Dark Days, Starry Skies: Hope in the Aftermath of the Presidential Election

In the poetic opening of Genesis, the Bible says God formed man out of the dust.


Cosmologist Carl Sagan famously said, “We are made of starstuff.”

Star dust.

It is both incredibly humbling and beautiful to recognize the God of the cosmos crafted our bodies out of the same material found at the heart of a star and in a thin-film at the base of a windowsill.

In Ecclesiastes, the aging King Solomon says “all come from dust, and to dust all return.”

We all come into the world the same way, and we will leave it the same.

In dust, we are united. And in dust, Jesus defended the life of a woman whom – according to the Bible – was guilty of death.

During the climax of the 2015 film The Revenant, the two main characters engage in a brutal brawl to the death in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. It is graphic, bloody, and dirty.

At this point, we’ve followed our protagonist – Hugh Glass – for nearly two-and-a-half hours as he journeyed through an icy version of Dante’s Inferno in search of the man who killed his son.

But when Glass finally achieves vengeance, it is hard for the audience to feel any sort of satisfaction.

We’re worn out. Beaten down. Bruised and bloodied.

In the final frame of the film, Glass – mortally wounded and alone – hauntingly stares directly into the camera, and we are left with the uneasy realization that having our blood lust satiated is not at all what we imagined it would be.

Welcome to the grim conclusion of the Presidential Election of 2016.

The election has taken its toll.

Relationships between friends and family members are frayed. We’re more cynical, suspicious, and distrusting. We sharpen our words like knives, and doggedly look for opportunities to use them.

Whether or not your candidate won in the 2016 election, we can all mourn for what it did to us.

If we learned anything over the previous eighteen months, it is that the message of Jesus is just as scandalous in 2016 as it was 2,000 years ago.

It is scandalous to welcome the refugee with open arms.

It is scandalous to protect the rights of the unborn.

It is scandalous to defend the weak.

It is scandalous to respect the freedom of other religions and lifestyles.

And it is scandalous to love our enemies, even as they persecute us.

We can mourn, but let us not lose hope. Our hope should not be wrapped up in an American flag. Our identity is not found in how we vote. And we are not defined by our allegiance to a political candidate who doesn’t even know our name.

But we have to understand that a lot of people woke up scared on November 9th.

Scared that their mother and father may be deported.

Scared they may be sent back to a refugee resettlement camp.

Scared to come out as gay to their parents.

Scared of being labeled a “terrorist” simply because of their religious affiliation.

Scared to finally admit they are a survivor of sexual assault.

Scared of losing their healthcare.

And solely based on some of the rhetoric to come from this campaign season, some of these fears are completely legitimate.

For many people in America, they feel like strangers in their own country for the first time. For others, it is how they have felt for the past eight years.

I’m not a Christian because I believe it makes sense.

I’m a Christian because when I look at the life and teachings of Jesus, I see God.

I see a God who is constantly showing up in the most unexpected of places.

He is the guy at the wedding feast who turns ceremonial jars of water into jugs of wine.

He is sharing a meal with drunkards and tax collectors. He is touching the ones His society has deemed “unclean” because of a disease. He is preaching redemption to the irredeemable.

Jesus is always on the side of the weak and marginalized. You can find Him on the frayed edges of society. He is with women and the children. The lepers and the whores. The outcasts and beggars.

And nothing has changed about our God.

He is weeping with the woman who felt like she had to get an abortion. He is comforting the homeless teen who was kicked out of his house for telling his parents he is gay. He is wailing with the other Syrian refugees in the resettlement camp as they learn about another air strike that killed their family members.

He is the God of the Have-Nots. Throughout history, He is on the side of the underdogs.

And when he rubbed shoulders with the political and religious elite, He frightened them. Because he preached a message about a new Kingdom.

A Kingdom in which the first were last, and the last were first.

A Kingdom that turned their carefully constructed world upside down. Outsiders became insiders, and the gentle souls inherit the Earth.

And so they killed Him.

The beauty of Jesus’s life can be captured in any number of moments. But it is best illustrated in His death.

A crucifix is the last place you would expect to find a God. Jesus willingly died for His enemies. And He died forgiving the people who killed Him.

Sometimes, it is hard for me to believe in a God who would allow so much evil to flourish in the world. But then I look at the life of Jesus.

I look at His message. I look at how He treated people. I look at His death and resurrection.

That is a God I can get behind.

How then shall the Church move forward in a world post-Election 2016?

And by the Church, I mean the unified body of Christ who continuously place their hope in the Kingdom that was established on Earth through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Not the “evangelical Christian” voting demographic.

I think the answer is as easy as it is daunting.

We comfort the widow. We care for the orphan. We model our lives on the life (and death) of Jesus.

We love our enemies. Even the enemies who don’t love their enemies. We repay evil words with kindness.

We lay down our weapons – both physical and verbal – and start repairing the bridges we have burned over the past eighteen months. Because we all have blood on our hands.

And we should be prepared to stand in the gap for all the people who feel frightened, lonely, and unloved. We seek to meet people where they are, and show them the same grace, mercy, and acceptance Christ showed to us.

Or, we can continue to pursue and protect our own self-interests.

According to an ancient Sumerian creation myth, the night sky is simply a dark sheet that is hurled over the horizon every night. The stars are merely holes in the sheet from which light from the sun bleeds through.

We are star dust. It is part of who we are.

Made from dust, and to the dust we shall return. All infused with the breath of God, and all the dignity and respect that comes with that.

If nothing else, let the world rediscover Jesus in the margins of society. The tattered edges of our culture. And let them find us there with Him – caked in the dust of our humanity and shining like the stars we are, with love in our eyes and condemnation far from our lips.

We have a lot of work to do.

Let’s get to it.

Men Will Be Boys: The Root of Modern Misogyny

It was ‘Sex Night’ at camp.

A month before my freshman semester, I attended an orientation camp designed to ‘welcome’ me to my university. Overwhelmingly, the staff was made up of sophomore and junior college students.

On the second night, they split the girl and guy campers into two separate groups. The format was a roundtable discussion among upperclassmen about the sexual realities of college, practicing safe sex, and establishing healthy boundaries.

That didn’t happen – at least not in the guy’s session.

The upperclassman leading the roundtable grabbed the microphone and addressed the small room filled with seventy-five freshman students.

“Okay, so wear a condom, yada, yada, yada. You guys know this,” he said. “So, while the girls are talking about their feelings, we’re going to have some fun. Which female counselor do you guys think has the best rack?”

I was dumbfounded. For an hour, I listened to a room full of guys discuss the sex appeal and body proportions of the girls who were literally only a room away.

I sat in shocked silence. I didn’t participate in the discussion. But I didn’t leave either.

I was afraid of what they would think of me.

Locker Room Talk and Moral Outrage

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about “locker room talk.”

A country’s leaders are often the natural byproduct of the culture – not the other way around.

There’s a generation of young boys growing up within a culture that is telling them it’s okay for men to act like boys – that it’s okay to view and treat women like objects, and you can get away with it.

Boys and Pornography

In April of 2016, the ultra-conservative state of Utah declared pornography a public health crisis – calling it “evil, degrading, addictive, and harmful.” The passage of S.C.R. 9 was met with derision and ridicule across most of the internet.

For a Christian, I’m fairly left-of-center on a number of social issues. But, in regards to pornography, I can not brush it off as an entertainment preference. I’ve personally witnessed and experienced the devastating effects of pornography in my own life and in the lives of several other men and women.

More than one-third of all internet traffic is related to pornography. The porn industry generates more money per year than Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association – combined. The most popular search terms of porn are “teen,” “lesbian,” and “milf.”

According to the most conservative of statistics, 70% of men and 30% women watch porn on a weekly basis. The average time spent on a porn site is 12 minutes, and the average viewer visits a porn site 7.5 times per month.

In my personal experience and interactions, I’ve never met a single male who hasn’t at some point in their life struggled with pornography use – and I live in the heart of the Bible Belt.

