Category Archives: faith

Why I (Continue To) Take a Stand Against Organized Religion

I don’t remember when I broke up with organized religion.

It wasn’t like one big, a-ha moment.  It wasn’t a cataclysmic event, or a major act of egregious affront, or a single person or a single church or a single event.  No, it was something that happened over time.  It was years of systemic conditioning and oppression.  It was years of being okay with hypocrisy.  It was years of being okay with self righteous indignation.  It was a decision, over time, that I no longer wanted to prize being “right” over being compassionate, or being judgmental over being loving.  It was an admission, over time, that I’d in fact gotten it very wrong.  That I’d given into a system of beliefs and attitudes that were, at their core, contrary to the very God that I claimed to worship.

And the thing is, I never turned my back on my belief in God.  I actually found God during this whole process, for perhaps the first time in my life.

I know that opting out of everything God-related is a common thing for many people with my background.  I see it every day.  People feel just like I felt:  disillusioned, angry, burnt-out, betrayed… and they decide they don’t want anything to do with any of it anymore.  And honestly, I can’t say as I particularly blame them.  The damage runs DEEP.  I have a friend who grew up in a very strict Catholic church who used to say something to the effect of, “Want to ensure your kid grows up to be an atheist?  Force them to go to church every Sunday.”  (By the by, she’s an adult now and is, in fact, an atheist)  But for me, it was two separate issues.  My beef wasn’t with God.  My beef was with a deeply flawed and broken man-made construct.  One of the most defining moments of my life was when I was able to say – to myself, to the people around me, to the world – “You know what?  I want Jesus.  I don’t want religion.”

Lest I forget why I made that decision, I have articles like this to remind me.  This article, titled Worship Leaders Must Take a Stand Against Homosexuality, was proudly shared by someone from my former life.  And as I read it, that little voice in me screamed, “THIS!  This is why I left.  This is why I’m opting out.”

Too many churches have become about turning people away.  They’ve become judge, jury and executioner.  They’ve become hurtful, vitriolic clubs of exclusion.  Strong words?  Sure.  Deserved?  You bet.

My mind automatically wants to fix it, to substitute other words for homosexuality.  Worship Leaders Must Take a Stand Against:

Lying
Stealing
Hatefulness
Pride
Arrogance
Gossip
Adultery…

You know, things that actually hurt people.  But we never see those articles, because people are too busy thinking about, and writing about, and preaching about those darn homosexuals.  I ask you –  in all sincerity – if you nod your head in agreement with articles like that one, how does someone else’s sexual orientation harm you?  The world is full of problems, to be sure, but is who someone happens to love really one of them?  No one’s threatening you or the sanctity of your heterosexual relationship, I promise.  Your neighbor or your co-worker or your family member who’s gay?  They’re just trying to make it through the day like the rest of us.  The difference is, they’re trying to make it through a day in which churches have made it their mission to ostracize them, in which churches have decided that their mere existence is so objectionable that they must write entire articles about how we must Take A Stand against them.

Instead of loving people like they’re commanded (Matthew 22:39.  This is covered in Christianity 101.  Or at least it should be), they’ve cherry-picked an already maligned segment of society, and they’re taking a stand.

Well I’m going to take a stand too.

I’m taking a stand against bigotry cloaked in religion.  I’m taking a stand against keeping people out instead of inviting people in.  I’m taking a stand against judging people instead of loving them.  I’m taking a stand against discrimination, in all of its shapes, forms, and flavors.  I’m taking a stand against a man-made system that does the very opposite of showing others a God that is full of grace, and love, and mercy.

And as I sit here, getting ready to hit that “publish” button, I do so knowing that this post is going to earn me unkind comments, and bible verses used as weapons, and (if the past is any indication) offers to send me books that’ll save my poor, misguided soul.  I’m okay with that.  Truly.  Because it all serves to remind me where I came from, and why I chose to leave it behind.

I can’t control what anyone else chooses to believe, or do, or follow.  This much is true.  But I can control me.  I can control where I stand.

If ever I’m given the option (and let’s be real for a second here:  we’re always given the option) I’m standing on the side of love.

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”


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My God Won’t Leave You Stranded On The Side Of The Road

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Christianity has a bit of a PR problem.

As I type that, I want to laugh (except of course that I’m so sad I want to cry), because it’s just about the biggest understatement I could possibly make.

Christianity has a really really huge, colossal PR problem.   The word – and concept – of Christianity has become such a marred and dirty word that I don’t know that it’s likely to ever recover.  In fact, many God-loving people are abandoning the word altogether, because they’re sick and tired of having to follow the statement of “I’m a Christian,” with a hastily uttered addendum of “But not one of those Christians.”  I actually started calling myself a follower of Christ a few years ago, because I felt like it more accurately described my position.

And really, who wants to be associated with… well, those Christians?

People hear the word Christian these days and they think of people like Phil Robertson.  They think of people freaking out about coffee cups.  They think of people freaking out about bathrooms in Target.  They think of people freaking out about the phrase, “Happy Holidays.”  (Are you sensing a pattern here?)  They think of people petitioning and boycotting and generally spending their collective time and energy on being negative.  They think about people withdrawing their funds for starving babies – literally taking food away from hungry children – because of an administrative policy that wouldn’t discriminate against gay people.  They think about bakers refusing to make wedding cakes.  They think about hatred.  They think about prejudice and bigotry and judgement.

And as of this week…. they think about tow truck drivers proudly taking a stand and refusing to tow the car of a disabled young lady who’d just been in accident… all because she had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on her car.

People hate Christians.

And not because, as some would have you believe, they’re doing God’s work à la Matthew 10:22 (“You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”)  No.  They’re hated because too many of them have been behaving  like horrible, horrible people – and it could stand to be said: not at all Christ-like – and then proudly claiming God as their justification.

And I get it.  I struggle with my love for my fellow Christians too.  I want to cry.  I want to scream.  I want to desperately yell, “We’re not all like this!!”  Yes, 98% of my writings on Christianity have been born of straight-up frustration.  No question.

But I realized something.

In the time it took me to decide to write about this, to find the perfect picture, and to brew the perfect cup of coffee, it dawned on me:

This is not about Christianity at all.  It’s really not.  It’s about select individuals making bad decisions, and using “God” as their cover. I’d like to believe (really, I need to believe) that people are smart enough to see the difference.  That anyone with a working, thinking, rational brain can recognize that a Christian, as in a follower of Christ, is NOT synonymous with a “Christian”, as in “I’m going to leave an innocent girl stranded on the side of the road BECAUSE GOD TOLD ME TO.”

Am I horrified by this behavior?  Yes.  Do I find it absolutely disgusting that anyone would bring God into something so ugly?  Yes.  But my ranting and raving and general defensive word-spewing only serves to bring me down to their level. I’m not the spokeswoman for Christianity at large.  Beyond that though, I can’t control what anyone else does.  I can’t control what anyone else thinks.  If someone wants to behave like a complete and utter jackass and  delude themselves into thinking it’s what God wants them to do, it’s their choice to make. If someone wants to lump all Christians together and label them all as horrible, bigoted, self-seeking sycophants, so be it.

