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Privileged Christians and Hunger in America

19 Mar

I mentioned the other day I’d been thinking a lot about hunger in America. What I’ve been forced to realize lately is that even being able to think about hunger is a hallmark of my own position of privilege.

I’m going to make a confession here: I hate the word privilege. Just hearing that word makes my defenses go up.

When someone says I’m privileged, I think about all the ways my life hasn’t been easy. My dad lost a good job when I was about 10, and we were really poor for a few years after that. Poor to the point of needing help from our church and our family members to get by and not lose our house.

Oh, what’s that? Yes, we had our own house. It was a cheap little 3-bedroom National, but it was ours. And our car died every time Mom or Dad stopped at a light or turned a corner, so they could throw it in neutral, restart it, and shift back to drive without missing a beat. But we owned a car. Oh, did I mention my mom stayed at home with me until my dad lost his job?

So not only were we poor, but we were in a way better position than thousands or even millions of Americans, let alone people all around the world. I learned a lot from being poor. The Christmas right after my dad lost his job is one of the best in my memory, and it included things he salvaged from a Dumpster and refurbished. But it showed what a huge difference love makes.

Shelves of food in a food bank

So back to my point. I hate the word privilege. Probably because, as much as I hate admitting it, the word applies to me.

Let me share a few embarrassing but pointed examples of how my privilege is affecting how I think about the problem of hunger in America:

 

  1. I am afraid to meet hungry people. It embarrasses me that my jeans cost me $80 a pair when I think about going to the local food pantry and facing people who can’t afford food. I’m afraid I will come across as condescending when all I want is to make a difference in people’s lives. So what do I do? Instead of going down and giving my time (which I have plenty of these days), I donate food and used clothes and things I don’t want any more.
  2. I am learning about hunger in America by watching movies and reading books. How privileged is that? Yes, there were times in my life that my family wasn’t sure where our next few meals were coming from, but I was young, and children are resilient. I’m not facing hunger myself on a daily basis. I’m reading books like Red Letter Revolution and Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. I’m watching A Place at the Table and getting outraged from my comfortable theater seating. I’m not looking hunger in the face.
  3. I am trying to fight hunger by talking about it. No, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with talking about a problem. You can’t find solutions without discourse and dialogue. But you also can’t build a house by talking about building it. Sure, you have to draw up a blueprint and assemble your supplies, but sooner or later you have to pick up a hammer and nail some boards together. I am not out there feeding people. It’s not like hunger is a new issue for me. Back in November I was thinking about volunteering at some of the service dinners that happen in Indianapolis over the holiday season. Yet here I am, still reading and researching and talking, talking, talking.
  4. I act like posting things on Facebook is good enough. Sure, it’s fine to educate my friends on Facebook about the problem of hunger. But I’m not sure if I’m really changing any minds out there. My Republican friends are getting pissed off because I support entitlement programs and want to make people dependent. My Democrat friends are probably thinking it’s nice I”m finally with the program. And what’s worst, my Christian friends don’t seem to give a shit. I feel like a voice crying out in the wilderness. Posting something on Facebook to try to shock my friends into caring is great and all, but it’s making me feel frustrated by their lack of caring while allowing me to feel smug like I’ve accomplished something. And that just makes me disgusted with myself when I think about it.

I’m a smart person. But it isn’t enough to know there’s a problem. You have to actually do something. And I haven’t made that connect yet. So here’s my commitment, both to myself and to you guys:

I am going to finish reading Red Letter Christians and Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Easter, and then I am going to get off my butt and do something. I’ll go to the Caring Center and ask if I can volunteer. I’ll get to meet hungry people. I‘ll find out if there’s a way I can turn my own particular skill set to making a difference in people’s daily lives.

What about you guys? Are there ways you fight privilege in our own lives? Are you already out there doing something about hunger? What do you think I should do?

A Place at the Table

13 Mar

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hunger and poverty. Of course, over the past year I have been growing more liberal in my politics, so thinking about hunger and poverty, at least as a part of the whole, isn’t a new thing for me. But the week before last I got an email from Panera that kicked this off again.

