Posted by: minnow | October 13, 2014

Letting Go

     A woman I’ve never met except through a private FB page I’ve belonged to since May passed away today.  The group, a safe haven for Christian moms of LGBT identifying children, is populated with women from across the country and even a few from the other side of the globe.  I did not know Jeannie Moran Androsoff personally.  In fact, except to read a few of her posts I know almost nothing about her other than she started a website called ifoundoutmom.com. From the posts in the private group I know Jeannie was a pretty spectacular woman who loved her son fiercely.  I also know her website was launched shortly after finding out the cancer, which ultimately took her earthly life this morning (10/13), had returned.

The reason I mention Jeannie at all is because reading the posts to and about her over the past couple days, and reflecting on her impact on the private FB group I happen to be a part of, made me realize just how disconnected I have been most of my life.  While many in this private group were once part of what they would describe as tightly knit, caring church families, I have never in my life felt like part of an inner circle.  At best I’ve been a distant relative, a second cousin once removed sort of status, especially with regard to church families.  At times, as I read about someone’s frustration with or hurt at the hands of a once upon a time “family” member over issues connected to their LGBT children, I find myself wanting to shout, “Get over it!  Let go and move on for goodness sake.”  You see, I have never had to let go of someone who held that kind of emotional weight in my life.  So, I guess it’s been fairly easy for me to have a “Get over it!” attitude.

As much as I want–intellectually–for those in the Church and those in places of power to desire truth, treat the other with respect, and be willing to work for justice, I honestly don’t care how people feel about me or if I get an invitation to Sunday dinner.  I don’t need “likes”, although I do like conversation.  Mostly, I don’t have time for arguments that don’t work toward solutions to problems, build a framework for cooperation, or  lay the groundwork for better understanding.  Having the same fruitless discussions with the same people on a slightly different thread is a waste.  I never did it much and I simply don’t want to do it any more.  So, I apologize for my rather detached empathy for those of you who continue to struggle with family, friends, and associates over issues that get in the way of the relationships you long to have.  If the shout outs and remembrances for Jeannie are any indicator of what comes from never letting go, I believe your efforts are worth while.  That said, the difference between helping someone wake from their slumber and banging one’s head against the wall can sometimes feel like a very thin line.  My best prayer is that we’re able to discern the difference before we give ourselves concussions.

Posted by: minnow | October 12, 2014

Having Trouble Finding Time

My once a month blogging isn’t really cutting it.  Since I no longer have hours during my graveyard shifts to fill I have found finding time to write quite difficult.  In late August I started teaching three standard 10th grade English classes, a Journalism class (I’ve never even taken a journalism class), and a Basic English 10 class.  Next semester I’ll add a 12th grade Basic English class.  The Basic English classes are supposed to be less strenuous than the regular English classes and thus have fewer students.  The students however tend to be less motivated to work on assignments and or have more difficulty understanding expectations thus require more individual supervision.   I don’t have any Honors classes which would probably be more interesting but would also mean another prep and a different kind of work load.  My time has already been gobbled up creating curriculum, correcting quizzes, and commenting on essays.

The state of writing in the 10th grade (if my classes are representative of the rest of what’s out there) is abominable.  On the one hand I might blame teacher for not requiring students to write more.  However, when the average high school English teacher has between 60 and 120 students who can realistically expect those teachers to give, read, and correct and comment on multiple writing assignments. I spend close to as much time grading my student’s essays as they spend writing them.  I literally have no social life because I spend my out of school hours generating and then assessing assignments, minus the two hours a night I fix dinner and monitor/help my daughter with her homework.

Yes, I’m whining.  I feel sorry for myself because I’d like to blog instead of create curriculum and grade poorly written papers.  At the same time, I am frustrated by the lack of writing skills on the part of my students.  Thus I have a dilemma.  So long as I’m collecting a pay check I feel obliged to do what I have been hired to do and sadly that doesn’t mean blogging, at least not in the near future.  My apologizes to the one or two who may actually check in every now and again.

Posted by: minnow | September 5, 2014

November’s Comin’

I just started a new job as an English teacher and feel like I’m swimming upstream with one nostril above water most of the time.  So…needless to say I haven’t felt like I had the time to blog.  Humm…

The problem is I keep finding things when I chose to take shorts breaks here and there, that capture my attention or gnaw at my brain.  Today a FB “friend” posted the picture below and the snarky, fed up with the right-wing conservative non-compassionate even if they’re Christian faction of the GOP, thinking person in me has a few things to say.  I wanted to quip back at this friend that “in November we would introduce some Senate Republicans to the private sector where they’d be expected to take responsibility for their actions, but oops the private sector is where most of them learned they don’t have to take responsibility for anything they do as long as they have enough money and someone else to blame.

