The choice is yours.

 

A reminder from James Martin, SJ (via Twitter)

In case anyone has forgotten:

Child abuse is a sin.

Sexual abuse is a sin.

Sexual harassment is a sin.

Racism, and white supremacy, is a sin.

Jesus asks us to welcome the stranger.

Jesus asks us to love the poor.

There are indeed two sides to these issues: Good and evil.

The choice is yours.

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Why I’m no longer going to troll-tweet Donald Trump.

trolltrump

Since Donald Trump won the election, one of my favorite pastimes has been trolling him on his favorite social media platform, Twitter.    It’s a lot of fun dreaming up snappy and sarcastic counter-insults to his constant stream of inappropriate, crass, self-centered, angry, and fear-mongering tweets.  It’s even more fun when strangers Like them or retweet them to their followers.   I won’t lie — I get a little boost of self-esteem from that, and even though I know Donald Trump will probably never see the insults I send him, knowing others do and agree with me makes me feel a little, well, vindicated.   It also relieves the existential stress of his presidency just a little.

But troll-tweeting Donald Trump all the time is like shouting into an echo chamber.  It’s as useless as mindlessly switching channels on the remote control.   It isn’t going to change any minds or make anyone think.  It isn’t going to inspire or enlighten anyone.  In fact, sending Trump insults on a daily basis is really displaying exactly the same sort of hateful rhetoric the far right seems to have in excess — and which I’ve been seeing more of on the left too.

America is more polarized than I’ve ever seen it, maybe even since the Civil War.  We seem divided beyond repair.   The comments sections of political articles are war-zones and getting worse by the day.  Like slowing down to gape at a car wreck, I don’t want to see all the verbal bloodletting — but I can’t help myself.   I have to look.   What I see is sickening and scary.   All that hate is soul-eroding.   I don’t want to be a part of that anymore.

Jesus instructed us to pray for our enemies and turn the other cheek.  By that, he didn’t mean that we have to put up with hateful rhetoric, bullying, name-calling, and aggressive behavior.   It doesn’t mean we have to submit to forces that go against our most deeply held beliefs and morals.  Far from it!  What I think he meant is that we have to fight our enemies a different way — by trying to muster up some empathy, a quality their side seems to have very little of these days.   Narcissism with its accompanying lack of empathy and sense of entitlement is exactly what got our nation into the sorry mess it’s in now.   It’s our national disease and maybe that’s why everyone is so obsessed with narcissism lately.  Trump is merely the mirror forcing us to look at ourselves, and the reflection is ugly and painful.    His presidency is the logical conclusion of where we’ve been headed as a nation for 40 years.   We finally hit our bottom.  We got exactly what we deserved.

But it’s not hopeless.

I think the antidote is for those of us who are willing or able to try to counteract that by showing exactly the qualities that are held in such low esteem these days.   We need to stop fighting fire with fire — and maybe with water instead.  Try to understand, even if we do not agree.   It might take a long time, but at least it’s a beginning.

This doesn’t mean enabling those who wish to destroy us or our democracy.  God, no.  But it does mean realizing the far-right hate-mongers are angry and scared. They’re acting out the way they do because they are are so afraid of everything outside their own warped reality.   We should pity them instead of hating them.

They fear their savior will be revealed soon as the fraud, criminal and charlatan he really is.   That’s why they’re lashing out at resisters now with extra vehemence and rage, even threatening to start Civil War II on his behalf (if you doubt me on this, type #civilwar on Twitter.  There may be civil war.  Some of them are talking about forming militias.   I don’t know how serious these threats are.  But I do know that with the external threats we’re facing right now with North Korea and China, the last thing we need is a civil war.  We can’t stay strong against outside enemies if we’re weak from within, and right now, we are ready to shatter like a cheap wine glass.

Trump is encouraging his far right supporters to act the way they do because he is terrified of being indicted.   He is acting very guilty — and he very likely is guilty.  His aggressive behavior at his rallies and hate-mongering  is intended to distract from Russia and his other probable illegal activities and scare us into submission.

We can’t submit to Trump or his supporters because that’s what they want from us.   They want us to fear them as much as they fear the truth.   If we back down, they will win.  That cannot happen!   But at the same time, we also shouldn’t fight them back using their weapon of hatred either.   We should lead by example and show them there’s a better way — a way out of the darkness that will bring us back together as a nation again.

