Protest

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I try to make a point of writing on topics about which I actually know something, but this week I’m breaking that rule.

One of my dearest friends is also a Facebook friend, as is her lovely 16 year old daughter, whom I will call K. Just over a week ago I opened Facebook to find a frantic note from my friend asking K to get in touch, because a shooting had occurred at K’s school and  reports were that two young girls were killed.

Naturally this caught and kept my attention until everything was resolved and my friends were both safely home.

I’ve been keeping in touch with the situation a little bit, because when you’re 16 years old, having two fellow students, kids your age, whom you might even know, die in a violent way can be pretty disturbing. And having to wait for news, and to see your daughter in such a situation can disturb moms a bit too. I’m happy to say that my friends are strong healthy people who are doing pretty well with this.

In following this event though, I came upon an entirely separate  disturbing situation.

While this group of high school kids walks through the confusion and fear and grief associated with having two people that they know suddenly dead in a violent way, there are protesters standing outside their school waving signs condemning the two girls, and apparently the whole school, because the two girls who died were  lesbian. This disturbs me because it’s hurting my friends, but it also really confuses me.

Firstly, a 15 year old child, in a moment of apparent emotional despair choose to end both her life and that of another child.  Two families are grieving the loss of their children. One of them has the added horror of knowing that their child took the her own life.  And the life of another human being.  Is the question of these girls professed choices about sexuality really the most significant concern at a time like this?

Secondly, dear protester, what is the intended outcome of this is protest? 

Are you trying to convince these two deceased young girls that they shouldn’t be homosexual? If so, at the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, and possibly further paining any of their loved ones who may read this, IT IS TOO LATE to affect the choices of these girls.

Are you trying to convince the school or the other children in it not to have lesbians in their midst? [note] On the chance that any Independence High School student should ever happen across this post, I want to be clear that I mean no disrespect in my use of the term ‘children’ in describing you here. I chose this term to make a point, and because it is the legal status under which most of you fall. My experience of you is limited to only one example, but if she is any indication, you are a mature, competent, and thoughtful group of people; certainly this has been indicated by your compassionate and dignified handling of this recent tragedy at your school. [/note]  I’m pretty sure the school doesn’t get to choose whether or not to educate people based on their sexual orientation.  And frankly, what benefit would there be if they did? Uneducated people with whom you disagree will remain just as distressing to you, and I’m doubting that rendering them unable to get a job, support themselves, pay taxes will improve that any. And as for the students, they need to grieve the luxury of believing ‘things like this only happen to other people or on TV’, which they no longer have, regardless of how they individually may have felt about either of these girls.  And they need to grieve to remain human in an inhumane world.

Is the point to publicise what the Bible says about homosexuality? This is the United States, love, anyone here who isn’t already clear on this almost certainly doesn’t care what the Bible has to say about anything.  But if you truly feel the need to educate people on this particular Biblical stance, there are ways to do so that are humane.  And I suspect you’ll get a better hearing from people who haven’t been alienated or traumatised by your cruelty in their time of horror and loss.

Or to convince those who do not agree? Seriously, does this strike you as the logical or quick path to influencing people’s hearts? If you’ve done nothing else in this protest, you have created solidarity among these young people, with each other and with these two young girls who have died.

People who probably never gave a thought to the moral rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, or even hold similar views on it to yours, now have a more thoughtful and empathetic perspective because in their tragedy they’ve been forced to pull together to face a common enemy.  You.

Is the point just to have your views expressed? If so speak with the principal – in his or her office. Picket a school board meeting. Make an appointment with your state senator. Or surely, in a place as large as the Phoenix metropolitan area, there must be at least one gay rights activist organisation. Run by grown ups.  Grown ups who have dedicated themselves to this issue. Speak with them. 

Not with a bunch of traumatised school children. 

Is the point just to inflict pain? I get that. I do. Sometimes life just sucks and nothing helps, but at least if someone else is miserable you aren’t alone. Not the most noble stance, perhaps, but we’ve all been there. But you know, even in pain we can maintain a degree of decency. There are adults you can lash out at. Or you can speak with a trusted friend or a professional counselor. It is not necessary to hurt confused, grieving children. There isn’t a Geneva convention for emotional warfare, but we can choose to live as if there is.

It isn’t easy to choose kindness and decency over anger or cruelty when your most crucial beliefs are challenged, but it is possible. And it’s right. And I strongly suspect it is designed to be the most effective way to connect and gain common ground, too. 

 

 

 

Breaking Bread, and Barriers

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I was really impressed by this article this week:

People Who Strongly Disagree Should Just Break Bread Together

I thought it especially appropriate for Some Grace With That, because it deals with one of the hardest topics in all of modern day American Christianity – listening respectfully to views with which you don’t agree.