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SADLY, the truth is after the elections in November we will in all likelihood end up with a Congress and Senate that doesn’t look a whole lot different than it looks right now.  AND SADDER STILL, the newly elected will probably not accomplish any more than the basically nothing that’s been accomplished since I could vote.  That being said, I DO NOT want what this “friend” wants and I’m really sick of the never ending whining on the topic that’s coming from the right. The Affordable Care Act is not the devil in disguise.  Personally I wish we would cut out health insurance altogether, and begin Health Savings Plans that accumulate monthly before taxes from each pay check.  I’d also like to see us move to a single payer system for the rest.

The legislature is out of sync with the nation.  That point was not lost on me.  But the reason we’re at a stale mate has more to do with the fact that half those who could vote don’t bother than it does with the Affordable Care Act.  If we want thinking people with creative problem solving skills to run for office and have a chance to be elected WE THE PEOPLE need to speak up and vote.  We need serious campaign finance reform–to begin with put a cap on what candidates can spend and what other groups can spend on their behalf.  We also need term limits–perhaps with a rest between terms component.  Our forefathers never envisioned the kind of career politicians we have today.

November is right around the corner.  Please find out who your candidates are, where they truly stand on the issues, AND VOTE.  Don’t let the talking heads fill your mind with lies about the “other guy” without explaining what they plan to do differently.  Ignore every ad that talks about the bad thing one person did if it’s paid for the supporters of the other side.  Demand that the person you plan to vote for has a laid out plan and not simply a promise.  Figure out what the make or break issues are for you and what each candidate is planning to do about those issues so you know who actually REPRESENTS YOU.  Ask questions and if you don’t like the answers ask follow-up questions!

In other words–be a citizen who matters not just a person who posts inflammatory gobbly-gook on FB so you can act like you’re informed and politically and socially aware.

Posted by: minnow | August 14, 2014

Our Dis-connect

The monthly Synchroblog topic for August is Connection.  The Synchroblog crash topic for August (in light of the apparent suicide of Robin Williams) is to share our thoughts about a Robin Williams movie that impacted our life. (Those posts were downloaded a couple days ago and some links will follow this post.  I did this post instead).  Initially, I thought I’d pull up an old post to fit the Connection theme since I’d written several in the last few months about my connections to my family and on-line community. In other words, I wasn’t too inspired to write anything new.  When I heard of Robin Williams’ death and the idea for a crash topic I immediately thought about my three favorite Williams films–The Fisher King, Goodwill Hunting, and Dead Poets Society.  Like my son whose FB status stated:

Robin Williams did not only make me laugh. He made me cry. He made me believe I could be a kid no matter what my age. As “O Captain! My Captain!” he gave me an ideal to strive for. And he allowed me see Joy in even the most sorrowful of times. I will miss his heart far more than his humor.

I will miss the serious Williams every bit as much as the comedian, for even in his comedy he usually made a point that gave me much to ponder.  The best comedians make those kinds of connections and Williams was one of the best.  Ironically, my three favorite Williams movies deal, in different ways, with mental illness, isolation, suicide, and finding connection.

I am fortunate.  I am connected to a community.  I do not suffer from chronic bouts of depression.  I am not addicted to anything more dangerous than caffeine.  I am not famous.  Even so, I have often felt the need to “act”.  I have addiction tendencies, need to watch my alcohol and sugar intake, quit smoking and don’t dare have “just one”.  I’ve contemplated suicide though not to the point of making a plan.  And, I do not always trust my community with my pain.

The blogishere has been full of analysis, advice, criticism, etc. regarding Robin Williams specifically and suicide in general.  Some of it has been harsh, some of it ridiculous, and some of it helpful.  Why should we expect anything else?!  Aren’t we all trying to make sense of a tragedy?  Don’t we each want an answer that guarantees this won’t happen again.  But it will.  And as humans, we will need to continue to wrestle with how that. it. makes us feel.

Two posts from the dozen’s I’ve seen stand out to me.  While some have criticized Matt Walsh’s article as insensitive and simplistic in its conclusion I think he actually contributes one perspective, one point of view to the conversation: we don’t want to make it easier for people to commit suicide.  We don’t want to add more hopelessness–the disease won’t let me say no–to the despair a person already feels.  In that sense Walsh is correct, even if everything he says isn’t completely thought through.

Katie Hurley offers a different take in her Huffington Post piece yet she, too, has missed a few beats.  Being in a dark place, feeling like you are a burden, losing hope that anything in your life will change–those feelings can be overwhelming. They put a person in despair and shut down rational thought.  Yet understanding how one gets to such a dark place does not take away the impact suicide has on those left to wrestle with self blame, guilt, anger, grief, and sometimes their own despair. Understanding why does not negate the fact that suicide can be, in fact often is, a self oriented solution to an overwhelming problem.  So while Hurley brings a level of compassion to the discussion:  just because it can be called selfish does not diminish the pain the individual who takes his or her life feels, she, like Walsh, was not entirely sensitive to the complexities of the issue.

