Author: Paul Swearengin

In his 30-year career spanning broadcast media, professional ministry and healthcare industry management, Paul Swearengin has honed the ability to cast a vision, take giant leaps of faith, build teams, and overcome obstacles to pursue that vision. His professional experience includes TV and Radio sportscasting, raising $4 million in private equity for a sports radio company, serving on the startup team of a large healthcare company, and birthing and growing a non-denominational church. Now, a licensed minister in the business world, Paul has poured his multifaceted skills into the executive coaching, writing and podcasting to inspire people to positively impact the world around them.

September 27, 2020

Jesus Looks Different Than We Think: & The Five Things I’ve Learned in Becoming 55

On the recent celebration of my 55th birthday, my wife asked me to share five (and a half) things I’ve learned in my half-century +5 of life. Since five is the number of grace and wisdom I thought it might be appropriate to consider. So here we go: Five Important Things I’ve Learned in Fifty-Five Years of Life.

(1) If you want to be “Christ-like” you must know what Christ is like

The word “Christian” means “follower of Christ” or, more literally, “little Christ.” Yet it seems that less and less American Christians look like the Christ we actually see in the Bible. We look more like the blue-eyed, patriotic, gun-toting American Jesus that we invented, rather than one in the Bible – the suffering servant who constantly scolded well-to-do, religious, law-and-order people of the Bible.

It’s interesting that, when presented with the choice of Jesus, the suffering servant and Barabbas, the zealot who wanted to rebelliously overturn the government, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day stirred up the people to choose the one they believed could give them governmental power. It very much seems today’s religious leaders would stir up the people to choose government power over looking like Christ. Read the Bible – that idol we created called “American Jesus” simply isn’t in there.

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(2) Jesus is not coming soon: “morning or night or noon.”

We used to sing this snappy ditty – “Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon.” As catchy as the tune may have been, it’s actual meaning – you better have your crap buttoned up because if you went to a movie theater or were listening to rock music, you were going to be “left behind” at any moment and soon the “666” would be slapped on your forehead.

The trauma of twelve-year-old me believing my family had been taken and I was judged unworthy to go is bad enough, but the real damage of these end times beliefs have been much more far-reaching.

The “rapture” belief that Jesus would soon take us “good” people out the world and blow up all the rest has caused us to neglect the environment, celebrate big government deficits or refuse to invest in infrastructure for future generations. It also has caused many Christians not only spend an inordinate amount of time looking for evil in crazy conspiracy theories, it gives them reason to celebrate it, as affirmation, when they do find it – invented in their own minds or not.

The command of the Bible, however, is to treat the world, as a bride preparing for a groom to return for a wedding. Nobody allows their wedding venue to be trashed and neglected. They prepare it to be the most beautiful it can be. Christians need to know this is their job and the rest of us need to know we’re not going to be left behind.

(3) If we don’t know who we really are how will We live the way we’re supposed to live

I work as an executive coach and often work with Christians who’ve been consistently taught to see themselves as “dirt” – terrible creatures who are fortunate God doesn’t zap them right now. This view of a harsh God causes them to display this harshness to others around them.

The whole of the Bible story, however, is of a creator passionately pursuing the creatures that were created in order to reassure them they were declared “good” even before they existed. Knowing that story causes us to want to look like the benevolent creator as much as possible, not find someone else to mistreat since we are so mistreated by the judge of us.

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(4) God is OK if you change your mind. In fact, he commands you to.

The idea that we have to defend our beliefs at all cost and call “Fake News” or label as “liberal” any idea that disagrees with us goes against the command of the Bible to not be “conformed to this age” (to your own bubble.” The passage says we are to be transformed by the ongoing renewal of our minds.

The problem with Christians who say “I live by scripture” are often actually living by their preferred interpretation of the Bible and rarely stop to consider there are other Christians who read the text differently. In fact, our churches have created a fear of “being deceived” that implores us to never consider other thoughts and beliefs – or people who believe other things – as worthy of our time.

Jesus scolded the religious leaders of his day for “taking away the keys to knowledge.” There’s a proverb in the Bible that says “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” In other words, God created wisdom, science, debate, learning – if we understand our true identity as valuable and not dirt, we will understand it is our duty and privilege to search out deeper understanding. 
A person shouldn’t be afraid to learn. All there is to lose is bondage to an old mindset.

