Posted by: minnow | August 21, 2015

Can Socialism Co-exist with a Democracy?

Election 2016 is a year away yet with the first GOP presidential debate behind us we can safely say the race to the white house has begun.  16 Republicans and a handful of Democrats are vying for position.  Personally, I have already marked a few candidates off my list of contenders and certainly have my favorite. Still, I look forward to future debates and hearing what these would-be presidents think are the most important issues facing Americans.  That said, the airwaves and blog-o-sphere have already been a buzz with “news” of what the candidates are saying and doing.  The closer we get to the primary and general elections and the more heated the races become we can expect to be overloaded with negative rhetoric and inflammatory  fear mongering.  Listening to a few of the talking-heads one might begin to wonder if our whole way of life is in peril.  The subtext of the title question is just one of many attempts to stir up anxiety among voters.  So instead of jumping off political cliff into the pool of fear let’s just take the question at face value.

The short answer to the title question is, yes.  These two concepts are not mutually exclusive.  On the other hand, the question: can capitalism and socialism co-exist puts us on the correct page.  Both Capitalism and Socialism are economic theories.  Capitalism advocates for private ownership and free (as in unencumbered by oversight, regulation, and taxation) markets.  Socialism prefers public ownership and strong government oversight of the market in order to compensate for economic inequality.  Some see socialism as kissing cousins to communism in which the government owns everything and wealth in the form of goods, services and property is distributed equally among the people.  Others would point out that the United States already has both socialist and capitalist principles at work within our economy so continuing with these principles in their checks and balances relationship gives us nothing to fear.

For further clarification of the question: a Democracy is a political theory concerned with the method of governance.  In this theory the populous votes in order to determine their representatives. Those individuals who are elected then act on their behalf to  make policy and establish law. Elections in a democracy happen on a regular schedule and the representation changes by the will of the people. An oligarchy, a term we are likely to hear during this election cycle, is another political theory concerned with the method of governance.  Oligarchies are a concentration of power within a small group of people.  Often these people are influential due to their wealth, family ties, corporate influences, education, and or religious affiliations. Extreme oligarchies maintain their power with military force and monetary control rather than by elections.  The extreme form might better be understood by studying fascism or totalitarianism.  Under fascist or totalitarian power the people are absolutely subject to the centralized authority of the State which maintains its power by force. These extreme forms differ from oligarchies in that oligarchies tend to want freedom from government control or accountability  for their privately owned businesses and corporations but aren’t quite as concerned about the individual freedoms of its citizens.

In the United States, our form of government is a democracy. Our economic system is primarily capitalist.  However, low voter turnout–57.5% according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute for the 2012 presidential election and the massive amounts of money spent on the campaigns have some people worried enough to suggest we may be heading toward an oligarchy, if indeed we aren’t already there.  The growing chasm between the extremely wealthy and the middle class also has some people waving caution flags. Just as an FYI , also according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute voter turn out for those making over $100.000 was 79.6%.

So what am I actually trying to say?  First, Americans need to vote.  If our democracy is going to function the way it was intended increasing voter turnout is a must. Next, don’t be put off by name calling and labeling.  For example, since Bernie Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialism it’s probably a good idea to find out what HE means when HE used the term socialist instead of allowing those who want to see him fail define the term.  I can pretty much guarantee you will hear a very different explanation depending on who is doing the talking!  Finally, insist those running for office have something of substance to say.  Snarky retorts and bashing the other candidates might work for 30 second sound bites but we don’t need school yard bullies, elitist who don’t think they should have to answer to anyone, or ego maniacs who think the world revolves around them.  We need policy makers and problem solvers.  We need leaders with vision and a record of taking on the difficult challenges.

We live in an increasingly interdependent world full of diverse cultures and belief systems.  And I’m not just talking about within our borders.  We need to figure out how to co-exist, work together, and encourage everyone’s success!

Posted by: minnow | August 5, 2015

When Your Children Aren’t Who You Wanted Them to Be

dna_istock_rustycloudThis is a post mostly for Moms.  Dads and others feel free to read it but I’m primarily addressing a particular group of Moms–those Moms who wrestle with on-going disappointment.   I belong to a private FB group of women who do quite a bit of wrestling as one or more of their children make the announcement that he or she isn’t straight.  Some feel like their whole lives have been knocked off balance.  They didn’t see it coming and were completely shock.  Others sensed the announcement’s arrival and prayed fervently for God to make it not be true–afraid of what IT will mean for them or for their children.  A few, took the news in stride but until last month’s SCOTUS decision, felt they needed to let go of the hopes and dreams for themselves as mother-in-laws and grandmothers.  All these ladies faced the difficult work of adjusting to their new realities while clinging to their children and reaching out to God.

All of these ladies are my heroes.

Many have felt the need to leave fellowships they grew up in because these fellowships no longer showed them the unconditional love of Christ.  Once their children shared their secrets (usually as teens or young adults) most of these Mamas felt pressure from others to condemn their own children, to shame them, and even to reject them if that’s what it took to “get rid of the gay”.  Instead, these Mama Bears, as they often refer to themselves, chose to let go of life long friendships and faith connections.  While their hearts were breaking from their own loses (but even more excruciatingly due to the pain their children experienced at the hands of those they has assumed would have their backs) these moms found themselves following God’s call to love their children–alone.  It takes a special brand of courage to make those kinds of choices.  And these Mama Bears are a special brand of courageous!

