I don’t fit the mold

I appreciate alternative things like tattoos, piercings, heavy music, and pouring lattes. I’m an introvert. I cuss fairly regularly (Sorry–kind of). I appreciate and agree with theologians the church loves to hate. I drink. I think that every gun on earth should be destroyed, and yes, I’m anti-military. I’m not afraid to light up a cigar every now and then, and I really dislike the word “Christian.” It bugs me. I think the church could be better, and I think there’s hope. I would rather encounter God in a mosh-pit than a church pew. If I have to, I’ll die fighting for the rights of my gay brothers and sisters. I don’t think the bible is inerrant. I don’t solute the American flag, and theres no way in hell I’d sing a national anthem. I don’t fit the mold. Is that okay? 

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I don’t really believe in hell. I barely believe in heaven (I do believe in heaven, but not as you would imagine. Another post for another day). I would never tell someone that their actions are sinful, and I would never tell someone to be better. Be different. Be holy. Be divine. I would never tell someone they are broken, they aren’t enough, they’re incapable of experiencing joy. Every time I hear the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” I want to throw up everywhere. I don’t fit the mold. Is that okay?

What’s all this about? I’ve just grown tired of hearing it. I’m wildly uncomfortable with Christians telling me I should live a specific way. What’s with the dating advice some Christian bloggers give, anyway? ‘10 Reasons You Aren’t Going to Marry Your Boyfriend’. Great post, bro. I’d rather fall in love in a bar than a bible study. I’d rather party with prostitutes than protestants, and I’d rather incarnate than preach. I don’t fit the mold, is that okay?

I think women should be equals. In the churchy context- I think women should be elders and pastors. I think women should be able to chase their dreams, have the jobs they want and make damn good money doing it. Some… scratch that- most Christians have a problem with this. I don’t fit the mold. Is that okay?

If you call me a hypocrite, I’d be the first one to agree, but I hold on to this one thing. Jesus loves me. He loves you too. Wildly. Scandalously. Just because I don’t fit the mold of the bride doesn’t mean I’m not trying my hardest to figure out how to pick up my cross and follow Christ up the hill each day. I’m not a democrat with some ridiculous liberal agenda. I’m just trying to be authentic with the stirrings God put on my heart years ago. Justice for all humans. Gay, straight, black, white, male, and female. I haven’t kissed church goodbye. I haven’t kicked tradition aside. I haven’t denounced my faith. The only thing I’ve given up is the box that popular Christian culture tries to shove me in. I’ll continue to stand up for you, and I’ll continue to push against the walls until this box begins to fall, because I think the love of God is bigger.

The church is doing some bad things. Just like the rest of us… but there’s hope. One day all things will be restored. God continues to evolve my theologies, and I’d never say I’m right; however, right now I refuse to be something I’m not. Lord continue to shape me into an instrument of your peace for all your kids- and may more rise to stand up for humanity, not by claiming to be oppressed ourselves, but by standing in solidarity with the oppressed and being a voice of hope, love, and nonviolent defense.

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From the Inbox: An Email Shared (With Permission).

Hey Brett,
 
So I started following you on Twitter a little bit ago and have found your tweets amazingly loving and accepting of all people. I am convinced that this is our purpose here on earth. For the better part of the last 2 weeks, I have been feeling a need to reach out to you to tell you my story and offer my hand in supporting your message.
 
Last year was a transformative year for me. A pessimist would look at 2012 as pretty bad year. Here’s why…
 
In February of 2012 I left an extremely unhealthy 2 year relationship that was built on codependency and negativity. I was constantly criticized and defeated. To complicate things, she had a child that I had been a father figure to that I absolutely adored. I knew that staying around would eventually hurt him worse than me leaving before he would remember that I even existed.
 
I began seeing a therapist shortly after that and began the process of individuation and self discovery that I had missed in my late teens. I found my own church outside of the BIC church I had attended off and on with my parents for years. I set some firm boundaries between myself and my Mom to protect myself from her and her addiction to alcohol.
 