See, I have a Panera card. You know, the kind you swipe and get rewards after so many purchases and free pastries on your birthday. And because I have a Panera card, the corporation invited me to a free screening of a powerful movie called A Place at the Table. I know Panera is trying to fight food insecurity through their pay-what-you-can cafes. I don’t know much more about Panera, if they pay a living wage and such. I need to learn more. But I respect that they’ve started doing something, because every movement needs a first step.

End Hunger Now

What Panera did last week was open my eyes.

I knew people in America were hungry. I knew that 1 in 6 people are living with food insecurity–they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. I read a statistic yesterday that says 8.3 million seniors go to bed hungry each night.

What is going on in America? Why do we have such hungry people, when obesity is a national epidemic and there is plenty of food to go around?

Well, according to A Place at the Table, a lot of it comes down to two things: corporate greed, and the government’s unwillingness to do something about the problem.

Corporations continue pushing out foods that are loaded with non-nutritious calories. Corporate farms suck up most of the government subsidies on corn, soybeans, and wheat, while family farms and orchards are left out. The government gives public schools a tiny amount of money to spend on school lunches, where far too many children are eating the only meal they get each day; as a result, school lunches aren’t as nutritious as they should be. Did you know the average food stamp allotment is $3 per day? How well can you eat on that? Junk food is cheaper than healthful food, and if you only have $3 to spend, you’re probably going to go for the cheapest things around, right?

The actor Jeff Bridges was involved in A Place at the Table, and at one point he says that if another nation was doing this to our children, we would go to war. But we’re doing it to ourselves. That’s insane.

So viewing the movie got me thinking about all this. As the movie points out, there are thousands of private food charities attempting to fill the gap, and yet the hunger problem is worse than ever. Private charities aren’t the solution. Not that I think the government is a great solution either, considering they can’t even come to an agreement about the budget, but something has to be done.

I posted something to this effect on Facebook the other day, and one of my Christian Republican friends pointed out that too much government assistance creates dependency. I disagree with her for a lot of reasons, and I also believe that a well-designed assistance program would be aimed at helping people get on their feet. But that’s a post for another day.

The thing is, I’m not convinced that we need to be worried about dependency right now. I think we need to prioritize things differently. It’s like triage. If a physician has a patient bleeding to death from a traumatic leg wound, does she worry about making the patient dependent on a wheelchair, or does she apply a tourniquet and amputate the leg? Let’s feed hungry people first, and worry about dependency when we’re sure no one has gone to bed hungry tonight.

Along with watching A Place at the Table, I’ve also been reading a couple of really great books. I started with Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis, and this week I began reading Red Letter Revolution by Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne.

What I’ve taken away so far is a lot of jumbled emotions and a strong feeling of conviction. I have to change how I’m living my life. I have to encourage other Christians to change how they’re living their lives. I have to reach out to people who have been hurt and judged and condemned and abused by people in the name of Christianity. I have to stop trying to defend all the atrocities committed by Christians and start trying to follow Jesus.

The subtitle of Medearis’ book is “The Art of Non-Evangelism”, but I would posit that the book is about so much more than evangelizing people (or not evangelizing them, actually). It’s about how Christians look at theology and rules and are-you-a-believer-or-not. It’s about how Christians forget to look at Jesus.

What would Jesus do? Well, I can tell you what He did. He fed the five thousand. He healed the sick. He condemned the religious leaders who wanted to stone the adulterous woman, rather than condemning the adulterous woman. He told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor. He told us not to lay up treasures on earth.

He fed the hungry.

Video

Jesus, Friend of Sinners – by Casting Crowns

24 Feb

“The world is on their way to You, but they’re tripping over me.”

Keeping the HOLY in Holidays

6 Dec

Manger sceneToday I want to address one of my pet peeves: Christians who throw hissy fits about “keeping Christ in Christmas.”

Everyone’s received one of those email forwards that talks about boycotting places that sell “holiday trees” or wish people “happy holidays” at this time of year. My Facebook feed today had the classic Ben Stein’s holiday confessions, only this year it’s aimed at the White House, where they’re apparently calling them holiday trees. (For the scoop on Ben Stein, please reference the Snopes page. He did say a lot of what’s attributed to him, but it isn’t about holiday trees or the Obamas.)

