Not Much to Say

I have been told more than once in my life that if you haven’t got anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all. Something else I learned while taking speech class in school was this simple idea: It easy to talk for 30 minutes and say absolutely nothing, but what is difficult is to say something worthwhile in five. Both of these concepts seem to have been lost on most pastors in America.

Well, for me lately I haven’t had much to say. Actually I have been spending a lot of my “blog time” over on other sites, reading what my friends (and others) have been writing and thinking. They are saying things so much better than me right now. Certainly I have about four or five things I would love to write about, but they are works in progress. I am reading some new books, sorting through some personal things and, as always, trying to navigate my way through life and faith and relationships.

So, nothing new here to offer from me…and for that I apologize. Lately the best I can do is pass on some things I have seen or read and get your feedback. That in and of itself has been enlightening and it seems it has inspired some other conversations on other sites…which is always fun to be a part of.

With that said, let me suggest some blogs you should check out. These guys are throwing out some fresh stuff. Check it out!

badchristian.com – What’s the Big Idea About Church?
edgeoffaith.com – Closer
faithgambler.com – Jesus/God

Oh, and this one just for fun… and I love this site and the way these ladies write….funny, funny, funny! Go to: Go Fug Yourself

Jesus Loves Porn Stars


From politics to porn in one week…only at Stupid Church People.

No doubt you have heard of XXXChurch and the way Craig and Mike over there are making a difference in their little corner of the web. Actually it isn’t such a small corner as these guys have blown up and are doing some very, very innovative ministries within the porn industry. I mean, you can’t get any more “controversial” than showing up at a porn convention in Los Angeles as a Christian and talking with people about Jesus and porn.

So the guys over at XXXChurch have some ideas. First, they are sponsoring National Porn Sunday, which they describe this way: “PornSunday seeks to drive the conversation about pornography in our churches, families and lives. PornSunday wants to bring healing and recovery to those struggling with pornography.”

Second, they have put together an “R-rated” documentary entitled “Missionary Positions” chronicling their ministry and discussing the porn industry, the effects it is having on our culture and their experiences in dealing with “porn people”.

Finally, and probably most adventurous, is a new venture called the “Trinity Project” which they hope to use to assist girls involved in the porn industry with help in getting out. Now this got my attention. The project is based on a girl that they have gotten to know named Trinity who currently works in porn but wants out. The guys are trying to develop assistance and programs to help these girls in tangible ways.

Now while we at SCP have often joked about things of this nature and had some fun with the topic of strippers and stuff, we wholeheartedly support the ministry of XXXChurch. They are doing and talking about things that the church should be involved with in our opinions. They are risking their reputations and ministry careers in serving a population of the world that the church just wants nothing to do with.

With the “Trinity Project”, Craig and Mike have definitely taken XXXChurch to the next level. Here’s a crisp dollar bill for each of you!

God’s Politics


Nothing like a mix of religion and politics to get us going on a Monday morning. I was reading this weekend from “God’s Politics” by Jim Wallis and thought I would share this section with you for discussion.

The politics of God is often not the same as the politics of the people of God. The real question is not whether religious faith should influence a society and its politics, but how.

As the Democratic candidates for president attended religious services during the 2004 election campaign, their worship was tempered by an uncomfortable fact: Churchgoing Americans tend to vote Republican.

An overwhelming majority of Americans consider themselves to be religious. Yet according to a study released in late 2003 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, people who attend church more than once a week vote Republican by 63 percent to 37 percent; people who seldom or never attend vote Democratic by 62 percent to 38 percent. This was borne out by the 2004 exit polls–people who attend church more than once a week voted 64 percent for President Bush to 35 percent for Senator Kerry; those who never attend voted 62 percent for Kerry to 36 percent for Bush.

This disparity should concern Democrats-if not as a matter of faith, then as a matter of politics. More important, it should concern anyone who cares about the role of religion in public life. By failing to engage Republicans in this debate, the Democrats impoverish us all.

