About the Evil Adolf Hitler


I’ve been learning about Hitler. Everyone kept comparing Donald Trump to Hitler, so I decided I wanted to know what Hitler was actually like. I wanted to know the details of his person, especially the things that had no connection to the evils he perpetrated. So I’ve been carting an enormous book to and from work with Hitler’s pic on the front. Such a book tends to start conversations.

Hitler is the epitome of evil. Whenever someone is looking for the most evil example of a human being, she evokes images of the Holocaust and the man who is most responsible.

Funny thing: when you actually study Hitler, you realize he was kind of artsy and adorable. I know he played a major role in the murders of millions, but if you take away everything he did as German Chancellor and Dictator, and only look at his personal life, you end up seeing him really differently. He wanted to be an artist. He loved going to the theater/symphony/museums. He loved his mom and carried a picture of her with him always. He was awkward with the ladies to the extent that people who knew him teased him as being prudish. He didn’t drink or smoke. He loved dogs and teaching them to do tricks. He was a vegetarian. I haven’t gotten far enough in the biography to be sure about this, but I’m pretty sure he only loved one woman in his life and was completely faithful to  her.

I bring this up because I had a fascinating conversation with my boss about human nature. My boss self-identifies as a Christian who believes that everyone is going to go to Heaven. She believes a lot of things that don’t really fit with the Christian Bible, and I’m not sure she realizes how many tenets of the faith she actually disagrees with… if she were aware, I think she might reconsider the label, or maybe she wouldn’t. She attends church and helps out with the youth group. She’s proud of her Christianity.

Somehow, my boss and I started talking about a documentary I recently watched, called Blindspot: Hitler’s Secretary. It’s a great movie. It’s really just interviews with Traudl Junge, who was one of Hitler’s secretaries, and actually dictated his last will and testament. She was in the bunker when he committed suicide, and she was completely lost to history until about 2001, when she told her story. In 2002, she died.

It’s one of the most engaging interviews I’ve ever watched, because she talks about how hard it was for her to discover the atrocities committed by Hitler, who she’d actually liked.

The weird thing about the conversation with my boss was that she was adamant that Hitler had done horrible things to his secretaries. She interrupted me to claim that he’d slept with them. She even implied that he raped them. And when I told her that wasn’t true, and that men actually teased him for being a prude, she said that he may not have slept with them, but he urinated on them. I told her there wasn’t any evidence of that, but she insisted that her husband had been watching some show that had that on it. I said I would believe it when she showed me a reliable source that corroborated her claim, because everything I’d read said that he was actually a very principled man in his personal life. I told her about his mom, his love of art, his dogs…

And she just wouldn’t believe that he could have been kind to his secretaries.

I said something like, “It must be hard to believe that he could be both kind and evil at the same time,” and she said it wasn’t possible.

This was the moment I probably should’ve turned back. After all, she is my boss. But I saw it as an opportunity, and she talks about Christianity to me nearly every week, telling me what she believes… so I figured it was fair game.

I said something about how all people have both evil and kindness in them; I do both kind and evil things.

She responded by saying that I might do evil things, but I’m not evil.

I told her that I am evil. Everyone is evil.

She acted as if it’s very unChristian of me to say such things and how could I say that? And I said that’s the point of Christianity. The fact that we’re evil is the whole point of salvation… our evil is what we need salvation from…

She said something about how if we look at the big picture like that, then sure… we’re all evil.

It’s difficult for a self-proclaimed Christian to argue that humans don’t need salvation from evil, but it’s hard for me to describe how much it worries me that her day-to-day beliefs suggest that a man can’t murder millions and yet love his mom. It worries me that she thinks murder is a different kind of evil that’s beyond the evil within her.

She and I were talking about infidelity a few months ago. I don’t remember how we got into that conversation either, but she was adamant that she could never forgive a man who cheated on his wife, and she was surprised I was willing to forgive.

