Showing posts from 2019

Obligatory Birthday Post

Today I turned 52. I have more gray hair (which has been hard won) and also even less hair. I have written and self-published a bestselling book and have another one in the works for 2020. I am a Grandpa. I am married to the most amazing woman on earth. I have a full time job at a fun company (they have Foosball tables and corn hole games all over the building!). I retired from the Pastorate. I am healthy, but not wealthy. I am in the process of faith reconstruction, which has been very liberating. I have made a lot of new friends online. I have never met most of them in real life, but most of them I consider as family! If we ever do meet in person, the hugs alone will send tidal waves of positive energy to the moon and back!

In previous birthday posts, I have listed lessons I have learned in hopes of sharing that hard won wisdom with you, my gentle reader. This time, however, I want to share some observations of our world I have, ummm..., observed. Off we go!

Christians have become mor…

Jesus, Inerrancy, and Heroin Overdoses

I got a note today from a dear reader and good friend. He was upset because he just came from a funeral for an old friend of one of his best friends, who died of a drug overdose. Here is a copy of the message, edited to respect the anonymity of those involved:
I just wanted to share with you something I experienced today that made me remember why I left the Baptist church. So a preface to this story: A guy that I went to high school with,  (he was in a grade under me, and I only knew him in passing at school), was found dead in his apartment on Tuesday after injecting heroin and overdosing. My best friend was really good friends with him, so I went with her to the funeral service today. The service was at __________ Baptist. My friend,______, also grew up Baptist and left the church many years ago. When the pastor got up to give a (what was supposed to be) short sermon, my heart broke. I was completely disgusted at what he was saying. One of the things he said to the family was and I q…

The 21st Century Is Nothing Like We Used to Imagine

I was driving home from the gym the other day. As I came to a stop at a red light, I heard sirens. I heard a lot of sirens. At once, twenty or so police cars came flying by. Clearly, something terrible had happened for so many units to respond so quickly. I wondered what was going on, since it happened close to where my wife and I live.
It turns out that a gentleman had walked into the local Wal-Mart carrying a shotgun. When the smoke cleared, it was determined that he had intended to return the shotgun that he had previously purchased. He had a receipt from what I understand.
That incident made me realize something...we have become a totally paranoid culture. With good reason, I'd say.
Since the turn of the century, we have had a major terrorist attack, over 280 school shootings, movie theater shootings, nightclub shootings, college campus shootings, global warming, and let's not forget Y2K.
I confess, I hear gunshots on occasion. When I hear them, I immediately lock the doors an…

Authentic Christianity is Not a Cult; American Christianity Is

Since writing a term paper on Cultism in college, I have been fascinated at the similarities to traditional "cults" and the present climate of Conservative, American, Evangelical Christianity. In the year 2000, the father of one of my best friends accused me of being a cult leader. He didn't like me, this I already knew. Knowing what I did about cults and cult leaders, I easily dismissed the accusation. I was a Pastor, not a cult leader. 

Or was I?
Upon further research and honest reflection, I realized that I was kind of a cult leader. I sure didn't set out to become one. I was fresh out of Bible College and a Seminary student. I was just doing what I was taught to do. 
The first Pastor I ever served under was Rev. Ray Truett in 1990. He let me preach occasionally and took me under his wing. My first sermon included some political commentary about Walter Mondale being the antichrist or something. I had heard someone at my home church make these claims and I thought I w…

What We Believe vs. Why We Believe It

I have long been a fan of comedians like Bill Maher and the late George Carlin. They are more than just funny guys. They are seekers of truth. They ask the questions no one else dares or even thinks to ask. It would behoove any Christian to listen to George Carlin's, "Religion Is Bulls**t," bit. Here is the link (language warning).

To be clear, I am not saying I agree with the late Mr. Carlin. In fact, I know why I don't agree with him. And that is the point of today's post.

I recently saw Bill Maher's movie, Religulous. I respect what he was attempting to do with this film. He visits all kinds of people from all kinds of religion seeking answers to hard questions. What struck me was that no one could defend why they believe what they believe. Now, I realize that Maher is a very left-wing comedian, and that he probably didn't ask the most intellectual people on the planet the tough questions so he could get laughs. That is, after all, his job.

It is clea…

Why Should the devil Have All the Good Churches?

In the pioneer era of what we now call, "Contemporary Christian Music," a singer/songwriter, the late Larry Norman, posed a similar question with,"Why Should the devil Have All the Good Music?" 

Our church is doing a sermon series called Hot Topics. People have submitted questions on index cards and each week one of our pastors takes a question and expounds on it. Yesterday's question was, "Why do people in the satanic church seem more content than those in the Christian church?" My spirit tells me that whoever asked the question is struggling with their faith journey because of what they are witnessing in Conservative American Evangelical Churchianity. 

In 1997, I was doing church planting in New Hampshire. We were going door to door taking surveys about the perceived needs in the local community with a clever transition into a gospel presentation. We were approached by a couple who called themselves, "Born Again Pagans." We (my partner David…

Schindler's List of Dreams and Tears

Schinder's List is one of those films that I like to watch at least once or twice a year. Steven Spielberg's monumental film about unlikely Holocaust hero Oskar Schindler, is a cinematic triumph. It is hard not to be moved by the film's authenticity in telling the story of the world's most awful genocide in history. I am not immune.

