Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Letter to my Friend, Mike W: Regarding Judgment

Recently, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine, Mike.

Mike and I have hit it off from the time that we met each other. Our wives are friends and our sons are playmates. It's safe to say that we have closely resembling personalities and senses of humor, but- all the more- have resoundingly different views of Jesus and the Bible (of which I embrace with all of me!).

During the process of the conversation, a central point of my belief system came to the surface that, "You cannot love someone with an agenda in mind." Mike, being the realist and "devil's advocate" he is, would begin to deconstruct my thought and, quite frankly, had me astonished with the thoughtfulness and sincerity of his rebuttal.

About two hours into the conversation/debate/discourse, Mike would have to leave to be with his wife (as I'm told good husbands do at night).

As he left, he challenged me to think about the validity of my statement that "you cannot love someone with an agenda in mind."

The letter started as a small note to be sent as a Facebook message.

Eleven hours and ten Coke Zeros later, I finished my letter to Mike (that's how much I love you buddy!).

I felt it appropriate considering my burst of inspiration- and the fact that Facebook messages can only be so long- to share it with all of you as well. It might be of assistance to have your Bible handy.

Before I start I want to share with you how much I appreciate my friend Mike for challenging me to think deeper and more honestly. You are a blessing in my life, Mike. I pray our conversations may continue.



You asked me to ponder the question, "Is it possible to love someone without an agenda?" To this I say:

The Bible says over and over that judgment is something that belongs only to God and that you are to consider your own sins enormous and the sins of others minuscule (Matt 7:3-4). Deemphasizing the sins of others and emphasizing the sins of oneself is a central truth in the message of Jesus and a fundamental truth that is coherent from Genesis to Revelation. You could say this teaching affirms “self-discernment” and condemns “human-exercised judgment.”

Paul even goes as far to say:

“Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8 TNIV).

Therefore, it is my position that “loving” with an agenda- even amidst the noblest intentions- is a softer and more socially accepted way of exercising judgment and therefore not love at all.

When we do so we are giving ourselves permission to do something that is clearly not permitted for any human being to exercise and- in our futile attempts- we shoot ourselves in the foot:

“Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power” (Pro 8:14 TNIV)

“When he comes, he'll expose the error of the godless world's view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He'll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted” (John 16:8-11 MSG)

“Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors” (Romans 2:1-2 MSG. Italics mine).

“So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I'd say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we're all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren't going to improve your position there one bit” (Romans 14:10-12 MSG. Italics mine).

(There are far more!)

No human being is permitted to judge.

We are called only to love (not as human ideology defines love- which is most shallow- but as Jesus teaches and models love- which is the way of suffering, patience, and self-sacrifice).

Our tendency to try and judge each other is the essence of eating from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Whenever you judge, you are making an attempt at being God (Ge 3:5; notice it is the serpent that is telling Eve this. This connotes that it is a lie!).

This is part of what it means to be "fallen.” Judgment is one of the many ways that we try to take the place of God not only in our own lives but in the lives of others. We, therefore, turn against and blame each other (Ge 3:12) and rule over each other (Ge 3:16).

What does Genesis say about "eating” from this “tree?”

It says that when we eat from it WE DIE! (Ge 2:17) and we can consequently no longer “eat” from the “tree of life” (Ge 3:22).

What does this mean?

The writer is giving an allegorical account of the fundamental or- dare I say- "original sin" of all human beings. He is exposing human folly at its deepest level and the circumstances that derive from this “fall.”

Human beings are fallen because our most deeply-rooted predicament is that we must time and time again lust for the knowledge of good and evil that is clearly a duty only to be performed by God. We thus turn against each other, call the other one evil and ourselves righteous (cyclical quarreling), become resentful when our vicarious aspirations aren’t fulfilled, and nurture degenerative conflict amidst our matrix of agendas, schedules, dogmas, and dreams.

Because we, as a result, rule over each other, this is why the man will “rule over” his wife as God says Adam will "rule over" Eve. Because we eat this forbidden fruit, the man and wife have been put in conflict against each other, and, because the man is stronger, he will tend to win (Ge 3:16; under the rule of God there is not any form of coercion or domination or marginalization of those that are "weaker." Remember Jesus saying that the weakest are the greatest in the Kingdom?).