In recent years, I’ve heard some women argue that pornography is actually empowering to women and it should be celebrated as an example of women taking control of their sexuality.

I’ve never known a single man, who through the viewing of internet pornography, has come away from the experience with a more enlightened or respectful view of women. Simply reviewing the titles of the top trending pornographic videos on any porn website should quickly dispel the feministic notion of porn – women are “banged,” “nailed,” “creamed,” “pounded,” “punished,” and “dominated.”

In porn, women are not portrayed as beings designed in the image of God – but instead as a set of holes designed to be filled by a domineering man for the viewing pleasure of another man masturbating in front of a computer screen.


This isn’t religious-fueled hysteria. More and more secular research institutions are beginning to sound the alarm on the detrimental effects of the normalization of pornography.

A man who regularly consumes a steady diet of pornography is not a man who is going to be biologically predisposed to respect women – because pornography literally alters the chemistry in someone’s brain.

The chemical cocktail released into a man’s brain during orgasm floods the brain with dopamine – which create neurological pathways toward your brain’s reward center. Within a healthy sexual relationship, this reaction is a good thing – it physically and emotionally increases feelings of intimacy between you to your partner.

But in regards to porn, the constant stream of hyper-sexualized images and videos will actually diminish the effectiveness of dopamine – numbing the neurological receptors. Porn that once excited a person loses it’s effectiveness, and it begins to take more porn – or different types of pornmore often to generate the same level of arousal.

If we wish to sufficiently combat a societal ill, we must target the cultural root of the problem. And the unfortunate reality is that a generation of boys is growing up in culture that not only normalizes the objectification of women via pornography, but also routinely fails to hold them accountable for their actions.

Boys and Sexual Assault

On June 2, 2016, the nation looked on in stunned outrage as Brock Turner – a Stanford University student who was caught sexually assaulting a fellow classmate in public – was sentenced to only six months in jail.

The People v. Turner case was brought into the public spotlight after Brock’s victim posted her courtroom statement to Brock on the internet. It quickly went viral.

Brock Turner would only serve three months of his sentence before being released for “good behavior.”

Unfortunately, the very fact that Brock Turner spent anytime in jail for sexual assault should be seen as a minor victory.

One out of every six women has been victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Some statistics have that number as a high one out of every four women. Three out of four rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.

Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 994 perpetuators will never see a jail cell.However, as many as 80% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. The reasons for not reporting included fear of retaliation, the belief that the police wouldn’t do anything to help, and the belief it wasn’t important enough to report.

A common misconception about sexual assault is that it’s a crime fueled by sexual desire. But it’s not. It’s an egregious violation of human dignity fueled by a compulsion to exert dominance over an individual. It’s about power.

Sexual assault cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute, and yet even in situations in which the perpetrator is convicted they often serve extraordinary lenient sentences.

Men in the United States (and around the world) need to start taking the plight of women in regards to sexual assault seriously. It’s a crime that relies heavily on the victim’s shame to silence its victims.

Sexual assault and rape are uncomfortable and disturbing topics to address. We would rather pretend we are not affect by it, and thus we turn a blind eye. But that is exactly the type of attitude that contributes to its prevalence in our society.

The Fall of Man

I know this post is probably being shared on social media by a few ‘old-timers’ and ‘traditional folks’ as they shake their heads and say things like “Can you believe how bad it’s gotten? Why, in my day…”

Let me be very clear about something: We are living in the world you created.

It’s the “aww shucks, boys will be boys” attitude of decades past that led people to tolerate mainstream pornography, sexism, and lackluster sexual assault laws.

The wraith of misogyny has been creeping in the background of our culture for centuries, and the millennials just happen to the generation that dug it up out of shadows and put it online for the world to see.

The world doesn’t necessarily need “women to be stronger.” Statements like these – once again – shift the burden of guilt and responsibility back upon the shoulders of women. It also implies women aren’t already strong enough.

The world is in desperate of need of boys strong enough to step up, become men and elevate women to the level of respect and honor endowed upon them by their Creator.

This means an entire generation of boys needs to grow up.

We need boys to stop watching pornography and become men who denounce the degradation of women in any and all forms.

We need boys to put down their phones and become men who can talk to a women face-to-face without thinking about getting her in bed.

We need boys to stop encouraging “locker room talk” with their silence and become men who hold their peers accountable for their words and actions.

We need boys to stand up and speak out against misogynistic roundtable discussions at freshman orientation camps while they’re happening.


I’m sorry.


Because our women deserve better from us.

Addendum: On Moral Panic

It gives me no pleasure to be a doomsayer.

I’m only 25, far too young to be the old man sitting on the front porch shaking his fist at a cloud.

But this is different. Social media and the internet pervade every aspect of our culture, especially among younger generations. They don’t know a world prior to smart phones.

In her book Alone Together, sociologist Sherry Turkle says “These young people are among the first to grow up with an expectation of continuous connection: always on, and always on them. And they are among the first to grow up not necessarily thinking of simulation as second best.”

I’m not advocating the United States ban pornography. I know how the internet works.

But we can probably assume a 13-year-old boy alone in his room with access to the entire breadth of human sexuality on his mobile device is probably not considering the long-term consequences of his actions.

And neither are we.

For parents, this may mean having an uncomfortable and awkward conversation with your sons and daughters. Because if they’re in their mid-teens and have a smart phone, it’s not just possible that they’re regularly interacting with porn, it’s highly probable.

For the rest of us, it may mean asking honest questions about our culture’s infatuation with porn. As much as we would like to believe that we can keep the spheres of pornography and real life separate, biology shows us it’s far more difficult to do than just closing out a browser window.




  1. Get the facts on how porn negatively impacts your brain, heart, and the world.
  2. Block explicit content from the web browser on your iPhone or Android mobile device.
  3. Download a porn blocker extension or accountability software.
  4. Talk openly and honestly about your struggles with pornography with a trusted mentor or friend.

Sexual Assault

  1. Get the facts on the prevalence of sexual assault.
  2. Learn how to talk to a survivor of sexual assault.
  3. Volunteer at your local rape crisis center.
  4. Write to your congressman about the importance of harsher sentencing for sexual assault and increased funding for survivor recovery programs.

Recommended Reading


Musical Note: This post was written while listening to the songs “Human” by OneRepublic, “8 (Circle)” by Bon Iver, and “Sons and Daughters” by The Decemberists.

The Evangelical Case Against the Candidacy of Donald Trump

Hillary Clinton is a liar.

She repeatedly told the Justice Department she did not have any classified information on her private email server, which proved to be incorrect.

Benghazi is a mess – on both ends of the political spectrum. No doubt. Four Americans died during the attack, and House Republicans have spent an incredible amount of time and tax-payer money to essentially clear Clinton of any wrongdoing.

And some aspects of the Clinton Foundation are definitely shady (though the Foundation has provided over 9 million people with lower-cost AIDS/HIV medication).

But, enough about Hillary Clinton. We can talk about her later.

In recent months we’ve seen a slew of prominent evangelical authors and theologians throw their support behind Donald Trump. A recent Pew Research report reveals that 78% of evangelical Christians currently plan on voting for Trump come November.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but many high-profile Christian endorsements of Trump appear to imply it may very well be a violation of a Christian’s moral and ethical duty to not vote for Donald Trump.

So, it’s not the suggestion that a Christian could vote for Donald Trump that’s worrisome so much as it is the insinuation that a Christian should vote for Trump.

Jesus instructed his disciples to be as shrewd as serpents, and as innocent as doves. Therefore, we can surmise that Christians shouldn’t be gullible.

In his second letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul writes: For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

If Paul commanded Timothy – a young Christian – to “avoid such people,” we can probably infer that he doesn’t want us to associate our Christian witness with such people.

Let me be very upfront about something: I think you can still be a Christian and vote for Donald Trump. Just like I believe you can be a Christian and vote for Hillary Clinton. And you can be a Christian if you don’t vote at all. Our salvation doesn’t depend on who we choose to support in a presidential race.

