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A tape is playing in my head this morning. And it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. And, sadly, it won’t be the last. It’s one that says: You’re unloveable. You’re ugly. You’re stupid. You have no worth. It’s not something we like to talk about. We’d rather talk about the weather or politics or recycling or last nights sports game. Anything to get our mind off of what we are so busy trying to get our mind off of – the aching within. No matter your belief system or systematic acceptance or rejection of faith. We all have this in common as we universally say, “Let’s not talk about it.” And we don’t want to talk about it because we don’t want to think about it.

And there is the lie.

Remember the scene in PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES where John Candy & Steve Martin (best underrated comedy team of all time) were going down the WRONG WAY of a highway.

A couple going the SAME WAY on the other side of the highway kept yelling, “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY. YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY.” Yet because of all the NOISE the couldn’t hear it, and not only mis-heard what they were saying, they thought their advice was silly and stupid.

But they were wrong. It was advice that could save their life. But again, because it can’t be under emphasized, their advice was drowned out by the NOISE.

I just want you to know your not alone this morning. Probably because I want to know I’m not alone. And thanks to a great group of guy friends this morning who let me know I wasn’t. Too many to mention, but especially David Nicholas McCracken. Thank you for being the person on the other side of the highway to remind me to not listen to the noise of my life, and realize that I’m going the wrong way. I don’t need to head to noise. I don’t need to head towards anything and everything that could help me forget about the aching lie within my heart that tells me I am worthless. But I merely need to be still.

Maybe this is why the Author of the ancient song book called Psalms says in chapter 46 says, “Be still and know that I’m God.”

I’m not sure any of us need a sermon or a self-help book. I’m not convinced we need a goal or a guru. I don’t think we need a diet or a dream. I just think we need to shut up and listen. I think we need to get in our cars and drive out to the ocean, woods, or the middle of nowhere to just be in the beautiful agony of being alone. For in that place if I can slow down and and match the rhythms of my breathing with the rhythms of the wind, and the rustling of the leaves. The songs of the earth that were hear long before U2 or Justin Timberlake.

And just BE STILL.

For, I think, only in that place and only in that place can we find the answer to the question, “Does anyone really love me?” and really be heard. Not just listened to, but really heard. Where it counts. The sound that drips past the ears and seeps deep into your soul.

Yes, I’m not gonna lie – as I wouldn’t want you to either – I believe it’s true what Rich Mullins once wrote and sang, ” Jesus gave love a face and a name.”

But God is love. And that love was here long before the word became flesh. And that word made “Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise.”

Yes – no matter how much or little – we all have our own little record players and vhs recordings as visual and audible reminders of how there are people that don’t like us, or there are regrets that we regret, or there are mistakes and sins that we have done and have been done to us, and those loops of audio and visual recordings can be deafening and sometimes deadly. But they don’t define you.

There is a deeper recording that was recorded long before we all got here. And it says this:

I love you and I like you. And I more than love you and like you. When I think of you My eyes light up. And I get butterflies in my stomach. I wish you could see. But that will come later. For now, and until then, you’ll have to listen.



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Tomorrow, Dec 31 – it will have been one year since Kyle died. I’m pretty sure. You know that feeling of wanting to remember a detail, or double check a date, and then you stop – and realize that is the last thing you want to do – because just remembering the deepest parts of loss is enough – who cares about precision in the face of pain.

Kyle was not only my best friend and the best of all of our friends. We shared an endless amount of adventures together in his short time on this earth.

Fuck. I’m crying now. Why do I not want to cry? Who gives a shit. It is what it is.

Kyle loved Jesus, blues music, graphic design, and camel cigarettes.

As 12 months have passed since he’s been gone – I think my favorite memories of Kyle are the ones that no one knows but me. The private moments. The inside jokes. The long road trips. The hugs. The tears. And the intimacy that is achieved, as only can be, between two good friends. The type of intimacy where you can read each other’s minds and seemingly have full conversations with only mannerisms.

A new good friend of mine is St. Alex Early​. He’s a real author. I only pretend to be. The other night my family and his family got together. As Alex was nice enough to read my book and write a little blurb for it – which he only did out of sheer undeserved grace – I wanted to give him and his wife a hard copy of my book Sinners, Saints, and the Furious Love of God by David Leo Schultz​ …I handed the book to his wife Jana Bradford Early​ and I said, “I’m not an a real writer. The way your husband is – but what I have found is that I am able to write with great ease and passion about things which I am passionate about – and that’s my friends.

