Whiskey, Cigarettes, & R-Rated Christianity

This was previously published on THE GOOD MEN PROJECT.

Link: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/whiskey-cigarettes-r-rated-christianity-kt/

Article: Whiskey, Cigarettes, & R-Rated Christianity

By David Leo Schultz

Before we get started, I should confess that I am a Christian, but I’m often not the type of Christian the way religious folks want me to be. I’m a cigarette smoking, whiskey drinking, often R-Rated Christian. I blame my Grandma. My Grandma was a no bullshit type of Grandma, and that’s the kind of Christianity she taught me. On the one hand, she’d tell me, “David – Jesus is all that matters. He loves you. He’s crazy about you.” And often in the same breath, she would say, “Now get to bed you little shit ass!”

My Grandma was the first person to introduce me to Jesus. But she didn’t present Him to me as a religious relic or a theological concept. She introduced Him to me like an old Friend that she had known for years.

You might mentally shut off right now as you read, and say to yourself, “Oh, I get it. You were born into a Christian home, therefore you became a Christian.” Not so fast.

My Dad’s side of the family is Jewish. And I love that. My sweet Grandma, who we affectionately called, “G-ma,” would often say to me, “David, you know why your so special.” “Why G-ma?” “Because you’re Jewish.” Now you know, and I know – that I’m not. Because in the Jewish culture, you are only considered Jewish if your Mom was Jewish. Not your Dad. Although my Aunt Bobbie told me on our last visit, “David, did you know when that started? It was at a time when Rome ruled the world and Jewish men were knocking up Roman women. And so the Jewish people came together and said…’Hold on! New rule!.” It could be true. It sounds true. But my Aunt Bobbie trusts everything on the internet as she once told me, “I Googled it. Google doesn’t lie.”

Growing up my Dad was a self-proclaimed Pagan, and he would often take me to “Pagan” festivals. The details are fuzzy, but I do remember a lot of Naked people running around. For a young boy approaching adolescence you think this would be a dream come true – but let me just say these weren’t exactly supermodels walking around if you know what I mean. Beyond the “clothes optional” policy. There was a lot I didn’t understand. The talk of gods and goddesses, to the practice of magic, and of course dancing around a fire naked while a bunch of dudes drummed on hand made djembes. As a 10-year-old, my thought was, “Religious freedom is one thing, but dancing around a campfire with open flames naked can’t be the smartest decision.” You might be thinking this psychologically scarred me as a kid. But I can honestly say it didn’t. Now if one of these naked dudes fell into the fire and I saw his junk on fire—then yeah it could be a different story.

I’m not one of those Christian’s who has built themselves a metaphorical bomb shelter where the only people allowed into their subculture are fellow Christians. Or even worse, Christians who only believe exactly the way they do.

My social circles have always been a revolving door of society misfits and religious wingnuts. I have Christian friends and Atheist friends. I have friends that pray to God and others that cast a positive thought out into the Universe. I have friends that represent every religion that you can think of and others that have a religious system that could only be found by “Googling it.” I never question whether it’s a real religion, because after all…Google doesn’t lie.

My point? Growing up, I had a multitude of options. I had a buffet style of choices of belief and unbelief before me. Choices that ranged from the practical to the mystical, from the beautiful to the downright weird. But in the end, I’m not sure I chose it, as much as it chose me.

If you’ve been in America more than five minutes, you’ve heard the expression, “Born Again.” You’ve probably heard it both as a description and a declaration. But I learned something interesting a few years back that probably best describes what happened to me. Christians didn’t start using the expression, “Born Again,” until the early 20th Century. As a matter of fact, some have even described this as a “Born Again Movement” – but what happened was a simple shift in the vernacular. Before the 20th Century what Christians used to describe their conversation experience was, “I have been SEIZED by the POWER of a GREAT AFFECTION.” Yeah. That fits what happened to me perfectly.

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I was around nine years old and woke up in the middle of the night to go pee. When I walked through my Grandma’s living room, I discovered a room filled with police, fireman, family members, and our pastor. They didn’t say a word to me, but when I went to lay back down that night, I knew in my heart of hearts what happened. The next morning my fears were confirmed when my Mom woke me up and said, “David, your cousin committed suicide.”