But. Through his personal ethics, business ideals, and domestic and foreign policies, Trump has proven himself unworthy and undeserving of the evangelical Christian vote.

Personal Ethics
[Note: This section contains graphic and lewd language – however, all are linked quotes]

Throughout his life, Trump has called various women fat, pig, slob, and disgusting animal. During an episode of The Apprentice, he told a female contestant that “it must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.

When asked in 1994 interview about which features his one-year old daughter would inherit from her mother, Trump physically alluded to her breasts. In 2000, Trump made an appearance in a softcore porn Playboy video – popping a bottle of champagne and saying “Beauty is beauty, let’s see what happens in New York.” The video featured clips of naked women touching themselves, dancing, and posing in sexual positions.

If elected president, Trump’s wife – Melania – would be the United States’ first First Lady to have ever posed nude in a pornographic magazine, including a full-page spread of her cavorting naked with other nude women. Instead of expressing regret, Trump and his campaign have defended the photoshoots – claiming they’re “fashionable” and “celebration of the human body as art.”

My intent is not to shame Melania for her personal choices, but instead point out the hypocrisy inherent in the Evangelical Right’s relationship with partisan politics. Can you imagine the firestorm the Evangelical Right would have created if Trump had been a Democrat candidate? Or if that had been Obama’s wife?

Trump has brazenly bragged about the number of women he has had sex with – including those with husbands. Trump has been divorced twice and famously cheated on his first wife with the woman who would become his second wife. 

Update: Recently obtained audio records from 2005 from a hot-mic moment have Trump saying “When you’re a star, they [women] let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p*ssy” and “I did try and f*ck her. She was married” and “I moved on her like a b*tch, but I couldn’t get there.”

Trump is the first presidential candidate in history to tell his supporters to “check out [a] sex tape” (a tweet he sent out at 3 a.m. a couple days after the first Presidential debate) – an unprecedented attack on a U.S. citizen by a politician.

He built the first American casino to have a strip club and all-male revue club for women. During a primary debate, Trump talked about the size of his penis on national television. He creepishly commented on his adult daughter’s body and said “if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.

Trump’s thin-skinned tirades are often laced with profanity. He has openly mocked a reporter’s disability. During the primaries, he called one of his opponents a “p*ssy.”

Trump has said, “My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy” and “I’ve always been greedy. I love money.” The Bible calls the “Love of money the root of all kinds of evil.” He’s called poor people “morons” and Jesus said the poor will inherit the Kingdom of God.

Business Ideals

Donald Trump has been involved with more than 3,500 lawsuits  – more than any other presidential candidate in history.

In the 1970s, the Department of Justice brought a lawsuit against the Trump family for racial discrimination at Trump Management rental properties. Trump employees marked minority applications with codes, like “C” for “colored,” and then denied their rental application.

Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to release tax returns, depriving the American public of the very evidence he uses to justify his candidacy – his personal success as a businessman.

Trump’s reasoning for not releasing his tax documents – that he’s under audit by the IRS – has been debunked by the IRS itself. In 2012, Trump slammed then-GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney for not releasing his tax returns.

Trump claims his tax returns will “reveal nothing of importance,” but it should be noted that “Crooked Hillary” has released her tax returns from the previous eight years. Trump’s tax returns would also reveal his philanthropic habits – or lack thereof.

Trump has used donations to the Donald Trump Foundation to settle lawsuits on behalf of Trump’s private businesses, purchase a $20,000 portrait of himself, a a $12,000 Tim Tebow-signed helmet and make an illegal campaign donation to the Florida Attorney General investigating Trump University. This wouldn’t be that shocking except for the fact the Foundation is funded through other people’s donated money.

Foreign Policy

Donald Trump has threatened to abandon North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies – even in the event they are attacked.

During a briefing by a top foreign policy expert, Trump allegedly asked, “If we have nukes, why can’t we use them?” repeatedly throughout the meeting. During a live Town Hall meeting Trump said he “would not rule out nuking Europe.”

He believes the Geneva Convention – the international pact that protects soldiers from being tortured – is outdated. In a debate performance, he said he would bring back waterboarding and a “hell of a lot more.” During a live interview, he said he would “target terrorist’s families” and “take them out.

For the record, these are war crimes.

Trump and his campaign have portrayed Syrian refugees as poisonous skittles, snakes, and terrorists. He has promised to turn his back on the Syrian refugee crisis in spite of the intensive U.S. vetting process.

Syrian refugees are fleeing one of the most devastating and bloody conflicts the world has ever seen. Overwhelmingly, they are woman and children. Perhaps they are the “least of these” Jesus talked about in Matthew 25? If that’s the case, are you endorsing a sheep or a goat?

Domestic Policy

Through his vitriolic rhetoric, Trump has garnered the endorsement and support of the American Nazi Party and several white supremacy groups. Trump rallies are filled with racist insults, threats of violence, and hate speech [in all seriousness, watch this video]. 

David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, said “I support [Trump’s] candidacy, and I support voting for him as a strategic action. I hope he does everything we hope he will do.”

Trump and his campaign have retweeted white supremacists, racist memes, and grossly inaccurate statistics.

What will our children and grandchildren think of us if they read “Donald Trump – propelled to victory by white supremacists, evangelical Christians, and disenfranchised voters – was inaugurated on January 20, 2017” in their history textbooks?

More troubling, Trump has repeatedly revoked the press credentials of media outlets from attending his rallies or conducting interviews on that basis that they “write unfairly about him.” During a rally, he said he would open up the United States libel laws to make it easier to sue the press – a violation of the First Amendment.

Trump called John McCain, a former prisoner-of-war, “not a war hero” because he was captured and he [Trump] “likes people who weren’t captured.” Trump defiantly refused to apologize to McCain.

During his campaign announcement speech, Trump called incoming Mexican immigrants “rapists” and when challenged on that statement replied, “someone is doing is the raping.” He has talked about creating “deportation task forces” intent on separating families who have been living in the United States for decades.

Trump has portrayed illegal immigrants as harbingers of crime and disorder, despite the fact that illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens and illegal immigration has been in a decline since 2004.

In November, he proposed creating an electronic database to keep track of Muslims in the United States. This policy seems eerily similar to a directory implemented by a certain dictator in Germany in the late 1930s.

The End of the Road

Franciscan friar Richard Rohr said, “The evangelical support of Trump will be an indictment against its validity as a Christian movement for generations to come.”

I urge my evangelical Christian readers, please don’t let a Donald Trump presidency be the ideological hill you choose to die on. There are far greater causes and people to sacrifice our reputations for.

If we are to be hated and persecuted by our culture, then let it be for the sake of the Gospel and not for our commitment to a presidential candidate who has said “women, you got to treat ’em like sh*t.

Because let’s try explaining that to our daughters.

Trump has struck a nerve with voters because he taps into legitimate grievances against the current state of American politics, and evangelical voters should have a voice in crafting public policy.

But Trump is not that voice.

I’m not attempting to demonize Trump. His erratic behavior and overinflated ego heavily imply he may have deeply-rooted insecurities which compel him to constantly seek validation – through women, money, and public opinion. He is desperately seeking to fill a void in his soul that can only be fulfilled through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In some ways, Trump is all of us.

Trump needs our prayers, our forgiveness, and our mercy – but that doesn’t mean he needs our nuclear launch codes.

Endorsing and electing Trump will ensure that the evangelical movement in the United States will lose validity within the public sphere for years to come, and its association with Trump’s ideologies will hinder the influence of the Church at home and abroad.

“Putting America First” is neither a sustainable nor a Biblical policy. “Making America Great Again” at the expense of others is not patriotism – it’s tyranny and nationalism.

Donald Trump, no matter how we try to spin it, is not the final bastion for family values, patriotism, religious freedom, and moral fortitude. Instead, he may very well be the clearest justification for evangelical Christians to end their relationship with partisan politics.

It matters who the Church decides to stand (or not stand) behind. We’re told the culture doesn’t care about us, but that is lie. The world is carefully observing what role the Body of Christ will play in the ever-evolving demographics of the political spectrum.

