Category Archives: People

The people in my life that are being Broken.

I Can’t Stand In Solidarity


I remember being in seventh grade, at a new school, and not terribly popular. I came in halfway through the year with a wonderful combination of introversion and behavioral problems and quickly made as many real friends as I had at my last school (none). I immediately tried out for the basketball team, which would have been a good idea if I could play basketball or had any athletic ability at all, but I couldn’t and didn’t. I did manage to acquire a nickname at least (Reeman Semen, because Reeman has a vague similarity to my last name for kids that don’t bother learning how to pronounce it and bodily fluid,s are funny to middle-schoolers).

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Kids are mean.

There’s one day that’s standing out in my memory in particular, when I waited around for a ride after school and a couple of kids decided to play keep-away with my hat. I was an unwilling participant. They were both bigger than me, but most people were. More than twenty years later I still recall running back and forth in increasing despair and frustration, trying to get my hat back before they threw it again, or futilely trying catch it in the air as it sailed over my head. Mostly I remember the look on Matt’s face as his stupid grin turned to shock when instead of chasing the hat he’d just thrown, I kept running at him and punched him in the dick. Then I went and chased my hat while he was on the ground.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

He had absolutely no understanding of why I did it. I didn’t understand why they’d take my hat.

This is the memory that’s rattling around in my mind the morning after at least 127 people were killed in Paris in terror attacks. Maybe it was by ISIS. At this point they’ve claimed responsibility, but they would anyway, so who knows. I’m sure they wanted to, at least. Our assumption at this point is that Islamic extremists did it for reasons. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

People on my Facebook feed are jumping to either lay blame or “stand in solidarity,” with the people of Paris. Those are both very easy things to do. Sort of. It’s easy to say we stand in solidarity, but I’m not sure we really know what that means. To be in solidarity means to be in agreement of feeling or action. Can we possibly know what they’re feeling right now? I know that whenever I’m going through a brutal time and someone tells me they know how I feel, I’m pretty aggravated. You don’t know how I feel. You know how you feel, and you’re projecting. We’re certainly not in agreement on action, because no one is agreeing on action. Anything we’re feeling or wanting to do is based on our experiences, not their’s. The truth of it is that we don’t understand.

And they don’t understand.

And the people who did it don’t understand.

If I see one more post with a simple reason or a simple answer, I may just punch a dick. As much as people want to make this about religion or economics or refugees or mental illness, anything we blame is oversimplifying an incredibly complex problem (and anyone blaming refugees deserves a dick punch). The nice thing about simple problems is that they have simple solutions. The problem with simple solutions to complex problems is that we tend to be shocked and dismayed to discover that they create more problems.

And the problems we have now tend to be in large part because of simple solutions we’ve tried in the past.

Maybe let’s try not to do it again.

I can’t stand in solidarity with the people of Paris, though, because I don’t understand. I can’t comprehend what they’re feeling or what they’re going through. More than that, I’m almost certain that any (re)action is going to be wrong. Because as much as this feels random and sudden and brutally out of the blue (and for the people that died, it was), it was a reaction too. Which was probably a reaction to something else. Which was probably a reaction to something completely different.

We don’t understand and we don’t understand.

At some point, something happened. They weren’t born wanting to kill. The people that taught them to kill weren’t born wanting to kill. Something happened and we don’t understand.

What I do understand is lashing out. I know, because we want to lash out now. We feel fear. We feel impotence. What they did was wrong. It was. Terribly, horribly wrong. We feel the need to do something to stop it from happening again. I don’t know what that is, but it’s almost certainly not violence. I know that the people who did this are dead, and at the same time hardly any of them are. There’s a large, amorphous group that we can blame, and blaming feels good.

We see this group as having done something to 127+ individual people in Paris. They see a few individuals as having done something grand to a group. As long as we keep thinking, as long as both “sides” keep thinking of people as faceless groups, it’s easy to advocate for simple solutions that fuel cycles of hate.

I’m rambling. I don’t know what to say. I’m in shock. We all are. So let’s take a deep breath. This isn’t simple. This isn’t a kid lashing out because someone was picking on them, but at the same time, people don’t lash out for no reason. They might pick irrational targets and respond in inappropriate ways, but there are reasons.

I know some of the comments I’m going to hear… maybe here, maybe on Facebook, maybe comments on other things. No reason is good enough for this. They (the faceless group) have forfeited their right to understanding. I don’t know. Maybe. But whatever our solutions are, they’re going to make more problems. I mean, I got my hat back, but later on, when Matt’s balls felt better, I got beat. And later, after that, I got him back. Again. Because that’s what happens when we have adolescent solutions.

I don’t know what the adult solution is here. I don’t know if there is one. I know it’s not simple. It probably involves pain and humility and being more like Christ, though, and being down on our knees and loving our enemies even when we don’t want to (like we ever do).

