Am I The Christian I Never Wanted To Be

Growing up I had a deep respect for the Christian leaders around me. I always remember my youth pastor telling everyone that he really believed I could be a rapper if I wanted to. Or the fact that he always had time for me to sit in his office and give me counsel on issues that were probably so small but I thought the world was ending. Or the fact that church and school were in the same building, I would always see the senior pastor walking the hallways and cracking jokes with the students. Or even on of the moms from the school would allow some of the students to come over every week before the youth group service to pray. I distinctly remember so many of these moments. It gave me such a positive outlook on Christian culture and its leaders.

Maybe I was naive because many of my friends who grew up with me might tell you a very different story. As I got older and now the same age as some of the leaders I grew aspiring to be like, I realized I was sheltered from so much. As I would eventually volunteer or intern within the church organizations I would become so frustrated at so much of the favoritisms or lack of follow through I would see. Often I would try to get over it and dismiss it as human nature which causes our imperfections.

I grew up in a Christian home. I had two loving parents who are married to this day. In my later years my father became a pastor and to my own beliefs, I never became the typical “pastors kid”. I honestly wanted to be the best Christian I knew how. I don’t know if I lived up to that but I promise I am trying despite my many failings.

Although sometimes it makes it difficult to get up on Sunday mornings I try to acknowledge that I too am guilty of hypocrisy and the judgmental attitudes I get upset about. However on my free time that I have way too much of, I scroll through Facebook and Instagram I find myself so angry at the leaders I once knew. This anger forces one question from me. Am I the Christian I never wanted to be?

When I was in high school I found out that Kanye West was coming to town for a concert. The tickets were expensive and I had a soccer game so I definitely didn’t expect to go. This moment changed when I called up the local radio station and I was lucky caller number five. I did it. I won third row tickets to my favorite rapper. Gainesville, Florida hardly ever gets big names like that to come in so for me to get such good tickets for free was huge. All my friends heard it on the radio and for a few minutes I was the coolest kid in the school. A feeling I was not accustomed to.

This moment changed when the pastors who worked at the school found out. For a few days it was chaos with them. They didn’t stand for his music and worried that it was a bad influence on me. It felt like every corner I turned they would call me out and try to convince me not to go. It even got to the point where they called my dad at work disappointed that he would allow me to go. It got so frustrating that I snapped at the senior pastor on my way to class (that’s something you just don’t do). That night my dad came into my room and told me that he thought it was best for me not to go. The pressure and criticism from the school wasn’t going away and after listening to some of his music, he also felt that the music wouldn’t be the best influence on a 14 year old.

I remember being so angry with the staff. How could they be so judgmental? Did they even care why he was my favorite? Did they realize he was music was inspirational at the time when I also wanted to be an artist? Finally having a chance to see him in person meant the world. A few hours before the soccer game I knocked on my youth pastors office door and talked to him about it. I asked if he was mad at me or disappointed in me. He was surprised by the question. His response was humble and kind. “Of course I’m not mad. He’s your favorite artist. I wouldn’t be upset that you want to go.” He followed by telling me that his main goal was to help me grow in my relationship with Jesus and that he felt that by going to the concert and listening to Kanye could hurt that goal but he was not upset with me in any way.

This moment has been playing back in my mind for a while now. Although I don’t necessarily believe in the way the majority of the staff approached there point of view I do understand it and respect it. When it comes to Christianity, there has to be a sense of accountability with each other and that accountability needs to be strong and sharp. I believe without it we will continue to lose the respect of those who are not in the faith as well as lose sight of the overall goal of learning to be more like Christ in every way.

One of them happened to be a close friend of the family. He had poured a lot of time in showing us love and I believe he is a big reason as to why my father became a pastor. I remember he was so excited about them not being allowed in. He began to label them all as terrorist. He began to make so many post on how Muslims preached violence on Christians and we should continue to attack them. 