Addendum: The Hillary Doctrine

Real talk: The primary reason most evangelicals support Trump is because they cannot fathom the United States being led by Hillary Clinton.

I could have easily written an article titled “The Evangelical Case Against Hillary Clinton.” Given the material on the Internet today, it would have been fairly easy. But here’s why I didn’t take that route: Evangelical Christians are not supporting Hillary en-mass like they are Donald Trump.

I don’t like Hillary Clinton, and I don’t think she will make for a very good president.

The words I said in the introduction bear repeating: you can be a Christian and vote for Donald Trump. Just don’t go to the voting booth under the guise that a Christian should absolutely vote for Donald Trump.

I’m not recommending the Evangelical Right throw their support behind Hillary Clinton. I couldn’t do that in good conscience – but what I am trying to do is caution Christian voters from openly supporting a man who proudly stands in stark contrast to the Jesus they claim to follow.

And to stand against Trump is not synonymous with standing up for Hillary. We must not let this type of thinking infect our understanding our partisan politics.

I’m going to end this article with a quote from famed theologian C.S. Lewis. Found in his 1964 classic Mere Christianity, I’m going to post it in its entirety -and let my readers decide upon their own personal application and commentary.

“I feel a strong desire to tell you – and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me – which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking about which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between those errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”

But this may all be an exercise in futility. Trump’s legion of supporters have proven remarkably loyal. And, to be honest, if you’ve stuck with him this far into the race, there’s probably not much more I can write (or that Trump can do) that will affect your support.

Or, in the words of The Donald himself, “it really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

Enough said.

Endnotes and Resources

“But what about abortion?”
Please read this blog post by Rachel Held Evans and this article by Shannon Dingle.

Here’s a quote from the Evans’ article: “In the eight years since we’ve had a pro-choice president, the abortion rate in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest since 1973. I believe the best way to keep this trend going is not to simply make it harder for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies but to create a culture with fewer unwanted pregnancies to begin with. Data suggests progressive social policies that make healthcare and childcare more affordable, make contraception more accessible, alleviate poverty, and support a living wage do the most to create such a culture, while countries where abortion is simply illegal see no change in the abortion rate.”

“But what about gun rights?”
Please read my previous blog about guns.

“But what about the refugees and ISIS?”
Please read any non-partisan fact-checking website and my blog on the issue.

“But what about the Supreme Court?”
Please read this article by the National Review, this blog post by The Gospel Coalition, and this article by The Resurgent.

Here’s a quote from the Resurgent article: “A Clinton Administration may see the church besieged from the outside, but a Trump Administration will see the church poisoned from within.”

For the Record: Multiple prominent Christians oppose a Trump presidency, including authors Max Lucado and Philip Yancey, and the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics Commission, Russell MooreUPDATE: More 100 evangelical leaders have signed a petition denouncing Trump.

Musical Note: This post was written to and influenced by Gungor’s Hurricane, Bastille’s The Currents and Crowder’s American I/O.

Confessions of a DJ, or In Defense of the Wedding Dancefloor

By the time I inevitably sweep up the confetti mess from the dance floor on December 30th, I’ll have DJed twenty-five weddings in 2016 through my little DJ company – including my own.

I’ve been DJing weddings for four years, and during that time I’ve attended barn weddings, tent weddings, church weddings, house weddings, and weddings in multi-million dollar event venues. I’ve DJed weddings for couples who have been dating for eight years and for couples who had just met within the calendar year.

As a wedding DJ, you become the perennial wallflower – reading the crowd, observing the ceremonies, and watching for any irregularities on the dance floor. As you can imagine, I can tell you a lot about weddings and the people who attend them.

I can tell you that a Maid of Honor speech that begins with “I have a couple of funny stories about the bride…” will probably be a couple of stories about the bride too long. And that a Best Man speech that ends with tears streaming down the Best Man’s face will leave nearly everyone in the reception hall misty-eyed.

I know in spite of how much you think you hate that Top 40 song they overplay on the radio, you’ll soon be belting the lyrics out at the top of your lungs when the chorus hits.

And no matter how poorly you think you dance, if you just muster enough courage to get onto the dance floor for a few minutes you’ll quickly find that no one else really knows what they’re doing either (and that’s okay).

Nine times out of ten, the bride’s garter is picked up by the ring bearer because – let’s be honest – all the adults in the room are still a little confused why the garter toss is even a thing anymore.

There’s other little details you pick up on – trade secrets, if you will.

Like how in order to maintain the dance floor’s momentum, you need to change up genres every 2 – 3 songs (as long as the transition isn’t too jarring). And the best way to resuscitate a waning dance floor is to play one of Taylor Swift’s 45 hit singles or The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” (thanks Wedding Crashers).


Kelly & Trey – 12/20/14

And, without fail, the liveliness of a dance floor celebration isn’t dependent on a good playlist or whether or not alcohol is served during the reception – nope, it all hinges on the wedding party (the bridesmaids and the groomsmen)’s willingness to get down when that dance floor opens up.

Behind the Booth

DJing a wedding is often viewed as the one of the lowest-common denominators in musical entertainment. And weddings are often derided for being a bore – full of pompous ceremony, boring speeches, and lame music.

“Weddings are cliche, predictable, and old-fashioned,” goes the mantra.

“There’s no artistry in a wedding reception.”

“It’s a job an iPod could do.”

 I – humbly – choose to disagree.

Like I said before, I’ve been to several dozen weddings over the past couple of years, so if anyone has a reason to be jaded by the wedding industry, it’s me.

But here’s the truth: every wedding I’ve DJed – no matter the budget, venue, or the weather – has been a unique and vibrant experience that has eclipsed the unfair assumption that all weddings are predictable, stuffy affairs.

It’s the small details that set the weddings apart. Like the custom-made coloring books about the bride and groom for the kids’ table. Or the doughnut bar instead of a wedding cake. And the hushed whispers shared between the wedding couple during a final, private dance (note: you really should do a private dance at your wedding).


Brittany & Mark – 6/14/15

But some weddings I remember for the wild and unexpected moments. Like an illegal celebratory firework display in the middle of downtown Austin. I’ve DJed two weddings where the original venue flooded and the entire ceremony/reception had to be moved at the last moment to a house (including my own wedding).

Unfortunately, we are a generation most likely to be the victims of the previous generation’s divorces. In a majority of the weddings I work,  at least one member of the wedding couple will be coming from a broken home. And this may be a factor in my generation’s disillusionment toward weddings and marriage.

But in spite of that fact, nearly every other weekend I watch brides and grooms continue to march on – looking back so as to not repeat the mistakes of the past, and looking forward in expectation of a more redemptive future.

Liturgy of Joy

Weddings are marked by a handful of Big Moments.

The first time a groom lays eyes on his bride in her wedding dress. The proclamation of husband and wife. The clumsy or well-rehearsed first dance. The breaking of bread together – be it buffet-style BBQ, a plated dinner, or heavy hors d’oeuvres. And the great escape – when the bride and groom make their way to their getaway car, often blinded by the pelting of bird seed or acrid sparkler smoke.


Liz and Cooper – 8/5/16

In that sense, weddings are a form of liturgy – familiar beats in an old song we just can’t keep from singing. It has rhythm. The tempo might change from couple to couple, but the chords remain the same. And that’s nothing to be jaded or cynical about. 

A wedding is not the culmination of joy in someone’s life, but is instead a joyous moment that deserves to be celebrated in someone’s life.

Within my faith, a wedding is the closest illustration of the love our God has for His children we’ll get to see this side of the veil. It’s an event draped in both symbolic and literal beauty. It’s a celebratory feast – one that basks in the glow of friends and family, both young and old.


Allie & Conner – 9/6/15

The wedding is about the bride and groom, yes, but it’s also about all of us – the family members, friends, roommates, cousins, coworkers, distant relatives, and former classmates.