It’s always eye-opening to me to talk to people who believe evil is a term that can only be applied to men who’ve done worse than they’ve done. My boss has never murdered or cheated on her spouse, so men who cheat and Adolf Hitler can rightfully be labeled as evil. She wasn’t comfortable labeling me as evil because I’m a victim advocate who helps out at my church. She isn’t comfortable labeling herself as evil… Evil is the slayer of a race, who urinates on his underlings, who was so bad he couldn’t possibly have been kind to anyone in his life. Evil isn’t the vegetarian prude, who dreamed of becoming an artist, loved one woman, loved dogs, and loved his mom… She (and so many self-proclaimed Christians) prefer the narrative where evil has nothing in common with us…

The Status that Can Never be Updated


Something Lori said to me about six weeks ago has stayed on my mind, because it so reflects the gospel. She was talking about her family, and she said that you can be completely, fiercely angry with family and they can be completely, fiercely angry with you, but your status doesn’t change: you’re still family. And the next time you talk, family doesn’t think less of you.

I’ve struggled for what seems like ages with the fact that my status with family changed to the degree that I was no longer welcome at the holidays. I’ve struggled with where the line is that just cannot be crossed without a status update: ___________ is no longer sisters with Katie James…

I almost have a numbness to people saying they don’t want me as around; it feels like it happens all the time. It’s really only a few times that it’s happened, but sometimes I think it’s my fault. I think about how I must’ve really done something terrible… I must be a terrible person for family not to want me.

It’s actually been the absurd responses of people who don’t know me very well that have most steadied my nerves about it. They say things like, “What did you do? Have you been selling drugs?” or “They must’ve found out about that time you shot a guy and had to get the hell out of Reno.” People saying that to me is so incredibly and unexpectedly helpful, because it reminds me that I’m not an uncommonly bad person. It helps me put it into perspective… I was disowned because I wrote a blog post… or because I wasn’t good at being a Maid of Honor… or because I…

Sticking with people is really difficult and painful. There’s no denying it. I get that it’s really stressful to work out conflict, and it’s much simpler to just find a person to replace me. There are endless masses who are looking for a new spouse/friend/sister/etc… at the very same moment someone has decided it’s time to move on from me.

But I wonder how it would change the world if each of us looked at our lives right now, listed the top ten most important people to us, and determined we would stick by them no matter what…

Mom, Dad, Jennifer, Dave, Lisa, Lori, Steve, Ashly, Matt, Lauren, and Danny.

Okay, so I picked 11 – that’s not the point.

What if we looked at our lives and committed unconditionally to however many people…?

I really struggle sometimes to believe that my status before God is consistent – that He adopted me once and for all – that He looks at me like I’m His daughter every single day and every single moment. I struggle to believe that He sees me as righteous, blameless, and pure. It’s honestly the greatest struggle of faith to trust that Jesus took care of it and I’m okay. There’s nothing more I can do to be cleaner and more perfect before God. My status before Him is secure.

I think it would be easier to believe if my status before my friends/sister/coworkers/etc… wasn’t so subject to change. I’m going to try to be better at letting those closest to me know that their status isn’t subject to change.

The Sanitization of Christ: People Cannot be Good Enough


I’ve really struggled with how to write this post. This is the third post in a series that I expected to have finished writing by now, but I got hung up writing this one.

If you want to look at the other two posts in this series, you can scroll and click and find them yourself, because I’m too lazy to give you a link.

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The important doctrine to believe here is that no person can be good enough to earn her own salvation. The problem I’m having with this post is that morality does not have a straight-forward, simple function within Christianity. Morality is important in Christianity, even crucial, but it’s also paradoxically unimportant.

It’s confusing, even if the sole influence on your beliefs about morality is the Bible. However, most people are also influenced by strange beliefs that have nothing to do with the Bible. Take, for instance, the scales at the pearly gates. Someone, somewhere, came up with the idea that a person’s morality will be weighed, and as long as the good outweighs the bad, she’ll get admitted into Heaven. Problem: these scales are not at all Biblical.

Another complication with this post is how desperately I want to rely on the Old Testament for my biblical support. I said I wasn’t going to do that, but the Old Testament is morality-heavy. Reading the book of Leviticus is all it really takes for me to realize that I am not capable of living up to the law of God.

So… with those complications/challenges in mind, let us strike out into the land of Things the Bible does actually say:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8-9

I have to use these two verses as building blocks. I tried not to, because I’d rather have three verses that state my point, rather than building a foundation to my point, but I really don’t see a way not to start here.

