that its makes no sense to truly follow in His ways. Walking out the way of Jesus is never an overnight venture, which is precisely why he spoke of counting the cost. The things in our lives where we invest deeply should never be borne on a whim.
Change doesn’t happen easily, which is the exact reason I started this post. Change happens incrementally. It all starts with small steps. Change begins with how we decide to invest our time and with whom we choose to devote our lives.
For me, I have found that:
1) Imagination is key
Imagination requires risk. That’s what sets it apart from simply daydreaming. When we begin to imagine the world in a different way, it should compel us to take steps to make that dream a reality. Too many times, we opt for safety and certainty then return back to our regular lives. For real change to happen, we must take the first step, and that step starts with our imagination.
Matt Litton said that, “God has given us imagination so that we can envision the possibilities in between who we are today and who we were made to be, between the world in it’s fallen condition and a world where all inhabit life to the fullest.” Our faith calls us to imagine the world in a new way… and then drives us to go and make it a reality.
2) Change takes time, but also requires your time
For lasting change to happen, we must be willing to invest ourselves in the lives of others. It’s a simple thought, but one that calls us to slow down. We get so wrapped up in our own lives that we end up living with blinders to the needs of our community. Slow down as you begin to open your eyes and look at your community in a new way; notice the people, the rhythms. Where are there income disparities? Where are people hurting or forgotten? This doesn’t happen over night, but as you begin to observe your community, it will begin to look differently.
3) Think globally, but act locally
It’s easy to get riled up with major issues plaguing the world today, but often those causes are too much for us to take on as an individual. Partner with a local organization already doing good in your community. Use that time invested to get to know the needs in your area better. While you’re serving, you’re also learning, listening and doing life in those areas of need. This gives a a better perceptive, understanding and empathy to the cause. Pick somewhere to start and then see where it takes you. You won’t be disappointed.
Voting, while important, should never be the main way we set out to make a difference in the world. One of the reasons the ways of Jesus are so radical is because they require so much. We are called to go and make the world right again. In a certain sense, voting is a form of abdication. We cast our ballots to send someone else to make a difference. With Jesus, the onus is on us and abdication was never part of the deal.
Cast your votes, but realize the real work starts once you leave the voting booth and walk out into the community. The investment of your life into the lives of others is the central recipe for change. So go out, dream big and live well in community with others. That is the way of change… and it’s also the way of Jesus.