It’s about putting aside our grudges and fears not only for the sake of the happy couple, but for the sake of each other. For outside the walls of this barn, tent, or reception hall lays a broken world rife with hate, stress, and fear. But in celebration of the young love in our midst, tonight we feast together, we drink together, and we dance together.

With this in mind, I’d like to add one more Big Moment to our list of Big Wedding Moments.


Miriam & Justin – 6/16/16

It’s a moment that hard to nail down, because unlike the First Dance or Cake Cutting, we don’t announce it in order to draw everyone’s attention to it (because we can’t). And it can take many different forms. Guests can participate in this moment and not even realize it.

 But it generally happens toward the latter part of the evening. The dance floor is revving up, that kickdrum beat has hijacked your pulse, and perspiration is beading on your brow. 

Your spouse is dancing next to you and you got a big, goofy grin on your face because you’ve never him move like that or look so happy. Your surrounded by your closest friends and family, and they’re moving too – swaying and laughing to the rapidly oscillating beat.

Bubbles dance in the air above your uplifted hands, and lasers and strobes perforate the fog billowing from the smoke machine. The music swells and reaches its peak, and suddenly there’s a loud pop and multicolor snow – confetti – is pouring from sky above.


Shannon & Joe – 5/28/16

It gets in your hair, your shoulders, and bustled dress, but it doesn’t matter because you’re caught up in the moment – euphoria and jubilee – and everyone whom you love is right there beside you. And the realization dawns that today is your wedding day, and you’re married and this is the start of Something New.

Through handclap beats, foot stomps, sing-along choruses, confetti cannons, bubble machines and wild synth- or banjo-breakdowns, maybe we can achieve the divine – a brief taste of Heaven on earth.

So, at the next wedding you attend, get out there and dance, dance, dance.

Coda: When the Wedding Ends

There’s a powerful scene at the close of the 1967 classic film The Graduate in which the camera tracks the changing expressions of a couple who has just triumphantly fled a wedding. First, their faces are masks of pure joy, but they slowly devolve into a look of detached resignation.

For a lot of couples, this is the reality after the wedding. The party ends, and real life begins in earnest.

During my own engagement, my then-fiancee and I were repeatedly told how “difficult marriage is” and that it would take “a lot of hard work.”And after just four months of marriage, I can attest to the veracity of that advice.

At my own wedding, I delivered the prayer and a brief message before the meal was served. In it, I challenged the guests who were in attendance to check up on us (my bride and I) and to hold us accountable to each other.

Far too often, a bride and groom disappear from their community after they’re married. We all have friends who get married and never seem to see again. And, to be honest (as someone who is recently married) it’s easy to detach from friends and family members in the months following the wedding.

But that’s not how marriage is suppose to work. A wedding was never designed to be the highlight of a marriage, just like a first page shouldn’t be the highlight of a novel.

Therefore, I want to challenge those couples who are engaged and planning a wedding (or if you’re someone who wants to get married): Your wedding will be spectacular, but it’s also the start of something even more fantastic and fun – a marriage.

And it’s difficult for a marriage to thrive in isolation. Therefore, begin developing relationships now with people who will invest in your future marriage and push you into community with other married couples.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

This post is supplemented by photographs of That Moment taken by some amazing artists at weddings I’ve DJed. Photographers include (in order of the picture placement) Stephanie Brazzle Photography, Bradford Martens Photography, Eva Elisabeth Photography, Grant Daniels Photography, Hannah Mayson Photography, and Ashley Monogue Photography.

Musical Note: This post was written and composed while listening to OneRepublic’s Kids, Matthew Mole’s Run, and Bishop Briggs’ Pray. Seriously, these are some jams.

Conscientious Objection: Why I’m Reluctant to Vote

I can’t be alone.

I’m watching the same news reports, interviews, debates and conventions and thinking, “Are you kidding me?”

And then I sit in a church pew or scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, looking toward the people whom I respect and raised me and I think, “What is going on here?”

It feels as if we are being told we are all soldiers for God’s army and our primary weapon is the voting booth lever come November.

At what point do we begin to ask ourselves if instead of our faith informing our politics, our politics have begun to inform our faith?

Old Covenant, New Rules

Nationalism is described as an extreme form of patriotic pride that is marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries. In my experience within the Church, we are frequently directed toward the story of Israel in the Old Testament to justify patriotic and political zeal.

We should find this concerning, because the Old Testament is brutally honest about the threat nationalism poses to the people of God. Each and every time the people of God let fear override their faith and place their hope in worldly kings and armies, things start to fall apart (ex. The entire book of Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings, the 2016 Presidential Election).

In fact, when the Israelites first demanded a king in 1 Samuel, God grants their request for the explicit purpose of proving to them that it will not improve their lives.

Much of the justification for Christians’ involvement is politics I’ve heard seem to be deeply rooted in fear of the unknown. The fear of “where our country is headed” appears to be driving out any sort of trust or reliance on God’s sovereignty, cosmic justice, and reconciliation and replacing it with our personal political responsibility.

The story of Israel in the Old Testament operates on many levels, and in one sense it is a love story. It’s a story about God’s relentless grace as He continuously attempts to woo His people back from their desire to become an imperialistic nation that has no need for reliance on God.

So does it not seem a little odd when we use this love story to justify the greatness of America from the pulpit?

Persecution Complex

Christianity has always existed within a hostile secular culture. Israel was surrounded (and frequently conquered) by more militant nations. The inception of Christianity began during the bloody occupation of the Roman Empire. The early Christian church was defined and motivated by the persecution and martyrdom of the saints.

The uncomfortable truth is that the Church is supposed to thrive under persecution – just look at the church in China today and the spread of the Gospel among Syrian refugees.

But the church in America is not thriving. In spite of that fact, we are relentlessly told and led to believe that our faith is under attack from a various assortment of threats, biases, and political enemies.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves – is being persecuted for our political beliefs and attitudes the same as being persecuted for Christ?

Jesus said that the “gates of hell would not prevail against the church,” so I think we can confidently assume she’ll survive another presidential election. Whether or not America can, however, remains to be seen. But maybe there are more pressing issues at hand.

Many of us in the Church have exchanged the Cross for the flag. We have replaced the Gospel with party platforms. We have substituted evangelism for sharing HuffPost and Drudge Report articles (and…ahem, blogging). We have traded in faith in God for faith in smart bombs and border walls.

So can we at least entertain the possibility that a lot of our perceived ‘persecution’ in America might be well warranted?

Because perhaps we are Israel, wandering in the desert.

The Great Divorce

If Christian involvement in politics is driven by a desire to protect our comfortable expression of faith and out of fear from our ‘enemies’ then maybe we should assume that – at best – we’re being manipulated in an effort to reap our votes, or – at worst – we’ve forgotten the face of our God.

Jesus broke into the world during one of the most politically unstable eras in human history. The pagan empire of Rome had conquered most of the known world and occupied Israel – including the holy city of Jerusalem. And yet, Jesus wanted nothing to do with the political power. In fact, when Satan tempted Him in the desert with the promise of “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory,” He rejected the offer.

In spite of the volatile political climate, Jesus never commanded His followers to stockpile weapons, “take back their country,” or defend their religious freedoms – even though He would have been completely justified in doing so.

Instead, Jesus’ ministry made it clear the transformative power of the Gospel shows no favoritism across party lines, social class or geopolitical borders.

Many Christians point toward Paul’s words in Roman 13 to justify political participation, but the passage doesn’t mention participation at all – instead it instructs its readers to “respect and obey the governing authorities” because they have been “instituted by God” (yet, if there is a digression between the laws of God and man, we are to obey God). In Mark 12, Jesus is specifically asked how the Jewish people should interact with the Roman Empire and His reply (“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…”) is neither a critique or endorsement.

Yes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message that is highly offensive to the secular world, and it is necessary for the conviction and repentance of sins. However, in 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul instructed Timothy to preach the Word with “great patience and careful instruction.

The Gospel claims that every person who has ever drawn breath is born in a deep pit of shame and guilt, and the only way to obtain forgiveness and life is by following and trusting in Jesus – the Son of God who, after living a perfect life, was murdered for your sins against God and then resurrected to bring about the reconciliation and restoration of all creation.

