March 14, 2014

The other day I wrote a provocative piece on some surface reasons why I’m not a Calvinist. One of the key issues that is typically covered when discussing Calvinism and alternatives, is the discussion of “free will” over “predestination”. While there are various ways of looking at each side, in short, predestination is the camp where it is believed that God selects some people for heaven before they’re born– some in this camp also believe that he selects those who will go to hell, a term often called “double predestination”. Free will on the other hand, argues that God created us as free beings who can make our own choices- and that we are free to accept or reject his love. (This is a basic simplification of the concepts and not all encompassing of the various positions Christians hold on either side.)

Keeping it general however, I land in the “free will” camp. Here’s why:

I believe that true love never kidnaps, and never forces itself on another.

2007, Bald Mountain, Maine.

I remember the day I asked Tracy to marry me– it was a hot August day, and I convinced her to climb a mountain with me. We got to the top and stretched out a blanket so we could enjoy the magnificent views that are so quintessential to Maine’s foothills. After enjoying the view for a while, I wrote her a poem and then pulled out the ring that I had stashed in my pocket. I loved her, and I wanted to invite her to marry me.

While she immediately said yes, she was completely free to say no and walk off that mountain without the ring. Had I forced that ring on her hands, and had I forced myself upon her, it would be not evidence of my love but evidence of a selfish, inconsiderate, abusive, lack of love.

And I’d probably be in jail right now instead of raising a family with her.

Love must always be chosen.

Love never forces itself on someone.

I believe the same is true with God. In fact, the Bible frequently uses marriage references (aka, the “bride of Christ”) when attempting to describe the relationship between us and God. While he is the suitor and the initiator, it is ourselves who must act to accept and receive that love. Anything less would not be love.

If we are simply predestined one way or another, we’re simply robots– and I don’t believe God created robots. Imagine the choice between being hugged by a human looking robot who is simply pre-programmed to hug you, versus being hugged by a significant other who is hugging you as an act of love. I can’t imagine that God wants the love of a robot; I think he wants the love of people who choose to love him back.

Yes, God is the initiator– God is the one taking the initiative to make the proposal. He is the one dialing our number, knocking on the door, and offering the ring. However, it is our choice whether or not we want to say “yes” and be in a relationship with him.

Since God is loving, he does not force people to be in an eternal relationship with him– that’s a bit closer to kidnapping.

Instead, he is a loving suitor extending an invitation- which you and I are free to accept or reject.


The above is just one relational reason why I embrace free will, but the theology goes much deeper. If you’d like to explore this issue further, this short video by Greg will go deeper into the theological aspects of the issue:

March 12, 2014

I have a confession to make.

Well, it’s more like a profession:

Out of all of the theologies in the world, I find Calvinism among the most offensive. And frustrating. And irritating.

Like the kind of stuff that makes me want to gouge out my eyes (or something like that).

Truth be told, I like Calvinism as much as I like black olives… and I wouldn’t eat a black olive if I were on a game show for a lot of money (okay, maybe I would– but I wouldn’t become a Calvinist for a lot of money).

I’ve never really been a Calvinist. I tried it out for a few weeks in seminary and it was the longest year of my life. I did give it my best shot though, and even got into an argument with my wife once (while she was trying to take a shower) and told her that she had to become a Calvinist. Thankfully, within a short amount of time I realized this faith structure wasn’t going to work.

Perhaps I was just predestined to rejecting it. Or maybe, I chose to reject it. Either way, I am convinced that Calvinism (especially the neo-calvinism of today) is the kind of stuff that we need to flee (get the hell away from).

Here’s are my top reasons why Calvinism isn’t for me– and why I don’t think it’s for you either:

I couldn’t in good conscience worship the Calvinist’s god. 

One of the key aspects of Calvinism is a concept called “predestination” which essentially means, God picked the people who are going to heaven. Where it gets sick is on the flip side of that same coin (a position held by Calvin), that God also picks the people who go to hell. There are no choices involved– before God even created us, he hand picked who would go to heaven and who he would burn in hell for all of eternity.

Now, we know from the teachings of Jesus that the group of people in history who embrace God is smaller than the group who do not (broad vs. narrow road). If both Calvinists and Jesus are equally correct, the result is purely evil. This would mean that God created a MAJORITY of humanity for the sole purpose of torturing them in hell for all of eternity, and that they never had a choice. God would have created them for the sole purpose of torturing them. I just don’t think I can worship a god who would do something like that.

Case in point: if I get to heaven and find out that my beautiful daughter Johanna is in hell and that she’s in hell because God chose her before the foundations of the world to burn for all eternity, I won’t be able to worship him in good conscience. Perhaps I would bow down out of total fear, but I would NOT worship him because he was holy, beautiful, and “all together wonderful” as Boyd often describes him. Instead, I would bow down because he would be a sick and twisted god who scared the crap out of me.

Calvinism, especially Neo-Calvinism today, seems to have a fetish of sorts with God’s anger.

Hang around the average Calvinist very long, and there’s a good chance you’re going to get a mental picture of God that is largely defined by anger and wrath. While I do believe that God gets angry, and do believe there are times he has acted on that anger throughout scripture, this is not what Jesus majors on when he taught people what God was like. Calvinists often build a worldview on anger, while Jesus built one on love.

When Jesus tried to explain what God is like, he simply told people “look at me- if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen him” (John 14:9). In Jesus, we don’t see a God who is dominated by wrath, but a God who is consumed with nonviolent love. Calvinism makes me want to gouge my eyes out because it’s a belief system that keeps showing me a God who doesn’t look like the Jesus I see in the New Testament.

Calvinism sends the WRONG message to the folks that were Jesus’ favorite kind of people: outsiders & misfit toys.

I still remember starting a new school when I was in the 7th grade– I wanted so badly to be included. We didn’t have much money and I only had 2 pair of pants and a couple of shirts, so I was often made fun of for wearing the same clothes over and over. At the same time, I was one of the only kids in school to get bad acne, and was constantly ostracized and told that I only had it because I didn’t wash my face. It was miserable. To top it off, I was small in stature and not good at sports– which, when you put all these things together, I can safely say that I wasn’t picked for anything.

For the vast majority of my life I have felt like I was one of those “not good enoughs” who doesn’t get picked and doesn’t get included.