First, “the wages of sin is death…” this means that there is a cost of sin, and that cost is death. There is some interesting interchanging going on with the word death, because it could probably mean both physical death and spiritual death. Regardless, we have to start out by understanding that there is a cost that must be paid for every sin.

Second, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” this is pretty explicit; all people sin.

Third, “the free gift of God is eternal life…” Gifts are given, while trophies are earned. Trying to earn a gift is actually kind of offensive. If I give you a book because we’re friends, and you go online, find out how much the book costs, and give me the dollar amount tomorrow, I’m going to be pissed, because you clearly don’t understand the nature of gifts.

*There is more we can dig out of those two verses, and I didn’t want to cut off anything about God and Jesus, but I’m going to move forward.

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“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

This is the classic verse that Christians quote to prove this point, and it’s a good one, because it explicitly states that a person’s salvation is not of her own doing.

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“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

This is also a passage that lots of Christians know and quote. I’m using it because the verse from Ephesians stops short of explaining what/Who the gift is that saves us. This verse addresses that, and I want to spend some time on it.

Unfortunately, John 14:6 is a verse that’s often wielded, like a weapon, against anyone who isn’t a Christian. It’s something people use to say that people who don’t believe in Jesus are going to burn in Hell, and I suppose it’s effective for that, but I want to go back to just a scoash before this verse, because I think Jesus spoke those words as a comfort, rather than a battering ram. Also, I think the chapter break interrupts an important flow.

John, chapter 13 deals with the Last Supper. It’s a gorgeous depth of the final things Jesus tells His disciples. It’s Him washing their feet, telling them to love one another after He’s gone. The chapter comes to a close when Peter asks Jesus where He is going and, in his arrogance, Peter basically says, “I’ll follow you anywhere. I will die for You.” Jesus corrects Peter and says that actually he (Peter) is going to betray Him (Jesus).

Then the chapter ends.

However, in the very next verse, Jesus tells the disciples not to let their hearts be troubled, and I feel like it’s meant to flow. You are going to deny me three times, but don’t get caught up on that. There’s something more important…

I’ve not read this anywhere. I’ve not looked at commentaries, so we are purely in the land of Katie reading a passage and explaining what she thinks it means.

I believe Jesus is trying to show the disciples that their betrayals of Him should not break them. If they will believe in God and believe in Him (Jesus) – trust that He is preparing a place for them in Heaven, then they will be with Him and the Father in Heaven. I believe He is affectionately comforting them that when they betray Him, they need not hang themselves, because their salvation never rested in their own choices and actions. It always rested only in Him. They don’t need a map so that they can follow Him. They don’t need to know where He is going… He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and He has and will take care of all they require.

I think this verse is really a gentle, beautiful verse, because it’s God telling us He will pay the wages of our betrayal of Him.

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The point of the gospel – the point of Christianity – is that no one is good enough. That’s why Jesus came to Earth. That’s why He was tempted, but did not betray His Father. That’s why He died. He paid wages that no one else can pay.

The Sanitization of Christ: God is Better


There are mountaintop moments in every person’s life.

For me, there was one such moment as I stood on a hill in Mongolia at 5:30 a.m. I’d woken up early to have some time away from the 11 people on my team. For a couple of weeks, I’d been in the introvert’s worst nightmare having trained with 100 people in Colorado, sharing a room, eating meals with all 100 of them, never having a moment for myself. After stateside training, there were several days in airports, on buses, in hotels, and in training rooms in Beijing. Then, our numbers lessened for a few days to 50 when we arrived in U.B. (Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capitol). We did a few more days of training there, and finally 12 of us went on to spend the summer in Zuunmod, a town about an hour outside of U.B.

I’d gone for a run through town and impulsively continued to hike across a large field filled with goats, across a road, and to the top of a huge hill with a strange, man-made mound of rocks on top of it, surrounded by the bones of animals sacrificed over the years. I stood there looking out across the open expanse, and the air felt different. That’s what I love the most about international travel. If you pay attention, you can take a place in through your senses the moment you arrive. The air in Zuunmod was unpolluted, crisp, chilled, and, for me, it was pregnant with hope. It was the moment of a lifetime.

And yet, God is better.