The writer also insists that eating from this tree has put creation out of kilter (Ge 3:16-19).

Think about it.

Think of the consequences that stem from the fact that we try to be God.

The writer of Genesis claims that we now work for our food and our livelihood because eating from this “tree” reflects a refusal to depend on God to feed us (we later have “manna” that acquaints God's people to this lost truth in Exodus).

Because we choose to eat from this tree we “wear clothes” because we have to hide who we really are- fully human and not God.

We are in conflict with each other because we choose to exercise our own judgment rather than wait on God’s judgment.

Because we choose to eat from this tree, as an upshot, we tend to lack eternal life because we were designed to live forever as God’s children and not as God’s equal (hence the reason why we cannot eat from both the tree of life AND the tree of KGE).

This brings clarity to why Jesus- who took “the fall” in Genesis very seriously in his Jewish theology- would say something like, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:37-38 TNIV), because Jesus’ understanding of “the fall” is that a man “condemns himself” whenever he chooses to "eat" the forbidden fruit.

This would explain why Paul- an ex-Pharisee and deeply committed advocate of the Torah- would say something like, “Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by what they approve” (Romans 14:22 italics mine) or “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed (Romans 2:5 italics mine).

The bottom line is that- from Genesis all the way through Revelation- the Bible teaches that we cannot eat from the tree of life because only God can do both and maintain the properties of eternity; only God can have supreme judgment and live forever simultaneously without debasement. Human beings are therefore made to live undisguised from the truth that we were made to depend on God for EVERYTHING- this includes judgment and adhering to God’s dream for humanity and not our own.

Human judgment is equated with eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and, because of this, we fall short of God’s ideal for humans to live forever (“eating” from the tree of life).

Therefore, in what state-as a result of the fall- do we find human beings now that we are compromised and continue to choose to eat from the forbidden tree? The writer of Genesis says that our current state is “east of Eden” (Ge 3:24). We are no longer in a state of God’s ideal but we are outside the reality of this ideal. This is where the follow-up story takes place; Cain and Abel. The story of Cain and Abel shows the horrorific realities of this debasement that takes place "east of Eden."

In other words, because we try to judge as only God can do- like we find Cain doing-, we are in conflict with each other; we demonize each other; we are in a state of perpetual incongruity with each other because we continue to eat from this tree; we continue to insist- in our worldly understanding of reality “east of Eden”- that harboring judgment for ourselves is nourishing when it is clear- for the writer of Genesis- that it is overtly noxious!

Therefore, if eating from this tree put us “east of Eden”- meaning away from how God intended the world to be- then how do we get back?


We quit judging and allow God to be God rather than harboring judgment for ourselves.

This is why Paul said that the greatest human trait is to love (1 Cor 13:13). We should be concerned with loving God and others because this is how we were meant to live.

We were made to love and care for God’s creation and everything in it (Ge 2:15) without the corruption of judgment (v. 16) while allowing for God to be God and depend on His judgment, His dreams, and His provision because they transcend any that we could assume for ourselves.

This is beautifully articulated in 2 Thessalonians:

“Our God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you're to be” (1 Thes 1:2 MSG).

Therefore, if we stop eating the forbidden fruit, what is there to gain?

We may then eat from the “tree of life.”

Some may call this salvation; OUR salvation!

Therefore, central to eternal life- according to this ancient text- is to refrain from eating of the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, the nexus to the inheritance of eternal life is to break the pattern of human judgment and thereby clinging to our call to a way of loving that attunes us to God's judgment.

So, therefore, what does a life of discernment absent of judgment look like? How does one observe such a conundrum?

Jesus shows, through his example, that love asks questions, provokes thought, invites responses, invites others to join in what you've found to be fruitful in your own self-discernment.

But let me make this clear...

Love will never be helixed with human agenda because loyalty to Jesus is not synonymous with being loyal to any ideology (no matter how “biblically based” it is).