I really only wrote that book as a way to grieve. I started writing it when I found out Kyle wouldn’t be around much longer. And even as I was finishing up the book and I literally wrote the words, “any day now I will get the inevitable phone call, email, or text letting me know that he’s gone”…and sure enough I got a text: Kyle’s not alive here anymore. He’s now alive in heaven.

Or something like that. Again, fuck details.

In 100 years no one will remember me let alone these digital scribbles.

Kyle always got a kick out of me being a Christian that gravitated towards not playing bullshit religious games. He would often laugh and shake his head when I would accidentally – on purpose – piss religious people off.

Kyle got it. He knew I too loved Jesus, but also knew I wasn’t the type of Christian that good old fashion baptist protestants were. I wasn’t convicted the same way. Didn’t look at the Bible the same way. My theology didn’t fit into their paradigms of how a Christian should behave.

Even if he thought I was just using grace as a license to sin instead of operating out of just being who I am and where I am at…he would have loved me anyway.

That’s just who he was.

I think it’s very unfair that I’m still here. I’m still walking around with air and my lungs and he’s not. He was a father too. Just like me. He had future dreams and desires – just like me.

It’s not fair. I wonder if Kyle can hear my whispers on the other side of eternity. I wonder if he heard of my prayers before he died, “Take me. Not him.”

But I also know that I live inside of time surrounded by eternity. To be human is to be Two-dimensional. But if I were Three-dimensional – able to see what is still yet to come – I wonder if I would be able to hear Kyle – I wonder if I would hear him whisper the same thing, “It’s not fair”…”It’s not fair that all my friends, family, and loved ones can’t be here to experience “What’s Next” and they are still there.

Kyle and I had more time in the car traveling the country than we did anything else. More time in the car…than we did in our dorm rooms our freshman year, or sleep-overs growing up, or even our comedy shows.

We traveled the country as if we were Jake and Elwood blues – on a mission from God. We both drove like Elwood blues too – that’s for damn sure. Matter of fact that’s where I think we got it. We wanted to be the Blues Brothers – and maybe we were. Who knows? Who cares? Maybe we never got to be the real Blues Brothers – but we at least knew we were brothers. Not by flesh and blood, but perhaps the better kind. The kind that welds your heart and history together.

I don’t have to stretch my heart or memories to far to remember what it was like to be on a long road trip with Kyle. I can still his blondish brown hair styled the way he liked it. His oversized goatee. His smile. His laugh. The holes in his ears where his ear rings used to be. His eyes that were truly the gateway to his soul. The quiet way about him. His, stronger than life itself, faith. The faith that more resembled an intense, focused, warriors bravery. The kind that doesn’t need words, because it has something better. Determination and faithfulness.

You know one of the things I learned in the last 7 years about making movies about two men who really lived, breathed, and died. Is that everyone knows the one who died better than anyone else. It’s their version that counts. Not anyone else’s. I never really understood it, as much as I thought it was a mixture of unresolved grief and maybe even a dash of close mindedness.

But, now, after loosing Kyle – I get it. It IS their version that counts. It’s the one that counts because it’s all they have. The one they lost was unique to them, in the way that no two people see the same sunset. While it’s the same sun – it’s not the same perspective of that sun. And because of that unique combination that comes out of two people’s experience – only WE know our loved one the way We do. And it’s not the same as anyone else. And that’s okay. It has to be. After all, now that they are gone, t’s all we have.

Fuck. I just miss my friend.


A half burnt cigarette and a heart filled with tears

By David Leo Schultz

I spend to much time thinking about movies. I watch too many movies. I write movies. I act in movies. I direct movies. I even dream in movies…

As I smoke my cigarette and stare at the christmas lights that wrap around my back porch I can’t help but ponder about how symbolic this smoke is for my short life.

I suddenly think of a great opening scene for a movie. An old man and a young man sharing a cigarette break. The young man sucks down his smoke like he’s chugging a soft drink. The old man puts his hand on the young man’s shoulder and says…”Slow down. It will be over soon enough.”