As I was thinking about how to write this post, I really struggled, because there’s cliché to saying that God is great or holy or good. Of course Christians believe that about God, right? That’s one of those things that’s a given… except that it’s really not.

Last week, I posted about why Christians believe men are evil. You can get to that post by clicking here.

This week, I’m writing the second post in a series called: The Sanitization of Christ. While the idea that men are evil is sanitized for obvious reasons, it probably seems a bit of a stretch to say that Christians sanitize the idea of God being better than everything. I promise, it isn’t.

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Phillipians 3:7-8

“Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and counted them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”

I took this a little bit out of context, because Paul is writing here primarily about counting his own righteousness as rubbish, but the thing about Christianity is that Christians are to consider everything in their lives as rubbish in contrast to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus…”

This is really difficult, and I struggle with it a lot. I am NOT saying that a person who struggles with this is not a Christian. What I AM saying is that a Christian must try to view the most sublime experiences in her life, the closest people in her life, and the achievement of her most secret ambitions as rubbish next to Christ.

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Matthew 10:37

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

This is one of those verses that aches, because it’s about the love of your life, your family, your friends. It’s about people who have meant the world.

And yet, Jesus, Himself said those people can’t be primary. The most out-spoken Christians take an enormous amount of pride in saying that they put their families first. They judge people around them as less, because they detest the idea of a person putting his job or his hobbies first. And yet, Jesus specifically condemns people who put family first. He said that He has to be more to you than people are.

It is a cheap and false Christianity to believe that any person can be more important than Christ is. Christ claims all (every part of the being) of His followers, not the left-overs after family has had what they want.

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*This last one is a little long, and pulled from context, but it provides some poetic descriptions of God’s greatness. It’s in the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, so the people for whom he gives thanks are the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:16 – 23

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

The sheer volume of doctrine in that passage is overwhelming, so I want to draw out the idea that God the Father “put all things under his [Jesus’s] feet.”

Mongolia is a footstool to God’s enormity.

The only man I’ve loved is a footstool.

My favorite book is a footstool.

My family is a footstool.

Camping at the foot of an iceberg in Peru is a footstool.

Matt and Ashly are a footstool.

Everything is a footstool. Everything and everyone is rubbish.

That’s what Christianity says and is.

When I look at what the New Testament says about God’s ranking in my life among the most valuable people, belongings, and experiences, I have to either concede that they are a footstool God created for Himself, and therefore, insignificant next to Him OR I have to say that the Bible didn’t mean what it says and isn’t the infallible word of God – that Christianity isn’t based on something that really happened, but is rather something I can invent for myself. And, if I can invent it for myself, it is fiction.

Mongolia was awesome. It really, really was, but Christ requires that my heart love him more than it loves Mongolia. He requires that my love of people/mountaintops exist in the shadow of my love for Him.

That is why people sanitize Christianity… they want to love mountaintops more than they love Christ, which Christ, Himself, said makes men and women unworthy of Him.

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Finally, I want to deal with one crucial implication of believing that God is better than everything.

If God is better than I am, you are, my friends and family are, Mongolia is, books are, money is… If He is greater than everything, then He can rescue me. If He isn’t, then nothing can rescue me.

I am evil (See previous post) and deserve to be punished for my evil. You are evil and deserve to be punished for your evil. Everyone I know is evil and everyone who exists is evil… If that is true, then I cannot save you and you cannot save me. The Dali Lama, President Obama, and the Pope are all evil. They cannot save themselves, and certainly cannot save me.

We need Someone better. That is the basis of Christianity. Christ entered the world because of our evil and our need for Someone better…

Have a lovely Easter and think on Who Jesus was and is.

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More Resources:

In an effort to focus on only New Testament passages and only three of them, I’ve left out some of the most poignant pieces of scripture that point to how great God truly is, so I want to quickly refer to them here so that we don’t end up in a place where we feel forced into a doctrine that says God is great, rather than being wooed into it. Here are some passages that woo me every time I think on them.