My cousin Jimmy, who was actually my Mom’s cousin, was much older than me. My parents had been divorced since I was two, and at this point in my life, I saw my Dad, at most, every other weekend. Jimmy was more than a second cousin. He was even more than a cousin. He was like a father to me. We’d play basketball in my gravel driveway. We’d play Monopoly for hours on end. And he would even try to teach me to play the guitar. To this day, I can’t bounce a ball, pass “Go” and collect $200 or listen to a guitar solo without thinking of Jimmy.

Within the months following Jimmy’s death I had a new friend. And his name was Depression. He’s a friend that’s never really left. At times his company is empathetic, other times he’s a haunting reminder of the meaningless of the daily routine of life. I don’t like him very much.

I can still remember the feeling of laying on my mattress in my bedroom at G-ma’s house. I’d lay there with a knife to my wrists tempting my fate. Some days I find it a miracle that I’m still here. But there was hope to be found in my life. And it wasn’t a philosophy or religion. It wasn’t a self-help book, diet, life-coach, or more exercise. I found hope in a new Friend. And his name, as I’ve come to know, is Jesus.

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I can’t pinpoint when or how we met. The best way I can describe it is much like a lingering acquaintance you once met at a party. As the party rages on into the late hours of the night and people begin to disperse – this Friend keeps hanging around. Even when everyone has gone home for the night, after they have returned to the busyness of their lives and problems. This Friend remains.

I can’t speak for everyone else. But what I have come to believe—apart—from any religion, is that we have something ingrained in each of us. Within each and every human being is an aching desire to be loved. And not to just be loved, but to be loved perfectly. We hunger to be loved in a way that seems impossible. We want to be loved, desired, and liked with a type of love that doesn’t quit. With a love that has no strings attached. We want to be loved in a way that has no return policy. We want to be loved with a love that defies the human condition and expectations. We ache for it. We crave it. Maybe you believe me, and maybe you don’t – but I challenge you with this. Stop. Listen. And Reflect. Quiet down your soul. Slow down your racing thoughts. Take a break from the imaginary busyness that you have created for yourself. If you do, I think there is a high probability that you will come to realize that your angst, your worries, your spinning wheels, your desperation, and your behavior (the good and the bad) – all stem from an unquenchable thirst deep inside you to be unconditionally loved.

And trust me, folks. I’ve looked everywhere. For something. For anything to quench this thirst. You name it. I’ve tried it. This isn’t a condemnation as much as it is a flare of hope I’m shooting out and into the blogosphere. This isn’t a lesson on morality I’m describing here. It’s a love affair. I did find it. And I was shocked. The hope I was looking for to satisfy my hunger wasn’t found in something or anything. Matter of fact, it wasn’t found in a thing at all. It was found in the person of both God and Man: Jesus himself. Not the pale white Jesus you’d find in bad B-movies from the 70’s. Not the hippie Jesus, or the machine gun Jesus that’s ready to shoot you up when you’ve done something bad. I found a Jesus that, to quote the author Brennan Manning, “Loves me as I am. Not as I should be. Because none of us are as we should be.” Yes, it’s true. I found Him. Or should I say, He found me. Either way – I am talking about faith.

But don’t cast me off too quickly here if you are saying to yourself that faith is for the intellectually weak, or the psychologically and emotionally fragile. I don’t think of faith in those terms. I think of faith as a human quality that is impossible not to have. After all, none of us chose to get born here – and yet – here we are. Spinning on a rock in the middle of a bunch of planets, suns, and nothing but space in between. And what we are left with is nothing that can be proven, no matter how hard we try, but something that we are left to hope for. I think faith is possible for everyone because faith is at the same time impossible for everyone. Faith is impossible NOT to have. I love my atheist friends. And, at least the ones I know, love me too. But sometimes my Atheist friends say to me, “David, I love you, but I don’t believe in nothin’ – I don’t have faith.” And I lovingly smile and say, “But yes you do. You have faith. You don’t know that there isn’t a God. But you, in faith, believe there isn’t one. That’s faith.”

