Wednesday, December 21, 2011

more than a policy

I was reading Looking for Alaska (which I completely recommend by the way) when I ran across this quote:

‘I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God.’
I loved this because this year I've been thinking a lot about what drives me to believe in God and to be a Christian. Is it just because that is the way I was raised? Because I truly believe in the God of the Bible? Or is it really because I fear eternal damnation? 

I remember the first time I thought about heaven and hell. My grandfather had died and my grandmother, Catholic through and through, had told me I needed to pray for him every night to help him get out of purgatory. I had no idea at the time what that meant but I did what she asked because I loved my grandfather. However, that is when the fear started. It told me there was clearly something bad that could happen to you when you died and I took to begging God not to let anything happen to me, not to let me go to hell. 

I would be lying if avoidance of hell and wanting to feel secure in my belief that heaven was what waited on the other death wasn't my main motivation the day I "got saved." Even now, in the middle of the night when my brain is sifting through all the thoughts jumbled in my head, I imagine something happening- a vein bursting in my brain, my heart stuttering to a stop, that last frightened breath and.... what? What is next? And I find myself praying, God, have mercy on my soul.

But I don't want my motive for loving God to center around a "life insurance policy." I don't want my life to be centered around avoiding punishment. In Love Wins Rob Bell talks about living our lives here and now to create heaven here on earth. Love now. Change the world here to be the best it can be. Don't just count on the flames of hell and the gates of heaven. I want to love God because I believe he loves us. Unchecked love. Real love. Love that can make you angry because it doesn't make sense. Love for us all. Love because he is love. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

You Can't Take That Away from Me

This weekend I was sitting at my Christmas party discussing God with my Jewish friend, M. Both she and my atheist friend, J, have honestly been the two people who have made me feel like I can still be a Christian in light of my adjusted beliefs. This weekend, as M and I were talking about the religious aspects of our respective December holidays I found myself confessing to her how I had felt this year that if I told people some of the things I'd been thinking- that LGBT people are exactly who they should be, that maybe there are more paths to God than we'd suspected- I wouldn't be allowed to be a Christian anymore. That my religion, my beliefs would be taken away from me. "I want to believe in God," I told M and she said that no one could take God from me.

What I told her is the truth. In spite of all the confusion, upheaval, frustration with the church, etc. I want and I do believe in God. I believe that "God is love and He loves everyone." I believe that my highest duty in life is to love God with my heart, mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. I believe God is here with me and I believe that the miracles around me are the work of his hands.

I also believe that we are capable of really screwing things up. And that the world is broken and evil. And that there are questions I can't answer. That the hatred of the world can deeply wound people. That there are many people dying and suffering and I can't say why that should happen to them. I don't blame people who reject the idea of God, I understand why they feel that way. But I can't. I don't want to. I want to believe there's something after this life. I want to believe in the Summer Lands and the world CS Lewis describes in The Last Battle where justice is served and it gets bigger and better and more glorious the further you go in. Where love reigns.

So that's where I stand this Christmas season. I quietly sang Christmas hymns all the way home from work last week in thankfulness when the shooting at Virginia Tech didn't turn into another terrible massacre. I lit the candle that illuminates our holy family nativity and smiled. I prayed for peace and comfort for a family that lost their teenage daughter this weekend. I hoped that I could reclaim and hold onto a God and Savior that has meant so much to me.

I basked in the glow of friendships that have blessed and comforted me this year.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

