The Importance of Getting Angry

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I got really angry the other night. I was at a friends house and I made the mistake of openly questioning the Church’s traditional teaching on homosexuality. What happened next was a two hour severe tongue lashing, lasting well into the dead of night.

 

Questions concerning a variety of interpretations, cultural circumstances, varying translations, and the Church’s notorious failures in understanding scripture (flat earth, heliocentrism, manifest destiny, the genocide of native Americans, anti-semitism, the rights of women, slavery, interracial marriage and so so much more)- Anything, it seemed, was irrelevant. He said as much.

“Look, I love the sinner, but I HATE the sin. Same way I love adulterers and rapists and so on.”

 

“Gays just weird me out- I believe that to be, like, the Holy Spirit convicting me or something.”

 

“I haven’t had to deal with this much any way. All I know is what God says and anything different than that… well, is just not God.”

 

Needless to say, I didn’t kiss him goodnight.

I darted out into the frigid dark like Hell’s worst child.



 

When I was little I knew that anger was wrong. On my bedroom wall I taped up the verse “Be slow to get angry” and I looked at it every time I threw a mean tantrum. Most of the time, I needed those words. My fits were just growing pains on the way to adulthood. They were unbecoming of a Christian secure in his seat at the table.

The real trouble with anger, I learned, is letting it cook too long. Taking its hand as it leads us down to the dark cabin of bitterness.

But maybe, if just for a spell, it can be the splash of water our hearts desperately need. Maybe sometimes, we’re just not angry enough. Maybe growth isn’t possible until we scorch the earth.

 

And that’s exactly what I did.

 

I went into my room, kicked the Bible off my bed and scratched away at my journal. I thought through all the things I wish I would’ve said and made a script for the second round. I thought through all the ugliness in Christianity today and wondered how the gospel had become such a vapid desolate space. Toxic to the atypical. The cupboard inside of me where I stored all of the things that I thought made faith real was billowing out onto the floor. Evangelicalism, Sola Scriptura and Fundamentalism all breaking to bits on the ground.

 

Whatever faith remained inside was limping.

 

Until it wasn’t.

I picked up the Book and ran my fingers across its pages. So many long lost places of refuge, so much calm imparted. Flickering lights, marking moments when my life changed. And abruptly, I felt myself drift away.

It was like a swelling gale sending the air back to my lungs. A sweet smell from the days when my faith had muscle. Doing His part to clean me out. Turning over tables like He was back in the temple. Knocking and breaking to get to me. Stirring the fire and rhythm and fight back into my soul. Reassuring me that He is who He said He was and that I will forever and always be His boy. That’s it.

And before I knew it, my knees hit ground to a symphony of Song of Songs 2 and whispered promises of I’m not like them. Images emerge of Hagar at the desert spring, rediscovering the God that Sees Me. All of me, adoring me. This old love that never loses its freshness.

 

And it hit me then and there that this holy ground, my acre, my faith, was never supposed to be overrun with such waste in the first place. Their swarming theology and their snap judgments were never going to give me this kind of peace. This kind of freedom.

 

This space is for my wild and weary heart,

Where I separate the fraud from the Father.

And find so much relief in that discrepancy.

 



 

Anger attacks anything that wars against the world we know. Sometimes we are wrong and anger is just an obstacle in our journey to becoming better. But there are times when we’re not wrong and anger is our loyalty under duress. It is our instinctive resistance towards anything that twists what we know in our gut to be true. Whatever rips away at our redemption.

 

In two hours my tender loving Abba became a mean old drunk. And the shifting of the earth, the desecration of that relationship, plucked at every vein my body.

 

Until He emerged again with His heart beating to the same rhythms and aches as my own. One that calls out Come away, my love, my lovely one come! the winter has past, the rains are over and gone.

 

And the anger recedes as I am overcome by His adoration.

Just peace.

Just love.

Just warmth.

Simple and more than enough.

RR

 

Sundays with Bey

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Last night I got a chance to catch some of the HBO Documentary Beyonce: Life is But a Dream. I wasn’t planning on it because I don’t care too much about the lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous, but I happened to find myself in the right place at the right time.

Bey was opening up about her daughter and how she is adjusting to the more domestic life. I was truly caught off guard by what would be the most emotional bit of her entire documentary.

Her belief in God.

Watching this I cringed because I remember all the snap judgments and crass remarks made by Christians about Beyonce, just a few weeks ago, on Superbowl Sunday. Within a span of ten minutes evangelicals condemned her as a Harlot, a temptress out to take down our young men and women of faith. Church parents freaked and shut off the TV and vowed that come garbage day, those albums would be at the bottom of the bucket.

And then, I drift back a bit further to when I’m in the first grade, clutching my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone… To this day I still treasure those books for the adventures they took me on, but also for making me realize how absurd our Christian culture can be. JK Rowling was called a witch and a Satanist and a hack, by a lot of folks who refused to even read a page she wrote. My friend’s mom got the school board to purge all of her books off the library shelf. Only years later would Christians come around and realize that JK Rowling is a Christ follower. Her books were inspired by the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. Better late than never I guess.

Why, dear brethren, is different always so dangerous? Why must we continue to wag fingers at people and ideas that we know nothing of?

If only our voice was as beautiful as Beyonce’s or imaginative as the writings of JK Rowling. Maybe then we might stop being the loud drunk in the corner of the Subway car.