I don’t stand in solidarity with the people of Paris. I can’t. But my heart is breaking for broken people in a broken world that just can’t seem to stop breaking it more. Because I’m one of them.

So I’m #PrayingForParis.

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Starbucks Gives In!


In recent breaking news, Starbucks has given in! Christians have won! Christ is back in Coffee Christmas! The infamous coffee chain has acknowledged their nefarious plot, bowing to the righteous indignation of Red Hat Guy and his friend Donald. CEO Joe Starbuck was quoted as saying:

Yeah, they caught us. You can’t hide anything from the internet. The recent influx of angry patrons named Merry Christmas has forced us to give up on the Red Solo plan and come forward with an offering filled with real Christmas spirit.

Satan’s Vessels

Despite a 23% spike in sales due to outraged Dunkin’ Donuts regulars switching to Starbucks to stick it to the man in the name of Jesus, the coffee giant has hired famed guerilla artist Akiro Arukiddingme to bring together an amalgamation of the designs that captured Christmas past for coffee loving evangelicals. In his first media appearance in years, he told reporters:

I believe that Starbucks needed to make a true, meaningful apology in this cup. White on red graphics have come to mean so much to so many people at this time of year, so I have reached into their hearts to give them the vision they have craved. I may be punished for saying so, but Starbucks was ill-advised in using so much red. Red is the colour of anger. White has brought peace, so I combined the white designs of past years. I overlaid them on this year’s red cup to bring a vision of the peace of Christ, because what is in the hearts of Evangelical Christians passes all understanding.

Hailed as the most Christmassy cup ever, Arukiddingme’s design incorporates every Christmas image used before, and should satisfy even the most demanding Evangelical:

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In other news, come on, people.

6 Things That Christians Mistake for Persecution


I’ve been frustrated at people on the Internet lately. I know, that’s shocking and new, but try to contain your surprise and stay with me. Some of them are friends. Some of them are colleagues. Some of them are random strangers that I theoretically share a belief system with. This post may will probably offend them. They may even call it persecution from within. That would certainly fit with the rhetoric that I see floating around.

There was a great post on cracked.com (home of tremendously well-written and researched articles that people are tricked into reading by dick jokes and cussing) recently about 5 Ways Powerful People Trick You Into Hating Protesters (or Underdogs if you visited before the title was changed). There’s some really interesting stuff about how the majority is made to feel like a threatened  and oppressed minority. It really resonated with me because that’s the way a lot of North American Christians are feeling. The rhetoric floating around the Christian Right is calling it persecution.

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I have trouble with that, because (to me) it belittles a lot of things. Sure if you really want it to, it may be massaged to fit a dictionary definition of persecution in that treatment of Christians in North America can at some points be annoying or cause someone to suffer, but I believe that’s because North American Christians have a VERY low threshold for suffering. That’s what happens when we’ve lived in coddled privilege for generations, holding the stick for so long we’ve come to feel that it’s part of our hands. Persecution, like suffering, is a loaded word. When I think about persecution, I think about people losing jobs or being beaten or being sent to prison or killed because of what they believe or who they are. Historically in North America, that’s been how many “Christians,” or at least our “Christian society,” has treated people like blacks, gays, and women.

That’s a hard thing to hear, because no one likes to think of themselves as persecutors. That was what used to happen. It’s not us. At least, it can’t be us because we’re not that bad anymore, right?In the face of damning evidence, one of the easiest ways to make ourselves feel better is to simply call ourselves the persecuted. After all, Christians are being persecuted around the world, so how are we any different? It must be true, because we see it in the news. We’re “persecuted” when:

1. People Vote With Their Wallets

There are Christian businesses that are losing money because people choose not to frequent those establishments. Those people don’t want to give their commerce to people who they perceive as being bigoted and intolerant. Forget for a second that this happens infrequently enough on a major scale that it’s major news when it happens, it’s REVERSE BIGOTRY!

2. People Are Jerks on the Internet

Nothing makes a person happier than being superior on the Internet. There are whole websites devoted to the “triumph of reason” and articles shared around about how profoundly dumb it is to believe in God like a bunch of sheeple. Blah blah blah flying teapot spaghetti monster. How dare they poke at our insecurity to make themselves feel better! Of course, it’s not actually directed at YOU, but it’s adjacent to you and that sucks. It’s not like you’d ever make blanket statements about a whole group of people.

3. We Lose Privileges

Did you know that churches may lose their tax-exempt charitable status if they preach against homosexuality or refuse to perform gay marriages!?! It’s all over the Internet. How is that possibly fair? We’re entitled to special treatment! We must be—we’ve had it forever. So what if by doing weddings we’re acting as agents of the state? They have no business changing their policy to something we disagree with. And taking away preferential treatment to reduce us to the same status as any other group? Preferential treatment is our right! What a hateful mess.