I can’t help but think about how short this life was for my loved ones that have already passed away and their bodies are now dust much like the ash from my smoke that has disappeared into the wind.

I think about Kyle who died a year ago this month of December. When I think of my friend. I don’t hear his voice. I can remember if I try but I let the memories of my departed loved ones do whatever they want – not what I wish they would do. With Kyle I just see him smiling. Smiling at me. A smile that is both amused by me as much as it encourages me. He was 35 when he died.

I think about my Step-Mom Paula who died quietly of cancer in a hospital room in Florida. I miss our little talks. I can still hear her excitement when I would call her and ask her for a recipe or help with researching the best deal for this or that. I’m glad she got to see my movie “Ragamuffin” before she died. But I’ll forever regret missing her call the week before she died. I tried to call her back. But I should have tried harder. Maybe I would have gotten to hear her voice one last time. But I didn’t.

I think about my Grandpa & Grandma Schultz. They were always filled with answers to my questions about our Jewish Heritage …and even more filled with compassion for their Christian grandson. My Grandma was a beautiful red headed painter, and my Grandpa was a towering man of steel who was also a welder. I miss them both. When I think of my Grandma Beverly I can see her dancing …and when I think of My Grandpa I can see him serving…why? Because he was the definition of humility. Everyone else goes first. Then him. But it was him who ended up going first in the next life. But before he left, he left one last note to the love of his life that said, “I love you my darling.” Chuckie.

I think about my second cousin – Jim English. I carry a shred of an old picture of Jimmy in a small picture frame. That’s all that is left of his life cut short – by his own hand. Those who know me know I can never stop talking about Jimmy. I can’t remember his voice any longer. The second I think I can is the second I know I’m just wishing I could. I don’t stop talking about you because I don’t ever want to forget – I don’t want to forget my very first hero.

My cigarette is almost gone now as I think about my Grandma Roxy. My Mom’s Mom. But she was my Mom too. When I tell people that my Grandma died – I can tell they don’t get it. They react respectfully of course. But they react as one would when they hear a grandparent passes. It’s compassionate and empathetic but not as much as when a parent passes. I’m not being sappy to say that she was like my Mom. It’s just really true. Beyond biology what makes a mother/child relationship…is the bond. When it comes to biology she was my Grandmother. But when it comes to bond she was my mother.

Maybe I’m too morbid or too wise. Either way I know I’m not humble. And not because or just because I think I have some wisdom. I am aware of my lack of humility because of how “self” focused I can be…but it’s these quiet moments when I realize how truly foolish it is to be focused on me. With the sound of a ticking clock I know that death isn’t too far out of reach for any of us. Although my favorite joke with my wife about my smoking is…when she says, “You know these are going to kill you…” I smile and say…”Death is a myth. Don’t believe everything you hear babe.”

But she’s right. And if she’s not, then life itself will kill me. No one get’s out alive. Kyle didn’t. My Grandparents didn’t. My Step Mom didn’t. Jimmy didn’t.

My friend told me that at the end of my life as I reflect on my wealth and achievements …it won’t be my resume I think about…it will be my family and friends. He’s right.

So, as I finish my smoke. I think about my wife. I think about my kids. I think about my friends. I think I’m going to retire from worry. From rushing and running through life. I think I’m going to quit career chasing and achievement building. I think I’m throwing in the towel on pursuing. I’m done with surviving…but I think I’m going all in on living. I’m want to be fully alive in what I create and being present. I have no more interest in keeping tabs on mile markers or notches in any belt…I just want to work, create, and most of all be fully alive in every moment with Amy – my wife. Lucy – my lovely daughter. And laughing with and listening to my family & friends.

But most of all I want to enjoy my loved ones and the precious gift that this life is…after all. It will all be over soon.

Just like this cigarette.




Vote for Jesus. Not for Christians

I’d like to talk in a general way. Not in a specific way. This is where I am landing this morning as I ask myself the question, “Is it wise to name names?” For now I’m choosing to not for no other reason then grace. But trust me when I say – I refrain with great struggle. So what is the all this angst about?

To overgeneralize? Christians.

Not all Christians. But enough to where their voices during an election period cause me to do a face palm. Now please hear me – I’m not doing a face palm with some type of self-righteous “I’m better than you” type attitude. I’m just embarrassed.