The bottom line is, I do not know what brings people to the point of following through with their thoughts of suicide and frankly, neither does anyone else–including the experts.  What we can all agree on, I hope, is that the conversation needs to continue.  We need more not less talk.  We need to heighten awareness.  We need to make access to mental health care more available.  We need to reduce the stigmas that contribute to the fear and shame that keep people isolated and in the shadows.  As individuals we need to educate ourselves and one another about depression.  We need to learn the signs that tell us someone is contemplating suicide.  We need to take the signs seriously and to act when we see someone in trouble.

And after all that, we need to understand that we are not going to solve the problem of suicide over night.  In fact, it may never be solved completely which is why we must become more sensitive.  We must become more available to those left in the aftermath.  We, as much as those who have died, are the victims of suicide unless we are able to grow out of the pain.  To grow, we need to work at hearing one  another’s heart as well as all the words.  Welsh and Hurley, along with the rest of us, are best able to contribute to our understanding of this incredibly complex issue if we want to understand what is true more than we want to prove someone else wrong.  Our connections and our on-going conversations are the biggest defenses we have against depression and suicide.

*     *     *

Connections Link list:

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Doreen A Mannion – A bunny, a fawn and some geese walk into a bar …
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy

Here is the Crash topic link list:

Chad Jones – A Reflection Upon the Death of Robin Williams

Justin Steckbauer – Remembering Robin Williams

Glenn Hager – It’s Not Your Fault

Ryan Thomas Neace – Requiem for a Therapist:A Tribute to Robin Williams

The links for the Connections theme will be posted as soon as I get them after the 20th (I’m moving so it might take a little time:

Posted by: minnow | August 1, 2014

Quit Making Excuses

I am frustrated but it is a selfish frustration.  I felt unheard and my nose got out of joint because a FB friend posted some picture of Golda Meir with a quote about being unable to forgive the Palestinians for “making” the Israelis kill Arab children.  I was incensed and posted back and forth with this FB friend until she said something about her Bible saying God gave the land to Israel and God being “the same yesterday, today and forever”.  Anyway, I bluntly told her I found the God quote offensive and a manipulative tool to try and assert that her interpretation of God was correct since God doesn’t change.  I not so gently reminded her that our understanding of scripture  has “changed” over the years even if the God it reveals hasn’t.  Well, She deleted the comments.  I actually didn’t realize she’d deleted them until I went back to try and find the post.  I found the picture but no thread.  I’d been looking for it because I was going to add a link to an article I just found about a Catholic Church in the Gaza strip being told to evacuate because Israel planned to bomb their neighborhood that night.  Like I said I was selfishly frustrated.  I wanted to shove my point of view down her FB throat.  Sadly I could have done it with a multitude of articles pointing out how violent attacks on civilians is Israel’s MO.

Case in point, I just got a like on the last post I wrote from Juliet at Still Learning and popped over to see what she writes.  You see I don’t know her and prior to this had never read her posts.  Her topic–the late night bombing of a neighborhood in the Gaza Strip.  You can read the whole post here.  The juxtaposition of these two events made me think it was time to speak my mind regarding the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, not that the mind of a middle-aged, white, Christian American has much weight in the matter.  But it will make me feel less frustrated so it’s a plus.

I posted these two FB articles on the FB friend’s thread before she deleted the comments.  So since they aren’t getting their proper read I want to add them here.  I should also have included these two but will have to be content with only posting them now.  I guess having slept on my frustration I am not as determined to frustrate her to the point of defriending me.  humm…

While my rant started as a FB thread battle, the issue–that we have willfully chosen to ignore what Israel is doing is actually quite serious.  Obviously, conservative Christians like my friend support Israel because they have some convoluted idea that as God’s “chosen people” their sinful behavior is of no concern to us and they still have a “right” to “the promised land”.  Forget that we are primarily dealing with a non-religious government.  And just so you all know, the promised land (according to the map provided by veteranstoday.com) includes parts of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey, Kuwait, and Syria, and all of Lebanon and Jordan.  From this Christian point of view, will we be expected to turn a blind eye if Israel begins to bomb those people as well?

Money motivated political leaders support Israel because they are our only consistent ally in an area rich in oil.  We’ve got to “keep the peace” but only to the degree that we don’t allow any outside force to attack Israel.  The money motivated media spins Israel’s bombs in Palestinian neighborhoods as self defense, invoking the hated Hamas and not the actual civilian targets as the enemy.  And of course, the US will continue to be blind.  SHAME ON US!!