I get that we, as Christians, should be concerned about Christ being shut out of our celebrations. But I think we’re going about this wrong, for a number of reasons.

  1. What is a holiday? Merriam-Webster’s first definition of it is holy day. Get that? People who say “Happy holidays” are really wishing you a “Happy Holy Day.” They’re not pushing Christ out. They’re acknowledging that Christ’s birth is a Holy Day.
  2. There are a lot of holidays happening this time of year. Not just Christmas, but also Thanksgiving, St. Andrew’s Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Maybe people aren’t heathens, they’re just efficient and want to cover as many holidays as possible.
  3. Jesus Christ probably wasn’t born on December 25, anyway. We all know this. It’s been documented all kinds of places. Go do a Google search. The point is, we’ve just arbitrarily chosen December 25 as the day we celebrate. What does it matter if some people don’t agree with us?
  4. What was it the angels told the shepherds when they appeared to announce Jesus’ birth? Oh yeah, “peace on earth”. The spirit of Christmas is one of redemption and peace. Not one of strife and anger. Are we really honoring the spirit of Christmas by petty bickering about what we call it?
  5. How many people do you think you’re going to reach for Christ by arguing with them about the name of Christmas?

I think we’d all be better off if we spent more time honoring Christ and the spirit of Christmas by expressing love, joy, peace, and goodwill (i.e. tolerance) toward others.

You want to keep Christ in Christmas? Go out and buy a homeless guy a pair of shoes and a meal.

You want to keep Christ in Christmas? Stop giving your family expensive and unnecessary gifts, and go out to feed the hungry.

You want to keep Christ in Christmas? Visit the sick and imprisoned in His name.

I agree, we should keep Christ in Christmas. We should keep the Holy in Holidays. We just need to rethink how we’re going to go about it.

What do you guys think?

Voiceless

3 Dec

'voiceless:01' photo (c) 2008, threephin - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Last week I started getting sick. Over the course of an evening, my throat grew sore, and it kept getting worse. The pain was strong enough that it woke me several times during the night. There were no other symptoms, just the sore throat. But it was excruciating. The next morning I had a sinus headache and still that persistent sore throat.

Because the museum where I work was only a week away from our second biggest fundraiser of the year, I took the day off. I told my boss I was perfectly capable of working, but I didn’t think he would want me infecting almost our entire staff by coming in to work. I did work Saturday (when I work alone), and by then I was certain what I had was a nasty cold.

My colds always go a certain way. They start with a sore throat (though not usually this bad), then progress into the sinus congestion, sniffling, sneezing, and coughing. The last symptom to go will be the cough. Ever since a nasty case of bronchitis years ago, my coughs seem to linger.

And one thing I can always count on with a cold–I lose my voice.

Being physically unable to speak loudly (or, today, at all) makes you have to think a lot more about your communications with others. There are a lot of things that can be done via text message or email, but it feels awkward to write a note for someone to, for instance, pass you the salt.

Of course, living alone makes that unnecessary, but it also forces you to decide if you’re going to answer the phone and struggle through a phone conversation, because you don’t have anyone else around to answer it for you.

Being without a voice has also made me realize how much I talk, even when I’m alone at home. When I’m writing, I speak my dialogue aloud–it makes it more authentic. I talk to myself, I talk to my cats, I sing along with my music. When I pray, I usually pray aloud. It feels more conversational, I guess.

For me, being voiceless is a temporary thing. Next week this cold will mostly be over, I’ll have my speaking voice back, and a couple of days later I’ll have my singing voice back.

But it has me thinking about people who are always voiceless.

Jesus spoke for people who had no voice. More than that, he helped them find their voice and listened to them. He didn’t always rely on speech to make his point, either. Remember the woman caught in adultery? They dragged her in front of Jesus and said she must be stoned. What did Jesus do? He knelt and wrote in the dirt!

I believe we Christians are called to speak up for those who have no voice. Whether those voices have been taken from them by oppressive governments, by the oppression of poverty, by sickness…by whatever power. We should look at the people around us and ask what stories they have to tell.

Then help them tell it.

How Does Being Single Affect My Vote?