I realize children don’t have to identify as a LGBT to face difficulties in life.  Lots of issues bombard our children–like mental illness, learning disabilities, and physical illnesses–just to name a few.  The list can actually feel endless.  Most Moms, especially when our children are young, would like to spare them every broken heart, scraped knee, second of embarrassment, or momentary set back.  Yet, what sometimes happens when we hang on so tightly to our children, taking on their pain and disappointment, is that we forget that they are not us.  We being to enmesh more of ourselves into their lives than what we should and we try to control more of their experiences and responses to life than we actually can.  Our desire to spare them rises up from deep within and we don’t even realize we are reacting, or rather interfering.  In other words, we are blind to their autonomy.  Their pain feels like it’s our pain.  Yet our interference can actually stunt their emotional growth.

One of the most difficult requirements of a good parent is to watch our children experience discomfort and do nothing to disrupt the experience.  From the moment they are infants we begin to interpret their cries in order to meet their needs–hunger, a dirty diaper, a cold, the need to burp, the need to cuddle.  Our natural tendency is to put ourselves between their experiences and their emotions–to rescue them from pain.  Yet, even infants need to figure out how to self sooth, and how to put themselves back to sleep, as well as how to better and better express the needs they can’t meet for themselves.   If we want our toddlers, youngsters, adolescents, teens, and young adult children to grow successfully into their next stage of development we must allow them to experience the pains and frustrations that motivate them to become problem solvers, self-sufficient individuals, and ultimately confident members of society.  Rescuing them from themselves impedes their learning and development.

I often hear mom’s say, “I just want my children to be happy.”  Believe me, I get it.  The problem is sometimes our assumptions about what will make our children happy and our dreams for their future look a whole lot less like them then they look like us.  If we are grieving over something as trivial as the color, length, or style of our adult child’s hair or if we allow our teenage children to throw tantrums, use hateful language, or blame us for the pain in their lives that we haven’t caused–we are too ensnared.  We have not made healthy boundaries for ourselves and we have not successfully taught our children (or given them the opportunity) to be autonomous and own their choices/behavior.

It is never too late to learn to set boundaries.  While those have gotten use to playing the victim might not like the change very much, our biggest resistance to the boundaries we need to set won’t come from outside ourselves; our biggest resistance will come from within.  Most of us have thoroughly absorbed the messages delivered by our culture, our religion, and our own upbringing that our value is directly connected to how we walk out the role: Mom.  Even if we have prosperous careers or impactful ministries outside our families, our children are often the barometers by which we are measured.  These messages provide a powerful motivation to make certain success (however it has been defined) is achieved.  Trusting our children to choose is tough enough when their happiness is on the line. but when our worth is tangled up with the choices they might make trusting them can feel impossible.  Yet, if they are going to have a true chance at happiness we must let them determine what happiness means for themselves.

SO Moms–(and dads, if this applies to you) while you brought your children into the world without their permission, the umbilical cord has been cut.  Your job from that moment on-ward, is to let them cry.  Their lungs need a full breath so they can ultimately learn to breathe on their own.

Posted by: minnow | July 6, 2015

To the Leaders of My Beloved Church

Let me begin by saying, I have a deep and abiding faith in and love for God. I cannot remember a time in my life when that has not been true although today it is a faith that has been tested and so is stronger and certainly more grounded than it was when I was first married or even the mother of teenagers. It is definitely less idealistic today than the untested childlike faith I had in a Jesus who loves me and a God who would never let me go. I wish I could claim my love for the Church has never wavered but sadly, my love for and confidence in the Church  has taken a beating over the past decade. Yet, I am finally beginning to understand how impossible it is to effectively love others if we (the Church) do not first, sincerely, love ourselves. Having said that, I am grieved by how far away from love parts of the Body have wandered.  With this in mind I write my letter.

Let me just jump in with both feet. I am concerned about the relationship between the Church and LGBT people. In the name of full disclosure, I should tell you, my son is gay. He has been gay his whole life but he revealed this truth to me, to our family, a little over four years ago.  Obviously the timing of this letter has less to do with my son’s “coming out” than the SCOTUS decision to affirm the rights of same-sex couples to marry, yet my son’s experience of organized religion is ultimately my motivating factor.

While Friday June 26 was a good day for US civil rights and I am personally happy for my son, it was not such a great day for the Church. Prior to and in the wake of the SCOTUS announcement various Church leaders shook their fists, spewed dire warnings about the end of the world, and called down hell fire and damnation on LGBT people and their allies.  Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and today other than a few die hard fist shakers, most Church leaders have begun to urge their followers to take the higher ground and love “them” while holding firm to their “faith”, an attitude that at least on the surface seems more decorous.  Others, like Christopher Page, are my true heroes in this conversation.  Page gently promotes a perspective that might actually cause people to look rationally at how the SCOTUS decision impacts them. And while I obviously hope more people read his post, I have a more urgent plea, not as much for the general populous, as for leadership.

When my son finally said those words to me, “Mom, I’m gay.” I was grieved—NOT by what he was confessing but by what I understood in that moment about how difficult it was for him to admit it. I had watched him struggle in the months prior. I had suspected what he struggled to say. But honestly I had no idea. I did not realize, at first, that my son had already spent countless hours begging God to change him, to take the gay away. I did not yet know that he had gone through years of shame and self-loathing. I was ignorant of the fact that he tried to force himself to be attracted to girls, like his friends, and his brothers, and his father, and his role models, and his pastors; and felt like a failure. I didn’t understand because he was afraid to tell us, worried he might be rejected by his family and his fellowship, afraid that if he was found out he might end up homeless, hated, and alone.