The message of Calvinism could have an encouraging message for me: you got picked! However, knowing that most people do not get picked for the team but instead, get picked for destruction and torture, a guy like me will probably always be convinced that I was picked for the latter– because that’s been my experience in life.

I have rejected Calvinism in favor of Arminianism, because in the later, we are able to proclaim the truth that God has picked everyone! If you want to be on the team- you’re welcome; the choice is yours. We don’t need a belief system that leaves us wondering as to whether or not we got picked; we need a belief system that assures us we were already picked and that we’re free to enjoy the benefits of being picked.

Jesus’ favorite people were the outisders and misfits. In his first sermon he was almost executed for proclaiming that those thought to be not chosen were actually included on God’s list, and in the act that ultimately did get him executed, Jesus was proclaiming that God is one who makes room for those who we thought were not chosen.

Calvinism, in contrast to Jesus, teaches that God picks a few and not the rest– that God is the sports captain from my 7th grade gym class, including the glee that comes with pounding on the kids who didn’t get picked.

Calvinism reduces the beauty of the cross.

As a Jesus follower, I think the cross is the central point of all of human history. The cross was God’s ultimate act of nonviolent enemy love, the act that that demonstrated God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16), the act that drew all people to God (John 12:32), and the act that reconciled all of creation to God (Col 1:20).

From a Calvinist paradigm, the cross is quite different. The cross isn’t the moment where Jesus died to reconcile all of creation– the whole world– but the moment where Jesus died simply for the few people God picked. This is a concept they call “limited atonement” that reduces the cross to being an act for the “elect” (those God picked) instead of an act for the world (John 3:16) and all of creation (Col. 1:20).

As such, instead of the Gospel being Good News for the world, it becomes good news for the few people God picked for his team and becomes absolutely horrible news for everyone else in history.

I’m sorry, but I think what Jesus did for us is bigger, and more beautiful than that. I think the cross is actually “good news” for everyone who is willing to chose love.

Calvinism produces some of the most toxic culture in Christianity.

I feel somewhat bad saying this, but I think I can honestly admit that there are only 3 Calvinists I’ve met in my life who I actually like– two are friends in my “real” life and one is a Christian blogger whom I really like and respect. Even those inside the movement are realizing the toxicity of the culture as one of my Calvinist friends recently told me that even they find the likability factor of most Calvinists to be wanting. If insiders experience the culture this way, could it be that something is totally depraved about it? (bad pun)

I tried to give it my best shot– really, I did. I think the last straw was in seminary when I asked the guy sitting next to me why he was a Calvinist and he simply replied, “because it’s on every page of scripture”. Or, maybe it was the way many Calvinists treat women as second class citizens. Or maybe it’s the way being told I’m “totally depraved” and that God “might not have picked me” makes me hate myself and live in constant fear. Or maybe it was just the obnoxious behavior of Calvinists on twitter. Perhaps it was even Driscoll himself.

I don’t know. What I do know, is that even if Calvinism were true, I wouldn’t last a day in Calvinist culture. No thanks.

In the end, I can’t ascribe to Calvinist theology because my experience with Calvinist theology does not jive with my experience of a God who loves everyone, who desires to be in relationship with everyone, and who went to the cross… for everyone.

If you’re an outsider like me, I hope you’ll embrace what is really true about God: he picked you. I know that he picked you. Even in all your messiness, he still picks you today. The true message of the Gospel is that you have been picked, you are loved, and that you are free to chose whether or not you’re willing to fully experience that love.

February 20, 2014

Sometimes life seems like a never ending cycle of hurts.

Trust me, I actually get that.

People we love wound us. People we trust betray us. Life goes wrong.

Sometimes, it goes way, way wrong.

We slowly become wounded and begin to walk away from whatever or whoever we perceive has hurt us.

Walking away from a source of continual wounding isn’t a bad instinct if placed in the proper perspective. Too often , I fear, it becomes tempting to walk away from the wrong thing.

We walk away from the solution to our hurts instead of walking away from the source of our hurts.

We get hurt by church experiences, hurt by other Christians, hurt by family, and hurt by life events– and at least in a practical sense, we end up walking away from Jesus.

I believe the most important reminder we can give ourselves is to remember the truth that Jesus isn’t the one who did that.

We all have a “that”, and I don’t know what your “that” is. But whatever “that” is, I do know one thing: Jesus isn’t the one who did that.

Jesus isn’t the one who wounds, but is the one who embraces the wounded. Jesus isn’t the one who hurts, but is the one who longs to sit next to the one who is hurting. Jesus isn’t the oppressor but instead becomes one of the oppressed. Jesus is the one who chooses to be counted among the outsiders instead with the powerful.

Jesus is not the person, people, institutions, or life events that we functionally blame on him when we walk away from it all.

Jesus isn’t the controlling pastor, the church gossip, or the oppressive clique. Jesus isn’t the cheating spouse, the dishonest employer, or your swindling mechanic. Jesus isn’t the abusive mother, the absent father, or the babysitter who molested you. Jesus isn’t that drunk driver, that freak accident, or that chronic pain. Jesus isn’t the terminal illness, the empty bed, or the sleepless nights. Jesus isn’t the lost job, the negative bank account, or the foreclosed house. Jesus isn’t the wounded relationship, the insufferable betrayal, and the lost years. Jesus isn’t that fire, he’s not that fall, and he sure as hell is not that child-sized casket.

Jesus, I assure you, isn’t any of that.

In fact, Jesus is the opposite of whatever that is.

I don’t know about you, but I have a long list of “thats” in my life. Most days, it’s this that, or the other that, that temps me to crawl into my emotional hole… alone. Sadly, it’s easy to blame that, even subconsciously, on the only one who is not responsible for that.

Jesus, my friends, isn’t that. In fact, I actually believe that he is the solution to that.

Instead of functionally taking it out of him Jesus invites us to get a giant burlap bag, load up all of our “thats”, and let him carry the weight of that for us.

“Come to me– everyone who is tired, burnt out, and who has a load too heavy. Come to me, and I’ll trade off with you… because what I’m carrying isn’t that.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus isn’t the cause of that but one who wants to walk beside you while you’re dealing with that.

So, if your “that” is something that you’re subconsciously taking out on Jesus and is keeping you from following him, can I just remind you of something?

Jesus isn’t that.

He’s the opposite.