None of that changes my faith.  None of that changes my God.

Have you met my God?

(Ack, I just heard the way that sounds.  Please don’t stop reading.  I do NOT mean that in a door-to-door, “Brother, have you accepted the LORD JESUS as your personal savior??” kind of way.  What I mean is… do you know who it is that I – and others like me – personally follow?  Because let me perfectly clear: It is not a deity who would ever… ever ever ever… ask me to turn my back on someone who needed my help.  In fact, my God is very much the opposite)

My God has more love, and grace, and patience than humans can even comprehend.  Love and grace and patience for ALL people …. Black people and white people. Gay people and straight people.  Christians and atheists and Jewish people.  Sanders supporters and Trump supporters.   Able-bodied and disabled.  People who spend Sunday morning at church.  People who spend Sunday morning at Target.

My God wants me to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, and to stand up for the oppressed.  It’s kind of the whole reason I’m on earth.  I really believe that.  All this other stuff… it’s just noise and distractions.  And make no mistake;  I miss the mark, a LOT.  (More on that later)  But what I strive for? This is it.

My God wants me to use my powers for good, not evil.  I realize I’m a person and not a superhero, but it’s far more interesting to think of our skills, talents, and gifts as super powers, don’t you think?  I like to think that my super power is writing, but, you know, I’m not God, so….  A few years ago, I thought I heard God to tell me to get trained to teach yoga, so I did.  And I’ve spent many moments since then wondering if that was the right decision.  I had two shoulder surgeries in two years.  I have had chronic physical illness, chronic pain, and the worst anxiety and depression I’ve ever experienced. I’m clearly supposed to be learning something from the experience, and I’m still not sure what it is.   Maybe one day I’ll go back to teaching.  Maybe I’ll shift my focus elsewhere.  But I digress.  We’ve all got powers, and we all get to decide how we use them.  My God wants me to use them for good, whatever they ultimately end up being.

My God wouldn’t ask me not to bake a wedding cake.  If wedding cakes were the way I brought to the world my skills and my heart and my love of Christ, He would ask me to bake two.  He would ask me to make the best damn gay wedding cakes that ever existed, and to do it with love.  He would ask me to throw in some free cookies too.  Not the day-old ones that were sitting out in the case and starting to get dry around the edges, but fresh cookies.  Beautiful cookies, made with the finest ingredients I could get my hands on.

My God wouldn’t ask me to spend my time and my energy and my blood, sweat, and tears on picketing, petitioning, and boycotting. My God tells me that my time is so much better spent doing the work I need to do on myself so I can live out my faith to the best of my ability.  So I can show people what Jesus actually looked like; so I can show people how Jesus actually behaved.

My God wouldn’t ask me to leave anyone stranded on the side of the road.  The entirety of what I feel, and believe, and know to be true about my God and my faith tells me that the moment someone is in need is in fact the very moment that we’re here for. As a follower of Christ, as a person with a heart and a soul, as a human sharing this earth with other people, I am here to help my fellow man.  This is it.  This is what it’s about.  Forget the fact that it was his job as a tow truck driver to tow his car.  Forget that.  He was there to do a job, and he chose not to do it.  And I don’t know… maybe he hates his job.  Maybe he’d had a bad day.  Maybe he had a traumatic Bernie Sanders bumper sticker incident in a past life.  Setting all that aside….  no matter who or what he may believe in, or why he was there, or why the woman needed help in the first place:  as a human being, with values and morals and a sense of right and wrong, there was only one thing to do.  And he didn’t do it.  And then, he blamed God.

Which brings me full-circle to the beginning of the post, and the agony of people behaving badly, and the sadness and frustration of people lambasting Christians as a whole for believing in a God (except they usually words like “imaginary sky ghost”) that would ask them to do something so awful.

Let me say again that my God wouldn’t want me to leave anyone stranded on the side of the road.  Whoever or whatever those people are talking about is not my God.

And I’ll be perfectly clear (and honest).  God knows, I don’t always do the right thing.  I want to;  I do.  But I’m a fallible human. Sometimes I let fear, or pride, or ego, or laziness, or just plain selfishness keep me from doing what I know in my heart is the right thing to do.  I’m a work in progress, like everyone else.  But when I drop the ball, when I do something unkind… IT’S ALL ON ME.  And when you drop the ball and do something unkind, it’s all on you too.  Not God.

My God wants me to love my neighbor.  He doesn’t want me to be an asshole.  Full stop.

I’m tired of having this discussion over and over.  I’m tired of people behaving badly.  I’m tired of the emotional gymnastics I always go through when people rail about how horrible Christians are… when half of me wants to agree with them, and the other half is cut to my core at the hatred, wanting to curl up and cry, “But…  but… we’re not all like that!!!”

Mostly I’m tired of all this ridiculous noise, distracting us from doing what we need to be doing, and what we need to be focused on: Doing the right thing, loving our neighbor, and standing together to say we won’t tolerate bad behavior.  I don’t care who you are or what you believe in.  If you stand for love and kindness, I’ll stand beside you.

I’ll stand beside you, with my God, and work on me.  Work on my patience, work on my compassion, work on my love…. both for the person on the side of the road, and for the person who left her there.  Both for my fellow Christians, and for the people that aim to hurt us. It’s hard sometimes.  But I’m working on it.  I want to work on it.  God wants me to work on it.  Because my God?  He only wants goodness, not bad.  Lightness, not dark.  Love, not hatred.  Anything else is not God.  It’s user error.  It’s humanness.  It’s the dark side of humanity.

But I’ll work on me.  And you (if you choose) can work on you.  In the meantime…..

If you’re going to be a bigot;  If you’re going to do something disgusting and inhumane:  At least own up to the fact that you’re doing so out of your own moral shortcomings, and leave God out of it.


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Silly Christians, Cups Are For Coffee

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Take a good, deep cleansing breath.  (In through your nose, out through the mouth for the uninitiated.)

Let me just start there.

People can get a little… is there a polite way to say tightly wound?… this time of year, and taking a good step back, a good stock on our priorities, and essentially getting a grip is always an appropriate first line of defense.  It seems like this sort of thing used to happen around Thanksgiving, but it appears to be coming earlier and earlier every year.  Pretty soon we’ll be having this conversation the day after Easter.   In any case, it’s November 8th, and the time to address it is now.

So, let’s talk about those Starbucks cups.

Apparently every year Starbucks unveils a new holiday-themed cup.  A cup:  A disposable, cardboard conduit for your hot beverage that’s going to end up in the landfill later, just to keep this in perspective.  Anyway, past cups have featured things like snowflakes, ice skates, Santas, and what looks to me like some sort of spaceship that maybe was supposed to be a modern version of a sleigh?