But I’m more than embarrassed. I’m mad. I’m sad. I’m frustrated. I’m fed-up. I’m not going to pull punches – okay? So if you become faint of heart with an uncensored way of speaking. I suggest you hit the eject button right now. And I’m talking right now. Stop reading. Still reading? Then buckle up – especially if you are one who calls themselves a Christian.

I’m sick and tired of people that use the title of “Christian” with their mouth – and out of that same mouth also comes bigotry, hate, shame, slander, name calling, sexism, racism, homophobia, self-righteous rhetoric, and maybe the worst of all…pride. And maybe, just maybe, underneath all of the grossness that publicly and privately fall out of the mouths of these “Christians” is pride.

Did you know some, but not all, Christians think cussing is a sin? What a shame. Please hear my heart I’m not trying to shame them – that’s not why I say, “What a shame.” The reason I do is because I’m afraid because of their theological view of “cussing” they may miss a crucial clue how God himself wishes them to speak with their mouths.

In the Bible – the Christian Scriptures, which many believe to be God breathed and inspired as the Holy Word of God, there is a book called JAMES. And in the book of James, chapter 3, verses 9 & 10 it says this: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Now let me confess. I am a Christian. And I am a Christian who doesn’t believe that “cussing” is a sin. You can see my past articles, blogs, or even read practically a whole treaty on the subject in my book Sinners, Saints, and the Furious Love of God. Shameless plug. Forgive me. But for now – no matter who you are – before you read any further let’s just be kind to one another. Lets humbly accept that within the Christian community – there’s lot of different ideas, theologies, and vantage points on many different aspects of the faith. And cussing, is one of them. Remember what St. Augustine said? “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Let’s lean into that. At least for the time it takes you to read this article – so you hopefully don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater” – in terms of “the baby” being the heartbeat and message behind these words of mine.

See, if for no other reason my big hang-up with Christians having this view that there are certain “words” that are off-limit for the Christian is because they can practically read the whole book of James or many other passages and miss the whole point. It’s not the words that are making the speech bad. It’s the heart. It’s not the four letters that make a word bad. It’s the intent.

During a big election season it seems everyone who dare calls themselves a follower of Jesus (myself included) – should read the book of James over and over and over again.

I have heard Christians hop on social media (their own personal microphone) and say the most awful, gross, disgusting, shameful things…without saying one traditional “cuss word.”

No matter which party line they are in – they say the most inhumane things about the other. Take this election. The year of 2016. I personally know of Christians (at least on an acquaintance level) that have said incredibly awful and gross things about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A couple things go through my head. One, I go, “Do you folks know them personally? The media is so wonky how would you know what’s true about their character or not.” I mean…Did anyone see the 2014 movie Gone Girl? Secondly, I go…”Wait are they a brother or sister in Jesus?” And if they are – this is when I do the face palm. This is not how we should speak of anyone. Whether or not they are in the same faith group as us.  Simply put: The follower of Jesus should know better. Every human is made in the image and likeness of God – and to shame them – whether the be guilty or innocent – is not only “not cool” it’s also a sin. When the Christian steps out of the boundaries of their political preferences and starts bashing on other people with their hateful hearts – they not only have done wrong – they have sinned against that person. Even if they are a public person. Just because they are a celebrity and in the news – doesn’t let you off the hook for having a compassionate and loving stance towards that person.

Election time seems to bring out the crazies. Especially the “Christian crazies,” as I like to call them. Frankly, they go ape shit. They seem to take every single thing that Jesus said about love and chuck it out of the metaphorical window of their heart. “Love your enemies.” Gone. “Turn the other cheek.” See ya’ later. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”Bye-bye.

The crazy has reached an all time high when I jumped on Facebook the other day and saw a dear friend who I happen to know really really really loves Jesus. And this person had this to say of Hillary Clinton: “What a piece of shit!” I almost threw-up in my mouth. Then another friend, also a Christian, said even worse about Donald Trump. My heart grew sad. I was sad – not for our country. I was sad – not for the state of our politics. I was sad – for Christians. I was sad that it seems so many of us have amnesia when it comes to the gospel of grace. The same good news that first opened up our hearts, in faith, to the reality of the unconditional and unmerited love of God ambushing our lives.

