Faith Like A Child

Shaky Kingdom: A Tiny Series on Christian Nationalism | Day 2

I’m in a bar with a friend who says with a detached resignation, “I wish I still had the faith of a child.” She had spent the last hour detailing a legacy of church hurt simultaneously heart wrenching and banal. Her story is one of hundreds I’ve heard. Being a queer Christian has forced me into these conversations regularly.

Christian Nationalists want to convince you that the reason the world is broken, the reason so many people are devoid of Christ’s influence and authority is because of what curriculum schools are indoctrinating children with. They want to convince you that a certain political party, news media, or TV show are brainwashing goodhearted children to leave the faith. As a person who is friends predominately with atheists and agnostics, the vast majority of whom grew up in the church, I have heard more stories than I can fit in my memory about people’s reasons for leaving the church. I can think of only two or three of those that left because they found Christian virtues boring and restrictive.

Here’s a drop in the bucket of the other stories I’ve heard of why people left the faith:

A woman who told me her last day in church was two days after she had an abortion. Her priest told her that because she went through with the appointment, she was no longer welcome.  

A woman who came out as a lesbian and could attend church but could no longer come up and receive communion.

A girl who relapsed on cocaine and, when she asked her youth pastor for help, he told her youth group friends they could no longer hang out with her because bad company corrupts good.

A girl who told her youth group friends and youth group leader that she had doubts about the authenticity of the Bible who said they would “pray for her to stop asking questions.”

A man fired from his job as a worship pastor because he said he thought the story of Noah on the Arc was an allegory instead of a historical event.

A boy who was sexually assaulted by a worship pastor.

A girl who heard the story of a Holocaust prisoner writing on the jail wall, “If there is a God, He will have to beg for my forgiveness.”


Do these stories sound like people who were lured away from religion by the evils of the world? Depending on your political and theological dispositions, I can see an argument forming. They got an abortion, chose to be gay, gave into temptation towards an addiction, heard and believed the devil’s lies about scripture. I can go there with you if that’s a more comfortable space to inhabit. Okay, the world corrupted these people so we need to legislate against abortions, homosexuality, drugs in order to protect and strengthen the faith. Let’s revisit what our original question was though: why did these people leave the church?

My friend who had an abortion came to church on Sunday. My friend who broke her sober streak came to Wednesday night youth group. My friend who had questions about how to reconcile scripture with what she knew about the world raised the question to her religious friends.

It was not the decision or the doubt that broke their faith; it was the response of the Church to their humanity that caused them to flee.

Christian Nationalists want you to believe that the biggest and most fervent danger to the continuation of the faith is outside the church. They certainly have a bulk of evidence on their side. The first chapters of the Bible extoll the evils of the world (Genesis 6:5) and both Paul and John the Evangelist caution against the temptation of the world (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:16). The world is full of danger and falsehoods and I, a sinner, am not going to pretend like it isn’t.

But let us be clear on who killed Jesus the Christ: the Romans may have nailed him to the cross, but the religious leaders were the ones who funded his execution by paying Judas. The religious leaders found Jesus crass and dangerous; the government found him threatening. Christian Nationalists only want you to focus on the dangers of the world, but they have no interest in protecting Jesus either.

Let’s revisit my friend in the bar mourning the loss of her childhood faith. Immediately, I was reminded of the children who run to Jesus for healing in Mark 10 who are stopped by the group of people who should have known deepest the desires of Christ: his disciples. How does Jesus respond to them? He rebukes them: “Don’t keep them away. God’s kingdom belongs to people like them.”

If the voices you are listening to are more concerned with the limits of grace and the enforcement of legalism, and are not concerned with throwing up the arms of Jesus, don’t listen to or believe them.

This Meaningless Life

Background photo from Tyler Callahan. Series header designed in Canva.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part of a four-part series on suffering. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. Click here for part three. Click here for a playlist full of songs from this series and inspired by the messages.


It’s a wild world, we’re all trying to find our place in it.

It’s a wild world and no one seems to understand it.

It’s a wild world but there ain’t no way I’m gonna quit it.

Love is all I’ve got to give away.

Wild World, Drew Holcomb

As our series and Ecclesiastes winds down, I have the ninth chapter playing in my head. “So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. All share a common destiny – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.” (9:1-2b) We spoke of this during week 1. Life is meaningless and it ends in death. We do good and we do evil. Good is done to us and evil is done to us. What is the point?