  1. “In the beginning, God…” Genesis 1 is a great place to see the surpassing greatness of God, as He speaks creation into being.
  2. “In the beginning was the Word…” John 1 is a great place to see how Jesus fits into Genesis 1 and to marvel at the idea of a God Who relinquished deity to rescue his murderers.
  3. “Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’” Exodus 33:12-23 is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture, because it makes tangible my ever-present plea: God – please show me Your glory.
  4. “…stop and consider the wondrous works of God…” The last ten chapters of Job (32-42) are so difficult and beautiful. They make my entire point for me, because both Elihu and God answer Job’s tragedy by pointing to the greatness of God in comparison to all else.

There are other passages. The Book of Psalms, for instance, is a great place to go to see the greatness of God. The whole Bible proclaims the greatness of God, although it’s more explicit at some times than it is at others.

And lastly, a book that changed my life and revealed God’s greatness to me is called Knowledge of the Holy. It’s by A.W. Tozer.

The Sanitization of Christ Series: Man is Evil


We were asked to go around the room and put a label to our spirituality. While I felt the request was really a bad idea to begin with, the results staggered me a bit.

In a secular setting, everyone claimed Christianity of one sort or another (Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc…) and everyone described Christianity as all-accepting. At first, I was pretty angry. Then, as it’s bled into me a little bit more over the past few days, I started to feel really sad.

In my favorite sermon, Matt Chandler describes unregenerate faith (people who attend church every day, but don’t actually know God) as inoculation to the faith – getting just enough of it never to fully experience it.

That’s really sad.

It’s out of a brokenheartedness over misconceptions about Christ that I thought I’d write a series of posts on what Christians actually believe. I’m not going to go at this in a comprehensive way. That would be impossible. I’m only going to write what I believe it’s necessary to write to combat the god who doesn’t condemn anyone and the christianity in which everyone gets into Heaven.

The basics:

  1. People are evil and deserve Hell.
  2. God is better…
  3. People cannot be good enough.
  4. Jesus died the death humans deserved.
  5. Some people will receive justice, while others receive unmerited grace.

I’m going to try not to go crazy citing all over the place here, but I’m also going to try to support each of these claims with three passages from the New Testament. Although I believe the Old Testament is equally valuable as a source of support for these claims, I don’t want to deal with the argument that God was different in the New Testament.

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On the subject of evil, one of the more commonly cited passages is Romans 3:10-18 (although I’m going to stop at verse 13 for the sake of brevity):

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Although this is New Testament citing Old Testament, I think it’s fair to use just about anything Paul wrote, because he was most definitely after Jesus, and it’s impossible to say that he was writing about pre-Jesus God.

We could also go into John 2:24 & 25:

“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

Although it’s not explicitly stated here, there is an implication that man is evil.

Jesus does explicitly state that man is evil in Luke 11:13:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…”

I particularly like this one, because the verse isn’t even about man being evil. It’s a foregone conclusion that man is evil.

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So… if I am a Christian, I either have to concede that Jesus said some things that aren’t true and man isn’t evil, or I have to figure that it must be true if God said it.

If I decide the former is true, I end up down the rabbit hole of why-the-hell-do-I-worship-a-god-who-lies? (or possibly doesn’t know the truth)… However, I, myself, get to feel a little bit better about my own heart. God shrinks, and I expand.

The result, however, of believing that man is inherently evil is really interesting, because the rabbit hole I jump down in leads to the realization that I, myself, am evil. There are both humility and excruciating vulnerability in me when I admit I’m evil. Admitting I’m evil leads to admitting that justice would be served if I burned.

I actually think it’s impossible to be one of those severe, Bible-thumping Christians when I spend time thinking on the implications of man’s evil nature. A Christian who believes she, herself, is evil, really can’t stand on a corner holding a sign saying that “God hates fags.” She can’t think she’s better than others are, because her own sin is ever before her. She knows the evil of her own heart.

So, while it’s a cleaner, seemingly gentler thing to say that people are imperfect, but not evil, it ultimately does the opposite of sanitizing the faith and making it accessible to non-believers; it causes Christians to believe their goodness can be measured by comparison to others. It causes me to think I’m better than you are because you use the F-bomb or you watched an R-rated movie last week or you drank three glasses of wine and I only drank one. It causes me to think I’m the best student in the class and God owes me a gold star for a job well-done. It causes me to believe that I don’t need rescue; I’m okay without God…

The more fully I believe I am evil, the more fully I believe I need God, and the more clearly I see His glory and goodness for saving a wretch like me.