Golda Meir’s quote was balderdash then and it’s balderdash now.  No body makes someone else bomb them.  In some rare instances force is a necessary evil to stop a powerful evil (Hitler comes to mind) but those doing the forcing are still responsible for their actions.  If we shift the blame, attempt to lessen our culpability, we forget how to stop and let the far enough lines blur.  Self defense is different from aggressive retaliation.  And folks, Israel is the 11th most powerful military in the world according to Business Insider.  It is the most powerful in the region.

If you consider yourself to be pro-peace then do something to bring peace.  Start by writing the White House.  Tell President Obama to bring Daniel Shapiro home, to pressure Israel to get serious about peace talks, to quit playing politics by taking offense that Israel takes offense and pretending that bruised egos mean something.  Bombs are destroying homes and neighborhoods and families in Gaza every day. Precision missiles, aimed at civilian targets, kill every day. Tell the President that Palestinian children are not Hamas.  UN relief workers and shelters and schools are not Hamas.  The Al Ahli Hospital is not Hamas. A Catholic Church and care facility is not Hamas.  Tell the President and if the President won’t listen tell your Senators and Representatives and if they won’t listen tell your neighbors: bombs do not bring peace?!  If we kill our children we have no future.  Oil should not matter more than blood.  God created the Palestinian children, too.

 

 

 

Posted by: minnow | July 28, 2014

First Love

As stories go in the LGBT community especially those of a LGBT identifying child growing up in a conservative Christian family my son’s is relatively benign.  Honestly, loving him was a no brainer from the family’s point of view.  Yet, we were ignorant.  We’d been taught the conservative Christian lie that sexual attraction and gender identity was a choice that could be changed.  And, while it took some of us a little longer to turn away from the lies, we didn’t ever reject our son or brother and did ultimately CHOSE to adjust our behavior and verbiage as the truth was made known to us.  From my son’s point of view, I believe, most of the damage was done before we knew the truth, before he let us know how he identified.  Our ignorant words and behavior created an atmosphere of fear, rejection, and uncertainty for him.  Before ever coming out to us he spent years struggling with self hatred, wondering if his relationship with God was threatened by his attraction to other boys, and living with the fear his family would reject him if they (we) knew.  Our unstudied, status quo answers to his questions (when he tried to test the waters of our judgment) contributed to his pain.  We can’t undo those years.  We can’t take them back.  I hope he can heal from the damage our lack of understanding caused and I hope we’ll be given opportunities to embrace the whole of who he is.  Even so certain scars will probably be with him for life.

As I said, my son’s story is relatively benign.  Some children who identify as part of the LGBT community feel afraid for good reason.  For some, coming out to family begins a journey through the greatest pain they will ever feel in their lives.  The heart breaking stories I’ve read from parents who learned too late how to love their children and the ones told by children who no longer have families who love them fuel my pleas to the Church–We must become more like Jesus!  Children shouldn’t need to turn to prostitution and engage in unsafe sexual practice because they’ve been kicked out of their homes, rejected by their fellowships and friends, have no where to sleep, and have nothing to eat.  Children shouldn’t be filled with such self loathing that they contemplate suicide on a daily basis or get involved with drugs to deaden their pain.  These are realities in the LGBT community and the Church ought to feel ashamed for our part in driving our children to these dark places.

Love first!  Be the first to love.  Embrace first!  Be the first to embrace.  Nurture first!  Be the first to nurture. These dictates ought to be the mantras of Christianity.  They were most certainly the lifestyle of Christ.  He walked out loving His Father God.  He walked out loving His neighbor.  And, He walked out loving His enemy.  He showed us what non-judgment and forgiveness looked like when he spoke with the women at the well, ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, and Pharisees, refused to stone the woman caught in adultery, and prayed about the soldiers nailing Him to the cross, “Forgive them; they know not what they do.”  He showed His compassion for all of humanity when he wept over Jerusalem, fed the 5000, and traveled through towns and villages healing the sick and forgiving sins.  His life was inclusive.  He did not tell anyone that because of their sexual practice, because of their gender, or because of their ethnicity they didn’t belong.  He did not tell anyone that because of their sexual practice, because of their gender, or because of their ethnicity He couldn’t love them.  The Church has said that but Jesus never did!

Personally, I do not believe members of the LGBT community are sinners because of who they love or how they identify.  But Church, even if you do still cling to that thinking, it is NOT our place to judge.  We must become the safe havens we once were.  We must keep the bullying outside our walls and refuse to let our fellowship halls become torture chambers or lion’s dens.  We should be leading the way to champion the rights of the LGBT community.  And, we should do it not because it’s politically correct and will increase our coffers.  We should do it because we are called to be salt and light; we’ve been commissioned to deliver the good news; we’ve been given our own freedom.  We should do it because Christ would.

I am not ashamed of Christ but I have been a shameful representative.  Forgive me.  Forgive my ignorance and my laziness.  Forgive my silence and my duplicity.  Walk with me where the spirit of the Lord is because there is where we’ll find freedom and there is where we’ll know love.

