The Good Christian – Maniscalco Gallery

The Good Christian – Maniscalco Gallery

My Homily delivered at a service at

View the FB Live recording (my presentation starts at 15:15)

mini 7 heartThanks Carli and Matt. Thanks for having me again Waccamaw!

Don’t ya just love it when the grocery clerk says, “be blessed.” No, YOU be blest. I don’t want all that mojo, not at the grocery store. Right? We all know what she really means: “be like I’m pretending to be.” If you have to show off how good a Christian you are, you’re probably not a very good Christian.

Good Christian?! Now there’s an oxymoron. How can you be a good Christian? You’re a Christian because you are a bad person. Isn’t that what Christianity is all about, am I right? Do I hear an amen? No?

You’re bad. I’m bad. That’s why we become a Christian. Or a Unitarian. And you stay a Christian because you believe God is the good thing in you. Otherwise, you’re just a bad person who occasionally does good things. Truth is, you can’t be a Christian if you’re not, admittedly, a bad person.

But nobody wants to think of themselves as a bad person. We all think we’re basically good, right? Someone asks you how you doing? “Oh, I’m good.” Want any more Chicken? “No, I’m good.” Clean your room? “no, I’m good.”

But you can certainly be a person who does good things and be a terrible Christian. In fact, you don’t have to be a Christian at all to do good things. Lots of atheists do great things. You don’t need permission from anybody to do good things. By all means, just go ahead and do them, for God sakes!

So, if you’re a “Good Christian,” you’ve missed the whole point of being a Christian in the first place. Christianity is a bad only club. And since no one is entirely good or entirely bad, it behooves everyone to be a Christian. Or Unitarian, a Jew, or a Hindu or a Buddhist, or whatever. You kinda want to hedge your bets. But that’s how Christians, at least, rope you in. With all that guilt we feel about not being entirely good enough.

hallowedNow granted, some people are better at being a Christian than others. But only if they listen to what God is telling them. “God told me you need to have that baby.” Nope! That’s not how it works. Okay, God can talk to you about you. But He can’t talk to you about me. That’s the unspoken rule about Christianity that Christians love to break. Actually, it is a spoken rule, and it’s in the bible. “Judge not lest ye yourself be judged.” You don’t judge me and I don’t judge you. And you certainly Don’t get to judge that girl down the street who “got in trouble” with some dude! God’s gotta talk to that girl about what to do about that baby. Maybe God should be talking to that DUDE! Am I right? Do I hear an Amen. The only question, is he’s willing to listen?

I just heard the Catholic Church gave 3 million dollars in support of the anti-abortion referendum that recently lost in Kansas. And of course, we all know The Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. That alone should be enough reason to vote on November 8 – whatever your position might be on abortion and a woman’s right to choose. If you are pro birth and then think its okay to leave these children to a grim dog eat dog world, you should totally vote for that. I just don’t like that we have a bunch of old white men speaking for God. Cuz like I said, that’s not how God works. You might agree or disagree with what they’re saying BUT I can tell you, they aren’t speaking for God. God only speaks to us about us. That’s why we have the separation of church and state. I don’t want politicians deciding what’s right and wrong for me. You might. And that’s okay too. But that’s why we have to vote on November 8. So please, promise me you will do that.

So now, we’ve got this girl having to ask the government what she can or can’t do with her own body. And where’s the dude in all this? Trust me, God’s talking to him. But since the dude isn’t listening, why don’t we just get the federal government to come down and talk to him and leave that poor girl alone?

See, we’ve got it all backwards. If you want God to talk to other people then you better stop and listen to what he’s saying to you about YOU.



And You don’t get to tell me I’m going to heaven or hell. “You don’t know me.” You don’t know what’s in my heart. Only God knows that. God knows I’m a terrible Christian, or Unitarian or whathaveyou. And That’s all You need to know about me. I’m on a journey, and so is everyone else.

It’s like Abraham and his son, Issac. You gotta be willing to sacrifice something. And that something isn’t your kid. It’s your pride. If you ain’t willing to give that up, you are never going to make it as a follower of Christ or a Unitarian, a vegetarian, or even an Octogenarian! These people telling you God loves you, that God wants you just as you are? God doesn’t want you as you are. He wants you to give up something – your pride. He actually wants you to give up being who you are and follow him. That’s the dirty little secret behind Christianity. That’s why fewer and fewer people want anything to do with it. Not only because of the incredible hypocrisy of corrupt people telling you what God thinks you should do. But because nobody wants to give up being who they are. People are very attached to who they are. Our identity seems to be all we have. But is it?

(mooo ha ha ha! evil laugh)

But people using God as a pretense to control others — that’s disgraceful. And it needs to stop. These are the same people telling you to be a proud Christian, put the ickfish in your slogan, shout God God God, from the housetops. “I’m a good Christian! Look at me. I got the house, the wife, the car.” “You want some of this, come join our church.”

But God doesn’t want a proud people. He wants a humble people. He wants caring people, he wants hungry, caring people. Hungry for something you can’t have without him: Bottomless Compassion.