I have a chronic, perhaps terminal disease: depression. It is part of what lends me to speak often about lament; my brain is better at processing sorrow than joy. I think often of death, what it might mean to finally be done with the river of time. If you missed my Easter message from this past spring, I’d encourage to read it and then come back. The notion of heaven is wonderful because it provides us with some sense of relief, an opportunity to sit without our anger and division, to simply be under a tin roof as the rain falls and covers us like a hug in the sound of peace. There is some joy in what the author tells us in verse 6 “Never again will (the dead) have a part in anything that happens under the sun.” We will no longer have to toil under the sun or wear masks or bury our loved ones. Yet, in the context of the chapter, the author is not joyous as I am reading it; he is sad.

The full context of that verse is this: “Anyone who is among the living has hope – even a live dog is better off than a dead lion! For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.” Perhaps, then, there is still something worthwhile about the human experience. Our joy molds the meaning of our suffering and our suffering gives us context by which to judge our joy as good. Perhaps our names label more than our bodies but give voice to our experiences. We toil so that we may rest. Sometimes we ebb. Sometimes we flow.

We spoke of this during week 2: life is a river that we just have to jump into. As much as we try to mold our experience, our plans turn to dust. Indeed we know what is written in verse 11 is true: “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” Life shapes our context; we do not shape our lives. Life happens and our task is to make the meaningless life meaningful. “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your (spouse), whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun – all your meaningless days.” (9:7-10).

One way in which we make meaning out of our meaningless days is through our walk with people. We spoke of this during week 3. We are to suffer together as one body, to root out the nature of suffering rather than our enemies in each other. As we learn to see the face of God in every person we encounter, we find people to bring to our tables to feast beside and get drunk with. Our lives are ash sifting through an hourglass. Let’s enjoy it by enduring it as long as we can.

The war has already been won; our bodies are destined for relaxation under a tin roof. Yet here we are for now. I will raise my cup to drink with you, pick up my knife only to give you bread. I will try to fight for liberation for the best of us and I will try to fight for liberation for the bitter worst. I will suffer under the toil of my labor and I will stretch out under the joy of my harvest. Better days are behind and ahead of me. Better days are all around me.

Thank you for being stuck in this meaningless river at the same time as me.

(Breathe in)

Give us this day our daily bread

(Breathe out)

As I seek to enjoy this life

(Breathe in)

Surround me with people I love

(Breathe out)

As I make my way toward a feast.


Verses quoted in this post come from he NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible published by Zondervan whose notes were helpful in writing this post. Notes in the NRSV The Harper Collins Study Bible published by Harper One were also used. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram or Goodreads.

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Announcement from Team BVV

Hi all!

We just wanted to drop by real quick to let you know that Bryce’s second book Before We All Die, Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside is available for purchase today. You can read it on your Kindle or in its paperback form.

To celebrate, we’re giving away the Kindle version of his first book Tired Pages. The paperback is the lowest price it will ever be! These deals won’t last long so take advantage before they’re gone.

Profits from all of Bryce’s books go to charities like United Way, RAINN, and End the Backlog. You can make your own donation by clicking on the links.

We hope you enjoy these special collections!

Team BVV

Sneak Peek of One Last Chat

Book jacket designed by Katie Baumheckel

Please enjoy this free preview of Bryce’s second book, Before We all Die, Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside which will be released tomorrow, January 21st, 2021. E-books are still available for preorder and paperbacks will be available for purchase beginning tomorrow. To keep up to date with Bryce, you can like him on Facebook.



It was January, maybe early February, and my friend and coworker asked if I was nervous about the virus that they had found in China. I told her I wasn’t, although I understood where her fear was coming from. She was from Taiwan. Her parents still lived there. It was something concrete to her, but it was so far away from me, my experiences, and anyone that I knew.

Our workplace was raising money for the Australian wildfires. While the virus seemed scary and heartbreaking, all it was was a disease. People would get sick and then get better. Doctors would find a cure down the road and everything would be okay. A wildfire seemed scarier. That felt out of control, like it could affect your life in a substantial way: smoke could trap you indoors, flames could affect your business.

I’ll admit that this blasé view of disease comes from an extraordinary place of privilege. I’ve always had healthcare even if I couldn’t always afford my medications or a trip to the doctor’s office. I’ve never lived somewhere without a hospital and doctor’s office nearby. I’ve never come down with something particularly scary or life-threatening, nor have many people that I know. I’ve never had a real, true reason to be afraid of a disease.