Remember those WWJD bracelets that were so popular back in the ’90s?   Those days seem very far away now.   I wish more Christians tried to act like Jesus, but so many now preach values that are the polar opposite of what he taught.

So I like to pretend I’m back in the 1990s and ask myself, “what would Jesus do?”

I’m sure he wouldn’t troll-tweet Donald Trump.

When I started this blog, I wrote mostly about narcissistic abuse. I was enraged at the narcissists who had tried — but failed — to kill my soul.   In the early days, I wrote blog posts filled with rage and hatred toward narcissists, but eventually I moved away from that.  I went through a phase where I tried to understand their way of thinking instead (which enraged some other narc-abuse bloggers) but that was the only way I could begin to see my own narcissism and how it was holding me back.    I’ve been working on that and trying to become a better person.   I feel like it’s working, and now I’m ready for bigger things.

In a way I feel like I’m going through that process again.   I’m past hating on Trump and his supporters.   It’s time to move on.   There’s too much hate in the world.  Why add to it?

So, I decided I’m not going to troll-tweet Trump anymore even though it’s fun, sometimes ego-boosting,  and relieves stress.   I will keep on sharing relevant articles, studies, memes, and blog posts that state what I believe is the truth.  But even more importantly, I’m going to pray that some people on the other side may be cured of their truth-blindness.   In fact, I’m already doing that.  That’s the best way we can love our enemies.

What if the far-right God is the true God?

god

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of God lately.  The insidious rise of Christian fascism in this country is forcing me to do so.

The radical religious right’s beliefs about God — punishing, angry, and intolerant — are incomprehensible and repugnant to me.   The prospect of the Old Testament Law-based Christian theocracy this radical group of zealots are attempting to impose here in America fills me with terror, righteous anger, and makes me literally sick to my stomach.

No matter how hard I try to understand these far right religious leaders, their dominionist views, and their need for total control over every aspect of our lives (this is the same group that talks about “small government”), I just can’t.   I don’t get it at all.   They might as well be aliens from another planet.

Their message and plan for America (and yes, eventually the world) doesn’t contain a shred of love, compassion, forgiveness, or mercy.   They show nothing but contempt for just the kind of people — the vulnerable and weak — that Jesus loved and instructed us to care for.   They only care about power and money.  They will cheat, lie, exploit, destroy, kill, and even commit treason in order to get more of what they crave.    They have hijacked the Republican party by appealing to religious conservatives and their churches, and now those churches have become as corrupt and self-serving as they are.  It’s no wonder so many good people are leaving the churches.   They have managed to Christianize greed and hatred.  They believe oppressing or punishing everyone who is different from them is their holy duty to bring about their longed for Christian America.  They are no different from the Taliban or ISIS.

But there’s an enormous disconnect, because their real god is “the market” — which they consider infallible and think will solve all the world’s problems.   This is idolatry.   Trickle down economics has never worked and never will work.  Singing the praises of an unregulated free market that will always self-correct if left alone is just an easy way for them to rationalize trashing and poisoning our small planet, not having to pay their fair share, or contribute to the common good. Make no mistake — their plan for America, if it succeeds, will cause widespread, massive suffering, misery, sickness, poverty, injustice, and death — all things associated with evil and utterly alien to any civilized society.

I don’t know if I believe in end times or not, but 2 Timothy 3 is telling about the nature of the people who have claimed all the power:  

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Sound familiar?

The supporters of their fascist movement and its chosen leader are almost as bad, selling their souls at hate-filled Trump rallies held so he can puff himself up with narcissistic fuel, where they are encouraged to rough up and act out in violence against people their Dear Leader deems unfit to be treated as human beings.

A few days ago,  Dear Leader told assembled police it was okay to hit suspects’ heads on car doors as they are roughly pushed inside.  “Don’t be too nice,” he instructed them while laughing, then he turned around and spread his arms out wide as if he was expecting applause.   And of course, he got it.   Have those police sold their souls too? People seem to be selling their souls everywhere these days.