I personally try to avoid public conversations on political conversations simply out of fear of sounding like an idiot. However that doesn’t mean I will stop reading or listening to others. Several years ago I remember reading in the news about Muslim refugees trying to get political asylum in the US. This made sense to me. A group of people fleeing their country out of fear of violence and hostility. The thought of seeing their homes destroyed by war and not able to return truly moved me. The details of why they were not allowed to come are vague in my memory but I do remember the reactions of several Christian leaders that I personally knew.

I was shocked and deeply hurt by these remarks. I really wanted to know if he ever met a Muslim and how often he spent with people of other faith. I couldn’t understand why he would hate an entire race of people and be so excited that we wouldn’t protect women and children who needed homes. I eventually wrote about this in a poem. My exact response to this was “Dear Mr. Pastor, you said we are all created equal, so why do you insist every Muslim is born evil?”.

However I firmly believe the response can’t be to ban everyone who doesn’t look like us.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the risk to national security by having open borders. I don’t have any sound ideas to allow immigrants and refugees in the country without understanding the full scope of what it cost to tax payers and how to properly vet everyone who wants to come in.

Overtime I eventually let it go. I figured this was just one area he was strongly passionate about and maybe his remarks came off wrong. As the next few years have passed I found the opposite in him and many other leaders I once looked up to.  

Recently a popular Christian magazine came out with an opinion article that said Trump should be removed from office either by impeachment or by election. The basis for this was due to his moral failure. There were some comparisons to when the magazine supported the removal of Clinton and how they believed that if his moral failures supported their Christian views to be an unfit leader then the same must be applied to our current president. 

This made sense to me. I haven’t spoken publicly about my views on the president and his policy or his removal for the same reasons I mentioned earlier. I’m scared I’ll sound like an idiot. With that being said if it was just on moral conduct alone then I would have to agree with the article. It is clear that on many occasions Trump has acted in many ways that are opposite of Christian standards with no sense of remorse or repentance. From lying on multiple occasions, to making plenty of recast remarks, to hurtful name calling to many people especially women. All of these things he has done and none of them has he claimed was any wrong doing, 

When this article was released I saw so many Christian leaders I had respect for bash the article. I was hoping they would give me some reason as to why the article was wrong. Why I am wrong. But as of the time I wrote this none of them have. They all stood in defense of Trump claiming that magazine no longer stood for the Christian values that it used to. I saw many claims that the magazine has now fallen to liberal but what does that mean? As a Christian am I really supposed to believe that God is more conservative than liberal? Or that He has a political party? Should I believe that by being a democrat I am somehow less able to see God’s righteous plan or vice versa?

My sister Nancy and brother in law Jon Lash pastor a church in South Florida. In mid 2019 Jon put out a post saying he wanted to answer any questions that people might have for him in regards to the Christian faith. I decided to chime in. I asked if we should allow our Christian views determine how we vote politically. Do we vote to force our views on others? He didn’t get a chance to respond on that Sunday service but I had a few great responses on social media from other people. One quote that I laughed at said “we must preserve our Christian views so the corrupted politicians in Washington can’t stop us. We should be thankful for people like Mike Pence. There are some truly terrible people in Washington. The Demon-rats”. I immediately called Nancy and laughed and she begged me not to respond.  

Aside from laughing at her name calling for democrats I was confused. Why was Trump also not thrown under the bus? Is it because he apologized for saying he could “grab women by the pussy” without permission. But then again he never apologized for having an affair with Stormy Daniels. Where is the line for sexual immorality when it comes to the president? Why do I not see any of the Christians I grew up with calling this out? 

I remember being so confused as to why anyone would vote for Trump but I also understood why people didn’t want to vote for Hillary. It felt like a literal pick your poison. At the end of the day I try to respect everyone’s political point of view. I love having conversations with people who have the opposite perspectives as I do. When I hear a political issue and someone has a different stance on it then I do I try my best to understand it. We may not always agree but I can usually find some sort of understanding when it comes to another opinion. Especially when they have facts statistics. 

This doesn’t always seem to be the case when Christians have a conservative in office. I think I get the reasoning behind it.