 

Posted by: minnow | July 24, 2014

Q and R

A Facebook friend wanted help with a conversation she was have with another person.  Below are 11 questions or statements made by the other person in the conversation.  Each one is followed by my response, or how I would have responded if I had been part of the conversation.  I suspect this is one of those blogs that may include some additional questions and comments.

1) based on the Bible homosexuality is a sin

Actually, based on the interpretation by some religious people of six verses in the Bible (three Old Testament–two of which are the same rule written in two different places–and three New Testament) taken out of context and put into a very different context, engaging in same sex sexual behavior is a sin.  NOTE: Behavior is very different from being.

2) the government is forcing Christians to support homosexuality

Actually, the government cannot force Christians to support homosexuality.  The government must however enforce the constitution which grants all people religious freedom.  The constitution also says that no law can be instituted that gives preference to one group of people (including Christians) over another group of people (including homosexuals).  The Christians who do support the rights of homosexual people (and thus could be said to support homosexuality) do so voluntarily and without malice because they believe in the constitution which guarantees equal treatment under the law for all.  The United States of American is not a theocracy. 

3) radicals on LGBT side will use these laws to shut down more Christian owned businesses

No businesses have been shut down by radicals on the LGBT side.  Some businesses may have been boycotted in the same way that conservative Christian groups have called for boycotts against businesses they deem to be on the wrong side of their religious points of view.  Some, although I don’t know of any, may have faced law suits due to anti-constitutional business practices.  But, no new laws have been written to force Christian owned businesses to shut down.  Suggesting such is hyperbole and fear mongering.

4) for some their sin struggle is homosexuality

See number 1 above.  Homosexuality cannot be a person’s “sin struggle” if homosexuality is not a sin.  This comment is stuck on the notion that one’s sexual preference is a choice.  It is not.  I cannot change whether I have blue or brown eyes or am five feet two or six feet two. No one would expect me to try. In the same way, I cannot change whether I am left or right handed even though for years people who presented left handed were forced to switch to their right hands in spite of the fact that it took its toll on their ability to learn, their penmanship, and their coordination.  One’s sexual orientation is no different.

5) Aids epidemic among homosexual men

The aids epidemic is for the most part due to irresponsible sexual practice and affects all groups.  Yes, homosexual men have suffered from the epidemic the most.  But let’s dig a little into some of the contributing factors as to why many in the LGBT community engage in sex with multiple partners.  I suspect one possible reason may have to do with the fact that many feel they cannot live openly as members of the LGBT community for fear of being discriminated against, threatened, and even physically harmed.  Fear and constantly feeling the need to hide takes its toll on long term relationships.  Until fairly recently marriage was not even an option.  Even now only 19 states allow same sex marriage.  Thus society contributes to a less monogamous lifestyle.

6) if it was OK then why can’t homosexuals procreate?

Actually, homosexuals can procreate just not with each other.  Honestly, we don’t really want to pursue all the implications of this question.  We would never, for example, tell a heterosexual couple  unable to conceive that their marriage is less valid or worse–wrong in the sight of God.

7) she quoted 2 Timothy 4

Here we have another passage of scripture taken out of context and applied to an entirely different context.  The Biblical gist of this text is that we should be prepared to tell others about Christ, that we will enter a time where it will no longer be popular to talk about the life of Christ and we will be tempted (our ears will be tickled) to emphasize something other than the Gospel, specifically we will be tempted to talk about myths.   So, a quick look at the definition of myth reveals that it is 1). a traditional story especially concerning the early history of a people, or 2). a widely held but false belief or idea.  I do believe quoting 2 Timothy 4 backfires.

8) when LGBT have their rights, other rights are violated. For example, the christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple received hate mail, threats, etc.

I am saddened that anyone would receive hate mail or threats for any reason.  But it is once again fear mongering to suggest that giving one group of people equal rights under the law takes away the rights of anyone else.  We do not have a right to discriminate. Period.  A Jewish baker serving the public does not have the right to refuse service to a Christian customer who comes into the bakery to buy bagels simply because the Christian customer does not have the same faith as the Jewish baker.  Sending hate mail and making threats are not rights.  At the same time, being told you engage in discriminatory practices in a letter is not the same as receiving hate mail.

9) a person should be able to live out their religious conviction in a respectful way without fear of being judged, sued, fired, condemned, isolated

Really?  Because more people in the LGBT community have been judged, fired, condemned, and isolated simply because of the person they chose to love than anyone simply trying “to live out his or her religious convictions.”  The type of discriminatory behavior that you describe is directed toward the LGBT community on a regular basis.  And, in this country the primary perpetrators of such discrimination are Christians.