February 13, 2014

Sometimes I end up being controversial even when I’m not intentionally being controversial. The other day when I wrote a piece on why Jesus followers need to reclaim the immigration discussion and insert pro-immigrant Jesus values into the discussion, I actually wasn’t trying kick the hornet’s nest (this time).

But, I should have remembered: nothing pisses some people off like suggesting we should love immigrants.

Think we should bomb the crap out of Iran to protect Israel? You’ll get high-fives all day long.

Suggest we should love immigrants? Well, you’ll get a long list of excuses and push-back.

I’ve always thought it silly that some folks will go to the mat and condemn folks over issues that Jesus never once discussed (such as abortion or gay marriage) but yet will completely ignore some of the stuff he actually does say– such as that uncomfortable story in Matthew 25. The story’s about two groups of people– one that goes to heaven, and one that is eternally condemned. To the group that is condemned by Jesus, one of the reasons he gives is:

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons… For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.”

While I don’t believe in the “eternal conscious torment” aspect of hell– a topic I hope to cover next week– this is a story of condemnation no matter which way you cut it. Now, the way folks try to get out of this and justify not actively loving immigrants is by one of two ways. First, they argue the word “stranger” isn’t referring to an immigrant. Secondly, when they lose the language part of the debate, they skip to: “well, he wasn’t talking about illegals“.

So, let’s dismantle this one at a time: the word Jesus uses for “stranger” is  ξένος, and it actually means foreigner– aka, an immigrant. Pronounced “xenos”, it actually makes the root of the word xenophobia, a fear strangers/foreigners. It also makes for half of the Greek word for hospitality (meaning to love strangers like a brother), which you can read more about here.

Since that argument doesn’t work, one’s only hope is to claim that we’re not under a Christian obligation to love “illegal” immigrants… but that argument doesn’t work either.

You see, there actually is a story about an “illegal immigrant” in the Bible. (I use the term “illegal” for context, though I believe it’s actually sinful to call undocumented immigrants “illegal”). Aaron Taylor tells the story in it’s entirety here, but the example is that of Ruth in the Old Testament. Ruth (a Moabite) could have been considered an “illegal” immigrant based on the Law of Moses. As Aaron states:

“…Deuteronomy 23:3 is clear, “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord forever.” If you’re still not convinced that descendants of Moab were ordered to be excluded from the congregation of Israel, take a look at verse 6, which says, “You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all their days forever.”

Under God’s law, Ruth was an “illegal” and to be excluded– but thankfully, she was not. A man named Boaz comes along and becomes the hero of the story by ignoring a law that was ultimately unloving. Boaz marries Ruth, and they have a family.

Like Jesus demonstrated by healing on the Sabbath, Boaz realized that it’s better to love than to obey the law.

And, it’s a good thing he did– because had Ruth been excluded, we wouldn’t have Jesus himself. You see, Ruth– the “illegal immigrant”– had a grandson who’s name was King David. And who’s the most famous descendant of King David?

Yup, that would be Jesus.

In fact, in the New Testament we see the genealogy condensed to the point that Jesus is simply called: “Jesus, son of David”.

Or, we could also say, “Jesus, son of David, great-grandson of an illegal immigrant”.

The next time you hear someone demonize an immigrant for being “illegal”, or suggesting that Jesus followers are not under any obligation to radically love immigrants of any type? Just remind them that if folks had always thought that way, we never would have welcomed Jesus into the world.

We only have Jesus because someone loved an “illegal” immigrant.

Yes, secular governments have the right to control immigration policies. However, as Jesus followers (a term I use separate from the term “Christian”), we are simply called to love and serve– even when we think the object of our love or service is somehow less than deserving.

…Because we all are when you get down to it.


February 8, 2014

As a Jesus follower, I want to be a part of the culture Jesus came to bring– the culture he so often calls “The Kingdom”. I want to be a part of a counter-cultural movement that radically changes the world– one that sees the will of God done here on earth, as it already is in heaven.

One of the things that we often completely miss about scripture, is that the “next world” or “afterlife” is a pretty small blimp on the radar of the Bible. All things considered, it’s not discussed much. I believe this is in part because God doesn’t want us to be so caught up into “then” that we miss “now”.

We’ve often been hyper-fixated on heaven and hell being places you go instead of things that you bring— when in reality, you and I both have the opportunity to bring elements of heaven, or elements of hell, to this world– right here, right now.

There are times in history when we’ve done a good job at bringing heaven to earth, and even more times when we’ve done a good job at bringing hell to earth. Often we choose the later simply out of being fixated on the next world without giving much, if any, regard to the world we’re in today.

One of the things I love about being an Anabaptist is the focus on rejecting the rules of living in earthly kingdoms (such as the participation in violence) in favor of bringing the principles of God’s Kingdom to the here and now. As I’ve said before, building a culture that looks like the nonviolent Jesus is an all-hands-on-deck proposition, and requires creativity in how we contribute to reforming culture. Often when it comes to social or cultural change, we band together with other “like minded” people in our own Christian tribes and make our contributions in complete isolation from people who seem different than us.

My question becomes: what if the potential partnerships out there are greater than we ever imagined? What if we’re not doing as much good as we could accomplish because we’re only working within our own tribes?

I think this is the case, and this week reminded me of that.

My friend Terry is an atheist. And, not just an atheist but he actually writes for one of the biggest atheists blogs around– Friendly Atheist. This week he wrote a beautiful Open Letter to a four-year-old terrorist in training half a world away, (read the piece, it’s great) who you can meet in this heartbreaking video:



Terry’s response reminded me how much we (all of us) often have in common, and how much good we could do in the world if we found creative ways to work together. In the piece, Terry writes:

“Imagine this beautiful four-year-old kid, but unsoiled by adult hatred and indoctrination, on a playground in Beirut or Amsterdam or New York. Imagine him drenched in late-afternoon sunlight, and in the easy, near-inexhaustible love of parents and siblings whose thoughts are free of revenge, rancor, and rage. Think of what he could accomplish, down the line, with his friendly demeanor, his engaging smile, and his bright mind.

Now picture what he may become instead, surrounded by believers who teach him savagery and murder; who poison his mind with images of a vengeful god demanding blood; who show him kindness on the condition that he’ll be their pliable, gun-toting automaton.

What a cute, delightful little boy.

And, if neither he nor his minders come their senses, what a loss.”

My heart laments along side the heart of my atheist friend… what a loss.

