This Isn't Christianity

What a January. From Insurrection to Inauguration Day, it feels like the longest month of my life, yet it isn't over. As I've been reflecting on the events this past month, so many emotions welled up – happiness, joy, frustration, confusion. Frustration seemed to get the best of me. This comes from the polarizing events in America that have waved the banner of Christianity when it has clearly been misrepresented. Long gone are the days when “Christian” leaders can hide in the shadows without denouncing such hate and rhetoric spewed by the outgoing administration. I'd like you to join me as I do a bit of self-discovery and try to understand why the far right chooses to use the guise of Christianity to unravel the ties of democracy in America.

I've been around my fair share of churches. Growing up Southern Baptist, hell, fire, and brimstone was a quintessential part of every effective sermon. Like every good conservative in 2008 (I was 16), Obama was the enemy – "who could blatantly support the killing of unborn babies, and, is he even an American?" These comments filled the halls of my high school, the walls of my church, and the dinner table late at night. I was an outspoken young republican, a true definition of "sixteen in the south." Looking back on my Twitter feed in 2008, I barely recognize the person composing those tweets over a decade ago. Fast forward to 2021, as a 28-year-old gay man who loves the Lord, my views have drastically shifted. Ironically, they've shifted because over the past 10 years, I've not only come to a deeper revelation of who Jesus is, but I've also experienced the transformative power of how His love can make an impact.

I'm still a very outspoken person when it comes to politics. I have aspirations to run one day. I also know the boundaries of spirituality and politics seem like a blurred line at times. We can often forget that while our moral compass and spiritual purviews guide us, Christ never aligned himself with a political party. 1 His politics were that of a Kingdom mindset. A mindset that is far beyond any earthly political battle. There is a lot to unpack here, but for far too long I've been asking myself why has Christianity been a bedrock guise of the Republican Party when the Democratic Party aligns closer to the values and lifestyle of Jesus? Fortunately for us, Christ didn’t concern himself with this. However, He did say to be 2 be imitators of God. From this, we can delineate how a Christian should act, engage with, and understand politics.

Everything starts with Jesus. Everything. To understand the why behind the mischaracterization of Jesus in politics, we first must understand the heart in which Christ approached people.

The Heart of Christ

As I began to think about who Christ is and the point I’m trying to get across, the book of Matthew paints the best picture. The message of Christ is simple, Grace and Truth. Those two points paired with His purpose, the Kingdom of God, is where the modern train of Christianity gets derailed. There’s not a better example than in Matthew 7 and The Sermon on The Mount.

'“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord! ’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’‘

Matthew 7:13-23

Now, let’s not take this out of context, the real story here begins in Matthew 5 with the start of The Sermon on the Mount. Within the context of Matthew 5-7, Christ is essentially speaking to his disciples and a large crowd that had gathered about how to be Christian. This is the ultimate scorecard for what Christ began saying in 3 Matthew 7:15. This is an example to use when affirming our political leaders. While Christ doesn’t align Himself with a party, He does give us an example of how those in leadership should carry themselves. We are able to judge these leaders by the fruit of their life.

How Jesus became the Exploited Figure of the Republican Party

Before we go any further, we have to address just exactly how Jesus became associated with the Republican party – the elephant in the room. Although this may seem one-sided, Republicans were just the first to “claim” Jesus. They have somehow taken on the title of the “Christian” party. This fundamentally doesn’t make sense to me. Since much of the unchurched world associates the Republican Party with Christianity, I had to take a deep dive into how and why this is the case.

Abortion
Most think the modern rise of right-associated Christianity happened during Roe. v. Wade in 1973. This is only partially true. In fact, most of the evangelical community was indifferent about abortion before and a few years after Roe. In 1968, for instance, a 4 symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. They even endorsed birth control over abstinence in the same meeting.

Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell
Paul Weyrich was a power-hungry political activist in the 1970s who found a prop in conservative televangelist and friend, Jerry Falwell. The two had a thirst for the moral retention of "white America" and developing a "moral majority." “The new political philosophy must be defined by us [conservatives] in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition,” Weyrich wrote in the mid-1970s. “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Weyrich believed that the political possibilities of such a coalition were unlimited. “The leadership, moral philosophy, and workable vehicle are at hand just waiting to be blended and activated,” he wrote. “If the moral majority acts, results could well exceed our wildest dreams.”