World Weary

is a phrase my friend Andrea and I used to describe days we felt life was out of our control and oppressively hopeless. I have had a world weary week - which is in direct contrast to the joyous hopefulness of my counterpart. I love you for having joyful hopefulness - it means I'll be up again too.
The downside to all this "wrestling with one's salvation" is it gets messy. You see everything in grey and sometimes it's the same shade of grey. There isn't even the benefit of dark gloomy grays versus cheery warm light greys with hints of blue, green, or yellow. It's days like this that make me feel like I'm losing, I'm lost, I have lost. And I'm not even talking about my faith - I'm talking about the effects we have on each other - the every day decisions that we all make that either fuck someone else over or bring happiness. Even my examples tend to the black and white, which apparently I want more of today.
Ben and I had a Huge Discussion this morning in a brand new diner (new to us) by our house, and over french toast and omelettes we...or moreso, I, talked about how overwhelmed I felt with every decision that had to be made, and how, in the course of making this most recent decision, I remembered alllll the other past decisions wherein I had to suck it to get through life. I had to take the proverbial slaps to my face to just be able to move on and live because people suck. People are Awful. I want in my little cave with my comfort people and that's it.
As most of our conversations go, we morphed into how our faith comes in to play - I was raised to not question tradition, or the people in charge - Unless of course, those people in charge disagreed with my father, when, well, naturally, we'd be able to disagree with them. Of course! I was raised to be the biblical sheep - needing protection, needing a shepherd. Ben was raised to be the shepherd - he was taught to be the leader, the protector, the one who questioned and critiqued. Those two differences were never so more apparent than today, because part of my growth as an adult has been to Trust in my decisions - even if they are against the group and I am made unpopular by them. (SO HARD) I've also had to learn when the fight is worth fighting and when it isn't, and Folks, It's easier to NOT fight. It's easier to take the slap, and deal with the post-traumatic stress syndrome later. You know what's hard? Knowing you have to fight, and finding that resolve to carry through and know you're doing what's right.
Because doing what's right and being thoughtful and determined about Life means constantly being on edge and aware and thinking. This is why people want to be led - they don't want to bear the responsibility of being aware. I can't Not be aware anymore, but some days I just want a little assurance. Some days I just want to win. I just want my voice to be acknowledged.
Which is the absolute last thing that will happen, because it isn't a win or lose scenario. It's a work it out and pursue what you know is right scenario. It's something my therapist told me I need to work on, and it's SO TRUE. Life isn't winning or losing, I just haven't figured out what it is. I am still so emotionally stunted in this one (hopefully just one) GLARING inconsistency that it affects everything.
To sum up:
I am learning how to lead....myself.
I get so upset because I still think it's a win/lose/black/white world. It's not.
I have to figure out WHAT that means and how to own it. I can't even formalize in words how to define that.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Something that made me smile

I've spent a lot of time on this blog thus far working through angst, doubts and questions I have about the church. I can be pretty critical of Christians and Christianity on the whole though I really try not to get so cynical. That's why I wanted to share this photo that I found here. I wish I could give the photographer credit but there weren't any photo credits listed for this picture. It was simply captioned "Christians protect Muslims during prayer in Cairo, Egypt." That makes me so happy. That is what I think Jesus would want us to do. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Damned if I do and damned if I don't - Shake it out Pt 1

The moment I heard the new single from Florence + the Machine I knew I'd found my new mantra. "Shake it Out" says everything I've been feeling for the past year and everything I want for my future- to shake the demons who want their pound of flesh off my back and dance.

I think I'm at the point of the bridge of the song right now:
I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't
so here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my rope
and I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope
If you read my previous post than it's not really a secret that I've felt tortured by my new beliefs but I don't see how I can ever just ignore everything I've learned and seen. Ignore all the thoughts and doubts that have run through my head and go back to my old life. At this point I feel damned either way. Either I live feeling damned because I'm too afraid to believe in any other afterlife than the one I've always imagined or I follow my heart. That will still mean suffering because friends and family won't understand and maybe it will mean damnation- but right now I'm choosing to trust my hope that God is bigger. That his love is bigger. That salvation is complex. That grace is overwhelming and "... all the wickedness in the world which man may do or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal dropped in the sea."

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Confession

I mentioned in the first post on this blog how scared I am of essentially "coming out" to my conservative religious friends and family. Right now the thought of it literally ties my stomach in knots. I want to be brave, I want to just say what I think, whether or not I know that I'm right 100%. I don't really want to fight or debate or try to change anyone's mind, I just want to feel like I can be honest with the people I call my friends. But, I don't feel that way. And I know I'm a coward. But there are so many variables...

It's beyond the word difficult for me to just let go of so much that I've believed for so many years. As I've become less arrogant (I hope) and gotten older, I question myself more than I ever have before. Lately, I've argued, debated and agonized over the question, "Is being gay a sin?" and this debate has shaken me to my core.

