WWSD (What would Satan do?): A New Grassroots Movement

WWSD (What would Satan do?): A New Grassroots Movement

WWJD (What would Jesus do) was a popular phrase in evangelical circles in the 1990’s. It originated from a sermon given by Charles Spurgeon, a notable evangelical preacher, in 1891. In it’s brilliancy, the phrase has lasted now well over 100 years, and is a bedrock of modern evangelical Christianity. The question, what would Jesus do, causes us to look in our consciences and ask our hearts if our choices would be something that Jesus would choose. Following Jesus means we try and imitate him, his thoughts, and ways.

In the 1990’s, Janie Tinklenberg, a youth group leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, began a movement to inspire the teens in her group to remember the phrase, WWJD? when faced with difficult choices.  Soon this spread worldwide and Christian kids began wearing WWJD bracelets. This movement spread like wildfire. It was beautiful. I remember being part of the WWJD movement. It taught me that when I was faced with peer pressure, to ask myself WWJD?

Maybe it worked for some, but it never worked for me. I still engaged in all the things I wasn’t supposed to; dancing, drinking, smoking, and rounding third base (but not quite home plate). The movement had good intentions BUT entirely focused on the wrong issues. It turned Jesus into a constant guilt Fitbit, measuring your steps that counted toward being a good Christian. WWJD wasn’t so much about lifting the oppressed, but rather pushing you down in guilt. There were some beautiful elements, and some toxic elements.

What if we shifted this phrase to cause us to look around the world and see the dark elements that are in play? What if we asked ourselves when observing an issue, not only WWJD, but also WWSD (What would Satan do?) I don’t necessarily believe in a literal “Satan” like I used to, or what I was taught to. However, I do believe in the principles of darkness that seek out to kill, steal, and destroy. We should be asking these questions right now in every issue we are lending our voices to. Not to push us toward guilt, but to expose the darkness, so that we may see how to shine light in it. Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light.

For example: WWJD regarding healthcare in the United States? WWSD regarding healthcare in the United States?

My answer in it’s simplicity:

Jesus would want us to make sure every human being was given medical care, to heal and improve life.

Satan would deny humans healthcare, seeking death for the sick, and stealing life and happiness.

I implore everyone to try it with all issues facing us today such as; police brutality against black Americans, racist monuments, bombing the entire country of North Korea (including innocent men, women, and children), Puerto Rico aid, LGBTQ rights, climate change, etc.

Another example:

What would Jesus do about LGBTQ?

Jesus would love them, unconditionally, and not make them feel like evil people that shouldn’t exist, or have happiness or equality.

What would Satan do about LBGTQ? 

He would convince a lot of people that they are following Jesus by mistranslating his worldview, making them think LGBTQ are evil, unsaved, hellhound, immoral, and living a choice.

I have started a hashtag on twitter #WWSD, with a tweet that reads, “If you’re tired of evil being touted as Jesus, tweet something the GOP/Trump is doing with the hashtag #WWSD (what would Satan do?)
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This isn’t to say that I am calling these people Satan, but they are engaging in policies that kill, steal, and destroy. Before we can start turning this around and start loving our neighbors as ourselves we must recognize the ways in which we all are engaging in the principles of darkness. We must see the log in our own eye before we can pluck the dust out of someone else’s eye. This is not meant to cause guilt or shame. We can choose to repent (change our minds), and begin to engage in the light, which is love. Never forget that it is never too late to begin again in grace and forgiveness for ourselves, and others.

In conclusion, I hope this movement WWSD grows and spreads. We need to expose the dark and we need to transform it with light. WWSD, or #WWSD on twitter, will raise awareness to issues, toxic theology, corrupt politics, and hopefully cause people to think outside the box and change their hearts to move toward love and restoration for all.

I hope you will join this new grassroots movement, WWSD?