His struggle literally made him sick, so sick we had to pull him from school the end of his sophomore year. My son, that beautiful brown-eyed boy who loved to dance before the Lord in worship, even contemplated ending his life. He actually wondered if it would be better to be dead than admit to his friends and family he is gay. Mind you, all of this was BEFORE he ever acted on his same-sex attraction. I am exceedingly glad he decided to risk sharing his secret with us—face to face—rather than in a suicide note.

I can handle the fact my son is gay but I need help to direct the anger I feel toward organized religion. The Church—most of the Church—is and has been abusing children—my child—and I have to continually remind myself it isn’t the whole Church. Not all Christians take on the roles of judge and jury instead of family and friend. Not all of us spew condemnation or threaten civil war. Not all blame natural disasters and all of society’s ills on LGBT people. Not everyone kicks their own children out of their homes, removes them from leadership roles or bans them from youth groups and Christian fellowships. Motivated by a sincere desire to follow Christ, to honor God, and to love children the way we have been loved, some of us have chosen instead to reexamine what we have been taught and to find hope in the Good News of the gospels, the walk and words of our Lord, and the counsel of the Spirit.

I love the Church and I do not want to bring her strife. But, I am also aware that the relationship between LGBT people and most of the Church is tenuous at best. Although some in the Church have begun to open their hearts, minds, and doors to LGBT people most continue to label, bully, shun, shame, and exclude. By shutting the doors of fellowship to LGBT people we are the antithesis of Christ found in the gospel. Still, inclusion of LGBT people in the Body has divided fellowships, broken families, and tarnished, yet again, the Bride’s image. With regard to this issue the media does not “know us by our love” but instead seems to take pleasure in showing us at our worst. It certainly doesn’t hurt their rating when they do. Both sides have flung mud and behaved badly and neither side’s bad behavior speaks for God.  We must find a better way.

Please, do not hear what I am not saying. As much as I personally believe I am correct and those of you who adhere to the view that homosexuality is a choice, same-sex attractions are the devil’s temptation, and acting on same-sex attractions is sin are incorrect, my pleas is not to simply take my word for it.  Instead, I ask you to agree to be guided by the Spirit, to ask the Spirit to teach you what it looks like to love your neighbor, especially the LGBT neighbor in your midst. For I guarantee you, there are LGBT people in your midst—MY SON GREW UP IN YOUR MIDST.  Please, decide to do the homework you need to do FULLY, in order to understand how our words and actions have impacted LGBT people.  Do not simply reread the words the teachers of the law have taught you, but rather with the guidance of the Spirit, intentionally wrestle with the other point of view. Learn what scripture says AND DOES NOT SAY about same-sex relationships, and salvation, and our role as the body, from the other point of view. Look at Biblical culture and Church history and our culture from the other point of view. Find out the science with regard to human sexuality.  And, seek to understand the personal stories of LGBT individuals.

While some on the far right have increased their shouting about end times struggles I do not share their doomsday prophesies. I do, however, believe the Church is on the precipice of a significant shift.  By more fully understand these issues and the people behind these issues we have the ability to cast out fear and discover the truth about what love looks like. On multiple occasions throughout scripture the Church is given a mandate to love others as well as an admonition to avoid judging them. The Jesus I found in the Bible befriended the marginalized, embraced the downtrodden, cautioned the self-righteous, and encouraged a fresh reading of scripture.  As leaders, mentors, and role models refusing to wrestle with one of the major moral, spiritual issues of our day is a disturbing option. Please, prepare your hearts and minds to receive counsel from the Spirit on this issue. Spend time reexamining the example of Christ in the Gospels. Know that God is speaking to the Church concerning our LGBT brothers and sisters. And,He has not called us to a ministry of condemnation but rather to the gospel of reconciliation.

You are all in my prayers.

 

 

Posted by: minnow | June 23, 2015

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Recently two different comparisons between the experiences of transgender individuals and others have rattled me both emotionally and spiritually.  First, I read a comparison of Caitlyn Jenner to Rachel Dolezal. Rachel is the woman who while biologically white claimed to be black.  Then, I heard a comparison between the transgender experience and Body Integrity Identity Disorder,  in which an individual feels like one or more of their limbs don’t belong to them and so wants to cut the offending body part off.  Obviously, these comparisons made sense to someone or they would not have been made.  But, the more I thought about them the more each comparison disturbed me.

Had Rachel Dolezal stated from the beginning that she, “identifies as black” she might have received more empathy.  However, Dolezal knowingly started and perpetuated a deception which resulted in her own financial and professional gain.  She lied about who her biological father is, even posting a picture of herself with a black man she claimed was her father.  Further more, she made accusations of child abuse inflicted by her parents and sexual assault at the hands of her adopted brother.  I do not know whether or not these assertions are legitimate  however, the natural barrier they created between her biological family and herself, a barrier others initially respected due to the sensitive subject matter, was obviously to her advantage.  At any rate, it was not until after her deception was revealed that Dolezal began using language which leads to the comparison to Jenner, stating on the Today show, “I identify as black.”

Those who make the Jenner comparison know, or can assume, the public will be angry about Dolezal’s deception and thereby making the comparison plants doubt about the legitimacy of the transgender experience in the minds of others.  The problem with the comparison is Dolezal claimed to be black.  She lied about who her biological father is and fabricated stories about her upbringing to perpetuate the lie.  For her, it is not (or at least was not originally) a question of having the inside and the outside at odds with one another and wanting the two to line up, which is the case with transgender individuals.  Dolezal attempted to pass off her biology as something it was not and never talked about the inside until her falsehood was exposed.  Those making the comparison of Dolezal to Jenner are  calling a baseball and an orange fruit because both are round. but the comparison doesn’t make the baseball–or in this case the comparison–palatable.