My heart says, no, it can't be. There's no way. My head even agrees with my heart. I'd even come to a place of confidence to the point that I sent letters to every congressman, senator, whomever I could telling them that, as a NY state citizen and a Christian I firmly believed that gay marriage should be legal. I even told people I thought it should be legal. And finally, I took the first step and told someone I didn't believe being gay was a sin. Our ensuing conversation was lengthy and nuanced but the part that haunted me and tore at my heart was when she said that I was holding my gay friend's hands on their way to hell by not telling them to repent. Ouch. It's been weeks since this conversation and I am haunted by those words and the tiny voice whispering- what if she's right? What if that is what I'm doing?

I wish the voices would just shut up.

I can't stand it anymore.

Is this what God wants? Agony and misery and shame and hiding and questioning and never feeling safe? If God is good... if he is loving... why would he condemn someone who is just looking for someone to love? For companionship and a home? For everything that I have been lucky enough to find in my husband. Why  shouldn't my friends deserve that?

Here's the thing. Even if you're TOTALLY and completely wrong, and it's an outright sin to be gay, what damage have you done? If being gay is a sin, or even acting upon feelings you have toward a member of the same sex is a sin, are those people that you have continued to love and accept going to go to hell, because you didn't show them the path to redemption by opening their eyes to their sinful relationship?

No. Because the only way to get to heaven is through faith in Christ. Not straight faith, just faith.

If our (Christianity as a whole) stand against gays, or against BEING gay, or ACTING gay, or even thinking gay, will that stand not drive others away from Christianity?...I don't want to be wishy washy about my faith, or what God requires of us. But I know he doesn't want us to hate. He wants us to love. I figure if we can bring people to Him through love, He will speak to their hearts for the rest.
Rebecca, who wrote that comment, I wish I knew you. I really do. I want to talk with you and ask you if these words are true and you are at peace or if your fear ever eats you alive like mine does. Do you have past teachings in your heart, like I do, that appear suddenly and cover your hands with the blood of the lost?

This is my true struggle- I don't want to fail my friends. I don't want to die and face God and have him show me all the people who I was meant to save but didn't because I was too scared or misled. That is my greatest fear, my ultimate fear.

I grew up being taught that I had the absolute truth in my hands. I spent a lot of my teen years learning from a ministry I was involved in that the souls of the lost are in my hands- that the blood of the lost is on my head if I don't do everything in my power to "save" them. I spent all four years of college as a "leader" in a Christan campus ministry, steeped in responsibility for the people around me, desperately trying to grow the church. These are not light beliefs that I've held and can slough off. They are burned inside of me and I want, I need to know that I am not failing the people around me by following my heart, changing my beliefs, challenging theirs. I don't want to be a deceiver or lead people astray. I don't want to hold anyone's hand on the way to hell.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where God is found

Ben and I had the chance to visit our friend Beth yesterday, who just happens to be the mother of two of our good friends, and a highly respected spiritualist, at least to Ben and I. She came swooping into our lives shortly after I had major adult breakthroughs and was in desperate need of a mother figure who validated my newfound stances in life. She's always such an affirming speaker, and one of those rare breed who has the ability to interpret exactly what you are trying to say. She, too, has had struggles with what church means, what Christianity is, how to express it in her daily life, and yet with the benefit of more years than me, so she's much more at peace and much more able to express her thoughts.

I have struggled with church. Ben and I have tried (before we met, separately attempted) to find a church that expresses who we are. I hear my father's response to that statement - "You don't go to church to find you, you go to church to find God". Yes, dad, I hear you. What I have tried to mean with that sentiment is, I want to find a place that has worked as hard as I am to be healthy, honest and open with the world and with God. I have yet to find one here where I live. Whenever I have attended church within the past few years, I feel a sense of loss, or boredom, or at the least, disconnection. One visceral last impression was a church Ben and I attended where 5 minutes in, I emotionally and physically shut down. I had an overwhelming urge to cry and was afraid if I moved, or said anything, I'd burst out into my very uncomfortable ugly cry - the gasping for air, sobbing/moaning mess that I only do when alone - NEVER - in public. It was the one and only time I have driven Ben away, literally, with my inability to communicate or process my feelings.