Recently a friend and fellow brother in Christ was speaking at an event on the east coast. This was a Christian retreat of sorts. He was picked up at the airport by a fellow Christian, although not associated with the event – which my friend was not prepared for. He was also not prepared for his politics. This guy went on and on and on about his disdain for Democrats and especially Hillary Clinton. Finally. My friend couldn’t take it anymore. He was exhausted. Not so much by politics but by this Christian’s forgetfulness of the gospel of Jesus and His grace and love. Eventually my friend stopped this man and said, “You know what – I AGREE! Hillary Clinton…is a DICK! And you know what…so is Donald Trump! And you know what…SO AM I! Man we are all bad – aren’t we? We all fall short of the glory of God – don’t we? We are all sinners who you desperately need the grace and forgiveness of God – aren’t we? Thank God – He sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for Hillary Clinton…and Donald Trump…and for me…and for you.

With our mouths, we Christians curse others made in the image and likeness of God. It’s over and abundantly clear during election season – isn’t it? But I’m afraid that’s not the only time. Matter of fact – to live in the United States during this place and time – it seems that’s not all that we have a bad rep for. The list goes on.

Christians aren’t only hateful with our speech (with our without cuss words). We are often a group that because of our actions (and words) and words (and actions) get labeled with with terms like: racist, homophobic, sexist, right-wing nut jobs, legalistic, judgmental, stuck-up, phony, arrogant…and the list goes on…and on…and on…and on.

Face palm.

If we had forever I would tell you how from the beginning of Christianity there has always been a divide within our faith community. The divide is usually between the the faithful and the religious. Those who are following the heart of the gospel of Jesus and those that are seeking nothing more than a moral code with the appearance of good – wherein the reality is – there is nothing good in them – not even Jesus. Because the ball has never dropped – in terms of their faith. Oh yeah, sure – they believe all the ‘right things” and say “all the right things’ but inwardly they have never come to the cross of Jesus and cried out “Father, forgive me I know not what I do.” They have never believed the true gospel of Jesus – the one that says – there is nothing – absolutely nothing you can do to earn God and his love exemplified by Jesus on the cross – there is only acceptance. As Paul Tillich once said, “Faith is the courage to accept the fact that you’re accepted.”

You see if you would look at the four gospels found in the Christian Scriptures – Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John. You will see so much real estate of those passages taken up with a major conflict. Do you know what that conflict is? It’s one that is very popular in our modern area. It’s a very serious issue today. It’s the issue referred to as BULLYING. And for any human that has had to face the torture that is puberty AND middle school – we all know too well that Bullying is a real thing. And it seems that as the generations flee by – things are only getting worse.

This is not true. Things have have always been bad when it comes to bullying. Bullies suck. And the only thing that sucks more than bullies? Christian bullies.

Jesus spent so much of the Scriptures defending the “poor in spirit” against the “rich in spirit.” Jesus was always beat up by religious bullies. Matter of fact – he was eventually killed by them. But the good news is – he didn’t stay dead.

Jesus had a reputation for hanging out with all types of ragamuffins. He would party with drunks, whores, IRS agents, and Used Car Salesman. I’m paraphrasing of course. I just thought I would spell that out for the hung-up types.

Bottom line: Jesus always gave grace to the humble – and always – always – opposed the proud.

Oh, how I wish Jesus was here in the flesh. I bet you he wouldn’t be voting Republican or Democrat. Or even a third party. He might even forget to vote because he would be so caught up with loving the outcasts, poor, and disenfranchised. Don’t get me wrong. He would be respectful of the government system in place, having once said, “Give to Cesar what is Cesar.” Jesus would have paid his taxes.

This isn’t so much an article to jump on my soap box and bash on Christians. Although, the good Lord up on high sure knows I like to do that – especially when I do it for the same reasons that Jesus also bashed on the stuck-up religious leaders of his day once calling them a “Brood of Vipers.”

No – this is something else entirely. There is a two-fold motive in writing this piece. First an passionate apology to those who don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah – Immanuel – God with us. It’s an apology to those who know Jesus only as a historical figure or a religious relic. Not as a real God-Man they can have a relationship with – Today.