29 Oct

To be honest, I am considering this question for the first time as I write this blog post. I have never thought about being single in terms of my voting position. I have always thought about voting as a way to express myself as a Christian, as a believer in social justice, as a conservationist. The idea of my marital status affecting my vote is a fairly new one.

That said, I think being single does have an impact on how I vote, and I think it’s important that I explore that. After all, married people and parents are certainly influenced by those titles when they vote.

  • As a single, child-free person, I’m less likely to consider education a deciding factor in casting my vote. I believe education is important, of course. I believe that the better educated the entire population is, the more prosperous and stable our nation will be. I do care about the state of education, because I believe that God wants me to take care of “the least of these”–to work towards justice for even the poorest and least powerful members of society. But when it comes down to the whys and wherefores of how the education system works, I am not affected directly because I have no children in the system.
  • As a single person, I see no reason for the government to tell people whom they can or cannot marry–or to define family at all. I’ve read accounts gay couples who have been in a committed relationship for decades, only to be denied access to one another in the healthcare system or long-term care system. As an adult who has redefined my family to include several of my friends, I want my best friend to have a say in what care I receive, if I am incapable of making those decisions myself.
  • As a single person, I support the Affordable Care Act. When it comes down to it, married people have twice as many healthcare options. If a wife’s insurance is twice as good as her husband’s, they go with hers, and vice versa. A single person only has one shot at good healthcare, and if her employer doesn’t have good insurance (or doesn’t offer insurance at all), she’s screwed. In addition, single people are living on the income of, you guessed it, a single person. Married people often have two incomes, or at least they have the potential of two incomes, which may alleviate some healthcare-related expenses.

On the flip side, there are some issues where being single doesn’t necessarily influence my vote.

  • I am single and celibate, so you would think I would care less about insurance providing birth control. On the contrary, however, I take birth control for a number of medical reasons entirely unrelated to whether or not I’m having sex.
  • Since I have no children to inherit the earth after me, you might expect I would care less about environmental issues. After all, it only has to last long enough for me to live my life, right? Yes, I’m being overly cynical here, but it seems many people have a perception of single people as irresponsible and self-centered. We aren’t, not all of us, anyway. I think it’s important to treat the Earth as the precious creation it is, and I vote accordingly.

These are the issues that come to mind most readily when I think about how being single affects my vote. What about the rest of you? Are there things I’ve failed to mention? How does your marital status affect how you vote? Chime in below!

Why I Am Voting Democrat This Year

26 Oct

Let me give you a quick political background. I was raised a Christian in a Republican family. In fact, at one point in time (thankfully before I was old enough to vote), I believed that anyone who voted Democrat had an imperfect understanding of what it was to be a Christian. Over the past fifteen or so years, however, I have begun identifying myself as a moderate. I spent a lot of years voting Republican purely because the Republican platform included an anti-abortion stance.

This year, I have renounced that position entirely.

Have I suddenly decided I support abortion? No. Have I become a staunch Democrat? No. But I have come to realize that the issue of abortion is one that is too complicated and emotionally fraught to be addressed simply by legislation.

I’ll try to explain my position and reasoning here, in points as simple and clear as I can make them.