This chapter goes on to detail the two histories of faith based movements in our country’s recent history: The black-led civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s and the Religious Right movement of the 80’s and 90’s. Both advanced their “moral agendas” based in faith and sought to influence the direction of American life and culture.

The Civil Rights Movement operated first and foremost from a morally based and politically independent foundation. The Religious Right Movement sought immediately to gain political power and, in short, it’s desires were to “take over” the Republican party.

So here’s the questions (and I am sure there are more which we will get to).

1) What role, if any, should an individuals faith play in politics?

2) What role, if any, should the church have in politics?

The Truth

Over the past few months I have alluded to personal struggles going on in my life. For those of you close to me, you already know the issue. For those of you who faithfully listen to our Podcast and read this blog, you are absolutely in the dark. Not that it is necessary for me to share all of my laundry on the site, yet I do think I owe an “inside look” as to what has been happening. I think by sharing these things it can take me personally and our site publicly to a place where it should be…an open place for sharing our hearts, grieving our losses and encouraging and inspiring one another. So here’s the truth…

My wife and I are going through a separation after 15 years of marriage. My wife has come to the realization of her identity as a gay female. This is an issue that we have both been aware of as an inner conflict for her for years, worked through together quite successfully, but the inner pain in her life was something that was taking a toll on her personally, both physically and emotionally. The issue began to crystallize for her during the first part of this year as she came to grips with her struggle. So, around May 1, we separated and Cristi has sinced moved out and into a new place.

Cristi and I did an excellent job in keeping our marriage together (although numbed somewhat to the realities), especially as the inner turmoil mounted for her over the past two years. We did so because we loved each other so much and obviously because we didn’t want our marriage to change and in effect our family structure to be altered. We both communicated incredibly well throughout our marriage regarding this and so many issues, which led us to have a very successful relationship regardless of its present state. Both of us are hurting and in deep, deep pain regarding this, mainly because we love one another very much and we have two beautiful, amazing boys (10 and 4) that we are so grateful to have in our lives.

I only want her happiness. She only wants mine. Of course I would love for us to still be together, but I understand that staying in the relationship for her is not what she feels is best. It’s not easy to swallow this reality, but it is the reality of the moment. My love for her causes me pain. My insecurities grapple to have her in my life. My anger at the situation creates internal chaos at times. But it is with sad realization that we both understand that our marriage as we knew it is over. Note I said, “as we knew it”, because at this time we are and continue to be married in many more ways than can be determined by a piece of paper. Outside of any legal definition, our lives are forever linked as committed partners, loyal friends and most importantly, caring parents.

This has been the most difficult thing in my life. But each day I get stronger and stronger and am beginning to see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.” This tunnel of anxiety, depression and grief is getting shorter and I am beginning to realize that my life will move forward. I will be stronger and more confident because of this experience. I wish this did not have to happen, not so much for me or my wife, but for our children who are innocent bystanders in the midst of these “grown-up issues”. I pray they will be spared any long-lasting pain and that they will be secure in the knowledge that mom and dad will always be united in our unconditional love for them.

However, it has also saddened me lately that many people only focus on “poor Steve, his wife is leaving him”. All of you that think that, that’s fine, but please acknowledge the depth of pain that Cristi is going through as she ventures out to an uncertain future full of fears, biases, stigmas and cultural condemnations…not to mention Stupid Church People that think all gay people are going to hell. What idiots! The same people that believe this also believe that all “committed” church people (especially pastors) are going to heaven.

My wife loves God, has an intimate relationship with him and has helped me grow spiritually more than any other person in my life. I love Cristi for the way she has helped me gain a healthy perspective of who God is in my life and the compassion we should have for others. She has helped me “breathe” and not feel choked by my faith and assisted me in not feeling “guilty” for actually enjoying life. I will always be grateful for the way she helps shape me to be the man I am spiritually and the Christ-like way she mothers our two sons – teaching them compassion, gentleness and strength.