If anyone should be masters of this it ought to be Christ’s followers. Sounds a little like loving our enemy, no? And I know some of us are.

I, however, am not, and I sense that I’m in the majority. At least, Christians like me are by far the best known version of us.

I really urge you to read the full article, it’s not that long and it’s well worth it – the end of the story alone is paradigm cracking. If you have an extra 11 minutes, there is even an embedded TED talk by the researcher.

But in case you have graciously shared with this little blog all the reading time you have right now (thank you!) I’ll briefly summarise:

  1. Locate someone with views very different from your own, and take them to lunch (or coffee, dinner, you get the gist).
  2. Ask them, in the course of this meal, these three things:
  • Share some of your life experiences with me.
  • What issues deeply concern you?
  • What have you always wanted to ask someone from the other side?

3.  And share your responses to the same.

This will require, of course, really listening, not attacking, but it can be done.

The article suggests that these three questions allow us to see the bigger picture of ‘The Other Side‘ and realise that we may have a number of values, interests and experiences in common – far more than we’d have imagined.

From my own experience, I can see that. I’ll be writing a handful of posts on the game changers that transformed my approach to Christianity, and as I think back on these experiences in light of this article, the common thread I see is that they allowed (forced?) me to see the bigger picture of the people starring in them, and to see how much more we were alike than different.

My dream for Some Grace With That is to become a sort of virtual lunch date like that proposed in this article.

So, pull up a chair, grab a cappuccino, (OMG try this lemon bar, it’s AMAZING! sorry, back on track) and if you will be so kind…

Share some of your life experiences with me.

What issues deeply concern you?

What have you always wanted to ask someone from the other side?

 

Feel free to reply in the comments, if you wish.

For the LOVE of Valentine’s Day

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THIS WEEKEND IS VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!!

I just can’t wait.

Valentine’s day is my absolute, hands down, FAVOURITE holiday!

I wish it was a public holiday, with the whole glorious day off to just enjoy. Or the whole week. We need more week long celebrations in this country.

I’ve written previously about some of the big shocks of my early adulthood. Another was the realisation that many people hate Valentine’s Day. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!?

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love! What on earth is offensive in  that?!?!

Even if you have some curious distaste for love, Valentine’s Day also involves chocolate, for goodness’ sake! [note] Now, if you are allergic to chocolate, I admit you have a legitimate gripe. But Valentines Day is a day for creativity. I have faith in you. [/note]

Okay, so you don’t happen to have a boyfriend / girlfriend / spouse this weekend.

SO WHAT?!?!?

Is that really the ONLY class of person that has ever loved you?? The only class of person you can love?

Don’t you have a mother? Or maybe your mother makes Joan Crawford look like Mother of the Year. It happens. But I know there is at least one person, somewhere, whom you can celebrate, and who can celebrate you.

Everybody capable of love has at least one colleague, friend, family member, teacher, student, or associate somewhere who loves them or whom they love. At least a little. I refuse to believe differently [note] And if you have a serious personality disorder rendering you incapable of love, then I refuse to believe you’d be bitter about not being paired on Valentine’s day! Bring a seasonal thank you note to your shrink and enjoy the day. [/note].

So go out there and wish them a HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Send a frilly pink card to your Great Aunt Matilda. If you’re really brave, call her up and ask her to tell you about her first crush.

Take everyone in the office a piece of dark chocolate. One of the very few things I miss about working in a real office is being able to bring in cookies or cupcakes or flowers for everyone on Valentines’ Day. Sure Valentine’s Day is on Sunday this year; no one will mind an extra day of love.

Or bake some festive cupcakes for the neighbours. Afraid the hot new guy in 11B will get the wrong idea? Then give cupcakes to only the little old ladies in the complex. WANT the hot to guy in 11B to get some ideas? Start up a conversion as you include him in the cupcake celebration!

Still feeling contrary? Then just give cupcakes to crabby old Mrs. Macgruder who is always in a bad mood. Big fluffy ones with lots of pink frosting. Go guerrilla if you need to, and drop them off anonymously – it’s not like she’s going to admit to appreciating them anyway.

Can’t bake? That’s what flowers are for! Or a short handwritten note.

Simply a smile and a Happy Valentines Day! can go a remarkably long way.

Even if you hate the world just now, you ought to at least love yourself, so prepare some simple yet decadent treat just for YOU. Take yourself out to your favourite Thai restaurant, have a long hot bath, go for a run in the really nice park across town – whatever YOU love to do FOR YOU.