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All fun and festive stuff.  This year, they decided to go with something simpler, do away with the illustrations altogether, and chose a streamlined red design in an Ombre style.  Cool.  As cool as a cup can be I guess.  We’re still talking about a cup.

And a select group of Christians collectively lost their ever-loving minds.

The best I can tell, snowflakes represent Christmas, and Christmas represents Jesus … so a plain red cup obviously signifies the removal of Jesus and is thus really, really offensive.  Hide your kids, and hide your wives, it’s the (invented-by-Christians) WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!

When I first heard that people were freaking out about the cups, I honestly thought it was a big joke.  I assumed that the early rumblings were either from a satire site or a super creative marketing job from Starbucks themselves.  (As a side note, how completely sad is it that our society is such that one can’t even tell the difference between real life and satire anymore?   The real-life shenanigans of the I’m-offended-by-everything folks are often more ridiculous than anything even the Onion can imagine).  And yes, I called them ridiculous.  My choice of that word in a past post – also aimed at my fellow Christians – earned me a snotty comment calling me rude and judgmental.  But you know what?  Sometimes people are ridiculous. Whining about everyone “taking the Christ out of Christmas” when the only one who can take your Christ out of your Christmas is you, is ridiculous. Flipping out over a red cup is ridiculous.  SO ridiculous in fact, that it couldn’t possibly be real.  Except it is.  There are real, live people out there losing it over a cup.

I’m just wondering, when did “peace on Earth and goodwill to men” turn into spending the entire holiday season – which as I already stated, is starting earlier and earlier every year – pissed off and competing to see who can carry the biggest chip on their shoulder?

A quick Twitter search of the hashtag #MerryChristmasStarbucks will give you a vast sampling of people’s collective ire, but my favorite one is this, by a user who describes herself as a Christian Conservative American Constitutionalist:

Starbucks can take ur plain red cups & shove them up ur #liberal asses! I’ll never step foot in a #starbucks again

Isn’t that sweet?  Nothing says Christmas spirit like telling people to shove things up their asses. Nothing shows the love of Christ like telling people to shove things up their asses.

You guys, this is embarrassing.

Christmas  was never supposed to be a battle for the title of the biggest, loudest bully, but that’s exactly what it has become.  How inspiring.  How Christ-like.

And you know what?  Forget Christmas for a minute.  Can we bring Christ back into Christianity?  Let’s bring back gentleness.  Let’s bring back kindness.  Let’s bring back grace. Let’s bring back loving our neighbors.  Can you imagine the change that could happen – the GOOD that could happen – if we replaced the outrage over holiday greetings and cup choices with compassion?  With a little old-fashioned generosity?  With actually LIVING what we claim to believe in?  Let’s show people what it means to be Christ-like.

If there’s not enough Jesus on your Starbucks cup (and, psst, snowflakes and ice skates and space-ship sleighs are not specific to Jesus either) bring Jesus with you!  Be kind to the people around you.  Offer the barista a genuine smile.  Pick up the tab for the next person in line. Don’t be a grumpy asshat.

Our faith should be a little bit bigger than a disposable coffee cup.  

Don’t want to go to Starbucks, for whatever reason?  That’s cool too.  I actually don’t go all that often myself, for the simple reason that I spent a lot of past years broke,  so it pains me a little to spend $5 on something I can make for pennies at home.  Use your could-be-Starbucks-money on something else!  Share it with the guy on the corner.  Give to a cause you believe in.   Heck, surprise your kids with a new toy.   But stop using a company’s marketing decision as an excuse to turn your “faith” into something ugly and off-putting.   Believe it or not, God’s not giving out prizes to the people who can throw the biggest irrational tantrums.

Let’s get a grip here, and save being offended for the things that are actually offensive.

And to you dear Starbucks, I apologize on behalf of the small – but loud – group of Christians obnoxiously ushering in the holiday season in the only way they know how.  I assure you they don’t represent all of us.  I will be in soon for a grande caramel macchiato, and to spread some actual holiday cheer (with zero requests that you shove anything up your ass)

Sincerely,

The girl who couldn’t care less what your cups look like


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I Won’t Throw Stones… Unless You’re LGBT

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Two fast points right off the top:

  1.  This is going to be long.
  2.  This post was originally going to be about something else.

The whole thing started with Bruce Jenner.  He had just done his interview with Diane Sawyer in which he discussed his transition from male to female.  I didn’t watch the interview, for no other reason than I wasn’t particularly interested, but from what I understand, Bruce is happy now, after denying who he was for a long time.   I’m a big champion of people following their own path, and being their own authentic selves, whoever that may be.  So I say… Go Bruce.

Shortly after the interview aired, Matt Walsh posted an article in which he was being, well… Matt Walsh… calling Jenner “a sick and delusional man.”

Partially in response to Walsh, Jarrid Wilson then wrote a really lovely and grace-filled blog post, reminding us that as Christians, our job was really nothing more than to extend love and compassion to Bruce Jenner, like we would to anyone else.  It always amazes me when people want to refute a call to love, but refute it they did, complete with admonitions that we have the responsibility to call people like Bruce Jenner out on their sin, and that we need to “speak the truth in love” (which, by the way, is one of the most awful things I think Christians say… right up there with “love the sinner, hate the sin.”)

So – at least in conservative Christian circles – Walsh was praised and Wilson was condemned.

Bruce Jenner IS WRONG!  It’s disgusting!  It’s A SIN!  We need to tell him!  We need to tell EVERYONE!  Let’s shout it from the rooftops!  The world is going to hell!

And sure, they’ll recite their “love the sinner, hate the sin” rhetoric, but make no mistake… nothing about the anti-LGBT crusade is loving.  Its whole entire reason for being is to hurt and condemn:  the adult equivalent of the old grade-school tactic of putting someone else down to raise yourself up.

Of course, it’s not like this is anything new.  This has been going on forever.  I’ve been writing about this forever.  But there’s just been SO MUCH of it lately.  Just a couple of days ago, I received a several-paragraphs-long email outlining in great detail how unkind and unloving I am to advocate for being more loving towards LGBT folks. (??) I’m damning them to a life in hell, she tells me, because by not calling them out on their sin, I’m taking away their opportunity for a chance of redemption, which is the most hateful thing I could possibly do.

It’s not the first time I’ve received a message of that sort – apparently writing about issues of faith seems to invite people to try to judge me/save me/throw Bible-verses-as-weapons at me – but given the current societal climate it irked me.

I’m frustrated.  I’m exhausted.  I’m angry.  I am so indescribably tired of this unfair and hateful treatment, thinly veiled in “biblical values”, towards this one specific segment of society.

So that’s what I was going to write about.  How it needed to stop.  How people needed to take a step back, gain some perspective, and focus on their own sin.  Think it’s a sin to be in a homosexual relationship?  Don’t be in one.  Think it’s a sin to have gender reassignment surgery?  Don’t get it.  But this constant persecution is damaging and hurtful and pretty much the opposite of anything that Jesus ever espoused.