As we all are aware by now, things started to move closer to home and the news picked it up more and more. Coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic. It was a respiratory illness, and it seemed a lot like the flu. They started to talk about closing down the schools. They were monitoring it, frequently cleaning classrooms. I told someone on Facebook that this was just a flu. We needed to be careful of our seniors, ensure that they got what they needed, both physically and mentally, but our lives didn’t have to change. I needed to make money; children needed to be in school. I thought the guy who was telling people around our neighborhood to wear masks and goggles and stay inside was being exceptionally overdramatic.

With well-over 200,000 Americans dead, and one million people around the globe, I hope it goes without saying I know how wrong I was. Lest anyone be especially concerned, I caught on quickly, always wearing my mask in public and washing my hands. When our business shut down to plan our next move, I did what every young adult did: moved home. My sister, brother-in-law, nephew, parents, and myself all lived in my parents’ house. We pooled resources and spent time together during the shutdown.

Everything felt so hopeless, knowing we’d be stuck inside our houses until May, scared and shocked by the empty grocery store aisles, wiping down grocery bags, and feeling like going outside for a walk was your only form of entertainment. It felt like this could really be something, something you see in a movie or read about in a book. And then May came and went, as did the summer, and nothing changed. We all just adapted, or failed to adapt, or posted on social media calling it a hoax or the end times.

Now, it’s December and it’s worse than it’s ever been before, despite the hope of a vaccine on the horizon. If I’m being honest, I’m scared to get my hopes up again. I just kept thinking it would be over. Now that it actually might be, the hope feels as unreal as the quarantine did in the spring.

In April, I started writing and posting some happy short stories, an earnest attempt to make people feel a little better. My mother, very much not a fan of my typical sad stories, encouraged me. That’s what started this book. Most of the stories contained in this collection were written this year. A select few have appeared other places, been retrieved from abandoned documents on my computer and forgotten corners of the internet.

I was inspired by the things that make me happy. Although, I was not always happy when writing this. As a scientist, I became quickly frustrated by the widespread attacks on people who have dedicated their lives to the dark, unglamorous, often cruel scientific world to slowly make the world a safer, better place. I have felt isolated, betrayed, lonely, tired, frustrated, couped up, and crazy. This book resulted from the space in between all those seconds. Yet still, I wrote this. Still, I’m here.


There are stories in here about surviving suicidality, about being a sibling, about friends who meant a lot to you but now don’t play an active role in your life. I wrote about falling in love and having love work out. I even wrote about my actual happy place I developed with my therapist many years ago. 

As the collection grew, it felt increasingly empty. I began writing more poetry and posting it to my Instagram account, a way to cope through the never-ending night. I’ve written poetry for a decade and never really thought about including them, in this collection or any other. But I started to read more into my writing, into the hope and desperation, the fear and the longing for something more. Some of the poems contained here are from this year but most are from other seasons of my life, poems that still resonate with me.

I added essays last, portions of blog posts I’ve published or abandoned. I came up with a few topics of my own and searched my journals for writings that felt appropriate, that looked at the world with a certain lens of wonder, of hope, of courage amid tragedy.

This collection is a hodgepodge of experience. This book is a celebration of happiness to me, of resiliency, but I need you to understand that happiness is a subjective experience. My hope is that something in here gives you a reason to smile or continue a little taller through the Crushing. I understand that it may not. What may be happy to me, based on my experience and my perspectives, may not be happy to you. I hope you’ll read it anyway. I hope you walk away with something, gripping it carefully and tightly in both hands.

2020 has asked so much of you, but I’m going to ask you for a few more things. This book is self-published so there may be a lot of errors. There may be few. Hopefully, there are none. I ask that you forgive me for any you find.

I also ask that, as an independent writer, you leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or some other fun corner of the internet, so that other people can find this book.

Twenty percent of my personal profits from this book will go towards organizations that help people recover from horrible situations like global pandemics. I want to thank you on their behalf for your support.

I hope that when our lives get back to normal, we remember who the heroes were. I hope that we remember who kept society running, and who society dropped first when shit hit the fan. I hope we remember to visit our grandparents, to care for the imprisoned and outcasted. I hope we’re slower to take the little things for granted. Mostly, I hope that you’re well, that you recover from the scars 2020 gave you, that you carry yourself always into the future while never forgetting the past.

I am very thankful for you and for your life. I hope you love yourself a little more and cling, childish and hungry, to that which brings you hope and light.

With love,


December 2020


Bryce Van Vleet is the author of two collections which can be purchased here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Goodreads.

My 5 Best Books of 2020

2020 gave me a lot of heartbreak and left us all a lot to be desired. However, five books I read this year helped keep me going in spite of it all. I hope these books give you some entertainment in the New Year! And, if you need another recommendation, my second book will be released on January 21st, 2021. You can preorder the Kindle edition now and order the paperback on its release date.