And if you happen to be a Christian, well then seriously – where you gonna top THAT kind of love? Share some cupcakes or a fancy coffee with God and enjoy the day.

Worst case scenario, bring some seed to the birds in the park or hand out a few single carnations to strangers on the street, grocery baggers, or your Barista, smiling and saying “Have a happy Valentine’s Day!”. You’ll be amazed how much joy it brings.

Whatever you do, CELEBRATE!! Valentine’s Day is NOT a time for bitterness.

And have a happy Valentine’s day.

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Be well. 

 

 

 

The Poor, the Widow and the Orphan Vs. Guns, Gays, and Abortion: What then, HAS God prioritised?

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Okay, did anybody peek?

In my last post I talked about how the American Church is known for very strongly prioritising things that, frankly, don’t come across that heavily in Bibilical prioritisation, but I didn’t make it to the things God DOES prioritise.

So what does God prioritise?

The Poor and the Vulnerable

God makes a big deal out of these folks.

In fact, God prioritises the poor and vulnerable – specifically, making sure they have justice and meeting their needs –  more than any other specific group that I can find. I get the impression they are more important to him than pretty  much anything else except our relationship with HIM.

And actually, I suspect one reason they get so much Biblical air time is because of what our treatment of them says about our relationship with him.

How we treat those  who can’t certainly repay us, or enforce any demand upon us, says a lot about who we are, don’t you think?

God also mentions the rich a fair amount, but in not one single place does he say ‘You, my disciples, should do everything you can to be rich, or to make sure the rich get richer.’

In fact, he’s got some fairly disturbing things to say about Christians focusing our energies on the rich.

And what he says TO the rich is frequently a warning to be very, very careful because wealth and godliness are a tough combination to get right. *

Justice and Mercy

This is another focus to which he gives pretty solid weight.

Interestingly, from the wisdom of the Proverbs, through to the specific and very clear instruction in Isaiah, and on to pretty much every word Jesus ever said on earth, God, who is both completely just and completely merciful, reserves most of the justice work for his end of the deal and focuses our work largely on the mercy end of things.

I suspect this is because he is perfect, trustworthy, and objective in all things, and we are not.

When God does discuss justice in reference to our work, I generally find that he’s on our case about the fact that we are preventing others from getting that justice – usually, you guessed it:  the poor, the vulnerable (widows, orphans, aliens in our homelands), and such.

So where does that leave me?

In a philisophitheologicadocrinal show down between Guns Gays and Abortion Vs the Poor, the Widow and the Orphan, what’s a poorly trained Christian girl to do?

In my case, the answer so far is go with what you know. 

And what I know, so far, is that it makes sense to prioritise the most important parts of your message, so it probably makes sense to devote my greatest energy to those things God emphasised most.

And what I see God emphasising, old testament and new, is:

These things not only don’t reinforce a Guns, Gays and Abortion stance as the right priority for a girl seeking to live as a Christian, they are painfully opposed to much that has resulted from that view.

And my policy, when caught between God and Man, is go with God every time. (I’ve read the end of the story; God wins.)

SO, I after a couple years of reading the real Bible, and using my real God-given brains on what I found there, I came to the conclusion that I had to change some of the views and beliefs I had picked up from my Christian culture, just as I had had to do with my larger societal culture.

  • I started looking at policies, personal choices, values in light of what I saw there. And I changed what I put my energy into.
  • I changed how I pray.
  • I eventually changed how I vote –  started choosing political candidates based on the whole of their platform, and on the BIG PICTURE impacts of it, not just their rhetoric about THE BIG THREE.

It’s yet another opportunity to not fit in ANYWHERE!

But then I’ve gotten used to that over the years.

And it makes it possible for me to vote, and live, and think, in ways that reflect what I really believe, which takes a remarkable amount of stress out of the Christian life.

Every once in a while I even remember that God is omniscient and omnipotent and could probably run the whole thing without my input!

 

 

* Just a smattering of those verses:

Proverbs 22:16

Proverbs 23:4

Proverbs 28:8

Proverbs 28:20

Matthew 19:23

Luke 12:15-21

James 1:9-11

James 5

Revelation 3:17

 

Guns, Gays, and Abortion Vs. the Poor, the Widow, and the Orphan

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Being raised heathen has some enormous spiritual advantages, but you do miss many important little details of Christian doctrine that would otherwise seep in through cultural osmosis.

Sometimes when one of these little doctrinal nuggets finally slips into place, it’s an ‘Aha!’ moment, as half a dozen nagging little confusions become clear all at once.

Other times it’s an ’Um… what?’  moment, leaving me vastly more confused.