Then something happened.  And now I’m more disgusted with the culture of mainstream Christianity than I think I’ve ever, ever been.

The details are still surfacing, but it’s come to light that Josh Duggar  (of the infamous 19 Kids and Counting Duggars) molested 5 young girls, four of them his siblings, over the course of 3 years when he was a teenager.  His parents, though aware of the abuse, did nothing about it for over a year.    When they did finally deal with it, they did so by keeping it “in house.”  He was disciplined by his father.  He got a “talking-to” by a police officer friend who never pressed charges (an officer who is currently serving jail time for child pornography).   He met with his pastor who helped arrange some sort of supposed rehabilitation in the form of living with yet another family friend for a few months and helping him perform physical labor.

This seems as good a time as any to point out that sexual assault is a serious crime, and should be treated as such … not merely “dealt with” at home.

There are so very many things wrong with this scenario, and how it was handled, that I don’t even know where to start.

But oh how Christians are defending the Duggars!!!

Josh Duggar shouldn’t be vilified.  He was just a kid.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

He made a mistake, and he said he was sorry.  Who hasn’t made mistakes as a teen?

He was just young and curious.

They dealt with it in their family, and it’s not our place to judge them.

People are being way too harsh and judgmental.

Judge not lest you be judged.

People in glass houses….

They were an inspiration before, and they’re still an inspiration now.

I’m ……. Seriously?  Are you kidding me?

So, same-sex attraction is such a vile thing, such a pertinent issue to address, that people feel compelled to write to me (some random heterosexual internet stranger who just happens to believe that people have the right to love who they want to love), to warn me of its dangers….. but molestation of young children, a teenaged boy fondling the genitals of his baby sisters, is shrugged off as a teenaged “mistake”… it’s not our place to judge… how dare we cast stones at this upstanding Christian family!….. And after all he did say he was sorry……

My level of disgust is matched only by my confusion.  How do you defend a child molester?  How do you justify freely throwing your proverbial stones at someone because of their sexual orientation, yet demure because of a sudden sense of self-righteousness when it comes to a beloved Christian family that happens to includes a son who sexually violated children?

And don’t misunderstand.  I’m not advocating for the stoning of anyone.   My point is not to publicly flog the Duggars.   Actually what I think should happen now that this has been made public is that the whole family should be investigated, and that someone should ensure that the children are currently safe, and that they have received, and are currently receiving, the needed support.  Based on the teachings of some of the people the Duggars follow, I don’t think it’s unlikely that there is lot more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about.  Such deviant behavior generally doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and if Josh Duggar was indeed a victim as well, he too should be receiving appropriate counseling that will address it.

What we SHOULD NOT DO is continue to sweep his crimes under the rug and excuse them as mere childhood curiosity.  We should not defend this “good, Christian family” as if they’re somehow people we should emulate.  We should not stand sweetly behind a philosophy of “Oh it’s not my place to judge” when it comes to something as vile and heinous as child molestation and incest.

HE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED CHILDREN.  His parents knew it was happening.  I’m going to judge.

Is he genuinely sorry?  I don’t know.  Has he been forgiven by his victims?  I don’t know.  Has he been forgiven by God?  That’s between him and God.  But I’m not going to sit here – as a Christian, as a human, as a parent of both boys and a little girl – and excuse what he did.

And the fact that the very same people who are doing the excusing are the people who have no problem standing on a soapbox in judgement of the man who works hard all day and just wants to come home and kick back with a beer and a TV show with Adam instead of Eve…. is a hypocrisy of the most disgusting kind.

You’re essentially saying:

Homosexuality = bad

Child Molestation = eh, everyone makes mistakes.

I have never been as disillusioned and disappointed with the current state of the institution of Christianity as I am right now.  I love God.  I Love God.  I am an all-in, whole-hearted, unabashed follower of Christ (even if I never share those stupid Facebook posts that start by attempting to shame you with “99% of you won’t pass this on”……) I will always be a follower of Christ.  But this?  Defending the actions of a child molester, while railing out the other side of your mouth about “sick and delusional men” just because you can’t personally relate to their path?  That’s something I’ll never be a part of.  If I had any remaining sliver of hope that there was a place for me in the whole of American Christianity, that hope is gone.

God, save me from your followers.


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An Open Letter To Phil Robertson Supporters

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To my fellow Christians,

I’ve never been a fan of Duck Dynasty.  Let me just admit my bias right up front and start there. I watched the show once – well before all the controversial headlines – and I would rather walk barefoot through a forest of Legos than be subjected to watching it again.  But people have different tastes, and I understand that.  And when you find a TV show or an artist or a public figure who you can relate to in some way, it’s a powerful thing.  I think as a Christian, there’s something particularly alluring about seeing a fellow believer in such a prominent way in mainstream society.  And I understand that too.

Hey this is a cool!  This guy’s on this popular quirky reality show, and he’s a strong believer! What a nice change of pace!

I think we all want to feel we belong to something larger than ourselves.  We want to feel that we FIT somewhere. So when someone like Phil Robertson comes along, with his beard and his ducks and his “good biblical values”, people desperately latch onto him….. and they hold on so tight that they can’t even see what it is they’re grasping.

Oh how ardently people defend him!!  But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s not HIM they’re defending so much as the idea of the Christian ideal that they (mistakenly) think he represents. We should encourage and support and defend the rights of those who are putting themselves in the public eye as a representative of Christ-like behavior.  Absolutely.

The problem is….. his behavior is pretty much the antithesis of Christ-like love.   I’m literally embarrassed that Christians are so steadfastly standing behind this man, hailing him as a role model for Christian values.  I have to ask, because I just cannot understand, even a little bit….

Seriously?  THIS guy?  THIS is who you choose to hold up as an ambassador of our faith? THIS is how you want to represent Christianity?

Honestly, it’s no wonder that so very very many people are turned off by religion.

This is a crass, vulgar, hate-filled man who made graphic comments about what kind of sex gay people must be having, as well as comparing homosexuality to bestiality and stating that AIDS was God’s punishment for immorality.  This is not Christ-like!!  (In case you’re wondering, you can find out what Jesus actually had to say about homosexuality here.)

He blames STDs on “beatniks and hippies.”  Sex apparently is a very big issue for him, as it’s something he rails about often.

And most recently, he recounted a graphic, disturbing hypothetical story (pulled from his own imagination, for reasons I fail to understand) about atheists getting raped and murdered in their home.

Again, I have to ask:  THIS GUY?

Now, I’m one of those rare Christians who doesn’t believe that homosexuality in and of itself is a sin (and honestly, even if I did, I have better things to be concerned about then who someone else is attracted to) but even if we disagree on that, can we agree that vulgar and hate-filled rants aimed at gay people are not the answer?

I have many atheist friends whom I love dearly, and I don’t think it’s my job to convert them.  (I think it’s my job to LOVE them, and to live out my own faith to the best of my ability)  But even if we disagree on that, can we agree that graphic fantasies about raping and murdering entire families of atheists are not the answer?