Happy reading!


5. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Dannie Kohan is finally engaged and certain she’s getting a job at one of the city’s top law firms when she falls asleep one night and wakes up five years in the future in a different apartment, next to a different man, and with a different lifestyle. One hour later, she returns to the present, unsure what her next steps should be. Serle’s latest novel is an engrossing and unexpected love story that forces us to question the meaning of destiny and the limits of friendship.

4. Beyond Shame: Creating a Healthy Sex Life on Your Own Terms by Matthias Roberts

Psychotherapist and theologian Matthias Roberts tackles the shame-inducing legacy of purity culture perpetuated by American evangelicalism. Through psychology, theology, and biology, Roberts encourages readers to develop their own values of sexuality. Roberts also works with readers to untangle their own shame and encourages them to have better, healthier sex. For teens, young adults, and those who work with them, this is a must-read.

3. Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Amanda and Clay escape the busy city for a retreat at an Airbnb-style cabin in the rural upstate. When a couple claiming to be the owners return claiming disaster in the city, truth becomes blurred and unease settles in. In the vein of Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, Alam delivers a atmospheric, compelling disaster novel that asks us to be uncomfortable in our hope and purposeless in our calling.

2. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Jesus of Nazareth finds a wife in the wealthy and rebellious Ana, fictional sister of Judas. Kidd was inspired by the cultural tradition of Jesus that would have dictated he marry before his ministry began in his middle age. Her novel is a reverent homage to Jesus’ humanity, and a stunning novel that explores womanhood at a time of suffocating patriarchy. This was easily one of the best books of the year. Beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspiring, Ana is one of the most compelling protagonists in recent memory.


1. Educated by Dr. Tara Westover

Published in 2018, Educated is the true story of growing up in a religious extremist home. Tara Westover stepped into a classroom for the first time when she was 17, having never been enrolled in public school and rarely seeing a doctor. Wrestling between her past and her future, Westover has the single most compelling narrative I’ve read. Examining family, the education system, abuse, and the resilience of survival, Westover gives us all a little more reason to hope.

Bryce Van Vleet is the author of Tired Pages which can be purchased here. His second book will released this upcoming January. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Goodreads.

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An Unmerry Hope

Been a long year, been a long year just kinda hanging on.

Been a long year, been a long year thinking the spark was gone.

There it is in the light. There it is in the falling white.

It finds me.

Andrew Ripp

I’m feeling thoroughly unmerry. I’m typing from the desk in my motel room on the southern edge of South Dakota and hearing a blizzard whip mockingly against the thin window. I am supposed to be advancing slides at my childhood church like I have since I was in high school, supposed to be kissing my nephew, supposed to be sleeping in my bed. I got a text late Tuesday night that my short, small flight to Denver was cancelled due to an incoming blizzard that would bring snow, 60mph winds, and no visibility. After checking the forecast for some neighboring states and checking other flight options, I decided to drive the thirteen hours back home overnight. Sometime in my first five hours, the storm path changed and I found myself with numb hands at the wheel from pulling it against the force of the wind for so long. Driving white-knuckled in the pitch black of night feels like a pretty appropriate end to the chaos that was 2020.


I don’t need to tell you the pain you’ve felt individually and that the world has felt collectively in the past year. We as a human species have endured grief, societal restructuring, and uncertainty on a global scale not likely ever seen before. COVID has been a global crisis, as well as a national and personal one. This past month has been a particularly dark one for me, with little specks of joy cropping up on wide fields of sorrow. Listening to Christmas carols, watching cheesy Hallmark movies, and hearing about joy and hope to the world has done little to tear down the walls of despair I feel looking out across the world. Underneath the chaos, tucked somewhere under that exceptional misery, there’s a quiet whisper calling out to Emmanuel – that God who is with us in our full complexity, who sits at the table as we drink ourselves drunk with merriment, who holds our hands in the silence of grief and longing.

The Message translation of Isaiah 9:2-7 begins this way: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows – light! sunbursts of light!… For a child has been born – for us! the gift of a son – for us!” In Peterson’s interpretation, the light, while great, is still only a burst, a brief break in the clouds for the people walking and living in the darkness. The hope of the baby in the manger is not predicated on our merriment. In fact, one of the first Christmases was spent clinging to the shadows, immigrants and refugees fleeing political warfare in the middle of the night. For Mary, Joseph, and a cooing, drooling Jesus, there is fear in Jesus’ birth. There is a clear and present danger. There is heartbreak, darkness, and mourning.

