God vs god (or my power is greater than yours)

In considering the history of colonization and decolonization I find one of the more interesting points behind it involves religion and struggles for power.

It seems when arguments over religion happen what is essentially occurring is that people are insisting that their power or understanding of God is greater than another’s. As if it isn’t enough that people seek power over each other. Insisting that there is an all powerful being backing them up seems to be the ultimate power trip and seemingly one of the best ways to keep people in line. As with most things when it comes to power struggles reliance on fear is one of the most tried and true methods for motivating people to do something, stay away from something, or justify virtually anything they want to. Using God to justify dominating others is a theme seen over and over throughout the history of colonization. 

In considering present day events I see this power struggle continue. As a person of color who grew up in a conservative, white, Christian environment I have come to understand multiple sides of the US political divide. I grew up hearing ideas of how liberal politicians could one day take away the rights of Christians in the US to practice their faith. So apparently in an attempt to keep that future from becoming reality many Christians decided to become the persecutors instead of the persecuted. While self preservation is understandable (to a point) the projection that is going on with many Christians in the US today is incredibly duplicitous. One example that comes to mind is the right to exercise one’s faith. Freedom of religion is important to many of the Christians I knew growing up but for whatever reason these Christians think that same respect and freedom should not be extended to Muslims.

Going back to the history of colonization this line of thinking seems to have followed many explorers, and missionaries, to the places they traveled to. Robbie Shilliam points out in his article Race in world politics that racism emerged in a variety of ways including from religious and theological disputes. While some Christians would insist things like missions trips are motivated by love for others and concern for their eternal destiny (as I did when working abroad as a missionary) somewhere along the way many US Christians have turned this into a right to dominate and some have even turned inward and insist on looking out only for themselves and their interests. Might makes right. Our God is the most powerful  and it is our right as his followers to make others see the error of their ways and also make them live the way he wants. This usually involves a fairly strict and literal interpretation of the Bible which leads to a whole separate issue that could be an entire post on its own. 

From what I understand of the Christian circles I grew up in and around God can do whatever he wants because he is God. Unfortunately many Christians believe that as his followers it is our right to do whatever we want because God is on our side. For some Christians even if the things they want directly contradict the very Bible they adore they think they are still in the right. Wanting power is understandable. Being in a position of power is safe and often gives one the feeling that they never have to worry about being pushed around. Many Christians in the US today seemed to have made peace with the idea that using politicians to push our agendas is justified. Everyone else is on their own apparently. The ends justifies the means. And why is this justified in the minds of many Christians? From what I can gather based on personal experience many Christians live in fear of God’s condemnation and wrath. Most would insist that they are saved from eternal damnation but that doesn’t stop them from thinking God will harshly judge the US for its immorality (views on this differ) and so they still worry that God will hurt them in some way if they don’t stop others from behaving badly. Even worse their own salvation might be in question if they approve of things they think God/the Bible condemns. What God or the Bible actually condemns has been an ongoing debate from the church’s earliest days. What shouldn’t be in dispute is the command God gave to love others. Yet here we (the church) are debating what that actually means.

In the case of colonization many in Europe bought into the idea that they have the right to go out and conquer whether through ideas or armies. This mentality continues today though its way of enforcement may have changed. What may be part of the solution to this way of thinking?  One point made by Patricia Hill Collins in her book Intersectionality is that decolonization must involve dismantling the formal legacy of colonialism by imagining and creating something else to replace it. My understanding as a Christian is that one thing God calls  people to do is to lay down their power in service to others. If Jesus’ life is any example that responsibility is primarily placed on those with the most privilege and power. That seems like a good place to begin regardless of one’s personal beliefs.

One problem of course is what can or should be done about those who insist on abusing their power with little to no concern for those they harm? Even more directly, for me personally, what can be done to bridge not just the current political divide in the US but the divide between Christians who interpret following God in vastly different ways?



Collins, P.H. (2019). Intersectionality as a critical social theory. Durham: Duke University Press.

Shilliam, R. (2017). Race in world politics. In Baylis, J. Smith, S. Owens, P. and Shilliam (Ed.). The globalization of world politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


“Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait


It’s funny, isn’t it? That you can preach a judgmental and vengeful and angry God and nobody will mind. But you start preaching a God that is too accepting, too loving, too forgiving, too merciful, too kind… and you are in trouble.                                                          – Bishop Gene Robinson


Ideas I’ve picked up about God (that I’m learning to let go of)

God can do whatever He wants because He is God. And no matter what He does you must view Him as and worship Him as good.