Weyrich was hungry for a platform to build the "moral majority." But this hypothetical “moral majority” needed a catalyst—a standard around which to rally. For nearly two decades, Weyrich, by his own account, had been trying out different issues, hoping one might pique evangelical interest: pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion. “I was trying to get these people interested in those issues and I utterly failed,” Weyrich recalled at a conference in 1990.

Jimmy Carter
During his Presidency in 1977, Carter was known for his more liberal-leaning Baptist views. This was especially true when it came to views of race. In 1978 the IRS proposed new 5 guidelines that would uphold certain tax status for private schools that refused to integrate. This was mandated by the Nixon Administration but upheld through the Carter years.

The far-right, predominately private Christian schools did not like this. At last, an issue for Weyrich and Falwell to stand on.

Bob Jones University
Bob Jones University — a fundamentalist college in Greenville, South Carolina—was especially obdurate and did not like Nixon's new 6 Tax Policy. The IRS had sent its first letter to Bob Jones University in November 1970 to ascertain whether or not it discriminated on the basis of race. The school responded defiantly: It did not admit African Americans.

Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation. For decades, evangelical leaders had boasted that because their educational institutions accepted no federal money (except for, of course, not having to pay taxes) the government could not tell them how to run their shops—whom to hire or not, whom to admit or reject. The Civil Rights Act, however, changed that calculus.

Bob Jones University did, in fact, try to placate the IRS—in its own way. Following initial inquiries into the school’s racial policies, Bob Jones admitted one African-American, a worker in its radio station, as a part-time student; he dropped out a month later. In 1975, again in an attempt to forestall IRS action, the school admitted blacks to the student body, but, out of fears of miscegenation, refused to admit unmarried African-Americans. The school also stipulated that any students who engaged in interracial dating, or who were even associated with organizations that advocated interracial dating, would be expelled.

The IRS was not placated. On January 19, 1976, after years of warnings—integrate or pay taxes—the agency rescinded the school’s tax exemption.

On May 25, 1983, the Supreme Court 7 ruled 8-1 that the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had the authority to deny tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, Goldsboro Christian School, and other private and religious schools with racially discriminatory educational policies.

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As we enter the mid-1980s the Republican Party shifted and adopted the position of restoration of school prayer and opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, which the Christian Right believed would guarantee universal abortion rights and the right for homosexuals to marry.

The domino effect of the modern era has perpetuated a reality in which non-biblical truths are used for political gain. Not only do these falsehoods have no merit, but it also has undeniably hurt generations of Christians and those who have been affected by these non-biblical beliefs.

Current "Biblical" Rhetoric in Politics

Now, to the final point and purpose of this article. The rhetoric we are seeing in the United States today isn’t that of a loving God, it’s anti-Christ. The hatred, repulsive conspiracy theories, the senseless desire to go against the constitution, why has it come to this? I’ll go back to an earlier quote by Jesus himself, “You’ll recognize them by their fruit.” We have enabled men and women hiding behind the guise of Christianity to rise up and contort our faith to something that is not sound in theology, not based in scripture, and is definitely not reflective of imitating Christ.

With a new Administration comes a fresh start – an ability to ingest new ideas, new policies, and work for the American people. While the Biden-Harris Administration has shown their heart for America and for Truth, we still live in a divided country. Our politicians hide behind Christianity not because they believe it, but because that's exactly what voters want. We live in a society where it's ok to simply talk-the-talk without walking-the-walk. Should politics and Christianity agree? I don't believe that's the right question, because it will never happen. Should they intersect? They often do. It's our job to understand that morality cannot and should not be legislated, that's not how this country was designed. What we can do is vote for those who unite us and best represent the values we hold dear.

We are called to be imitators of Christ, to love, to find empathy and compassion within one another. The most radical thing we can do in our country right now is to have one-on-one, life-giving conversations that birth understanding and overwhelming grace.


Footnotes


The Darkroom

Our generation has an insatiable desire to be discovered. We want to go from zero to ten overnight. In our day to day stories, feeds, and live streams, we have this need to be seen and heard. It's a desire that's built into a generation who has known nothing but overnight success and fame. I've fallen victim to this over and over again. I've struggled for years with my "social presence," follower count, and content creation to support this habit. We desire to have a curated, produced, and flawless appearance in our digital world. I'd like to spend some time addressing a few of these things.