(5) Things might get ugly, but it’s going to be OK

Much of Christian political thought today is based upon fear – “If we don’t for the right candidate, our religion will be gone. Or we spend time screaming “socialism” or some other scary word about some boogeyman.
There is no doubt in my mind we are in tumultuous times and there are even deeper troubles ahead, but, in the story of the Bible, those times of “shaking” were important to a people remembering what was really important and having their ‘faces and hearts turned back to God.”
Yes, our systems of culture might be in great peril now, but let’s not assume that’s the worst thing to happen. Perhaps these times are bringing some heart issues into the light – particularly in those of the Christians belief system, that need to be dealt with and changed.

Yes, the coming weeks and months might be difficult, but I am convinced something letter is on the other side. It might take the transition of a generation, but a “new” and “better us” is on the other side. 

(5/and a half (at my wife’s request)) – It’s awesome to have a son born on your birthday

It’s awesome to share your birthday with a son, as my last 18 birthdays have been. Well, it’s half awesome, actually, because it means my birthday is now second string to his. Small price to pay though for a father to have an amazing son! Do you think God feels the same about you and me? Are we worth it to him? And all of those people around us, as well?

September 18, 2020

What If Truth Mattered?

"...You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth..."

John 16:13

"...our press secretary, gave alternative facts."

Kellyanne Conway, Presidential Advisor

There was a day when Christians valued “truth” – almost to an unhealthy level. Those days seemingly are gone, now, however, as Christians appear more than willing to accept “alternative facts” from their side of the political aisle. Conway introduced the term into our cultural lexicon in 2017 while attempting to defend President Trump’s outrageous claims of his inaugural ceremony crowd being “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” This despite clear photographic evidence to the contrary. Conway’s display of her legendary ability to say to say easily disprovable things with the seriousness of an assassin signaled to all that we were living in a “post-truth era” where facts were now in the eye – or ear – of the beholder.

Right-wing Evangelical Christians not only believed what Conway was spinning out, they seemed to prefer her “facts.” This is odd to me since my evangelical youth group training often centered on the importance  of “absolute truth.”

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“That’s a brown chair, right?” Said the evangelical youth minister of my childhood as he loudly and emphatically placed an office chair in the middle of our circle. “If I told you it was a ‘blue seagull’ that would be untrue, wouldn’t it?” The question brought chuckles from the group.

“If I told you it was not a solid, that would be untrue, wouldn’t it?” he stated while rapping his knuckles on the chair. “Any other explanation of the chair would be untrue, correct?”

“Actually, it’s mostly made of air,” I said, raising my hand. The youth minister gave me a stern glance and continued on.

“That this is a solid, brown chair is an absolute truth and it will always be a solid brown chair, no matter what anyone else might say,” he stated with a serious look.

“Well, the Bible says all of these things will pass away and what is unseen will last forever…” The youth minister held up his palm to stop my statement as he closed his eyes in exasperation.

“Despite Paul’s technicalities,” he said after a deep breath, “we must believe in absolute truth so the ‘relativists’ don’t deceive us in these last days.”

The youth minister’s attempted demonstration was to highlight that “elite thinkers,” who dabbled in questioning the stalwart message taught to us in church were threats not only to truth, but to our very souls and to the Christian values that made America a great country. “Truth matters” we were told.

That was then, however, this is now.

Today, Christians are willing to put away belief in truth to follow our pragmatic hope that political alliances and victories can bring a hoped-for Christian takeover of government and an implementation of conservative Christian political causes.

Avoiding Truth in Order to Not See Truth

Example: The recent Atlantic story highlighting President Trump’s lack of respect for military personnel hardly made a blip on the social media pages of my Christian friends. That Trump called soldiers who fought in American wars “suckers” and “losers” was met with relative Christian indifference. My friends chose to believe the “alternative fact” that the use of anonymous sources made the story “fake news” with a complete blindness to the irony that many of these same people regularly follow and believe anonymous conspiracy website sources, such as QAnon.

Whether the story’s details are completely accurate, we already know this tone was already publicly set by the president’s refusal to acknowledge John McCain as a war hero because McCain “had been captured” and Trump only liked soldiers “who weren’t captured.” In normal times, such statements would be deal-breakers for Christians (who despise NFL players for taking a knee during the National Anthem, an act evangelicals and conservatives claim to be disrespectful to our military personnel.)

