Redeeming Donald Trump's Twitter Feed

This past week, America bid a fond farewell to George Herbert Walker Bush, best remembered as our 41st President of the United States. I liked President Bush, personally. His economic policies backfired, but I will never forget the interruption of my TV program in 1991 when President Bush confidently informed us that we had begun Operation Desert Storm and were now at war with Iraq and the inhumane regime of Saddam Hussein. A lot of my friends were there, fighting in what we now call, “Gulf One.” I remember having great respect for our President during that difficult time. He didn’t apologize or make excuses. He laid it out for us Americans. I will never forget that.

Yet as we paid our respects, there are many who took to Social Media insulting the late President, his policies, and his legacy. Why do we always default to hatred? A family lost their father and grandfather. We can't respect that or consider the family during their grief. Where does all this collective hatred spring from? I mean, there will always be critics. That is their job, to criticize. Why would they do anything less? But I am talking about the bitter, raw, troll bait  hatred that appears all over comments on every social platform. Here is an example:

“The news is in. At the age of 94, he is dead and in Hell. This man is not a Christian. George Bush Senior or Junior, they are not Christians. They worship the lower case g “god” of this world, the devil. Lucifer. They acknowledge Moloch. They participate in the wicked sacrifices that go on at Bohemian Grove. Thank God that George Bush Sr. is dead and thank God that he is righteous. Thank God that God Himself is righteous enough to cast him into Hell forever.
George H.W. Bush died at the age of 94. And he will spend eternity in hell for rejecting the God of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ. the creator and the savior.”

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

What on earth gives this person the gumption to proclaim something so sickening and hateful?

Simple. For many years, Conservative Evangelical Christianity has given social “permission” for Christians to proclaim judgement and assign sin as if it were from God almighty. I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard and even spoken such madness throughout my 30 years in ministry. The list of hell goers was long and distinguished.
  • ·         Mormons? Hell.
  • ·         Jehovah’s Witnesses? Hell.
  • ·         Men with long hair? Hell.
  • ·         Women who wear pants? Hell.
  • ·         Lutheran’s? Hell.
  • ·         Episcopalians? Hell.
  • ·         Catholics? Straight TO Hell.
  • ·         Criminals? Hell.
  • ·         Homosexuals? Under Hell.
  • ·         Muslims? A special Hell (post 9/11).
  • ·         Hindus? Hell.
  • ·         People in areas where the gospel has never been preached? Hell.

And the list went on and on and on. Why? Because the Bible says so, which is the marching mantra of Conservative Evangelicalism. God said it, that settles it, and I believe it. Sheesh. Now I know and have served with some of the finest Conservative Evangelicals on the planet. They are kind, loving, and caring…but firm. One of my seminary professors stated, although sadly, that unreached people groups would go to hell, even though they have never had a chance to hear the gospel of grace. These helpless people are condemned to a Milton-inspired hell that coldly beckons, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

No hope? Jesus suffered, Jesus bled, Jesus died, Jesus rose again! That is the purest of hope! According to Romans 6:14, the Paul the Apostle (who, right behind President Trump, is the poster boy of Conservative Evangelicalism) writes that we are no longer under law, but under GRACE (emphasis mine). This same Bible says that Jesus did this, and I quote, “Once…for ALL (Romans 6:10, Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 10:10; 1 John2:2 Isaiah 53:6 emphasis mine again)."

God said it. That settles it. And I believe it. Truly.

The threat of “hell” has been removed from the equation. Grace applies to everyone without condition. We cannot earn it; we cannot get rid of it; we cannot stop it; we cannot lose it. We can simply allow ourselves to be plunged into grace that says you are loved and you are accepted by the God of the Universe. We can also give grace away to others. Maybe if we did, people like the “friendly atheist” quoted earlier may think twice about what they choose to say and how they choose to say it. Because of grace, we can infect the world with perfect love!