My other brother in law Benji does a weekly podcast with me called all my friends are lame. It’s basically 30 minutes of us just making fun of each others opinions. You can find it on YouTube and Soundcloud. (I know that was an unnecessary plug.) I care a lot about the podcast and the brand I’m striving to build behind it. Benji is a great singer and a great songwriter. If he were to put out a new song this week and it was terrible, more than likely I would still defend it. I would still promote it on my social media and give some air time on why I think the song is awesome. Behind the scenes I would tell him how much I hate the song and be mad that he released it but I would still promote it publicly. 

The reason is simple. Benji in many ways is a business partner. If I don’t promote him I could hurt the brand entirely. More than that, he is my family and one of my closest friends. I want to do whatever I can to help him succeed even if we don’t always see eye to eye. This would all change if Benji were to have a serious moral failure. 

If I were to find out Benji were to do something terrible like kick a baby or sexually assault someone, I would feel some sense to take time and distance myself. This is not to say I wouldn’t still love Benji but I would need to see that he is truly sorry for those actions and makes effort to make them right. At that point I might feel okay to bring him back in my life. But if he never had any regret or made any attempt to correct his mistakes, it would be a long time before I could bring him back in.  

To me this seems like common sense. If someone does something wrong, they should be held accountable. However it often feels that with a political party, there is either excuses or exceptions.  When the article posted by the Christian magazine made statements against the president, it seemed like there were very few people in the Christian community that supported Trump from the beginning, that also agreed that he should be held accountable. Instead it was just slander against the magazine or wanting an explanation on why the Democrats were not also being called out. 

Let’s be honest, for as long as I can remember the Democratic party has always been subject of scrutiny by Christian Republicans. I never thought of that as a bad thing. If an elected party values things that go against what you believe then you should fight against it. This shouldn’t apply to just politics. 

In a recent episode of our podcast I made a statement saying that Christians in general struggle to hold themselves and other Christians accountable. I was saddened by the news of the Christian comedian John Crist and the sexual harassment allegations against him and how very few Christians responded. I was frustrated by John McArthur’s comments on women’s place in the church and how very few Christians spoke up about them.

At the time of the podcast these were very fresh moments. I wanted someone to say something from a public stance and I heard very little. I wanted to know that I alone wasn’t angry. I truly believed that my anger and frustration and the hurt I was feeling was the right way to feel. 

Over the last few months I think I narrowed it down to what I find to be the scariest thing of all. It isn’t the acts that could be considered to be immoral by other Christians. As cliché as it sounds, no one is perfect. We are all in desperate need of God’s grace. It’s annoying to me when people say Christians are hypocrites. Not that it is an excuse but I truly believe we all are.

What scares me the most is I keep holding Christians to a certain slandered but I am not positive I myself have reached that standard.

In my quest to expand the reach of my podcast and be an actor I often have this fear. What if all that I have done comes out publicly? I understand we all make mistakes but still, what if everyone knew? Have I watched too much porn? Do I party too often? Do I say too many cuss words? Am I too short tempered? Am I too selfish when it comes to my marriage or in life in general?

When I was in high school I started going to a new church. The first time I picked out a church on my own. A group of friends I had recently made invited me to a church conference. This weekend had a huge impact on me. I honestly don’t remember much of the sermons but I remember they took time to make sure everyone had a chance to read their bible and pray on their own. This was the first time I knew that people prayed and studied the Bible on their own. I always thought that was just pastors who did that.

Towards the end of my senior year of high school a group of friends used to call each other around 6:00 am. It was our daily reminder to connect with God on our own. If they realized you were sleeping they would encourage you to walk around for a second while you are on the phone to wake up a little. This was a habit I tried to maintain for several years. I wasn’t great at it but I did make a consistent effort to maintain a personal relationship with God. 