I would hope that each of you that are married, or will be getting married, will be fortunate enough to have the unselfish, giving and loving relationship that my wife and I have shared. I am a better person because Cristi is in my life. We look forward with hope-filled uncertainty to our future together and the new ways we will grow together from this point forward.

As my wife and I have talked about (and this will be hard for some of you to fathom), but in all actuality my wife doesn’t love me one ounce less then she did prior to leaving. I do not love her any less either. And the beautiful thing is we will continue to love each other more (although differently – but what married couple doesn’t as they grow old) from this point forward to our dying day. In that sense our relationship remains “till death do us part!” I am still struggling to grasp all this, but I believe it to be true!

Please feel free to ask questions, post comments or whatever you need to say about this. We welcome your thoughts and prayers as we move forward. Stupid Church People’s future blogs and podcasts will be addressing these things occasionally over the course of the future so stay tuned. But we will not just focus on this only because there is plenty of stupidity within the church that we can continue to feed off of…trust me, that will never stop! And I will keep sharing with you regarding my personal journey through this process here on the blog. Thanks for listening.

SCP Sightings


Check out some of the recent “Stupid Church People” sightings. Whenever I see something “stupid” I try to document it. From time to time, we plan on sharing those things with you. We feel it is our responsibility….plus it is just really, really fun to point out the “stupid” things among us. It gives even more pleasure to find church people being stupid…Josh and I included.

Some things I find are funny stupid and then other things are scary stupid. But it’s all stupid. So check out the recent pics here at SCP Extras .

By the way, you are all official “SCP Deputies” and I commission you to find the stupid things around you that church people do, take a picture and email it to us. We will share it on our site with the world.

Who Are “The Lost”?

Here’s a comment from the Rev. Rick Mason, who was the subject of the recent “Theology on Tap” post. He commented on that thread but I thought I would share his comments here for you to see and respond.

I want to thank all of you for your comments. I am the Rev. Rick Mason of the original Montgomery (AL) newspaper article. I have gained some insights into how to continue to approach “Theology on Tap” from what many of you have said. Believe it or not, one of the questions that is troubling me today is how do we, as Christians, define “the lost”? I think the answer to that question may go a long way toward determining how we approach faith & evangelism.

Just a note on the initial gatherings at the Pratt Pub. We are very excited about the folks who have been taking part. There have been people from both inside & outside of the church who have serious questions about the church & faith. We have had everything from totally unchurched to devout Episcopalians & Calvinists to a recent convert to Hinduism, who commented that after 14 years in Prattville it is wonderful to finally have a place where she can talk about her faith without the fear of being put down.

This is a work-in-progress (as is the faith life itself), so please remember us in your prayers. And thanks again!

Thanks Rick for your feedback and update. So, that’s a good question Rick asks of us. Now it’s your turn. How do you define “the lost”? Or do you?

Dad


Please excuse this self-indulgent post to pay tribute to my Dad on his birthday. His birth name is William M. Chastain but all his friends knew him as Bill. My dad passed away in 1975 when I was 12 years old. He suffered a major heart-attack and never fully recovered.

The thing I remember most about my Dad was his gentle and loving affection to my mom and to us three kids. My brother, sister and I were never shorted when it came to Dad’s hugs and kisses. I am very fortunate for this since I know that in the 50’s and 60’s, fathers could sometimes be distant from their children. It was a time for “tough men” but I am so glad my Dad wasn’t one of them.

The other thing I loved about my Dad was his passion for people. He enjoyed being around people so much. He liked to make people laugh, he relished in telling story after story, and he never wanted to leave a place as long as there were more people there to talk to.

Finally, one more thing Dad enjoyed was teaching. He taught a Sunday school class at the church and would spend much of his time on Saturdays preparing for that class. It was an adult class and he would spend time creating flip charts (his version of Powerpoint) and writing everything out so he was ready to share the lesson and get people involved. I used to like watching him work so hard to make everything just “perfect” for his class.