I was born in 1992. I joke all of the time my generation was the last generation to play in the dirt. I remember what life was like without a cell phone, when dial-up internet was something from The Jetsons, and the biggest "social media" decision to make was determining your AIM screen name. In 2018, it's instant. I can post an Instagram story and in moments it's accessible to millions of people around the world. Talk about futuristic.

Until a few years after I was born my dad was a professional photographer. I think our first digital camera was around the early 2000's and up to that point, I remember packing 35mm film every time we went somewhere. The crazy thing about film is the process it takes to produce an image. Not only is film cumbersome just merely getting into the camera, but after the image is taken, the film must be developed to even see what it looks like. I remember going through airport security with dozens of film rolls in filmgaurd bags hoping it wouldn't get ruined by x-ray machines. After a trip, we'd take the film to get developed at a photo studio. This developing process was lengthy compared to the instantaneous results of today. The film goes into a darkroom where it goes through a series of steps used to produce the final image.

In this darkroom, the film goes through several chemical baths, an enlargement process, a development process, and a final refining process before the image is ready. This is tedious, time-sensitive, and perfecting work. Compare that with how we "develop" images today – none of this process is necessary. We snap a photo with our iPhone and upload it instantly to a cloud where all of our memories are stored for the foreseeable future. Or at least until Russia gets ahold of them. (too soon?) Once our images get edited, filtered, and uploaded online they are free to solicit likes, comments, retweets, and follows. However, once a photo comes out of a darkroom, sometimes the only place for it to go is a picture frame.

God Does the Choosing

I'd like to share the story of a man named David. David's story appears in 1 & 2 Samuel. I'll start in 1 Samuel 16 if you'd like to follow along for the complete story.

We start with a man named Samuel who was a prophet. God told Samuel that He was going to appoint a new King over the nation of Isreal. (1 Sam 16:1) This new king would come from the house of a man named Jesse who lived in Bethlehem. Jesse had eight sons, surely one of them was fit to be king, right? (1 Sam 16:7) Samuel traveled to Jesse's house, when he reached Bethlehem to anoint the new king of Isreal, there was a problem. After Samuel went through the seven sons that were present, he asked Jesse if he had anymore to choose from (think about what must be going through Jesse's mind at this point). Jesse replied, "There is still the youngest, but right now he's tending the sheep." (1 Sam 16:11). The youngest son, David, wasn't present, and why should he be? His father Jesse surely found him insignificant and definitely not a prospect to be the next King of Isreal. At the age of about 15, Jesse's eighth son, the youngest, the most insignificant, the shepherd boy, was anointed the king of Isreal. Talk about a turn of events for Jesse and his sons. The son that Jesse found to be unworthy of a crown, is now the future King of Isreal.

While David was anointed King of Isreal at the age of 15, he didn't become king until about the age of 30. That's 15 years of time before he could take his rightful, anointed place as King. Imagine knowing that you are the anointed King of an entire people group but not being appointed to that position for almost 15 years. I'd be a little upset. The 15-year time span that David had between being anointed and being appointed was very telling. He spent time running for his life, living in caves where he starved, and his faith being tested to the extreme.

God Has Already Discovered You

God has a plan even if you're surrounded by people who find you insignificant. While David was anointed King of Isreal he wasn't appointed until he went through 15 years of obscurity, of process, of development. God had already discovered David, even before he was anointed or appointed. He already had a plan for David. The same goes for us. God has already discovered us. He's already set us apart, anointed and pursued us. The problem isn't in the discovery, it's in the development. We don't need to be discovered, we need to be developed. We don't need Scooter Braun to discover us and bring us to the masses. (No offense Scooter) We need to go into the "darkroom" and be put through the development process that leads to a refining transformation by God. This is the ultimate sustainable equation for success. This is the ultimate influencer platform.

God has already discovered you, now He wants to develop you. Click To Tweet

God Wants to Develop You

So many of us who call ourselves Christians know the process. We know about God, we know the right answers, and we know how to get the proverbial "likes." But have we been developed by God? Have we let Him take us into the darkroom and crush us so that something new develops? Something bright, vibrant – something worthy of being appointed. When we are called by God he begins something that only he can sustain and finish. Philippians says:

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 1:6 HCSB

God is obligated to sustain what He started. He will never leave us out to dry. It might take 15 years to complete, but sometimes God will test us to make sure we're still faithful, we're still purusing Him, and we are still worthy of the calling He's placed on our life. Sometimes this development process is a change in relationships, environment, or simply building habits. It's different for everyone.