The second analogy is even more disturbing to me than the first.  And, ignorance and an attempt to vilify the transgender individual is at its root. I don’t deny these are harsh words.  Yet, when we breakdown the argument the truth is revealed.  Body Integrity Identity Disorder is a mental illness. One does not need to frequent pentecostal circles for long to understand that for some people a horde of demons stands behind every mental illness.  The devil and his minion are responsible and the cure is repentance. What can be more “sick” than wanting to cut off your own–healthy–body part, leaving yourself physically maimed for life and potentially dependent on others for your physical care?  Connecting the dots of the analogy–transgender people want to get rid of certain body parts they must be “sick” and since we know the real problem is demonic, transgender people just need Jesus and repentance–and a healthy dose of brainwashing.  ARGH!

Once again calling a baseball fruit doesn’t make it edible.  To begin with, transgender people are not allowed to transition medically from what their biology suggests is their gender to what their mental/emotional state says is their gender without undergoing therapy.  Secondly, transgender people who seek to transition do so in order to live fuller, more authentic lives.  They are not disabling themselves; they are enabling themselves. Their decision will not make them dependent on the physical care of others nor will it qualify them for special services, such as handicapped parking.  Like a deaf person receiving a cochlear implant, the goal is to compensate for a defect of birth and improve one’s overall well-being.  Finally, repentance means turning away from sin.  Sin is always a matter of choice no matter how deeply under a demon we become.  Being transgender is not a matter of choice.  It is a matter of identity–of BEING.

Transgender people long for their physical state to align with their emotional/mental state.  If this alignment could happen by changing their mental/emotional state transgender people would do so–BUT IT CANNOT.  Here in lies the part of this issue which is most disturbing to me as a Christian.  I have listen to dozens if not hundreds of sermons in my lifetime focused on denying the flesh, not allowing our bodies to control our minds.  Standing before us are literal physical examples of this huge spiritual concept and what is our response–we insist the physical be given priority when it comes to determining a person’s gender.  Then we call every other alternative sin.  Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites and vipers who shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces by saddling them with unnecessary burdens of thinking, behavior, and appearance. In this issue, we sadly stand alongside the Pharisees.  Repentance may be necessary, but not by transgender people.

Posted by: minnow | June 8, 2015

Hating Hiding

Caitlyn Jenner is slated to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the ESPYs in July. For those who might not know the ESPYs are given in a variety of categories, to individual athletes and teams. The Arthur Ashe Award is given to the individual(s) who contributed “most significantly” to the world beyond sports during a given year.  The award has no gender or event qualifications.  For many the announcement Jenner will be this year’s recipient brings hope, an opportunity to elevate someone who shares part of their story, a chance to educate society by normalizing real life situations which most often bring with them confusion, pain, frustration, and loneliness. Sadly, for others it is just one more chance to demonstrate their ignorance, ugly sides, and God-complexes.

Not being much of a sport enthusiast (I watch my own children play, but that’s about it.), I had to do some research into the ESPYs and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in order to understand the “controversy”.  I must say, after reading Arthur Ashe’s story and the definition of his Courage Award, I hardily agree with the Jenner nomination.

Ms. Jenner has shown courage in the extreme by making her journey public.  And, she has contributed to humanity in ways most of us can only begin to measure.  But let me try anyway.  Ms. Jenner has shown a group of people who are typically ostracized, completely misunderstood and unreasonably vilified that it is never too late to live authentic lives. She has made herself a lightning rod thereby giving transgender advocates a way to expose the lies plaguing transgender people without needing to risk shining a spotlight on their own loved ones.

Additionally, Jenner has shouldered a ton of criticism not only about her personal experience but also about her decision to share her experience publicly.  Seriously, if her critics aren’t burning her in hell they’re trying to shame her into silence. These insensitive, brutish people, who frankly have no dog in the fight and thus no legitimate right to the inordinate amount of attention they’ve garnered, ought to be quiet.  (If I weren’t an advocate of free speech I would be tempted to say they don’t even have a right to an opinion in the matter). At the very least, they ought to take their petty preaching back inside their tax-exempt buildings and leave the rest of us in peace.  (Of course, the religious naysayers aren’t the only negative voices but they’re  the one’s I’m most frequently exposed to and often the loudest).

Some may be wondering Since I don’t have a transgender child what gives me the “right” to speak out about this issue. I could point to my gay son and claim LGBT people and their families have to stick together.  But honestly, if I did that I would be using my son in a way I don’t fully believe to be true.  You see all LGBT people are not alike any more than all straight people are alike, or all Christians are alike or all… [you get the point].  The truth is I DON’T have a physical dog in this fight.  What I have is an emotional understanding of what it feels like to pretend you are someone you are not. For me personally, breaking out of hiding (and perhaps helping others do the same) is how Ms. Jenner has contributed most significantly to humanity.

I understand living with the fear you are going to be “found out”.  I resonate with the  shame and the desperation.  I resonate with the feeling of waking up to the realization you can no longer pretend. I have stood frozen in fear  then suddenly knowing that even if it meant I would live the rest of my life separated from community, rejected by my loved ones, and eventually have to face an angry, vengeful God, I could no longer continue to live a lie, a lie which ultimately helps no one.  As an adult, my entire life inside the walls of religious institutions was spent immersed in a pervasive, manipulative, immobilizing fear.  I was frightened to death of death–that nebulous somewhere worse than this. My fear was sucking the life out of me and caused me to deny my strengths, my talents, my discernment, my voice.