How about some compassion for that girl, for that baby she has to choose or not choose, to carry. Or for that dude who doesn’t give a hoot about either one of them. If anyone needs God’s compassion it’s that dude, the one who doesn’t want anything to do with God, that baby or that girl – let alone you and me preaching to him about what God wants him to do.

Oh, I’m sorry, you say that fella’s “a lost cause? He’s not interested, he’ll just laugh at me anyway. Plus he’s a creep, he’s not worth my time.” But you know, that’s exactly who God is after. That’s who He wants you to care about. That dude is the one who needs to know someone cares. Because if he saw compassion being modeled, who knows, he just might choose to do the right thing. So, let’s go talk to the dude. Listen to his story. You don’t need to tell him how to live his life. God will take care of that. The only thing we need to tell him is how we fail every day at being a follower of Christ, how terrible we really are at being Unitarian. How awful we are . . . about caring.

mini 6 AngelFor instance, You know, I didn’t want to give that money you gave me last time I was here, to that orphanage in Haiti. But I did it anyway. In fact, I triple matched it. Why? Because I felt such a good feeling when I thought about the good it would do. God planted that feeling in me. That was God’s gift – for me. And for you. I would have just as soon kept the money, but God spoke to me about me.

But giving money to a Christian orphanage? That’s a no brainer. That’s actually pretty easy, when you think about it. Pastor Medit, who runs the orphanage, said the money was much appreciated. That it provided food and shelter and schooling and protection for the 20 or so, sweet kids in his care. The need is glaringly obvious and now, greater than ever. The bread of Life Orphanage is fighting to protect these precious kids against the gangs that have shut off food and supplies, who are holding the entire country hostage. So that’s an easy decision, that I’m going to ask you again to make, to give to those in desperate need, in Haiti.

But to give to people who don’t want or need your help, who want nothing to do with your religion? That takes guts. God doesn’t just want me to give to charity. He asks that I give up myself. Like Jesus gave up himself. He asks me to share myself, to care for and about others. If you’re not willing to do that, then maybe being a Christian, or Unitarian, or whatever, pick your poison, just isn’t a good fit for you.

It’s the people who want nothing to do with God that you need to care about. Starting with that dude. Remember him? Did you know God cares about what that dude’s going through, the guilt and shame and fear and the crazy monumental effort it must take to pretend he doesn’t care about that girl, trying to run away, saying it’s not really his baby, that it’s not his responsibility.

Because truth matters. And his truth is, it wasn’t his fault. He thought he was in love. It felt like love. It always feels like love. And that must hurt him so bad that it wasn’t love. How could something that feels so good not be love? Right? Can I get an amen?

We don’t know what he’s thinking.

So what does it really mean to be a Christian? What Christianity is, and always has been about, is, frankly, giving a damn. It’s about allowing yourself to honestly care about another person. Salvation is accepting that someone cared enough to die for us. That’s also what love is, by the way.

That’s why it’s called the passion of Christ. We’re not playing for fancy cars or reputable repairs or the best batch of brownies at the church picnic. We’re talking about a person’s soul. And what is a person’s soul? It’s what he treasures above all else. It’s about caring for another person as if you were them. It’s that golden rule: do unto others what you wish someone would do for you. Putting on another person’s shoes. Even when we can’t really know what they are thinking, even if we ask.

Some people, they’re like “I don’t care. I’m good. Nothing really matters to me. Nothing phases me.” Something that dude probably might say.

I think those are the saddest people of all. The ones who say they don’t care. Because they’re lying to themselves. They’ve really convinced themselves that nothing matters to them. Until they lose someone or something that matters to them. Then they wake up. Some people don’t care until they lose everything. When they hit bottom. Then they wake up.

Christianity plays upon our fear of losing what we love. The “church people” don’t want you to know that for some reason. I think it’s because they really don’t want people to have to hit bottom like that, splat, in order to come to God. It’s not the fear of hell that brings people to church; it’s the fear of losing what we care most about or the anguish of having already lost it, that leads us to seek God. But still, churches arrange safer and cleverer ways to attract followers. Nicer ways, like picnics, retreats, rock concerts with loud music, smoke and lights. Toby Mack!

But at our core, we only really decide to be Christians because of that one primal need that must be satisfied. Someone cared about me. Someone cared about you. Someone asked us how our mom was doing. They remembered my name. God helps us find and exercise and nurture that part of ourselves that truly cares about others the way we want to be cared for. We all want to be known and appreciated for who we really are, warts and all. And when someone hits that dark place where they really believe no one cares about them, bad things can happen.

We are being asked to love even the most terrible among us – especially the most terrible. And love without conditions. That dude who got that girl pregnant and is bragging about his conquests to his friends? That boy needs to know he’s loved by someone who loves him even more than all the people who failed him, like maybe his mother or his child or his teacher. And he doesn’t need to know it’s God who loves him. He just needs to know that another person actually cares about him and truly loves him. Agape love. The love of God. Even if he’s a creep. That’s how God works.