Church used to mean a place of peace, where I sat with friends who were comrades in life - we knew each other and loved each other with a desperation to always prove how much we loved and supported each other. I don't have that here - in church at least. I have it outside of church, through conversations with friends who may or may not be Christian - through emails and phone calls and blogs. I have it with Ben, my life friend, who understands and says so succinctly what takes me 20 minutes to spew out.

I have always felt this is enough. I felt if I ever do feel the need to return to church, I'd do it, and would find a place that was home. The only reason I still hear those voices in my head is because my parents feel I can't possibly be a believer while not attending church. I'm missing that check in the laundry list of being approved as a Christian and one worthy of attention.

While expressing all of this to Beth, she politely listened and then replied, "If you think the church is going to be a healthy place, you're mistaken - church isn't for the healthy people, church is for the sick. You won't find God in church." The light clicked on immediately and to my shock, I felt so relieved. RELIEVED to hear someone finally say it. God isn't in church - I find him in posters explaining disorders of the macula (a part of the eye) in Ben's ophthalmologist's office. I find him in conversations with friends when they echo what I feel, and I don't feel alone or misunderstood anymore. I find him in therapy sessions where the therapist tells me, "If there's anything I want you to gain from these sessions, is to trust yourself and your instincts and your decisions". I find him when I'm living on being the best me I can be, because he made me to be me. I make God proud when I am me and am honest.

Right now, I don't need church to show me God - he's doing a better job than any one place can do. I'm listening to him and that's all I need.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I couldn't let this go

To the commentators on that say things like "say no to homosexual coaches" in response to the terrible tragedy unfolding at Penn State:

Homosexual does not equal pedophile. Pedophile equals pedophile. Sandusky is a pedophile because he is a sick, sick man who abused children not because he is a homosexual.

Plenty of men have abused little girls. Should we also not have any heterosexual coaches? Maybe only eunuch coaches? Eunuchs were great for guarding harems, let's get them coaching children's sports and such.

Statements like this don't even make me angry. They make me physically ill.

What happened to those young men is terrible. A tragedy. Let's not add fear, bigotry and hatred to the mix.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A little context please

It baffles me how how people preach texts from the Bible without any sense of cultural and historical context.

The Bible is not a book but rather a collection of books, each with their own nuances, perspectives, and historical/cultural motivations.

To comprehend and teach the Bible as a literal, stand-alone text is like describing the ocean to someone based on only what you see from the shore, which is the surface of the water.

Yet there is much more depth and scope to be explored and understood beneath the surface. To merely skim the surface based on what you think see, is to tragically flounder. -David Moran
This is a quote by a friend of mine from college. We recently reconnected over facebook and have been exchanging wall posts and messages discussing our current questions and ideas about our faith. An issue we have both struggled with is what he addresses here- anachronism of philosophy/theology. Taking texts out of the Bible and applying them without taking into consideration whether or not we should really take them literally. Personally, as a woman, there are parts of the Bible that I consider archaic and will absolutely not take literally. I was a church leader and I don't really know what Paul would have thought if he had showed up for my homegroup (Bible study) in college. Would he have stood up and proclaimed like he did in his letter to Timothy, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet."

Should I have not even been teaching in the first place? I know there are still churches that expect women to be secondary to men but there are plenty that allow women to stand in places of authority and it is generally accepted as a matter of preference. But why? The Bible says "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." End of discussion right? Why isn't it the end of the discussion? Because, culturally, we have evolved. This idea of Paul's is no longer considered culturally relative so we, American Christians, have largely set it aside. There are lots of women active in ministry today.

In 1 Cor. 11 Paul discourses at length about men and women's hair and whether or not they should cover their head while praying. He concludes men should have short hair but not cover their heads and women should have long hair and cover their heads. He apparently felt strongly about this, I can't say why because I don't know, but in spite of his strong feelings I was intrigued by verse 13: "Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?" Is that really Paul inviting the Corinth believers to make up their own mind about this? Intriguing. Maybe he didn't consider himself "the man" after all.

