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.

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. 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

Don’t make the bed.

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One of the many things I don’t understand is my culture’s rabid obsession with making beds.

Of course linens sales people or decorating professionals being hipped on it, that makes sense.

I can even work up a rationale for the average person being sucked in: we are creatures of habit, socio-environmental sheep, and some of us  grew up in fancy show homes.

But one specific subculture that has gotten the bug really confuses me: Minimalists.

I like a lot of the Minimalist concept; I have reluctantly decided it probably isn’t for me, but still, it’s pretty cool.

If you are not familiar with Minimalism, my very, very stripped-down, only semi-knowledgable concept of it is that you eliminate extraneous things from your life to free up time, energy, money, etc.

Minimalists are big on ditching clutter, and downsizing their possessions. Some even downsize their houses, ditching the huge Buyer’s Remorse Mausoleums in favour of small apartments, or other innovative home options.

Some Minimalists go a year without buying new items, others quit their jobs after they pare down so much that that don’t need a big pay check anymore.

But pretty nearly all of them also say that decluttering should not just be about physical stuff, but about every aspect of our lives – 

  • don’t commit the 6-year-old to ten after-school obligations,
  • don’t take on commitments you’d rather not have,
  • don’t spend all your time organising the garage or washing the car instead of playing with the kids or running in the park or travelling the world.
Do not, in short, fill your one wild and precious life with trivialities.

Yet over and over I see even Minimalists write, sometimes ardently,  about how the first thing you should do every single day is make your bed!!

Now, let me be clear: while making your bed is a bit unsanitary, we‘re definitely not talking public health crisis levels, so if you just live for hospital corners and plumped pillows, by all means go for it.

However, if you are old enough to be reading Minimalist blogs and you still need a writer urging you to make the bed, then, going out a limb here, I’m guess this is not something you’re doing out of love!

And if this unnecessary, unhealthy, DAILY chore isn’t something that really matters to you, why on earth would Minimalists, of all people, be pushing you to add it to your life?!?!

For me,  the bed gets made when I’m going to have people in who are new to the house and merit a tour of it. If you’ve been here before, odds are good: no bed making for you.

And no amount of ‘minimalism’ is likely to change that: I have FAR better things to do with my morning than make beds! Even if I didn’t think it was icky. 

I have pretty enough blankets and sheets, but they are not showpieces, their main value is in being deliciously soft and cozy. And they do that just as well after being pushed to the other side of the bed as they do after the rare Made Bed Occasion. (I’ve checked.)

This isn’t to pick on Minimalists, who, as I said, I respect in many ways.

But it is one of those key areas where I see us building into our lives  – or worse, trying to build into others’  lives – rituals that serve no intrinsic purpose, even as we struggle to build lives of purpose.

And EVEN those of us who have made a life commitment divest ourselves of the meaningless!

I am certain that those writers who harp on bed making truly find value in it; they mean well.

I just want to make the case for investing your one wild and precious life even more carefully.

For not taking ANY custom or ritual for granted, but instead learning, or relearning, what brings value to your own day.

Maybe it will be making the bed! If so, make it with delight! 

But if not, if your highest priority for the morning is a long walk, or a slow cup of coffee, the Times crossword puzzle, more sleep, a Boot Camp class, or just defying arbitrary cultural norms, then let the bed alone and squander those first precious moments of your day on something else. 

With abandon.

 

Donald Trump, James Dobson, and … me?

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I’m seeing this ongoing debate in social media: Did Donald Trump really accept Christ, or not? First James Dobson apparently said that Mr. Trump had become a Christian!! Then James Dobson apparently began to backpedal!!!

Which brings up the question why are we asking James Dobson? Wouldn’t Donald Trump be the logical source for this information, if it’s any of our business at all?

I think I know the answer: we don’t trust Donald Trump to tell the truth about it, and/or we don’t think he understands what it means to be a Christian.

Which, assuming that isn’t answer enough on its own, prompts the question what difference could it possibly make, then, whether James Dobson thinks that Donald Trump is a Christian ?

Unfortunately, I think I know the answer to that one too.

I think that answer is that whether or not Donald Trump is “really” a Christian determines whether or not we should vote for him for president of United States. So if we can get somebody that we trust and respect to certify that Donald Trump is a Christian, then it’s okay to vote for him as the only Christian presidential option, regardless of his behaviour or his ability to lead the United States.   So we really need James Dobson, or SOMEONE to come through for us.

Does this horrify anyone else?

It’s the wrong reason. On SO MANY levels.

Donald Trump shouldn’t have to become “Christian enough” to make it ok to vote for him. It’s important that someone’s Democrat enough or Republican enough to run on that party’s ticket, but being “Christian enough” DOES. NOT. EXIST.

We shouldn’t be weighing and measuring a man’s salvation and relationship with God based solely on our need for him to meet a minimum qualification for peace of mind as we vote for the leader of our country. (Not to even mention that if he HAS accepted Christ, the Bible is very clear about not giving new believers positions of authority.)

And .. um… should we be choosing our president based solely on his profession of Christianity, regardless of whether or not that shows up in his life? Christianity is a bit more than a ballot entrance exam!

Let’s bring this down from the stratosphere:

Imagine this scenario with someone who wasn’t rich, or famous, or running for president.

Ask yourself if someone you actually knew – your brother-in-law, your boss, the guy that hangs out at the corner bar – behaved like Donald Trump, said the things he says, would you be conclude that he was a Christian?

My guess is you would want to suspend judgement on that a bit until you saw whether his life showed evidence.  At least, that would be the Biblical approach.

But either way, your conclusions about his Christianity would probably be completely separate from whether you’d consider him a good choice to lead something very important to you, like the bank that controls your money, or your government.