Over the past few years things started to change. The times I have woken up to seek God has been far less that the times I woke up and didn’t.  I really couldn’t tell you the root. Maybe it was frustration from the things I’ve seen from behind the scenes of churches. Anger towards old church leaders I used to look up to. Seeing so many friends leave the faith. Seeing friends who were never in the faith and were hurt by it probably hurts the most. None of these things in my opinion should radically affect my personal relationship with God. If they do, does that mean my relationship is based off the people I am surrounded by and not on what I believe in the Bible?

I don’t have an answer for that. Not an honest one at least. I only know what the answer should be.

Several years ago the rapper Hopsin had an interview on why he stopped believing in Christianity. A quote he said has always been in my mind. He simply said “I want to love God”. I understand this feeling too well. Another rapper who I truly enjoy by the name of Sho Baraka played an audio clip in one of his songs of Dr. Martin Luther King saying “I just want to do God’s will.” Sho Baraka then says “yeah, me too” and begins the song.

These quotes are meaningful to me. I feel these nearly on a daily basis on a deep intimate level that I often don’t know how to express. I usually try to push them aside because it forces me to evaluate my own hypocrisy in the faith. I scream for God’s justice when I see wrong doing in others. But often for the past few years, it seems like the only time I scream for God.

I often want to feel his goodness but somehow I also really want to party hard. I want to feel his grace but I’m close to the edge of cussing out the driver next to me after they cut me off. I’m so angry at so many Christians for not holding each other accountable but I avoid accountability like I avoid police on the highway, any way I can.

It’s interesting for nearly two years I was trying to suppress my depression and anxiety. No one knew. I kept it to myself the best I could. If it came up in therapy I changed the subject. If my girlfriend (who is now my wife) asked, I laughed it off. It wasn’t until we got married that the reality of how severe it was really hit.

I regret that a lot. It felt as if I hid enough to my wife to make me appealing enough to marry but removed any warning labels. After more therapy and connecting more with other Christians I asked her if she regrets marrying me. If she knew then what she knows now would she change her mind? She always tells me she wouldn’t and she continues to love me in incredible ways for some strange reason.

Lately when I reflect on the quote from Hopsin it often leaves me with a strange sense of uneasiness. When I hear Hopsin say he wants love God I say the same thing. But how can I or anyone say they love God when they struggle like I do? I understand mistakes and addictions. I’ve had my share of both. But when the act is intentional and self justified, when I’m defending my actions or the actions of The President and anyone in between, do I love God?

When that piano melody of Sho Baraka’s song Press On and I hear Dr. King say with passion that I have never heard matched say “I want to do God’s will” and Sho Baraka calmly says “yeah, me too”, I often think “SO DO I”, but when was the last time I confidently could say that I did? Even if I had no idea what God’s grand plan is for me and what I should do with my life (which I sometimes believe I have an idea of what it looks like), His will is still simple enough. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Go preach the gospel and make disciples. The reason why I don’t can probably be explained in a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a coworker.

I spoke with someone who I got to know over the course of a few months. One day after having and oddly meaningful conversation they said to me “Oh you’re a Christian?”. This moment shook me. Why did they not know? Why were they so surprised?

After months of them seeing me lose my temper. Trading stories of getting wasted and laughing at the ridiculousness of them. What evidence did I give them that I love Jesus. Why would they believe that the life of following Jesus is yes, very hard at times and can force us away from glamorous luxury, but is also filled with joy and love that can only come from Jesus. Why would they believe that Jesus came to give life and to have it more abundantly if they have no proof that I lived in it also?

I understand grace. I have been a beneficiary of it far more than I feel comfortable sharing. I understand that for as long as I live I will find times that I will fall and only Jesus can pick me up. But I hope, that I continue to grow in love. That I can be an example of what someone who loves God is. That I don’t nearly burst into tears thinking I want to do God’s will but can confidently come to a point and say I am doing God’s will.

This isn’t a demand that I and my fellow Christians start to act perfect. This is just a request that we do better, and hold on to some accountability without making excuses for ourselves and those who we expect greatness from. How do we do that? I am not sure exactly. Go ahead and take time and honestly and sincerely pray on your own. I’ll do the same. From there, I think we’ll figure it out together.

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