Can we agree that if we’re really going to represent Jesus, we need to start with LOVING people, instead of damning them all to hell?

Can we agree that if we’re going to hold someone up as a role model for our faith that it should be someone who models kindness, and grace, and actual love towards mankind?

My fellow Christians, I think we need to take a collective step back, and take a good long look at what it is we’re doing, how we’re representing Christianity, and who we’re hailing as our heroes. For me, I’ll look to Jesus for my example.  But if you need a human example, there are people out there to emulate.  There are kind people, loving people, people who use their platforms to spread positivity, not hatred.

I ask you though, in all sincerity, to stop looking for them on Duck Dynasty.  Stop telling yourself (and others!) that Phil Robertson’s words or actions represent the true nature of Christianity, because they do not.  He doesn’t represent the God that I know.  He doesn’t represent the Jesus that I know.  He doesn’t represent any of the loving, giving Christians that I am privileged enough to call friends.

The state of American Christianity has gotten so far off the mark that I don’t even know that it is fixable anymore.  I see the worship and admiration of people like Phil Robertson, and I genuinely fear that we’ve lost our collective heads all together.

Let’s bring humanity – and some common sense! – back into our faith.  Let’s give a little more effort towards “loving your neighbor as yourself”, and a WHOLE LOT LESS credence to sad, confused reality stars who are bent on persecuting others.

Sincerely,

Fed Up and Frustrated


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Whatever You Did for One of the Least of These… Some Thoughts About World Vision

Alice is a 6 year old girl who lives in Rwanda.  She has big brown eyes, her favorite thing to play is ball games, and she likes to sing.

Jordan is 4.  He lives in Ecuador, has a sweet smile, and loves to play soccer.

Dominic is an 8 year old from Ghana.  His pictures show a gentle soul.  His favorite pastime is rolling tires, and his favorite thing to learn about is science.

All of the above are real children, waiting to be sponsored through World Vision.  I share this with you not to make you feel guilty.  The truth is, I don’t sponsor a child.  In fact, I’ve never personally sponsored a child through World Vision or any other organization.  We’ve mostly chosen to give our money locally, and/or to causes or people that we know personally.  Also, the decision to sponsor a child is a commitment, one that needs to be honored, month after month.  Making such a commitment wasn’t always the best choice for our family, especially during the months and years that we ourselves struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table.

Now though, I’m seriously considering it.  Not just in response to the recent fallout, but also because I think we have a responsibility…. not just as Christians, but as living, breathing, caring human beings who share this planet… to step in and help those who are less fortunate, especially when they’ve been turned away by others. Of this, I am sure.  And I’d certainly like to think that the vast majority of people reading these words would agree. We’re here to help each other.

So where on earth did we go wrong?

Here’s a bit of timeline, for those who are unclear on the details:

 

On March 24th, World Vision (an organization started and run by evangelical Christians) announced that – after much deliberation over the years – their new hiring policy would allow them to hire those in same-sex marriages.

Over the next 48 hours, they were inundated with messages, phone calls, and Facebook posts from angry Christians who disagreed with their decision, and who promptly pulled their sponsorships and support of World Vision.

On March 26th, faced with dropping sponsorships in the thousands,  the people of World Vision felt they had no choice but to officially reverse their decision.

All told, 10,000 children were abandoned by their sponsors.

 

I truly don’t think I’ve ever been as heartbroken or disappointed by my fellow Christians’ behavior as I am over this. And make no mistake.  This is not about homosexuality.  This is about people hurting hungry kids to make a point. This is about taking food from the mouth of a child to take a theological stand.  It’s about people who are clinging so tightly to a belief…. so desperately… so stubbornly… that they’ve completely lost sight of what it is they are holding. How sound is your theology if it causes you, in any way, to take food from a hungry child? How is it showing God’s love if your stance against a group of people – any people – is so great that you’re literally willing to use an impoverished child to make your point?

What difference does it make if Rachel in payroll is married to a woman??

10,000 kids.  I’ve already heard people saying, “Oh that number must be exaggerated.”  I do tend to trust the number, especially since it was given by the president of World Vision himself, but for the sake of argument let’s say it’s exaggerated.  What if it was “only” 1,000?  Would that be okay?  What if it was 100?  10?  What’s an acceptable number of hungry kids left without a sponsor?

The Bible tells a parable of a lost sheep, and a shepherd who so loves and cares for every individual sheep that he will leave 99 sheep behind to go find the one that is lost.  (Matthew 15) Every person is important. Every life is important.

But the more I think about this, the more I realize that the “lost sheep” in this scenario are the ones who honestly believed that the Christ-like thing to do was to take their money away from these children.  I have no other way to reconcile this in my mind.  Those people are lost, and I don’t know how to reach them.

I hear a lot of comments to the effect of, “What’s the big deal?  So they’ll just take their money to another organization whose morals line up with their own.”  Well, first of all, you won’t find one.  These organizations are made up of people… imperfect people, every one of which is going to do something in his or her own personal life that you deem inappropriate.  Second, and most importantly, it’s not just a hypothetical, abstract organization that you’re pulling away from.  It’s a child, with a name, and a face, and a real need that you were filling.

It’s Alice from Rwanda.

It’s Jordan from Ecuador.

It’s Dominic from Ghana.

I’m tired.  I’m tired of these difficult conversations.  I’m tired of trying to explain something that’s unexplainable to my kids.  I’m tired of people using a God that I love to defend some pretty horrible things.  There are so very many shades of grey in this world, but this isn’t one of them. God does not approve of turning your back on a hungry kid.  Jesus does not approve of turning your back on a hungry kid.  In fact, it is the absolute opposite message of that very same Bible that you’re using to justify this.

 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

I am devastated right now.  I am angry.  And to be totally honest, my first reaction when I heard about all of this was truly, “I. Give. Up.”  But I know that’s not the answer.  Now more than ever is the time to stand together… Christians and non-Christians alike.  Gay, straight, conservative, liberal…. everyone who can see this situation for what it is, and to recognize that there was a clear right and wrong here.  Stand together, speak boldly, and say,

“No more.”


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And They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Arrogance, Judgment, and Intolerance

greatestcommandment

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

(Matthew 22:36-40)

 

I grew up in a small, conservative church in New England.  It’s been many years since I’ve gone to that particular denomination with any regularity, but the hymns we sang every Sunday are forever burned into my consciousness.  I remember one song, the touchy-feely emotional type that I outwardly avoided – but secretly loved – that had a chorus that went like this:

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.  Yes, they’ll know we our Christians by our love…

I’ve been thinking about that lyric a lot the past couple of days, partly because once something gets stuck in your head it’s there until it’s replaced by something else… but mostly because my social media newsfeeds have been inundated with opinions on this asinine new bill being considered in Arizona; a bill that makes it expressly legal for a business to discriminate against someone – without the fear of a lawsuit – if you feel that not doing so would threaten your religious freedom in some way.