There is a lot to unpack in the above statement. And I don’t believe policy change or legislative action will ever help a person understand the implications of the Gospel or draw them into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

I am not suggesting that Christians should disengage from politics. But maybe we should take a breath and perform some collective soul searching. Because I think it is pretty clear that something is very rotten in our country, and it reeks of both Red and Blue.

It might benefit us to think of new ways to be political in this day and age. And perhaps that means not participating in the modern, political machinations, but instead looking for creative solutions that “set apart the people of God” from the rest of the world.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is asked by a religious scribe which of the commandments is the greatest. Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

In today’s age, that message – Love God, Love People – is just as groundbreaking and political now as it was two thousand years ago.

And it might be a good place to start.

Because ultimately, we can’t “take our country back.”

It never belonged to us in the first place.

Post Script [Or, A Cliffhanger] [Or, A Failure to Resolve]

I originally subtitled this post “Why I’m Not Voting in 2016.” But to be honest, I am not sure if that is true. At this point, I just don’t know what to do.

However, I have recently been convicted that if I choose not to vote, my privilege – as a white, middle-class male – somewhat protects me from the consequences of my disengagement. And it’s possible my choice not to participate might be unfair to those who may actually be affected by the election’s outcome – specifically the people Jesus called us to care for.

Therefore, if I choose to vote in November, it will be for the candidate that I think will do the least amount of damage to the world and to those who are most vulnerable to the system. And that may mean putting the needs and self-interests of others ahead of myself.

But, even within those parameters, it is an extremely difficult decision.

So I may just write in Jesus.

But I don’t think He would want the job.

I believe He is satisfied with being the Lord over my life.


Bleed, America: The Decline of Empathatic Discourse and How to Reverse It

On Thursday, July 7th, two very different – but interconnected – events occurred and much of the United States had not only a front row seat to the carnage, but also an opinion.

Straddled by two police officers, I watched four bullets punch into Alton Sterling’s chest. In the unflinchingly graphic cellphone video, he twitched and bled out in front of a convenience store.

Later that night, as I was preparing to go to bed with my wife, my Breaking News App alerted me to the situation occurring in downtown Dallas. A sniper was methodically picking off police officers during a march protesting the death I had witnessed online earlier that day.

We Are Binary

We have become a culture in which we are forced to pick sides between divisive issues, because the voices on the opposite ends of the spectrum are often louder and more persuasive than the meek and rational voices that exist in the middle. We have become binary – a series of ones and zeros.

You can either be Black Lives Matter, or All Lives Matter. You can either be for unfettered access to guns, or you’re a staunchly opposed to gun ownership. You can either be progressive, “anything-goes” socialist liberal, or a nostalgic, narrow-minded and prejudiced conservative.

This is because binary attitudes result in a damning linguistic glitch called “code switching.” When we unwittingly “code switch” in a conversation or discussion, we find ourselves attributing different meanings and implications to specific words and phrases that result in overtly emotional and polarizing responses.

Some examples of code switching include: You hear “gun control” and think “gun ban.” You hear “police” and think “racists.” You hear “Black Lives Matter” or “black protesters” and think “thugs.” You hear “Islam” and think “terrorists.” You hear “evangelical” and think “Pro-Trump.”

In an era of snarky tweets, provocative hashtags and internet memes, we have oversimplified complex issues in an attempt to belittle any opposition to our way of thinking. More often than not, we accuse the other side of adopting thought patterns and rhetorical fallacies that we ourselves are utilizing in defense of our own position. This problem is further exacerbated when we willfully choose to consume media that has been specifically crafted to cater to our own political leanings, value system and societal demographic.

How else can we explain the fact that both of our two presidential frontrunners are the two most historically disliked candidates of all time?

In his brilliant book Tribe, author Sebastian Junger remarks that the “level of contempt that is usually reserved for enemies in wartime is now being applied to fellow citizens.” He goes on to say that the “United States is so powerful that the only country capable of destroying her might be the United States herself” and the “ultimate terrorist strategy would be to just leave the country alone.”

Blood Feud

As our society shies away from nuance in public discourse in favor of a binary approach to our global and local communities, we will continue to see a fracturing and growing distrust between those communities.

Just look at the level of contempt between the Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter movements (or the Republicans and Democrats): Both groups are guilty of code switching and defining the opposition group’s theology on the actions of fringe, and yet both groups have legitimately noble goals that in a closed system would never be challenged.

Perhaps most disheartening of all is the erosion of shared cultural experience and empathy. Since the dawn of mankind, war, natural disaster, terrorism, and economic downturn would not only strengthen the personal bonds among those affected, it would also catalyze altruism and selflessness in the face of tragedy.

This is no longer the case. Disasters, shootings, and terrorist attacks are no longer creating the societal bonds that are necessary for a society to be resilient in the wake of such atrocities – but instead have been reduced to bullet points used to push policy or justify racial prejudice.

As a white millennial that has lived all of his life within the cushion of the middle class, I have to acknowledge the fact that I am playing a part in the perpetration of the dominant culture narrative in our country. I cannot speak into or for the black experience in America, nor the homosexual, Islamic or any other cultural experience in the United States.

Some may scoff at this admission of guilt. But I think it is necessary. Within the framework of a dominant culture narrative, members of the dominant culture will often view themselves as the standard bearers of culture, values, and morality while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the ills within their own society and/or blaming them on a subservient culture.

And as a white male living in America, I am guilty of that.

Long Road Home

The road to reversing our radical partisanship and polarizing public discourse begins and ends with us. In order to be willing to seek restitution, each one of us must first openly acknowledge the possibility that some of our ideals, thought patterns, and prejudices may be wrong.

If we continue to assume that “once [that group] get its fact straight, then [the issue] will resolve,” then we are not yet mature enough to even begin to seek reconciliation, justice, and love with one another.

In a world of Us vs. Them, maybe it’s time to give Them a chance.

Do you believe the Black Lives Matter movement lacks credibility? Then ask a black acquaintance what it really feels like to grow up in white America (and read this research study). Do you have sinking suspicion of anyone you see wearing a turban? Visit a mosque and engage in a healthy discussion about the tenants of the Muslim faith. Distrust the police? Ask a police officer to sit down with you over coffee and discuss the problems you see in your community. Believe homosexuals are destroying the fabric of society? Invite a gay couple over for dinner and learn their story.

I’m not suggesting that we drop our convictions and accept everyone else’s convictions as Gospel. Passionate debate and public discourse have always been a part of a healthy society. I’m just suggesting that we make a little bit of an effort to talk with someone we disagree with and approach the conservation with the expectation that we may learn something – instead of convincing them on our viewpoint.

I know this won’t be easy. Believe me, I was raised in East Texas – a place where ‘tolerance’ is a basically a curse word. And in a western society that values individuality over community, the thought of reaching out can be panic inducing. But I’m also a follower of Jesus Christ. And in the Bible, Jesus was frequently derided by the religious leaders of His day for hanging out with drunkards, prostitutes, tax collectors, and unsavory immigrants.

But those religious folk got it all wrong. It’s not that Jesus was participating in or endorsing the behavior of those people; He was getting to know their stories, sharing life with them, and immersing Himself within their culture. You know, just acting like a decent human being.

And in the end, maybe that’s what we should strive for. The voices on either end of the spectrum will only get louder and more rabid. And even though I believe our societal ills are just symptoms of the corruption inherent in the human heart that can only be solved through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I also believe that we all have the ability to share a table and break bread together.

The only uncertainty is who believes themselves mature enough to make the first move.



The Christian, the Refugee, ISIS, and Fear

On Monday, November 16, 2015 a number of states – all of them conservative “red states” – said they would no longer accept Syrian refugees.

A short update on current events: The current Syrian civil war has killed more 220,000 people and displaced over 11 million people. More than 2,600 people have died at sea attempting to flee – many of them children. If you are unfamiliar with what is going on in Syria, I suggest you watch this video.