  1. I believe abortion is wrong, but it isn’t as simple as that. Because of verses like Psalm 139:13-14, I believe that life begins at conception. At the same time, I acknowledge that many people believe that life begins at viability. In addition, I don’t feel comfortable saying that a woman who has been raped should be forced to carry a resulting pregnancy to term. I don’t believe I personally could abort even in that situation, but I have never lived through it, and I don’t believe I have the right to judge. Likewise, in cases of incest or threat to the mother’s life, I believe it would be a greater evil to force the woman to carry the pregnancy to term.
  2. Anti-abortion does not equal pro-life. The Republican Party and right-wing Christian organizations like to simplify the abortion issue to being “pro-life”. I used to agree with them. But in the past ten years, I have experienced the fear and anxiety and self-doubt that go along with being unemployed and uninsured. I can’t imagine being uninsured and finding myself pregnant. Many women who choose to abort do so because they don’t have the financial or emotional resources to raise a child properly. In too many cases, the so-called “pro-life” position only counts until a fetus is born. People who claim to be pro-life, who don’t care about babies born to unwed mothers or uninsured families, who don’t care about children growing up in a family that makes too much money for public assistance but too little to afford proper healthcare, who don’t care about teenagers who never complete their education because they are raising the product of an unplanned pregnancy…well, those people just aren’t pro-life. They are simply anti-abortion.
  3. We need to focus on creating a society where abortion is neither desired nor necessary. But the way to do that is not through legislation. It is through communication. It is through proper financial support. It is through proper emotional support. It is through devising educational alternatives for teenaged parents who have no support structure at home. It is through providing proper, thorough sex education–and through acknowledging that, while abstinence is the only fool-proof way to avoid pregnancy, abstinence-only education does not work.
  4. Legislation doesn’t change people’s opinions. Just look at the Constitution. At various points in our nation’s history, the Constitution has banned votes for women, votes for Blacks, and the sale of alcohol…and yet each of those are legal now. The law didn’t make people believe that it was wrong for Blacks to vote; on the contrary, people knew it was wrong to deny Blacks the right to vote, and changed the law accordingly. The law didn’t make people stop drinking alcohol. It merely created a society where moonshine whiskey and speakeasies served the illegal desires of people who defied the law.
  5. Everyone in America should have access to affordable, quality healthcare. I hope no one would argue against the idea that a healthier citizenry can only benefit the nation as a whole. The point that seems most in contention is that sticky question of who pays for it. Do I think government-funded healthcare is ideal? Not necessarily. Frankly, I believe that the church should take care of the needs of everyone in society. Not just people who belong to the church. Not just people the church says “deserves” it. Everyone. Jesus didn’t say, “Inasmuch as you have given a drink of water to your fellow white conservatives,” he said, “the least of these“. The person who can do you no good. The person who has no power or money. The person who has no job. The person who is a falling-down drunk whom everyone else has given up on. Everyone. We aren’t called to judge people’s worth. We are called to love them. And love isn’t a feeling. Love is an action. But unfortunately, I don’t see churches of any sect or denomination falling over themselves to provide free HIV testing for sexually active teenagers. I don’t see churches willing to teach their teenagers about condoms and birth control, despite the fact that we’re all human and imperfect, so it’s unrealistic to expect every teenager to remain absolutely abstinent. And if the church won’t do it, someone has to.
  6. I believe the government has no business defining marriage. The Republicans claim to be proponents of small government. They use that argument when they talk about the evils of the Affordable Care Act. And yet they conveniently ignore that same argument when they talk about the evils of gay marriage. Why should the government define marriage as one man plus one woman? Because the Bible defines it that way? Actually, the Bible depicts models of marriage that include concubines, slaves, women being forced to marry their rapists, and polygamy. One person’s “Biblical definition of marriage” is another person’s “selective interpretation of scripture.” I believe that marriages should be recognized separately by the government and the church. Allow the churches to decide for themselves what forms of marriage they will or won’t sanctify. The government should recognize any partnership of two consenting adults as a marriage. And don’t even get me started on tax breaks for married people. That’s a post for another time.
  7. God commanded us to be stewards of the Earth. The Republicans favor big business and huge oil companies, many of which are systematically destroying large portions of the Earth. The Republicans believe fracking and oil pipelines are the only answer to our nation’s energy needs. The Democrats are actually taking steps toward better stewardship. Regardless of whether or not you believe in global warming, or in humanity’s contributions to global warming, God’s command is in direct opposition to the notion that we should take whatever we need from this planet, without ever giving back.

What it comes down to is this: I have come to believe, through prayer and consideration and searching the scriptures, that voting in line with my beliefs requires me to vote for a party that cherishes the lives and happiness of all citizens, that is making an effort to provide healthcare and equal rights for all citizens, and that believes we must attempt to care for the Earth.

There are many people who have discussed these issues with perhaps more eloquence and political acumen than I have. I suggest you read Ellen Painter Dollar’s post on Why I am a Christian Democrat, as well as Rachel Held Evans’ many posts on the topic of abortion, particularly Let’s Talk About Abortion – With Gentleness and Civility.

In the meantime, weigh in here–with gentleness and civility–what are your thoughts?

Who the Heck is Apollos, Anyway?