I’m incapable of mincing words at this point, so forgive my bluntness when I say:

What the hell are we doing?

Everyone who’s defending this bill has made essentially the same argument. We have to protect our religious rights! We have to defend what’s right and pure! We have to stand by our biblical principles!

And you know what? I agree. Religious rights are important, and I’m thankful that we have them. I can go to church whenever I want. I can read a Bible while I’m riding on the light rail. I can wear a cross around my neck, and a Jesus fish on my car. I can talk about, or write about, my faith wherever I go. I can accept and respect other people’s religions, and I can appreciate and embrace our differences.

If I stand for anything, it’s for what’s right and pure.

And as for biblical principles – real biblical principles of goodness, kindness, compassion and love – you will not find a bigger supporter. I love the Bible. I love what it’s taught me, and continues to teach me. I love what it’s revealed to me over the past 40 years. I love its story. I love its message of a God who so “loved the world that He gave his only begotten son.” But here’s what I’m wondering…

I’m wondering what part of, “Love your neighbor” is getting confused as, “Love your neighbor unless you disagree with his lifestyle. Love your neighbor unless he’s a liberal. Love your neighbor unless he’s gay.” And before you can say it, I’m not talking about, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” either. I’m talking about JUST LOVING, period, and leaving everything else up to the individual and to God.

I think of Jesus in the Bible and I think of the person “in the trenches.” I think of the guy who was hanging out with the people that no one else would give the time of day. I think of the soul who was spending timing with the tax collectors, breaking bread with the lepers, and conversing with the prostitutes. I think of someone who was healing the sick, helping the poor, and raising the dead.

I do not think of a person who would refuse to serve someone, based on creed or religion or skin color or sexuality. I do not think of a person who would walk away from someone – from anyone – when He had an opportunity to be kind to them, to love them, to minister to them.

I think of Jesus in the Bible, and I wonder how we’ve strayed so far. So far that we’ve forgotten what we were supposed to be doing in the first place. So far that when I think of people who actually emulate Jesus that His followers are the very last people who come to mind.

When did being a Christian become synonymous with using the Bible to brow-beat everyone? When did being a Christian become synonymous with arrogant grandstanding, a tit-for-tat war of words and actions to prove that you’re more Godly, more virtuous than everyone around you? When did being a Christian become about defending conservative reality TV stars, no matter how inflammatory and vulgar their message?

When did being a Christian become about standing behind a ridiculous, intolerant bill that celebrates turning people away, playing judge and jury on others’ lives, and isolating and separating yourself from the very people (ie: ALL people) that you’re asked – commanded really – to love.

Somewhere along the way, this is exactly what happened.

I see the comments from my non-Christian friends… comments about how judgmental Christians are. How arrogant. How intolerant. How cruel. I see the comments and I cringe. Cringe because the comments are hurtful, and cringe because I know they’re right. I’m no stranger to cruel comments on my blog, and the worst – by far – are from my fellow Christians. Often under the guise of “saving” me of course, but cruel nonetheless. And each time… EVERY time… I can’t help but wonder, if I, a fellow believer, am so disappointed and disillusioned with God’s people and their actions, how on earth can they be reaching and encouraging others?

Spoiler: They can’t. They’re not.

We’re missing the boat here, in a big big way.

Christians, we can do better than this. We have to do better than this. I want that old hymn to be true. I so badly want it to be true. Right now, I just don’t think it is. And bills like Senate bill 1062? They’re a giant step in the wrong direction.

I write this to you as a very flawed, imperfect follower of Christ. Lord knows I have my own work to do in the department of loving others. But it seems to me if we can all – all of us – do a little less quoting of cherry picked scriptures like Leviticus 18:22, and a little more living of scriptures like Matthew 7:3, the world would be a much better place.


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Christianity, Sin & Gentle Parenting

I recently received an email that said, in part:

I am writing in hope you can help me understand how you reconcile the fact that we are born sinners in need of a Savior with gentle parenting. I find it hard to understand how children who are sinners can be “trusted to make the right decision”. I know as a sinner myself I can often not be trusted to make the right decision. I also find biblical examples where sin has consequences. The entire Gospel message is based on the truth that sin needs to be punished. Can you help me understand how you and your husband reconcile those things? Thank you so much for your time.

It’s actually a question I’ve gotten fairly frequently, in various forms.  I’ve never fully answered it, but it wasn’t until this email that I realized why.  I can’t answer it.  And I don’t mean to be contrary or disrespectful when I say that. It’s just that I am viewing this, and living it, from an entirely different paradigm.  I believe in gentle parenting largely BECAUSE of my faith, not in spite of it.  So for me, there is nothing to reconcile.

First, this sentence:  “I find it hard to understand how children who are sinners can be “trusted to make the right decision”” is built on the (common) misconception that someone who does not punish does not discipline, and that someone who believes in gentle parenting must just leave kids to their own devices, hoping and trusting that they’ll do the right thing.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Truly leaving your kids to make all their decisions on their own with no parental guidance is permissive parenting…. which is very much the opposite of what I write about. Gentle parenting is based on relationship.  It’s based on communication and connection and gentle guidance and partnership.  Do my kids make bad choices sometimes? Sure!  We all do. That’s why we have parents, and other loved ones, and God, and a conscience, and a moral compass… to guide us, to help keep us accountable as we navigate the world, and yes, to offer us grace and forgiveness when we screw up.

Second, “The entire Gospel message is based on the truth that sin needs to be punished” is just not something that I subscribe to or believe.  I believe that the entire Gospel message is based on love, and grace, and forgiveness.  It’s about “God so loving the world that he sent his only begotten son….”  It’s about the fact that it’s because of “grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.…”  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I have been given FAR more grace and forgiveness than I deserve.  I screw up daily.  I screw up hourly.  There’s a better than average chance that I’ll make a poor decision before I finish writing this blog post.

But here’s the thing:  God hasn’t given up on me.  I am cherished exactly as I am.   I am loved. Unconditionally.  I am forgiven.  Again and again.  God believes in me and trusts me, and knows that because of those things I want to do better.  I want to be the person He created me to be.

That’s the kind of parent I want to be for my own kids.  If I can offer even a fraction of the love and grace that God extends to me, it’ll be a step in the right direction.  My guide (in all things, but particularly as a parent) is Jesus.  Jesus was, of course, never a parent, but you know how he treated kids?  With kindness.  With gentleness.  And with more patience than I could ever hope to muster.

And finally, as to sin having consequences:  Yes, bad decisions have consequences.  I’ve made enough of them myself to know this much is true. But life deals out those consequences all by itself.  And God?  God gives second chances.

I figure that’s the least I can offer my own kids.


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On Loving My Christian Neighbors

You know what really bugs me?

(This is where my husband would offer, “LOTS of things?” and I would roll my eyes and clarify, “Okay, you know what is really bugging me today?”)