The Bible is very clear about our response to the needy and outcasts. In Matthew 25, Jesus condemns people to Hell for ignoring the cries of the poor, the refugee, and the brokenhearted. He says that in failing to give them water, food, shelter, and protection, they were rejecting Him. And thus, they were tossed into the eternal fire.

And here’s the kicker: Those people who were sent to Hell thought they were going to Heaven.

Jesus had a lot more to say about we how treat displaced peoples. In fact, here are twelve additional commands from the Old and New Testament regarding this very situation.

Simply put, if we fear ISIS militants sneaking in with Syrian refugees more than we fear God’s Word, then we may want to rethink which side of the fence we’re standing on.

America has the opportunity to show Christ to the world. But number of people – most of who were elected primarily for their claims of faith – are preventing that from happening. And a lot more people – most of whom refer to themselves as Christian – are celebrating that decision.

The Syrian refugees are a people fleeing a literal hell on Earth – a place where attacks similar to what happened in Paris occur daily. Let’s stop talking about reclaiming the ‘faith’ of the America’s past, and start being the church today.

the christian and “just” war

A lot has been said recently (and, to be fair, since the launch of the first crusade) about the doctrine of so-called “just war” and the Christian’s role in the fight against radical Islamic extremism.

Let me be clear: If we claim to be the people of Christ and are simultaneously advocating a position that will result in the deaths of non-Christians, then we are supporting a policy that we knowingly acknowledge will send people to Hell.

If we find ourselves holding an opinion toward war that errs more on the side of “Let God sort ‘em out” or “Forgiveness is between them and God, it’s up to us to arrange the meeting,” then at the very best we would need to question how much we truly value human life and the eternal soul. At the very worst, we should assume we’re following a god we’ve cobbled together from your own fears, insecurities, patriotism, and bigotry and just happened to call him “Jesus.”

a third choice

Jesus is constantly challenging the logic and thought patterns of His culture. In the Kingdom He is establishing on Earth, the first are last, the poor are rich, and the weak are strong. He is turning the established order upside down.

He also had a lot to say about violence and retaliation that challenged natural conventions. He told us to love our enemy, pray for those persecute us, and turn the other cheek if we are struck.

“But what about ISIS, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda?” you ask. “Are we suppose to let them kill innocents and overtake countries?”

Because of my faith, I know I don’t have to choose between war and pacifism. There is a third way. And it is rooted in belief that I serve a God who is making all things new in the present age and using His followers to facilitate the heavening of earth.

Romans 13 makes it clear that God uses established governments and kingdoms on Earth to dole out justice against evil. I believe that. I also believe that God removes and establishes kings and world leaders (Daniel 2:21) in part to carry out His will on Earth. In addition to that, I believe Christians aren’t supposed to pursue revenge because vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19).

The point I’m trying to make is that a Christian who believes in the sovereignty of the Lord doesn’t have to pick a side in this fight. You don’t have to choose between America and anarchy.

So, if we don’t have to choose between pacifism and war, then how are followers of Christ supposed to respond in the volatile world we find ourselves in?

If the government thinks the best way to deal with terrorists and rogue nations is through bombs, missiles, and bullets, then I won’t stand in their way. But as a Christian, I can’t condone such violence. War is a broken response to a problem born out of a broken world. But I rest in the knowledge that God will dole out justice – in this world or the next.

I just don’t think it should be Christians pulling the trigger or advocating for the trigger pull.

Instead our response to war should be opening our homes (and our border) to those displaced by the conflict, sharing the Gospel, and praying for our enemies. You know, exactly what the Bible says.

And then let God handle the rest.

fear not

The words “fear not” are mentioned in the Bible 365 times. And yet, American Christians seem to be the most fearful subset of the population. We fear persecution when we are greeted with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” we tremble when the Ten Commandments are removed from courthouses, and we repost blatantly false and cruel articles about our current President on Facebook.

What? And we’re the people that serve the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is and who was and is to come?

Here’s a list of things the modern American Christian is afraid of based on my Facebook feed on any given day: homosexuals, terrorists, socialism, liberals, democrats, people taking away their guns, conservationists, Muslims, universal healthcare, Hollywood, immigrants, illegal aliens, the mainstream media, the Shemitah year, Obama and Starbucks.

It’s time for us to take stock. Our national proclivity toward fear has led us down a path where we have a viable presidential candidate advocating for the creation of a database that tracks and requires the registration of Muslims residing in the United States.

Who in the world would want to be a Christian if we are a people defined by fear and “moral outrage?”

Fear is rooted in insecurity, and insecurity is ultimately rooted in the belief that God does not know what He’s doing.

This is why “fear not” is the most oft-repeated command in the Bible.

us for them

This is not an easy message for most American Christians to hear. I understand that. For many of us, our nationalistic tendencies are so intertwined with our faith that they are almost inseparable.

I love the Church. God is doing some amazing things through His people in America and around the world. But something dark snuck into our faith that masquerades behind terms like “national security” and “patriotic duty.”

Something called fear.

In the end, we have to make a choice. And that choice may very well be choosing not to play within the logic and conventions of this world.

It may mean choosing verses over bullets, aid over shrapnel, songs over war cries, compassion over exile, forgiveness over vengeance, empathy over bigotry, peace over fear, blessing over curses, love over hate, and eternal life over security.

It may cost you your life.

But you’d be in good company.

Matthew 10:38 – 39.


Blowback: The Christian Dilemma of Gun Culture

During the 12th Century, crusaders often hired mercenaries to fight in their stead during the Crusades. Because the Crusades were viewed as a religious undertaking, the mercenaries had to be baptized before being deployed to the Holy Land. But as they were being submerged, the mercenaries would hold their swords above the water to symbolize that their swords were the one thing they would not surrender to Jesus.

This is an open letter to the evangelical Christians in the audience, the ones who are more likely than not to bristle at the bare mention of gun control or believe that dastardly U.S. government is looking to take away all your guns.

Please try not to twist my words. I grew up in the south and am intimately familiar with the gun culture of the United States. I won’t be suggesting that U.S. citizens shouldn’t have the right to choose whether or not they want to own a firearm. Instead, I’m asking what we – as Christians – should do with that choice.

If you are a follower of Christ, this isn’t a policy issue. It’s a heart issue.

And it is directly informed by your response to the Gospel.

shoot first, no questions later

Gun rights activists love to pepper their arguments with hypothetical scenarios:

  • What if the teachers at Sandy Hook had been armed?
  • A lot of people die in car crashes. Should we ban cars too?
  • What if someone broke into your home and attempted to rape your wife or daughter?

(Side note: I’m pretty sure America’s hypothetical wives and daughters are tired of being raped and murdered in order to make points about gun ownership and abortion. Seriously, what’s up with that?)

The deployment of questions such as these usually marks a turning point in any gun control debate – a point where emotional response and fear become as pertinent (and often overrides) data-driven research and Biblical precedent. Which is interesting because most of us understand that we shouldn’t make lifestyle choices or policy decisions based on extreme hypothetical scenarios.

But that rationale and logic leaps right out of the window when we start questioning the role of firearms in the life of a follower of Christ. So, in the spirit of fair and balanced debate, here are three hypothetical questions directed toward my brothers in Christ:

  • If Jesus walked the Earth today, would He be the keynote speaker at a National Rifle Association (NRA) convention advocating our right to own assault rifles?
  • Does “blessed are those who own swords and defend their life, property, and liberty, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” thematically fit anywhere within the Sermon of the Mount?
  • Which phrase flows quicker from your lips – “Lord, I surrender all to you” or “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands?”

I’m not trying to be provocative. I’m just applying the same litmus test on gun control and violence that evangelical Christians place on other hot button issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Because, the truth is, Jesus devotes way more airtime advocating for peace and non-retaliation (Matthew 5:39 – 44) than he does rallying the troops to defend the sanctity of marriage.