So I will conclude this with some questions - should we take the Bible literally? Is that the way God/Jesus meant for it to be? Did Paul even mean for his words to be passed along for hundreds of years and a letter to a specific man or church to be taken as commands for a church in New York in 2011?

I'm leaning towards no.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I hope I don't suck

This post brought me to tears (this is a trend; I am a weeper). And it made me mad (another trend?!)

And for a THIRD trend that starts now but is sure to keep on keeping on: I've been married now for almost 4 glorious years and I guess my husband's biological clock is ticking because he is quite keen on procreating. Don't get me wrong, I'm keen on it too but I'm also terrified. My somewhat recent struggles with issues of faith and my beliefs has made me even more frightened because I keep thinking, "What will I tell my kids?"

With that question constantly floating around in my mind, this quote from the posting I linked above really struck home.
Keep [these words of ignorance and hate] away from all our kids. It's my responsibility as a mother, as a human being, to stand up and say "No more." No, you are not allowed to say those things in front of my children, not unless you want to deal with me. Because I will not allow any of my sons to be viciously attacked without seeing me defend them. They will never have to doubt for a second exactly where their parents stand, and never have to live in fear of who they are.
Because since August 16, I have learned that hate is the virus we all need to be worried about.
Hate is something I am deeply concerned about.  I know that my kids are going to be their own people. Maybe they'll like to read like me or be able to run fast like their dad but they'll have their own things too. The one thing I really, really want to rub off on them is that in our family, we love people. I want them to be as open and accepting as their dad and as desperate to make other people feel loved as their mom. I hope we can pass that along to them. I hope we don't suck. I hope that my kids will know that whoever they turn out to be, their parents love them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't you think it's weird that oftentimes (in my experience) Christians seem to believe we humans have ALL this power over salvation and eternity but anything else that goes right or wrong is God or Satan pulling the strings? I've been thinking about this a lot lately after getting into a grand debate with one of my friends over whether or not gay marriage being legalized in New York and the "homosexual agenda" (in this case we were discussing diversity days in public schools) in schools was indeed the work of Satan to undermine the morals of our country. I didn't think so, but she disagreed.

Which is fine, I'm not writing this to say my friend was wrong or I am right because frankly, I'm not 100% positive either way. I do know that if I was a same-sex parent of a child in public school I would not want my child to be discriminated against or told that our family was not "normal" or "okay." A public school is a place, in my opinion, where discrimination, inequality and favoritism (which all mean essentially the same thing) should not exist, as far as that is possible. Every parent should be respected and treated equally.

But enough about politics, this is more about the following quote by my dear friend and co-blogger. It's mid-rant (we like to rant to each other) so it begins as a fractured thought but I think the point is clear:

"To claim that God isn't micro-managing life for everyone, that sometimes things happen because we affect each other in daily ways every day and it's those interactions that positively or negatively influence our emotions, circumstances, etc."
 I agree with her but it raises the question in me- how concerned should I really be about Satan's agenda or influence? Should I be watching the political climate, trying to ferret out the schemes of the devil and oppose them? Are we living on God and Satan's chess board? I'm not trying to mock at all, these are things that I really wonder about.

I guess my thought is that if I'm doing my best to bring heaven to this world and striving, as the blog title indicates, to live a life characterized by charity, mercy and restraint, then wouldn't that be combating evil effectively. Do I need the additional fear of "Look out for the devil!" to motivate me? I don't want to. If there is one thing I'm trying to get away from, it is the motive of fear. It seems that Christians play the fear card all too often and that is something I don't like. I don't want to serve God and do the right thing because I'm afraid of death, Satan or hell. I want to serve him because he's good and service to him makes me good.

Does that make sense?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I know I'm not the only one

Maybe by virtue of being named "Sara", we share similar views - you know, based on our namesake who started the Israelite nation. Can't get much cooler than that. Consequently, we Saras laugh at convention and know there is something else waiting around the bend that will blow the world's ever-loving mind. But I digress.

My world began to change when my brother came out. I didn't know it at the time, I was a youth group leader for an amazing church in New Jersey (hollah back at me) and I thought I had everything religious wrapped up in a pretty bow and shelved. I had my devotional routine, I had my packaged set of services I "provided" for God - my work for the church, my views all aligned with mainstream Christianity (our my perception of it). I was set.