In fact, it appears being loyal to Jesus is quite the opposite. Paul writes in Romans 12:9, "Love must be sincere" (TNIV) or “Love must be without hypocrisy” (NKJV). It would appear that from Paul’s view that harboring judgment is insincere and loathingly duplicitous.

Therefore, in view of this, John claims that those who fail to love their brother but claim to love God are frauds:

"If anyone says, I love God, and abominates his brother in Christ, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20 AMP).

Is there any doubt what a dehumanizing force human judgment is?

In light of this, I believe that Jesus, therefore, came to END all religion and END all ideology because human beings were designed to get their livelihood directly from God and nowhere else. Otherwise we are, thenceforth, judging for ourselves and embody the insincere, hypocritical, half-cocked, anesthetic lie that seperates us from God!

Religion, ideology, and governments (just to name a few) are rooted in human-exercised judgment and that John sees as the malignant lukewarmness described in Revelation (3:16).

One could say that these are the "fallen trees."

Accordingly, religion, ideology, and government (the “fallen” trees) produce their own "fallen" fruits.

The fallen fruits are rules (ideology/law) to coerce our steps, guilt (government/courts) to keep us in line, and rituals (religion) to remind us of our failure to live up to the rules.

In light of the root problem that stems from the fall, religion, governments, and ideology, therefore, add more weight- more “bad fruit” to our bowls- to those who are already burdened- or poisoned- with life’s hardships.

But Jesus offers us good news!

Jesus offers us the “rest”- the “antitoxin”- we are looking for:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt 11:28-30 MSG).

Therefore following Jesus’ example, a Christ follower will love people not to get them into a religious club, not so we can reach conformity, but BECAUSE loving others is what Jesus teaches us to do. We are called to give rest (or medicine) to those enslaved (subverted) to the patterns of fallenness and thereby exhibit the “unforced rhythms of grace.”

This is a call passed on to Christ followers and to be lived out today by continuing the work of Jesus:

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9 NKJV).

And the means of continuing Jesus’ work is further described:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:3-5).

Therefore, any Christ-centered, spiritual building discourse between any persons (whether evangelism or an inter-church discernment) should flow from your self-discerned proclamation of Christ rather than a self-fulfilling ideology.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, "Our aim is not to set up a law, but to proclaim Christ."

A Christian is someone who understands where love flows from. It doesn't flow from your own agenda (for a disciple's agenda dies in his baptism).

The Old Testament frequently warns against the exploits of one's own agenda.

Proverbs 3:7 says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes." Two verses prior to that says, "Lean not on your own understanding" (Pr 3:5 TNIV).

A Christ follower understands that people with different prospectives, religious beliefs, and sense of ethics are to be loved and respected- not judged- because they are sacred, valuable, and they matter greatly not just to God but matter to your own life! (I learned more about Jesus reading a book by a Jewish rabbi than I did in the entire twenty-four years I’ve been in church).

Loving someone with an agenda is loving conditionally (regardless of how committed you are) and a way of leaning on your own understanding as the Proverbs clearly warns us against. If you lean on your own understanding and attempt to judge than it is clear that you aren't really loving people. One may say that it is religion's historical pattern to love God “with their mouth" but not with their heart.

But- as I’ve pointed out- loving people with an agenda is antithetical to not only the Garden of Eden but Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

This is precisely why Jesus was so critical of the Pharisees time and time again.

The latter 8th chapter of John essentially says that if one claims to love God but only wishes to glorify self (adhere to your own ideology) than you are a liar. Not only this, but Jesus equates judging others according to human standards with being "demon possessed" (as Jesus blows the Pharisees' own imagery back in their faces in John 8:48-58), because all lies are a derivative of evil (as portrayed earlier in Genesis 3 and symbolized in the serpent).

Therefore, God loves the world (John 3:16) then so does a Christian.

Jesus teaches that the two greatest commandments are (a) loving God and (b) loving others (of which he claims is "like" the first). For Jesus, everything that he teaches hangs on these two "pegs":

“Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them" (Matt 22:37-40 MSG).

