Monthly Archives: May 2013

Love Christians, Hate “Christians”

Confession: I am not a Christian.

Before you start writing a comment about how I need to find the Lord, say the prayer, and get baptized, let me explain.

American Christianity has become a very secluded culture. It has become less of a religion and more of a social club. The people who are members of this social club usually fit into a specific set of characteristics that is easily identifiable to the people around them. Over the years, Christians have set their own rules about what it means to be a Christian. These requirements cause people to stress out about their faith. People feel like they need to make sure they are following all of the requirements so they can be accepted in the Christian culture.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It is important to live in a way that stands out from the crowd. Our creativity is something that we should be using every day to separate ourselves from the people around us. The problems arise when this difference becomes oppressive to other people.

I grew up in a Christian home. I participated in children’s church, AWANAs, and youth group. I was a member of the worship team on Sunday morning and I knew everyone in my church.

I was one of these oppressive Christians.

I thought I had all the answers to life. If I didn’t know an answer, I pretended I did. For goodness sake, I didn’t want other Christians to think that  I wasn’t reading the Bible as much as they were! I thought that, as a Christian, it was important that I knew how to answer every question that someone might ask me while I was witnessing to them. I thought I needed to have this killer testimony to tell people when they ask me how I became a Christian. Something that would explain how I was lost before I knew Jesus, how He saved my life, and how everything is perfect because of it. Something that would make people cry.

During my time in college, I have learned that it is okay to not have all the answers. You will not go to Hell if you do not have your opinion about abortion or same-sex marriage completely figured out. It is completely normal to doubt the set of beliefs that you have grown up believing. In fact, I would encourage you to challenge what you believe about the Bible, or what you have grown up believing about God. Develop your own opinions and decide for yourself.

The Christian culture today places a strong emphasis on the weight of the Bible. Growing up, I remember being scared that I was not being a good Christian because I did not have my quiet time every morning or every night. I did not read my Bible every day. I would even forget to bring my Bible to church some days! Sometimes I doubted my pathway to Heaven based on this lack of commitment to the Bible.

I still considered the Bible to be God-inspired and an important part of my beliefs, so why did I feel so guilty about this?

The Bible should not stress people out.

If you do not consistently have an hour of quiet time every day, you can still  follow the will of God. You can still treat people in a way that shows them God’s love, even if you do not get around to reading your Bible that day.

I feel God the most when I am with people. It is in the times of laughter and conversations with other people that I experience God’s joy. I see God in other people more than I do in my Bible. I wonder what experiences I would have missed out on if I had been reading the Bible in my room instead of hanging out with the undocumented immigrants in my neighborhood.

There are extreme forms of Christian oppression, like the members of Westboro Baptist Church who verbally abuse people who, they believe, are not going to Heaven. They talk about how God hates people who are not following what they believe to be the correct interpretation of the Bible. These people are not living the way Jesus tells us to live: with love for our neighbors and enemies.

However, how different are the members of Westboro to those of us in the evangelical churches? I would suggest that we are not much better than they are. We oppress people in different ways than Westboro, but we are just as damaging.

We seclude people who are different from us. We do not allow specific types of people in our churches because their sin seems worse than ours. We refuse the rights of women to be leaders of our churches because we think the Bible does not allow it.

I do not consider myself a “Christian” because I do not think American Christianity is living the way Jesus wants us to live. I do think that Christianity is a form of religion, just not the form of religion that I want to commit my life to.

I want to try to follow Jesus’ example. Not Christianity’s example.
So, in a way, Christians are my enemy.

This leads me to my next point:
If I am going to try to live the way Jesus lived, I need to love my enemy. I think I do a good job at loving the enemies of the American Christian culture– the LGBTQ community, documented and undocumented immigrants, people from the Middle East– but I do not do a good job at loving the members of the Christian culture. I often find myself really put-off by people who post Bible verses on their Facebooks and Twitters. I get upset at churches that strongly stand against same-sex marriage or preachers who talk about how God wants justice for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers.

Instead, I should be loving and praying for those people. I should be reaching out to them, not rejecting them. By hating them, I am no better than they are.

My ex-roommate and close friend, Blake Fox, wrote a story about a girl’s after-life experience. She goes to Heaven, meets God, and he turns out to be completely different from what she had been told about Him. In fact, Heaven was completely different. It was evil Heaven. After she told God that she didn’t want to be in Heaven, she went to Hell. Hell was a place of joy and love. She had everything she wanted in this Hell. It was how she anticipated Heaven to be like. At the end of the story, the reader finds out that the protagonist had been dreaming. She had never died.