4. We Get Made Fun Of

It’s often said in youth group circles that the worst that can happen if you share your faith with someone is that they’ll laugh at you. Really, though, that’s bad enough, isn’t it? Who wants to be mocked or made fun of for their beliefs? Christians never do that.

5. Ezra Levant Rants About Something

The “rebel commander” and his offense du jour give wonderful self-pity breaks for Canadian Christians. I’m sure the US has their own equivalent (Fox News?). There’s nothing like taking isolated incidents and painting a broad brush conspiracy to marginalize or attack all Christians, to make us feel appropriately threatened and justified in defending ourselves. We should be grateful to people like him for pointing out how persecuted we are, when we otherwise might not have noticed.

6. We Are Held Accountable For What The Bible Says

The Bible says things that people disagree with. That is because they are sweaty heathen sinners who don’t know better. Sometimes that means that our beliefs require that say things or we have to live in ways that they find offensive. Since our beliefs are the right ones and their beliefs are wrong, if their beliefs require them to say or do things that make us uncomfortable or feel “attacked,” that shouldn’t be allowed. We’re the only ones who can do that.

Yes, there was a sneer on my face as I wrote those things. And yes, I actually feel bad about that. I struggle with posting this, because I feel like anyone who agrees with me already knows, and anyone who doesn’t agree with me isn’t going to be swayed by it. Sometimes the Internet is great for venting though, so at least there’s that.

If you’re still reading this far and haven’t shut the tab or jumped to the comments, the takeaway I want to leave is this: There is a difference between Christians being persecuted and A Christian being persecuted and YOU being persecuted. Beyond that, I want to say there’s a difference between things being mildly inconvenient and uncomfortable for you in a distant way and being persecuted. However you want to work your own definition, I can tell you that it’s wrong.

The reason that I know that is this: The persecuted Church grows. Always. It can’t be stopped, and when we are “persecuted for righteousness sake,” it witnesses to the world in a way that draws them to Christ. If we’re persecuted for being jerks, that’s not the same thing.

One Woman You Should Never Marry


I’ve seen a lot of posts coming through my feed about the “different women” that Christian men should avoid marrying for whatever reason. I want to add my own. It’s really just one, that I feel above all others, Christian men—any men—should avoid marrying.

1. “Valorous Vanessa”

This woman is funny and articulate. She is wise and loving and cares deeply for her children. She is a woman of deep faith, encouraging, and supportive. That may be sounding good. You may be thinking, “That’s describing the woman I want to marry.” She has one glaring problem, though… She’s my wife. You should not marry her. I already did. You can’t have her. I’m keeping her.

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Happy mother’s day, Ness.

 

The 5 Best Things About Being Outraged On The Internet


I love being outraged. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. I know that I’m right in feeling that way, because the entire internet agrees with me. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Trust me. Being outraged is all the rage. Anyone can do it. All you have to do is find something in your Facebook feed that one of your friends is offended over and jump on the endorphin train. You don’t even have to read past the headline, just head straight to the comments, fire up the ALL-CAPS and go to town, because—

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1. Being Outraged Gives a Wonderful Sense of Community

You’re about to join a team! Everyone loves being on a team, especially if it looks like it’s going to be the winning team. It can even be fun being on a losing team if you get to feel like a misunderstood martyr, though, so you don’t have to be picky. Go with your gut—that way, you know that the other people on your team are like you and you aren’t alone. There’s an epidemic of aloneness in the world, and social media outrage is one of the best ways to fight that. You have something in common. You’re doing things with people, and that’s like having friends! Not only that, but, win or lose, you and your friends are the best people, because—

2. Being Outraged Proves Your Moral Superiority

You’re better than two whole kinds of people! Not only are you better than the idiots that support the thing you’re outraged about, you’re WAY better than the apathetic wretches who let such an outrageous thing slide! If you’re outraged, clearly you have a much more finely tuned sense of right and wrong than they do, and you are amazingly passionate about it. Your all-encompassing outrage means that can feel confident in your superior morality—any insignificant things that might be wrong in your life pale in comparison to this injustice anyway. If you’ve been wondering if you’re a good person, comfortable with your first world problems in your comfortable chair, outrage is your new best friend! Even if nothing else comes of your cause of the week—

3. Being Outraged Lets You Feel Like You’re Doing Something

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You’ve done your part by raising awareness of the issue! Really, the biggest problems in the world come because no one knows about them. Sure, you’re not going to be the one to leave the house and physically do something, and you’re probably not going to spend your coffee money fighting it, but if you Like and Share and type enough, someone else probably will, and that’s basically the same thing as doing it yourself. I mean, if someone else does something because you told them about it, you should really get the credit. Who has time to leave the keyboard when there are so many WRONG people that need to be corrected anyway. They don’t know what they’re talking about. You do. And you’re going to make sure they know it, because—