God is angry and violent.

Hell will be filled with more people than heaven.

God demanded a human sacrifice in order to be pleased with humans again.

God is glorified by tormenting people. And for some unfathomable reason He will torture the majority of His image bearers ( if you stick with a “traditional” view of hell).

Might makes right.

God is more concerned about abortion and condemning LGBT individuals than just about anything else happening in His world today.

All it takes to be “saved” is to say a prayer.

God cares about the lives He created until He doesn’t. Don’t think too hard about it. Just be happy you (presumably) made it safely into His eternal life boat.

People are just a means to an end. Only God matters. His creation has no right to question or complain.

God isn’t interested in (or able to) reconcile and save all or even most of the people He created.

God created woman to serve man. Submission and serving is pretty much a one way street. Though the opportunity to “serve” via leadership positions is mysteriously something women were just not considered worthy to do.

The “Good News” is really only good for a small portion of the world’s population.

This is the short list of some of the toxic ideas I’m realizing and naming regarding my understanding of God. Writing some of these things down is a way I’ve found to be helpful in working out these unhelpful and sometimes blasphemous ideas. Some of these messages were obviously not presented so blatantly but still what I reasoned out from many things I learned in church, college, Bible studies, ect. And as the title says I’m learning to let go of these ideas.


“I realized that I was tired of being comfortable with sickness and death and inequality; so, too, was I tired of being overwhelmed with all of the places where it seemed that God was absent. I was tired of trying to fix all the problems on my own, of placing the burdens of the world on my own shoulders. I had reached a breaking point, where I no longer believed I could save anybody and I didn’t know if God could either. I, unlike the majority of people at the service, was afraid to give up my false sense of control. I was afraid of looking foolish, of deciding to truly believe that a very good God was at work in the world.

I was nervous to live in a world that seemed inhabited by so few, to refuse to assimilate into a life either of despair or of religious platitudes.

But really, when it comes down to it, I was scared that God might ask me to wave my own freakish, shimmering flag around – to declare that he loved all of us, when everything around me seemed to contradict this statement.”  -D.L. Mayfield 

Weekly Ponderings

Here are some things that made me think this past week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything in each post or at the sites they are linked to. Some parts are in bold because they stood out to me as particularly good points. To read each blog in its entirety click on the link beneath each excerpt.

“I was a good Christian once. I meant well. I was very sincere. I have all the training. I prayed all the prayers…

I am, in short, not the person you would’ve picked to become a heretic. Not the person you would’ve picked to abandon Republicanism and the theological giants of the 1980’s. Not the person you would’ve picked to believe marriage ought not be confined to one man and one woman. Not the person you would’ve picked to deeply doubt a Literal Hell. Not the person you’d think would come to believe others’ salvation doesn’t depend on me at all…

When I watched people suffer and become more disenfranchised than ever because of your interpretation of Scripture and your imposition of that on their lives, so very unlike Jesus’ response to the marginalized, you lost me…

When I brought home my precious baby girl from Vietnam and you said, “At least she’s not black,” you lost me…

When my gender and sexual minority friends found no sanctuary or succor with you — when you insisted you loved them while they committed suicide at alarming rates in even larger numbers inside faith communities and you did nothing other than spout Bible verses, nothing to save their lives, nothing to set aside your cold recitation of culturally-proscribed, modern, fundamentalist theology — you lost me. You lost me, you lost me, you lost me, and, more importantly, you lost them.

When I watched you actually believe you’re as hurt, as victimized, as terribly sad, as those who’ve been perpetually and systematically disenfranchised and abandoned by the Church, you lost me.

You lost me.

Jesus won me. Love owns me. And you lost me. Which is fine.

I live now in a place where I’m called a heretic regularly. Where I’m told I’m leading people astray. Where my convictions are not welcome in the church I chose once upon a time. And it’s a strange gift. Because I’m free. Free to love others fully. No longer restrained by false parameters. And I’ve found, as many who’ve wandered in the wilderness, that nothing — no one — no theology — no church — can separate me from the Love of God. Or stop me from spreading that Unlimited Love-of-God heresy to others.

And so I bid you good night. And send love. And Love. And wave in the dark, always and forever.

How I Became a Heretic (or How the Evangelical, Conservative Church Lost Me by Beth Woolsey

“I lose my cool.