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Can I ask you all to forgive me right now? I am a bit A.D.D. (self-diagnosed). And I have gotten way off track. The purpose of this blog/article/verbal vomit wasn’t to evangelize. It wasn’t. I just wanted to set a preface for what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to paint a picture that I didn’t just accidentally choose Jesus, but what I have experienced in my life is that He has ambushed me with his tender compassion. I wasn’t looking for it. But I have come to believe He was looking for me. And I believe He may be looking for you. Yes, you. The one reading this. Well, shit. I still may be accidentally be evangelizing. But that wasn’t my intention. I’m just in love. For example, my 2-year-old daughter Lucy has this stuffed bear she affectionally calls, “Blueberry.” She loves that damn bear more than anything. And let me tell you. Blueberry is gross. For going on two years now that Blue Bear has been spit on, pooped on, and thrown up on. But Lucy loves Blueberry. And every morning, without fail, when I see her – she looks at me, smiles, and hands me Blueberry. Her most prized possession. The thing she most loves. She can’t help it. She didn’t plan on doing that. There’s no system or religion there telling my 2-year-old to hand her Daddy the bear. Out of love, she wants to love. And in love, she shares what she cares about the most. That’s her way to love. And that’s what I feel like has happened here. Throughout my broken and fucked up life, I have come to love Jesus more than anything.

Why? Because I have discovered that he loves me more than anything, and although I didn’t plan on sharing that today that’s what happened.

What I wanted to talk about is this: While, in faith, I believe that Jesus is crazy about me. I have often found myself not wanting to “Be a Christian.” After all my chit-chat rambling about how much Jesus loves me and I love him how could I possibly be taking a sharp right on the road of this post to tell you that I don’t want to be what I profess to be: A Christian.

Why? The simple answer is this: Christians.

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Right after college. I shipwrecked my life. I blew it. And to make matters worse, I was surrounded by a bunch of “Religious Christians.” Now you might be beginning to relate. No matter who you are or where you have come from, no doubt you’ve run into to these types. The legalistic sour pusses that seem to believe that Christianity is nothing more than a moral code—than what it is—a love affair. The best part of screwing up your life in a religious community…is that they let you know you did. Sometimes the let you know with a comment—which is bad. Or with silence, which is worse. I remember being so pissed off at God. I can still picture myself in my Nissan Sentra pounding my fists on the steering wheel saying, “God I am so pissed at you. I am so mad because I am convinced. I am convinced you’re real. If you weren’t, then I could easily walk away. But God, it’s not you I can’t stand. It’s your Christians.”

Right now I am picturing the end of Back to the Future and the beginning of Back to the Future 2. The scene where Doc says to Marty, “You’ve got to come back to the future with me.” And Marty says to Doc, “Why…do we turn into assholes or something?” And Doc says, “No. It’s your kids. Something’s gotta be done about your kids.”

This is often my prayer to God. “No God. It’s not you. It’s your kids. Something has gotta be done about your kids.” Now I know you don’t know me. I’m just a random blogger, complainer, or weirdo to you. Fair enough. But for those that know me know I often complain and pound my fists, from everything about what annoys me in Christianity to what outrages me.” And this is usually the point where people say, “David, you hate judgmental Christians. But aren’t you being judgmental of the judgmentals?” And I say, “Well, yeah. But they started it.” I know that’s very childlike. But sometimes it takes a child to call it like it is. I mean, the scariest people in the world are children. Why? Because they don’t hold back. Matter of fact, they seem to intuitively know every hidden insecurity you have and be able to crush your soul with an off-the-cuff comment. And then what happens? We all go into a bathroom and cry.

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I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I’m also not trying to allow the behavior of the modern day Pharisee to be acceptable. There is a certain type of Christian out there. A Ragamuffin-Type Christian, if you will. A Ragamuffin-Type Christian doesn’t fit into the average Christian’s man-made box. Ragamuffin is a term that was first coined by Brennan Manning, author of the book The Ragamuffin Gospel. If you have never read that book – get off your ass. It will change your life. It changed mine.

In The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning says, “Justification by grace through faith is the theologian’s learned phrase for what Chesterton once called “the furious love of God.” He is not moody or capricious; he knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: he loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course, this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands: through no merit of ours, but by his mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of his beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.

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The God known by the Ragamuffin Christian is one who loves them no matter what. And yet the Religious Christian seems to be not so sure. They think they have to earn God’s love. They are addicted to earning God’s love versus responding to it. You may not have a clue who Brennan Manning is, but let me share three arguments people often use against this author:

First, they say that Manning is a Universalist. This is simply not true. Brennan once said, “So I want to make this abundantly, luminously clear: I’m not a Universalist. Universalism is a heresy that makes the death and resurrection of Christ irrelevant. The key is that you stretch your mind and stretch your heart to accommodate God’s all-embracing love in Jesus Christ.”