And that’s okay. 

A decision to follow Jesus or not goes far beyond a job, or an election. And lots of people do jobs for us every day without our knowing if they are Christian or not.

Just because Donald Trump is running for president doesn’t make his religious choice any more my business than if he were my banker or doctor or mechanic. And whether or not he adopts the right title for the sake of an election in no way means that his presidency would be a ‘Christian’ one.

Because I am a Christian, I am obligated to pray for Donald Trump’s salvation if he happens to be in my line of sight, and I’m obligated to treat him with decency and respect and kindness, as I am all people. But this one decision is between him and God.

And am not obligated, or even allowed, to try to manufacture a conversion for him so that I can check that box off my list of concerns and vote for him ‘because it’s God’s will’!

(Shakes head, wonders what this world is coming to.)

Monday Sentiments

 

Ah, Monday. And this particular Monday.

Having no words with which to greet the impending United States Presidential Inauguration, I must again fall back on music:

 

Yep, that about covers it. 

Be well. 

 

Why is that? Agreeing to Disagree

 

I’ve been going back and forth this week between this post, and a lighter, more fun one.

Goodness knows we need more light right now!

But it’s been a bad couple weeks in my country, and it’s a struggle acknowledging that without being depressing!

I decided the only honest response was to not divide them up, but to deal with the pain, and the good, together. Kinda like life.

 

So … I get it that the anger, the violence, come because we are threatened by those we don’t agree with. But…

WHY IS THAT?

Why are we so threatened by people who don’t agree with our beliefs or are not like us? (The ones not trying to kill us, I mean.)

Why do we have to fight them, and make efforts to undermine them?

Now, I’m not talking about sharing our thoughts, or teaching our kids, or even debating issues. I’m talking about condemning, hating, even sabotaging other’s efforts, because they differ from us.

Why does it matter so much to us?

Because, really, if I know I’m right, then my most logical ‘action’ is to wait for them to learn for themselves that their method or practice or belief doesn’t work, you know? Why can’t we simply speak our piece and let it be?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I realise that a lot of people simply use racism, religion, political views, or whatever, as a cover for their own wickedness.

I do not believe that every ‘pro-life’ American believes it’s okay for them to kill doctors who work at abortion clinics, or to terrorise desperate women. I don’t think every white supremacist marching in Charlottesville this past week would have been willing to drive a car into a crowd of living, breathing, human beings.

But we almost all become entrenched in pushing our own views sometimes.

And I’d say most of us, at one point or another, value defending our belief more than we value the person we disagree with. (Or, for Christians – more than we love the image bearer of Christ who stands before us.)

I’m not sure why.

Do we fear that they don’t love or respect us?

Are our own beliefs too fragile?

Are we hurt, or frightened, by the thought that not everyone thinks we are right?

Do we fear they are right?

Is it just the fear of not having control?

Since we sometimes violate our own beliefs in trying to defend them, this can’t be just a simple matter of disagreeing!

Hating, judging, perhaps even killing others because they don’t measure up to our Christian beliefs is a darn good example, if we define ‘Christian’ as a disciple of the same Christ who said

Don’t condemn other people, that’s not your job.

Love your enemies, ask God to bless them.

The most despicable person you can think of is who I meant when I said ‘Neighbour’.

Whose word says the world will respect you when you live peacefully and quietly, tending to your own business.

I imagine it’s more than one reason. I imagine I’ll never understand it completely. Maybe not even in myself, let alone in all of us.

So then, how do we change?

How do we become more than we are right now?

How do we avoid having to return to this place in history again and again?

One way, alas,  is by thinking through these difficult, depressing things. And one way is by understanding history, AND paying close attention to the world today.

Another way, I realised, is to follow the advice of my main man Fred Rogers. Well, the advice of his mother actually,

Look for the helpers.

 

So I did.

And there were helpers – both real, live people, and also spots of hope and encouragement.

FIRST:

I was shocked, but deeply impressed, by this PSA that my own government created a generation ago.

Next,

I read an article about a black man, Daryl Davis, who spends his free time befriending white supremacists. Not protesting against them. Not threatening them. Not beating them up or running them out of town.

Not even legislating against them!

 

He befriends them.

Talks with them over dinner.

Shares his thoughts and listens with concern to their thoughts.

Mr. Davis is making a difference.

 

And that, too, reminded me that hope is stronger than darkness, that despair isn’t the right response – ever.

Then,

I read another article about a group of folks who have set up a resource to take the pressure of explaining why racism is a problem OFF of people who are feeling overwhelmed by that pressure.

Such a simple, powerful service, but I never thought of it!

Again with the hope! Maybe my species is redeemable after all?

Go humanity!

Finally,

I saw this quote in a document I was reading for work, completely unrelated to current crises, and it made me smile (that alone was a major feat last week!):

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.”¹

 

CAN’T ARGUE WITH THAT!

Any time  I’ve been in bed with a mosquito – even when I’ve had a fully functional bed net –  there is no doubt that all 1000th of an ounce or whatever it is of her made a HUGE difference in my entire night’s rest!

So, it gave me another shot of hope, and reminded me that it’s not all darkness out there, and we can rebuild from here. (Definitely the most I’ve ever gotten out of any reference to mosquitos.)

All of this, plus a good deal of prayer, managed to bring me out of the doldrums at least! I hope it’s encouraging for someone else as well.

 

I pray that the coming week will be better than these last few … for all of us.

Let’s all stick together out there.

 

 

Be well. 

 

 

¹ Attributed to Anita Roddick; haven’t checked it myself, but I could certainly believe it. God rest her soul.