15 Oct

Last night I was talking on the phone to my pagan friend who was raised Catholic. She’s an awesome person, and we’ve had some great conversations about religion and beliefs. Well, last night, we were talking politics too, and I made a remark that I’ve been feeling angry (to put it mildly) at some of my fellow Evangelical Christians. Her response, “Wait, you’re Evangelical? I thought you were Protestant!”

Cue twenty minutes of trying to explain to a non-Christian all the different sects, denominations, and divisions within the Christian church. I tried to keep it as simple, but as clear, as I could, and I still…well, I ended up getting bogged down in all kinds of crazy stuff.

Sometimes I feel like, if Jesus showed up in our churches today, He’d start calling us whited sepulchers and broods of vipers. How did we get so fractured?

(I’ll add a caveat here: I’m not opposed to denominations themselves. Variety is a wonderful thing, and I’ve always enjoyed going to different church services and seeing that people who are very different from me in some ways are also the same as me in the most vital ways.)

First you have the differences between Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox. Then you have all the different sorts of Protestants, all the different sorts of Catholics, and…well, I honestly don’t know. Are there all different sorts of Orthodox? I confess, I don’t know a lot about the Orthodox church, and only marginally more about the Catholic church.

My dad was raised Catholic, but converted to Protestantism when I was in grade school. Not out of any vitriol towards the Catholic church, just because my mom’s church resonated more with him spiritually, so I’ve been to plenty of Catholic weddings, funerals, and masses in my life. Which, according to some of the people I know, is probably putting me halfway down the highway to Hell.

The longer I tried to explain some of the differences to my friend, the more and more embarrassed I got. If we all believe in Jesus Christ, if we all believe in the saving power of the cross…why is there such vitriol in Evangelical circles against the Catholics? (My church actually supports missionaries to Spain trying to convert the Catholics to our “true” faith. WTH? Catholics have the same basic beliefs we do!) And if we all share a belief in the resurrection and the Great Commission, why is there all this bickering and in-fighting between people who take communion once a year and people who take it once a week?

Oh, sure, I know how it happens. I’ve even had those arguments myself. In high school I spent an entire Sunday School hour arguing with my class leader about baptism being a requirement for salvation. I refuse to believe that, if someone has a true conversion but is for some reason unable to be baptized before death, that person is going to Hell. The Bible says God judges a man’s heart. Not whether he’s had a bath lately.

So yeah, I do understand how we get all these divisions. But at the same time, it kills me that we can’t keep our focus on Christ. We can’t remember that the greatest commandment is to love God with everything in us, and the second greatest is to love our neighbors as ourselves. All of our neighbors, whether they take communion every day or never, whether they go to church three times a week or never, whether they worship with instruments or not, whether they’re 100% correct in every single point of law or not. (And this post is about Christian relations with other Christians, which is why I’m not also adding things like, whether they love someone who’s the same sex as them, whether they’re black or white, whether they’re rich or poor, etc. But that’s the only reason–we should love them too.)

Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 3. He writes,

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.

Have we forgotten that the core of our faith is grace? Have I forgotten? I’m sure as heck not very good at showing people grace. I get so caught up in being right that I forget it’s not about being right. My blogger friend Meerkat009 has a post that discusses “being right” more eloquently than I can, so I’ll direct you to it.

I recently swore off Facebook until after the election is over. I can’t continue to  look at posts from people who say they see pure evil in President Obama’s eyes, or from people who say they think Mitt Romney is the anti-Christ. (Okay, I haven’t seen that last one specifically, but I’m sure someone out there has said it.) But it’s a good illustration of just how much grace we are lacking. There are Christians who say anyone who votes Democrat isn’t a true Christian. And there are equally committed Christians who would say the same thing about voting Republican.

What I say is, if the church would get off its collective ass, stop bickering within the family, and start doing something about all the problems in this world, maybe we wouldn’t have to worry about who wins this election.

And I’ll tell you, after I spent all that time explaining things to my pagan friend, she explained some of her belief to me. She honors all the gods, but feels closest to two in particular. She worships alone, because worship is generally not a corporate thing for many (if not most) pagans. And frankly, as sad as it makes me, her religion sounds more peaceful than mine.

