by Sarah Klatt
Tonight while sitting at my computer waiting for blog inspiration, I looked up and saw one of the many cards/pictures/inspiration I have hanging above my desk, which reads:
“everything will be okay
in the end.
if it’s not okay,
it’s not the end.”
This week I did something brave and scary and vulnerable. Sunday night I signed up to read at my first ever competitive slam AND I GOT IN. I have only been this nervous to share my poetry once before…
by Ricky Cintrón
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” [Matthew 10:40]
Jesus speaks these words at the end of a long sermon commissioning the twelve apostles to go out and proclaim the good news, to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Jesus tells them all this and then tells them don’t worry about bringing a bag, or a tunic, or money, or whatever. These apostles would have to depend on the hospitality of strangers in the places they visited. The church from its inception has relied on the kindness of strangers, for those who welcomed the apostles welcomed Jesus. The early church depended on hospitality and it was charged with extending that same hospitality to others, and so today we Christians strive to be a people of welcome and hospitality.
by Eric Muhr
I think I’ve finally figured it out. Found the answer. Placed the puzzle’s last piece.
All this bad religion out there, it’s a mistake of genre.
Doing-oriented American culture tends to think of scripture in terms of prose (especially technical prose). We like to have a resource for easy answers, quick fixes, little pick-me-ups.
But scripture is poetry.
Poetry doesn’t give up its answers so easily. It has to be digested bite by bite. Slowly. Repeatedly.
by Elijah Walker
Note: This is a piece I wrote as I was leaving Portland, my home for two years, to move to Indiana for seminary. It focuses on my experience with depression and what it was like to leave the community that held me.
and I weep
not because I don’t want to go,
it’s so hard
Living with depression this past year was like wandering in a cave. I wandered for so long that I eventually got tired and, rather than using all of my remaining energy to find the way out, I just…sat down. I sat there for so long that it felt like home—but I wasn’t warm, or dry, or happy, or safe. I couldn’t even rest.
by Caitlin Stout
I want to write about joy. I want it to be profound and eloquent and make us all feel better.
I also wanted to skip church yesterday, but apparently I can’t figure out how to do either.
I wanted to skip church because I was tired and frustrated and angry. I’ve been angry for the past couple weeks. I’ve been angry at homophobic blog comments. I’ve been angry at the dude who rolled down his car window as he drove by just to call me a dyke. I’ve been angry at myself for letting that Eugene Peterson interview make me feel better. I’ve been angry at myself for being surprised and hurt when he took it all back. I’ve been angry about all the chances I’ve given Evangelicals, all the grace I’ve shown, and all the bitterness I’ve still managed to feel. I’ve been angry at myself for being angry.
So I thought that one Sunday off might do me some good. Because, guys…I don’t want to be angry at anyone anymore. I want to sleep in and I want to write about joy. But I don’t know how…
by Sarah Klatt
I don’t know how to tell my truth without telling this part, but it’s one of the scariest and hardest ones to tell.
CW: sexual assault, description of feelings/affects post assault
I don’t know how to start at the beginning, so I’ll start with the second poem I wrote after it happened:
I heal through
through a thousand
words written by
someone else about
splashing on poetry
put down on paper
by gods in human
by Peterson Toscano
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
As a young Christian, I memorized this passage of scripture from Galatians. Elsewhere Jesus said, “You will know my disciples by their fruit,” and I assumed he meant the fruit of the Spirit. As a Christian struggling with attractions to other men, I wanted to fill myself so much with God and God’s Spirit, that they would drive out what I believed were evil desires. I didn’t just say NO to homosexuality; I said yes to a full life of pursuing God. I believed the fruit of the Spirit would crowd out the bad seed that was planted in my flesh. I wanted that fruit.
To be honest, that was not all I wanted. I did not want to go to hell. I did not want to get HIV/AIDS. I did not want to lose my Christian friends. I wanted the acceptance and affirmation that was showered upon the straight people at church. I wanted a family. I wanted to be “normal.”
by Eric Muhr
I got sick one morning not so many years ago, thinking about going to church. I suddenly felt dizzy and tired. Incredibly tired. I sat down on the couch (with a plate of brownies for sustenance).
“What’s this about?” I wondered. Church had been my life. I volunteered for hours every week, attended services at several different denominations, read just about anything I could find regarding what it means to live a God-centered life, what it means to know God. But I realized, while I was thinking, that I didn’t much like church. It felt like a waste of my time. I resented having to go.