Speaking of hateful comments, I suspect that some who read this post would like to rip me a new one and hang me on the heresy tree. That’s okay. You would only be making my point. I am not here to argue theology. You and you alone must deal with what you believe and why. However, I challenge you to ask yourself, honestly, just once, “What if I have it wrong?” I admit that it is a hard question, because if indeed you and I have been wrong, it could undo centuries of creeds and councils. Seminaries would buckle. Churches would close their doors. It would change the religious world dramatically.

And that, my friends, is why Conservative Evangelical Christianity will not change. They will continue their quest to exclude and marginalize the people who really need their ministry. They will continue to elect Presidents. They will continue to boycott anything or anyone who disagrees with them. It must stay this way. Business must not suffer. After all, it is what we all grew up learning as Conservative Evangelical Americans. I am 51 years old with 30 years in the ministry. Why in the wide world of sports would I abandon everything I have known?

Because I believe the legalistic gospel no longer works.I believe it never has. Unless it's purpose is to hurt people. I recall the many times I told couples in pre-marital counseling with me that I could not perform their ceremony because they planned to have alcohol at the reception. I remember the disappointment on all the faces as I boldly stood on “biblical authority” and evangelical arrogance indoctrinated to me in college and seminary. I remember refusing to dedicate newborn babies born out of wedlock. What can I say? I had a rep to protect. I remember pounding the pulpit against cigarette smoking as I saw the smokers in the congregation self-flagellate right there in the pew. My heart breaks at all the scorched earth I left behind my arrogance. It wasn’t worth it, and so many people have been hurt by me. Good people. Really good people.

Conservative Evangelical Americanized Churchianity will go on praying the prayers and walking the aisle and dunking in the baptism tank, pushing tithing, and preaching freedom in Christ, unless you are gay, tattooed, long-haired, and so on. God loves you as you are, but loves you too much to leave you that way. What a crock of pooge! God loves and accepts us. Period. He loves YOU, not the preferred version of you that Evangelicals want to see.

Maybe I am exaggerating. I have been known to do that more than once. But when I preached grace and new covenant living in my churches, I was accused of being new-age. When I welcomed African-Americans into our church, I had my life threatened twice. One of those threats came during the altar call. That is a true story.

Conservative Evangelicals don’t want to hear about grace or inclusion. It’s bad for business. Grandma and Granddaddy didn’t donate the steeple so we could have blacks in our church. Let that sink in. It is a direct quote.

Once when I was a Youth Minister, a lady spoke up at a church conference and said, “I’m afraid we are getting too many of the WRONG kind of people in our church.” You see, I had been reaching out in the neighborhood surrounding the church, and some of our newer teens had long hair and a couple of them were Latino. Even I wore a long-haired mullet in those days (I have a picture to prove it!).

The Mullet of the Ages!
I stood up and said confidently, “Ma’am if there is such a thing as the WRONG kind of people for a church, you would find me at the top of that list.” But because of grace, God accepted me and my mullet as well as my teenage posse. Why? Because He chooses to and for no other reason.

God has loved me since before I was conceived. God has loved you too, my friends. He loves you for no other reason than that He chooses to do it. Now there is a message worth spreading! Grace covers all of us.
  • ·         George H. W. Bush? Yes!
  • ·         Osama bin Laden? Yes!
  • ·         The Pope? Yes!
  • ·         Homosexuals? Yes!
  • ·         People with piercings? Yes!
  • ·         People with tattoos? Yes!
  • ·         People with anti-religious tattoos? Yes!
  • ·         Donald Trump? Yes!
  • ·         Donald Trump’s Twitter Feed? YES!

We are ALL covered by grace. All of us! Why would we want to share any other message to the world? The gospel I grew up with culminated in me walking forward during church and praying with my pastor, after which I was whisked to a room behind the sanctuary where a scary older man (I was 16 at the time) made me read aloud a tract called “The Four Spiritual Laws.” Then I was signed up for Sunday School and baptized two weeks later (it was a Southern Baptist church). For the first few months after that I felt so alive and free. Jesus exchanged his righteousness for my sin. His beautiful for my ugly. I talked to him and he talked to me. I had never been so happy in my life.