I’m going to close with a quote from a man many revere as the greatest president the United States ever saw. This is from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural speech on March 4, 1865, and I think it’s a sentiment everyone in America, and all of my fellow Christians–of every brand–would do well to consider:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.

Love and Salvation

6 Jun

A while back I posted about my Christian Facebook friends making me cringe. I have to say, they haven’t really stopped…but a comment to that blog post has made me really think deeply about the situation. I am reevaluating how I respond to these people, and in the meantime, I have to confess…taking a look in the mirror at that point wasn’t very much fun.

Edarnut pointed out something that had never occurred to me before. She said, “If love for others is is the mark of a disciple, then to call a professed believer unloving is to call that person unsaved”.

Wow!

I had never made that connection before. I certainly never meant to accuse someone of not being saved. My intent was to point out an attitude we’re supposed to have–an action we’re supposed to take–and not to call someone’s salvation into question. And suddenly I’ve discovered that wasn’t how I was coming across at all.

And as I often tell my fellow Christians, perception is sometimes the most important thing. If people perceive Christians as hateful, judgmental bigots, they aren’t going to be interested in what we have to say. And by that logic, if I call out a brother in Christ for not loving, and he thinks I’ve just accused him of not being saved…well, he isn’t really going to be interested in what I have to say, either, is he?

In fact, Edarnut’s comment has given me a lot more than that to think about, but right now, this is what I’m focusing on. I need to learn to approach this conversation about love with a different attitude and a whole truckload of grace. I need to remember to spend more time trying to learn where that other person is coming from, instead of trying to tell her where she should be going. And above all, I need to remember that we’re supposed to love everyone…including the Christians we don’t always agree with.

What do you think? What do you guys do to show love to people when you don’t agree? I’d love to hear from you!

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself…as Long as He’s a Christian

29 May

Sometimes I log in to Facebook and immediately cringe. Not for the reasons you’re thinking, either. Not because of the guy who seems to do nothing but post pictures of hot, scantily-clad women. Not because of the girl who makes cryptic posts about being in a bad mood and then expects you to ask for all the details.

Nope. Most of the cringing I do on Facebook is because of my Christian friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Christian friends. And I’m sure they love me, despite the fact that I’m not shy about speaking my opinion on social justice and Christianity. But the thing is, I’m not 100% sure they really love people who don’t agree with them. In the past few months, my Christian friends have posted Scripture and daily devotions, which probably don’t do much to reach non-Christians but are of value to fellow Christians. They’ve also posted links to petitions about gay marriage and abortion legislation, or personal attacks on the President, or criticisms of people of other faiths…which are probably all huge turn-offs to non-Christians.

The upshot is, a lot of my Christian friends don’t seem to feel very warm towards non-Christians. And this is a problem.

Look at Mark 12: 29-31: “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Or what about John 13: 34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This is Jesus talking, y’all. And He’s telling us that we’re supposed to be easily recognized by how much we love people. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling disgustingly inadequate right about now.

One of the most important people in my life is a very intelligent woman with a background in science. She’s a great conversationalist, she’s incredibly talented…and she’s not exactly a Christian. Yet in conversations with her, I have learned more about my own beliefs and the short-comings of the church than I have while talking to many of my Christian friends. I’ve learned about her background and how she approaches the idea of belief. I’ve heard first-hand her questions about abortion and science. I’ve had some amazing discussion with her about why I believe what I believe, and trying to learn why she feels the way she does.

And I have to tell you, I feel like my relationship with this woman is more genuine, more productive, than my relationship with, for instance, a Christian friend whose daughter just went away to college and met a gay person for the first time. This Christian friend is suddenly forced to interact with a gay person on a semi-regular basis. And this Christian friend can’t seem to get beyond the issue of sexuality to see the actual person.

It’s hard to love someone if you don’t even see him as a real person.

I know I’m not perfect at loving people. It’s a struggle. Heck, it’s a struggle to love the members of my family sometimes, let alone people who aren’t as smart or educated or funny as I am. It’s a big struggle to love the big name right-wing folks that I feel are giving Christianity a bad name. It’s a huge struggle to love politicians, am I right?

But the first step to loving someone is realizing that person is human, just like I am.

In the meantime, anybody have an idea of what to say to my Christian Facebook friends?

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