My Dad wrote me a letter before he died. He had the foresight to share with me on paper his love for me so that I could remember it forever.

Well Dad, although you will have been gone 30 years in September, I just want to let you know that your impact on my life is not forgotten. I am hoping that I am able to fulfill your legacy of love through your grandsons (I wish you could’ve have met them). Many times I miss not having you to guide me through some of life’s challenges. I certainly could use your wisdom in my life now. But the things I learned from you in just twelve years were the foundation for a life that I hope, in the end, will be pleasing to you and to God. I love you Dad.

In Memory…..
WILLIAM M. CHASTAIN
b. August 12, 1927
d. September 25, 1975

The Lies of Religion Game

In my previous post, Theology on Tap, a pastor will be holding a discussion in a local bar regarding “The Seven Great Lies of Organized Religion”. So I was thinking I would ask and see what you people would put on your list of lies you feel organized religion portrays or communicates.

I would suggest that you make your list of seven prior to reading anyone else’s list on the comments. So make your list, submit it here and let’s see what we come up with together…and I am certain it will be more than all agreeing on the same seven lies.

But I have only one rule on this post, stick to your list of seven (please do not comment on anyone’s else’s list for now) and then after about a week we will have a thread to discuss all the submissions.

So let’s start LYING to each other!

Theology on Tap

Found this on another site and thought I would share it. This is from the Mongtomery Advertiser .

The Rev. Rick Mason has a mission to reach those who have given up on church to show them what they’re missing. But he knows that those are the hardest people to lure.

That’s why Mason, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Prattville, has decided not to try to bring the unchurched to church — he’s bringing the church to them.

Or at least, he’s bringing it to where they hang out.

On Tuesday, Mason is starting a new program called Theology on Tap, scheduled for the first, third, fourth and fifth Tuesdays of each month, where people can gather to talk about scripture and faith issues.

And this new program will be — where else? — in a bar.

“I wanted a way to reach out to the unchurched, or as I like to call them, dechurched,” Mason said. “It’s for those with questions who don’t feel comfortable enough asking in a church atmosphere.”

Mason said he got the idea from something he learned while teaching evangel classes in South Carolina.

“Someone once told me that there’s nothing in the Bible that says build a building, put my name on it and wait for the people to come,” he said. “We need to be going out and meeting people in a place that they’d feel comfortable.”

On Tuesday, that place will be the Pratt Pub in Prattville next to Bama Lanes. Mason said the Pratt Pub is the kind of place “Jesus would have hung out in to find people.”

Mason knows a lot about those people — he was one of them.

Mason spent 20 years out of the church — a time that he says was God’s way of preparing him for this mission.

“I still have some issues with organized religion and I know how hard it is to go back,” he said. “I think this is easier — neutral ground.”

Some of Mason’s issues will be discussed in the first Theology on Tap on Tuesday, when the subject will be “The Seven Great Lies of Organized Religion.” Mason says the discussion will deal with some of the things the church says and does that puts people off.

Mason said this week would mainly to see who comes and what they want to talk about.

“I don’t want to hit anyone over the head with a Bible. I want it to be comfortable,” he said. “I’m not going in with any preconceived notions of who is going to be there or what questions they’re going to ask.”

I thought this was interesting…what do you think?

Sour Grapes

The phrase, sour grapes, has been used before to describe the SCP website and our commentary and opinions here. Looking online at the origin of this phrase, here is what I discovered.

Sour Grapes

To pretend that you do not want something after you have tried to get it and failed is known as ‘sour grapes.’ In other words, you are hiding your disappointment.

The origin of ‘sour grapes’ is from Aesop’s ancient Greek fable of a fox trying desperately to get some grapes from a tree. After several attempts, the fox walks away saying, “They are probably sour, anyway!”

I just don’t see how this saying applies to what we are about here at SCP. We are not in any way, shape or form trying to hide our disappointment with the modern American church. Exactly the opposite. We are boldly proclaiming our disappointment. We are not hiding as some have claimed. Our names, emails, pictures (as bad as that may be) and even our families are mentioned regularly on the site and in the podcasts.