Both sides know this isn’t the way things should be– hatred, war and violence are all elements of hell on earth. I believe that if we can choose to stop seeing each other as enemies we will realize how much our common humanity binds us together. We might even realize we want a lot of the same things for the world.

Some of my atheist readers have often said that we actually have a lot of goals and social ethics in common, and this is true. Unfortunately I think we often miss this truth when we see each other as enemies.

We don’t have to be– because as far as I’m concerned, we’re not.

One of my favorite moments in blogging was becoming friends with an atheist reader who had previously described us as “enemies”. We’ve since come to realize just how much we share in common– and I think if more of us will become willing to step over the barriers and embrace friendship over enmity, we might be shocked at what we could do together.

There are more times than we realize when the values of a Jesus follower completely line up with a “friendly atheist”. When that happens, we must work together with all of our might to make this world a little less broken and a little more beautiful.

Today, I share the sentiments of my atheist friend. We jointly mourn the fact that this young child is bring raised to hate and not to love, and we jointly commit to working together whenever and wherever possible, to make the world a little less broken.

January 28, 2014

I believe that America’s justice system is broken and in need of desperate repair. One of those areas is the practice of putting our citizens to death, something I believe that all Jesus People should resoundingly oppose.

When I was a conservative Evangelical, I was a huge supporter of capital punishment for all of the standard reasons. I even had a quick response when folks correctly brought up the hypocrisy of being against abortion while simultaneously being pro-death penalty, a position I previously argued you can’t hold and still call yourself “pro-life”.

However, when I decided to follow Jesus instead of simply being a Christian who paid him hollow worship while conveniently ignoring the red words, I was forced to abandon my support of the death penalty (and abandon my support of violence in general) as part of Following Jesus 101.

While America’s broken justice system is a complex issue, perhaps the first area we can fix is by abolishing the death penalty in all 50 states. Here’s why I think Jesus People should be leading the charge on this issue:

1. Most attempts to make a biblical case for the support of capital punishment are arguments primarily based on Old Testament law, and that’s a poor way to do Christian theology.

Get frustrated when someone challenges you on an argument you’re making from the Old Testament when they ask you if you eat shell fish, or are wearing a cotton and polyester blend? You should– they’re correctly pointing out that most theological arguments based on Old Testament verses require cherry picking and inconsistency. As Christians, we are part of the New Testament church, not ancient Israel. Lifting a few of the Laws of Moses while ignoring the vast majority of the rest is inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst.  Most who use this tactic also ignore the whole of OT teaching on the issue by conveniently forgetting that capital punishment could not be applied without two eye witnesses (Deut 17:6), and forgetting that even bankers were considered detestable and ordered to be put to death (Ez 18:13). However, if one insists on building a case for supporting executions from the Old Testament, we find an inconvenient truth (sorry, Al) in the teachings of Jesus:

January 17, 2014

What I’m about to tell you is the most personal, sacred story that I’ve ever told. I never imagined telling it publicly in front of thousands of people, but something in my spirit says that someone, somewhere, needs to hear this today.

Over the last few days we’ve been talking a lot about God, creation, evolution, and all sorts of interesting questions. Yesterday, one reader commented that they thought I was really an agnostic at heart, and that if I’d keep thinking critically, I’d probably abandon my faith and embrace life as an agnostic.

Today I’m going to tell you why, in a million years, that will never, ever, happen.

I believe in God for many reasons, but the most powerful of them all, is belief that stems from a personal experience– something quantifiable only to me, but is sufficient for me to promise you that you’ll never see a blog, article, or press report that Benjamin L. Corey has become anything other than a God believer.

Here’s why:

The God I grew up with wasn’t exactly a God you “experienced”. Instead of a warm and loving image of God, the version I had grown to know by the time I was in my teens, was a deity who looked more like a hybrid of an angry Tea Party member crossed with Jerry Falwell than it did the nonviolent lover of enemies I now know as Jesus of Nazareth. The God I knew was mostly defined by what he hated: earrings on guys, Mexicans, playing cards, drums and guitars in worship, people on welfare, United Methodists, all forms of dancing (except the form called “jumping for joy”), science teachers, lesbians, people with “coexist” bumper stickers, and Bill Clinton. Basically, my concept of god (small g) was an all powerful being who was pissed off and hated nearly everybody. Furthermore, I was also convinced that because of his tremendous love for us, he would never miss an opportunity to punish us, because “the Lord chastises those he loves”.

This angry, impossible to please image of God didn’t serve me well when life fell apart for me.

At 27 years old, I found myself in a dark corner of the universe. Health issues had resulted in a medical retirement from the military which had been my core identity for a decade. Financially, I went from making good money, to making less than enough to live, in just a matter of months. The stress of the transition and the depression that followed, quickly grew to become a fatal blow to my marriage. Before I knew it, I was broke, alone, divorcing, and about as clinically depressed as a person could get.

I wanted to die.

My sick and twisted concept of God, made the situation infinitely worse. I became utterly convinced that God was taking everything in my life away because of some sin I had committed… which one, I wasn’t sure (not that there weren’t plenty of options to chose from), but when you have an effed up concept of God, you have a tendency to view painful aspects of life as being directly from the hand of God.

And, if God is against you, what hope do you have?

I had none.

And so, the situation dwindled to the point that I had only one solution… I would take my life.

At first, I was shocked that I was seriously considering it. When I was 17, I suffered through a suicide in my immediate family, and the fact that I was making plans to end my life– thus putting everyone through this situation all over again– actually made me hate myself even more than I already did.

The more I considered it, the more the situation spiraled out of control… to the point that I had made up my mind to follow through.

While I don’t know what it feels like to spend your last day on death row, I do know what it is like to face the day I was scheduled to die. I loaded a bullet into the chamber of my Smith & Wesson handgun and began working up the courage to pull the trigger. I sat on the couch and wept, wishing there were a better answer. In an attempt to talk myself out of it, I turned on the television in hopes of finding some sort of religious program, which could potentially offer me hope. I landed on a program that was a panel discussion about God, and listened for a few minutes. One of the men on the panel was an agnostic, and said something that resonated with me. He said, “if there is a God, clearly he is not concerned with the affairs of man.”

Something deep inside me felt as if this were true, but I desperately wished that it were not. Certainly, if there was a God, he was completely unconcerned that my life was falling apart and that I was about to end my life.

