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God is Dead: Sin // The Path to God

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 1.19.08 PMGod is Dead: Sin // The Path to God

 

Cold. That little room was always cold. The metal chairs felt like someone was shooting snow up your ass. Maybe the temperature was to blame…or maybe the coldness of certainty choked off any warmth. Whatever it was, it was lonely. I felt it every Sunday.

 

“Today, we are going to find God together.”

 

We didn’t find shit. It was just another exercise in futility.

 

The room was dead.

 

Wet. We were encouraged to get in the water every Sunday. It was filthy. Never comfortable. Always suspect.

 

“Baptism is a soaking in God.”

 

Seeing people run to the pool always made me question the meaning of it all.

 

What does God need with a cheap swimming pool anyways?

 

Do you have to get wet in order to know God?

 

God isn’t here.

 

…and I’m drowning looking for something certain.

 

Dead.

 

“If you die tonight, do you know where you will go?”

 

You got to get saved. You got to get saved. You got to get saved. Just choose Jesus and you will live for all eternity. I heard that shit over and over again. The more I heard it…the deader I felt. How could responding to a simple question be the barometer of God’s presence?

 

“You are dead in sin!”

 

Such words are the ultimate put down in most churches. It sounds like playground taunts more than it sounds like true spirituality. Can’t you imagine?

 

“You’re more sinful!”

 

“No!”

 

“You’re more sinful!”

 

“No!”

 

“You’re more sinful!”

 

I feel like I’ve heard shit like this many times before. Who in their right mind would participate in such lunacy? Certainly not God. God is dead.

 

Sin is how we find God. Jesus did not know God until he experienced the sin of the world. Something is in the darkness. God is dead. God is gone. God ain’t coming back…if God ever was.

 

There is something out there.

 

There is something out there.

 

Amen.

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Stoneman Douglas HS School Resource Officer Deputy Scot Peterson = Jesus?

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Times were tough. There was an evil everywhere. Jesus seemed to be able to allude the wrath of the authorities. His opposition to violence might have had something to do with it. Regardless, early one morning, Jesus got word that his cousin and dear friend, John the Baptist, had been arrested. The news infuriated Jesus and all sorts of thoughts ran through his head. Throughout his incarceration, Jesus kept track of John. Day in and day out, Jesus heard of the struggles that John was having. Then, horrible news hit. John was scheduled to be executed. Jesus was the Son of God. He could have called millions of angels to stop it. He could have snapped his fingers to stop it. Hell, he could have simply thought it to stop it. None of it happened. Jesus let John get his head chopped off. As John’s blood flowed on the floor, we have no evidence that Jesus was there in any tangible way to engage the situation. Jesus simply stood aside. Jesus didn’t intervene. Jesus didn’t move. Most modern people would just assume that he was too afraid…they would assume that Jesus was a coward.

 

I have long struggled with this story. Isn’t Jesus supposed to be in the business of saving lives? Isn’t Jesus supposed to be the banisher of death? Isn’t Jesus supposed to…? The questions are endless. I too have just assumed that Jesus was too afraid. I too have simply assumed that Jesus was afraid…and therefore a coward. These assumptions have never set well with me. There has to be more to the story. There has to be some hidden truths. Jesus has to be in there somewhere.

 

When shots were fired at Stoneman Douglas High School, School Resource Officer Deputy Scot Peterson did not run toward the shooting…in fact, he basically did nothing. Initially, I found his actions to be incomprehensible. Most people have stopped there. He is a coward and that’s it. In the light of Jesus, I can’t stop there. When violence threatened those Jesus loved, he stayed away from the killing. He did nothing. In the midst of such a violent society, that demands violent (even lethal) responses at every encounter…questions remain. Perhaps the most important being…

 

What did/would Jesus do?

 

It’s complicated.

 

Amen.

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Billy Graham: ASS & SAINT

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“You might not make it home! Give your life to Jesus now! Make no mistake…no choice is a choice. I am begging you. Please don’t burn in hell for all eternity!”

 

Our church was full of these words. No matter how many times I heard them, they always terrified me. I was so young. I just followed what I was told. Outside information was always filtered. I had little hope. Hell seemed to be ever present. Options were nonexistant. I was in a dungeon of deception. There was no light. The darkness only grew. Then, I moved the antenna.