In May I finally accepted myself as a gay man. Shortly thereafter I began to wrestle with the theological implications of such life. I believed in my heart that God was loving and would love me just the same, but “Christians” didn’t usually agree with this assessment. I found it incredibly hard to become part of the church as I didn’t feel like I would be accepted into any of their small groups.
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Fast forward a few months and I read the book Torn by Justin Lee which completely flipped my understanding of the purpose of life. If there’s one thing I learned from reading that book is that God wants us to love people as he loved people. This has become a decision filter for everything that comes my way.
 
Fast forwarding to the end of the year, my Mom became incredibly ill with liver failure and passed away on December 20. We held a beautiful memorial service for her on new years eve.
 
My apologies for a very long winded story. I’m telling you my story for no other purpose than to show how I see God working through me to guide me to his purpose for me – to help people who need hope. Those that need to see that among what seems like the darkest days, there is hope. Those that are hurting.
 
As I rang in the new year into 2013, I looked back with immense gratitude for the incredible work that God did in my heart during 2012. That same day I was celebrating the life of my Mom who struggled every single day to feel loved and accepted. She was the most selfless human being I have known.
 
As my Mom laid on hospice just at the end of her life after a rough day I sat down next to her and asked how she was doing, she responded with five simple words:  “Better now that you’re here.” She passed away just a week later and I had these five words tattooed on my inner arm as a constant reminder of her and to love others as deeply as she did.
 
I read through your Twitter feed and I see people struggling to feel accepted or to see hope that God loves them. The church has done such a terrible job being an example of such a simple principle that I believe is so fundamental. I believe that there is tremendous power in people wrapping there arms around others and loving them.
 
I’m with you 100% on your message and I would love to learn about what you’re doingand how I can help.
 
If I can help in any way, please feel free to reach out.

 

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Love in all it’s forms.

The joy, the struggle, and the complexity of love are unexplainably mysterious. So beautiful, yet impossible to fully understand. We can try our whole lives to wrap our heads around this ‘love’ thing… and we may think we get it. We don’t. This is partly because of how vast the concept of love is, but I think the english language is partly responsible for this as well. We have one word for ‘love.’ One word to cover so many bases. I can tell my sister that I love her on the phone and then walk back into Slate Coffee Bar and say I love their latest washed kenyan blend. Is my love for coffee really the same as my love for my baby sister? Not at all. It’s confusing to me because I really, really like coffee. I think I even love coffee. But it’s different, isn’t it? It has to be.

Right smack in the middle of the bible, theres a collection of Hebrew love poems. Song of Psalms. This book is so explicit that the young Jewish boys weren’t even allowed to read them until they were older. Song of Psalms give us a picture. Multiple pictures of love. Why can’t the English language have multiple pictures of love? I digress.

There are multiple Hebrew words for ‘love,’ but in the bible we see a pattern of three words. Raya, ahava and dod. The best part is, they all mean different things. Fantastic, right?

www.brettthatcher.orgRaya would be translated literally as a friend or companion. Somebody you’d hang out with.  “She’s my best friend– we even finish each others sentences!” “I don’t know where I would be without your friendship.” These are expressions of Raya. At the core of this relationship between these lovers–there’s a friendship.

The second Hebrew word for love that we see in Song of Psalms is ahava. Ahava is deep affection. The desire to be near someone so much that your heart aches. Ahava is when your mind, heart, and soul are bent toward your lover with so much force that you could think of little else, even if you wanted to. Ahava says that I would rather be right here– with you. In this moment. Than anywhere else in the world. Anywhere else. This is love. This is ahava.

Finally, in the bible we see a third kind of love that we call dod. Dod is translated literally as to “fondle.” I think you get where this is going. This is the love that’s not exactly rated PG. Dod is the physical and sexual expression of love.

So when two people come together. They take part in this beautiful, complex illustration of love. When the two meet and get to know one another- the love expressed as raya is found. A lot of relationships don’t escape this phase. This is prime real-estate for friends. For coffee… maybe.

What throws the whole thing for a loop is when ahava is introduced. A love so strong you can’t imagine anything else making sense. A love that transcends all past definitions of love itself. A love so fierce, it leaves you feeling vulnerable, yet comfortable. Scared- yet happy.