Working up the courage to pull the trigger was hard for me. There were so many mixed emotions that I couldn’t explain, yet I so desperately wanted to follow through. However, something inside me kept getting in the way- so I decided I’d go to the store to grab something to drink and take the edge off, before coming home to finish the job once and for all.

To this day, I’m still surprised that I made it alive to that store. The whole way I wept and sobbed from the deepest parts inside me- so uncontrollably that I was barely able to see where I was driving. As I wept and tried to stay on the road, my inner being (I know of no other way to describe this) began to pray, and cry out to God. Through my tears, I began to pose a single question towards God:

Do you love me?

Over, and over again, I chanted this simple question…

Do you love me? Do you really love me?

“God, if you exist, and if you love me, I need to know RIGHT NOW.”

Like a sad and scared five-year-old fixated on repeating a single phrase, I must have asked “do you love me?” a hundred times as I drove those few miles.

I arrived at the store and hurried in, wearing a pair of aviator sunglasses so that no one would notice the obvious sings of crying so deeply.  A few moments later, I found myself mid-isle staring endlessly into space and barely able to function as time seemed to stand still. Somewhere in that span of time, a woman walked passed me and slipped a small piece of paper into my hands– I was so out of it, that I wasn’t even able to look at it– so I slid it into my right pocket, completed my purchase, and headed back home.

Upon returning home, I sat back down on my black couch amidst a dark and gloomy living room whose shades hadn’t welcomed daylight in weeks. I looked at the pistol staring back at me as if it wanted me to pick her back up and click the safety to “off”. I again began to sob as I looked around the room and saw how badly things had spiraled out of control… especially when I saw the bottle of sleeping pills beside me which I had been abusing for quite some time, taking a few in the morning to make me sleep all day and a few at night to ensure I was only a prisoner to my thoughts for the shortest amount of time possible. I was rarely “with it”, and when I was, that Smith & Wesson called to me like and old friend who was here to save me.

It was time.

With my jittery affect, I felt the rustle of receipts and change in my pocket which I emptied and placed on the hassock that doubled as a coffee table. I emptied keys, several coins, a crumpled up five-dollar bill, and a receipt, when I noticed an out-of-place square of paper; it was the paper the woman handed me in the store. Realizing it was not a coupon or advertisement (looked more like a fortune from a fortune cookie), which I had originally assumed, I opened it up with curiosity.  Upon unfolding it and reading the faded typewriter print, I felt a flush of power come over my body as I read the simple words printed on the paper:

“It is a FACT that God loves you.”

I don’t know how to explain what happened in that moment, but I can tell you this: when people talk about being “born again” I know when that happened to me.

In this moment, I crossed from death into life. I packed up my Smith & Wesson and stuffed it away with my old, unloving god, and exchanged it for life and a God who not only knows who I am, but actually loves me too.

I had lost that paper, but since recently finding it I now keep it in my childhood Bible. From now on when I vacillate between the loving God I have come to know as an adult, and the angry god of my youth, when I get hate mail from fundies telling me that God is angry with me and that I’m going to hell, or even when my atheist friends gently challenge my faith, I’ll be taking this out and reminding myself that there is a God, and he actually does love me.

Sure, maybe this was just a crazy coincidence, but even if it were, I don’t care. I know what this experience meant to me and no one will ever be able to take that away.

I am a God believer, and I believe that he actually knows who I am and loves me.

And, more importantly, I believe he feels the same way about you.

If you’re struggling with your mental image of God, if you’re feeling isolated from him, or like he doesn’t care about what’s happening in your life, can I just remind you of something?

It’s a fact that God loves you.

Yes, you.

I’m sorry that others have told you that he is distant and angry, but I need to tell you something different: he’s actually the ultimate expression of love.

He loves you.

He always has and always will, love you.

So please– don’t give up on God, because I believe he’s better than we ever imagined. And, don’t give up on yourself– if you’re depressed or suicidal, PLEASE get help right now by calling 1-800-273-8255, or by reaching out to someone in your life– don’t risk another moment, get help now.

I believe we can all experience a re-birth… one that as Jesus said is an experience that comes in like the wind, and is utterly unexplainable.

Rebirth happened for me, and I believe it can happen for you.

Because, I believe it’s a fact that God loves you.

December 17, 2013

In April, 2009, President Obama caught holy hell from the Christian right for saying that America was no longer a “Christian Nation”. His statement prompted a backlash from groups including Focus on the Family, who insist that America was, and forever should be, a Christian nation.

Truth be told, I wish we were. The word Christian means “Christ-like”. Christ, being a title applied to Jesus, could be removed and substituted simply by the name to whom it refers, leaving us with “Christian” meaning “like Jesus”.

Ah, yes… I unapologetically wish that America were a Christian nation, because I wish that America looked like Jesus. Unfortunately, using the definition of “like Jesus”, America never was a Christian nation. On top of the fact that the founding fathers weren’t actually Christians by an evangelical understanding of the term, early America itself didn’t look at all like Jesus– unless, of course, Jesus was a slaving owning killer of Native Americans.

All these years later? We’re still not a Christian nation.

Not even close.

Unless, of course, Jesus was the kind of guy to just indiscriminately kill people on the way to a wedding feast– because that’s what we did last week.

That’s right– you and I murdered people last week. Maybe you didn’t pull the trigger, but you and I are collectively responsible, because it was our “Christian” nation that did this. Corporately speaking, not only are we not “Christian”, but we’re actually mass murders. From the AP:

Sanaa (AFP) – A drone strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen killed 17 people, mostly civilians, medical and security sources said Friday, adding grist to mounting criticism of the US drone war… most of those killed were civilian members of the Al-Tays and Al-Ameri clans headed to the wedding, the security official. He said one of the rockets scored a direct hit on a vehicle carrying at least 10 passengers. The other struck near the convoy.”

If the word “Christian” means “like Christ” or “like Jesus” the argument that America is a “Christian” nation is dead in the water, so long as we are the people who bomb weddings. Sure, I get it– we didn’t mean to. We meant to kill the “bad guys”. Unfortunately, even killing the “bad guys” is inconsistent with being like Christ, because Jesus loved the bad guys. Instead of raining hell fire missiles down in order to “defend his national interest”, he stretched out his arms, became willing to die for them, and said “I forgive them”.