I have seen the film countless times and I always cry at the same place, near the end. Schindler, brilliantly portrayed by Liam Neeson, is forced to go into exile when WWII ends, an unfair reward for the 1,200 Jews he had saved from certain death. The rescued Schindler Jews honor him with a hand-crafted ring expressing their gratitude to Herr Direktor. At this point, Schindler breaks down in tears saying, "I could have gotten more." That is always the place where I lose it.

Every. Single. Time.

There is a familiar story of a man who came upon scores of starfish who lay dying on the beach. One by one, he starts throwing them back i…

Make America Good Again

Perhaps you have heard this quote before:
"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there. . . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests—and it was not there. . . . .in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there. . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there.  Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."
The quote is mistakenly attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, 17th century French political philosopher. Bartleby’s dictionary of quotations traces the quote to a 1941 book titled The Kingdom of God and the American Dream, by Sherwood Eddy, a theologically liberal Christian socialist and missionary, who claimed to be quoting Tocqueville. …

Cynicism Is NOT A Spiritual Gift: A Confession

Hi. My name is Todd, and I am a cynic. (Hello, Todd)

It is hard for me to recollect when I had my first cynical thought. As God as my witness, I believe it started after my first semester of Bible College. Part of our college experience was to practice criticizing anyone and everyone who believed one jot or tittle differently that we did. After all, we were always right. We had the Bible.

After twenty-one years, I still find my inner cynic rearing his ugly head at least a dozen times a day. To be honest, since I started deconstructing in 2016, it has gotten even worse. 

To be fair, it is very, very hard to realize that everything you have ever believed, thought, and taught was inaccurate. It didn't help that I was asked to leave by the church where I pastored. Honestly, I think they waited a few months too long. My heart just wasn't in it. I wasn't even sure I believed in God anymore back then. Deconstructing has a way of unraveling the entire fabric of your belief system if …

Is It Right For You To Be Angry?

Jonah is an interesting character in the Bible. At church yesterday, the message was about Jonah, and Pastor Kevin really gave me some things to think about. 

Jonah was tasked by God to take his message to the Ninevites. Nineveh is the capital of Assyria, and there is no love lost between the Assyrians and the Israelites. In 701 BC, the city's king, Sennacherib, laid waste to Jerusalem. To say the least, Jonah was very unhappy to be called to speak to the Ninevites. So much so that he fled God's presence to Tarshish aboard a large ship.

The ship was being pelted by storms and high waves. Jonah admitted to the crew what he had done, why he was running, and that it was probably his fault that the ship was in trouble. He told the men to take hold of him and throw him overboard, as he would rather drown to death than take God's message of hope to those evil Ninevites. His life was spared by God, and in chapter three, he is asked once again to go to Nineveh. 

This time, he spitefu…

Milestones of Love and Grace

Yesterday, while Americans were paying their proper respect for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, I became a grandfather! My first grandchild, Amelia Grace Stewart, made her debut at 10:28 am. She is 6.78 pounds and 19 inches of perfection. She is the most beautiful, perfect human being I have ever seen! I haven't stopped smiling in two days! I hope I never do!

I wanted to post some thoughts about the experience, but without all the new grandparent cliche'. I will describe one powerful moment that occurred yesterday evening, and the profound effect it had on me.

I was sitting next to my daughter, Jenna, who carried and then
delivered our little Mia only hours before, and I was holding my new granddaughter. I stared at her little face and remembered vividly the day I first held her mother. Jenna had the same sweet little cheeks and she smiled a lot for a newborn. I remember praying over all of my children when they were babies as I quietly held them. I prayed for Jenna to grow stron…

Why I Am Renouncing the Southern Baptist Convention

To list the reasons one by one would possibly break the internet. I suppose I could break it all down to one simple word: power. The SBC has it, they are losing it, and they do not like it.
What is really happening in the SBC is that all the “absolutes” they have championed at the expense of others over the last 35 years or more are coming back to bite them. Most recently, the issue of women in pastoral ministry (again). 

For many years, the SBC has loved and promoted Beth Moore, arguably one of the best Bible teachers on the planet. In the last year, she has challenged the SBC’s position on not allowing women to be ordained as pastors. Here are a couple of their "gracious" responses:
Then there was this exchange between Moore and Owen Strach…

Knock Knock, Who's There? It's me, Evangelicalism!

"Evangelicalism, evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide, trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement." 
This definition came from Wikipedia, and the emphases are mine. As I re-read the definition with grace, faith, and Jesus in bold, I actually have tears in my eyes. The tears are for at least two reasons: 
-- The thought of precious Jesus, giving up all he was and had just to come to this earth to offer total forgiveness and cleansing. Why? Because he would rather die than be without us.

-- The thought of what evangelicalism has become while the church slips deeper and deeper into irrelevance. In this present reality, evangelical Christianity is not about grace, faith, or even Jesus. It is now a political brand where its member carry guns, use the Bible as a weapon, and champion A…