Archives For faith

I’m not a Catholic.papa

I’ve never had a particular interest in becoming a Catholic. But last week, I followed Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. with much interest, as I am sure many of my fellow Protestants did.

Francis represents something new and novel for people my age. See, for much of my life, John Paul II was the pope, but by the time we came of age to know anything about the world, he was pretty old and frail. To look at old photographs when he was young and vibrant, commanding crowds of thousands is almost surreal. Like Billy Graham in a robe.

And then there was Benedict for a few years, and nothing against him, but this is the first time in many of our lifetimes that we know a pope that is out and about in the world. Like it or not, he goes where he wishes and comments on issues that are relevant to every human being on earth.

And so, as I followed the Pope’s visit, I also kept up with what people were saying about the Pope’s visit.

People who call themselves Christians.

People who claim to stand up for morals and righteousness.

And I found myself shocked, though perhaps I should be past shock by my age. But there is a whole world of so-called Christians who I have absolutely nothing in common with.

All it took was a visit from the Pope to reveal it.

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When I was in college, I watched many of my youth group friends leave their faith behind.leaving+the+church

As I grew up through my twenties, I realized that I had lived through what had become a massive statistic. It turns out that most kids raised in American Christian churches drop their faith by college graduation.

Plenty of leaders, thinkers and writers have pontificated over this statistic. Most of them look at the “millennial” generation from afar, decades separating them from the people they claim to analyze.

But now that I’m a parent, this is no longer a remote or abstract exercise in analytics. It’s terrifying.

As a parent, I want my child to embrace my most personal and deeply held beliefs. I cannot imagine what it will do to my wife and I if he should reject the faith we are trying to teach him.

And yet, the numbers aren’t good. The odds are stacked against us. It seems that we will more than likely fail.

But I think I know how to beat the odds. Because I think I finally have an answer to why our kids, raised in church-going homes, have largely discarded their faith.

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The world today sure seems like a frightening place…

The very act of painting a sign and protesting would get these people killed in much of the world. My guess is these people are protesting on their own behalf, not for the tormented minorities of Iraq, persecuted by ISIS.

The very act of painting a sign and protesting would get these people killed in much of the world. My guess is these people are protesting on their own behalf, not for the tormented minorities of Iraq, persecuted by ISIS.

…especially if you consider yourself a Christian.

Everywhere I look, as I click through my news feed, it becomes apparent that Christians’ freedom of religion is under attack. If there is one subject that I can find constant anecdotal evidence, it is that Christians’ freedom of expression, conscience and speech is being halted left and right. There are protests and demonstrations everywhere, as a cultural majority feels itself becoming a minority. It makes the future a frightening prospect, as even Franklin Graham predicts that persecution against Christians will increase in America.

No doubt, American culture is more hostile toward Christianity than it used to be.

I have come to another conclusion, however.

Our love and passion for our freedom of religion will be our undoing.

It has become our sacred cow…

…our freedom is our idol.

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I used to think that self-righteousness was a Christian thing.

You know, it’s us Christians who are always pointing the finger, placing the blame on others, belittling and marginalizing. And really, that reputation is deserved to a degree.

Self-righteousness gets misdefined though.

It’s not just a holier than thou attitude. It’s not a belief that I’m right and you’re not. It’s much more than that.

Self-righteousness is the belief that I can do it myself. I don’t need other people. I am self-reliant.

Self-righteousness is the belief that I can do what I want. It does not matter that I am a created being with a purpose. I don’t have to be bound by those purposes. I can make myself whatever I want. Therefore, self-righteousness is a denial that we are creatures that are made to be a certain way.

And because self-righteousness is the belief that I can do it myself and I can do what I want, then self-righteousness is the belief that I can save myself. I don’t need a savior or a redeemer. I am good the way I am. I am perfect. I will save myself, either through religion or diet or sex or something else.

I started believing I could do it myself when I was two. And I’ve never quit since then. At times over the last four months of fatherhood, the only thing I could do was let go of my precious self-righteousness and say, “I’m really bad at this.” 

Self-righteousness is not a Christian thing or a atheist thing. It’s not a gay or straight thing. It doesn’t belong to a race or class. It’s a human thing. We are all doing it. We shallowly believe that self-righteousness is merely judging other people. In fact, it is the belief that we have no judge. 

self righteous

Perhaps that is the greatest threat to our culture today. And that’s where we can start. As Christians find themselves further away from the culture, relinquishing our self-righteousness might be the only thing we can do. We can’t act humble for a couple of weeks, though, expecting people to suddenly think we are great. That’s not how it works. It might take a generation, or two, or ten, of Christians actually relinquishing their self-righteousness, of actually preaching Jesus’ righteousness and not our own, before people will listen again.

I’m going to do something I never thought I would do.

Her life is pretty awesome, but she thinks you and I are going to hell.

Her life is pretty awesome, but she thinks you and I are going to hell.

Last Saturday morning, as I sipped my coffee and scanned my news feed, wiling away the couple of hours before the baby awoke, I was accosted by a story just a couple of days old.

Jessa Seewald, one of the children of the super-fundie reality TV Duggar family, thinks I am going to hell.

I didn’t even know I missed the hubbub over her pink wedding dress, and yet here she is, with the audacity that I am going to hell.

To be more specific, Jessa recently said that “liberal” Christians, i.e. those who don’t believe in hell, are in fact, going to hell just the same as all the other sinners out there. Her remarks were met with prompt cries of “intolerance” and “wouldn’t it be nice if she used her platform to proclaim a message of ‘acceptance.’”

She thinks I am going to hell…

And probably you, and you, and you too. We are all probably too liberal for a Duggar.

But I am going to do something I never thought I would do.

I’m going to come to the defense of Jessa and the rest of the Duggar family.

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There have been many times when things in my life did not go the way I had planned.

Maybe you can say the same for your life.

And if you are anything like me, you became frustrated when that happened.

I might be able to say that more times than not, things have not gone according to my plans. If I were an investment manager, I’d probably be better off just letting the money go on auto-pilot.

My career did not go the way I had planned.

Starting a family did not go the way I planned.

And now that I have a kid, very few things go the way I plan.

I am convinced that as a species, we experience a lot of frustration. I think frustration is an emotion unique to humans. And the deepest sources of our frustration comes from our desire to control and to plan. We decide that things should go this way, at this time, according to these plans. We desire to control our destinies. We desire to control our surroundings. We desire to control other people. And few of those things ever work. Whether you are a pastor or a parent, you have probably discovered that you cannot control other people. Yes, it’s maddening.

But I have also become convinced that I have discovered the antidote for my need to control:

I have come to believe that all things truly do work for good.

I can look back on five frustrating years in my marriage and see how they worked for good. I can see how the low points in my life came full circle and bore fruit.

Now working for “good,” doesn’t mean that our plans come true. Working for “good” doesn’t mean it will always be pleasant. It doesn’t mean that things will work for good next week or next year. Sometimes, it takes longer than our short little lives for things to work for good.

But it means that, if we are willing, we will see the threads of grace in our lives, especially when our precious little plans are frustrated.


The universe has not made us any promises. But God has promised that He works all things for good in the end.