So, no– we’re not a Christian nation. We are the people who blow up wedding parties. We’re the people who drop bombs, and then drop additional bombs when rescuers arrive at the scene (called “double tap” in warfare). We are the people who dehumanize the death of the innocent by calling it “collateral damage”. We are the people who cover up the blood on our hands, and when someone leaks proof of our guilt, we chase them to the ends of the earth to seek “justice”.

No, we’re not a Christian nation. We’re basically the opposite of whatever a “Christian” nation would look like– because a Christian nation would look like Jesus.

Instead of being the people who killed those heading to a wedding, if we wanted to become like Jesus we’d become the people who showed up to the wedding with boat-loads of booze in hand– cause that’s what Jesus did.

In Jesus’ first miracle, he helps out the host of a wedding banquet who ran out of alcohol– turning pitchers of water into a quality of wine that everyone in the party raved about.

Looking like Christ, is being the person who shows up to a party with a pitcher of Sangria.

Bombing people on their way to a wedding? That doesn’t look anything like Jesus.

It’s not “Christian”.

And we, are not a Christian nation.

Yet, I long for us to be– and I think that in many ways, we can become more of a Christian nation. But this will take work– it will take a new cultural revolution as we re-introduce American Christians to the Jesus they have refused to follow. Call it a missionary quest to introduce the nonbeliever and evangelical alike to Jesus– call it whatever you want– just let it be a cultural revolution designed to make us look more like this rabbi, both individually and collectively.

The good news is that I believe this revolution has already begun (thanks, Greg B)– and I want in on it. I want you to want in on it… this is an all-hands-on-deck proposition, and we need everybody (or as my daughter says in Spanglish, todo-body).

This revolution needs todo-body.

I want both of us, together, to start building a culture that looks less like charred bodies on the sidewalk, and more like people who are pink in the face from having an extra glass of wine as they enjoy the company of each other… because that’s the revolution Jesus started.

I want us to continue it.

How do we become more like what a “Christian nation” should look like? It will mean that we’ll have to put our voices together, and demand an end to blowing up people who are just on their way to a wedding. It will mean that we reject aspects of our culture (violence, greed, extreme individualism, etc.) that are embraced by American Christianity, as we point people back towards a counter-cultural Jesus who wants to transform all of us, not just the parts we’re willing to have transformed.

It will mean that we point our country back towards a culture that looks like Jesus– regardless of who that causes us to be opposed to (even if that means Christians), and regardless of what bedfellows that creates (you might be surprised who’d be up for a culture that looked like Jesus).

To get there, we need a revolution within American Christianity.

A new reformation.

A group of Christians who are so intent on being like Jesus, that they don’t look back or settle for less.

It would be a shame to let the spark started by others these past few years go out– so let’s blow on the embers and get this reformation to a roaring fire that burns out the dust and twigs that are tripping us up.

No, we aren’t a Christian nation– but we can become more of a Christian nation, if you join in with the revolution that has already started.

First issue to tackle? We’ve got to point our culture back to the Great Commandment, and start becoming the people who show up to a wedding with a pitcher of sangria.


December 4, 2013

Well friends, it’s the Christmas season again and time to start thinking about ways we might generously give to others. Not being a fan of American consumerism, I’m all for finding ways we can serve other people instead of wasting our money on needless junk that’s just going to end up sold for 10 cents at a yard sale one day.

So, here’s the perfect opportunity for you to give back: register to become a post-rapture pet caretaker.

Seriously, have you wondered about the fallout if we’re wrong about rejecting the doctrine of the rapture?

The potential fallout is huge: we will likely be left behind for a hellish period of 7 years (even though 7 years isn’t in the Bible either, if I’m wrong on the rapture everything else is fair game). During that time, if we want show God and our neighbors that we’re really sorry for listening to legitimate scholars like NT Wright instead of fundies with honorary doctorates, we should probably get busy loving our neighbors (and resisting the mark of the beast) for the FULL seven years (seriously, we need to work every minute of those seven years). One of the best ways we could love our raptured neighbors would be to take care of their pets while they are gone for the tribulation. When they return to the earth for what would be the 3rd coming of Christ, to kick of the millennium (another doctrine I will clearly have erred on), we’ll be able to present them a peace offering: their well cared for pets, instead of a world overrun by feral cats (which would be, hell).

 (Seriously– who is going to take care of the pets? Pets always seem to get left out of eschatological discussions.)

I say, this Christmas we can reject consumerism, get in the Christmas spirit, give generously, and have a backup plan for the apocalypse all at the same time.

The thoughtful folks over at After The Rapture Pet Care have kindly been compiling a list of post-rapture volunteers for the last few years. In the event that we are totally wrong on our eschatology, we’ll be called up for service to retrieve pets from the homes of our fundamentalist friends and care for them until the battle of Armageddon. It seems only fair to both our neighbors, and all the pets of the world. Sure, it might take us a few years to clean up from the plane crashes, car wrecks, and horrid earthquakes, but when all is said and done, what about the cats? That’s where volunteering for After The Rapture Pet Care could help (a) care for God’s creation (b) build community with others and (c) keep us productive for the last 4 years of the tribulation.

(They say they’re building a network of non-Christian volunteers, but presumably we Christians who reject the doctrine of the rapture would be left behind as well, if for no other reason than just to give us a good scare.)

So, this year instead of giving your rapture believing family and friends an ugly tie or one of those bible covers with handles, why not give them a gift that will benefit them even when they are gone for the tribulation? Just sign up to become a post-rapture pet caregiver on behalf of family and friends in your area! In your family or friend’s Christmas card this year simply indicate that instead of a typical gift, this year you’re giving a gift that will keep on giving for seven full, hellish years: the gift of caring for their pet during the tribulation.

If you’re sending your card electronically, you could also include this promotional video:

Think creatively this holiday season– don’t just give a gift that will last a few months, or become obsolete in a few years, give the gift of peace of mind that their pets are safe— one that will last seven long years of tribulation (until God destroys the earth with fire).

Be sure to sign up today at this link!

Merry Christmas, everyone– even pets.



November 25, 2013

Phil Wyman is perhaps the most interesting pastor in America.

He might not think so, but this is my blog and I can say things like that.

During my first semester in seminary I read an article about Phil and how he moved to Salem, Massachusetts to plant a church that would befriend witches, atheists, and other interesting people. Phil was given a grant from his denomination to come to Salem and start the church, but was ultimately kicked out for doing what he was given the grant to do in the first place: become friends with witches.