Today, it is really bugging me that so many people choose to pour their time and energy into passing judgment on others’ lifestyles and – this is the part that bugs me – cloaking it as concern for their poor Christian souls.

I love God.  Let me start there.  With all my “heart, soul, and mind”.  That’s Matthew 22:38, for those of you who like these things accompanied by scriptures.  You know what comes right after it?  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And that’s where I, and I’d imagine lots of other Christians, often stumble. Sometimes it’s just damn hard work to love your neighbor.   I mean, it’s easy to love nice people.  And people of other faiths?  Muslim neighbors and atheist neighbors and Jewish neighbors?  No problem there either. People of different sexual orientations?  Gay neighbors and straight neighbors and bisexual neighbors?  Done.

But good grief.  Loving my fellow Christian can be difficult.

I’m not your “typical” Christian, if there is such a thing.   I don’t fit neatly into a box, and I get that.  And non-box-fitting Christians often make other Christians … nervous.  I get that too. Here’s what I don’t get.  Why on earth would the way I choose to live out my faith bother you? To the point that you feel such an irrepressible urge to actually WARN me:

You should be careful with yoga.  You’re opening yourself up to the occult.

Tattoos (or piercings, or any other form of personal expression that you find distasteful)  are defiling God’s temple.

Any so-called Christian who lets their children play first-person shooter games is not a true Christian.  Period.

As a Christian, I can’t believe you’d ignore the biblical instruction for corporal punishment.

Celebrating Halloween is honoring evil.

And overheard just this morning, again in reference to Halloween:

“Sugar-sprinkled poison is still poison.”

I could certainly go on, but those are the ones I hear most frequently, and with the most fervor. What it boils down to is a good, old-fashioned, “Shame on you, you bad bad Christian!  You’re getting it all WRONG, and it’s my job to tell you.”  It’s exhausting and irritating.  And, like I said, not too helpful in my genuine quest to love all the Christians.

The thing you need to know is that my faith is strong.  My mind can be changed about many many things, but not that. I am confident in my relationship with God, and I am confident that He loves me exactly as He created me. So while your genuine concern for my soul is touching – if it is in fact genuine – your efforts to change me in some way are really only serving to annoy me (and also to add fuel to the “Christians are just judgmental a@@holes” fire.  So well played)

If your choices are not harmful to others, I will support your right to have them like crazy.  Don’t want to celebrate Halloween? Cool with me.  Don’t want to do yoga? Super.  Don’t like certain video games?  By all means, don’t buy them.  Rather die than get a tattoo or a piercing?  Your choice to make.

All I ask is that you extend me the same courtesy.

I’ll respect the message sent by your dark porch on Halloween.   I won’t show up at your door with my zombie child, I promise.  I won’t force you to do yoga.  I won’t even make you look at my tattoos.  I’ll just… love you.  From afar, if that’s what you prefer.

Because here’s what I’m thinking.  If, as Christians, our job is to get out into the world and spread God’s love, and we can’t even act in a loving way towards each other?  Something’s not right.  Pointing fingers and splitting hairs and damning people to hell over everything they’re getting “wrong” does no good for anyone.  And let’s be honest, none of us are getting it 100% right anyway.  We’re human.  Gloriously flawed, imperfect, constantly growing and learning and involving humans.

And MY flaws and imperfections (and/or those things you perceive as my flaws and imperfections)?  They won’t hurt you.  Really.  You’re okay.  I’m okay.  My choices are between me and God.  He’s got this.  He’s always got this.

No outside help required.

 

 


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Asked and Answered

I recently put out a call for questions.  Questions about unschooling, parenting, me, my blog, whatever you’d like … and you guys rose to the occasion!  Here’s the first batch of questions and answers, and the first of what I hope will become a regular feature on my blog.  If you have questions, send em, and I’ll answer them in an upcoming post.  🙂

I would love to hear some thoughts on how far to push little kids to do things? I know it would be age dependent, but I’m thinking ages 1-5 especially. Eg if a child is shy or scared or anti-social or clingy or negative about doing something where’s the line with making them do it, or respecting their feelings. Sometimes in life it’s good to do things we don’t want to. How do we help kids understand that?

I think this is one of those times that really knowing your kids is key.  I personally wouldn’t push my kids into doing something they didn’t want do… but there is a world of difference between forcing something that’s unwanted, and gently encouraging when you know it’s something that they do want, but are hesitant because they are nervous, unsure, etc.   Last summer, my daughter (four years old at the time) took her first-ever swimming class. She was very excited about the class, and about learning to swim.   The morning of the first class however, she was super nervous, to the point of asking if she could skip it.   I know my daughter, and I was 99% sure that once she got in the class she would really enjoy it.  I was also 99% sure that if she didn’t do the class that she would regret it, especially when she watched her big brother having fun in the pool in his own class.  So I was honest with her and told her, “I know you’re nervous, but I think you’re really go to love it.  And you can do it!  I bet they’re going to make it super fun for you, and I’ll be right there watching the whole time.  Why don’t you give it a try this one time, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to come back.”  I wasn’t bluffing either:  I would have had no problem pulling her out, and letting her learn in another way.  She agreed to try it, and to make a long story short, she LOVED the class, and has since become a fish in the water.

Yes, sometimes we need to do things we don’t want to do, but life provides plenty of those opportunities all on its own.  I don’t think it’s my job as a mother to actually provide the things they don’t want to do, but to help them feel safe, comfortable, and confident when they do arise.  Going to the dentist for instance isn’t super high on any of my kids’ “Things I love to do” lists, but sometimes it’s necessary.  So we searched until we found a wonderfully kind, patient, and respectful pediatric dentist, and no one has any issues seeing her when the time comes.

I don’t have a school age child yet, but am very interested in unschooling. I have been wondering if you felt you did anything differently with your children before they were school age. I’m reading a lot about the RIE philosophy and some of it seems to be in line with the basic idea of trust that seems inherent in unschooling to me. Thank you!  

I learned something new when I got this question, so thanks! 🙂  I hadn’t heard of RIE, so I Googled a little bit.  (This article had a nice breakdown of its main tenets.)  I connect with a lot – not all – of the principles of RIE.  I think that the ideas of trust, respect, choices, and personal autonomy are so important to both unschooling and gentle parenting.   As for whether or not I did anything different when the kids were young… only to the extent that our relationships/activities/conversations grew and evolved as the kids got older.  For me, unschooling was just a natural extension of attachment parenting, and it was all so organic that I never really had a feeling of, “Okay, we’re going to start unschooling now.”  We already were… they just weren’t officially school age yet.  I do strongly feel (and many others feel this way as well) that unschooling can’t be truly understood and implemented until the parenting component is understood.  Once you “get” gentle parenting, unschooling just makes sense… and it’s a much more seamless transition than if you try to do it the other way around.

What advice would you give an unschooling mom whose 5 yr old is begging to start kindergarten?