Dod is what happens when this love blooms into what it was ordained to be. Love is bigger than how you treat people. Love is bigger than how you feel about coffee. Love is bigger and louder than a lousy four letter English word that we toss around like a dish rag in the back room of a busy restaurant.

Love itself is complex.

Love itself is natural.

Love itself is human.

Understanding love is impossible. Understanding love is like trying to understand God. You constantly get little snapshots of what it really means- but you never know when your mind will be blown again.

Because of this reality we can walk away from heartache with hope. We can walk away from these open wounds knowing that our God is love. What we think we know about ‘love’ is merely the surface of who God is.

So may the Lord bless you and keep you, as He has called you His own. May His presence be ever clear to you on this day, and may He plant in you a seed, that will give root to change.

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Azusa Pacific University: It’s Time for Change.

“The Pain Inside” by Vladiks.

Standing up for our brothers and sisters who are constantly bullied into the margins by religion can be tough at times. Maybe their oppression just doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you wish you could help, but you just aren’t sure how. When all of your excuses boil away, the truth is probably that you just don’t care.

A lot of my friends wrestle with their support for the LGBTQ community. As Christians, they occasionally wonder if they were standing up for “sin” or if they are protecting something that’s not of God. If that’s where you’re coming from, I pray that you would read this very carefully because this is for you.

My baby sister, Alyson, is a Junior at Azusa Pacific University back in my home-state of California. Aly is not only a part of the LGBTQ community at Azusa, but she is a co-leader of Haven, the underground LGBTQ community at this predominantly evangelical university.

Recently, Adam Ackley, an Azusa theology professor of fifteen years was fired for identifying himself as a transgender human being; however, I have got to note a friendly disclaimer. Though Adam no longer lives in the shadows of his identity, he also is being very peaceful thought this ordeal.

“Who would Jesus exclude from the table of love and grace?” Haven member, Margaret Van der Bie asks. “I’m convinced there is no exclusion, only constant invitation to God’s kingdom. APU’s motto is ‘God first;’ however, their practices and policies prove that it is money first, God second, and humanity last.”

When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus says to love God, and love people. All people. Simple, yet complex. Criminals, enemies, friends, family. Gay, straight, black, white, fat, thin, salty and sweet. Loving God and loving others is basically the “too long; didn’t read” of the hebrew law. Even though homosexuality is not a sin by any means, lets put the word “sin” away for a while.

In response to Adam’s termination, my sister and her friends in Haven have decided to push back. “I’m tired of my Christian educational institution hurting me and my friends. I don’t think it’s just, and I certainly don’t think it’s of God. We’re not trying to be rebellious, we just want to see change. We want to see humanization at the school we love” Alyson explains.

A professor of fifteen years was terminated for being himself. How are we to respond to that? Is religion more important than humanity? Is calling people sinners more important than what Jesus calls the most important part of the hebrew half?

Alyson partnered up with www.change.org and created a petition. If you choose humanity over religion– if you chose love over finger-pointing. If you choose equality over policy. Please. Take two seconds to sign this petition and then share it with your Facebook and Twitter friends.

So may the Lord bless you and keep you, as He has called you His own. May His presence be ever clear to you on this day, and may He plant in you a seed, that will give root to change.

Here is the link to the petition!

The future is in your hands.

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A Voice of Hope

This past week I decided to do an experimental question and answer time with my Twitter followers through a third party app. Going into it, I had no idea what type of questions I would receive, or if any questions would come in at all. I was curious what type of questions the people who follow me on Twitter were asking themselves regarding faith, politics, and morale–hoping they would include me in their wonder. I was shocked at how many questions began to roll in. Fifty. One-hundred. One-fifty. I was overwhelmed (in a good way.)

ImageI began to read and answer the questions. Some of the questions were regarding my personal life, some were silly. But I’d say 90% of the questions asked could be comprised into three categories. Suicide & cutting, sexuality, and young humans who were turned off by the whole church thing.

“Wouldn’t suicide just be, you know, another way to die?”