So as I sit in a stale-smelling motel, hoping I make it home for Christmas, I cling to the unmerriment of hope. I hold the tiny finger of an infant who has stepped down into the ugly world. I rest in an Emmanuel who isn’t afraid, isn’t offended by my lack of joy. As Andrew Ripp says, I am found by the spark of Christmas; it requires nothing from me. This Christmas, we remember the hope and the light that was given to us thousands of years ago in a dirty barn. We cling to some forlorn hope. We ask that an Emmanuel come and ransom the captives mourning in their exile.

She-ma yisrael, adonai eloheinu, adonai echad.

Bryce Van Vleet is the author of Tired Pages which can be purchased here. His second book will released this upcoming January. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Goodreads.

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Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.


A Tree Stuck Inside a Fence

Photo taken by me 5/17

Author’s Note: If you have been watching commercials, you will have noticed a common theme and rhetoric: We are in this together. I have to wonder, though, if we are. We are anti-maskers and pro-maskers. We are fiscally-conservative small-business-owning small-government-supporting Republicans and we are fiscally-equalitive, minimum-wage-working, large-government-enabling Democrats. We are the at-risk and the invincible. You need only scroll through one or two tweets, posts, or news articles to be reminded that, if you are together with anyone (big if), you are against far more.

And yet there is something that, if angry customers, snippy emails, and expletive-filled comment threads are to be used as evidence, does seem to unite us: we are all suffering and the rage and fear each of us are harboring are at a boiling point. I recently listened to a sermon on lament and was reminded of the power of communal lamentations. I am far more clear on who I hate than who I love, far clearer on who has hurt me than how the harmer has been hurt themselves.

To remedy this, to tap into the power of communal suffering, to remind myself and others that the pain we feel does not exist in isolation, I have shared my work of lament after the jump. If you have a painting, a written work, a song, or something else of your own creation that conveys your story of lament, we are accepting submissions for our A Space to Speak series. You may submit original work here. If you need a distraction, please check out our free, happy short stories collection Before We All Die, Let’s Have One Last Chat By the Fireside.

Suffering is hard and holy work. May we accept its gift in ourselves and in each other.

Continue reading “A Tree Stuck Inside a Fence”

But They’re On the Other Side of Me

PD: A forest and mountain scene lie in the background. Words in the foreground read “Easy answers (and other mythical creatures that live in the forest).

Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others

Day One: But They’re On the Other Side of Me


It’s no secret that America is more divided than ever before. The racist right versus the triggered left. Socialist AOC versus Nazi Donald Trump.

It’s easy to label people. It helps us know who we’re for and who we’re against. Where our friends are and what we hate. It gives the world a sense of order and justice. And we can’t see our ideological others as equals, at least, not without raising some eyebrows.

They’re on the other side of me. They’re wicked and un-American. We paint them in broad strokes, selecting a few key, dramatic examples that illustrate everything that’s wrong with “them.” People want to change Santa’s gender identity – look at these triggered little liberals always wanting to change something. People want to shoot “illegals” at point blank range for walking down the street – look at these vile conservatives always using their guns instead of their hearts.

It’s an easy answer. This person is conservative and thinks this. This person is liberal and thinks that. They’re racist and homophobic and all wrapped up in caution tape and offendedness.

This week, we’re looking at how to dismantle these simple binary explanations of the multifaceted reality. Many sides jammed into two. A two that has been demonized and generalized until the thing we think we hate is just a shadowy concoction of the reality we occupy.

It’s a mythical creature we need to banish back into the forest.

Bryce’s debut collection can be purchased here. 25% of the profits go to organizations like RAINN, 1in6, and End The Backlog. He writes short stories for free here. Support him by purchasing your next book through this special link and get FREE worldwide shipping or donate to help keep the lights on here.

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It’s Chaos. Be Kind.

Title from Michelle McNamara, as told by husband Patton in his Netflix special Annihilation. 

We buy cookies. Every time. Fat ones, from a bakery we have delivered.

Cookies and cream.

Peanut Butter.

Chocolate Chip.

They come in a box and a bag. Sometimes we buy milk for dipping. Most of the time we scarf them down dry. Grief is a dish best served with dough.

Continue reading “It’s Chaos. Be Kind.”

Blog Update

Hi you all,

I have several posts in the work but between trying to finish up work things before the end of the year, school, and other shenanigans, I don’t have time to update this thing. Look for more posts starting back up in June!



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