Loving the truly unlovable among us, is what makes you a Christian. Not a good Christian, just a Christian. Being a Christian is to love the way a dog loves. And who wants to love like a dog? Because a dog begs, a dog grovels, and a dog loves unconditionally, a dog has no pride to interfere with that love. Did you know dog is God spelled backwards?  Even if you suck, if you neglect him, your dog will always love you. That’s what real Christian love is all about. Like a slave loves his master.

Can you love the womanizer, the rapist, the murderer?

Many relatives of the Emanuel nine massacre talked about forgiving Dylann Roof, even though he repeatedly said he didn’t want their forgiveness. Remember, I was the courtroom sketch artist during his trial and I saw the whole thing. I watched as each of them begged him to look at them, so they could forgive him. But he never flinched.

When Cute Children Grow UpI knew a lady, her name was Jackie, who volunteered to minister to Dylann in prison. No one else wanted to. After all, if anyone was irredeemable, it was him. What would be the point? Arguably, the most hated villain there ever was. But Jackie chose to love Dylan Roof. I remember having long conversations with her. I couldn’t understand her ministry. I said to her, “let him rot. There are so many people more deserving of your love and care than him.”

But she understood something I wasn’t able to, at the time. I’m still not quite sure I understand it now. That is, that it’s so easy to love the downtrodden, the hopeless, the destitute, the humbled. Orphans, the homeless, those who’ve hit bottom, are really the low hanging fruit when it comes to compassion.

But to love the dead-beat dad, the womanizer, the egotist. . . Trump – or Biden, if you prefer. Loving the rapist, the murderer. Now that’s God’s realm, for sure. Why Dylann Roof? How could God love him, after what he did? And why would Jackie care about him?

I always thought by “the least of these” God was talking about the poor and the hungry. Of course, he most definitely is talking about them. But He is also most certainly talking about the ones who are so wretched, no one else could possibly love them. God commanded that we love the least of these, like Dylann roof, surely among the very least of these.

God loves you at your worst. He loves you even when you make fun of him. Like I’ve done plenty, here today. But God gets it. He gets the way I am, the way we are. We don’t have to hide ourselves in shame. He knows we don’t really care enough. So, we ask that He give us the capacity to care, even when we can’t.

Truth is, I don’t know what that dude who got the girl in trouble was thinking. That lady, Jackie, who ministered to Dylann Roof? She probably didn’t really know what he was thinking. But she cared enough to listen to him. I wonder if after those sessions with Jackie, if ever did cared if anyone loved him. I certainly didn’t care if anyone loved him. But Jackie did. She is someone who understands the true meaning of being a Christian. To love the most wretched among us.


Thankfully, we don’t all have to go into the darkest prison to find out how God works. For me, I just need to love and accept my own kids, even when they disappoint me. Even when they don’t do what I’m certain is best for them. Fortunately, they’re easy to love.

My wife says she doesn’t care but really wants to care. She’s what they call Chill. I think what she’s really looking for is that truly satisfying feeling of loving the unlovable. She married me, didn’t she!!? She gets it. She’s a charity addict. She’s like the Tin Man singing with all his heart about wanting a heart. So, she gives care packages and a couple shekels to the homeless and enjoys when they pretend to be grateful, even though she really knows they aren’t. She doesn’t need their gratitude. She cares about them; she simply wants them to not be hungry. So, she feeds them. Sometimes I think, the less they appreciate it, the more she enjoys it.

My sister Betsy is a lifelong nurse, who cares about people deeply, even the ones I wish she wouldn’t. For the last year and a half her bathroom has remained in complete shambles, in the middle of a renovation that should have taken a couple weeks, now going on over 18 months – because she cares about this conman/felon who I told her she shouldn’t trust, but who she believed, just needed a break. Betsy cares.

And the totum pole Carli and Matt loved into existence.

I’m talking about crazy, blind, stupid compassion.

That’s what it means to be a Christian. It’s not very sexy. Or glamorous. Or even complicated. But it’s very satisfying. Or so I’m told. I still have a long way to go in the compassion department.

Jackie, my sister, my wife, all believe in unrelenting and unconditional love and care. And did I mention that kind of care comes with a price? Don’t forget, no good deed ever goes unpunished, as my kids learned this week. Don’t worry; I won’t go there. But trust me, that kind of caring often gets you in a lot of trouble. I think about that every time I try to use my sister’s bathroom.

John is WatchingWe all have to decide how deep we want to go into the sometimes dark, murky waters of caring. But just remember, God himself is on the side of those who dare to care. And we all know He’s pretty awesome.

So today I pray for myself and others, as we discover and perhaps deepen our tolerance for caring. And I remind you that we rarely know what another person is thinking and feeling or why people do what they do. People are jerks because they are hurting. Care about them anyway, not because of who they are but because of who you are. Caring is a practice. Start small. Work your way up.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “we are what we pretend to be.” Start by pretending to care and keep at it until it becomes real for you. Now that I think of it, maybe that cashier wishing me a blessed day, was onto something.

Thank you and have a blessed day.