“I feel like I’ve wanted to die for about 7 years now, I was raised Catholic  & I’m sure we all know if I killed myself I wouldn’t even get to go to purgatory. Basically I’m unsure of how it could ever ‘get better’. Seems like bullshit to me.”

“Honestly, life just doesn’t seem worth it. Like, it’s not for everyone.”

“What are your views on drinking? I grew up in a church where you were going to hell if you even thought about it, but is it really a big deal if I have the occasional brewski?”

“Why do people say “my relationship with God is number one, and my relationship with you is second.’ My boyfriend believes in God and I don’t. He says that a lot…”

“I stopped going to church because I was so damn tired of ‘Christians’ telling me why my lifestyle and sexuality are wrong. I don’t care if it is honestly, but it’s nice to know you aren’t like the rest, you aren’t judgmental.”

“I came out to my dad a month ago, I really thought he’d be accepting of it, but he kicked me out. I haven’t been able to get ahold of him since then. He’s embarrassed that I’m his son. How can I undo all of this?”

“You’re the first person to tell me it’s okay for me to be gay. My dad is a pastor & my family was pretty disgusted when I told them. I haven’t told anyone else but I saw what you’ve said to others on here, and I just wanted to say thank you because I don’t want to kill myself anymore for being gay.”

It breaks my heart so much. It breaks my heart that the strong majority of the people participating in the Q&A are hurting at the fault of a sleeping church. What does it really mean to follow Jesus? What does it truly mean to participate in the kingdom of God? These are questions I’m asking myself more than anything during this season of my life.

I’m surrounded by human beings who desperately wish someone… anyone… would just accept them where you are right now. Join me. Let’s be inclusive. Let the good news sound: “You’re welcome here.” My prayer is that we as the church would plant seeds of hope, and from the cracks in their pain would emerge solidarity, giving root to peace in the hearts of the suffering. Be a voice of encouragement. Be a voice of hope.

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A Suffering Woman.

If there is one thing that I want my life to reflect, it’s honesty. Transparency. The problem with transparency is the second we write about how our hearts are struggling to accept a theological concept or fundamental part of Christendom, we get attacked instead of encouraged.

We try to sketch out a dialogue between the spirit and our hearts, but then when we run the blog we get criticized. We get rocks thrown at us for our journey and for our honesty.

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This is what’s going on in my heart! Pray for me! When I’m in pain, my words reflect that. When I’m happy- my words reflect that… my songs reflect that. I can’t hide behind the keyboard, pretending to be happy when I’m not–pretending to be spiritually satisfied when I’m not.  I want honesty for myself. I want transparency. My reliance on God doesn’t change. My attitude towards the spirit isn’t tainted when I’m hurting. Pain is a very real thing, and it’s okay to feel it. It’s okay to express it. We live in a world that teaches us not to show pain. I think this does more damage than good.

We read about when  Jesus was on his way with a faithful man to heal a his daughter in the book of Mark.  When he had a very special encounter with a very sick lady. I’m sure most of us are familiar with this story:

“So Jesus went with him. A large group of people followed. They crowded around him. A woman was there who had a sickness that made her bleed. It had lasted for 12 years. She had suffered a great deal, even though she had gone to many doctors. She had spent all the money she had. But she was getting worse, not better. Then she heard about Jesus. She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes.

She thought, “I just need to touch his clothes. Then I will be healed.” Right away her bleeding stopped. She felt in her body that her suffering was over.” (Mark 5:24-29 NIRV)

This lady was in a great deal of pain. Physically yes, but also emotionally. We have some ideas about how how sick people were treated during these times, so she probably felt like a little bit of an outcast.

Her pain was real.
Her hurt was real.
She knew it was real.
God knew it was real.

“If I could only touch his clothing! If I could only get close enough to Jesus! Maybe! Maybe then I can have all this brokenness taken away from me.” So she did. She cut the crowd and snuck behind Jesus and touched his clothing. Friends, right after this encounter, Jesus said something that absolutely blows my mind.