 

 

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Dear Christian Conservative: An Open Letter from an Ex-evangelical

Dear Christian Conservative: An Open Letter from an Ex-evangelical

 

Dear Christian conservative,

I do not know how to co-exist with you anymore and that breaks my heart. It’s all I’ve ever really wanted, an authentic relationship that thrives with love, grace, laughter, and compassion. Instead the divide has deepened and the separation has grown. I wish I could change things as there has always been an instinct that knows that division is not the way. Unity is the way, however, there is no room at your table for someone with the likes of me. It is your religion that chooses who sits at the table. It isn’t you, and I know that, deep down. You’ve been robbed of relationship. I’ve been robbed too. So when you see me critiquing evangelicalism/fundamentalism, I’m not attacking you but the very system that has broken both of our hearts.

I’m at a total loss. Maybe you don’t know how much effort, prayer, and pain I have undergone trying to keep my worldview and faith the same as yours. I knew the whole time that I was going to lose you, and it isn’t fair. I didn’t try to lose my religion, it wasn’t a choice, but rather something that happened to me, and I’ve been doing my best to deal with it. I know I must look like I’m crazy. I feel like an embarrassment because I know all you ever wanted was for me to grow to be a faithful, church-going Christian conservative, and married to a deacon, or a Christian man with a nice Christian family. I know it hurts you to see what I’ve become. However, it isn’t your heart that tells you that I’m wayward. It’s your religion.

Your religion has taught you to cut yourself off from the world. I am the world now. Evangelicalism has taught you that you must say the sinners prayer or else you’ll go to hell. I now am an agnostic student of Jesus that flirts with atheism. Your religion tells you that LGBTQ is a sin, an abomination, and a choice. My son might be LGBTQ. Some of my best friends are LGBTQ.

So what am I supposed to do? I certainly don’t have any clue. I keep waiting for you to see the light but there is a door as wide as Texas blocking it. I’ve watched this president you support get a pass on the most despicable character traits. I’ve looked at your apathy about the racist civil war monuments. I’ve watched your support of the firing of NFL football players kneeling to raise awareness of police brutality against black Americans. I’ve watched your support of this president’s budget that defunded domestic violence programs, and I am a survivor. Your religious leaders such as Franklin Graham is praising a speech from Donald Trump saying “Kill them all” in reference to North Korea. Your religion is supporting taking healthcare away from 34 million people. Your religion worships guns and will not bend at all in programs aimed at reducing gun violence. Your religion is going along with all of this. It would take me all day to chronicle every deplorable action you’re being complicit in.

Yet, I am the one who is on their way to the flames. I don’t believe that. I love everyone. I just want the best for everyone. I want everyone to be treated equally. I want everyone to be able to get medical care if they need it. I want to help reduce alcoholism, drug use, and suicides among LGBTQ. I want the racial divide to end. I want this religious divide to disappear, as I see the hurt it causes. I have a good heart, a hopeful heart, and it pains me that your religion keeps you from seeing it. It hurt when I heard you say you couldn’t hypothetically vote for me, but yet you voted for such a terrible human being.

What is the solution? I forever feel like I will be part of the “secular world” that your religion tells you to have nothing to do with. To you I am an evil liberal, a “baby killer”.  I was primed with this rhetoric, so I know that is what you’re feeling.  I feel that instead of just seeing me, in all of my honesty and authenticity, I will always be seen as a huge disappointment and treated like a conversion project. I will always be in the wrong. At this point, if you continue these views and align yourself with this president, you’ll always be in the wrong to me. Your beliefs are hurting others, and you need to see that and own that.

I cannot pretend to not know how you feel. I was taught to feel the same way. My whole life I was taught to basically run away and distance myself from myself, my true self, my future self. It isn’t fair. I’ve done nothing wrong but study, pray, reflect, and try to understand the belief system because I was trying my best to follow Christ. Imagine how painful it was for me to realize how distant my religion was from the words of Christ. I felt lied to. I felt betrayed. Not from you, but from the system.

If you really examine this institution, how is it benefiting you? It’s keeping you from loving others. It’s cutting you off from enriching relationships and experiences. It’s keeping you from being an advocate for the suffering. It’s holding you back and pressing you down in it’s sexist theology. It makes you live in fear and guilt. I see the guilt you feel for simply forgetting to pray before dinner. Why don’t you feel guilty though for being complicit in policies that are hurting others? This system is using you, politically, to fight a culture war, increase wealth for the rich, and that breaks my heart.