Example: Immediately following the Atlantic report came the recorded voice of the president saying, in February, that he knew the Coronavirus was dangerous, was airborne and could seriously infect even young children while admitting that he was publicly downplaying the virus. Surely, the president’s recorded words would be enough to prove to fervent conservative Christians that their beliefs the Coronavirus was a hoax – or at least a Democratic concoction – would melt away.

Not so, however. The evangelical community is too invested in their own narrative on the virus. Too needful of defending their own position that only another simple fib from the president is needed for the “absolutely truth” of the president’s own voice to be drown out by “alternative facts.” Believing truth is no longer the mark of a true American Christian. “Nothing to see here” pragmatism for political purposes is the new rule of the day.

Intellectual Dis-Honesty

Not only is “absolute truth” at a low ebb, but so is intellectual honesty. This was highlighted in a recent post that was cut-and-paste material on the walls of several Christian acquaintances:

The assertions in many lines of this “reasons list” misses that nearly every line has a partisan spin equating conservative ideals to a morally superior level than anyone who might think differently. This intellectual twisting shows that re-posters of this content are either gravely deceived or willfully dishonest. Either way, “absolute truth” is taking it on the chin and is down for the count.

The Dire Consequences of Alternate Facts

As of the writing of this blog we’re nearing 200,000 deaths for Covid-19. That’s 66 times the number people who died on 9/11. The cognitive dissonance of “alternate facts” has taken away the ability to grieve this horrific fact for a people commanded to “mourn with those who mourn.”

This desire for alternative facts has other dire consequences.

George Orwell wrote his book 1984 describing a day when a country would no longer be able to understand facts and, thus, would readily give over control of their government and lives to despotic leaders. Orwell called it “doublethink.” Today, we call it “alternative facts.”

Throughout history dictatorial leaders have sought to undermine media outlets and start their own propaganda agencies in order to manipulate truth to their own benefit.

When a democracy depends on a learned electorate, a lack of accountability to truth for our elected leaders is a danger to that democracy.

Our country is in grave danger of reaching this point today, if we haven’t already. Let’s face it – even most the fervent supporter of this president has to admit he at least plays a bit loose with details and willingly shares what seems reasonable in his own mind, even if it’s not true.

Truth must matter to us. “Facts are stubborn things” an elected leader once said – let’s make facts stubborn again. Securing a Supreme Court majority isn’t worth losing our ability to communicate in truth with one another. We have to let the Spirit of Truth guide us and not be afraid for public scorn for those who would try to make facts “alternate” – particularly our country’s enemies who wish to divide us against one another – can’t succeed. 

Let me recommend tips on how to Avoid Sharing Fake News and this article from the Fresno State Institute of Media and Public Trust. Let’s repent of political expediency and, once again, ask God to show us his ways, which are higher than ours, so we can get a heavens-eye view of our world today and turn from our own. It’s not too late that yet God might heal our land if we do.

August 8, 2020

Old Evangelicalism is Dying; A New Thing is Springing Up

This new Church will have the joy and community of the first Church in Acts 2 and will add people daily who are attracted by Christian love and not repelled by Christian politics.

July 26, 2020

Trap Questions Asked by Evangelicals: A Modern Day Parable

Jesus was often confronted with trap questions from the Pharisees, what might that look like today?

July 4, 2020

Are Christians Experiencing a ‘Hebrews 3’ Hardening of Their Hearts?

Jesus saw the pain of the dominant, oppressive religion of the day and was sharing a message that there was a new way to live

June 27, 2020

Letter to White Evangelicals from a Black Pastor

There have been no healing words; no show of Christian force to confront the fissures that allow these medical and racial viruses to thrive.

June 19, 2020

Why I Went to a Protest

It was humbling to stand there as the cars drove by. Many honked in support.

June 12, 2020

The Truth About Stats on Black Crime

This meme is a prime example of so many things that are wrong with internet memes. Let’s count the ways.

June 5, 2020

Are You For Law & Order? Or Riots?

My friend’s question, intentionally or not, was a reach for permission to ignore outcry about systemic racism…

June 2, 2020

What Will It Take to Acknowledge Racism

The Black community is asking for our help. Asking us to partner with them. And we are wasting our breath on arguments…

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