If it were not for a former pastor who discovered an escape clause from all the mind controlling religious rhetoric and risked sharing it with me one gorgeously sunny day in June while we ate BBQ at my son’s graduation party, I honestly do not know if I would ever have woken from the nightmare of my fear.  This all sounds rather melodramatic, even to me.  I apologize. But, the truth remains.  Fear is a powerful manipulator and I had been in its grips.

So I can say without a minute’s hesitation–if by sharing her story, Caitlyn Jenner has shed light on the truth about transgender people, if she’s given just one other person hope for a brighter future free from the pain of living a lie, then that’s reason enough to recognize her courage and give the woman an award.  If you disagree, if you think someone else is more deserving, feel free to advocate for your preference but do so without diminishing Caitlyn Jenner’s contribution, since in all likelihood you simply do not understand!

One last note–I am embarrassed by my fellow Christians who claim to worship a God of love but refuse to show compassion to Caitlyn Jenner.  I am specifically thinking of those people who have ridiculed and belittled Jenner’s experience, who refuse to use her chosen name  and thoughtlessly insist on using male pronouns, who have called her names, and who have sought to take away or tarnish the legitimately earned recognition for her superior athleticism. I realize my apology on their behalf cannot undo the pain their words and behavior have caused.  Still, I am saddened and I do apologize.

Posted by: minnow | May 2, 2015

We Have a Choice

choosegoodAs a follower of Christ, I have tried to live my faith honestly before my children.  I knew if I did, I would be living honestly in front of the rest of the world as well.  Even when I was steeped in religion and law I still desired to walk out what I believed to be true so my children would have an ever-present role model.  I do not claim to have a perfect success rate. In fact because I spent so many years under a legalistic religious authority I ultimately passed some of that onto my children as well. Still, I believe I have for the most part been conscious of and have tried to own my failures, as well as my successes.

When I walked out of the building of my most recent fellowship for the last time I did not cause a scene.  Even though I should have, I did not round-up my brood of five, brush the dust off my feet, and draw attention to the fact I was leaving.  I simply did not return.   I left because leadership back-tracked on the topic of women in leadership. After the senior pastor died, the new guy called for the resignation of all the pastors (most fellowships would call these elders). A couple weeks later the men were reappointed. They were once again presented as “God’s chosen leaders” for the fellowship but for some unexplained reason God no longer wanted women pastors.  Two of my sons followed me out of the building a year or two later. They had their own reasons–one because the fellowship wanted him to repent for being gay, the other after he was sidelined from ministry for questioning leadership about hell. (He’d been leading the youth media team.)

And there you have it–three of the four tenets that matter most to my old fellowship, and possibly the majority of yours. They believe: 1). We’re all going to hell unless we believe the same way leadership believes. 2). Women should be submitted to men not the other way around. And 3). gays (all LGBT people for that matter) are an abomination.  The fourth? Tithing.

Ask these same fellowships about the environment, sex trafficking, racial disparity, hunger, or poverty and you’re likely to hear some nonsense about how much they give to foreign missions. Ask who they voted for in the last election and from the majority you will likely hear a long list of republican names because we all know how concerned republicans are about the family and issues like abortion.  “And by God, we vote our conscious”.

What is sad is how easily their conscious is hoodwinked.

A long time has passed since I wrote my original posts about hell. (check out the Got Hell tab). I quit talking about it because the notion seemed settled and I thought I should move on to more pressing matters, like the relationship between the Church and LGBT people, or gender disparity in Church leadership, or economic disparity in the world, or our neglect of the planet we were charged to care for.  A recent conversation with my son, however, got me thinking about hell again.  His “but mom” went something like this–As long as the Church has convinced a person ze* is going to a worse place if ze doesn’t get in the right pew, it has the power to control that person’s thinking to the degree that ze is willing to ignore reason, logic, and often hir* own experiences.  In other words–the threat of hell keeps people afraid and fearful people are easily manipulated.

Parents who truthfully love their children turn around and admonish them, humiliate them, bully them or worse shun them, kick them out or subject them to conversion therapy because the parents are afraid.  Some are afraid of what others will think, of losing their status or their position in their fellowships.  Others, however, are sincerely afraid of hell–afraid their children will go to hell if their children don’t change and afraid they will go to hell if they accept, embrace, comfort, nurture, encourage, defend–in short love–their children just the way they are, just the way Jesus loves them.

I use the example above partly because the relationship the Church has with LGBT people is one of the soapboxes on which I feel called to stand.  However, my other reason for using it is every bit as serious. Hell is employed to justify harming others in the short term by directing our focus to “the prize at the end of the race”.  Our relationship with LGBT people points that out perfectly. Hanging onto the unbiblical idea of a future unending place of torment (hell) numbs us to the hell we put people through right here and right now. Rather than question authority, or the handful of precepts we’ve been told require our absolute allegiance, some in the Body are willing to go so far as to mentally, verbally, and sometimes physically, beat their own children into submission.  These parents willingly destroy their relationships with their own flesh and blood in the name of religion!

When asked, Jesus told the teachers of the law the most important commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength. Duh, right?! I mean the first four of the Ten Commandments are about giving God Hir proper place in our lives. But Jesus didn’t stop at four. Instead He summed up the next six when He told the teachers of the law, “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

These two commandments are not at odds–ever.