There is an entire community, growing by the day, that have no choice but to choose. Do we choose ourselves or do we choose to chase love from people we will never receive it from? Not truly. I can’t chase anymore. I can’t allow myself to feel the pain of being on the outside looking in. I have too much work to do, too many voices to raise.

We have had to completely start over. We’ve lost a lot; our families, our community, and our foundation that fell apart-very easily believe it or not. It was like our religion was a piece of neatly folded origami, and as one piece came undone, the whole structure unfolded leaving us all with a blank sheet of paper to try and fill.

I cannot stop speaking out against this system. It is imperative for others like me to find other kindred spirits. We are all so very alone. We’ve been alone, our whole lives. We were listening the whole time, knowing we never belonged.  However, I will cling to hope and believe that one day eyes will be opened to what we are pointing out, and someday, we won’t be enemies by religion’s creation. Until then, I will stay raised up, perhaps on my own, because if I allow myself to be pressed down, then I have no strength left for others who are beneath your foot, including yourself.

Love,

An ex-evangelical/former fundamentalist Christian

 

Dear America, We Need to Unite These Divided States.

Dear America, We Need to Unite These Divided States.

Dear America,

It is vital right now that we see this  NFL controversy for what it is. It is an orchestrated attempt to divide the United States of America. This hasn’t been new and the “powers that be” have been collectively working toward this division since the inception of this beautiful experiment of America, the new world.

This new world was ideally supposed to be about freedom and equality. A country that would grant you civil rights on the basis of just being human. It was a world where you can belong to any religion, or no religion, and still be granted the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. It is a world where we can speak out against issues that are hurting other Americans, even if that means opposing the leader. This ideal was never perfect. It has brought forth challenges for what that freedom and equality means. Certain citizens understand what this means and they have fought for this ideal, showing the most respect for our country one can show.

From the civil war, to the civil rights movement, to the fight for the rights of  LGBTQ, there have been the fighters/the progressors, and there have been the opposers. All of those fights have one thing in common. All of them take perseverance through time and struggle. Here we are in 2017 still fighting against racism as our president refuses to acknowledge police brutality and racial injustice, and instead calls those speaking out peacefully, “sons of bitches.” Our president is calling the mothers of these black football players “bitches.” These women have faced far more oppression and strife than I,  and have raised their sons to be conscious of human suffering, to be courageous and withstand insults, hate, and possibly losing millions of dollars.

These mothers are not “bitches”, they’re heroes. They began and continued the thread of progress and fight for equality in America, the land I love, the land that is increasingly becoming less like what it is supposed to be. I kneel with them out of reverence for the deep hurt and stain our nation can no longer hide.

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Since the inception of Donald Trump, racists have gained a voice. They’ve gained a powerful, rich man with a trucker hat, pretending to be one of them to further the divide and give rise to racist voices all over this country. We are watching and we do see what is happening. Like many of you, I’ve had to come to terms with people in my family that have began to lend their voices to the opposition of equality. I’ve had to try and make sense of it and try and love despite the ugliness I now am forced to look past. It isn’t easy. Donald Trump knows this and he wants us to hate each other.

I refuse to hate anyone. I may think what someone believes in is disgusting because I see how those beliefs are hurting others. I can’t change that, and I will not. I will take a stand for the suffering. I will take a stand for the oppressed. If that means being beaten down with insults, hate rhetoric, toxic Christian rhetoric, threats, etc., I will endure it. I will still stand, speak, and fight in word and deed for all. I would fight for the people against me too, however, I don’t see their suffering. How are they suffering aside from their own consciences?

I see that their bigotry, racism, nationalism, and elitism is causing their suffering, even if they don’t realize how poisonous it is to their spirit. If your beliefs hurt others, there is no possible way those same beliefs aren’t hurting you. We are all connected, all humans, all sharing the same space.

I refuse these attempts to bait me into hating the other side. It is what Donald Trump wants…for this country and its’ people to hate each other. It is what Russia wants. It is what all of our enemies, foreign and domestic, desire.  Divided we fall, America.

I implore everyone, Trump supporter or not to see that we are puppets in this charade. Every divisional tactic that could be used in the past year and a half, since the beginning of the presidential campaign, has been used, played, and is gaining speed. We need to wake up as a nation and see what the game is that is being played. The game is dividing America, and we are the players.