4. Being Outraged Frees You From Challenging Your Preconceptions

You are the proud owner of THE TRUTH! Attacks on THE TRUTH must be crushed with extreme prejudice, and you and your team are going to do it. You don’t have to care what stupid people think; what’s important is that they know they’re wrong. If you’re yelling loud enough, they’ll change their mind. What they have to say isn’t important anyway. You’re far too mad to listen to that drivel. If you start to feel yourself waver, remember that if they were good people, if they were smart people, they’d be on your team. Your team says so. The last thing you want is for your brain to be infected with their inane stupidity. You’re OUTRAGED! And you wouldn’t waste your time being outraged about something that you weren’t certain about. If they’re starting to make sense, go on the attack because—

5. Being Outraged Cuts Off Any Possibility of Real Interaction

You don’t want to deal with ignorant people anyway! Balanced opinions and perspectives are a waste of time. No one listens to those. Going straight to full-on outrage saves you from having to work through the pesky issue for yourself. What’s really important is knowing your talking points. Once you have those, you just have to repeat them over and over again until everyone else capitulates. If there’s no one there to capitulate, even better! You and your team can run through your talking points for practice in case there ever is. Listening to other people say the same things that you already believe is spectacularly comforting. Look how smart and wise and learned you are! If they the other side can’t see that, they’ve just proven your point.

So, as you can see, I’ve conclusively proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that netrage is the best thing ever, and you’re an inbred piece of filth if you don’t think so too! What’s your favorite thing about being outraged on the internet?

*The above post is satire, for crying out loud. I also tagged it as satire in the satire category. I will be outraged if you don’t get that.

 

Your Voice Matters


Years ago, Jamie The Very Worst Missionary gave me (and the rest of Christendom) some fantastic advice: “Ask yourself, is what I’m about to say gonna make me sound like a total douche.” It’s an excellent post, and I recommend you read it, but for me the advice resonated outside that context. Personally, I love the way she communicates. At the same time, there are people reading, who when they saw the word “douche,” stopped. I’ve gotten in trouble for my word choice on a number of occasions. Often it’s online, because I tend to relax my filter a bit on social media, but it’s happened from the pulpit, too—usually from word choices that I hadn’t given a second thought to but other people found offensive. When it happens, I’m torn between judging people for being too uptight, and recognizing that there are consequences to the way I choose to say things. There are consequences to the actual things I choose to say, too, but that’s something entirely different.

We’re living at a time when it’s incredibly easy to get our words out to the world and incredibly difficult to take them back. It’s important that what we have to say doesn’t get lost in how we’re saying it. Some of you are with me right now. Some of you just think you are. I’ve lost listeners because I’ve used words like “douche,” and “pissed off.” I’ve been told that such coarse language reflects my heart, because “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

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I don’t disagree with that at all. I just disagree with where it’s aimed. I don’t think that the words you use flow out of your heart as much as your environment. I’ve had to learn to change my words as my environment has changed, but that’s a different thing. You can say hateful things with pretty words, and grace filled things with ugly ones.

You can say hateful things with pretty words, and grace filled things with ugly ones.

Under the guise of free speech, Christians have filled social media (and media-media) with words that have belittled homosexuals. Some of it has been intentional, some has been thoughtless. Out of the overflow of their hearts, they spoke. Under the guise of free speech, Christians have said brutal, hateful things about Islam and people that follow it. In both cases, there have been consequences.

“We have freedom of speech,” they say. “We are free to say whatever we want.” And they’re right. They can, legally. The government isn’t going to step in to stop them. Unfortunately, they’ve confused freedom of speech with freedom from consequences. Our voice matters. It’s the reason that free speech laws have an exemption for what are called fighting words. The law recognizes that there are things that we express that are designed to get a reaction or to wound people. They’re words that hurt, and when people are hurt, they hurt back.

I would never defend the actions of militant extremists that react to words (or pictures) with guns, but the Christian who goes out of their way to defame and profane what another holds sacred is speaking from the overflow of a Christless heart. It’s hard to stand up for the truth when the Truth isn’t in you. I see a huge difference between the people who can say homosexuality is contrary to God’s purpose for humanity with a brokenness that loves and hurts for the people who deal with a homosexual orientation, and the people who bludgeon them with harsh words and threats of hellfire for their “immoral ways.” I see a huge difference between people who will say that they disagree with some of the teaching of the Quran while presenting a gentle Gospel, and the people who hear that Islam prohibits the depiction of the prophet Muhammad and so they stage an exhibit to prove they can. Then they say, “See how violent Islam is?” while ignoring the violence their exercise of free speech has done.

Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

If it’s your belief, and you feel it’s important to do so, you can say that you believe that Islam is wrong. You can say that you believe that homosexuality is wrong. You can, if you want, say that you believe that swearing is wrong. When you do, though, remember the people that you’re saying it to. Remember the people that you’re saying it about. Ask yourself why you’re saying it. Are you saying it because you want to effect change, or are you saying it just because you want to be heard? Is what you’re about to say going to make you sound like a total douche? Let your words flow from a heart that knows grace. Let your words flow from a heart that knows love. Let your words flow from a heart that is full of God.

Your voice matters.

5 Painful Things About Being a Christian Moderate (in the Gay Marriage Debate)


In the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a debate that was happening in schools and bars and social media move into governments and courts. Right now, the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments about whether or not individual states should have a right to legislate whether they will allow same-sex couples to get married, or whether it should be a federally protected right. You may have heard about it. Some people have opinions. Many of them are loud.

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The popular perception is that Christians want to keep the world firmly ensconced in an idealized version of the 1950s by keeping all the marriage for themselves, while people with functioning brains want to be nice to people. The other (somewhat less popular) popular perception is that Christians want to save the world from a toboggan ride to hell, while sweaty heathens want to steal marriage so that they can have sex with everything and not pay taxes. The unpopular perception is that even within the Christian community, there’s a pretty sharp split between those in support and those against, and they might be even angrier with each other than the rest of the internet is.

My name is Aaron, and I’m a Christian moderate. That’s not an easy thing to be, especially when debates get heated. There’s a lot of hurt flying around on all sides, particularly from people who seem to think there’s only two of them. Once again, as a Christian moderate, I’m catching my fair share because—

1. Some people believe there’s no such thing

In Revelation 3:16, God  says that, “because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth,”  and a lot of people seem to think that means that if your theology doesn’t go to the logical extreme, you don’t care about God. They see moderate Christians as being wishy-washy or apathetic. They think that if you aren’t at one end of the spectrum or another, you just haven’t bothered to think through your faith. Most of the time, though, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most Christian moderates and moderate denominations place a very high priority on scripture and applying it passionately to life. The difference is that they see that application in the middle of the two extremes. I am a passionately hot and cold middle-ground believer, because that’s where I see the Bible leading. I have very strong opinions on it, and right now it leads to arguments because—

2. Liberals think that that you hate gay people

I can’t do the exegetical (critical interpretation of religious text) and hermeneutical (art and science that shapes biblical interpretation) back-flips that let them say that God is giving a thumbs-up to same-gender sexual relationships. I’ve dug in and tried, because I want to and it would be much easier for me to hold that position in so many ways, but I can’t. That conviction means that when I’m asked, I have to say that I believe that homosexual practice is sinful. I can’t endorse it because I don’t believe that the creator of sexuality endorses it. As a pastor, I can’t conduct a wedding of a same-sex couple. I also don’t believe that people should be forced to participate in the event under threat of losing their business, either, through everything from flowers to food to photography. If they believe that their participation amounts to support and/or endorsement of something they believe is wrong, they should have the right not to. This position has led to a lot of people on the internet being very angry with me. Despite that—

3. Conservatives think that you throw out the Bible

I believe that same-sex couples should receive equal treatment under secular law, and when I say that, conservative Christians seem to think I’m possessed by the devil. They see it as a betrayal as scripture and a governmental endorsement of sin. The problem is that they can’t separate the moral/religious implications from the legal/secular ones. They also can’t seem to see the way the argument demeans and belittles real people with real feelings who don’t share their beliefs. I’ll talk to Christians about God’s intent for human sexuality, but applying that to people who don’t believe in God is ridiculous. I can’t make a religious argument in a legal debate, and I don’t believe that the state has any compelling interest in discriminating against homosexuals. I’m honestly not sure that Christians have any place entering into the conversation and saying so. When I make that argument—

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4. You realize that half the problem is that everyone is speaking different languages with the same words

Everyone looks at me like I have two heads. I feel like whenever I’m talking to someone about it, I’m arguing someone else’s position. I think that it would be a lot easier to come together on this if we could just replace the word marriage with the word sandwich. It’s probably descriptive enough, and is far enough outside the norm that people would actually have to think about what each other was saying rather than slapping their own interpretation on it. Using the word marriage means carrying very different assumptions into the conversation. When a Christian says marriage, they usually mean Holy Matrimony. Christianity is unique (to the best of my knowledge) among the major religions, as it views marriage as a sacramental union, through which God binds a man and a woman together in reflection of his relationship with humanity and not a civil process. When someone outside the church says marriage, they usually mean a legally formalized permanent romantic relationship between two people. Given that, it makes perfect sense that conservative Christians would be utterly confused when someone says that homosexuals can have a marriage and secularists would be baffled by anyone who says they can’t. Sometimes I feel like if everyone could understand that, we could all stop ALL CAPSing at each other, but—

