Let Down by Your Faith Leaders?

I got a news alert this morning that a lead pastor of one of the Hillsong campuses was busted in a sex scandal. Not the first of this kind of crisis to rock the megachurch monolith.

The late world-renowned evangelist and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias went to his eternal rest under a cloud of suspicion regarding sexual misconduct. Allegations have not only multiplied since he passed but have been corroborated. Turns out, while he brought the message of Christ to the masses, he existed in a very different world than we thought.

The evangelical Christian church. Praising God, filling mega-churches, supporting missions around the world. Trump worshippers, anti-maskers, and vaxxers, extending love to everyone as long as they fit a very specific profile.

What do you do when your faith leaders turn out to be anything but faithful people? What happens to your faith when the people you’ve looked up to as leaders, mentors, and examples show you just how very human they are?

The answer for many is to leave the entire thing. Rid oneself of the toxicity and hypocrisy of it all. Flee from the piety of the dishonest and never look back. It makes sense.

When people of faith who profess to live a life of Godliness live secret lives of anything but, a lot of folks are going to get hurt. Departing from the mess that is sometimes organized religion is logical to anyone who has suffered a crisis of faith as a result of the incredible letdown that occurs when things like this happen. I get it.

But here’s something to remember. The church is made of people. People are the church. And people screw up. Christ is not the church. He is above all of it. He does not screw up. When those whose very humanity—riddled with all their faults and shortcomings—reveal how very lost they truly are, it’s not Christ that is the problem.

My very bold statement: Christ and the church are not one and the same. So, when the church and its human leaders let you down, the fault lies not on Christ. If anything, He is the only good that will ever be found in all of it. Human beings are flawed. Christ is not.

The blunder of many believers, of people of faith, lies in exalting humans to being on par with Christ. Unconsciously or not, that is always a grave error. I have heard of pastors referred to as men and women of God, which is to sometimes elevate flawed humans to quasi-deities. So very wrong and blasphemous. Men and women work for God; they are not, in any way, working in the same realm as Him.

So, what does all this mean? The pastors and spiritual leaders who have lied, cheated, and abused while hidden behind a pulpit are as culpable and subject to accountability as any person. And they must be held up to their wrongdoing. It is Christ’s mercy and forgiveness that any redemption can be found.

But they don’t hold the keys to transformative faith, to a walk with Christ. That is entirely between an individual and Jesus Christ himself. The flaws and failures of the clergy, teachers, and the entire movement itself are on the people. Christ is the one that can be trusted, always, in any situation.

Persons hurt by the pain inflicted within church walls are often right to leave it to find the safety, integrity, and dignity they deserve. But departing from Christ entirely isn’t where it’s at. If anything, He’s the one completely capable of healing you.

Your walk through life doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor, even if your faith background has let you down. Humans are flawed little specks in the big scheme of things. Bet the ranch on Someone much, much bigger … and completely trustworthy.

Tok Around the Clock

When everything started shutting down last March, Tik Tok was barely on my radar in terms of preferred social media. Tik Tok was decidedly my high school aged son’s thing. But one year later, 40-something moms have arrived! Ok they are there, but that’s not the point of this post. I must preface this by saying while I do have an account, I only have one so that I can like and make comments (always affirming, I don’t do that mean trolling crap). You will never see me in videos of my own creation. That is my promise to you. But for all you Tik Tok creators, keep doing you! BECAUSE I LOVE IT!    

Almost a year into quarantine, Tik Tok has become a part of my life. That’s right. I’m saying it. And while my family thinks I have an addiction to it and can’t control myself, you tell me. Does someone who is addicted designate a specific time of day to look at Tik Toks, then and only then, without interrupting the flow of the day to “cheat” the schedule? Yeah, I thought so. I do set aside the time after I log off work for the day and before I have to cook dinner, as Tik Tok Wind Down time.

Sure, back in March 2020, Tik Tok was a place to find families doing all those dance challenges (Savage anyone?). And yeah, they were pretty funny and nice escape from mess 2020 was quickly becoming at that time.

But over the course of the summer, the lead up to the elections in November and through to now, Tik Tok evolved from this kind of silly social media platform to a legitimate space for learning just about anything. Thanks to the algorithm, Tik Tok is pretty good and feeding me content that I actually care about (Nope, I have not found myself in Trump Tok, thank you Lord). Of course, algorithms are determined by the level of interaction one has with specific accounts (at least that’s how I understand it), so what I’m shown is pretty predictable if you have any sense of my interests.

That said, I’d like to share some of my favorite Tik Tok creators, whom I follow for a variety of interests they address. After several of my more serious posts, I thought lightening up to share some great accounts to check out would be a good thing.

So herewith is my collection of Tik Tok that is more than just pandemic entertainment.

Food

This category has a two-fold purpose. Easy and tasty recipes (got my best Shawarma Bowls recipe from Tik Tok) and DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) spots to check out. When there is nothing to do besides go for a drive to pick up takeout, recs from people in the know are extremely helpful. It also makes for great exploration of your locale.