To all those who don’t know Jesus – and to those that think they do – but don’t really. Let me just say – I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all of it. I’m sorry for the hate, racial bias, sexism, homophobia, right-wing nuttiness, and all the cursing. Not the kind that is spelled with four letters. The worse kind. The kind of cursing that shames you without knowing you. The kind that spits on your metaphorical face with the ease it takes to put a comment on our Facebook Status Update. All of this shit – this isn’t a whoopsie. This is worse than that. This is sin. Now I could argue – not only because I like to debate – but I could, if I had the time, to lay-out and articulate – that a lot – if not most of the people who are doing these awful things in Jesus name’ aren’t really Christians. They are mere “wolves in sheeps clothes” at worst…and at best they grew up in a Christian home, went to Church every Sunday, said their prayers every morning, and read their Bible every night – but they never knew that when it comes to Christianity – it’s the one religion – that’s not a religion – and was never intended to be – it was always meant to be A LOVE AFFAIR. The gravitational pull of our religious hearts have and always will want to turn this free gift of God’s grace into something that has to be worked for and earned. What a shame. This is not the good news that God gave us in sending his son Jesus to love us and to love us so much – that he would be willing to take all the punishment for our sins – so that we never have to die a second death – and that we could not only have life forever – but have life now.

I’m just so sorry. All the hate, sexism, homophobia, slander, gossip, racism, and anything and everything else that doesn’t resemble Jesus….is not Jesus. All of that shit – IS NOT HOW GOD FEELS ABOUT YOU. God is crazy about you. Jesus is head over heels in love with you. This is why he came. This is the explanation for the biggest event in human history: Jesus love letter to you. His death on the cross. His burial. And his resurrection.

Julie of Norwich – a 14th century woman who dedicated her life to contemplation and prayer once had a vision of Jesus on the cross and He shouted something to the effect of – “Are you well satisfied that I suffered you?” Because if not – I would gladly ask my Abba Father to allow me to suffer more so that you would believe I love you.”

To those that do know Jesus – the really real believers – those who really have tasted the heavenly gift of knowing and hearing Jesus tender still small voice – those that know the Almighty strength of his toughness and fierce and furious love for you – I’d just say: Stop it. Repent. Change. Turn around from all this political craziness that turns you from a peacemaker of God into a division starter of Hate. Stop shaming people. Stop cursing. Not the four letter kind. The more hurtful kind. The type of words and cursing that can hide behind a political party. Or the kind that can hide behind a theological view. The kind that can hide behind a prayer request in a prayer circle – when it really is just a gossip party in a shame circle. Obey Jesus – be salt and light. Not dirt and darkness. Because all this horse shit – the racism, sexism, homophobia, shaming, hating – that’s what all of this sin is. It’s dirt and darkness – and has nothing to do with or has a place in the kingdom of God. It’s utterly and completely wrong. It’s disgusting. And it’s gross. And finally, stop. Please hear me. Stop being a religious bully. That’s what all of this is. You’ve lost your way. Remember the ancient Christians didn’t call it “Christianity.” That word can’t be found anywhere in the Scriptures. It was simply called, “The Way.” And you my friends, if you are a real believer in and by Jesus Christ, have lost yours. You’ve forgotten your first love – which is the ignited love affair you have with Almighty God started by the kindling of God’s grace. You have put out the fire with your religious pride. With your wrong-headed notions of what it means to respond to God’s grace – instead you think you have to earn it. And has a result you have turned Christianity into some type of moral code, ethic, philosophy, or method for behavior modification. You have watered down the gospel of Jesus. And as a result – your heart has become bitter, cold, and filled with hate. And woe – to anyone who crosses your path – you fucking religious bully. Our only hope to stop you and all your racism, sexism, shame, hate, and homophobia is to pray for Jesus to come and once again build a whip and drive out the fakers and robbers of the true spirit of “The Way” or “Christianity” – which is nothing but total and utter grace.

So all this to say. If you have to vote on whether all this Christianity stuff is true or not. Don’t look at the resume’s of his followers. Look at the reputation of their leader. And if you compare and contrast the two : Jesus & his followers. It will start to dawn on you why they use words like “savior” and “salvation” because they are wretched sinners who sure as hell need saving. They are a group of degenerates who left to their own devices are un-righteous at best and self-righteous at worst. This group of rejects known as Christians only hope is Jesus himself paying for all of their sin like racism, sexism, homophobia, hate, name-calling, slander, and shame with his death on the cross. And their only hope for change and new life is to surrender to him – to die with him – and to be raised to live with him to have a new life in Him.