10) religious freedom is being lost in this country

I guess I need to have this statement clarified because I simply don’t see any evidence that this is true, especially if the religious freedoms you are most concerned with are Christian.  Our places of worship have not been vandalized simply because they are places of worship.  We have not had to turn our membership rosters into governmental authorities.  Nobody to my knowledge has been beaten or tortured or murdered because they profess Christ.  We’re free to attend our fellowships at any time of the day or night.  The government hasn’t picked one single type of faith or denomination and forced everyone to follow it.  Nor has the government banned any single expression of faith.

11) if marriage can happen between same genders, why not animals, statues, or other off the wall things you love?

I promised myself when I started this post that I would take every statement and question seriously but frankly this type of question gets my goat.  The gentle answer is simple.  Marriage can not happen between humans and animals, statues, or any other off the wall thing someone loves because animals, statues, and every other off the wall thing cannot give its mutual and uncoerced consent.  Period.  Now quit being intentionally provocative.  Baiting someone to anger has no place in a serious discussion.

Posted by: minnow | July 22, 2014

Community.

I have had multiple conversations both on and off line in which on-line relationships and conversations are said to be of a lower quality or have less importance than face to face relationships and conversations.  I’ve seen numerous posts decrying Facebook and our addiction to it.  I’ve also had my fair share of experience with small groups, care groups, home churches, and fellowships large and small.  My personal experience doesn’t line up with the verbiage praising “real” face to face engagement over the “less authentic” on-line versions.  So what’s a body to do?

I’d love to have some of my on-line friends over for a nice dinner and a glass of wine.  I’m sure I’d enjoy laughing together more than laughing a couple hours later with my computer at something someone said…I mean wrote.  The human touch is inviting.  The trouble is weeding out the little irritations–the sound of her laugh, his constant interrupting, the over zealous protection of the furniture, or the lack of consideration for personal boundaries–is much MUCH more difficult in person.  I don’t have to listen to the ladies go on and on about the latest diet or hair-do nail polish color.  I don’t have to listen to the men talk about football, or basketball, or baseball.  I don’t have to hear how well Sally did at the science fair or how great a speller little Johnny has become.  I don’t have to mentally judge myself over and over during all those kinds of conversations and feel guilty or embarrassed or unsure or frustrated or seriously lacking.

The limited scope of on-line relationships helps me feel accepted–ACCEPTABLE.  And, I’m much more capable of accepting others, even those I know would eventually grate on me in person.  Does this make me a shallow person?  Well, I don’t know about making me shallow but it does sort of point out where my shallowness resides.  My hat goes off to the people who can do–face to face–what I am just starting to be able to do on-line: see others as equals, not be consumed by self focus (how I do and don’t measure up), and sincerely want to know, understand where someone else lives.

I recently posted the following note of encouragement to a new comer in an on-line group I belong to. As soon as I posted it I began thinking how beautiful it would be to find an in-person fellowship which functioned in the same way as the group I was describing to this new comer.

You will see a lot in this group. We are all in such different stages of our journeys that you are bound to find someone to walk with on the trail. At the same time, in the midst of feeling tired and knowing you are on a steep part [of the mountain] you’ll hear some of us whooping it up and wonder if you’ll ever feel like that, ever get to taste the cool refreshment of a mountain spring. You may even “feel” judged because you haven’t reached that point in your journey yet. Yet it is true, none of those who seem to be having an easier time or seem to be farther along in their walk are judging. We just don’t always remember, in the moments of our celebration, how it felt to be hiking a steep rocky path or what it’s like to get off the trail and lost in the trees. At times you may be convinced you don’t want to keep hiking. It’s too much work and the part of the forest you’re stuck in at least gives you shade. But I promise, the view just over the rise is worth the effort. The ways in which you can impact those behind you [on the trail] or still debating if they’re even willing to go hiking will make each painful step forward worth the effort. The energy you’ll receive when your lungs fill with the fresh air of love and acceptance and you know you’re standing on the top of a mountain with your son IS WORTH THE EFFORT! Bless you, _______. And know you don’t have to climb the whole mountain today.

I believe Jesus is the head of the fellowship I talked about in the above post.  This group has pooled resources, flooded members with notes of sympathy, encouragement, and congratulations, and even held face-to-face get-togethers in different pockets of the country.  I just don’t happen to live in a particularly accessible part of the country or have the resources to go somewhere else.  And so, I personally long for a physical manifestation of the heart of this community, a physical manifestation of the heart of God.

Don’t get me wrong, I am blessed to have these ladies in my life, these ladies with whom (because of the on-line nature of our group) I am not made painfully aware of my dowdy clothes, lack of make-up, or disinterest in wallpaper.  These ladies LIKE me on Facebook.  They encourage me in what I have to say and share my pain without judgement.  I am blessed!  But I know that someday, perhaps when I am more ready to be a manifestation myself, I’d like to enjoy a face-to-face fellowship that looks like my JBTB community.