We either keep both or we break both. And while in the instant information age we live in our neighbors reach half way around the globe, are most assuredly the faces that stare back at us from across the dinner table each night. If we just read through the bottom six commandments one thing is immediately clear–they are about doing NO HARM.  Loving our neighbors doesn’t look like Lamentations, military boot camp or Nazi Germany.  Loving our neighbor as our own flesh and blood looks like 1 Corinthians 13. Please, find out the truth about hell before it’s too late.  Read the links I provided on the hell tab, or better yet Rob Bell’s book Love WinsHell on earth is the only hell we’re heading for and the more we reject our neighbors the faster we’re going to get there.

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* These pronouns (ze, hir) are used in place of he/she   or his/her   when the subject could be either or when it is non-gender specific.

Posted by: minnow | April 17, 2015

Breaking Bread and Lifting Burdens

I made it all the way through the Easter season biting my tongue. I hoped against hope that the miracle of a resurrected Christ would somehow touch the hearts and spirits of the super-religious as they chanted their ugly hate-filled rhetoric at the rest of the world.  I so wanted this season to be a turning point, an awakening of the Church, a self-determined humbling of the religious elite.  But posts like the recent Dobson rant remind me of something I was taught many years ago–God rarely does what we can do ourselves. In other words, I don’t get to lose 50 pounds because I pray hard, unless I also develop better eating and exercising habits. And, the Church will not be known by its love unless I (and a whole bunch of others) do the work of loving more loudly than the haters hate.

How dare I, right? I mean, isn’t James Dobson the poster boy for Great Christian Dads?! I must be confused as well as a hypocrite. Well, sorry to break it to you (although I’m not really; I’m actually kind of angry) but, I mean to imply exactly what the statement above implies.  The voices of James Dobson and everyone like him need to be drowned out. His microphone needs to be turned off and the world needs to know that he and those who agree with him do NOT speak for the whole Church and, in my opinion, do NOT speak for God, at least not the loving Father who sent His Son so we could find our way back to Him! NOT the God the religious right of the day nailed to a cross two thousand years ago! NOT the God who broke down barriers between Greek and Jew, slave and free, male and female. NOT the God who reprimanded His disciples for barring children from His blessing by saying, “Let them come.” NOT the God I find when I read the good news of the gospels.

How dare James Dobson! or anyone else who claims to represent Christ, threaten Civil War if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage?  What country does he think he’s living in?  The United States is not a theocracy and it certainly isn’t governed by his brand of Christianity.  The Bill of Rights guarantees that no law shall be enacted that would establish one set of religious beliefs over another set of religious beliefs.  No one, including the people bringing suit, will be allowed to force a pastor to marry them or demand they be allowed to marry in a specific fellowship hall.  Pastors will NOT be arrested or fined and their places of worship will not be stormed or forcefully shut down. Sadly, the religiously self-righteous will still be allowed to spew their hate-filled biases and deny others access to God through their doors.

While thankfully we have reversed our traditional teaching with regard to blaming ALL the Jews for nailing Jesus to the cross, (A thorough explanation of this topic by David Gushee can be found here.), we also understand He was put there, at least in part, by the Jewish law experts of His day. The Pharisees tried repeatedly to trap Jesus with their knowledge of tradition and the Law but Jesus would not be trapped. Instead, He went right on breaking bread with the man who climbed a tree, prostitutes, fishermen, a man who’d been dead and was brought back to life, that man’s sisters, children, tax collectors, and everyone else who opened their doors to Him. I might find it ironic if it weren’t actually so tragic, how often modern day preachers blast the Pharisees for their legalism and denial of Christ but then turn around and prescribe to their followers their own set of standards for entering the Kingdom.

As I suggested in a 2010 post, found here, the Church bears a significant burden not only for the harm we’ve done directly to LGBT people by our vile name calling, bullying, and rejection but also for denying them access to the protected, covenant relationships of marriage.  Paul compares God’s relationship with His creation to marriage not because God needed marriage to make babies but because Paul wants the Church to understand God’s fidelity with, commitment to, and and love for His Bride.  As strange as the idea may seem to us today, Paul’s words to the Ephesians were as a revelation about what marriage should look like as well as what God’s relationship with the Church should look like.  In Paul’s day, women were considered property and in his letter to Ephesus Paul suggests there should be mutual submission between husbands and wives since wives were to submit and husbands were to love sacrificially–the way Christ loves the Church.  While most Christians would never suggest women should be seen as property it has frankly taken us a long time to get to this point.  Thus, I’m  saddened but not actually surprised that embracing monogamous same-sex relationship as equally valid to monogamous opposite-sex relationships has been difficult.

That being said, the Church must continue to move forward. I will pray that no one’s faith is crushed in the process but I also promise not to quit until the  voices like James Dobson and Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul are changed.  Their rhetoric not only harms LGBT people by telling lies and spreading fear it  causes division and confusion within the Church by labeling what is evil good and what is good evil.  It is time for the followers of Christ to reclaim our title. It is time we behave like little Christs and become known by our love.

Posted by: minnow | March 1, 2015

Life Gets Scary Sometimes

I don’t know what else to do except cry, and cry out. This about torture in the name of “cure” and this about one man’s God complex terrify me. After two suspicious deaths the fact the Echo Wild Game Rangers was allowed to continue to torture children boggles my mind. And, the idea that 21st Century Americans, especially the more than 50% who are women, willingly submit to, give money to, or even listen to men who believe and expect others to believe women should be discouraged from competing in the marketplace with men, and not be paid the same when they are, because they are women flat out frightens me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to combat such ugliness. When those I believe ought to be doing something, are actually the most able to do something, but chose instead to turn their backs, bury their heads in the sand, or worse agree with the perpetrators of these dangerous deceptions I honestly wish I could stop believing. I want to quit, to give up altogether on God on the Church on humanity.

But I can’t.

