God hates click bait (or how we don’t need to please God anymore….no really)

I’m tired of click bait. I get it of course. We want people to visit our sites and our blogs and if we simply offer them 5 easy steps to achieve their dreams or suggest we have video footage of the most amazing goal we’ve ever seen, it’s hard to resist.

But rarely do any of these things live up to the hype that they promise. (Scoring from before the half way line into an open net is not that difficult).

Those 5 easy steps you’ve been given are actually extremely difficult. Simple maybe, but extremely difficult. So after all that, I want to share the one piece of advice I heard this year that I’ve been thinking about ever since I heard it. I truly believe it could be life changing but remember, simple does not mean easy.

Now before I get to that one piece of advice, based on my previous paragraphs, I want to be completely forthright. This won’t be new to many of you. You’re going to be extremely disappointed actually. This is not going to turn your world upside down.

So I heard this piece of advice in a sermon given by Pete Rollins, a Philosopher from Northern Ireland but who lives in LA. He was speaking at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan and he said this right at the end.

“You don’t need to change, none of you need to change”

That’s it. Thank you and goodnight.

So, ok. There’s a lot more to this but actually, no there isn’t. You don’t need to change. You’re fine as you are. Stop trying to change anything. Stop trying to iron out the crinkles. They’re not part of you, they are you. It’s all going to be ok.

But in the words of Father Fitzgerald, the priest with the most monotonous voice in the world, “What’s the catch”?

77b3996c-26f6-4977-94cc-e5351c856527Well there isn’t one. At least there shouldn’t be one.

I’ve had enough experience being part of the Christian world and church to know that despite our message of acceptance and unconditional love we spend a lot of time and resources on showing people how to change. Heck, my job last year was leading groups full of men who desired to change.

But somehow I believe we’ve lost the true message that we don’t need to change.

What if we stopped there. “You don’t need to change”. Not, “You don’t need to change….but…”. Just.

You

don’t

need

to

change. (Damn it Rob Bell)

There is a reason obviously so many of us feel the need to change. Perhaps it’s because we’re stuck in an addiction of behaviors that are slowly ripping our soul apart. Or we think we need to look sexier, sound smarter or work out more.

But there is a huge difference between needing to change and wanting to change.

Take addiction for example. In fact, take a Christian who is addicted. It doesn’t matter what to. Does that person feel the need to change because they believe that somehow their addiction is jeopardizing their salvation or love? If that’s the case, which I believe for so many of us it is when we really start to be honest, then they don’t need to stop looking at porn, or overeating or drinking.

Remember? Unconditional love. There is no “but” to unconditional love. It’s either unconditional or it’s not. And we all know that. We all claim to believe in the inability to earn God’s love.

So why do we try?

Before we get there, try this for one day. Every time you think about that thing about yourself which you want to quit or change, tell yourself that you don’t have to. You can go crazy and do it all day if you want.

Look at porn. Overeat. Don’t workout. Don’t do your taxes.

Also, ask yourself why you want to change. Here are some answers which are not acceptable, if you truly believe in unconditional love like you say you do. God will be angry at me. Nope. God will be disappointed at me. Nope again. God will be frustrated….You get the idea.

The reason that none of those answers are helpful is because underneath them all is a belief that God needs us to change. But why would He? What effect would it have on God if we changed? Does He suddenly love us more if we change? Well if that’s true, then we don’t believe in unconditional love. Which is fine. But don’t pretend that unconditional love is any real force in your life if any of those beliefs about God are true for you.

If we spend our lives constantly trying to please a God who we claim loves us unconditionally we’ll end up going a little crazy. How will we know if we’ve ever achieved enough? What if we change that one massive thing that’s weighing on our shoulders but start doing something else that’s not quite as “bad?”

The God’s aren’t angry.

Of course change is an important and natural part of life. Change can be good. If I’m using a behavior that is causing me massive amounts of shame then that behavior is not healthy. But a more pertinent question, than how do I stop or start doing something is, Why do I feel shame?

Shame arises out of a deep belief that we are a bad person. A bad person because we’ve set ourselves up and consequently failed to live to a standard we were never supposed to achieve.

Perfection.

This is the question that God asked Adam and Eve. Who told you you were supposed to feel shame?

When I took the decision to stop viewing porn I set myself up for failure. Because I was doing it out of a false belief that God needed me to change. That was the operational belief in my life and so every decision, moment, success or failure had it’s value based solely on how it had lived up to that belief.

I believed God loved me more when I abstained from porn. I believed He wanted me to burn in Hell if I didn’t.

The problem is that for us mere humans, this all plays out subtly in our subconscious. I don’t really think God wants to send me to Hell but I do. I don’t really think that if I view porn today I’m a horrible person, but I do. I don’t really believe that God’s love is conditional on my obedience but I do.

This is why, when my friend Seth meets with guys who are dealing with addiction he tells them to go all out. Have at it.

When I took the decision to stop viewing porn because it was damaging my life and causing me to disconnect and feel like a shell of a human, things changed.

I was changing because the alternative was just so horrible, not because I needed to meet God’s standards. I felt Grace properly for the first time in my life.

Pete Rollins in a recent episode of The Deconstructionists podcast explained Grace wonderfully. Allow me to butcher it for you. (Or you should probably just listen to it yourself and save me any embarrassment)

We tell ourselves there is something we need to change. Another more subconscious part of us protests against that voice by pushing against the change. How Grace works then is to come in and dismantle that first voice telling us we need to change by reminding us that we don’t. With that, the protest voice inside us also falls away allowing us to truly change.

