Free at Last! Free at Last!
I am free in a way that I have not been since high school. I’m not going to strip clubs, or drinking heavily, or driving down the wrong side of the road. I remain happily married to my wife.
It is not my behavior that has changed. It is the world around me. It’s suddenly gotten bigger. God is no longer a small certainty but a vast mystery. I love questions for which there are no answers. I stretch my arms and wiggle my toes. I am becoming my uninhibited, undiluted self.
My new freedom has changed the way I see others. I don’t look at people cautiously anymore, sizing them up, wondering about their political or religious views. I see every person as family. I have a strange urge to throw my arms around them and hug them. I feel no compulsion to hammer people into shape. I love them where they are, as they are, knowing that if they need any fixing, love is the one thing I can do to help.
This bigger world came at a price I nearly refused to pay.
My old world may have been small, but it was safe. Every question had an answer. God was dissected and laid out before me. If I had questions, I consulted the religious experts. They gave reasoned answers and assured me all was well. I took their word for it.
But all was not well.
Religion Is Like Communism
My tiny world was like being under a Communist regime. In exchange for my freedom, I was guaranteed my next meal. Never mind that it was cabbage and water. It was food and it appeared on schedule.
Fear kept me in my place. I was taught that outsiders were dangerous, that God was dangerous. My religion would protect me.
This system was fragile. Cracks in its logic were cracks its walls. Endless energy was poured into shoring up the walls. This was always done in the name of defending the truth but it was really just strengthening the fortress. Contradictory views were considered only before being put in front of a firing squad.
Mine was a small world, but it was safe. Leaving it is by far the hardest and best thing I have ever done.
Land of the Free
As Julie and I traveled the East Coast this summer, I felt a kinship with those who left Europe and came to America. I thrilled to the words of Thomas Jefferson, inscribed inside the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial,
"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Our ancestors fled the tyranny of church and state to find freedom. They left houses and lands, fathers and mothers, and friends and neighbors to risk carving out a new life in a hostile wilderness. Why go through all that? Freedom. They wanted the right to be themselves, to think their own thoughts, to worship their own God. They were willing to risk their lives for this.
The spirit of dogma came over from Europe on the ships too, but this spirit did not prevail. The most incredible thing about America is that she did not fight a war to decide whose God was the real God. Instead, she proclaimed herself, “land of the free.” I get goose bumps thinking of it.
Freedom Is No Joke
Political and religious systems may put you in chains but they feed and protect you. If you leave, you must stand on your own two feet. It’s terrifying. You are like a bird that has lived its entire life in a cage. Do you know how to fly? Can you even feed yourself?
For me the answers were, “No,” and “No.” When I stepped out of my religion, I promptly fell to the ground and began to starve. I limped along for months. When I tried to fly, I crashed into trees. Freedom is no joke. I have the bruises to prove it.
When you give your life to a political or religious system you don’t have to lug around your own soul. “They” carry it for you. Moses goes up the mountain and meets with God. You sit in the valley eating Doritos, watching Netflix, and scanning your Facebook feed. Thinking is unnecessary.
When I tell people the world would be better without religion, they say, “But who will teach us about God?” Sometimes they put this even more bluntly. “If I don’t go to church, who will feed me?” Please pause to consider the implications of that question. They are chilling.
We have been conditioned to believe that our hearts cannot be trusted, that our eyes cannot see, that our ears cannot hear. “They” must do this for us. Our role is to show up and “be fed.” Maybe we go to church. Maybe we listen to Rush Limbaugh. Maybe we watch sports, or reruns. We find some way to offload the terrible weight of living our own lives and thinking our own thoughts. The reward for surrendering our soul is that we no longer feel its weight.
Jesus Set People Free
Above all else, Jesus was free. He had a direct connection with God and invited others to make the same connection. Most of his life was spent outside, with a hill for a pulpit, the sky for a ceiling, and no walls in sight. Jesus pointed to birds, to flowers, to children. He told stories of a heavenly Father who set a place at his table for every prodigal child.
Sometimes, Jesus spoke in religious settings. Every account of this recorded in the Bible ended badly. Jesus and religion do not mix. He could never fit in.
Jesus loved Samaritans as much as Jews. He didn’t care if you were male or female. He embraced lepers, partied with tax collectors, and made friends with prostitutes. To be with Jesus’ was to feel the love of God and have your sins forgiven.
Not once did Jesus condemn a person for failing to comprehend a doctrine. He did not present God as a Summa Theologica aimed at people’s heads. He handed them a bouquet of flowers and told them it was from God. He won their hearts.
The political and religious establishment hated Jesus. His inclusive God threatened their unique authority. They politely asking him to fall in line. When he refused, they resorted to threats. When this failed, they killed him.
100% of Jesus’ harsh words are aimed this group. He called them “whitewashed tombs,” and “blind guides,” Even in this, there is love. With these hard words, Jesus’ is not telling his enemies to go to hell. He is seeking to wake them with rude shocks. He means to shake them from their stupor. Jesus’ final words from the cross to this group were not “You’ll fry in hell for this!” but “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” This is the heart of God toward his enemies.
How Jesus Won
The grounds for Jesus’ arrest boil down to the crime of not falling in line. The religious officials proclaimed his non-conformity to their religious system “blasphemy” and took him to Pilate to be crucified.
The conversation between Jesus and Pilate is one of the most revealing in the Bible. Jesus was faced with two human options and one heavenly one. The human options were to join the system or fight it. The heavenly option was love.
- Joining them was the safe option. Jesus could have gotten off the hook with two simple words: “Hail Caesar.” But Rome was not Jesus’ Kingdom and Caesar was not his King.