Ask lots of questions!  What is it that they’re wanting from school that they don’t think they’ll get/are getting from home?  Is it more time on crafts?  Riding a school bus?  Being around other kids?  Recess?  It could be something really simple, especially at five years old.  Most of my kids have at one time or another asked about school.  After a conversation, careful listening, and honest sharing, I learned that it wasn’t school they were after, but something else.  Something that I could remedy through more playdates, more field trips, more one on one time, etc.  If that were ever not the case, and they truly wanted to go to school, I’d like to think that I would be 100% supportive and let them try it.  I can’t say with complete certainty though, because I’ve never been there (and if I’ve learned nothing else as a parent, it’s to never say “never”)

(on being a Christian who does not regularly go to church) I’m wondering how you keep the faith? How do you keep your relationship with God fresh and alive? Have you found a community, a “body of Christ”?

I love this question.  I have been thinking for a long time about writing a permanent page for my blog about my faith, and about where that journey has taken me.  I will say first that my faith has always been super personal to me.  Not personal in an I-don’t-want-to-talk-about it kind of way (I love talking about it), but personal in that I’ve never really felt like I needed a strictly “Christian” environment in order to nurture my relationship with God.  In fact:  I grew up going to church, went to a Christian summer camp, went to a Christian college… and those were all things that I had to heal from in many ways as an adult.  I felt like my faith was so much stronger, and finally my OWN, after I left those environments.  We do have a church “home” now, although it’s been many months since we’ve gone with regularity.  We love the church though, and it was the first one that we ever actually chose to place membership with since we’ve been married.  When we feel like it’s something we’re needing, we go, but on a day-to-day basis, I don’t know… I feel like it’s just me and God, and that relationship is no different than any other in that it stays alive with attention, with intention, and with spending time together (and you don’t have to be in a special building to do that :))

One thing that’s been hugely instrumental to me in the past several years has been finding like-minded fellow “outside the box” Christians, most of whom I only know online.  While I don’t feel like I technically need the support of others to hold up my own faith, it’s incredibly helpful just to know that they’re out there:  other people like me who fiercely love Jesus, but pretty steadfastly reject most of what conventional “religion” has to offer… Everyone from big authors/bloggers like John Shore, to dear personal friends that I’ve made through various online FB groups and forums…they’re a very appreciated breath of fresh air (and sometimes just straight-up oxygen), especially on those days when I’m feeling alone.

So our kid is 3 and we are starting to get questions about Kindergarten. I am scared to death to tell some people what we are planning!!! It does not help that I work FT and my husband stays at home with our son, which already gets enough looks as it is because it is so different. I am just scared in a year or two we’ll get people calling CPS on us or something. Some of our family is very academically minded and I am just afraid they will think we are setting our son up for failure or something. I’m just not good at confrontation. I know all the answers ‘in my heart’ but I know when accosted about it… I just don’t know quite how to deal with it. How do you deal with that type of thing, esp when you first kid ‘missed the bus’ (haha) for the first time.

I completely know how you’re feeling!  I was there myself several years ago.  I was fairly lucky in that even though many of the people in my immediate family were not particularly supportive of unschooling, they kept pretty quiet about it (save for a passive aggressive comment here and there).  One of the most helpful pieces of advice I ever read on the subject was something called the “bean dip” approach, a completely non-confrontational way to deal with naysayers.  I wish I knew where I read it, and who said it, so I could give credit, but all I remember is that I read it on some unschooling forums many years ago.  It goes like this:

Family member:  (Negative/derogatory/judging comment)

Response:  “Oh, he’s doing great!  Can you please pass the bean dip?”

Or

“This is working really well for our family right now.  Can you please pass the bean dip?”

Or

“That’s an interesting perspective.  Can you please pass the bean dip?”

Politely changing the subject can work wonders.  Honestly though, the biggest solution to this problem is just time.  Two really big things happen over time:

1.  Your kids learn and grow and mature in ways that can’t help but be seen, even by those outside your family.  They’ll see how much they’re learning, and they’ll have tangible “proof” of unschooling’s success.  And

2.  You’ll gain confidence in your kids, and confidence in the process.  It won’t be so scary when others disagree, because you’ll trust unschooling, you’ll trust your children, and you’ll trust their learning process.  In the meantime, focus on your own little family, and be ready to pass the bean dip.  🙂

I read that you almost went to the Rethinking Everything conference and I’d be interested to read a post/answer on conferences you’ve went to in the past and how you think they benefited you and your kids.

I really love unschooling conferences.  I find them sort of terrifying, just because… well, introverts and large crowds… but I love them too.   We’ve only been to a handful so far, but definitely plan to attend more in the future. We’ve gone to three of the big conferences (two in San Diego, and one in Alburquerque), and a few smaller ones.  Conferences are really cool for lots of reasons, but if I were pressed to name only a few, they would be:

1.  New information.  You can’t go to an unschooling conference and not learn something new.  You can’t.  I don’t care who you are, or how long you’ve been unschooling.  We’ve all learned so, so much from the conferences we’ve gone to… both from the official scheduled “talks”, and incidental interactions we had along the way.

2.  New friends.  Some of my nearest and dearest friends are people I met at conferences.  The 12 year old is playing an online game with a conference friend as I write.  And there’s something big to be said just for being around other people who “get it”, even if it’s only for a weekend.   Which brings me to:

3.  New inspiration.  In case you didn’t get this from reading other posts on my blog, I am hugely passionate about unschooling.  But while my normal mode of sharing may be quietly standing on a street corner (or typing in my pajamas that I’ve been wearing for two days, sitting on my couch as it were) saying, “Yay!  Unschooling!”, immediately following a conference it’s more like standing on the rooftops shouting,

“WOOO HOOOOOOO!!!!  UNSCHOOLING!!!!!!!”

They just get you pumped up, and fired up, and EXCITED about unschooling.

All of that to say, if you ever get the opportunity (and you should make the opportunity)  go!  You will love it.

Sounds silly but what pets do you guys have now? I miss your funny animal posts!

My husband and I disagree on exactly two things:  politics and pets.  If it were solely up to me, we would have to build a second house to hold all the cats/dogs/rabbits/rats/reptiles we’d acquire because I so love animals, and can never resist a rescue-able furry (or scaly) face when I see one.  If it were up to Mike, we would have zero pets.  Ever. Rescued from anywhere.  So we compromise.  Right now, we have just a few pets – although the kids and I are holding out hope for a turtle in the near future.

There’s Sophie, who with the exception of jumping, and sometimes peeing, when she gets too excited, is the world’s most perfect dog.

IMG_0276

Then there’s Linny and Ming-Ming, the two mice I picked up with the kids one day when Mike was at work:

linny

And finally, our ball python Waldo, who is sweet and funny, and loves to hang upside-down from his branch:

Waldo

And that’s it!  We have about 1900 square feet of house here.  Clearly there’s room for so very many more….

Thanks to everyone who have sent questions so far!  That was fun.


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Filed under about me, faith, parenting, pets, Q and A, unschooling