Until…

The same old fellow who made me read the tract pulled me aside one Sunday after church and said, “Now Todd, do you think Jesus is pleased that your hair is so long (a flowing mane back then!)?” I shrugged my shoulders. “And He is not pleased that you wear blue jeans to church.” Imagine a big balloon suddenly being pierced and the air flows right out. That was me that day. I had been doing it wrong. I had two pairs of jeans; one had holes and one didn’t. I wore the non-holy jeans to church and the holy ones to school. Is that where I missed the mark? I thought me and Jesus were cool, and I had been wrong the whole time. He was disappointed in me. I had failed him.

Fast forward to 2001. I had been trying for 18 years to make up for being a failure in God’s eyes. I left the Baptist church for the Neo-pentecostal-charismatic-third-wave movement where I was told God would empower my ministry if I spoke in tongues and raised my hands during worship because if I act ashamed of God, He will be ashamed of me, so the Bible says. The problem was that I am a laid back worshipper/introvert. Once again, I couldn’t measure up and God wasn’t going to bless my ministry. I was still a major failure and would never be accepted in God’s kingdom.

It was at this time that I discovered a book by Dr. Steve McVey called Grace Walk. From the very first pages I realized that this guy was telling my story as his own! The burnt out Christian Pastor stuck on the legalistic treadmill. That was me! As I read Grace Walk, I was also introduced to Classic Christianity by Bob George who wrote that same story about going from legalism to grace. These books absolutely changed my life from that point on! 

Over the years, I have shared those two books with nearly everybody I counseled who struggled with not being “good enough” for the Lord. I bought extra copies and gave them away. Everyone who read those books had that look on their faces. I had that look on my face, too. It’s that look of relief that, “I am not a failure in God’s eyes after all. I am loved and accepted by God because He chooses to do so and for no other reason.” I love that look, and I love to see it in others. Jesus gave us that look, at great expense.

From then on, I preached grace as never before! As I said earlier, I was accused of being “new age,” “preacher of cheap grace,” “preaching half of the gospel,” and for telling people they didn’t have to serve in the local church. What I had preached was, “You can do nothing in the church and God will still love you and give grace to you.” I understood where they were coming from. This was the generation that worked together to rebuild America after WWII. This is how they rolled. Generation Xers like me don’t put that high of a premium on getting volunteers. I fought that battle for years.

I finally left the pastoral ministry in 2016. No church I ministered at saw any significant growth or changed lives. The smokers still smoked. The gossipers still gossiped. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore. It felt like all I did was appease the senior adults because they are the faithful tithers and workers. I had to keep them happy so we could “keep the doors of the church open.” Also, I was once told by a Deacon to “Get control of my wife.” What the heck???

My last church asked me to resign. I didn’t blame them. I wasn’t what they needed, and they weren't what I needed. They gave us 30 days to vacate the parsonage. We were out in 10. I had been recovering from a severe mental breakdown that I had had just a several weeks before. I was hospitalized for three days and assigned to Intensive Outpatient Therapy for two weeks. I needed to focus on Todd for a while, and I finally realized it was okay to do that.

The therapy was amazing! Being in a group with 20 other people who understood my plight and that I understood theirs was liberating. I have struggled with Severe Anxiety and Depression for most of my life. I was finally getting it under control. During therapy, I had a moment of clarity. I was to begin a ministry to people like the ones in my group. Some of their churches had cut off contact with them. Others had no belief in God at all. Even more others were deeply struggling with their sexual identity. Sadly, in the not-too-distant past I would have simply quoted Bible verses telling them they were wrong. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, right? After meeting these precious people and hearing their stories, I changed my tune immediately. These are very real people just trying to be happy and accepted for who they are. I spent most of my adult life seeking that for myself as a husband, father, and minister.

Back to the present day. I couldn’t be happier with my life. My wife and I are so close and in love. My adult children are amazing! My work greatly fulfills me. Ministry will always be a part of my life, and the details of what I am specifically to do next are working themselves out. My mission in life is to spread grace, show grace, live in grace, and enjoy grace any way that I can!

Bright blessings,
Todd

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