Jesus does not separate loving God and loving others.

He essentially says that if we love others with an predisposed agenda, we love God the same way. If we love God with an agenda, we can be assured that we love others with an agenda.

This is not the unconditional love that either Jesus or any of the New Testament writers teach:

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always "me first," doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end” (1 Cor 13:3-7 MSG).

Nor does it embody the absolute unshakable success that love will have on the earth:

“Love never [fails]. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 MSG).

Therefore- in light of these reflections- I ask these questions:

Does Jesus teach it is possible to care for someone without having readymade designs for him or her? Is it possible to love someone without having an agenda no matter how glorious or noble? Can you have Calvary-like love and esteem for someone without having dreams or wishes for that person?

Jesus got angry with the Pharisees because they were laying burdens upon the people; burdens no doubt birthed from the teachers’ well-informed and studied dreams, desires, wishes, agendas, and plans for the people. I don’t think for a second that their intentions were evil, but good and admirable (like the dreams we have for our children!). The Pharisees were very pious, wise, intelligent, and decent people. But Jesus says to them over and over again- even in the light of their commitment to a very noble religion- that they have only paid lip service to loving God and have missed His heart (Matt 15:8 TNIV).


Because the Pharisees forgot that their "tradition" only has worth as it is relative to God's Word (and by God’s Word I don’t mean the Bible…I’m talking about the relationships by which God reveals himself to the world…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The Pharisees would poise in the rightness of their religious beliefs and morality and yet they would still miss the heart of God.


It is clear that Jesus is pointing out that their hearts had been overcome by judgment and an idolatry to their own religion. Jesus points out that they “worship [him] in vain” because their teachings are only “human rules” (still v. 8).

Jesus then goes on to say:

"Listen, and take this to heart. It's not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up."

What does this mean?

For starters, it is highly symbolic.

Jesus is critiquing the Pharisees because they have- as I’ve pointed out- enslaved people to the fallen fruits of the cursed tree rather than nutured the fruits of the tree of life.

What Jesus says here is so offensive and so astonishing to the people who first heard it.

(Please note the need to hang with the double entendre)

He’s essentially saying, “Stupid Pharisees! Don’t you get that it’s not what you believe- or “ingest”- that destroys you but its the poisonous, vile, cursed fruits that cause you to vomit that defile you? Don't you see that it is your ugly, noxious, pre-digested message that makes people ill?” (as the Pharisees were prioritizing cultural Judaism and Jewish customs before the heart of God and the loving of people).

Jesus then continues:

"Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes" (Matt 15:17-20 MSG).

Do you get the double speak here? Jesus isn't giving us a science lesson.

It's important to first understand that Jesus- one of his many critiques of the Pharisees- is working to free the locals from the enslaving religion of the Pharisees. The surface issue here is the Jewish rituals of cleanliness that are observed during meals, but Jesus turns it into a much deeper lesson (not to mention an ingenius metaphor!).

Jesus is essentially reaffirming his teachings of freedom, liberation, and salvation whereby he is condemning the Pharisees' teachings of piety, works, rituals, and religion. Jesus basically says, "Its not necesarily what you believe that destroys you because it will eventually work its way out of the body and not harm you at all." Again, you have to work within the innuendo here. "But those things that which you believe (or "ingest") that come from your mouth are directly related to what's in your heart."

For Jesus, our relationships with other people are directly related to the salvation of each individual and the whole of humanity.

So I ask:

Doesn't Jesus claim it is impossible to love and teach while simultaneously burdening them? Is it possible to teach without the teaching being pregnant with expectations? Can you love with your desires and judgments completely detached?

I believe Jesus teaches this.

Let me offer a solution to our dilemma:

Its not that we need to purify our wishes for others, but that we should crucify them. Its not that we must make lovelier strings to attach to our love, but that we should cut them off altogether. Its not that we must baptize our agendas, but one should lay them at the foot of the cross. Its not that we must make our visions more heavenly, but we should forsake them entirely. It’s not that that we must add sugar to our bowl of "cursed fruit" salad, but that we should burn the cursed tree.