I should know. Because I am one of the worst ones in this fucked up group of Christians. Trust me. Trust me when I say I have the same grossness you might see in them. I have the same grossness you might see in Donald Trump. And I have the same grossness you might see in Hilary Clinton.

The qualities I have might not look the same. They may have a different label. They maybe have a different title. They might be on a different list. I’d like to think I don’t have a shred of racial bias, sexism, homophobia, hate, and the like – but I know I am filled with pride which is the root of all sin. And so what if it comes out in a different way than my neighbor. I’m still in the same boat. I too – am in  need of a savior.

And when it comes to the ONE doing the saving. I know who I’m voting for.

David Leo Schultz

David Leo Schultz is an actor, screenwriter, filmmaker, author, comedian, and speaker.

You can hear David speak live every Sunday Night at 5PM at the HIGH DIVE BAR in Seattle or on the live Facebook feed: fb.com/ragamuffinsundays

You can follow David on Twitter & Instagram : @davidleoschultz

You can purchase David’s latest book : Sinners, Saints, & The Furious Love of God on Amazon or Kindle.

You can purchase David’s latest movie “Brennan” at colorgreenfilms.com


HEY MY FELLOW RAGAMUFFINS :

 

If you would like to read a collection of my writings you can now pick up my book by ordering a paperback from Amazon or a digital version on Kindle.

Direct Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sinners-Saints-Furious-Love-God/dp/1534816372/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477337607&sr=8-1&keywords=SINNERS+SAINTS+AND+THE+FURIOUS+LOVE+OF+GOD

 

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Previously published on THE GOOD MEN PROJECT

Link: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/race-police-the-bridge-of-compassion-kt/

Race, Police, & The Bridge of Compassion

By David Leo Schultz

An accidental act of compassion two days ago is haunting and bothering me deep in my soul.

I was at a stop light, and I saw a seemingly homeless man who was bearded and bedraggled holding up a sign that read: Starving – need help.

I never carry cash, but on this particular morning on my passenger seat, I had four dollar bills laying there.

At that moment I did what I only imagine most of us do. I had a mental debate on whether should I give this dude my money. Maybe you can relate, or maybe you’re more gracious and giving than me, and there would have been no debate at all.

The debate in my head went as follows: What’s this guy going to do with my money? Is he going to buy food or drugs? Is he really in need or is he a con-man? Is he lazy and therefore jobless or is he, like so many of us, out of options and in momentary despair.

For no other reason than, “Why not—it’s just four dollars.” I rolled down my window, honked my horn and gave him the four dollars.

Now I’m not telling you this story to pat myself on the back or to have you look at me as anything special. Matter of fact there was nothing special to my act of compassion at all. The only reason I was even able to execute this random act of kindness was an accident. I never carry cash.

But on this particular morning, I went to the drug store and paid my purchases with my debit card. I swore that when the little machine asked me if I wanted “Cash Back” I pushed “No.” But when the Clerk handed me my receipt, he also handed me ten dollars.

As someone who is lazily trying to quit smoking, I went to buy a pack of Djarum Cigars. This is my John Candy/Uncle Buck way of quitting. Anyway—buying my smokes—I received my change of four dollars. The four dollars I gave to a homeless man.

But when I gave these four stray dollar bills—that honestly didn’t mean anything to me—to the broken and bearded man, what he did has me undone. And for the last 48 hours, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

As I handed him this meaningless money he took the cash with his hands, clenched the dollar bills tight, and brought them to his lips and kissed them. And he immediately started crying. He looked up at me and said, “Bless you.”

I was stunned. The only thing I had to offer such as response was, “Bless you too.” But as I drove away I knew I was the one more blessed.

I couldn’t explain it and I still can’t—which is why I am writing in this moment—to make sense of it all. But as I drove away from this homeless saint, I couldn’t help but think of the current climate of race and law enforcement in our country.

I know. It’s weird. I don’t know why. But that’s what happened.