Not because we need to but because we’re free from having to.

I know this doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t. Which is perfect for us because we need it to not make sense. Because for so long we’ve heard the messages of Grace from our pulpits but we’ve never truly experienced it. Which is why a daily routine of spiritual practice is so important for everyone.

If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of God, think of it as a Higher force. Something that desires us to move forward and live in peace with ourselves and others.

I would go as far as suggesting that for you right now, you don’t really believe in Grace. Not in a real way. I say that, knowing for me and countless others I’ve worked with, Grace was something we understood but never felt.

None of this matters unless we go through a new experience of course. “Understanding” this won’t change anything for you. You’ve understood it for your whole life, I’m guessing.

But now is the time to feel it.

Learning how to write again (Or why I couldn’t be arsed writing for a year)

It’s been exactly one year and one month since I wrote on my blog. This may not shock you as much as it shocked me but after spending a good 10 minutes trying to remember my log in info for my site, I’m not really surprised.

I am hoping this is a lot like riding a bike but just to be safe, I have my stabilizers firmly fitted to my wheels.

Ok, so now I have a crappy analogy out of the way, why have I not been writing for the past year?

For many of you who have been following my blog or presence online for a while you will know that porn has been a pretty big part of my life, for better or worse. I’ll not rehash my story here but you can check up some of my journey and evolution here.

Backing up just a little, I’ve been involved with the ministry xxxchurch for about 5 years as a blogger, small group leader, coach and teacher. Then a couple of years ago I was introduced to Seth Taylor and later his brother David. With them I found kindred spirits in how I thought about porn, addiction and spirituality.

Hearing Seth and David’s story and their journey finding freedom from addiction, anxiety and depression was something that blew apart how I approached God. Seth and David wrote a book called Feels Like Redemption, and once I started reading the first few pages of an early draft, I knew I needed to get to know these guys more.

I had grown tired of the usual, “3 simple steps to defeating porn”. I was tired of the cliches and solutions that were based around controlling behavior. There had to be something better to dealing with this, I told myself.

Seth and I began to dialogue over email.

Simultaneously at this point I had begun practicing meditation, processing (a type of visual emotional healing) and allowing myself to be ok with doubt and the mystery of God. Over the last few years I’ve started to become interested in the more mystic side of Christianity. I started to question why Christians hardly ever experience the healing we claim to believe in, dealing with the fact that it was kind of arrogant of me to believe I could understand how God operates.

Was a filter for our computers the best we could come up with?

Seth and David have helped me as much as anyone in shaping not so much what I believe, but how I believe.

A mini personal reformation if you will.

They developed a new program called My Pilgrimage. More the framework for a new type of spiritual journey than a “program” to “defeat” porn.

Then, last February, I had the privilege to begin leading 20 small groups each week; guiding guys through this pretty radical idea of healing and transformation.

This has been my job. This has been what I’ve devoted pretty much every waking minute to for 10 months.

And let me tell you, it’s been one hell of a year. It’s been exhausting. It’s been frustrating. It’s been maddening, exciting and did I say exhausting. I’ve seen guys go from being held down and clinging to a god that has simply just not been working for them, to finding a freedom from addiction that they never imagined was possible.

Many have joined the groups and many have stopped, not experiencing anything substantial.

I don’t blame them. If we decide to partake in such a journey we are going to asked to bring up our pain and wounds and face it and deal with it. It asks us to put aside our identities for a moment or two, so that we can deconstruct the beliefs that need to be reconstructed.

There have been times where I’ve just wanted to ignore my email reminder to start a group at 730am in the morning or 930pm in the evening.

There are the groups I thought were going to be difficult and stressful but which have pushed me more than any other.

Others have joined and formed bonds and relationships with each other that will live on.

These guys I’ve met are not just clients or participants in a group; but people who I now call friends. They have taught me so much.

Then there is Brittany who has been unbelievable in encouraging me and picking me up off the floor, sacrificing her evenings with me so I could lead small groups 3 evenings out of the week.

Those 10 months were the most professionally, personally, emotionally and spiritually fulfilling and draining, I’ve ever had.

So the last thing I’ve usually felt like doing was to sit down and write.

And just before Christmas it came to an end. 800 small group meetings later and I’m at peace. I’m ready for the next thing. But first I need to breathe and take stock. I’m excited for what’s coming and I want to keep moving but it’s time to have a Sabbath.

I’ll post more soon about how this year has changed me and expect much more writing from me than this year. Shouldn’t be hard.

Until then, Peace and Grace my friends.

What Now For Page 3?

The first time I saw a page 3 model I must have been around 5 or 6. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My whole world had opened up before me and all I wanted was more. The more, in question was of course the plethora of toys that the kid in the Toymaster brochure seemed to own. Lucky bastard.

Fast forward, 8 or 9 years I was still jealous of that kid probably now in his early teens like me and still getting spoiled with all the latest gear, but now it was probably more cool gadgets and portable sound playing machines. Lucky bastard. On this particular day though it was a different page 3 that I was interested in. Continue reading

Christians and porn. Why protesting is not the answer.

How we treat porn stars or page 3 models is a question that is often absent in any discussion on the exploitation of women and to some extent men, in the mammoth porn industry that is in our faces more often than not.

Most people don’t like sexism, most people believe that male or female bodies should not be used for the sexual pleasure of a 14 year old cracking open the pages of Zoo in his bedroom. And an end to publications that promote these thoughts and ideas would benefit a lot of people.

Yet, I see a problem with the promotion simply of boycotts or protests of magazines like Zoo or “newspapers” like the Sun. Continue reading