What destroys true community is the layers of dogma, agenda, vision, and wishes that are forced upon it. This is why true love has always been metaphorically attached to death because in both we must learn to let go. And this, my dearest friend, is why some people refuse to love…it requires too much suffering…it is too much like death … death to ourselves and all our desires.

Did you catch that?


This is precisely how Jesus teaches what it means to be one of his disciples:

"Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple" (Luke 14:25-27 MSG).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it, "To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self..."


Therefore, can you now see why I say there is no human agenda exempt of cursed judgment? Human judgment- in all forms- is cheap. It misses the mark. It falls short (its relevant to note that these are also what many theologians consider to be the biblical definitions for “sin”).

Its so much more “practical” to judge and live vicariously than it is to have patience, love, and endure the suffering road of Calvary. This is the judgment of Jesus.

In the gospel of John, Jesus says, "[the Father] has entrusted all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22 TNIV).

However, three chapters later Jesus also says, "I pass judgment on no-one" (John 8:15 TNIV).

The Bible says that Jesus was given the ability to judge- by the authority of the Father- but instead chose to "judge no-one."

How can you reconcile these two scriptures juxtaposed?

Likewise, how can I summarize all that I've said here to you?

Karl Barth (the 20th century’s most influential theologian) says it best:

In Christ, God's judgment is forgiveness!


Bobby Ray Hurd
+Recovering sinner, idolator, and religious zealot+

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Testimony #2- Sister Susan

Shalom ya'll!

We recently received an email from our sister Susan in Minnesota. We were decidedly blessed to have her email our blog with her testimony and corresponding poem, "Meditation for a Century Barely Begun" that explores the peculiar athanasia of the Judeo-Christian story.

So often do we assume the Judeo-Christian way of life is a philosophy. To make this conclusion is a most impudent treachery. It is an erroneous literary criticism- at the least- or an outright subversion of the Judeo-Christianity story to be more pejorative.

This culturally induced hogwash neuters the best message ever.

Respected philosopher and theologian Jacques Ellul once said, "God does not reveal by means of a philosophical system or a moral code or a metaphysical construction. He enters human history and accompanies his people...[the Bible] is a series of stories...that are one history, the history of the people of God, the history of God's agreements and disagreements with this people, the history of loyalty and disobedience" (italics mine).

Our faith is a constant reflection upon the historical and steadfast love story that the Father has with his people.

Bless you Susan for reminding us of our amour.



I am a poet and writer who has long struggled to express my Christian experience in all its variety. I feel lucky to live in such a time of change and possibility within the Christian church.

I was a Catholic until I was 12 when my mother had a dramatic faith healing while watching the 700 Club, converted, and took us three kids over to an Assembly of God church. I love those people and especially the way they introduced me to Scripture. But there was SO MUCH about the culture of evangelical fundamentalist Pentecostalism I did not like. I wriggled out of it painfully, and then in 1997 I went with a friend to Mass at a Benedictine monastery. I loved it-- the liturgy and silence and listening to Scripture and prayer. Life took me from Joliet to Reno to Southern California, and finally I found my way to Central Minnesota where I came for a year to write poetry and finish a memoir about faith at the Collegeville Institute-- following in Kathleen Norris's footsteps.

My second poetry manuscript, "Bringing the Body Down" is full of what I consider the core of my "emergent" struggle. I like Phyllis Tickle's three questions: "What is Real/human?" "Where is authority?" and "What is the relationship of all religions to each other?"

I keep thinking about my mother; a devout evangelical Christian. But practicing in a Dutch Reformed church, now a Community Church, she says her only real crisis of faith was after seeing the movie Ghandi and not being able to square with the idea that Ghandi wasn't "saved." I'm happy to think that after death she will be singing the eternal hymn of praise in a circle with Ghandi.

Meditation for a Century Barely Begun
by: Susan Sink

Bow down five times a day, or seven.
Sing the psalms in an unlit sanctuary.
Sit in any pose and stare at the wall.
Burn incense, burn a candle, burn a sacrifice.

The centuries are calling your name.