5. You know that’s not the half that matters

It’s really less about faith than it is about fear. I get that. I’m afraid too. Not the way some conservatives seem to be—that everything will turn into a slippery slope that’s slippery because of all the sweaty, hedonistic sex people are having on it, and not in the way that liberals seem to be—that people will be ground beneath the pointy boot of conservative discrimination, but that people are going to come after me and the church I love. I’m afraid that I will be legally penalized for believing what I believe. More than that, though, it’s about pain. Pain and deprecation. On one side, you have people who passionately love God and love the Bible and people are telling them that they’re stupid and ignorant and bigoted—the God they love doesn’t exist and the Bible they love is a fabrication. Of course they’re going to come out with guns blazing. On the other side, you have people who believe their sexual identity is intrinsic to who they are and people are telling them that who they are is evil and they should be relegated to second-class citizenry. Very few people make the arguments in those extreme words, but those are the words that are heard. Most of the arguments on both sides have gone well beyond reason and into stupid, illogical, personal attack, and I’m not sure there’s any coming back from that.

Anyone who’s actually made it this far without jumping straight to the comment section might be wondering what my moderate position is. Here you go: To be honest, I think that the church has absolutely no business legally solemnizing any union, heterosexual or otherwise. Let us handle unions spiritually according to our own beliefs and let the government handle legal unions secularly. If someone wants both, they should do both. My moderate opinion is that same sex couples should absolutely be afforded the same rights under the law as opposite gender couples. Under God is a different story. Nothing the church says is going to change the one, and nothing the court says is going to change the other.

You’re free to disagree.

The Church’s Back Door


As a pastor, I sometimes have trouble in “the ministry” because I don’t look like a pastor. There’s something in my demeanour that doesn’t scream “pastoral”. Despite being 32, people often place me at 24 and treat me younger. I blame my complete inability to grow decent facial hair. Also, my hair is kind of green right now, but that doesn’t count because it was dyed for a youth retreat last weekend. I lack a certain gravitas and probably always will. Such is my lot in life. I get some cred as a youth pastor though, and have been told that I’d fit in well leading one of those young churches… maybe a university church. I might be able to play it off in a specialized role at a mega-church. Young people would like me.

As a youth pastor, I’ve been concerned with young people. I work with them, I love them, and to some extent, I love their culture. I spend time focusing on how to relate to them, how to relate God to them, and how to get them to relate to God. As someone who’s still pretty young myself, I also have my own young person preferences and desires for worship. Sometimes that means I look at the way things are being done on Sunday morning and say “that’s not cool,” with the assumption that we need to make things cool, so that young people will come. Maybe that’s the music. Maybe it’s the volume. Maybe it’s the appearance of the stage (sorry, “platform,” I was recently crapped on by a church member for calling it a “stage.” [Also, I just said “crapped on,” which isn’t very pastoral]). Maybe it’s how the message is communicated. It’s been drilled into me, and into most of the evangelical church world, that “young people are the future of the church,” and if we don’t get them, the church is going to die. So now, many churches are doing their best to make our sanctuaries look like this:

I like that. It’s cool. It inspires me. I want to be on that stage. I want to be in that crowd. I can also pretty much guarantee that there is more green hair in that crowd than grey. This is what church looks like to this generation, and you’d better get on board, because this generation has to be reached for the Lord. We look at most of the “big” churches that show up in church media circles, and we see this as a functional model, because they’re growing. Younger people are flooding through the front doors and experiencing God in new and fresh ways.

Unfortunately, it seems that older people are quietly finding the back door.

There are times when I love watching YouTube videos of Hillsong live recordings, or Elevation Worship, or a giant event that Chris Tomlin is leading. But once I get past how awesome it looks to have so many hands raised to the sky, and so many people moved to tears by God’s grace and glory, it starts to bother me that the camera tends to linger on the same few middle aged people. Maybe it keeps returning to the one grandparent in the crowd. It pans over a thousand 20-somethings and rests on the exception to give the impression that this is for everyone – or at least everyone who can “get with what God is doing now.”

I’ve heard people (to be honest, I’ve been people) who have almost rejoiced at older people leaving the church, because it gave more freedom to do something new. We’ve embraced the immortal words of Barney Stinson: “New is ALWAYS better.” We feel the need to leave behind the old so that we can reach out to the new. It’s more important for us to reach the new than minister to the old because… because. Because new is always better. Maybe because the old are “already saved” and getting people “saved” is the end all and be all of our purpose, so once they’re “saved” we can forget about them and go save someone else. Why aren’t we worried about “saving” anyone over 50? And is anyone other than me concerned that in 20 years, we’ll be the ones shown the back door?