 

Sundays were filled with fear. I didn’t want to go. On that particular Sunday (1997), I woke up early and turned on our old television. Maybe I could find something? After some adjustments, I stopped on Rev. Robert Schuler’s weekly church broadcast. As the program progressed, Dr. Billy Graham joined Schuler for an interview. Our family idolized Graham. He was considered the ultimate Christian. I’d never seen him in a conversational setting, so I was curious what he’d have to say. Schuler pushed the conversation toward the wideness of God’s salvation. When Dr. Graham insinuated that he believed everyone was going to heaven, I was floored. Down in my dungeon, I saw a small spec of light. His words seeded in me and helped me to grow hope.

 

Though I’ve changed dramatically, one thing remains…my firm belief that God loves the world. I am disgusted by all of the problematic things that Graham said and did to oppressed and marginalized people over the years. He is an ASS. I am in awe of the beautiful ability he had to love and guide millions upon millions of people…including me. He is a SAINT. Now that he is touching the face of God, I am sure the SAINT has conquered the ASS. May it be true for all of us as well…

 

“As the music plays, I am inviting you to step out into a personal relationship with God.”

 

Amen.

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Firefighter Brutality: The Traffic Stop

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Did you know that there are all sorts of hidden officials who can pull you over? I didn’t. I do now.

 

I recently submitted the following letter to various publications.

 

Imagine. Last week, while driving down the highway with my three of my children, I noticed an aggressive white SUV. Distracted, I swerved. I was clueless. Then, the red lights lit up. I was confused. Trying to protect my children, I pulled over. Then, someone with a gun jumped out. I didn’t know what to do. When the man got to the door, he was angry and incompetent. I feared that he would hurt my children. As time progressed, I realized that he was a member of the Denton Fire Department. Alone…anything could’ve happened. Throughout the encounter (even after another Firefighter arrived), I was asked numerous inappropriate questions that had nothing to do with the stop. Everything was sprinkled with police aggression/brutality…except for the fact that…these guys were not the police. When they finally left, I cried…knowing we’d just survived. There were no protections in place for us. No recording. No identification. No boundaries. Nothing. The Denton Fire Department has assured me that the actions of these Firefighters will be addressed. Still, questions remain. Who can make traffic stops? How do we know who is who? The citizens of Denton deserve better than having to guess. City leadership?

 

The nature of evil is that it traumatizes the soul. There are few things more evil/brutal than having to guess who is policing you. The person with a gun? Black uniform? Red lights? Blue lights? Green lights? The person without a gun? Blue uniform? The questions are endless. Here in Denton, I experienced a traffic stop that was traumatizing. While I am going to take care of it, I hope no one has to go through what I went through. Those who daily police our communities must stop hiding behind confusing car markings and light. Police brutality thrives when there is a lack of accountability. Now, I realize that Firefighter brutality does too.

 

Amen.

 

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The Cross of Firearms (Lent 1)

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There was a security breach. Somehow, a troubled young man with a gun was able to get into the building. Not long after the doors closed behind him, he pulled out the rapid firing weapon. Blood splashed against the walls. Screams echoed against the walls. Bodies kept hitting the floor. Though the response was fast…it was not fast enough. Seventeen people were dead. Countless others injured. As the nation mourned, politicians reminded the populace that there was nothing they could do.

 

What if it was the White House?

 

What if it was the US Capital?

 

What if it was those they loved?

 

What if it was something more than the news?

 

What if?

 

There was a security breach. Somehow, a troubled young man with a gun was able to get into the building. Not long after the doors closed behind him, he pulled out the rapid firing weapon. Blood splashed against the walls. Screams echoed against the walls. Bodies kept hitting the floor. Though the response was fast…it was not fast enough. Seventeen people were dead. Countless others injured. As the nation mourned, the politicians mourned too.

 

Stories change. Time grows. Stories stagnate. Time dies. Stories. Time.

 

We know better. We can be better. We.

 

 

There was a security breach. Somehow, a troubled young man almost got a gun. The doors to the mental health facility closed behind him. There was no gun. There was no blood. There were no screams. Bodies constantly swarmed to help him get better. The response was constant. Nobody was going to die. Nobody was going to get injured. Everyone was working toward life. As the nation grew healthier, politicians were shocked at how quickly gun control was transforming the nation.

 

Stories can change.

 

We can change.

 

Our nation does not have to be crucified on a cross of firearms.

 

Amen.

DISD

The Fight to Rename a School: Pushing Further

DISD

DISD

 

*Based on My Words/Speech at the February 13, 2018 Denton (TX) Independent School District School Board Meeting

 

Immigrants are of the lowest of classes.