The God I believe in deserves more. Those I know who truly want to love God with all their hearts deserve more.  And the few who continue to stand in the gap, continue to call attention to the harm being done, continue to pull heaven to earth by walking like Jesus to the best of their flawed human abilities deserve more.

I appreciate news sources like the Huff Post Gay Voice not because I agree with all their verbiage but rather because without them more and more extremists would get away with turning the United States into a less free, less tolerant, more theocratic, and more frightening society. Their call to arms (physical not military) may sound out of sync with the love Jesus messages many prefer to hear on Sunday morning but the truth is sometimes in order to love Jesus we need to act radically.  In order to love Jesus we need to swim against the current.  In order to love Jesus we need to risk hearing the Spirit speak to us through unlikely sources.  I doubt Moses expected a burning bush.  I imagine Balaam was pretty surprised when his donkey spoke.  David understood his friend Johnathan spoke for God but it took the death of his oldest son before Pharaoh began to listen.  My point is, we often ignore what we don’t like to hear, what seems contrary to our preconceived ideas of how life is supposed to unfold.  And honestly, being people of God doesn’t guarantee we’ll get it right.

The Israelites were God’s chosen and yet they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.  Heck, they missed the Messiah, the one they had been looking for ever since they left Egypt!   They told themselves they knew what to look for.  Even though God spoke to them through the prophets they begged for a king.  They convinced themselves they could trust their leaders. They believed, sincerely believed, they knew the signs and would recognize God whenever He showed up.  I believe their belief was no less sincere than our own.  I also believe we have their mistakes to learn from if only we are willing.

The Israelites were given prophets but wanted a king.  We have been given the Holy Spirit yet prefer to put our trust in human leaders instead.  We give them nice titles–pastors, prophets, teachers, and apostolic leaders.  We tell ourselves they’ve been appointed by God, are the man of God in God’s house, and speak for God–the word of God–when they speak.  But honestly, how many of us can point to a burning bush as evidence to our claims.  Don’t get me wrong; I am NOT calling any of our leaders evil.  I do not doubt their desire to be counted as good leaders.  Nor do I question the sincerity of our individual desires to love God.  What I am saying is that like the Israelites we have gotten off track.  We have let fear and laziness have a foothold in our thinking.  As a result we place unnecessary burdens on ourselves as well as those who would run to Jesus if we let them.

Love is not easy. But, it is a much lighter burden to carry than the book of the law.  Casting off judgment, setting aside our lists of dos and don’ts and ins and outs, and simply meeting needs, sharing what we have, and listening to one another’s stories is enough.  Just after Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary…and I will give you rest…My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” the Pharisees criticized His disciples for breaking the Sabbath. Jesus replied to them, “I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Of course, Jesus was talking about Himself but the Pharisees couldn’t see it.  Let’s not make their same mistake.  Let’s instead take every opportunity we can to see Jesus in our midst.  Even if later we need to ask, “When did we see you thirsty and give you drink?” let us go out into the world carrying cups of water and loaves of bread rather than stones of condemnation.


 

Posted by: minnow | January 11, 2015

Some Wall are Love

In my little neck of the FB woods the image to the left is popping up all over the place.  I was struck by two things.  First, I found it pretty cool that the photographer captured a rainbow in the back ground given the Biblical story as to how the rainbow came into being and what it means.  Secondly I was struck especially hard by the caption which usual accompanied this picture: “Christians protecting Christians from Christians”. Let that sink in a little.

In Portland Oregon this weekend over a thousand people from the LGBT community and their allies gathered for the Gay Christian Network Conference.  This was not the first year GCN has held such a gathering but it is the first time the Westboro Baptist group decided to send protesters.  Yet, thanks to their pre-conference threats (perhaps in an attempt to deter some people from going) a third group showed up.  They too called themselves Christians.  Their plan was to form a wall of protection so that attendees could walk into the conference without being accosted by the Westboro group.  It worked and the thanks on my FB feed are flowing!

I would love to have gone to the Portland conference but as a first year teacher I’m not only broke but don’t have personal days to use for such events.  Still, I have enjoyed the reports coming from the conference and look forward to watching the videos.  Several in the mom’s group I’ve mentioned over the last several months went with their husbands to offer FREE MOM (and Dad) HUGS to those who need surrogate families.  I’m proud to be associated with these men and women.  I know many of their stories and am in awe of what they have overcome. I’m impressed by their determination to not only love their own children but to love those who have been rejected by their own parents, siblings, friends, and fellowships. That’s much too long a list but thankfully the numbers in those groups are dwindling.

I don’t know any of the people who formed the wall or who protested on the other side of the wall at the conference. I may have mentioned the activities of Westboro in the past but I really don’t need to give them any more attention then they’ve already gotten.  I do, however, want to talk about the groups and individuals who formed the wall.  I wish I could write each one individually and say thank you but I don’t know who they are.  I believe that was intentional.  Still, I want to thank them because while I have preached and whined and blogged about the Church standing up and representing the true face of God they actually stepped forward and did something!

These hands, feet, and hearts of God deserve our respect and our praise.  Some might have shared the same views as those attending the conference and some might not have.  That wasn’t important.  The side of the fence they stood on, and the lesson every other Christian fellowship ought to learn from them, is that the Christian God stands on the side of love.  These individuals helped to provide a safe haven and they left the rest for God to work out.  Those are not easy shoes to walk in but I am certainly glad to see more and more people doing it.