♦◊♦

Some of my favorite and talented friends in Los Angeles are black. And I’m not going to lie. I can’t stop thinking about how fortunate I am to be white. Because when and if I’m pulled over by a cop, I’m not nervous at all. And not just because I follow instructions, but because of the color of my skin. And I can’t help but think of my black friends, that they aren’t as fortunate, and not because they aren’t law abiding citizens who follow instructions, but because they have a different color of skin than I do. If nothing else my heart breaks that they have to do something that I don’t when they are pulled over, they have to be nervous and more careful. I hate that.

And I also have police officer friends. My wife’s cousin is one of the most upright, honest, and loving guys I’ve met. And he’s a cop. Even though I don’t know him well, I am in awe of him. He risks his life, every day, to protect others. Matter of fact my best friend in the whole world is in law enforcement, and like an idiot, he sometimes doesn’t carry a gun—partially because he wants to be like Sylvester Stallone—and partially because he doesn’t like guns.

My friend posted a training video not too long ago, one that describes what it’s like to have to make split decisions in the line of duty. He explained how terrifying it could be—no matter how brave or trained you are—to make those split decisions that can so often be between taking a life and preserving your own, or not taking a life and potentially sacrificing your own.

This is not an easy subject.

And yet, we all know—unless you’ve been living in a cave all your life or you’re an alien from Mars—there is an undeniable racial bias that permeates American culture and skews perspectives on both sides of the fence. It’s undeniable. Matter of fact, to deny that will only continue to keep you dumb, deaf, and blind. Can it change? Yes. And no matter how hard it will be to change, we must. But, even with the best and smartest strategies in the world, one truth remains, it will take hard work and time.

♦◊♦

It’s been stated before; there are bad people out there because there is evil in the world. And these bad people exist—not because of the color of their skin or their work uniform and occupational status—the bad is much deeper than that, it’s a matter that defies race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality, it’s a matter of the of the heart.

No matter which side you are on—and we are all aware of the Grand Canyon-sized gap that stands between the two—something must be done.

So far, as it seems, we’ve only tried to fill the gap with hate, shame, arguing, debate, on-line trials, journalism, memes, bible verses, protests, picketing, racism, blind defensiveness, and frankly the list is endless…

But what if, WHAT IF, we tried compassion.

I’m not talking about the smile-and-shut-up type of sloppy sentimentality that comes from turning a blind eye to the deeper problems and pain that bubbles beneath the history of racism and social divide.

But a down and dirty type of compassion that plummets you into the shoes of another.

The type of compassion that puts you into the history and skin of another.

The type of compassion that puts in the type of split-second decision making that could mean—if you make the wrong one—either you take an innocent life, or you lose yours. The end result could be that you both don’t go home that night to have dinner with your loved ones.

The type of compassion that allows you to hear the cries and witness the tears on the other side—the other side of the gap—the other side of the coin or the fence that you so vehemently defend.

The type of compassion that allows you to see past the color of a person’s skin, to see them as your brother or sister, a fellow human.

Matter of fact, to be void of such compassion does exactly that; it makes you less human.

To silence your ears and close your eyes to the pain of another is to turn off your humanity.

But, to allow yourself to hear the cries and feel the tears of another, to embrace the uncomfortableness of another’s plight and pain can destroy the pride within. It can make you realize, “Oh, yeah—I see what they’re talking about. And I more than see! I feel it! I may not—and will not ever—have a front row seat to what they are going through, and I may not have the answers nor will ever, but what I can do—rather than do nothing—is offer myself.”

We can offer our compassion. And as we do – we can watch as they take that compassion, grace, and mercy, and know that even if only for a moment they won’t feel alone. They will feel understood, and more importantly, they will feel loved.

But it will cost you, even if it’s only four dollars. At the very least it will cost you your pride, but it’s through your humility that you will also be blessed. You will be blessed enough to open your eyes and ears to the pain and cries of another.

♦◊♦

So go out and love well. Even if it is by accident. As a matter of fact, let us all be accident prone in regards to loving our neighbors.

Because only love—not the romantic or sentimental kind, but a down right real-life-every-day kind, the compassionate kind—can begin to fill the gap that stands between us.

I love you all no matter what. Not because I’m perfect. But because I have been perfectly loved.


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.

♦◊♦

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.

♦◊♦

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.”

♦◊♦

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.

♦◊♦

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.

♦◊♦

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.

♦◊♦

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.

♦◊♦

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.”

♦◊♦

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.”

♦◊♦

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.