“I don’t think I was clear enough — the tattoo for me was a dealbreaker. I take you at your word that the flag doesn’t mean anything racist to you. But that’s all it means to me,” I text back…

He is offended and shoots back that he can’t “believe [he] is being judged for something he did 20 years ago.”

“Well, then I’m sure it’s my loss,” I respond. I’m not sure he gets that I’m being sarcastic, and that makes me laugh…

After Charlottesville, a friend asks if I believe everyone who marched to protect Confederate statues is racist. I think of my date and his tattoo and his indignation and my coffee. Had he been racist? Do I care?

My friend wonders if maybe it’s possible to bring some of those people to our side if they don’t feel so attacked.

I tell him I can’t bring myself to care about their feelings, and he is surprised by my reaction. He’s an old friend. I used to be cooler when he knew me well.

I believe in grace for people who are imperfect allies and generosity for those interested in learning but haven’t yet. But I no longer believe the comfort of white men is more precious than my own. They brought weapons. They clearly don’t mind if we feel attacked.

It’s not that I think allegiance to a Confederate flag or monument automatically makes someone racist. It’s that I don’t care whether they are or not. It’s a dealbreaker for me. Maybe that makes me cavalier — or cool. Maybe my friend is right, and some of them could be brought to our side if people like me invested energy in making them feel less judged and more welcome. But since I don’t, they stay on their side.

I’m sure it’s my loss.”

This “cool black girl” is gone by Maya Rupert

“I can barely figure out how my microwave works, let alone interpret how a horrific weather event is being wielded by God to teach you or me or gay couples a lesson—and I’d feel like a reckless fraud pretending I know what’s happening. I guess guys like Kirk Cameron and Joel Osteen and Pat Robertson know better, though I’m doubtful…

Maybe we who claim faith should refrain from pretending we understand how this world works when it comes to faith and pain and suffering.
Maybe we should admit the mystery, discomfort, and the tension that spirituality yields in painful, terrifying times.

Maybe when people are being terrorized by nature or by the inhumanity around them, instead of shouting sermons at them—we should shut up and simply try to be a loving, compassionate presence.
Maybe we should stop trying to make God into something as petty, hateful, judgmental, and cruel as we are.

If the God you’re following and preaching to people in their times of pain is an a-hole—it’s probably not God at all.

It’s probably just you.                                                                                                                       

If Your God is a Jerk – It Might Be You by John Pavlovitz

“As Christians we have to ask what we are really after. Do we want people to look like they are changed by Jesus or do we want people to actually be changed by Jesus? Do we want to encourage people—albeit unintentionally—to have a form of godliness but reject the power of Christ that actually transforms their lives? (2 Timothy 3:5)…

I’m not saying we should promote lawlessness and allow people to rob and murder as they wish with no repercussions. And yes, I recognize there is an inherent moral quality in declaring some things legal and illegal based on their impact on society, even if all people may not agree on where that moral standard comes from. But we need to evaluate whether laws are God’s primary method of producing morality and change in people. They are not.

There’s a problem when our God-given assignment as Christians is to be messengers of reconciliation with God and our methods are pushing people away from Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

Christians don’t have the right to live completely separated from people who don’t share the beliefs and practices of their faith.

The Constitution affords rights to all citizens of our nation of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom to practice their respective faiths or not practice any faith at all. These rights don’t only apply to Christians. By the way some Christians react to people doing and saying things that are different than their Christian beliefs, you wouldn’t know it though.

People have a right to live in ways you disagree with.

That right, greater than being afforded by American law even, is afforded by God because He gives all humans free will and calls them to follow Him by choice, not force. No, He doesn’t agree with sin or rebellion against Him. Yes, there are eternal consequences for unrepentant sin against God. Yes, God wants every person to repent of their sin and be saved. Every person, however, has to respond to His call by their own choice (Acts 17:30-31).

Further, nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians should hide in a bubble and avoid everyone who isn’t like them. It says the opposite, actually (Matthew 5:14-161 Corinthians 5:9-13).

If Jesus interacted with people who didn’t yet believe in Him and follow His commands, then we as Christians should interact with people who don’t yet share the beliefs and practices our faith—and not just to convert them.

Jesus preached the gospel to people who did not know Him. He called them to leave their sin and follow Him, but He also shared meals and conversation with them...”                  

The Biblical Case Against ‘Legislating Morality’ by Jasmin Patterson




When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendors of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion, its message becomes meaningless.      – Abraham Joshua Heschel

My problems with hell part II

There were some other thoughts I forgot in my first post regarding hell so I figured I’d just write a part 2. Again I’m arguing against the eternal conscious torment understanding that I was taught growing up.