I took another brownie and asked myself, “Is there anything wrong with church?” I knew that I believed in an active, living, present God, and we were spending a lot of time talking about God. I wondered if maybe that’s the problem. We talked God to death every Sunday. But when did we experience God’s presence with us in corporate worship? Did we ever feel God or hear God? Did we know God?
by Caitlin Stout
Dear Non-Affirming Christian,
I have reviewed your offer and the attached job description, and after careful consideration I regret to inform you that I will not be accepting the position of “Gay Friend.”
It was tempting at first, mostly because the alternatives seemed so lonely. And I’ll be honest, you almost won me over with the promise of paying for coffee when we sit down so you can “hear my story.” However, I have some concerns.
First of all, the job description states that you will be name-dropping me in all conversations pertaining to “the issue of homosexuality” from this point forward. I assume you’re referring to the conversations you have with your real friends, when you muse about the world and your faith and the ways the two interact. I’m sure these conversations sometimes turn into debates, especially since your non-affirming position is so quickly losing popularity. That’s where I come in, right? If you mention that you have a “gay friend,” then no one could possibly consider you a bigot. I’m the living proof that we can disagree on divisive issues and still get along, correct? As if the coffee we share could be listed among your credentials and our perceived friendship somehow makes you more qualified to condemn…
by Daniel Lee
In his book Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut declared himself a Christ-worshipping agnostic. “I’m enchanted by the Sermon on the Mount,” the Hoosier-born writer wrote. “Being merciful, it seems to me, is the only good idea we have received so far.” Those words were part of a sermon he delivered on Palm Sunday 1980 about concern for the poor and how Christians have too often misinterpreted Christ’s statement that the poor would always be among us as justification to ignore those in need.
In the same book he wrote:
“What is so comical about religious people in modern times? They believe so many things which science has proved to be unknowable or absolutely wrong.”
“How on earth can religious people believe in so much arbitrary, clearly invented balderdash? For one thing, I guess, the balderdash is usually beautiful – and therefore echoes excitingly in the more primitive lobes of our brains, where knowledge counts for nothing.”
by Tiffany Graham
Although not everybody agreed with the music, or the theology, or even the lights, we gathered around each other, some pressed tight, fingers gripping shoulders, allowing emotions to trample past the limits of our simple barriers and bodies we think separate us. It may not have been perfect, and it may not have been correct. In fact, I am certain it was all wrong. But still, we gathered, and we passed our hurt in front of eyes that had never seen it and we laid our rusted souls out in exchange for the chance to feel the passing of another. It was there that we saw the hurting and the imperfections of those we knew. Some of the hurt was known; some was a surprise. Some of the imperfections were well-versed like a hymn sung a few times too many each morning.
by Rachel Virginia Hester
Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public. – Cornel West
These are difficult times, and I am afraid. I’m afraid for me and for the people I love. I feel rushed. I feel urgency. I don’t have time to convince you. I don’t have beautiful language or academic words. I only have this. If you are a Christian who can’t hear me, who doesn’t believe I’m in pain, who doesn’t believe the pain is real, then we have a problem. You have a problem.
You make shallow and uninformed calls to love the oppressed. We need to love Muslims, you say. We need to love Black people, we need to love LGBTQ+ people because they are our siblings, they are family. However, in the very next breath, you pass off false information, toss off stereotypes, hold off from helping the people you just called “family.”
You say, “But I have never done a racist/Islamophobic/sexist act.” And you talk amongst yourselves, convinced that agreeing about love is the same thing as loving.
As if love were just an ideology. Or politics.
by Ricky Cintron
The other day during Morning Prayer I found myself reading a passage from Ezekiel, the famous “Valley of Dry Bones” vision:
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. (Ezekiel 37:1-5)
This is probably one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. Coincidentally, I had also read this passage during the Easter Vigil at church. That was my first time ever attending an Easter Vigil service; when I was a child, my parents didn’t go to the Vigil because it’s a super long service. As beautiful as this service was, I wasn’t filled with joy. I had a recent falling out with some friends, work had me really burnt out, and I was reminded of how lonely I felt in Boston, especially since I usually spend this holiday with my family back home. I sat with this passage, thinking about Easter and the empty tomb, and silently prayed: “Lord, breathe into the places in me that are dry and dead. Fill those places with life.”
by Hye Sung
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
Many who followed Jesus hoped for a revolutionary, a leader who might liberate Israel from its imperial oppressor. Christ could have been the answer.