We are also not pretending that we don’t want something after we have tried to get it and failed. We are desperately wanting something after we have tried to get it and failed.

In Aesop’s fable, the fox looks on from a distance and imagines that the grapes he is reaching for are a succulent, lip-smacking treat. After straining and giving his best efforts over the course of time, he walks away proclaiming that they probably weren’t even worth it. Yet in his mind, he knows they were. He is fooling himself to believe something he knows isn’t true. He is deceiving himself.

I am not deceiving myself when it comes to the church. I am speaking for myself and my experiences within the church after many years of being a full-time pastor. I look on the church and I already know it is sour in many ways, so I currently am tired of reaching for this thing that I do not believe will completely satisfy me.

Never in my life have I more identified with “far from God” people. This is a difficult confession to make. Having been through some personal issues of late I have sought solace from the church on one hand, and found myself retreating on the other. The pastor of my church has been there for me with the occasional phone call and for that I am grateful. A couple of others within the church have reached out to me once in awhile as well. However, when I attend my church, I do not experience God’s presence. I have spoken of this before on this site. And I am not laying the blame of this at the feet of the church…however… why go? What’s the point.

It is possible that I am not having a church crisis, but a faith crisis.

There is another person close to me that is going through a marriage separation and has yet to recieve anything from their church. She did get a call from the pastor right after the situation developed, but not one other person has reached out to my friend. She is alone. Not one woman from the church has called her to check on her and how she is doing. No one from the leadership of that church has called to inquire where she has been or to see how she is doing. She was the one that left the marriage, so maybe they are not sure what to say. Maybe they think she is “in sin”. And so what if she is? Isn’t that the purpose of the church…to reach out to people irregardless of their condition. So maybe this is my real issue with the church….cause it isn’t really how the church is treating me, it is how it treats people like my friend.

You see…the friend I am speaking of is my wife. Our marriage is breaking up. But nothing about our separation is causing my faith crisis. Here is what is causing me to be so pissed…at the church and at God. She left me and the church has abandoned her. I am so angry about this I am never ever ever ever going to church again. I can more understand my wife leaving me for someone else then I can the church abandoning her…. for what? If the church is God’s example to a lost and dying world then they can fuck off. They don’t love. They don’t care. They are really and truly only concerned about the four walls. They are more concerned with “breaking ground” then they are with “broken hearts”.

I cannot carry this burden anymore. I am sorry God. I still love you I think. And I guess you still love me. I think you exist but I even not really sure of that anymore. It’s just that the hands and the feet you want to use to show this are broken…worse they are amputated and no longer useful. I am just going to bow out gracefully. I am done. Good bye!

So from a place of paralysis I started this blog. And I have gained strength on this journey.

Now don’t get me wrong. Please read the next sentence very carefully. I love the church. I believe the church (defined as followers of Christ gathering locally) is God’s expression to the world to reach people far from God and to minister to all people groups socially, emotionally, mentally and most importantly, spiritually.

The church and the people within it that I have relationships with have been extended family. When my father passed away when I was twelve and my mom and I were left alone to face uncertain days, the church came alongside of us. At the age of 16, when I was involved in a car-crash that took the life of another person and then subsequently my family was sued, the church helped us through that.

At 18 when I became involved in ministry for the first-time, my church stood beside me and helped me navigate my calling. I was ordained in the church. I was married by the church. We dedicated our children in the church. Involvement in the church has shaped my life.

The church has also been the source of my greatest disappointments. There are many that have burdened my heart with disillusionment. And it is wrong to generalize I know, but much of my pain and frustration has come from the system that the church is embodied. No specifics are necessary because my intention is not to cause damage to any particular person or group.

But just like each of us has problems, questions and issues with our families of origin, I have the same feelings towards my adoptive family….the church!

Are questions wrong? Are opinions wrong? Are observations wrong?