It was a conversation with a fellow churchgoer friend of mine that slowly showed me there is more (there is always more) to think about. She was what I termed a "liberal Christian" (oh those labels!!) one who I considered lackadaisical - when really she was open-minded and understood that there are more shades of gray than most of us are willing to accept.

Because above all, I think we all want to be right. We want to be the people who have our proverbial shit together. We want to be the top dogs, the ones everyone else is jealous of. And even if it isn't as coarse as that - we want to know we are ok, so we can stop WORRYING about stuff all the time. I think the hardest lesson, still, to learn is, we aren't. And it's those of us who never give up, and don't get discouraged when we are wrong and continue to keep pushing on, that make this life worth living.

And I was wrong, a lot, in my 20's (oh my 20's!). So much so, I still find myself apologizing to people for the things I've said or done to them 10 years ago - in the name of "guiding them towards the light", when really, that "light" was a flashlight with a dying battery that I pretended was real.

My overall goal is to keep learning - to understand that if God is as big as He says he is and we all claim him to be, that I will be wrong - A LOT. And for the first time in my life, I ENJOY people. Really truly enjoy them. There isn't some hidden agenda in my head for converting them. Because, let's be honest - if any group has some fucking hidden agenda, it's CHRISTIANS. We INVENTED hidden agendas. Oh, hi friend. I'll be your friend, your BEST bestest friend IF (IF) you accept Jesus into your heart. Only then. Because until then, I'm going to keep sneaking "church" "Jesus" "look what God has done in my life" conversation tidbits into our hang-out times. Because I have a hidden agenda.

That's me. I knew I wasn't alone, and I know there are others out there who feel the same way. I'm glad one found me :o)

Exercise Caution

I have no patience with a blog post like this saying how dumb it is for those of us who are rich and have lots of fancy toys to not just wallow in enjoyment.

The problem is this:
I couldn't have said it better myself. Heck, there are times when I hear a story like that and I think, I guess I must not be on the good list with God because bye-bye [job, money, health, whatever]. I like the blog post the second link leads to because I agree with the author- poverty is complex. Our response... it can be tricky. Your insides war. I think the war is good. Life is hard. The end. Don't try to make it simple and easy because if you do, you're lying to yourself.

I don't want to accuse anyone because I'm sitting writing this on a laptop (not a much cheaper desk top), in an apartment that's bigger than my needs, in a chair I bought because I wanted it, with all manner of luxuries. Tomorrow I fully intend to go shopping and buy some clothes that I want, not that I need. I'm not great at this but I don't know if anyone is. What I do know is taking our blessings for granted is wrong and blithely snuggling down into our luxuries while we confidently assert that God gave them to us is insane. If God shows favoritism like that.... yikes. Why would the poor and bereft ever want to follow a God that just doesn't really like them as much?

It's odd to me that so often I find Christians who do not remotely acknowledge that our actions as humans are incredibly important. That our decisions matter very much, that we are the ones who are shaping this world. While I still believe sometimes God takes the reins and does something crazy, most of the time it seems pretty clear that the ball is in our court. We're responsible for the poor and orphans. That's an expectation. But so is living a joyful, abundant life. So while I think it's vitally important to contribute to clean water for the third world, sponsor kids, and send a flock of chickens to a needy family, I also don't think that God is mad at me for picking up a bottle of wine tonight to enjoy. It's a balance. It's a constant tension. I think it's good to keep it in mind.

I feel anxiety about a pastor with as much sway as Mark Driscoll making a grandiose statement like that. He leads a HUGE congregation and he essentially just chastised his followers for struggling with the fact that they are comfortable and wealthy while others are suffering and dying. Does not compute. They should struggle. He should struggle. Frustration.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's time to think carefully

While perusing the news during my lunch today I came across this video

For those who don't want it or should the link ever be disabled, here is a quick summation: A 14 year old boy took his life due to extreme bullying over his sexual orientation. He is one of too many teens who have taken their lives for the same reason. Many schools are enacting or trying to enact anti-bullying. Many groups are protesting because they believe that enacting such [insert applicable legal name here] promotes the "gay agenda" and discriminates against children who have moral opposition to the gay lifestyle. Representative Mike Harmon of Kentucky explains, "...someone, just in conversation, says 'Well, you know, I think homosexuality is a sin'. Well we don't want that child to be bullied because they have a certain moral or religious belief, and we certainly don't want them labeled a "bully" just because they have that particular belief."