I give you this summary to preface the last line of the story, which sums up my entire thought process into one sentence: “But even though Carrie knew her dream was mere fantasy, she couldn’t help but reflect on the question she had faced: could she sacrifice any self-centered thing, even Heaven, to follow Jesus?”

Maybe we all need to sacrifice our lives as Christians and become followers of Jesus instead.


Acceptance Speech

This year I have watched a lot of awards shows with my friends. It is always interesting to me how invested people are in watching other people receive awards for accomplishments; especially celebrities who already get enough validation. However, having the friends that I have, it is hard not to become invested in the Oscars or the Grammy’s. Watching these awards shows has made me think about things like:

What would my acceptance speech look like? What in my life has influenced and motivated me to accomplish the things that I have accomplished?

I have been thinking a lot about the people and things that have been an integral part of my college career. Since I graduated from college today,  I’ve decided that it is important to thank the influences in my life over the past four years. So, here is my graduation acceptance speech (these are not in any particular order):

Pioneer Drive Baptist Church:

Thank you for being a constant provider of well timed road trips, free meals, and challenging conversations. Thank you for trips to Camp Eagle where the rocks are deceivingly big. Bigger than I expected.


Thank you for continuing to invest many dollars and hours into college students in Abilene. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to develop close friendships with other college students. Thank you for teaching me that life is supposed to be lived together but, at the same time, outside of the church walls.

Thank you for paying for a few of my trips with the college ministry, for funding my internship in California, and for providing me with employment opportunities.

Abilene Weather:

Thank you for teaching me that things that may seem certain in life are probably not going to turn out the way I anticipated.

The Two Johns (Hunt and Whitten):

Thank you for buying me an incalculable number of lunches when I couldn’t afford to buy myself one. Thank you for all the awkward moments and times of laughter.

Thank you both for having conversations with me about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Thank you for challenging my beliefs and reassuring me that it is okay not to have all the answers. Thank you for modelling what it looks like to be leaders in ministry. I hope to lead people in my life similar to the way you two lead.

Thank you for being consistently available to me when I needed it. Thank you for believing in me and my ideas. You two have supported me in more ways than you probably know.

N. 1st Sonic:

Thank you for not taking my coupon for a free Route 44. I got so many free drinks in March and April because of your refusal to check if I even had a coupon in the first place.

Ms. Fisher and Dr. Rhodes: 

Thank you for the conversations about the most recent episode of Parenthood. Thank you for being patient with me and listening to me when I talked about things that were unrelated to class. Thank you for opening your house and yourselves to me and my NSO family.

Thank you for challenging me to think about things differently, for introducing new ways of viewing the world, and for offering me your knowledge about the world. Thank you for working extra hours to make sure I graduated on time. Thank you for your commitment to giving students everything they need to succeed.

Without having you two as my professors, my college career would not have been as exciting or fulfilling as it turned out to be.

Abilene Grass Stickers: 

Thank you for literally sticking with me through my entire time in Abilene. I’m sure I will find some of you on my clothes in the future.

Taylor, KP, Stacey, Jordan, and Kaitlyn:

Thank you for the  many Sonic runs over the past 3 years. Thank you for all of the new music, for supporting me when I wanted dreadlocks, and for giving me dreadlocks. Thank you for the haircuts, movie nights, and Lost marathons.

Thank you for listening to me when I got excited about a new movie or TV show coming out. Thank you for sending me HeyTells and texts when I was across the country or in a different hemisphere.

Thank you for encouraging me to become passionate about things that I am interested in, even if it was something as useless as DJing. By believing in me, you have helped me become confident in my abilities and have helped me gain new ones.

I can’t wait for the future trips we take across the country together. I am excited to see how you all impact the world.

I love each of you.

Blake, Micah, Karl, Clayton, and Michael: 

Thank you for listening to me when I WAS TRYING TO MAKE A SUGGESTION!

Thank you for the midnight runs to McDonald’s and Whataburger. Thank you for car rides with the windows down, singing Mr. Brightside at the top of our lungs. Thank you for the sleep-overs, Star Wars and LOTR marathons, video game tournaments, and Settlers of Catan EM-BAR-GOes. Thank you for the baseball cards and techniques on how to not get pantsed. Thank you for the Arrested Development quotes and infinite number of nicknames.