Italian food the way Italian people make it in Italy. Nuff said.
A foodie from Cornell University who knows his way around a kitchen–both at home with his parents and on a budget at school.
Her recipes are delicious! She also seems to live a pretty charmed life in the hills of LA. Fun to watch, fun to cook.
Come for the Chai (chai means tea. stop ordering chai tea lattés. you’re only saying “tea tea lattés.) stay for the hope.
Where ever you live, someone has an account about food treasures in your zone.
This DMV foodie has the deets on great spots to try. (I was so tempted to say deets on eats!)

Wellness

These are actual board certified medical and nutritional professionals who dispense real science and logic. No, they aren’t there to diagnose your issues online. But you can learn a lot from their content which has proven to be super helpful to me, personally.

A registered dietitians with real facts on good nutrition and listening to your body. Love her!
Another fab RD who knows what she’s talking about. She also has fun with TT trends. Don’t judge.
After 45 years on this planet as a female, this OB/GYN is literally the one who told me things I never knew. 100% recommend her page.

Feeding the Mind

Politics, history, current culture, faith. These are creators provide necessary content for today.

If you don’t know Quentin, get to know him. A follower of Christ who walks the walk and gives you straight talk on politics and doing the right thing.
He’s intro’d himself as that pastor from Oklahoma who voted for Biden. He doesn’t mince words about what it means to authntically follow Christ and how that influences voting and life.
It’s that type of stuff that makes great conversation starters and helps you remember there is still good in the world.
Fascinating insights on American politics, culture, and history from someone outside the U.S. who knows what she’s talking about.

For Fun

These creators just make me laugh, smile, and say “whoa.” There are a lot of them out there to discover, but these are favorites.

This woman lives on an island near the north pole where polar bears roam around and there is no light for four months out of the year. Her page is just cool.
This child and her mom are adorable. Both have recently gone internet-famous for morning affirmations they do together, which we all could benefit from repeating.
His guitar playing is sooooo good. He also made to Jimmy Fallon for playing background Uke music while his brother got busted by his mom. Very cool content.
Last, but not least, Meg, the South Asian student who’s delivery and unabashed accent as the best! Shaddap! #IYKYK

So there you have it! If Tik Tok brightens your day during these very tough days, don’t be ashamed! Right now, to keep laughing and learning is the best we can do.

You Give Christ a Bad Name

There just might be a difference between being a follower of Jesus and a Christian.

There’s a Tik Tok trend I’ve seen recently that rings pretty true in my opinion. It portrays a group of people in a contemporary Christian praise/worship service, singing away, arms upheld to God. The caption says something like, “Christians in church after they’ve voted to cage children, suppress women’s rights, and worship a cheater, etc.” I’m paraphrasing, but you can look it up and check me.

I’m a Christian who, because of folks like this, is feeling more comfortable calling myself a follower of Christ rather than the name that associates me with people like that. And that sucks. Because with all the divisiveness in this nation of ours, faith should be one of those things that unite. And yet, even that has gotten messy.

In trying to figure out where I should stand on issues because I care about clarity and integrity on the stances I take, I look to my north star, which for me is Jesus. As someone who believes in Christ and His care for all of us, I need to know what He thinks. The more I’ve studied and reflected on His life and the way He lived when He walked among humans, the more convinced I am that Trump-supporting Christians who refuse to denounce his dishonesty, infidelity, racism, cruelty, lack of integrity, and disregard for humanity, have got it so completely wrong.

Remember this: The KKK uses the cross to terrorize people.

All the God-talk during the RNC made me want to throw a vase at my TV and then projective vomit all over the smoking ruins of my Samsung. But my TV needed to live another day, so I did some Bible study while watching. And that only proved that what I was seeing—what these Christians were supporting—was very different from what I was finding in the good book. Hypocrisy aplenty.

If you read about Jesus in the Bible, He was the opposite of what many Christians are currently standing for. Which is, in my opinion, a way of religious life more closely resembled Pharisees than anything. And you all know who lobbied real hard for Jesus to be crucified, right?

Christ hung out with “questionable” people, not the upper echelons of society. He didn’t do things the way the ruling class did, he called them out on it. He told rich people to give up their money and follow him. He welcomed the lowest of the low in society to eat with him talk to him. He told us to care for widows and orphans—as in feed and clothe them from our wealth—not expect them to claw their way out of the hovels of their poverty by themselves.

What did he think about rich people getting richer and twisting religion up in it? Check out the story of what happened when greedy fools took over the temple to line their pockets. Jesus let them have it, and in doing so made a very strong point about the sanctity of faith and what He thought about greed and greedy people. Was he going to stand by for such a hijacking? Nope. He didn’t, and neither should we (if you are a believer).

The modern-day irony of it all: the hijacking of a faith that came from a man who taught goodness, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness, by people who play by a different set of rules than that.

If you care about fakes as opposed to real deals, now is the time to set yourself apart. If you identify as a Christian and care about being true followers of Christ, your best examples aren’t going to be found in “Christians” whose actions fly in the face of the teachings of Jesus. The real deals might not be found in abundance in many churches for that matter, but they’re out there.

To riff a line from a campfire song that sounds like it was written in the 60s by a bunch of flower toting hippies, “You will know we are Christians by our love.”

So if you happen to be looking, that’s the thing to look for.