One really big problem with hell is that for all the talk of a happily ever after for the ones God saves (no tears, no more death, ect. as understood in Revelation) hell throws a few monkey wrenches into that scenario.

If hell is eternal then sin, evil, pain, and suffering will exist alongside of us for eternity regardless of whether we see it or not. How is this a victory for God? Sure some might say it displays His wrath and anger against sin but it will also stand as an eternal testament to God’s failure to love, redeem and restore the majority of His image bearers.

1 John tells us that perfect love casts out fear. How many times does are we told not to fear in the Bible? Yet hell keeps most Christians I know in constant fear and anxiety wondering about their loved ones. And if they manage to somehow make peace with God torturing the majority of humanity that seems pretty problematic since Christians are supposed to love everyone (no exceptions). Yet even if we do love those around us now apparently those feelings of love and concern will evaporate upon death and we will spend eternity indifferent to those who have missed the boat and are suffering endlessly for it.

In my first post I listed some books I’ve read on this subject but I didn’t really spend time showing Scriptural support. Below is a chart showing three of the main possible understandings of hell with Bible verses that could support each theory. Frankly I find the Annihilation column to be a bit weak here but have read books and other peoples writings that build a much better case from the Bible some of which are referenced beneath the chart.

As an addendum here is a link to a blog post by Benjamin Corey further illustrating Scriptural support for the annihilation position titled 25 Bible verses that disprove eternal conscious hell.

At this point though I don’t consider myself a universalist I am sympathetic to the view and would not be at all disappointed to discover that God chose to love and save most if not all of humankind. For anyone who doesn’t like the idea of everyone being saved I genuinely have to wonder what that person’s understanding of love is.

And I am not one to think sin is something to be taken lightly. I hate the evil I’ve seen on this planet in my short life. But I want to see and believe that healing, redemption and restoration will be accomplished more fully than any of us could begin to realize. And I think only God can make this happen.

There is a reason God presents Himself as a Father throughout the Bible. And for anyone who thinks some sins are simply unforgivable or that He really puts a timeframe on how long He will wait for repentance I would like to ask a couple questions.

If you are a parent (just imagine even if you aren’t) what would your child have to do in order for you to start torturing him/her as punishment for whatever it was they did to you?

Would you/have you put time limits on how long you will wait for a loved one to reconcile themselves to you?

Another problem I have with hell is that if it is in fact part of the reality that God has created then the Gospel (good news) isn’t really that great or unique. Every religion that offers relief from an angry, vengeful god can claim it has good news to offer you. How is Christianity different?

Here is another thought that helped push me away from the ETC position regarding hell. Since the rise of ISIS ( a terrorist group that known for some of the worst brutalities happening in the world today) I have seen various people ask how people (particularly Christians) can be repulsed by things like ISIS burning people alive yet we are fine with the idea of God doing that to most people for all of eternity. Benjamin Corey covers this in a post as well and as he wrote quite succinctly “… God is not like an ISIS terrorist burning his enemies – but God is actually Jesus on the cross dying for his.”

Along these same lines one of the books I mentioned in my other post makes this observation regarding God’s hatred of child sacrifice (Lev. 18:21, Duet. 18:10,  2Kings:17:17, Jer. 7:31):

We ought to also note the irony and incongruence of the Church utilizing the very place where God became violently offended by the literal burning of children as our primary metaphor for a final and eternal burning of God’s wayward people in literal flames. Thus, God becomes the very Molech who decrees that the angels must deliver his children to the flames, even though this is the very reason he ordered Hinnom to be desecrated in the first place.”
From Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and The New Jerusalem by Bradley Jersak

Ultimately I can no longer square this “traditional” view of hell with a God who is supposed to be above all other gods in his offering of love, kindness and hope to humanity.


Weekly Ponderings

Here are some articles and blog posts that made me think and taught me something new. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything at each link. Some parts I put in bold because they stood out to me. To read the entire article click on the link beneath each excerpt. ( The last quote and article is long but insightful for anyone interested in spotting predatory behavior and helps answer why abusers can often be found in places like church).

“If your doubts become so overwhelming that you wonder if you are losing your faith altogether, then you are in good company.

