Feb 19, 2016 by Rik Bokelman

The Waterfall Of The Naked Pastor

Every morning he gets up, stokes the fire, makes a coffee, writes some notes, does some stretches. Then he sits down, checks the news and Facebook until there's anything that hits him. "I just wait to get inspired and then draw my cartoon." When finished and satisfied, after an hour or two, he scans it and posts it online. "I always knew I was not only a pastor but an artist too."

David Hayward, mostly known as 'the Naked Pastor',  is one of the most popular Christian cartoonists in the online world. His drawings are distinctive and shared by thousands across social media every day. HelloChristian.com spoke with him about his life and work. And foremost about his mission: to challenge Christians to ask questions. 

It has been a journey for David. He was born and baptized as an Anglican, became a Baptist and then switched to Pentecostalism. He pastored different churches within the Presbyterian Church in Canada and moved to Vineyard Church in Eastern Canada. Right now he's not a member of a church, because he left after 30 years of ministry. "I'm a none. I am happy and fine but I’d say that my home is in Christianity - and that is my family of origin - but I have cottages everywhere."

It is because of his out-of-the-box thinking that David left the church after 30 years of ministry. David describes this state of not being affiliated with any particular church with the words 'spiritual independence' and 'autonomy.' He's always had this quest to find out for himself what is true. To do that he had to discover the unknown. His experience in the church, however, not to mention church leadership, was that people are afraid of the unknown. The church is afraid to ask questions.

"The last church I pastored was Vineyard Church. I was going through some theological issues, and I talked about it on my blog NakedPastor.com. It became popular and people thought that I didn't believe in God anymore because I was raising too many questions. Although we had a great church, with great people and a climate for asking questions. But I crossed the line."

"I remember the director of Vineyard calling me. He said: 'You are upsetting a lot of people so maybe we should look at your post before you post them.' That's when it all started to make me feel like they were trying to control me. I can't stand that. That was the time I knew that my time as a pastor in that church was coming to an end."

At that time, David asked a lot of question about the nature of God, or, as he called it then, "that which we call God." "I asked myself: If God is loving, gracious and forgiving, then why are a billion Muslims going to hell? Why are only the Christians going to heaven? Why are Bible believing Evangelicals so enormously anti-gay? How is this all possible?"

"In my dream I knew that the picture I’m seeing is a picture of reality or what we call God. When the water hit the earth, I saw  that as the Holy Spirit, affecting and changing the world."

In May 2009 he had a dream in wich he saw a waterfall that brought immediate peace to him. "I saw this huge waterfall and I was at the bottom. Above the rim is The Ultimate Source, that which we call God. Then the water coming over and down is the incarnation, Jesus. The infinite, invisible source being made known. I saw all this water spreading down the earth; the Spirit affecting and changing the world."

"I also saw the other side of the falls in different perspectives; Buddhists would see Nirvana and a Muslim would see Allah, the prophet Mohammed or the community. The Jews would see Yahweh, the Torah and temple. We were all seeing the same thing but from a different angle. Maybe people call this blasphemous, but this is what I saw. I remember waking up with a very,  very deep peace in my mind because we are all looking at the waterfall from different perspectives, but all experience the same thing."

"For me, in case of the waterfall, I see the water coming as the Incarnation. Now the Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, or even the atheist would see it as something else but it’s the same thing. So the Christian could say that Christ is all in all, somebody else may have a different way of explaining it with different words but it’s still God reconciling the whole world through Jesus Christ for Himself. For me, I see this as a very Christian theology –Orthodox even. He's the all in all."

Billy Graham
"There's no place where the Spirit of Christ is not. Some people say He is sitting at the right hand of the Father or He is in my heart or where two or three are gathered. But to be clear: he's there. Billy Graham once said about a Tibetan monk: 'I met a Tibetan monk and I saw Jesus in him, although the monk wouldn't know the name Jesus, but I saw the Spirit of Christ in him.'  That really upset some people. His organization must have probably been scrambling on how to fix that, but it sort of agrees to what I am saying."  

A lot of people are sceptic about this kind of theology, explains Hayward. "When I remember myself as an Evangelical, I remember the suspicion about mysticism. The problem with Evangelicalism is we think we can approach the mystery intellectually. We love to say: 'Lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him' and 'Do not trust the wisdom of the philosophers' but we think we can still approach God with our minds. I tried that and it failed, it did not answer my questions."

"Look at the Pharisees. They were all theological experts yet they were the ones furthest away from any revelation or knowledge or wisdom about God. Still they claimed they were the closest to him and were theologically the most sound. Why do we keep being suspicious about mysticism or beyond knowledge and experience? The only way I found peace was when I finally encountered something beyond my intellect and beyond my theology. There's something beyond the theological certainty we hear in our churches. I try to communicate that in my cartoons."

"Some people think that I hate the church and that I should get over it and move on. Some cartoons may show anger but nowadays I’m trying to be less angry. I don’t hate the church or hate religion. I value it very much. If people come and they try to understand me, they will see he doesn’t hate the church, he is not always angry. But if someone comes and say: 'Yes! I hate religion too, let’s wipe out Christians!' I’m not like that."

"My passion is that I want to help people have their freedom, to be free and to use that freedom to be spiritually independent and autonomous. I think most people are not free. It's not just Christians. I think most people are living under some kind of control, oppression. Others are living under abuse; maybe they are brainwashed and just believe everything they are told. They don’t realize they are basically living an empty life. As soon as you start to question, do I believe what I believe? Is it true, really true? Then that is the beginning of real spiritual transformation."

Dare to question

"Are you happy? Do you have peace of mind? Are you free to question? Can you question everything? Even your own thoughts, can you question what you were taught? Can you question your teacher, your pastor? Can you question theology? That's how you measure your freedom. By looking at the questions you ask yourself. A lot of Christians only ask the questions to which they have an answer. If you don't dare to ask hard questions, maybe you are not free after all." 

"People who are in authority over you, a pastor for instance, often don’t like it when others ask questions because they know what could happen. It could shake that person or the entire community up. Most pastors don't want that. And if they want you to ask questions, they want to control where you are after you're finished asking them. You are allowed to do some questioning only up to a certain point. In my opinion, a good spiritual director does not want to control where you end up. Instead, he or she gives you the nourishment, the food, the support and the encouragement to find out your own path and your own spiritual walk."

Visit the website NakedPastor, buy his art or books!

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