Thank you for letting me play on your intramural teams. Thank you for making me laugh harder than I have ever laughed in my life,  for laughing with me, and for laughing at me.

Thank you for accepting me as another member of your group and making me feel like I belong. Thank you for listening to me when I needed to talk, and for getting my mind off of things that I didn’t want to think about.

I consider all of you to be my brothers. I look up to each  of you and I try to model my life after you. I will never forget the moments we had together and I hope we continue to make memories in the future.

I love you guys.

For those of you who do not know, I am moving to California. Even though this is the end of my time in Abilene, I do not want it to be the end of the life I have made over the past four years. I hope that I stay in touch with the people I have grown close to since I have lived in Abilene. Send me texts, Facebook/Tweet me, or even (God forbid) give me a call. I will try to do the same.

Thank you, Macklemore

If you are even remotely interested in music, there is a good chance you have heard of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at some point in the past few months. If not, you may have heard their hit song “Thrift Shop” played on the radio, or on the radio in the car next to you. Nonetheless, they have become a  phenomenon among the rap culture in America and Europe. They released their album “The Heist” in October, 2012 and have been blowing up since the release.

The crazy thing is that they have been releasing singles from this album since 2010! They released their first song, “My Oh My” in December of 2010, which tells a story of a young boy growing up in Seattle, cheering for the Mariners. Then they released “Wings” in January of 2011, “Can’t Hold Us” in August of that same year, “Same Love” in July of 2012, and “Thrift Shop” in August.

The first time I found out about M&RL (I can call them that, we are pretty good friends),  my friend turned on “Thrift Shop” while we were in the car and I fell in love.

You need to know something about me: I get very excited about music. For me, there are few things more exciting than finding a new band that I can’t stop listening to. I get obsessed with music.

The first time I heard “Thrift Shop”, I could not help but bob my head to the beat and arm-dance with that amazing saxophone hook (remember, I was in the car). I could not stop thinking about that song. The whole week, all I could think about was the way the catchy beat matched up perfectly with Macklemore’s intricate, well written lyrics. I felt like I had heard it a thousand times.

Then, one glorious day, I got the album. “The Heist”. So simple. Just looking at the album artwork made me happy. The black background with gold writing seemed to say “We Mean Business”. And they do.

Most musical artists nowadays work really hard on one song. They put their best lyrics and beats into a single song, release it, and wait for the Top 40 radio station to pick it up. The sad part is that many people only want to hear those singles. I started getting tired of rap music because musicians started competing for a slot in the Top 40 chart instead of trying to make a solid album.

It is hard for me to call a lot of these musicians “artists” because art is more about the feeling of a piece than the actual content.  I know I like an art piece or poem because I have an emotional response to it. I feel something when I look at it or read it. It causes me to think, reflect, and react.

The “Top 40” songs do none of those things. I don’t need to react to any of those songs. I just listen. Sometimes they make my head bob, sometimes they don’t. Either way, it doesn’t affect my day after listening to them.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ music makes me think about life. “The Heist” is a breath of fresh air for my musical taste. It helps me believe in rap and hip-hop again. For me, it is the definition of a complete hip-hop album. It makes me think about life, respond to the calls to action, and react to the emotional lyrics. It is more about the complete experience of the album than each individual song.

Speaking of lyrics, Macklemore knows how to write some incredible ones. That is half of the reason why I love the album so much. It speaks to more than just sex and money, like a lot of rap/hip-hop songs do. Even “Thrift Shop”, which made it on the Top 40 charts, speaks to the consumerism of the American culture. It is a fun, upbeat song that makes me want to dance, but the lyrics remind me that buying expensive clothes does not make me cool or important. Along with consumerism, the album addresses social justice issues, paints a picture of how he perceives American religion, and preaches to the joys of life. He uses his music as a platform to express his ideas and thoughts about life. That’s what art is all about right?

Oh, did I mention that they produced and released “The Heist” BY THEMSELVES? In their song “Jimmy Iovine”, Macklemore’s lyrics describes the situation that led them to produce the album with no record label. In fact, THEY CREATED THEIR OWN RECORD LABEL.  Normal people just don’t do that. Or, at least not until they become legends in the hip-hop world. Even more, they did all their own publicity and still became popular enough to move into the Top 40 charts. Wow.

I write all of this to say: Thank you, Macklemore. Thank you for creating a tasteful album that makes me feel the music and believe in the lyrics you are rapping. Thank you for giving me a reason to love hip-hop.