 

Blacks should be banned from public facilities.

 

I’m simply not interested in racial equality.

 

I hope that you are as disgusted by these words as I am.

 

These are the words or paraphrases of the words of Woodrow Wilson.

 

Two of my children attend Woodrow Wilson Elementary.

 

As young as they are, even they ask the question, “Why do we have to go to a school named after a racist?”

 

While know that you recently voted to spend over $150,000 to change the names of schools named after confederate luminaries, I want to remind you that there is no price too high to pay for justice. Indeed, our lives are not defined by our desire for justice…rather, our lives are defined by how far we are willing to go in order to achieve justice.

 

In the words of a sweet prophet of old, we are implored to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How can we love our neighbors and force little black and brown children to attend a school named after someone who believed that they should not be able to use the same water fountains as their white classmates? We can’t.

 

On this day, I implore you to stand up and right the wrongs of the past. Just because that’s the way it has always been…doesn’t mean that that’s the way it always has to be. Justice is worth the cost.

 

Now, is the time to act.

 

Justice.

 

Justice.

 

and.

 

Justice.

 

Amen.

 

 

Since any recording of the meeting is not available, this account is based on what I wrote down before and what I have remembered after. Memory is a funny thing…it keeps the powerful pieces and goes grey on the less powerful. In time, I will update this post to include a transcript.

 

With all of these things affirmed, I want to assure you that there is no circumstance that will keep me from fighting to change the name of Woodrow Wilson Elementary School. Justice demands it.

 

Amen.

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Go to Hell CBF.

 

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Recently, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship reaffirmed their deeply ingrained homophobia. Repeatedly, the CBF has failed to champion inclusion and equality…just like their counterparts in the Southern Baptist Convention. What a bunch of spineless cowards. God has left the CBF and anyone with a shred of conscience should too.

 

On this occasion of dumbassticity, I wanted to share something I wrote about the CBF 2 years ago (February 15, 2016). Back then, I got message after message from CBF and their supporters threatening me to take this post down or face this and that. I didn’t then and I won’t now. Somebody has to show some courage.

 

Boycott the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship!

 

 

“Our church voted to leave the Southern Baptist Convention this past Sunday.” Overhearing Charlie’s comment, I immediately replied, “Why did y’all do something dumb like that?” Even though our whispers were escalating, we hadn’t yet caught the attention of our history teacher, Mr. Jones. “Most folks in our church wanted to ordain women.” I was absolutely incredulous. “Which one of the liberal denominations did you join?” Charlie looked at me dead in the eyes and said, “THE Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.” “Well, you might as well have been handing out free tickets to hell in the process. What’s next? Homosexual ordination?” Angered, Charlie shouted, “You’d better take that back. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship nor our church would ever in a million years ordain no faggots.” Mr. Jones raised his head and yelled, “Pipe down or you’ll be joining me in detention.” When I saw Charlie at our high school reunion a few years ago, he told me that his church was still proudly in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and ardently opposed to the participation of gay people in church or denominational life.

 

“The snow sets this place off.” I don’t know who I was talking to. I was alone. Maybe, I was talking to God. Maybe, I was just crazy. Who the hell knows? Regardless, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is a majestic place. The year was 2007 and the President was one Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. That’s right, I was educated within the Southern Baptist Convention long after moderates lost control of the denomination and left. A short time into my tenure, I got a phone call that would change my life. For many years, my mentor served Southern Baptist churches and his last church was affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). Though he was unquestionably more progressive, I spent many years learning from him. Picking up the phone, I heard the familiar voice of my mentor tell me that he was dying. I traveled through the night to get to him. When I arrived at the house, I walked past his family into his room. Arriving at his bedside, my mentor reached out with his cold sweaty dying hand and told me, “I’m gay and I always have been.” Death came quickly thereafter. I knew that he didn’t feel comfortable telling any of the churches he served. Though he was a moderate Baptist, my mentor was forced into a closet by the denominations he served. After these events, I grew more progressive by the day and finished Southern as quickly as possible. When I was a student at Emory University someone invited me to be a part of the CBF, I replied that I couldn’t be part of a homophobic denomination. This was before I learned of the official homophobic stance of the CBF.