Maybe we might take a trip to Hogwarts and absorb the words of Dumbledore, telling Tom Riddle:

You place too much importance… on the so-called purity of blood!  You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!

 

Blessings,

RR

PS: The God piece starts around 1:20

 

 

I am a Scandal in the Evangelical Conscience

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This post, and maybe one follow up, is inspired by the familiar writings of growing up evangelical on Addie Zierman’s blog. It was also inspired by Rachel Held Evans’ latest: The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart

~~~

There I am, alone in my study, with a shoe box of days gone by. In my hands I hold that old Polaroid picture. Its faded and still tinted with orange. Me in my cut off jeans and Jesus Freak tee. My arms around friends, with WWJD dangling and bouncing off our wrists. I was brace-faced and brave, standing before a crowd of freaks like me. This was my pilgrimage to my Mecca- this was… the Sonshine Music festival.

Keeping eye contact with that thirteen year old kid, I bring it close to my face and softly whisper, “Oh buddy… so much I have to tell you, so much to… warn you, but yet… (sigh) I cannot.” The picture slips through my fingertips, cleansing my hands and conscience as it floats down to its shoe box burial. And back into the blanket I fall, shamelessly sipping from a glass of Cabernet. The dimly lit room by the fire, making this my oasis and refuge. Oh, the memoirs of a Billy Graham groupie.

~~~

When I take trips down memory lane, I don’t stop and linger here. I tend to cover my eyes and pretend I don’t hear myself reciting old clichés. Those mementos along the trail from where we were to where we are today are both comical and wretched. Like your naked baby albums and your mom’s pride and your brand new friends over.

We can all look back now and mock our tween selves with our Jesus Freak cut offs and our wrist acronyms. We can blush and snicker and say, wow! Weren’t we brave? And split-our-sides when we remember the excitement of a celeb wearing a cross. When Heaven became so Hip and we’d think, You and me, Kirk Cameron… we… we are going to be best friends after this apocalypse thing is over with. (which we always thought was one bad president away).

I was the quintessential evangelical boy.

On the frontlines of faith, I was your sword-wielding soldier. I was the saint leading your prayer circle on See You At The Pole Day. I was that witness with flyers for your next Young Life gathering. I was the small forward for your Church Basketball team. I was your Republican. I was your Wednesday night regular. I was in two Bible studies at once. I was there every Sunday.

And I was a fraud

and I was afraid.

But I tried to be brave, because If God is for me, who can be against me?

I regretfully reply to that boy in the Polaroid,

“Honestly, a lot.”

The term “evangelical” is rooted in the word “gospel” which means “good news”, but this “good news” had bad news for me. I wasn’t invited. I was an interloper. A refugee behind enemy lines. A wannabe. Too much of a freak for the Jesus Freaks. I was a lackey and they were sons and daughters. I was gay and I was Christian and they said it wasn’t possible, because Christ didn’t die for people like that.

But I tried to convince Him anyway.

With every bracelet, baptism, church revival, witness, and prayer… I wished to crawl under their rope lines unseen. I just thought, if I looked the part, if I stood at the very front of the altar calls, sang loud enough at Sonshine and spread the good news to as many as would hear, maybe the gospel would make an exception for an outcast like me. Maybe I could earn it. Maybe this God graded more on effort.

But as the chorus of my peers grew louder against gays, my courage crashed and burned. Bravery bent before such steep odds. Somewhere between James Dobson radio and Youth Pastor bullying- It became crystal clear that God wanted nothing to do with me. Message Received.

And after a lot of years of being brave.

Courage didn’t cut it anymore…

For me, being an evangelical meant masking. Impressing. Playing dress up. Putting on a show. Showing up on Sunday. It felt sharp. I was Hiding. Hurting all over. Ashamed. Paranoid. Hating myself for a choice I must’ve made, but for the life of me couldn’t remember. It was a social step ladder that was actually a treadmill. It was a promise of rewards for good deeds always dangling in front of me. It was a guarantee that I would be a “new creation” and my life would be better and I would be accepted. It was James Dobson in my ear and Youth Pastors in my face, and the smile and nod I had to force all the time.

Evangelicalism was exhausting.

That’s why I ran.

I ran away from the waiting room and the stage. I hopped fences and broke through borders to find a place where I could just catch my breath. I outran their politics and prejudices. I ran until my feet felt grass and not gravel. I ran until I was safe from the saints.

I ran until I was finished.

And He met me there. It took an escape from the city walls and the stained glass God to touch the beating heart of a Christ in love. The one that wrapped me in His arms and hushed my cries, all while whispering,

“I’m not like them, I’m not like them, I’m not like them.”

And he wasn’t like them- he wasn’t anything like I thought he was. He was kind and his hands were warm. He didn’t ask anything of me but my love. He told me to keep running, but to let him come with. Toward things I didn’t know I wanted, but someday I would.

Leaving evangelicalism led me to Love. I spent so much time trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, so much time trying to be instead of just being. And I never found him there because I couldn’t see past the pain. I couldn’t see past the wrath and the madness. I couldn’t see past my pastor or past James Dobson. There was too much shadow. But maybe that’s why I see him so clearly now.

Like going from darkness to brilliant sunlight, I had to see all the bad and the wrong and the cracks before I was could fully receive the earth shattering news that I was made on purpose and loved to no end. Eyes are still adjusting and I’m still learning, but my heart beats with a new pulse of promise.

A new kind of Bravery.

And I’m running with it,

RR