Posted by: minnow | July 18, 2014

The “Talk”

Back in September my son wrote a post titled SEX.  In part he wrote it as a response to all the Miley Cyrus hoopla and in part because he believes frank conversation about sex and the attitudes we have about sex should be happening more not less frequently!  I agree.  In fact, I started a post to talk more about sex back in January.  But, I got distracted and didn’t finish it.  Then in May Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping wrote an interesting post titled Sex Shame and Rape Culture.  Again, my interest was piqued and I worked on my post.  But again, I was distracted by other issues and didn’t finish.  Today (July 15), I was reminded that the Synchroblog postings were just around the corner and the topic was Liberty.  Doesn’t everyone want to write about sex when they think of LIBERTY?!  ;) I certainly do!  But rather than work on an old post that wasn’t working well enough to get itself posted three or seven months ago I thought I’d try a new approach.

Romans 13:8 tells us we are to: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”  Two things are very telling for me in this single verse.  First, loving others is the fulfillment of the law.  Second, we are not supposed to owe anyone anything except love–the kind of love we can give to everyone.  I’d hazard a guess that the kind of love the verse references is NOT sexual or erotic love.  That said, the Church doesn’t exactly have a healthy understanding of what the Bible does say about erotic love.

Ironically, when media talks to us about sex or shows us sexually heightened images even when most of those images are disconnected from meaningful relationships, their goal is to make us think they’re talking about love because society in general understands that love (that wildly abstract concept) is a good thing.  Just as interestingly, when the Church talks to us about sex they almost always do so with such a negative connotations that the Body completely disassociates sex from any healthy components of love.  Pointing fingers at an outside world, which granted uses eroticism to sell us everything from computers and cars to food and dish soap, the Church warns its members (often by making women the object or source of the problem) to avoid sexual temptations and wait for marriage as if marriage can miraculously save one from the inherent evil of erotic love.

Sadly marriage has no such powers.  Even though the Church promises women marriage will protect them, it can’t deliver on it’s promise.  Marriage cannot suddenly reprogram the messages women have received through the years of shame in their adolescence–that  they shouldn’t have erotic feelings, shouldn’t desire sexual pleasure, and shouldn’t engage in provocative behavior.  Marriage cannot suddenly undo the multiple ways women have been blamed for all things wrong with sex.  Marriage cannot suddenly erase the subtext  passed on to boys that after marriage sex will be theirs for the taking. And, marriage cannot suddenly replace the messages of fear and control with compassion by telling couples: now you must consider your spouse’s needs, desires, energy, health, etc. if you want to have a healthy sex life.  No matter how accurate the new message might be, marriage isn’t a miracle drug.

Media also seems powerless. It promises women if they become more sexual they will be empowered. Repeated images of women enjoying sexual freedom coupled with happily ever after or quick fix scenarios paint this false message with bold colors.  Yet, the media can’t actually deliver on its promise either since it cannot undo the very real consequences of sexual behavior–pregnancy, STDs, and emotional trauma. Neither does it seem willing to challenge society’s default setting when it comes to the problems relating to sex: blame  women.

The worst part about the sex messages delivered by the media or by the Church is that they avoid the foundational problem. Women may have been given the vote in 1920.  They may have gotten some freedom to make decisions about their own bodies in the 1970’s.  But, they have never been seen or treated as equal to men.  Until we have serious conversations to expose the underlying attitudes that continue to hold women beneath men we cannot hope to find solutions for the symptomatic problems–whether we’re talking unequal pay, female poverty, healthcare inequalities, or living in a rape culture.

***

Here’s the list of links to other Synchroblog post on the topic of Liberty:

I know Rachel Held-Evans isn’t part of the Synchroblog but this too needs a look:

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/we-need-feminism

Posted by: minnow | July 11, 2014

All in the Family

Not long ago pastor and blogger Kevin DeYoung invited Christians who think the Bible supports gay marriage to answer 5 questions.  DeYoung’s thoughts and the five questions can be found here. Graeme Codrington picked up the challenge and responded to DeYoung in his own blog here. Since Codrington answered the specific questions much more effectively than I could I will only address some of the unasked questions while also looking at those DeYoung asked in a more general sense.

I am of the mind set that the empirical evidence regarding the question: Are people born gay (LBTQ, etc.)? has mounded to the point that only the most closed minded, afraid of their own shadow, religious sheep still argue to the contrary.  That said, I would suggest to all the heterosexual individuals out there–take a closer look at hetero-sexuality.  To suggest we all actually belong in the same boat is absurd.  In truth our attractions include a variety of visual and emotional components and our need for physical intimacy falls a long a wide range.  The sooner we take our focus off the criterion of gender difference the sooner we’ll understand all those letters in the alphabet-soup-attempt-at-labeling-sexual-identity are merely more variations on an already complex and diverse spectrum.  To this end, DeYoung’s question: “What will you say about anal intercourse?” is ridiculous even if one ignores his focus on male genitalia.