Yeah, I’m a young looking 32, but I’m ageing. The things that I like and the things that I liked when growing up aren’t the things that capture the imagination of the newest breed. My pop-culture references are taking work to stay relevant. Quoting Friends is met with blank stares. Some of the kids I work with have never even heard of Friends! So observe, and tremble. We have our vision of what church should look like, and in the future we cool ones are going to be fighting just as hard for our archaic modes of worship as those we mock today. Culture is changing so fast that we can’t even conceive of what that’s going to look like.

In the mean-time, we’re losing the idea that church is for everyone. We’re losing the idea that the family of God and the Body of Christ includes people that don’t like what we like. Maybe we’ve already lost it… hey, I’ve been on the other side of the equation (and reacted against it) at a church that refused to make any accommodation at all for the preferences of a new generation. It’s like churches are being forced to make a decision about which generation they are going to minister to (or to be so bland and middle-of-the-road that people will just head off to one of their preference-specific congregations anyway), and so one church loses the vigour, passion, and energy of the young, and another misses out on the wisdom and experience of the old.

I’ve become more and more convinced that the root of this evil is the idea that Sunday morning is for saving people, and that the attraction of the church should be the attraction of worshipping God. We’ve come to expect Sunday morning to be the primary point of contact between people and God. We want a place that people will be drawn to with excitement. We want a place where people will want to be because what is offered there is what they want to see. We want it to say “see, God is for you.”

And God is for you. But God’s also for him. And her. And the crying infant in the back. And the toddler rolling out into the aisle to chase their Hot Wheels car. And the embarrassed mother reigning them in, who should’t be embarrassed because God loves the fact that her kid is growing up in church surrounded by people that he is for. Like the 40-something woman in the other row that’s having trouble worshipping because she secretly envies the embarrassed mother because she can have children. Or the guy in his 50s that is completely tone-deaf and can’t keep rhythm to save his life. And his mother and father who taught him to love God with his whole mind and not his voice. And the elder with the walker that can’t decide whether to turn up his hearing aid to hear the music or turn it off so he can’t.

Sunday morning is about coming together as the family of God and the body of Christ, and joining together to worship and grow. And that’s hard. It’s so much harder than breaking off into little (or large) homogeneous groups worshipping in our own superior ways. And we panic, because coming together as the whole messy old and young body probably isn’t overly attractive to the world.

Man, I’ve gone on for a while here… I’m going to wrap it up soon, I promise. I don’t want to end it on this complaint, though, I want to talk about the solution. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wanting to hear it. By now you’ve forgotten that I’ve got weird hair, and my baby-face doesn’t matter on the other side of a wall of text. TL;DR has no meaning for you. Well done.

So here’s my solution: Forget about saving people. Churches should not be in the business of saving people. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be saved at church. I’m not saying that the Gospel shouldn’t be preached. I’m saying that that’s not the primary purpose of Sunday morning. The primary purpose of Sunday morning should be to equip us to be like Jesus. You know why people flocked to Jesus? Because he was like Jesus. You know who else can be like Jesus? Us. The Bible says so. Do you think a church with a congregation full of people like Jesus would do anything but grow? Who cares what the stage looks like. Who cares what the music is or what volume it’s played at. People would come.

People would come because we would be living lives of love that reached out to the people around us rather than insulating ourselves from them. People would come because we’re living holy lives – a holiness not focused merely on preserving ourselves from corruption but instead focused on setting ourselves apart for God – living as the people God made us to be, for the purpose he made us to have. People would come because they’d want what we have. People would come because they want to be like Jesus too.

We wouldn’t have to worry about front doors or back doors on our churches, because doors wouldn’t hold us.

I know… easier said than done. I know I’m not nearly as good at doing it as I am writing it.

What do you think?

Winning Blogging


Let’s get something straight from the start of this post:  I am not a warlock.  I have neither tiger blood nor Adonis DNA.  I have, however, been awkwardly using the term “winning” for years, long before Charlie Sheen was winning Being An Insane Megalomaniac.

“School is hard this semester,” a youth would say.

“Are you winning?” would be my response.

A blank stare would follow –the VERY SAME blank stare Mr. Sheen gets whenever he says something like “Aliens have requested my sperm to help regenerate their lost pantheon,”– and the youth would say something eloquent like: “wha?”

“Winning school…” I would say, and the conversation would degenerate from there.

Cool Story Bro

Now, as I’m pretty sure I’ve said before, I like winning.  It validates me.  It probably shouldn’t, because I know I should find my validation more in relationships, particularly my relationship with a Creator God who loves me and pursued me to the grave.  That’s all good, but I still like winning.  There has to be a point system or objective to every game I play.   “Just for fun,” isn’t enough; I want to be able to win.