 

The Secrecy of Prayer


I’ve been reading a book called Intimacy by Henri Nouwen. I know what the title sounds like, but I promise it isn’t a book about sex and/or romance. It touches on both of those topics, but it’s primarily about intimacy with God and others. It’s worth noting that Henri Nouwen comes from a Catholic ish perspective, which is interesting, because I think he was a priest… i.e. no sex in his life.

On page one of the book, Nouwen sets out his purpose as follows:

“I wrote on different occasions, for different people, with different questions in mind. I wrote not to solve a problem or formulate a theory but to respond to men and women who wanted to share their struggles in trying to find their vocation in this chaotic world.”

With that purpose in mind, I tried to be a good audience and to take Nouwen on his terms rather than my own, and though I disagreed with him on many a point, I was deeply touched by the chapter he wrote on prayer.

Nouwen had the privilege of reading the prayers of various college students during the Vietnam war. Though it irked me that he critiqued excerpts from the various prayers he included in the book, as if there can be a rubric for assessing a person’s conversations with the Almighty, I felt joy and honor in being able to hear/read the deepest longings, fears, joys… of the hearts of others.

In fact, the intimacy I felt with people I’ve never met, many of whom are likely deceased, got me to thinking about my own prayers and what I tend to say (or not to say) to God. I thought about how valuable it would be for each of us to see other people’s prayers, read them, feel them, thinking them… how much better prepared we would be to have our own conversations with God if only we had a sense of how other people talk to Him. And yet, it seems impossible for us not to hold our prayers close to our hearts, secret and safe.

Therefore, though my prayers often feel embarrassing and inadequate to me, I thought it would be interesting for me to go ahead and post some of my most often-repeated prayers.

  1. “Help __________ go smoothly.”
  2. “Be with me and be my Abba.”
  3. “Use me.”
  4. “Why am I still here?”
  5. “Help me stop doing _________.”
  6. “Hold me in the palm of Your hand. Shelter me in the shadow of Your wings.”
  7. “Help me to know You.”
  8. “Help me to communicate _________well to __________.”
  9. “Draw ________ into Yourself and help him/her to know You  more fully.”
  10. “Be glorified in my life so that just one more might be saved, like Shindler’s List.”

 

The thing that struck me as I thought over these prayers, which I lean on as stability in my life, is how often I ask God to do the things that He has promised to do, as if I don’t trust Him to be as good as He says He is. The other thing that struck me is how selfish most of my prayers are. They’re about the insecurities I’m feeling, both in relation to God and in relation to the world.

Also, though I always end by thanking God for Jesus and by saying, “It’s in Jesus’s name I pray. Amen,” Jesus, for the most part, is absent from my prayers.

The Moral Dilemma


It’s been quite awhile since I’ve experienced a legit moral dilemma. I’m not the type to struggle so much as I rush in the second I believe I know what’s right, even if it’s not the thing I want to do. I go at morality like I go at band-aids… just get it over with and things can begin to heal. Another way of saying it is that I try to be single-minded in obedience to the extent that I sprint to whatever I believe is obedient, for fear that disobedience may have a chance to churn around in my thoughts and tempt me. I’ve learned that it’s easier just to immediately obey, and I definitely don’t do so because I’m oh-so-very obedient; I do it because I’m terrified of myself and of God. The worst times in my life have occurred in the time between realizing what would be right and acting on that belief.

This time, however, I’m feeling less certain about what obedience is for me. I’m not in the right position for my job to be as clear-cut.

Situation: Some acquaintances of mine are getting divorced because the husband is gay. They are active in the church and would certainly consider themselves to be believers. Another acquaintance of mine is their pastor and brother-in-law (he is married to the sister of the wife who is getting the divorce). To complicate matters further, their church is currently merging with another church and brother-in-law is stepping down as head pastor. That’s what I’ve heard, at least. Finally, brother-in-law is also a Realtor and he helped the couple sell their house when they decided to separate.

This whole thing is… wrong. I don’t say that because I feel like it’s wrong. In many ways, I feel like it’s far enough removed from me that I shouldn’t care. Then, however, I was talking about this with some friends and one of them was all, “He made financial gain off their divorce?”