I watched this video and cried. I'm glad I was alone when I saw it, though I suppose I could have gone to the bathroom. I listened to this hurting teen encouraging other kids like him to believe it gets better, knowing those messages of hope weren't enough to sustain him. I thought about how devastated Dan Savage, who founded the It Gets Better project might feel after hearing this news story. About the boys parents. And then the second half of the video came and I cried even more when I saw that Christians are standing against anti-bullying. Because they don't want to lose the culture wars. Because they are afraid. Because they don't want their child being taught it's okay to be homosexual. At least, those are the reasons I can grasp, maybe there are more I'm not thinking of.

These are my thoughts. I'm not a parent, so I can't speak with authority about how to raise a child but these are just my thoughts as a human on those three reasons:
1.  Culture wars. I hate them. I hate them very much. I don't see how waging war and drawing lines ever leads to anything good. It leads to hate, anger, separation and misunderstanding. I'm still waiting to find that bit in the Bible where God or Jesus suggests that Christians legislate morality.
2. It's easy to be afraid of what you don't know. I get that, I really do. But as decent humans, and especially as someone who is supposed to speak for a God of love, it's really important to try to overcome our fear. I read Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink recently and he claims that it is impossible to overcome prejudice toward another people group without engaging personally with that group. So here's my suggestion. Go find someone gay to love. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. 
3. If you're really worried about what your kid is being taught, put them in private school. Or home school them. Or realize that you don't get to dictate public school. 

What really hurts is that it seems like Christians are letting their moral stand and desire to "win" completely overwhelm their compassion and love for people that are in pain. It's not right. 

Ummmm..... Really?

I decided to attempt to enter the modern world of communications by beginning to follow blogs. This began with my friend's blogs and has since spread to a few stranger's blogs. My own blog has not really reflected my recent thoughts/struggles with my own belief system but that struggle exists. In an effort to examine and test my beliefs I've been reading and thinking a lot (too much?) and one of the things I've been doing in reading various Christian writer's blogs, some being very liberal and some conservative.

Little did I know when I entered the blogging world that I was jumping in right at the time the Christian subculture was all in a tizzy over the book Love Wins which explores the idea (one that is not new) that maybe the prevalent thoughts and beliefs about heaven and hell aren't necessarily accurate. Bell dabbles in the idea of a more Catholic/purgatory view of the after-life and the possibility of post-mortem salvation. Essentially, he posits that God is all powerful, God loves everyone and if they will receive and return that love, then love will win. If you really want to understand what he's saying, do not google it, read the book.

But I'm not writing this to talk about Rob Bell's book. This is really a rant post because I've been frustrated, angry, confused, overwhelmed and baffled by the reaction of so many Christians to the message of God's love maybe being bigger than we had imagined. I can understand the fear and wariness of Bell's message but honestly, even if you don't agree with him, does not any part of your heart wish for that? For salvation for everyone? Mine does. Maybe I'm being naive or stupid.