One of the biggest shocks of my early adult life was the phrase ‘Guns, Gays, and Abortion’ in connection with American Christianity.

Most of the Christians I knew growing up were afraid of guns, opposed to abortion, and ambivalent at best on gays, while my wholly irreverent atheist non-believer father (1)  was an avid shooter who favoured anything related to decreased population, and considered other people’s sex lives none of his business.

I naturally assumed, therefore, that the ‘Guns, Gays and Abortion’ refrain referred to What Christians Stand Against.

I hadn’t picked up, from a fairly thorough acquaintance with the Bible, that God particularly wanted his church to be known for what we were against, so this was a little confusing.

Imagine my surprise, and even deeper confusion, when I later learned that ‘we’ were against gays and abortion, but for guns!

As a religious identity! Naturally, this was not to be my last shock with regard to Politico-Christian doctrine, but it was quite an introduction.

Unfortunately, Guns, Gays and Abortion  left me with a few gaps in regard to how the Church’s mission in this world is best defined.

Firstly, there is no mention of guns in the Bible.

This isn’t unusual of course, there is no mention of rutabagas or telephones in the Bible either.

But that something not mentioned once in the Bible should be one of three top things the Church was supposed to be known for struck me as odd.

And, frankly, there is a heck of a lot in the Bible that would indicate that if God HAD expressed an opinion on guns he’d be pretty supportive of moderation in our passion for them.

Then, to further complicate my contemplation, there is no mention of abortion in the Bible!

Now, no, I do not think the lack of reference to abortion in the Bible means that God supports it. I doubt very much that this is God’s preferred path for any woman or girl, or for her child.

However, I eventually had to consider the implications of this curious silence.

If abortion was never once mentioned in the Bible, what were the odds that this was one of the keynote points God wanted me, as a representative of his Body, to focus on?

Then finally GAYS.

PAY DIRT!  On this one the Bible did, in fact, actually have something to say!

And, it is absolutely true that what the Bible says is not favourable! (2)

I’m not going to argue that here. Justifying God’s words is far beyond my capacity or authority.

Many of God’s words are hard to take, and if you are gay and and a follower of God, I have to assume that there is a lot of soul searching and confusion, possibly even some painful sacrifice involved at many points in that walk. I don’t know how to respond to that. I wish I had something better than that, but I don’t. God bless and keep you.

HOWEVER, for this discussion, for my trying to wrap my head around the church’s supposed primary concerns, was the fact that the Bible mentions homosexuality, and that God’s words about it are not supportive, the answer to my quest?

Not so much.

For, while the Bible does, as far as I can understand it, tell me that I can’t practice homosexuality without being out of God’s will for my life,  it seems to prioritise a whole lot of things a lot more highly.

What then, HAS God prioritised?

I’m sure my title gives a strong hint in that direction, but as I see this post is in danger of becoming a Russian novel, and I am really out of time anyway, I’ll have to chatter about that piece next time.

NOT, of course, that you have to wait for MY two cents on it!! Grab a Bible and give it a scan! Until next time….

Be well. 

 

 

(1) Although I am not a fan of cross outs, this is one place I will employ them, as my dear father has corrected my facts thusly:

“I’m not sure if I would call myself an atheist as opposed to “born again non-believer”  I don’t necessarily deny the existence of a god but haven’t found any evidence to support my own belief in one.”

As is probably evident, he remains wholly irreverent, dare I say sacrilegious, even blasphemous, once he gets warmed up.

 

(2) Yes, I am aware that numerous people have reinterpreted the passages dealing with homosexuality questioning their intended meaning, and interpreted other passages to show support for homosexuality. Becoming a scholar of ancient Greek and Hebrew is definitely not within my little time-and-energy allotment, so I’ll not engage that argument either. I have no desire to make life, or Christianity, harder for any image bearer of God, this just isn’t an area which my aptitudes suggest as a logical focus. If you sincerely believe other interpretations to be more correct, God bless you, and it’s not my business.

Soup Night – People Doing It Right

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I found this lovely little story via YES Magazine’s Facebook feed. I don’t know about you, but I’ve mostly lived in Greater Suburbia where even knowing the neighbours is a bit of a lost art. Between fear, inertia, and excessive busyness, communities not connecting, not BEING community has become an epidemic.

I love to see people reaching out, in very simple ways, and changing that. I admit I’d probably have run for the hills within moments of Mr. Don’s arrival, but Ms. McEuen and her neighbours built a tiny miracle in which every piece was a perfect fit. Bravo!

My kind of revolution.

http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/soup-night-a-neighborhood-revolution-20160107