Some of the people who attended the conference did not learn that lesson soon enough to save their own children, siblings, parents, other family members and friends from the pain and damage of rejection, severed relationships, destructive behavior, and self loathing.  Some wish and pray they could have a second chance. But, those who can’t are reaching out to those they can. Instead of giving up hope altogether they hope their efforts will make a difference, heal some wounds, and eventually restore relationships within the Church.

In recent months, I feel my rage toward groups like Westboro Baptist subsiding, not because I no longer think their stance is wrong.  I am as convinced as ever that our sexual identity is not sinful and that God created each one of us with an equal capacity to love and to hate.  I further believe that He is for us, not against us and that He continuously encourages us to pick up His mantle of love.  Picking up that mantle is what helps me put down my rage or at least turn it toward more productive thoughts and behavior.  I feel less rage because I am feeling more compassion.

I firmly believe most of the individuals who comprise groups like Westboro Baptist have been raised in environments of fear and judgment.  They are trapped by the laws and condemnation they have created for themselves and expect others to live under.  They need as great an example of unconditional love as our LGBT friends and family.  And yes, while it can be argued that “they are hurting our kids”, it can also be argued that if we aren’t careful, if we don’t choose love we could be hurting their kids (as well as them).  Peace and love are never easy paths to take.  But that doesn’t make them less worthwhile.

Posted by: minnow | January 2, 2015

Apology

I thought I had a good reaction when my son finally came out.  He was nearly 20 and I accepted him.  But the reality is he felt afraid enough around me that he tried to deny himself for years prior to coming out.  He  didn’t feel safe sharing who he was.  He heard things in our home that caused him to think we might not love him if we knew his secret.  He heard things in our fellowship that caused him to think God couldn’t love him and we might choose God over him.  He spent his teen years trying to choose God over himself.  When he could not deny himself any longer he made a plan to get away from the lie he was living, to find out if he could love himself even if everyone else in his life rejected him.  He told us the truth expecting to be rejected.

In spite of the media attention, the recent suicide of Leelah Alcorn–statistically–isn’t the most recent death of a teen whose struggle to belong, be loved, or find hope ended tragically.  Leelah died several days ago; on average one 10 to 24 year old successfully commits suicide every two hours. LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts and trans teens are at the high end of that statistic. You see, even though straight people throw LGBT people in one big group–lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender people don’t see themselves as having all that much in common. Life can get unbearably lonely. It did so for Leelah.  It did so for my son.  My son moved out.  Leelah walked in front of a truck.

So, if Leelah isn’t the most recent then why has she become the poster child for Trans advocacy? (And to a slightly lesser extent for LGBT teen advocacy)?  Because the time is right.  It’s been right.  We’ve needed a poster child.  Leelah wanted her death to matter.  Social media is flooded with people trying to make that happen.  Some are comparing her to Matthew Shepard.  And, while it can be argued that the crime against Matthew Shepard was much more horrific than how Leelah was treated, the point is both Matthew and Leelah were too young to die.  Society SHOULD have been a safer place for them.  And, in order to help society become a safer place we want to remind one another of their innocence, of the innocence of those like them–those we can still protect.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can we keep that goal in mind as we move forward.  Absolutely, speak out against the hateful hurtful WRONG messages put out by religious organizations.  Contradict and contradict loudly the voices of those who claim to be speaking for the Christian Church but who use rhetoric that could never have come from the lips of Jesus.  But, as you lift your voices to advocate for those who have been hurt and misunderstood and marginalized remember to muster all the self control you can muster lest you become the voice of hate we so desperately need to silence.  We do not bring about peace by dropping bombs; nor can we silence hatred by spewing hate.

Leelah Alcorn’s parents are mourning the loss of their son, Joshua, because they did not know their daughter, Leelah.  How dare we, in our self righteous anger, deny them their loss!  Leelah’s death is tragic.  But, two of the most tragic figures in this whole mess are her parents.  They have been vilified by the more enlightened among us.  Their love for their child has been mocked and called into question.  Because we on the outside don’t know what it’s like to be them on the inside we think we have the right to cast judgement.  Yet, what is it that we think we are doing that makes our actions toward them so very different from their actions toward their child?

I belong to private FB page for mom’s of children who identify as part of the LGBT community.  The requirements for being part of this group are to love God and love our LGBT identifying child(ren).  We don’t have to be at a specific place in our journey.  Our questions are welcome.  Our struggles are welcome.  Our opinions are welcome.  Our pain is welcome.  As we seek to keep loving God and loving our kids we sometimes put our foot in our mouths and sometimes shock one another BUT we withhold judgement.  As a result, most of us are traveling down the road toward greater and greater acceptance of who God created our children to be. As a result most of us are learning how to truly love our neighbors and ourselves.  As a result many have been able to cast off the religious bondage we did not even realize we had come under.

One of the founders of our group lost her son to a drug overdose.  He got involved with drugs initially because he felt rejected.  Even though his parents eventually embraced who he was, the battle with addiction he ultimately lost had already begun.  Not a day passes that this mom doesn’t mourn her son.  The blame others cast on her out of their own fear, pain, ignorance, and self-righteousness can’t begin to match that which she casts on herself.  Yet, without this very real tragedy our group of moms might never have come together and over 300 women might not have found the courage to keep loving their children in spite of opposition from family, friends, society, or the Church.

Blaming Leelah’s parents for her death is pretty easy. Pointing fingers and make accusations against them doesn’t take much out of our day.  But Leelah didn’t ask us to condemn her parents for her, to practice hate by making their lives a living hell.  Enough pain has already come from this tragedy.  We don’t need more.  A dozen teens commit suicide every day–one dozen.  Instead of wasting time playing the blame game, let the dead bury the dead and let us figure out how to be a difference for the living.

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