But he died.
And I wonder, if Jesus wanted an insurrection, then why did he die on the cross? Why didn’t he accomplish a revolution?
I’ve been sitting on this question, waiting and thinking. In the meantime, my apocalyptic theology has grown more and more anarchist. I’ve been impatient and angry. But my sense is that this isn’t the way of Christ.
God in Christ reveals what it means to be human. It is love – to live in communion with God and with your fellow children of God. It is to be surrendered to God’s liberating love, embracing the way we are all connected and bound to one another, and following the riskiest and most beautiful implications of this connection, even unto death.
Jesus embodied the truest, fullest way to be human.
by John Hampton
I’ve gone to one church every Sunday since the day I was adopted. When I was a kid, I was “forced” to be there – it wasn’t really how I wanted to spend my Sunday mornings, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world either. By the end of high school, however, I was showing up for people, people I liked. This church had become my home.
It felt safe.
And then it didn’t.
The church split, and suddenly I was an outcast. Granted, I have privilege because I’m a man and because of my last name. (My family has a long history in this church.) But I noticed some things. I’m almost always one of the only people of color in the room. I hear people say how safe they want to be for all different kinds of people. But people like me – and lots of other people who aren’t like me but who are also on the margins – they keep getting pushed out.
by Sarah Klatt
I grew up in purity culture (Here’s an article that looks helpful after a quick look, for anyone looking for a definition/examples of this). From a very early age in Fundamental Evangelical Christianity, I learned things about my body that I’m still struggling to untangle. This could probably be 100 blog posts. This could probably be the work of my life.
Since I have yet to actually figure anything out though, I’ll start small.
From my mother I learned that cleanliness is indeed right next to godliness and now that I’m an adult I wonder HOW THE HELL DID SHE KEEP OUR HOUSE SO CLEAN? While I sometimes wish her magical cleaning abilities could have transferred to me more smoothly…as a child in one regard I took this to an extreme.
by Courtney Bither
I’m learning to leave right now.
Leaving is hard. At least for me. Leaving a relationship. A church. A home.
Sometimes it’s not difficult. Sometimes we grow out of things and people and places. Sometimes leaving is for the better. Sometimes it feels right. Sometimes it just happens.
And other times it doesn’t.
Other times it feels like leaving might kill you.
I’m in the process of leaving. I’m leaving because I can’t stay in a place where there isn’t love for hurting people, for different people, for people who are fighting for their lives.
And the process isn’t easy or pretty or neat.
It’s messy and sad and terrible.
But it’s not as messy and sad and terrible as trying to stay in a place without love.
by Elijah Walker
When I was four years old, my grandmother taught me to play Baptist hymns on the piano. “Oh, How I Love Jesus!” was the song of my heart. It did not take much to convince me to love Jesus at that age. I heard about him three times a week in our missionary Baptist church, and all I knew of him was love. I knew that he encouraged children. I knew that he was of God, who was good. I knew that every song we sang on Sunday mornings referenced his gentle love and generosity.
All I knew of Jesus was love. But the traditional narrative for young, queer and trans folks who were raised in a conservative, evangelical church is not typically a story of love. Rather, it is often a story of fear and loneliness. I feel privileged to say that my spiritual story did not begin with heartache but with the love of Christ. I am grateful for the foundation of love that I learned from my grandparents and our church in rural Arkansas. Jesus lived there.
by Hye Sung
Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that nonviolence “is an imperative to action.” That’s why King’s Poor People’s Campaign was envisioned as a “new and unsettling force.” It was to be disruptive. It was intended to make the issue of poverty impossible to avoid. King was assassinated before seeing that campaign unfold, but his words proved true again and again and again. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, disruptive action created results. Protests – riots even – made people pay attention.
But the work remains unfinished. And being a liberal, progressive Christian just isn’t enough. Especially if you’re comfortable in the tension between Empire and Kingdom. You cannot serve two masters. If you’ve chosen the Kingdom, you must refuse and resist Empire. If you’ve chosen Christ, you must refuse and resist Caesar.
Early Friends knew this. They broke laws. Caused public disruption. They ran toward trouble and defied the “justice” of the unjust. Refused to pay taxes and tithes, criticized Empire, and made enemies. They were fined, beaten, and jailed. And they grew.
by Amber Cullen
You were the first to arrive at the scene
To perform emergency care for my bleeding heart
Wrapping it tightly with gauze to stop the grieving
But the feeling stopped, too.