At once Jesus knew that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd. He asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people,” his disciples answered. “They are crowding against you. And you still ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around. He wanted to see who had touched him. Then the woman came and fell at his feet. She knew what had happened to her. She was shaking with fear. But she told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Dear woman, your faith has healed you. Go in peace. You are free from your suffering.” (Mark 5:30-34 NIRV)

“Who touched me?”

Jesus wants to know who touched him?! HA! He is standing in a crowd of people! Tons of people were touching him. That is such a weird question for them to hear Jesus ask. But Jesus knew that someone had touched him out of faith. The bible says that he felt his powers escape him.

So the lady falls at Jesus’ feet in fear and says “Jesus it was me. I needed your healing in my life. In my heart. In my body. I needed to be closer to you. I’m so sorry.”

So here’s my understanding of what Jesus says next:

“Miss, do not be sorry.  Let me just say- the fact that you are healed inside and out has nothing to do with the fact that you touched my nasty, dirty robe thing. You, my friend, are healed because you merely believed that I could heal you. You’re beautiful. You’re loved. Go in peace.”

Wow. What?!

Jesus, you’re saying I didn’t even need to touch you? Faith made me clean?

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It wasn’t religion that set her free. It was this ladies faith in one man. Jesus.

Guys, I don’t know if you believe it, but this is the good news of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to touch him to be made new. We don’t have to lay hands on him to be set free.

“It’s your faith that has healed you. It’s your faith that has set you free.”

So may the Lord bless you and keep you, as He has called you His own. May His presence be ever clear to you on this day, and may He plant in you a seed, that will give root to change.

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Human After All.

Somedays I just want to write.  Not that I have anything profound to say necessarily. I just get this weird desire to write. Flannery O’Connor once said that some days a writer can’t tell how they are truly feeling until they read their emotions written out on paper. Maybe this is what that is.

ImageI’ve been struggling a lot lately. The past year has been pretty rough. My hope and my prayer is that my writings provide an honest take on that pain. Is that weird? I actually hope that my poems, songs, and blog posts reflect the pain I’ve felt. What good is writing if you can’t be vulnerable and real? What good is thinking even if you’re not 100% honest with yourself.

The past year has been one giant battle of heartache, tough decisions,  judgement, and theological discernment. It’s been exciting, it’s been liberating, it’s been painful. During those times, I could feel my passions begin to snap. So I started asking questions. What do I believe? What’s real? What’s not?

I have a hard time calling myself a “Christian” because of all the pain Christians have caused in my own life. My faith in God is stronger than ever, even though I’ve been hurt so badly by people that call themselves Jesus lovers. When I began to ask myself why I believe the things I believe, I grew farther from religion, and I grew closer to Jesus. The price of this decision costed me a lot more than I thought it would, but that’s another conversation for another time.

When people hear that I’m a “Christian” they automatically put me in a box—automatically assuming that I fit the mold of someone who is offended by profanity, when the truth is, I really don’t give a shit (see what I did there?). They assume that I’m against marriage equality, not knowing that it’s one of the things I’m most passionate about. They assume that I am okay with non-rehabilitational sentencing such as the death penalty, when the reality is I’m 150% against the death penalty, and am beyond pained when God’s people are sentenced to death, despite their actions.

I don’t fit the Christian mold. I just don’t. It’s too tight of a box for me. I get claustrophobic. I’m reminded of Levi The Poet’s poem, “The Bride”. He talks about all the hate and exclusion that the church endorses.

We dive deep in the hebrew text. We search out ways to prove sinners to be sinners. Don’t get me wrong, I think that studying the bible is a great thing, but how dare you turn my love story into a sword? I’m offended, and it’s not okay.

I no longer feel the need to be divine. I no longer feel the need to be religious. Human I was born, and human I will die. God, use me. Help me to be what you’ve created me to be. Out of the reck I rise, Lord. Human after all. I need you. Amen.

And religion, It’s been real, but I think this is the end of the road for us.

I’ve met someone else. His name is Jesus.

So may the Lord bless you and keep you, as He has called you His own. May His presence be ever clear to you on this day, and may He plant in you a seed, that will give root to change.

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