Another example. The song White Man by Gungor says that God is not restricted by our conceptions of him but God is love and God is good. When I first heard it I got teary-eyed because I was so thankful to hear such a positive, wonderful message. But check out the link (or don't if you don't want to find yourself considering throwing your computer) and you will find the youtube comments quickly turn from the inane but cute comments of  "great song!" and "God loves you! yay!" to
"Yes, God indeed loves everyone. However, this song makes it seem as if everyone can continue to live sinful, unrepentent lifestyles and make it to heaven. Yes, as Christians we should love everyone, regardless of their lifestyle. But we must also teach that God hates sin (not the sinners), and we must repent of our sins and live a new life through Jesus Christ. Does God love murderers, terrorists, and homosexuals? Yes, He absolutely does; but He HATES their sin (and we're all sinners)."
Must we? Must we teach that? Does Jesus say that anywhere? Because I honestly don't remember the verse where Jesus says, "verily I say unto you, tell others how deeply God hates their sin, yet not them (if they repent)." I missed that one. And frankly, I think Jesus specifically did not tell us to "hate the sin and love the sinner" (though you would think that was in the Bible with the way people throw it around) because he knew that we suck at love already and trying to love a person while hating what they do is not really going to work. I used to ramble about loving sinners and hating their sin until I realized it was ludicrous because that was not resulting in real, true love if for no other reason than that I was standing in judgment of someone else. (oh, hey person. You're a sinner, not like my Christian friends or myself. I will love you but I will hate your sin. Too bad you're such a sinner. So sad.) Don't worry about hating their sin, that's not our job, our right or our calling. Just freaking love people. 
Ummm....what god is this? No mention of the law of God, sin, hell; therefore no need for a crucified; risen Savior. God is love, it is true, but He is also holy; the righteous law of God condemns us ALL to hell , we all are by nature objects of His wrath (see Psalm 5:4-5, John 3:36; Eph. 2:3). But, God, in his rich love; mercy sent His Son,  Jesus Christ, fully God; fully man to reconcile sinners to Himself (John 3:16, Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:1-9) through the cross. 
To this person and those who have a similar reaction: GET A GRIP! Are you crazy? Firstly, since when does every song related to God have to encompass the whole freaking Bible? Secondly, SHUT IT DOWN. Stop converting the Bible into a gospel of fear made up of scare tactics and threats (God loves you BUT you better do what he says or YOU ARE GOING TO HELL.) Enough! Enough already. Was there an asterisk when Jesus said "Love your neighbor as yourself"? Was it really "Love your neighbor as yourself and be sure to tell them that if they don't behave they will burn in hell for all eternity. And definitely picket the heathens. And engage in culture wars because if you win, everyone will become Christians for sure." Oh... wait.... nope, no asterisk! Just "Love your neighbor" and pray for your enemies... hmmm...

I can't stand this crap. I really can't.

Velvet Elvis - Rob Bell

Oh man, I don't really know how to review this book because the 5 stars I'm giving it is very much a result of my current place in life. I've been questioning the faith I grew up with for the last 5 years in a half-hearted kind of way but only in recent months truly began to feel things I've believed in my past and things I currently feel are right have been in direct opposition. It's become a full out struggle that is scary and disheartening. As I have learned some of the terrible atrocities currently being committed in the name of Jesus, my heart has broken and I lose hope daily.

This book has given me back some hope.

There were a lot of parts in this book that made me feel that all my doubts and thoughts, questions and fears were validated, but this is the one that stands out to me the most.

" many people are hostile to the church, many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing... not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of the church are ever going to change. This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behavior doesn't help. It makes it worse.... We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, "God shows no favoritism." So we don't either."

I feel like I'm oversharing but the immensity of the relief I felt when I read this book with my father and he agreed with me that this is actually "good news" made me cry. Maybe I can still be a Christian after all.

Not one to speak my mind anymore...

... at least, not in cyberspace. 

It's funny, when I was in college I blogged constantly. Mostly my random thoughts on life, God, friends, my own inner turmoil. I loved it and I guess I fancied my thoughts worthy of other people's time. It made sense, a lot of my friends had blogs and we would all read each other's blogs and leave little comments. 

The funny part is I still write my random thoughts on life, God, friends and my own inner turmoil. I just never publish them. I write and write and then save the draft because I don't really know if I'm ready or willing anymore to just put those thoughts out there for people to read. It feels arrogant to even think that people would read them, but if they do... I don't know. 

Maybe it's because I've become less confident in my own convictions. Or maybe it's because I have a much more diverse group of friends now than I used to and I'm afraid of offending people. It's probably both. 

I follow this one blog called "The Agnostics Wife's Blog" and sometimes I really envy her. She started this anonymous blog and she can just say whatever she wants. So I decided I would do that too. I don't have to keep blogging where people know me. I can wrap myself in anonymity and speak my thoughts to silent cyberspace.