Having serious doubts about the faith that has been a (possibly the) central part of your life can be unsettling, confusing, and scary…

It’s still a widespread assumption that being a Christian is mostly about what you believe. Of course, how you choose to live is important — there are very few Christians who would deny that. But it seems to me that what matters most to the majority of Christians is believing certain doctrinal statements. If you accept these statement as fact, you are saved; not by doing good works, but by asserting the validity of a particular set of intellectual propositions

It’s fine (and necessary) to have ideas and theories and doctrines about God, provided we remember that as long as they are contained within language and can fit neatly into human brains, they are utterly inadequate. A human claiming to understand God is not dissimilar to a fruit fly landing on the tail of a Boeing 747 and claiming to understand the intricacies of aeronautical engineering.”
Faith in the Fog: Surviving as a Skeptical Christian by Emma Higgs

“Having a transgender child can be terrifying because loving my daughter without boundaries means my heart is broken over and over again by people telling me I don’t know what love is. It is terrifying to know some people think I am abusing my child for “allowing” her to believe she is a girl. It is terrifying to live in a world where people are so uncomfortable with what they don’t understand that they prefer to spit hate than ask for more information.”                                                                                                                         I Have A Transgender Child, And I Will Keep Telling Our Story Until The Hate Stops by Amber Leventry

“Someone recently asked me to come up with a list of 5 common misunderstandings I’ve noticed Americans tend to have about the Middle East, here they are:

1) It’s dangerous.  Sure, some parts are very dangerous but so much of the Middle East is much less dangerous than even the US.  If fact, a recent report ranked Jordan as less dangerous than the US – Global Peace Index 2017 So lets be careful not to discount the entire region as untravelable, when there are so many beautiful and safe places to visit in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and more!

2) People in the Middle East don’t like Americans and/or Christians.  Two places in particular that I have spent time that should reflect this, if it were significantly true, would be Palestine and Iraq.  Both places have lots of reasons to not be thrilled with someone like me, however, when I have gone and continue to go there and elsewhere in the Middle East, I am welcomed with unmatched hospitality.  I am openly American (with a couple truly unique exceptions you are very unlikely to find yourselves in) and open about my faith.   The key is not being an a$$hole about either, no one, anywhere likes it when we’re are being a$$holes 😉 …..”                                                                                   5 Common Misunderstandings About The Middle East by Rich A Rosendahl

“…there are a host of reasons why predators join organizations and if you think like a predator, it makes perfect sense. But there is something disturbing about why they would choose the clergy, or for that matter join a religious organization of any kind. It is disturbing because most of us don’t think about these things. Most people don’t think like a predator, but below are some insights that should make you think. These insights are based on conversations I and others have had with predators who intentionally sought to join religious organizations and from studying such individuals:

1.   As noted earlier, within organizations, predators have access to a ready/available pool of potential victims. Within a religious order, those potential victims are identified for the predator, who knows how often they will get together and where (Sunday worship service at 11:00 am, at the local chapel, for example). Metronomic frequency of meetings creates opportunities for the predator to exploit directly, or even at a distance, such as committing burglaries based on knowing precisely when no one is home.

2.   Some religious organizations require members to expose their faults, sins, or frailties in public. This is “manna from heaven” for predators who then use that information to better access or target their victims. Information like that serves to provide all the exploitable weaknesses a predator needs. As one predator told me, “With that kind of information I know exactly who to target and when.”

5.   Many religious organizations preach forgiveness, even for felonies. For predators this is truly a godsend. This means that if they get caught, they can ask for forgiveness and chances are it will be given, in a pious but naïve effort to help the lawbreaker “learn from his mistakes.” Unfortunately, the predator sees this as an opportunity to sharpen his skills and to do his crime again, perhaps this time more carefully

13.   Predators know or soon learn that society tends to revere and not question religious authority. People of high status such as famous coaches, TV personalities, politicians, and so on are often given great latitude to the point where allegations of misconduct, even serious criminal offenses are often ignored (Jimmy Savile in the UK; O.J. Simpson in the US).

14.   Parents may be more trusting of a religious leader than of the average person. As history has taught us, they may dismiss allegations made by their own children as to sexual abuse by a religious leader or they will remain quiescent so as to not “rock the boat.” It is very tough for parents, especially those from humble background or who are deeply religious, to go up against a popular or charismatic leader, “the church” or a large, well-financed religious order. Often, as we now well know, the fear of retribution, being ostracized or socially marginalized, or excommunicated keeps victims and parents silent. ”                                                                                                                                                   Why Predators Are Attracted to Careers in the Clergy by Joe Navarro