Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Republican nor Democrat

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -Gal. 3: 26-28

I've been thinking a lot about the above verse the last few days. It's an election year here in America and social issues are more prominent this election than in any other I can remember. Sure, we're worried about taxes and budgets but the hot button topics are gay marriage and now, the infamous birth control coverage. The lines are being drawn more and more fiercely between the conservatives and liberals and my fleeting hope that our two political parties could manage to learn compromise has diminished significantly. There's a lot of anger and fear that I've never personally felt before. Maybe because I wasn't so conscious of politics before?

Since the day I could vote and began carefully reading about candidates before making my choice (my government teacher, though a true Republican, impressed upon me the importance of being informed) I knew I could never go with one party or the other. My feelings on social issues were heavily divided so I always vote election by election and have never sided with one party over the other. My husband is the same way and my parents frequently voted for different candidates (especially presidential candidates) when I was growing up so I have never felt the need to take a side.  I'm glad I haven't because, yowsers, the division is something terrifying to behold. I've begun wondering if Paul was an American, writing that letter today he would say, "There is neither Democrat nor Republican, neither gay nor straight, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Why is it so hard to let our differences of opinion go and just respect and love each other? Because we all think we're right I suppose. Full disclosure, this really isn't something I'm that good at. Just last week one of my friends defended a politician I think is a nutter and my eyes bugged. I was completely baffled. Baffled! I thought to myself, "Seriously? No, really, seriously?!" And later that week I was perusing another friend's massively conservative, pot-stirring facebook statuses thinking, "BAH! How does his wife deal with him!?" Very loving and respectful thoughts, yes?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.- Col. 3:12-15

For those of us who call ourselves Christians (Christ followers, friends of Jesus, Jesus is my homeboy, whatever), it's especially important to try to learn to show restraint and respect to the opposing side of our viewpoints. And it ain't easy. Nosirree. Especially with social issues that tend to stir up emotions more so than taxes, medicare, what have you. When the argument is about whether or not you and your peer agree that your beloved friend or family member should have equal rights to contractually bind themselves in marriage to someone they love, things can get really hairy. I (and I'm guessing my co-author does too) struggle to see this from their point of view, even though it used to be my own. In the heat of the moment I just see the pain of my gay friends and I think to myself, "you cold-hearted, judgmental, rawr rawr rawr..."

Of course, these people aren't cold-hearted. At least, I hope not since I used to be one of them. They're merely restricted by their own experience and/or beliefs. They sincerely believe they are doing what God would want them to. I think they are wrong and that has ousted me from the club. So I joined another club, the anti-Republican, look-at-me-I'm-liberal-now club, and it felt really nice to be back in a club. I like the people in that club. They play good music there.

Then I started thinking about that first verse and some of the others in this post. As Rob Bell says, Christianity should not be a wall separating "us" from "them" and that's exactly what I was doing, just from the other side. Separating "us" forward thinking, clearly more compassionate, undoubtedly correct members of my club from "them": those silly, blinded, backwards members of the conservative club. (Aren't I an ass? Dear reader, I tried to warn you. I am, indeed, an ass.) No political ideal is perfect. No club is going to be perfect. Extremism is always dangerous and thinking I'm unquestionably right leads nowhere good. I have to keep my mind wide open, ready for anything, open to the option that I'm missing a piece of the puzzle. Because I have been certain of so many things only to later be certain I was wrong. I must err on the side of love and respect, for everyone, even the people who make my eyes bug and my head ache.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves... Live in harmony with one another....
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -bits from Romans 12

Monday, March 19, 2012


I think the whole, "What Would Jesus Do?" phenomena was really owned by people of my age group. We were the ones wearing the bracelets in high school and feeling all awesome.

Well, I didn't. I could never wear those bracelets because I was too terrified of either doing something awful and having it linked to Jesus or of frightening away non-Christians I desperately wanted to be friends with. But it's the first bit I want to talk about today and just that question in general- what would Jesus do?

I don't know if many people read In His Steps, the book that inspired the WWJD? movement, but I had it for required reading in high school and it was part of the reason I was far too frightened to wear that bracelet. I was really uncertain as to what Jesus would do in all manner of situations and so wearing the bracelet would just remind me of all that uncertainty. However, it's still a question that hovers around in my mind all the time. What would Jesus do? So often I find myself praying that, asking God to please, just help me see the truth and know the right thing to do. It's not such a simple question really. It's hard to be certain of what Jesus would do in every situation.

My general rule of thumb is to err on the side of love. What would be perceived as most loving, most open-armed? But then, there are situations like Sara was talking about in her last post where you start to wonder, do I have to keep these toxic people in my life? What would Jesus do? My brain has computed the logical side of the situation I find myself in and has concluded that if a human is bringing more ill than good to my life, I should not associate with them. But... that is much easier said than done because the rest of my consciousness is asking, is that really what Jesus would do? Seems unlikely. He would keep loving them right? Keep welcoming them into his life? Keep in mind, it's not like these people are bringing danger to my life or my husband's life. I don't fear physical harm from them, more just emotional exhaustion. Is it ever okay for someone who claims to follow Jesus to cut someone out of their lives? I feel uncertain. It just... doesn't feel right.

So I'm going to ponder this some more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Christians are just awful

I actually said that out loud one night while meeting couples friends of mine, and I stopped my friend in her tracks. She looked at me, and tears welled up in her eyes and she just said, " I know!" I didn't realize how freeing and honest that was to say until I saw her reaction to my words. She had just been chewed out by a "christian" boss (a job she has since quit), who for various reasons was paying her employees half the amount she was paying her daughter and who was secretly recording meetings with her employees. Great. I thought about this reaction today after emailing another friend, who was honestly divulging how she felt about a particular person. People who call themselves Christians are one of three things: genuine, false and using it the name for their own gain (be it financial or emotional), or legalistic. Of course the latter two are abhorrent to me, that goes without saying.

The legalistic kind are so bent on portraying their picture perfect lives, they have no clue how miserable they are. They are also the first to pretend say how humble they are and that they are no better than anyone else, but their actions and words deny deny deny how they truly feel. They're so transparent it's mostly painful to watch. Even Ghandi said he'd follow Christ, if it weren't for Christians. I'm with you Ghandi. I also hope i'm not misquoting you.

Really, we all just need a healthy dose of Kenneth from 30 rock. "There are only two things I love in this world: Everyone and tv." People don't UNDERSTAND that in order to actually make a difference and to show people Christ, all you have to do is fall madly in love with people. All people. Not just people that look like you, but everyone.

I recently had a conversation with a family member who told me that my attending a drag queen brunch meant I was losing my moorings, that I needed to be aware of danger. For a drag brunch? Following that line of logic, I should also be afraid of clowns, actors, mimes, children dressed in Halloween costume, etc.. I LOVED the drag brunch. I loved that men could look prettier than women, that they were talented and could dance. I loved slipping them $1 bills and telling them how pretty they were, because it was true. And doesn't everyone want to be pretty? Everyone wants to be beautiful and graceful and lovely. Male or female. I replied to my family member that loving people is exactly the mooring I should have. I then subsequently de-friended the person on facebook. Not spitefully, though that sentence implies it, but for that family member's own sake. I disagree with having conversations via electronics, when the person wouldn't say the same thing face-to-face. Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do. People see someone who looks different from themselves "odd" "trashy" "thug-like" and it's DANGER. Nope. Not true. But this is coming from the same person who saw a family standing too close to her unlocked car and thought, I don't care if you're of the same social demographic as me, I don't trust you. Step away from my vehicle.