 

“We’re not homophobic!” When you lead with an emphatic denial of homophobia, most of the time that means you’re homophobic. A few years ago, an influential member of the CBF led with such a denial. I decided to research further and found an extended history of homophobia. In October of 2000, the Coordinating Council of the CBF adopted the following policy on homosexual behavior related to personnel and funding:

 

As Baptist Christians, we believe that the foundation of a Christian sexual ethic is faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy in singleness. We also believe in the love and grace of God for all people, both for those who live by this understanding of the biblical standard and those who do not. We treasure the freedom of individual conscience and the autonomy of the local church, and we also believe that congregational leaders should be persons of moral integrity whose lives exemplify the highest standards of Christian conduct and character.

 

Because of this organizational value, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does not allow for the expenditure of funds for organizations or causes that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice. Neither does this CBF organizational value allow for the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.

 

(http://www.cbf.net/media/import/4ff861e3-6f0d-40a0-8eff-dba9c01f884b.pdf)

 

The phrase “practicing homosexual” is about as homophobic as it gets. When I read this and think about the numerous homophobic experiences I’ve had with CBF pastors throughout the country, I’m wondering why all these folks left the Southern Baptist Convention in the first place. From recent experiences, I know that most Southern Baptists would be very comfortable with the language that the CBF uses. Maybe the folks in the CBF might be interested in going back?

 

I decided to take my questions to the leader of the denomination.

 

*Spring 2013 CBF luncheon at Agape Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas

 

When I walked into the gymnasium, I couldn’t help but notice how white the room was. While the tables were white, there also wasn’t a single person of color in the entire room. The speaker of the hour was CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter. After listening to her talk about all the stuff that the CBF was doing, the time for questions came. I had to think about it. When I considered the controversial nature of my question, I decided to wait to talk to her after. We’d just exited the church when I asked about the homophobic stances and policies of the CBF. For over ten minutes, Paynter would not answer any of my questions. I remembered something a lawyer friend taught me, when someone refuses to answer a question they have already answered the question. Executive Coordinator Paynter is a defender of the homophobic policies of her homophobic denomination.

 

Jesus commanded us to “Love our neighbors as our selves.” How can you accomplish such a task and have such homophobic policies on the books? It’s 2016. There is no reason to be a part of any denomination that functions in this way. On homophobia, the CBF reflects the Southern Baptist Convention far more than it reflects Jesus. Until these homophobic policies are taken off the books and their churches decide to be inclusive spaces, I’m calling on Baptists to boycott the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I hope this action brings about the repentance and salvation of our fellow Baptists. Homophobia is not acceptable. In a world desperate for the love of Jesus, there’s no reason to partner with or pay for hate. For the sake of all of God’s children, boycott!

 

Amen.

 

I’m not interested in boycotting the CBF. That time has passed. While I don’t believe in any kind of literal hell, I do believe in the fiery demise of evil institutions. It can’t happen soon enough for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

 

Go to hell CBF.

 

Amen.

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What if Jesus had attended the National Prayer Breakfast?

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Cold. Cold. It was so very cold. Jesus could feel the body breaking down. Every step seemed like it could be his last. Shelter after shelter turned him away. There was nothing to eat. There was nowhere to sleep. Eventually, he found a bridge. As the cars roared by above his head, Jesus cried out to God to save him. As the misery deepened, he heard nothing. Eventually, he dozed. He thought his last thought might truly be his last thought. Unable to move, Jesus just laid there until some resemblance of movement returned. Dizzy, he knew he needed food quick. In the distance, he heard people talking about prayer and faith. Praising God for this blessing, Jesus followed them. Eventually, they arrived at a huge building. He knew he had to be in the presence of the people of God and the Bread of Life always in habited such spaces. Following the prayers, Jesus walked to the door. The closer he got, the more evil looks he got. As he arrived at the door, he was immediately was grabbed and thrown out onto the sidewalk. “If you come back, you will be arrested!” Everyone in line cheered the officer son. “Don’t you know that the President is going to be here? No trash allowed!” Growing weaker and weaker, Jesus went around to a side entrance. A kind server let him in. “Are you hungry?” She left and came back with a large plate of food. With every bite, Jesus gained new strength. Prayerfully, he started walking toward the main room.