Controlling religious leaders want us to believe the Bible draws clear lines regarding sexual practice.  Most of these same voices have as much to say about issues impacting a woman’s sexuality, such as birth control.  Few, however, point any fingers at  predominately (according to statistics) male behavior, such as spousal abuse.  The discrepancy is sadly clear and often colors how we see and interpret scripture, or more accurately–how we allow scripture to be interpreted for us.  Not only do these moralistic dictates and attitudes fail to take into account cultural change they also misrepresent what scripture actually says and doesn’t say.  I believe sexual practice between two consenting adults has but one Biblical mandate–to love the other as yourself.  Every other thus saith the Word is reached by twisting scripture and taking the words out of context to put them into a different context.  Thus, I would answer DeYoung’s intentionally provocative question with a simple–such is not for me to decide for any other couple–heterosexual or homosexual–nor is it for anyone else to decide, including DeYoung.

A few years back the theory “it takes a village to raise a child” became a hot button  between liberals and conservatives.  Truthfully, each side utilizes a variety of community influences to provide safe places for children. That fact was obscured by shouts of socialism, indoctrination, and hate speech. DeYoung’s question–Are you prepared to say moms and dads are interchangeable? attempts to protect his prejudice by shirking his responsibility to understand the current realities of American culture.  Today in America children are raised by single moms, single dads, grandparents, other relatives, foster parents, adoptive parents, and same sex parents.  Some children live in group homes with adult role models but no parents and some live on the streets with no adult supervision at all.  These are the facts.

What makes one situation more ideal from a child’s perspective than another is the level of care provided to the child not the sexual preferences of the adults taking care of them.  Do women and men bring different things to the table?  Absolutely!  Do they only bring different things to the table when it comes to parenting?–That’s actually a different blog post.  But, when it come to parenting, same sex couples, like single parents and grandparents and group home supervisors and yes hetero-parents, enhance the lives of the children under their care by including in their lives a variety of healthy, compassionate, adult role models regardless of their sexual orientation.  They enhance the lives of the children under their care by giving their children their time and attention.  They enhance the lives of the children under their care by encouraging their children’s individual talents and interests.  And, they enhance the lives of the children under their care by helping their children build character traits, such as honesty, mutual respect, and community mindedness.

Recently an advocacy group I belong to asked its readers to offer their “Wise and Wonderful” advice to parents who just learned their children identify with the LGBTQ community.  This was my advice:

Ignore [their sexuality] to the same degree you ignore your straight children’s sexuality. Let your children be the lead. Ask them, if you are struggling, who they would feel safe letting you tell and talk to about your feelings. DO NOT go to your pastor unless you already attend an accepting and affirming fellowship. Invite them to share their journey thus far as long as you are ready to listen without interrupting. Affirm and reaffirm your love for them. Understand that if you [have actively raised your children in] a conservative Christian fellowship they have probably already spent hours upon hours, perhaps even years, begging God to change them. Affirm and reaffirm the fact that God loves them the same yesterday, today, and forever–there is nothing anyone can do to escape His love.

I would add that as soon as their son or daughter comes out to the wider circle of their family and friends they should be prepare to watch their families and especially their LGBTQ children be judged, lectured, shunned, and even threatened by the people who in the past claimed to love them the most–the Church.  This last reality is what grieves my heart and makes my blood boil.

DeYoung’s fifth question: how have all Christians at all times and in all places interpreted the Bible so wrongly for so long? implies that all Christians for all time have held the opinion DeYoung currently holds regarding gender identification, sexual orientation, and gay marriage.  While this assumption can not be proven especially since all three are modern day concepts; it also avoids the fact that most Christians have, in the not too distant past, adjusted their position on how we should understand many other issues when using the lens of scripture, including some as serious as slavery.  More importantly, however, DeYoung’s attempt to create Biblical law where there isn’t any produces what I believe is an even bigger problem: a disregard for the true nature of God as revealed by the life of Christ.  In Christ’s witness we see inclusion, compassion, and anger toward the arrogant behavior of the  religious leaders of His day for making access to God more difficult than it needed to be.  Today, pastors like DeYoung and organizations like The Family Resource Council have taken the place of the teachers of the law and Pharisees to which Jesus says in Matthew 23:13, “Woe to you…you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves will not enter, nor will you let those who are trying.”

Personally, I see the whole inclusion-exclusion issue the same way I see scripture’s teaching about forgiveness.  I include you; God includes me.  I shut the door in your face; I just might be picking splinters out of my nose.  The truth of the matter is, when there is no clear cut teaching on an issue don’t just declare there is and build one to support a prejudice the way scripture was at one time used to justify slavery.  Instead, look at the principles that have overwhelming scriptural support, such as the fact that God loves us unconditionally, and build a doctrine around that.

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