The second argument goes something like, “Brennan Manning and his writings are all about God’s love and has nothing to do with living a changed committed life to following Jesus.” Again, false. Manning once said, “God says…you don’t have to change so I’ll love ya. I love ya so you’ll change.” People like myself, the late great Brennan Manning, and Rich Mullins, or countless other Ragamuffins around the world who can’t stop talking about the gospel of grace, often get accused of talking about “Cheap Grace,” or we are perceived as the one’s who say, “God loves you. So it doesn’t matter how you live…matter of fact, you can go out and do whatever you want because God loves you and nothing else matters.” But this is bullshit of the highest degree. None of us say this. Matter of fact we often say the opposite. It seems religious folks often interpret the ranting and raving of the Ragamuffin Christian backward. And I do mean backward. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t live your life for Jesus. You should live your life for the one you love. Anyone outside of the Christian faith understands this concept. If you love – you love. If you love your friend, family, or foe – you do things for them. You do things to love them, and you do things to avoid what isn’t loving towards them. That’s it. It’s a foundational issue. A grace-filled life in response to the love of God is one that lives in response to God’s love. But not one that is trying to earn it.

And the third argument, I have found, against guys and gals like Brennan Manning and myself is, “You all talk about God’s love too much.” On this point. I see what they are saying. I just disagree. I don’t think we are talking about God’s love too much. I think we aren’t talking about God’s love enough. My honest confession here is that I don’t think the topic of God’s love is “something” in Christianity – it is everything. We are nutty. We are a little bit off balance. We are a little bit crazy when it comes to this topic. Rich Mullins once called it, “The reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.” But, I think that’s what happens when you are in love.

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As someone who has traveled the country back and forth as a vagabond of sorts, and has spoken and performed in and out of every type of Protestant denomination you can think of, I have a gut-wrenching concern I believe is the reason so many Christians I meet are what I politely called, “Grumpy Gus’.” The one’s that like to get on the internet and spread a message of condemnation versus a message of grace. The one’s that sneer when you walk up to their church building with a cigarette in your mouth or the ones that get sad if you order a Jack -N- Coke with your meal. The Christians that would be so offended if you said, “Oh, shit. I stubbed my toe.” But would have no problem talking about Sally who recently had an affair with Frank because they have disguised their “gossip” as a “prayer request.” The concern? I think they don’t know Jesus loves them.

Yes, it’s true. I tend to be a little bitter. Bitterness isn’t okay or healthy. As my friend, Jesse Bryan, once told me, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” But still – it’s in there. I hope not forever. Why does this bitterness linger? I have had too many friends I know that have been beat-up and abused by the Religious Christian. When some of my friends have walked away from professing faith in Christianity I’ll ask them what happened and more importantly, Why? Their response is simple. They just say one word: Christians. I have had countless brothers and sisters in the faith that have come to me with horror stories of being kicked out of churches and abused by legalism. Often the advice I never give, but often want to say is a piece of advice Richard Pryor once gave to Eddie Murphy, “Tell them to have a coke, a smile, and shut the fuck up.”

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Now, let me make something straight. I didn’t write this article to condemn them. I wanted to write this to help them. To give these “Grumpy Gus’” a gentle but firm kick-in-the-ass reminder that moral behavior isn’t a prerequisite for God’s undying affection for you.

It’s at this point in reading this that my Reformed Christian friends want to point out the verse, “But the Bible says in that one verse…’But Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated.’” And it’s at this point where my Gospel of Grace friends pipe up and go, “Ah Ha! You have forgotten the most memorized verse in all of Scripture – John 3:16 -‘For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son.’” And then all hell breaks loose. What starts out as a friendly debate turns into a mean-spirited game of theological volleyball.

Honestly, I’m over it. I’m over the arguing. The back and forth. Everyone has their verse that they have underlined. As Rich Mullins once said, “…Which is the thing about the Bible that’s why it always cracks me up when people say ‘Well in Dududududududududududududu it says’ you kinda go ‘Wow it says a lot of things in there.’ Proof texting is a very dangerous thing. I think if we were given the scriptures it was not so that we could prove that we were right about everything. If we were given the scriptures, it was to humble us into realizing that God is right and the rest of us are just guessing.”