In conclusion, they can hate me all they want. They can call me any name in the book or throw whatever hate language, sarcasm, or apathetic “black lives matter” jokes they feel they must. I am still going to use my voice publicly to fight oppression. I will still advocate for all United States citizens to have healthcare. I will still love beyond the belief system of the person, but that does NOT mean I will not call out the ideologies that are hurting other people, including them.

We must refuse the barbaric human tendency to engage in this civil war that is brewing. I’m not going to fight my brother and sister with hate. I’m going to try however I can to fight them with love. Sometimes love means setting healthy boundaries. Sometimes it means distance. Until I can stop being furious, I will stay in peace, strength, and nurturing the reserves of my heart.

We will need those reserves, America. We need them now.

Love will win, but we absolutely all need to take a deep breath, and hold on to whatever love is left, in order to help it grow in this darkness and threat of losing it.

Sincerely,

An American Citizen

World Peace
World Peace

 

“I don’t need your civil war.” -Guns N’ Roses

 

DACA and the Gospel: Jesus is a DREAMer

DACA and the Gospel: Jesus is a DREAMer

 

 

If you grew up in Fundamental American Christianity, chances are you sung the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” countless times throughout your childhood in the church. It was written by preacher Clarence Herbert Woolston in the late 1800’s and it gives children a very simple, yet beautiful global message with these lyrics:

Jesus loves the little children,

All the children of the world,

Red and Yellow, Black and White,

They’re all Precious in his sight,

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

As an impressionable child who knows nothing of borders, politics, immigration statuses, world religions, nationalism, or racism, the meaning of this song isn’t hard to understand or digest. As children, it is natural that all children, all people, rather, are precious. We learn elitism and privelage, it isn’t born in us. This song that we learned as children has become counter-cultural in the current age, especially here in America. We have been conditioned by society that some children mean more than others.

Currently, we have the religious right accepting and supporting building a “Great Wall” at the U.S./Mexico border that will cost taxpayers anywhere from 10 billion USD to 40+ billion USD, depending on which economic estimate you examine. They are willing to spend potentially billions of life saving dollars to ensure privilege for some of God’s children, while ensuring continued poverty and starvation for other children of God, other little children that Jesus loves.

Recently, Donald Trump has rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) ,putting the lives of 800,000 humans or DREAMers in limbo. This program shields these undocumented immigrants from deportation. In order to be eligible for the program, they must meet several requirements including; arriving illegally as a minor, they must be employed or in school, and have no criminal record.

These dreamers came to the United States illegally when they were under the age of 16 years old. Most of them were under the age of 10, the largest percentage were just 3 years old. They’ve built lives here. They have friends, jobs, and are contributing to their communities here. This is the only home they really know, and now they are under the threat of deportation and the despair of being sent to a a country wherethey are strangers. Some of them are school teachers,  college students, and several hundred are currently serving in the United States Military. 91% are employed, paying income taxes, and 100% have no criminal record. Deporting them makes no moral sense or fiscal sense.

The silence from the evangelical community regarding Trump’s immoral acts and malice to the gospel of Jesus Christ continues, and the latest attack on DREAMers is one more candle on the cake. What is Jesus to this religious institution? Do they not realize that when they deport the foreigner, they are deporting Jesus? Jesus clearly says that those that do not help the least of these (the poor, the sick, the foreigner/stranger, the prisoners) are not helping Him. He further tells those that turn their eyes from the least of these to depart from him, calls them cursed, and tells them they’re wicked and deserving of punishment. See Matthew 25: 31-46

Are we expected to be perfect in helping the least of these? No. The Gospel also breathes grace and opportunity to repent and do better. Clearly, this recent act of rescinding the DACA is an opportunity for all of us to see Jesus in this situation, respond compassionately, and in a way that honors the Gospel.

I can only hope that perhaps this is a catalyst for change or eyes to open to love and resisting nationalism. Some of us are awake to this and have faced cruel opposition when we speak of the precious value of all humans living and breathing on earth. When we resist this idea of nationalism and elitism, we are insulted and accused of being ignorant “libtards”. We are accused of being unpatriotic and taunted with uncompassionate ideologies such as “we should take care of Americans first.” Why? Why should we only be concerned about people that were born here?