My friend Derek has a blog that he started recently: dereksoundguy.  Derek is the new Tech Director at Heritage Park Alliance Church in Windsor.  That’s a Big Deal, because it’s a Big Church, and Big Churches get Big Guys to do Big Things.  He’s an amazing guitar player, a brilliant sound tech, and most importantly a great guy.  And he’s pissing me off because he’s winning blogging.

Derek’s blog is still pretty small in terms of post numbers, but he’s being consistent and posting almost every day.  I don’t feel like I have either the time, or the worthwhile stuff to say to be blogging every day, but when I see his posts popping up in my inbox, I feel the pressure to post because he’s beating me!  He doesn’t know that we’re competing and he’s winning.  What’s up with that?!?

So here I am hauling myself back from artificial competition again.  What is it inside me that feels the need to be measured against other people; to have some sort of empirical proof that I’m Good?  Why can’t I be Good unless I’m winning?  Why can’t I be Good unless I’m being better than the people around me?

We’re made to be in relationship.  We’re created to be in community.  That doesn’t work if one person is trying to do everything, or making other people feel unnecessary or inadequate (all too often the flipside of winning).  Last night I hurt a friend of mine through what seems to be a perpetual need to one-up… She made a comment about an issue that was Big in her life, and my one-upmanship made her feel like I deemed that her concerns were invalid and that she was  petty for voicing them.

In trying to somehow prove I’m not Broken, I’m running the risk of breaking relationships.  This is why I’m striving to let go and embrace my Brokenness.   John the Baptist said of Jesus “he must become greater; I must become less [John 3:30].”  I’ve got to become less so that everyone around me can become greater.  In my relationships I can be so much greater than I am alone.  If I can let go and get out of God’s way, he can do so much greater things through me.   Why do I get in the way of that?

I’m going to be so much better off when I figure out how to be winning Being Broken.

Daddy Dearest


This is my dad:

He’s the one on the left with the beard.  Not the asian guy on the right with no beard; that’s Yo-Yo Ma.  No kidding, he was chillin’ at a private performance with Yo-Yo Ma a couple weeks ago.  That was right after catching Clapton from the second row in Dubai.  He’s a wicked amateur photographer and a dragonfly expert and he got his Master’s degree in Information Technology just a couple of years ago.  He kind of kicks ass in a really nerdy sort of way.

I found out this morning that he’s probably dying.

Mikey isn’t the only one who has cancer.  My dad has a malignant metastatic melanoma taking root in his liver.  That’s not a happy after-school-special kind of cancer (if there is such a thing).  It’s nasty.  To the best of my knowledge the mean life expectancy is about 5 months with current treatment, possibly longer with experimental ones, but generally speaking complete remission isn’t a realistic possibility.  I’ve been trying to do research and wrap my head around what’s going on.  It’s not working very well because all I can get my mind to do is think of the extremely low odds that he’ll see next summer.  Summers are usually when I see him, since my parents only really leave their exotically mundane lives in the United Arab Emirates to come visit when Canadian weather is tolerably warm.  That’s a piece of it… there’s my dad and my mom and all they’re going through and the things that rise to the surface of my mind are how this is going to affect me.

I think about missing his advice.  I think about the help he gives me with tech stuff and having to muddle through it on my own.  I think about the fact that this makes it much more likely that I’ll at some point battle cancer personally.  I think about the possibility of insurance money, then I think about what a complete ass I am for thinking about the possibility of insurance money when it’s my dad and feel overwhelmingly guilty.

I think that the term Donald Miller uses to describe this is Self-Addiction.  Everything is about me.  I am the lead in my own story.  Everyone else exists in importance only as their stories intersect mine.  Self-Addiction is one of the biggest barriers on the way to living a life of Godly Brokenness, because the Self desires above all else NOT to be Broken.  Brokenness is painful and it acknowledges fears and failings and the fact that our Self isn’t good enough.  The thing is that I don’t want My Self.  I want Jesus’ Self.  The only way that I can put on Jesus’ Self and be the person that I’m meant to be is to discard the Old Self.  Every time I think I’m doing that, it rears it’s pointy little head and I have to ask myself “who am I to be trying to teach people about God? Is it complete arrogance to preach what I seem to be unable to put into practice?”

I remind myself again that the value is in the journey.  The example is in the striving, not the momentary portrait of who I am now.  I’ll tell them don’t look to be like me, look to be like the person I’m Becoming.  That person will be very cool.

My Dad’s journey is probably ending soon.  He’s not perfect, but he’s shown me things like it never being to late to make an improvement in your life, and the value of the focus and drive that I often lack.  He’s set an example for me in his amazing work ethic.  Most importantly, when he leaves, he leaves me with the legacy of faith that I get to offer my own son, because in the midst of his imperfection, along with other beloved people in my life, he pointed me towards Jesus Christ.

Thanks Dad.