Bullshit accompanied every step. “Homeless.” “Predator.” “Mentally ill.” “Psychotic.” “Lazy.” The whispers grew louder and louder and louder. Once the program started, everything seemed to quiet down. Jesus expected to hear prayer. Jesus expected to get spiritual nourishment. Jesus expected something. He didn’t get anything. The words were consistently evil. Jesus angrier and angrier. Eventually, Donald Trump arose to speak. Praying for a miracle. Jesus leaned forward to listen. After a few words, it became clear that Trump’s God was himself. God was only a tool for beating the marginalized and the oppressed. Jesus couldn’t take it any more. Arising to his feet, Jesus screamed, “Love your neighbor as your self!” Trump didn’t waste the opportunity. “Get that piece of trash!” The crowd started to scream, “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” A couple of pastors in the audience rushed him and took him to the ground. With a “Christian” knee to his back and knee to his throat, Jesus started to lose consciousness and screamed out, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” No one could hear him…because everyone was shouting, “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” In the midst of all the “holiness,” Jesus died on the floor.

 

Amen.

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“Kelly is a Piece of Shit.” -Jesus

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“Kelly is a Piece of Shit.” -Jesus

 

Revelation is magic.

 

Horrible smells seemed to be coming from every crevice of our home. I sniffed my way all around the house. I hadn’t checked the kids. Surely, it wasn’t one of the kids? I was expecting to find something dead. I kept sniffing. After exhausting all other possibilities, I went and checked the kids. My daughter was fine. When I got to my son, he was grinning from ear to ear. I should have known. When I bent down to take a sniff, I thought it might be the end. Eventually, I collected myself enough to clean up the toxic site. NPR was on the radio. I used the news to distract me. I needed a biohazard suit…but I couldn’t find one in the house. With both skill and ease, I dismantled the diaper. Once the final flap drop, I arrived at ground zero. A huge shit stared back at me. Then, I was distracted by something on the radio.

 

Amongst a whole host of other racist and problematic statements he made in the same interview, White House Chief of Staff General Jon Kelly had the nerve to call immigrants lazy.

 

I had to return to my duties. In the midst of finishing the change, I noticed the huge shit once more. Then, something happened. I felt divinity all around me. The divine hand reached out. We started to move together. Then, I saw the diaper. That horrible shit was still there. I saw Jesus move toward the diaper and point. In the most powerful tone I have ever heard, I heard, “Kelly is a Piece of Shit.” Jesus is always right.

 

Eventually, I got that diaper changed. It’s wild to have a revelation while you’re changing a diaper. Nevertheless, the shit was still speaking to me. I knew that Kelly was in that diaper. Jesus had already told me so. When I dropped the diaper with all the other trash, I looked at my son and reminded him, “That’s what happens to pieces of shit.”

 

And the people of God said…

 

Amen.

 

Steven Pahel / Unsplash

Alone: On Being Human

Steven Pahel / Unsplash

Steven Pahel / Unsplash

 

Does God remember me? Dust to dust. Breathe to breathe. I am God’s creation. I think. Does God remember me?

 

Truth was close. I could feel it. Now, I don’t believe it was ever close at all. Maybe I want to. Maybe I don’t. Truth has always been a liar.

 

Shots changed my life. They pierced the night. Somehow they found me. In the midst of the chaos, I was I. God was God. In that moment, I touched the loneliness. God is alone. I was too. In the chaos…surrounded by thousands of people…thousands…I stood in the middle of the street surrounded by no one. I don’t know that I have felt God more at any point in my life. The solitude pulled me forward. I did what I was supposed to do. I did. I was. While there were people along the periphery, I was alone at the center. The cameras. The lights. The fear. What was I now? Scared. Where was I now? Somewhere. When was I now? Here. Why was I now? Fate. Who was I now? Human. The shots kept ringing. Though my feet were moving, I don’t think I’ve ever left that place. I’m still standing in the middle of the street. I’m still alone.

 

Death waits. Death always waits. Death is always on time.

 

Death is close.

 

Pain. It won’t let go. Even at the end…it just won’t let go. How do I survive? Is survival even possible? Maybe survival isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Pain management. Management pain. Is life about pain management? It seems that the management only leads to more pain…though management is addicting and hard to quit. Such an infatuation will eventually get us all. There is no way to manage the inevitable. The end is here. Should I wait? Pain. Should I open my eyes? Pain. Should I scream? Pain. In the end, there is only the pain of solitude. We suffer alone. We suffer and die in God. Our resurrection is our sobriety. This is what it means to be healed.

 

I’m still there in the middle of the street.

 

Darkness. Shots. Solitude. Pain.

 

Is it eternal?

 

I don’t know.

 

I simply stand here…

 

Clinging to my soul.

 

Amen.

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