Yet, Pastor Phil has pressed on and continued to love and serve the people of Salem even when the cards have been stacked against him– which is what I love the most about this guy. Phil and I became friends about five years ago, and I’ve had the pleasure of not just being his friend but also preaching at his church and serving alongside him during their annual October ministry during Salem’s “Haunted Happenings”. During the month of October each year, over one million people flock to the city to experience the Haunted Happenings festivities. Year after year, Pastor Phil and his church (The Gathering) can be found serving and loving these people through their many contributions to make Haunted Happenings a positive experience for everyone (a great background article from Christianity Today can be found here).

However, after the October events settled down this year, a couple of unfortunate things began to play out on the internet and in the media, which is why I invited Phil to come on Formerly Fundie for an interview and talk about some of these issues publicly. First, a blog was posted by a Christian volunteer which grossly misrepresented the Pagan community in Salem as well as the ministry of the Gathering. Secondly, tensions between street preachers who flock to Salem for Haunted Happenings began to play out as well, with some accusations and misrepresentations being made against Pastor Phil and his church– tensions which have now resulted in some calling for changes in how street preachers are managed during Haunted Happenings.

What better way to sort this all out than with an interview with Phil himself?

So, here’s my interview with the Pastor of Witch City:

BLC: Phil– it’s really great to have you on the blog, thanks for joining me. I’ve been reading some rather inaccurate articles about your ministry lately, and wanted to bring you on the blog to sort some of this out. I’m hopeful that with this interview might be able to help folks understand your ministry in Salem a bit better, and perhaps begin to ease some of the tensions that seem to be playing out on the internet and in the media.

Pastor Phil: Thanks Ben, good to blog-hangout with you bro.

BLC: First, for those who don’t know you and the back-story to your ministry in Salem, can you give us a quick review of who you are, how you ended up a Christian pastor in Witch City, and the church you planted in Salem?

Pastor Phil: I moved to Salem in 1999. A handful of us came from Carlsbad, CA, where I was the Pastor of a Foursquare Church for 14 years to plant The Gathering. Strangely, now I have been pastoring in Salem as long as I pastored my first church in Carlsbad. We arrived in June, and in that first year, we met in homes, and began this Halloween Outreach, which has now been going for 15 Halloweens. I was surprised how amenable the city was allow us to do whatever crazy thing we thought up, and it has only grown over the years. This was due to a great degree, because I promised the city leaders that we would try to train Christians who come to Salem how to behave in a festival setting. We would not pass out tracts (which usually end up as trash on the streets), or preach on the streets (which usually makes crowds angry), and we would encourage other people to follow our model. This gained us respect among city leaders, because we’ve kept our word over the years, and we found other ways to share our faith.

BLC: One of the articles I read had a ton of misinformation both regarding the nature of your Halloween Outreach, and in the descriptions of the Pagan community of Salem. The article (though it didn’t mention the Gathering directly) made it seem like your church is involved in heavy evangelism and “healing” ministry on the streets, and described the Pagan community in terms that sounded like a scene out of a horror movie.

 Can you please tell us (a) what is the nature of your ministry to the people of Salem during the month of October, and (b) tell us about the Pagan community and your relationship with them?

Pastor Phil: The blog post you are referring to has been removed, and I think the blog was even taken down. It got a lot of attention from the Pagan community, who checks the internet for references to their activities, and quickly finds false information to refute it. The young woman who wrote the blog post apparently believed a number of Salem Urban Witch myths she heard from others and posted them to her blog. I am pretty sure I met her briefly. She came with a “Burn” – a prayer group connected to a movement out of Redding, CA. There is a tendency unfortunately in Prayer Movement groups to hyper-spiritualize things, and speak in very militaristic terms about their faith and their outreach, which is a death knell for befriending Neo-Pagans. Witches and Pagans inundated her blog with comments and complaints, and I also asked her to remove the material, and post an apology to the Pagan community. I am sure she meant well, but had a flawed model of communication of her faith, and it caused a commotion. She spoke of a Pagan gathering run by a friend of mine, and described it as a crowning of some kind of Witch King. In actuality it is a simple Pagan circle – no throne, not much pomp, and it didn’t even happen this year, because it got rained out. She talked about interactions with people in very black and white militaristic terms, which so often dehumanizes the people we are helping.

She described our outreach as though it was aggressive evangelism, but in fact, we do things like offer free blessings, give out hugs, and serve free hot cocoa to chilly festival goers. We do Dream Interpretation, and what we call Spiritual Readings (offering counsel about faith and spirituality), and people stand in line to experience these things. Yes, we do pray with people, we pray for the sick, we talk about Jesus, and are open about being Christians. It is all very gentle and graceful. Of course, we also sponsor a stage for the month, and have live music going on the weekends, so we also create a bit of a party atmosphere.

Our experience with the Witches of Salem has been good. We have respected them as regular people, who have the same needs, and desires most of us have, and they have generally respected us in return. Respect goes a long way in winning friends, and I tend to think of this “reconciliation ministry” we have been given as a friend winning process. Typically, I train everyone who works with us on the streets so this kind of misinformation doesn’t happen, but this year we had a new group working with us, and I did not do the training myself. Consequently, someone got in who had not quite adjusted to thinking of Salem as just another festival city, and the Witches who live here are just regular people who bleed, and cry, and laugh, and love their kitties just like you and I.

BLC: One of the articles said that you send out people dressed as monks to harass street preachers. Being one of your previous monks myself (see photo left) who actually encountered these street preachers, I obviously know this is untrue. In the years I served as a monk, we went around offering people “free blessings” and for those who accepted, we simply pronounced God’s blessing upon them. Ironically, I do recall that we were heckled by the street preachers– one of them yelled at us and said “only God can bless people”. Back then, we responded in kindness and even offered them free hot coco and to come down to the church if they needed to warm up or use the bathroom. It has been two years since I’ve been able to serve as a monk, so can you tell us a bit about what the monks are up to these days and why this writer is making this accusation against you? Is this a situation that was rooted in a certain element of truth but got distorted by the time it hit the Christian news network? (the article I’m referencing, can be found here)

Pastor Phil: There is an ongoing urban myth about us sending monks, and I suppose in some manner we do, but certainly not like it was described. The first time it happened, we had a group of guys (and girls) dressing up as monks to work in the confessional booth. They were taking a break, and I received a panicked call from one of the Witches telling me that a group of street preachers, were harassing people coming in and out of their psychic fair. I shared this info James Wilcox (whom you know), who got excited and shouted, “Dudes let’s monk up!” So, they “monked up” – donned their monk robes and went down the street to create a peaceful barrier between the Witches and street preachers. This turned out to be a good thing for both of the other parties. One of the witches was on the verge of contacting the police with harassment complaints.