God is obligated to sustain what He started. Click To Tweet

In closing, don't be afraid of the darkroom. Don't be afraid to be developed by God. It's going to take a while. I would rather be developed by God than elevated by man. My hope and significance isn't found in Instagram likes or applause, or in cash flow. It's found in the desperate longing to be refined and developed by my creator. You are more than your social following. If you find yourself getting affirmation from your social presence, I challenge you to escape into the darkroom and let God develop you. Let Him shape you through prayer, His word, and through key relationships in your life.

Just as God anointed David then took him into 15 years of development, of process, let God take you into the darkroom.


Intention

Intention comes from the Latin word, Intentio which means stretching, thought, purpose. I came across this and found it fitting as we bring 2017 to a close. Wow. What a year. Looking back there were great strides as well as mistakes made. I spent more time out of Arkansas this year than I ever have in my entire life. I completely reworked my business model and set a new trajectory for the career I've created for myself. One of the most important lessons I learned this year is having a true support system. Surrounding myself with people who will keep me accountable, keep me honest, and most importantly, challenge me.

As this year comes to a close and new dreams and goals are set for 2018, I'm reflecting on some lessons learned in 2017.

Be Honest With Yourself

This year I learned that being honest with yourself is vital to mental and emotional stability. From personal life to business, if being honest with yourself isn't at the top of your list, it should be. Clear direction only comes by being 100% open and honest with where you're at and the next step to take on your path. Without brutal honesty to yourself and those around you, each step seems more fabricated than the last.

You Don't Need Permission

After completing over 10 of the largest events I've ever been apart of this year, I've realized that the only person you need permission from is yourself. Stop waiting to create. Action is always talked about yet rarely ever taken. Stop asking permission to create that next project, host an event, or share your talent with the world – take action and create. I learned that surrounding yourself with people who are brutally honest and those that have an interest in your success is important. These are the ones that will help you, push you, and hold you accountable. The world needs your passion, talent, and energy. You don't need permission to show us what you can do.

It Takes A Village

I've heard several younger individuals this year address how they are self-made and how they did it all by themselves. I cringe every time I hear that. In my own life, not only can I not do it alone, but it takes what feels like an entire village to get the most minute task accomplished. We all have those that have given us a hand up. Let's not forget where we came from and those who have helped get us there. To those in my life, you know who you are, thank you. It's because of you and the support you've shown that I wake up every day thinking of new ways to create and add value to my world.


I started to film a short YouTube video to accompany this post, however, I'm a super sentimental guy and I couldn't hold it together long enough to get through filming. Words cannot express how grateful, humbled, and truly amazing 2017 has been. I can't wait for 2018 to get here. It's going to be a year like no other. My heart is definitely full.

M


Book List - FW18

I have a problem. There I said it. I love to read. As the months turn colder, I always find myself reading more. It's during the fall/winter months that I get inspired and recharged for the spring/summer. I have a strict policy of only reading non-fiction. For some reason, I just don't like reading fiction books. So if you're looking for fiction based titles, this isn't the list for you. This season I decided to put together a book list of my favorite reads as well as some I'm going to be reading this year. I've noted which books I've read(*) and which I'm going to read(+).

Business

Leadership & Personal Growth

To view my complete library, click here.


Right Action

Luke 9:23-27 The Message (MSG)

23-27 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

Action.

What is so bold about action? In an age where celebrate courage by many standing up for themselves, their rights, their freedoms, courage is nothing more than someone taking the initiative to act.

Action, I've learned, is a daily mindset, a daily choice. When we act it must be with deliberation, boldness, and persistence. This is a huge lesson I'm learning in my life. Not just how to take action, but to take the right action. There's a quote from one of my favorite books that says, "No one is coming to save you. And if we'd like to go where we claim we want to go– to accomplish what we claim our goals are– there is only one way. And that's to meet our problems with right action."

I've said it time and time again here, but every day it becomes truer– thinking is the enemy. I'm not talking about spending $20K in Vegas type of not thinking, I'm talking about pursuing something that is worth the pursuit. Once that first step is taken, the following step is to act. To pursue and keep pursuing until the work is completed, the goal is met, and the check has cleared. Whatever it might be, the action following the decision is vital, and it's a daily one. The daily decision to not let your environment, personal issues, or mindset get in the way of taking action to change those things– daily.