What language do you speak?
Translate the word of life into a tongue
Unspeakable. How would you answer, then?

And if God said to you: leave your family, right now,
And if God said to you: say what I will say
And the world will listen, and if God said to you:
Love this man, offer your son, do it for me,
Would you argue? Would you take up arms?

Beat them into ploughshares, and sow seeds
Altered to bear three times the normal yield?
Would you feed them or would you feed
The Word of God in a strange land, one untouched
Yet, and how would it sound in their ears?
How would it sound in their hunger?

What would you see there, your own wealth
You never before considered, or something new,
Humility you knew as an idea but which now
Strikes you dumb? Do something small
And then something smaller and then
The smallest thing, a gesture, very slight.
Consider whether it’s brave. And if these three
Movements make an action, and if it helps
You feel alive, or names you love, or opens
Your heart, your ears, any window, any door—

Go to the beginning and listen again. Listen hard.

Get more from Susan at


+Our Emerging Thoughts+

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Let's Get Started...Testimony #1

Whenever I walked into my Sunday school classroom in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I was met by our most committed and enthusiastic-about-teaching-the-kiddos Sunday school teacher, Louise. Louise took me by my chubby, Kindergarten hand and led me to the rug where all of the other children were sitting. In the front of our classroom was the most beloved and widely used resource for teaching all good Christian children- the flannelgraph (Oh yeah, you know you remember!). On this day, I would experience for the first time what I call “new pastor’s kid treatment” where people went out of their way to welcome me with their warmest- and by chance their sincerest- welcome to their church. Its one thing to be the “new kid”- being the “new pastor’s kid” is an experience in of itself (people often don’t understand that there is a subtle and unconscious “holy man” approach people take in the socialization toward the pastor and his children. I call this “enlightened one syndrome”).

With all of the greetings out of the way, all of the children seated “Indian style,” and all eyes on the flannelgraph, Louise could begin her lesson.

To tell you the truth, I remember very little from the lesson that day.


Little did I know that I would learn something that day that would psychologically and subconsciously distort my understanding of Jesus, the church, Christianity, and, thus, my entire worldview until my early 20s.

Louise would begin by declaring…

“Now, Jesus was a good Christian boy who went to church every Sunday.”

That’s it…

That’s all I remember…

How many problems can you find with that statement?

How could these mistakes be potentially confusing, hindering, and inherently hexing in the development of one’s understanding of Jesus?

What say you?

Bobby Ray Hurd
+ recovering sinner, idolator, and religious zealot +

The Greatest Form of Art

Shalom! Shalom! Shalom!

One must repeat this word multiple times before the reality and implications of this inevitably "loaded" term may begin to sink inward and thus becoming a rousing mantra of liturgical worship.

Or perhaps it becomes more of a reality if put into lyrical verse?

"Hevenu shalom alechem"- we bring peace to you. (an Israeli folk song)

Or maybe God's shalom becomes a reality for you within the luscious nuances of poetic verse?

"And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."
(Walt Whitman- Song of Myself)

For our crew of writers, theologians, pastors, philosophers, poets, stroytellers, and thinkers, the word "shalom" (meaning "peace") is an aesthetically profound verb; an active force in the world that helixes the soul of every human being. It is a force that is denied by many "realists", articulated by the few, and goes lamentably uncommunicated by the vast majority of us that are discouraged, wounded, marginalized, and poor-in-spirit.

In light of this, we've come to advocate that "shalom" is never in a more observable manifestation than through the testimony of the ultimate form of art; our lives!

Therefore, we can think of no better place to start this conversation than in observing and listening to the eminence and semblance of God's shalom through the stories and testamonies of your lives.

Please email us at:

Please feel free to remain anonymous. Please send us your testimonies in their written form that are as honest as they are in their human form. In other words, we are all living R-rated lives. May your testimonies be as honest as they were whenever they were experienced. This conversation cannot happen without YOU.


The greatest form of art is life, and every atom belonging to me as good belonging to you!

Bobby Ray Hurd
+ recovering sinner, idolator, and religious zealot +