At the time, all I said was, “Yeah, he did.”

Since then, that conversation has been sinking into me, and I’m irritated. Some of my other friends are letting the gay husband live with them while the separation gets worked out. They are also believers.

The Bible is not silent on this issue. I wish it was, but it isn’t. In fact, the Bible is pretty much crystal clear on how to handle situations where Christians choose willful disobedience.

I’m not unsympathetic. It would be easy for me to write this and come off like a bigoted homophobe, so I just want to throw it out there that I’ve literally (I do mean literally; I don’t mean figuratively, but with emphasis)… I’ve literally written a book on this topic because it is so close to my heart. I’ve only been in love once in my life, and it was with a gay Christian.

So, don’t get me wrong here… I don’t necessarily even agree with God about how this should be handled. I often struggle with the harshness of 1 Corinthians, where it commands that believers don’t even associate with a brother who is living in sexual immorality. The point, however, is not how I feel or how anyone feels.

The point is that truly believing in God requires us to give up our right to make our own decisions about morality. Rather, we submit our sense of morality to God, because we believe He is greater, wiser, more gracious, more just… than we are… especially when we don’t understand Him…

That is the core of Christianity.

I’m not sure how to explain it further other than to refer to the Bible. Christians do not belong to themselves. They were purchased by the blood of God. Therefore, everything about them belongs to God. Their morality is not their own; it is God’s.

When we start from there, it becomes obvious that the church and its leaders ought to press this couple. The church ought to seek their reconciliation. Church leaders ought to refuse to aid in this divorce.

Tragically, church leaders are aiding in the divorce and prospering because of it.

So… what do I do?

In the absence of others standing up, do I have a responsibility to say or do something? I’m not asking what you, my readers would do; I’m asking what God would have me do.

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Way back when, I attended the church that all of the people mentioned above attend. Before I started attending, I went on their website and read all of their core beliefs. While I was reading, I found a shit-ton of grammatical errors. They were not stylistic choices or typos. They were the sort of errors that must be corrected because they make the writer seem incompetent and some of them even distort meaning.

So… being how I am, I emailed the pastor with a list of corrections to one particular page on the website. I didn’t have time to correct the entire website, and I didn’t want to be an ass, so I chose one specific page that I thought was most important to fix, and I sent the corrections.

The pastor responded kindly, made the corrections, and it was all fine.

Not having found any particularly blasphemous beliefs stated on their website, I started attending that church. Within months, I ended up leaving because I began to see things. What I saw made me believe they were disobedient in a few specific ways. Additionally, much of the time when the church was not being disobedient, they were approaching biblical truth in a shallow manner.

That was something like 18 months ago, I think. It may have been more like 2 years. I don’t know.

When I left the church, I thought about bringing my concerns to church leadership, but decided against it. I decided it wasn’t my place, and that God would do what He willed with that church.

Bringing all of that into the context of my question, do I have a responsibility to contact the pastor again and point out his errors? It’s such a sucky thing to do…

I’m not afraid to do so – obviously, I’m the type who tells people when they’ve ended a sentence with a preposition – but I find myself in the same struggle I had when I left that church. I find myself thinking that it’s not my place and that God will do with them as He will. I also feel so tired of being that person who is the doctrine police. Being the grammar police is one thing. It’s a silly compulsion. The doctrine police, however, is a whole other thing. Not only do I feel rude when I’m correcting someone’s doctrine, but I also feel young and I think, “Who do I think I am?”

I wish the people writing websites would police their own grammar and that pastors would police their own doctrine and practical theology. But, of course, we live in a fallen world where things are so often broken.

Am I being lazy? Am I getting it wrong similarly to the way Jonah got it wrong, but for a different reason? He didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew they’d repent and be saved. I don’t want to go to this pastor because I believe he will not repent, and he (and several of my other friends) will hate me. I don’t care so much about their hate as an emotion or as negative perceptions of me… I care about the hassle. I don’t want this fight. If I were to choose a battle for myself, this wouldn’t be it.

Am I far enough removed that the task of telling the truth belongs to someone else? Part of me genuinely believes I should say nothing.