Since that time, some of our friends make a point of “monking up” and visiting the street preachers. I typically have to remind the costumed monks to remain peaceful, and not to get caught up in the shouting matches, but alas, that doesn’t always keep the emotions down. Most of time we are simply giving away free hugs, free blessings, or are involved in spiritual counsel.
You can check out a story of our Confessional Booth here.

BLC: What are the historical interactions you have had with street preachers coming to Salem during October? Have things changed over the years, or are your interactions each year pretty consistent?

Pastor Phil: It is different every year. We do not assume that the street preachers are going to be mean, belligerent, or condescending. There are a number of street preachers who are really nice guys. Even some of the bullhorn toters are very kind people. Bob is a tall thin older man with a baseball cap, a sandwich board with depictions of Heaven and Hell and handfuls of Gospel tracts. He is gentle and kind, and if someone simply wants directions to the bathroom he will direct them without insisting on sharing the whole Gospel message first. Every year I spend time with Bob, and tell him how much I appreciate him, bring him hot cocoa, and we always invite him in to take a rest, or keep warm.

 (There’s a great story about Bob here.)

BLC: I remember meeting Bob when we were giving out blessings a few years ago. He was extremely kind, and actually challenged me to reconsider the way I’ve often prejudged street preachers. Some of them aren’t quite as gentle as Bob, no?

Pastor Phil: Two years ago, a young man from New Jersey was in Salem preaching the Gospel Ray Comfort style – he asked people if they kept God’s law, and if they did not (which, of course, none of us do) he challenged to think about their eternity. A few young guys got a little rowdy around him one night, and threw a full plate of lasagna in his face, while he was preaching. So, I addressed the crowd and yelled at everyone who laughed at the street preacher. I told them he was the only person practicing his right to free speech on the street, and then I shouted, “and you laughed at his humiliation, SHAME ON YOU!” The crowd actually applauded him. Then we took him down to the church and cleaned him up. My friend Chris refers to him as “lasagna face.”

On the other hand, some of the street preachers are a bit belligerent, and rile up the crowds making it hard for everyone else. Because we are friends with the Pagan community, the street preachers will sometimes stand in front of our events, or our meeting place and declare that The Gathering is a cult. So, not every street preacher is a good example of God’s love. My friend Allen Henninger from LA reminds them every year that their method is part of their message. They can’t persuade people that God loves them, and simultaneously shout in their faces with overdriven bullhorns.

BLC: Sean Bishop says that you support the crowds of Salem in rejecting the street preachers, that you listen to witches and subsequently send your “sheep” after his street preachers. How do you respond to this?

Pastor Phil: Of course, I support the crowds. I am for everyone. I want everyone to be blessed. But, that doesn’t mean I am against the street preachers. This issue is not a “for or against” scenario. I want the crowds to sense God’s love, and I want the street preachers to learn how to communicate God’s love effectively, and in a manner people would gracefully receive. I do not think the crowds are blessed by Hellfire and Brimstone preaching, through obnoxiously loud, poor quality bullhorn speakers, and I do not think the street preachers are sharing their faith, or exercising their free speech in a culturally relevant manner.

So, in some sense, of course, I listen to the Witches and the crowds. It only makes sense to know the people we minister to, and adjust to the cultural sensitivities of our times, and we can do that without compromising the basics of the Christian faith. I can be a difficult to stand in between the two sides, and in some manner try to be a benefit to both. I feel like Treebeard from the Lord of the Rings sometimes.

“Who’s side are you on?”

“Side? I am on no one’s side, because no one is altogether on my side.”

BLC: How do you think we can learn and grow from this present controversy with the bullhorn guys?

Pastor Phil: I think that there are a few things we can learn: 1) the number of people who actually behave, and/or support the behavior of the bullhorn toting street preachers are few, but they are a noisy few. 2) We do need to learn how to differentiate between the truly misbehaving, crowd provocating street preachers, and the people who are just counter cultural. It is quite possible for us to fight against free speech and the in some sense the Gospel itself. 3) We need to learn to respond in a truly Christ-like manner, even if we are being mischaracterized ourselves.

BLC: What could be done so that everyone in Salem could be able to interact peacefully during the month of October?

 Pastor Phil: I believe it is time to increase the carnival dynamic of Haunted Happenings. Creative, fun, artistic expressions of truth should overwhelm screeching bullhorns. In this way, we would be having so much fun we would overcome anger with joy. A good example this year was a Witch friend of mine who would stand in her Witch garb, and a broom and cauldron as a busker taking donations for photos. The street preachers tried to drown her out. So, she started to dance in front of them, and got the crowds to cheer for her.

BLC: If you could tell the street preachers one thing about the Pagan community , and could tell the Pagan community one thing about Christians, what would you tell each side?

 Pastor Phil: To the Street Preachers: My friend Allen Henninger says it best: “Your method is your message. What do you think it says about God if you yell at people through screeching bullhorns?”

To the Pagans: Many of the street preachers are a problem, but they are not all the same. Don’t take your frustrations out on everyone because of the actions of a few.

BLC: I know your ministry has had some difficult challenges and changes in the past year. What does the future look like for the Gathering? Do your see your October ministry to the city as being a long-term presence?

Pastor Phil: We were doing the October outreach stuff before we had moved into the location on Essex Street. Now that we have moved out of that spot, it does not stop our activities in October. Look for wilder, crazier, more creative and fun stuff to break loose. And if anyone (artists, builders, people who like to dress up…) wants to join us for next year, now is a good time to connect with me. We are “going big” with creativity next year.

BLC: Your love for the city and people of Salem has been something that I’ve always admired about you– it’s very authentic and real. Why do you love this city so much?

Pastor Phil: Cause its weird… and wonderful.

If you want to learn more about the most interesting Pastor in America, or join in with what’s happening in Salem, you can visit the website for The Gathering here. And, if you happen to visit Salem and bump into Pastor Phil, be sure to say hi for me!

* Photo credits: Shawn Fitzgerald & Michelle Prizl

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