- Fighting them was the expected option. Pilate would have understood this. He had seen his share of Jewish rebels who set up their own political/religious movements in the wild hope of toppling Rome. Pilate knew how to handle these guys. Crucify them.
- Loving them was the heavenly option. Pilate had no idea how to handle this. Although he was eventually pressured into crucifying Jesus, he was clearly uncomfortable with the decision. Rome had no protocol for doing battle with love.
Religion and politics did not destroy the love of God. You might as well try to crucify a sunrise. Love cannot be defeated. You can hang it from a cross and pierce it with a sword but on the third day, it will rise. Love wins because God is love.
Jesus’ New Religion??
The irony of western civilization is that Jesus’ triumph of love and message of God’s Kingdom were hammered into a new political/religious system. By the end of the fourth century, Rome had rounded up most of Jesus’ followers and contained them in a system called the Holy Roman Empire. With it came the the inevitable doctrines, rituals, hierarchies, and violence. Gone was Jesus’ message of love. Gone was freedom. Gone was the Kingdom. In the book of Revelation, the angel joyfully shouts,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ!” (Revelation 11:15).
When Rome adopted Christianity this proclamation was reversed. The kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ became the kingdom of this world.
It is time for a return to the teachings of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. To this purpose I present this Kingdom manifesto.
A Kingdom Manifesto
I believe that God was revealed in the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ message was the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the end of religion and the revelation that God loves all people regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion or anything else. God is love. Life in the Kingdom means loving God and each other.
Religion is the most divisive force in the world. In the fourth century, Rome twisted Jesus’ message of the Kingdom into a religion. For seventeen centuries, this distorted version of Jesus has accumulated creeds, rituals, and cultural baggage. The resulting chaos is the modern church. The church was never Jesus’ intention so it cannot be reformed. It must be abandoned.
Rather than church, I believe in the Kingdom of God, what the Bible calls ecclesia. Ecclesia is the love of God, calling all things back to unity with himself and harmony with each other.
As a follower of Jesus…
- I believe that God is revealed to me directly, not through any manmade system.
- I trust my eyes, my ears, and my heart. They are not blind guides. The living Word speaks if I will listen.
- I see God in nature and believe that nature should be enjoyed, studied, and cared for.
- I love the Bible, especially the gospels, because they preserve the teachings of Jesus.
- I love God above all else.
- I eagerly learn from others but do not abdicate my duty to tend to my own soul.
- I believe God is infinitely beyond me. I delight in this. I relish new discoveries and celebrate the fact that they will never end.
- My life is in a constant state of change. My beliefs are constantly shifting. I consider every creed to be a fossil.
- I love people where they are, as they are. I encourage them to get on with their story of redemption.
- I love to share my discoveries but never prescribe them.
- I believe in one human family.
- I love everyone.
- I do not judge.
- I forgive.
- I trust that the Spirit working in my heart is also working in the heart of every other person, drawing us closer to God and each other.
- I concentrate on the log in my own eye, not the speck in my sister’s or brother’s eye.
- I build others up and encourage them in every way I can.
- I believe in life after life, what Jesus called “the coming age.” I believe that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new adventure. I love my life but I am not afraid to die.
- I believe that God loves everything he made, not just human beings.
- I believe that God works all things for good, even things I consider bad. Because I trust God, I am unshakably joyful.
The Anchorpoint logo summarizes my Kingdom commitment.
The point where the anchor touches the ground symbolizes the connection every created thing has with God.
The triangle is a delta (Δ), the scientific symbol for change. I believe that God is mysteriously transforming this world. We are a work in progress. I embrace this change. “Thy Kingdom come!”
The three corners of the triangle summarize my beliefs, lifestyle, and relationships.
My beliefs are contained in three words: “God is love.”
My life is growth. I welcome each morning as the dawn of new creation. I put off the old and put on the new.
My relationships are defined by love for all people. We are one human family, all in the same boat.
- God is love.
- Life is growth.
- Everyone is family.
For God’s Sake, Don’t Follow Me!
Anchorpoint is meant as encouragement for you to embrace your own journey. It is a place you can share this journey, no matter where you are or what you think. The only rule is love.
As the founder of Anchorpoint, one of my fears is that people will follow me. That would be a disaster. You will find no consistency in me. Certainly you will find no religious system.
I resonate with Emerson:
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.”
I refuse to be defined by any system of beliefs, even the system of beliefs I held yesterday. Life is growth, and growth requires change. I move freely in my pursuit of God. I believe in every person’s right to do the same. Jesus’ requirement is not that we all get on the same page but that we love each other, on whatever page we may be.
I do not offer Anchorpoint as a modification on an old religion or the creation of a new one. I offer Anchorpoint as the rejection of all religion and a return to Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God.
I believe church makes growth difficult. It creates spiritual dependency and makes people forget how to feed themselves. Churches limit people’s views of God to a set of creeds. They define growth as conformity to these creeds. They divide the human family into “us” and “them.”
You certainly won’t go to hell if you stay in church. But in my opinion, you will be healthier if you leave the church, embrace the Kingdom, and take responsibility for your own soul.
It won’t be easy. It will take time to rediscover your wings and to learn to fly. Like me, you’ll probably wind up with a lot of bruises before it is all over.
At first it will feel strange. You are going against years of conditioning. You may feel like you’ve abandoned Jesus. As you press on you may discover that, for the first time, you’re following him.
This is not the final version of this Kingdom Manifesto. I will revise and improve it for the rest of my life. I would love your help. Please share your thoughts below or in the Ecclesia Facebook Group.
Thanks for listening, my friend. From the bottom of my heart, I love you!