What is it about gun ownership and self defense that stirs up such an intense, emotional, and judgmental reaction in most Christians? Any belief that ignites such a vitriol response in people that is not steeped in a Biblical foundation deserves to be examined and cross-examined at great length.

In my opinion, my fellow conservative evangelicals’ propensity to elevate a doctrine of self-defense and gun ownership above the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself represents a barrier to the Gospel to those outside the faith.


Late one evening in August, as I was wrestling with these ideas, I bluntly posed that infamous hypothetical scenario to my girlfriend.

“Shannon, suppose we get married,” I said. “And one night, I get out of bed to use the bathroom. When I get back, I discover someone has broken into our home and is in the process of raping you at knifepoint. There’s a pistol in the top drawer of my nightstand and I race toward it. What would you want me to do?”

A pensive look crosses over her face as she mulls over the question. After what seems like an eternity, she answers.

“I would rather be raped and murdered than have my husband be responsible for sending someone to hell.”

I don’t like this answer.

blood in the garden

In Matthew 26, Jesus is approached in the Garden of Gethsemane by an entourage of armed Roman soldiers and officials who are tasked with arresting Him and bringing him before the Jewish high council. Peter – one of Jesus’ disciples – believing it is his righteous duty to defend the Son of God, draws a sword from underneath his cloak.

The blade flashes. Blood sprays. A severed ear drops to the ground.

In the stillness that follows, Jesus turns toward Peter and says, “Put your sword back into his sheath. For those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

I can’t imagine that Peter liked this command.

But Jesus isn’t through yet. In the Gospel of Luke, we’re told Jesus reaches out and heals the man that Peter struck with his sword (Luke 22:51).

Do you understand the gravity of what has just taken place? In the final hours of His life, Jesus healed someone who was sent to deliver Him over to be crucified.

Early followers of the faith use to say, “When Jesus disarmed Peter, He disarmed all Christians.” According to church tradition, nearly all of Jesus’ original disciples were tortured and murdered for their faith. Even in the midst of intense persecution by the Roman Empire, early Christians willingly laid down their lives for their beliefs and fellow believers.

When we send missionary families to dangerous mission fields – like Somalia or Iraq – we don’t send them overseas with rifles and crates of ammunition in case they “have to defend themselves.” At the same time, most Christians would (rightly) view wherever God has placed them at any given point in time as their “mission field,” including the U.S.

So, I have to ask: Why is it okay for U.S.-bound Christians to arm themselves to the teeth to protect their home and well-being, and yet not okay for international missions families to do the same thing in a much more dangerous part of the world?


Let’s return to that distressing hypothetical I posed to my girlfriend – the one with the rape and murder that gun right activists like so much.

I’m not implying that I would do nothing while my wife is being brutalized. That would be evil. I would do everything in my power to protect my future wife’s honor and life. If it came down it, I would die for her.

But I will not kill for her.

This is probably why Jesus didn’t say, “Greater love hath no man than this: to take a life in defense of a friend or one’s own self.”

I’m not saying we should abolish the 2nd Amendment. I’m not saying that citizens shouldn’t have the right to own firearms.

But, as Christians, we are meant to be Christ’s ambassadors to a fallen world – a world already inundated with violence and bloodshed.

We are also commanded to emulate Christ in all that we do (John 13:15), and when Christ arrived on the scene He made a point to liberate His people and conquer death with the cross, not with the sword.

I can only imagine how confusing it must be for nonbelievers to see us coming at them with a Bible in one hand and an AR-15 gripped in the other.

It must certainly make for an awkward hug.

“The Way of the Gun” is the first installment of my American Heretic series, in which I attempt to explore controversial issues using the framework of the Gospel. They are designed to be thought-provoking pieces that challenged widely-held beliefs. They are also written primarily for a Christian audience. Therefore, if you are a Christian and are deeply offended or infuriated by what you’ve read, please take the time to prayerfully consider whether or not the root of your response is God-honoring before commenting or replying to this article. Thank you.

the art of transparency

One of the greatest crises facing my generation today is our aversion to authenticity.

Which is odd considering how much time we spend talking about ourselves. At no point in history do we have as much control over the image we present to the world than we do now. But more often than not, that image has been perfectly tailored to fit the expectations of our audience.

But what happens when we begin sacrificing our authenticity for the illusion of perfection? Quite a lot, I came to learn.

For several years, I was the perfect gentleman, boyfriend, church member, roommate, and companion. But underneath all of that, I toiled tirelessly trying to maintain whichever image I was currently projecting to the world.

As a result, the relationships I held most dear began to corrode. After one particularly painful breakup, I finally sat down and began a process of brutally honest self-examination.

And in those quiet moments, the Holy Spirit reminded me that the journey to true authenticity begins and ends with Jesus Christ.

to God

Honesty with our Creator should supersede any perceived benefit we may receive from pursuing authenticity in any other arena of our life.

Too often, I think we approach God as if the veil had never been torn. We stroll into the Holy of Holies dressed in our Sunday best and on our best behavior, and then proceed to tell God exactly what we think He wants to hear.

To approach our heavenly Father with anything less than our complete sincerity and transparency is to dishonor what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. After all, He already knows our innermost thoughts (Psalm 139:2), hidden motives (Psalm 16:2), and secret faults (Psalm 19:12), so an attempt to hide our true selves from Him is an exercise in futility.

Practically speaking, this meant budgeting in a time for confessional prayer during my quiet times. For me, confessional prayer – or “ugly prayer”– is a concession of all my sin, doubt, pain, and insecurity. It’s jumbled, raw, and anything but impressive. And in the stillness that follows, I meditate on the cross at Golgotha and the transformative power in the blood that was spilled there.

So, can people change? The Gospel guarantees it. And once I began letting the light into the rooms of my soul I had long ago closed off, my relationship with Christ became more fruitful, honest, and intimate. In the moments of vulnerability, the grace of God began filtering down into the fissures of my wayward and broken heart.

to myself

The core issue behind my struggles with authenticity lay rooted in the belief that people wouldn’t accept me if they knew the real me.

In my mind, I would never be clever, funny, or charming enough. Thus began my business of selling counterfeit versions of myself in exchange for praise and affirmation.

I ran this con for years because, instead of basing my identity in Christ, I found my security in other people’s satisfaction in their relationships with me. Uprooting this sin from my life was one of the most painful stages of sanctification I have ever experienced. But before I could become a more authentic Christ follower, I had to admit to myself that I had a problem.

I encourage you to examine the social situations in which you feel threatened or stir up jealousy in your heart. Is it when someone funnier enters the room? Prettier? Smarter? Better dressed? More spiritual? If you have a negative internal response to any of these situations, it’s a result of your identity in something other than Christ being challenged.

to others

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in this past year is that people can’t have relationships with “perfect” people. Unfortunately, this realization didn’t come without cost. Masquerading as someone who has a perfect life, relationship, or job does nothing but alienate the people who care about us the most.

As my relationships with others grew more intimate, I had to work harder to maintain the illusion, and it wasn’t long before cracks began to show in my facade. When this happened, I would panic – freezing the other person out and placing the relationship on autopilot, inevitably causing it to stall.

Even after becoming more transparent with God and myself, I continue to struggle with presenting my true self to other people. It’s silly, but the fear of rejection still lingers. However, identifying and coming to terms with my own brokenness made me a more empathetic person.

The moment I began viewing people not as social capital to impress but as broken individuals in need of redemption was the moment I began drawing closer to the heart of God.

one final note

I don’t want it to come across that I’m suggesting we shouldn’t have or maintain good reputations. While acknowledging our broken nature is a primary tenant to our faith, we are not instructed to wallow in our shortcomings and shame.

As image-bearers of Christ, our good works and deeds should be like a light that shines before others (Matthew 5:16). But in this context, it’s wise to remember the words of Paul in his first letter to Corinth: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Don’t expect your life to get easier once you start living a more authentic lifestyle. Mine certainly didn’t.

The very nature of authenticity means you become more vulnerable and susceptible to the hurts of the world.

But a little pain is a small price to pay for the rewards found in honest communion with our Creator and loved ones.