This is not what Jesus would tell me. Jesus, I’m sure would tell me to use all the innovative, technological, monetary resources we have to reduce suffering for all the children of the world. Jesus would tell me to resist the fear that somehow taking care of others would deplete my resources to take care of myself and my loved ones. Jesus would tell me that another, better world is possible if only we would change our ways.

Not only are wall resistors and DACA defenders insulted, we are being bullied with fear based Christian rhetoric. Somehow being a person with a bleeding heart for the globe has been equated with Satan and his “one world agenda.” To complicate things further, the rapture theology is thrown in where any global movement toward world peace and equality is somehow anti-Christ. This theology is man made, complicated, and only serves the powerfully rich global aristocrats who have historically thrived on keeping the poor down, divided, at war, and increasing. Somehow they’ve conditioned Christians to be unconcerned with this life, and only concerned with the afterlife, even though Jesus continuously seemed unconcerned with the afterlife. He mentioned THIS world and called us to be the light of THIS world and eliminate/reduce suffering for all.

Love is such a simple theological concept, and I struggle to see the love stemming from the religious right. My hope is that they remember the simplicity of the Jesus they learned about as children and also that whatever we do to and for one another, we are doing to Jesus.

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25-44-45

 

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Image attributed to Rhododendrites

Empty the Pews: Top 10 Reasons I Support #EmptythePews on Twitter

Empty the Pews: Top 10 Reasons I Support #EmptythePews on Twitter

It has been almost six years since I emptied the pews of church. I haven’t been back, and I do not see myself ever returning. There are so many of us that have left. The more of us that connect, the growing movement and mass exodus out of toxic Christianity is spreading like wildfire. The support system is massive, loving, and welcoming. We discuss our stories, heartbreaks, struggles, triggers, and most importantly the hope we’ve found outside the church doors. Leaving saved my life, and has saved countless others lives too.

Many try and point us to progressive churches. We know there are loving churches and we are grateful they exist, however, for us, the psychological triggers of anything resembling church are too damaging to our recovery. I implore everyone to truly just try and understand us ex-evangelicals and former fundamentalists.

#EmptythePews is now trending on Twitter. It was created by ex-evangelical Christopher Stroop. In a simple yet poignant statement, He began the hashtag with a tweet that reads “If you left Evangelicalism over bigotry and intolerance or this election specifically, please share your story w/the hashtag #EmptythePews. The message has resonated with so many people and the response has been overwhelming. It continues to grow and I encourage others to join the movement.

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Here are my top ten reasons why I love and support #EmptythePews and hope others follow our lead and leave toxic Christianity:

  1. I now can trust my own intellect. I no longer feel like an impossible person that shouldn’t exist. I no longer have to pretend I believe things I don’t believe. I now can openly reject this sexist theology that women are beneath men in intellect, or incapable of leading and preaching. I do not suffer major cognitive dissonance as I sift through science and try and reconcile factual evidence of evolution with creationism. My brain no longer is lying to myself telling me that talking snakes are real, giants existed, Jonah was spit out alive after three days of being inside the stomach of a whale, and billions of earth’s species fit onto one boat. I’ve never been able to accept any of that, among countless other illogical stories, and yet I felt so guilty and shameful that I didn’t.
  2. I no longer await the rapture. I used to have this false hope that someday, if I was good enough, and deemed a true believer, that Jesus would come get me and take me to heaven. I was taught to celebrate world catastrophes, rumors of wars, and natural disasters, as all of this meant Jesus is coming soon. I was taught that the world will get worse and to sit back and wait for escape. There was no need for political action or any type of movement toward progress because the earth was going to be destroyed anyway. I could sit back and relax and await the coming of Jesus. However, in my heart I also felt overwhelming responsibility to make sure others were saved so they wouldn’t be left behind. I didn’t want anyone to be left behind. So this false hope was riddled with guilt and a sense of pride because in leaving earth because I was good enough meant a terrible fate for my friends and other humans who weren’t Christian. Also, I was plagued with uncertainty that I was truly a believer and what if I was left behind?
  3. I no longer fear that I will be left behind. My childhood was spent gripping my blankets at night terrified of being left behind in the rapture. I once came home when I was six years old and no one was around. Immediately, I thought the rapture happened and God took my family and left me, because I wasn’t sincere enough in believing. This fear lasted most of my life, and I cannot tell you the freedom I have now after realizing this is false theology.
  4. I now can love others just as they are. People were conversion projects my entire life. I was taught to cut myself off from the world. My friendships and relationships had conditions as my sole purpose in their lives was to get them saved. If they weren’t Christian, I kept them at an arms length, always having this responsibility to fix them. My life is now enriched with guilt-free and conditional-free, healthy friendships with people of all religions, atheists, agnostics, sexual orientations, or any other secular label. I don’t have this sense of elitism or desire to control the outcome of my friendships. It has been life changing and truly beautiful embracing other humans and letting them in my life.
  5. I am free to love the music I love. Music is one of the best things about being alive. I was steered clearly away from all secular music, as it was sin. I never listened though, and hid music from my mother, and always felt guilty about my secret love for secular music and my detest for Christian rock. Jars of Clay and Amy Grant just didn’t do it for me. I really tried to love it though, for God. The true joy I felt when listening to Pearl Jam, Metallica, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Tori Amos, etc., was stolen from me by a “God” that condemned it. Loving these bands meant I was loving Satan. Again, I was an impossible person that shouldn’t exist. Now I can appreciate all art and human creativity without feeling like I belong in Hell.
  6. I am not self-destructive any longer. I wasted years, a couple decades rather, being unable to love myself. Guilt, shame, and fear kept me from accepting myself because I didn’t feel accepted by God. I was never good enough. I couldn’t walk this impossible, narrow road, so I learned depression. Helplessness. Hopelessness. I abused alcohol to escape the pain. In doing so, only added to the depression because drinking alcohol was a sin, and further separated me from the love of God. Ironic that leaving religion set me free from my dependence of alcohol. I no longer want to abuse alcohol anymore because I love and care about myself. I truly love me for me, and accept all of my failures and weaknesses. I don’t feel helplessness at the hand of God’s judgement or other people’s opinions. I want to make healthy choices because I care about myself and have found empowerment by finding that love within.
  7. I don’t want to die anymore. It saddens me to no end that this religion has caused others and myself thoughts of suicide. The shame of just being human is overwhelming. The early stages of losing this religion are riddled with thoughts and isolation as well. We can’t stay in it any longer, and yet when you find yourself on the outs, you have to embrace an entirely new identity, one that is not accepted from family or others in church culture. It takes a long time in recovery to work through the psychological damage. Looking back I cannot believe I ever let this religion or other people’s opinions of me bring myself to such a low point. There are so many other people in these same shoes. Suicides and suicide attempts are exorbitant among LGBTQ, especially if they were raised in evangelical/fundamentalist homes. Again, they feel like impossible people that shouldn’t exist.
  8. I am not afraid of hell anymore. I’ve probably said the sinners prayer 1000 times throughout my life. I was hoping that the more I said it, God would understand I was sincere and not send me to eternal torture. I don’t even believe in a God that would send any of his creation to eternal fire and torture. I never truly believed that and always questioned it. After all, God loves us right? I wouldn’t send anyone to hell, so why would God? Do I love others more than this God? Doubtful.
  9. I now have hope and expectation for a better world (Kingdom of Heaven), and am committed to action in bringing this about. From policies aimed at countering climate change, furthering equality, and healthcare for all, I now am active in progressing this world toward a better future for our kids. It is up to us and it is within our capabilities to transform the earth and reduce suffering for all.
  10. I can now follow the words and teachings of Jesus outside of this institution. Jesus spoke of loving others unconditionally. He taught healing the sick, raising the oppressed, treating others how you want to be treated, and not judging others for their “sins.” In simple terms, Jesus told us we are set free by grace, and now we can be a light unto the world and make it better for others. Watching this institution support Donald Trump has exposed this religion for what it is, a haven for greed, bigotry, nationalism, and racism. Their support of his policies and ideology are definitely anti-Christ, which is all the more reason why I hope people continue to #EmptythePews. The fate of the world actually depends on it.