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If I am honest, the saddest thought I’ve had about these Religious Christians—I wonder if they really know Him. I’m not trying to be a dick. I mean it. I’m genuinely concerned. Because I think once you know Jesus—or should I say as you get to know him—as you, and if you, continue to grow in intimacy with Him. You know that there is nothing you could do for Him to change His mind about you. He loves ya. Even if you don’t love Him back. Now you may choose not to live in His love, and therefore, depreciate your awareness of his affection—but that has nothing to do with the reality of his constant pursuit of you with His compassion. My prayer for these folks is that His fondness ambushes them and that they will come to know, there is no “earning” Him. There is only responding to Him.

Of course, they are concerned about me and others like me, too. The ones that don’t look at the Scriptures the way they do. The ones that have given the Bible more of a G or PG rating. The ones who think all the verses they use to say we shouldn’t cuss, smoke, and drink are distorted and taken out of context. They are worried that we are just, as my friend Bill Clem once said, “A Grace Pervert.” I get it. I do. And I have spent countless hours trying to convince my fellow Christian brothers and sisters, some of them my closest friends, that I’m not ignoring Scripture on these issues, but I view them differently.

Sadly, in the Christian Community—a faith built entirely on undeserved grace—we rarely have grace for each other. We tend not to allow room for what a sane person would call, “a difference of opinion.” It’s a group of people that tends to say, “I’m right. End of story.” As my friend once said, “Christians feel like they have the market cornered on truth.” I sometimes wonder if he’s right. Don’t get me wrong. I’m convinced some of us are sincere. Some of us know Jesus. Not as a historical figure or a theological concept – but really know Him. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if we don’t know much else.

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Some Christians believe you are holy if don’t drink. And some believe you are holy if you do. Some Christians believe you are holy if you don’t smoke. And some believe that cigarettes only power is to kill your body with cancer – not your soul with sin. Some Christians believe the only “unwholesome talk or filthy language” that the Scripture mentions is referring to four letter words and others believe it’s just a matter of context. Some Christians believe you are only holy if you go to a church building every Sunday and read your Bible every day. And some Christians say, “What? That’s insane. What makes you a Christian isn’t what you do – it’s what Jesus did for us on the Cross.”

If you haven’t caught on, Christians are a mess. I am a mess. I am both the Elder Brother and the Younger Brother in the Scriptures (Luke chapter 15). I’ll preach grace with my mouth, and practice legalism in my heart. I hate the religious person I talk about, and sometimes I am the religious person I talk about.

We who claim Christ are just a bunch of paradoxes. I just wish we were nicer to each other. A little kinder. A bit more grace-filled. If I could gather every single Christian in the world right now I’d probably say this:

My friends. My brothers & sisters in Jesus. Those of us who aren’t practicing religion as much as we are living in a relationship—by faith—with a living and loving God. Can we stop being assholes to each other? Even if on one side thinks that we are in sin because we cuss. And the other side just thinks they’re being closed minded assholes. Can we stop fighting with everyone? And I mean everyone. We treat each other like shit. And frankly, I’m sick of it. And what’s worse we treat people who don’t know Jesus like shit. We hear about their lives, their views, their politics, and their shenanigans and we don’t love as Jesus commanded us to – we hate. Enough is enough. Remember that old hippie song from the 60’s and 70’s? “And they will know that we are Christians by our love?” That’s not true anymore folks. If it ever was. Obviously in individual cases and communities they do – or might. But not in a general sense or global perspective.

At best we are known by our bumper stickers or the Jesus fish on our car. People who have claimed Christ throughout the centuries have given us a bad reputation. And this century is no different. Whether it be the Crusades, slavery, racism, right-wing nuts, end-times nutballs, or IRS Agents, we’ve been represented by ass holes. But there has always been hope throughout those ages of past. Not all folks who claim to be Christians hold up signs that say, “God hates….” The Christians- the really real Christians, even the religious ones, that truly know Jesus – hold up signs that say, “God loves.” There have always been Christians in those times that didn’t represent the majority. Sometimes the religious can be loud, and it drowns out the true representation of the gospel of grace. Maybe it’s time for those who have come to know the ridiculous love of God to be a little louder. If not with our words, then at least with our actions. But, also with your words. No matter you fall on the spectrum – whether it be a religious zealot – or grace-filled ragamuffin, I hope we can both be drawn into the love of our Heavenly Father. The one who says, “you both are lost.” One in his unrighteousness. And one in his self-righteousness. I pray we can both be consumed by the divine fire of his compassion. That we can both grow in our understanding that there isn’t anything we can do to earn his love, and there is no amount of “bad” that can keep you away from his love. Because with his love – there are no strings attached.

No matter you fall on the spectrum, whether it be as a religious zealot, or a grace-filled Ragamuffin, I hope we can both be drawn into the love of our Heavenly Father. The one who says, “you both are lost.” One in his unrighteousness. And one in his self-righteousness. I pray we can both be consumed by the divine fire of his compassion. That we can both grow in our understanding that there isn’t anything we can do to earn his love, and there is no amount of “bad” that can keep you away from his love. Because with his love – there are no strings attached.

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And to the rare reader that has hung on this long. The one who, much like a polite dinner guest at a family dinner, is just sitting there in silent observance at this “family discussion.” Thank you for entertaining my bitching. Thank you for bearing with my fed-up frustrations with both my family and myself. Thank you. But I don’t want you to feel ignored. So now, if you would allow me a moment. I would like to ask something of you: Please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

For too long Christians have done terrible things—and sometimes these terrible things have been gift wrapped with a “Christian Bow.” You know the ones. The ones that don’t want to leave you a tip. The ones who invite you to church, but also flip you off in traffic. The list goes on and on I’m afraid. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for the way every Christian has treated you, both directly and indirectly. The list is too long, much like this article, to name every sin that we’ve committed against you. But you know which ones. The minute I said I’m sorry—that painful thing we have done popped up into your head because it has already pierced your heart. I’m not only apologizing for the hope to have peace between us but also because we have misrepresented God’s affection for you.

I know I don’t know you, but if I were to guess, I’d say because of our actions you might have a misguided or distorted view of the God we claim to know. Through an outside perspective, you might view God as a religious tyrant ready to cast you out of his kingdom every time you do a “bad thing.” Or maybe you view God a religious rule keeper who has his charts, spreadsheets, and lists of every “bad thing” you’ve ever done.

To put it bluntly—maybe you think God is an asshole—because you’re only interactions with him have been through those who claim to follow him—also assholes. At least ones that from time to time act like assholes. Or maybe you, because of our hypocrisy, view God to be nothing more than a fable. Or perhaps, because we too often don’t practice what we preach, your opinion God is that He says he loves you, but deep down He doesn’t. I mean how could He? Or because we say we love you, but we have a resume that would say otherwise—you view God just to be much like an absent Father—one who just doesn’t care.

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My friend. You have faith. You can’t NOT have faith. It is what it is. It’s just a part of being human. Accept or reject Christianity—a religion that’s not really a religion, but an invitation into a love affair, it’s up to you. But before you walk way; before you stop reading—never to give another notion to reading one more article from some crackpot Christian. Let me end with telling you what I have chosen to have faith in—a faith that opened up a door to a deeper reality. A reality of Divine Love. A love that I often run away from because it can be frightening as it is enticing. In faith, I believe God loves me. And he loves you. Yes, you the one reading this. He’s crazy about you. When you woke up this morning, I believe He lept for joy and said, “Oh, good. They’re awake!” I pray you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And Yes I’m talking about Jesus. And no, not in the flat out hilarious way that Will Ferrel did in the prayer scene of “Talladega Nights.” I mean in the really real way. The way that I believe God has been shouting his love to you—the one that has echoed from the very beginning of time.

I think Brennan Manning put it best when he said:

Jesus not only knows what hurts us but knowing, seeks us out. Whatever our poverty, whatever our pain, his plea to his people is ‘Come now, wounded, frightened, angry, lonely, empty, and I’ll meet you where you live. And I’ll love you as you are, not as you should be, because you’re never gonna be as you should be.’ Do you really believe this? With all the wrong turns you made in your past, all the mistakes, the moments of selfishness, dishonesty, and degraded love, do you really believe that Jesus Christ loves YOU—not the person next to you, not the church, not the world, but that he loves YOU beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity … no matter what’s gone down, he can’t stop loving you. This is the Jesus of the Gospels.

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Thanks for reading. And no matter what, remember. No matter who you are. No matter what you believe or what you don’t believe. Whether you cuss or don’t cuss. Whether you smoke or don’t smoke. Whether you drink or don’t drink. Whether you are in some metaphorical prison—some type of pharisaical type of religious mutated version of the Christian faith. Or a faith that you created—some type of religious treadmill of “earning God’s love,” that you can’t hop off of. Or if you have been freed by Jesus and His gospel of Grace. No matter your skin color, sexuality, or whether or not you like Ice Cream—No matter what—know this: God loves you.

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