America is meaner and colder than it ever was.   Virtues of empathy, forgiveness, charity, and mercy are today seen as weaknesses or even sins — you’re called a snowflake, or a Marxist, or a bleeding-heart liberal.  If you try to remind these Bible-thumping legalists that these are the ways in which Jesus expected his followers to behave, they scoff and pull out their King James bibles and point to some passage in the Old Testament, while self-righteously telling you your God is false and “unbiblical.”  They tell you that good works don’t matter, and only faith does.

It may be true we are saved by grace alone, but if so, I believe your heart will change and you will begin to do good works and to care about others, especially the most vulnerable.  For the fake Christians in power, saying good works are meaningless simply gives them carte blanche to say they are Christian, but still go ahead and keep hurting and exploiting people.    “By their fruit you shall know them,” said Jesus, and that’s what I go by.   Are they bearing good fruit or not?

As Jack Johnson sang, Where did the good people go?  Do good people even exist anymore?   America just seems to get so much meaner and colder every day.

statue-liberty-hands473x488

But the truth is that good people are still here.  We are expressing our alarm, anger, and terror on blogs, in Facebook groups, in forums, on the streets, and in the comments sections of increasingly disturbing news stories as the country marches toward Christian Fascism.    We are crying out as our hearts break, hoping and praying someone will listen and care.   We are scared and yes, grieving that the country we love seems to have been lost.   If we are Christian, our hearts are hurting over what has been done to Jesus and his message of love, compassion, and forgiveness.    The gentle people are being persecuted and vilified just because they care — or because they need care themselves.

The silencing and oppression of the gentle people is due to differences in personality, I think.  It’s a war of values:  gentleness vs. aggressiveness, humility vs. pride, empathy vs. callousness, civility vs. rudeness, altruism vs. selfishness, egalitarianism vs. authoritarianism, critical thinking vs. ignorance, acceptance vs. exclusion, forgiveness vs. vindictiveness, integrity vs. lock-step obedience.

By their nature, gentle people have difficulty rising to the top of society.    Most get nowhere near it, because they lack the aggression and willingness to step on top of and exploit others to get there.  But the falsely macho, arrogant, conscienceless and predatory get there because because they are wired to do so.   The gentle and meek have little power because they do not go around seeking it aggressively or destroying whatever’s in their way to get it.   If they are Christians, they share their faith quietly and sincerely without requiring huge donations, huge audiences, or political power.

Like all scapegoats, the gentle people are blamed for their failure or inability to take power, or become wealthy.  If they suffer, they are callously told they brought those sufferings on themselves and got what they deserved.

The gaslighting and projection keeps getting worse.   We are told our beliefs are wrong and demonic. We are told that if we were real Christians, we should accept that Trump’s America is also God’s America and Trump was anointed by God to usher in Christ’s Kingdom.   We are told we are evil liberal obstructionists (even though it’s the president and his billionaire sycophants and donors who are the real obstructionists) and that we are cherry-picking the “nice” parts of the Bible that we like.

You begin to feel like you’re going insane.   If you were a member of a narcissistic family or were close to a narcissist in your life,  you know how crazy-making the mind games and manipulations and gaslighting can be.   You begin to doubt yourself and your own beliefs.  You start to question reality itself, because after all, everyone around you is telling you you’re crazy, or stupid, or deluded, or hysterical, or overreacting, or too sensitive.

That’s what’s happening on a much larger scale in America today.   The accusations from far-right Trump-supporting zealots (I’m not talking about garden variety conservatives here) sometimes make me wonder if my beliefs really are wrong.  What if the far-right preachers and pundits and politicians are right after all?   What if God really is a big bad bully in the sky who hates gays and Muslims and nonbelievers, and wants the rich and powerful to keep getting richer and more powerful because they are his golden children who are predestined to inherit heaven and earth? Never mind the fact that the Bible itself says the meek shall inherit the earth — you question and wonder anyway.   What if my God is the false one?

And then I start to think:   if they really are right, and their God is really the way they insist he is, would I want anything to do with him?   Would I want to live in a society ruled by their God?  Would I want to spend eternity in a heaven filled with those who worship a God who could be that cruel and heartless — a heaven where everyone looks the same and thinks and worships exactly the same way?  Would I want to live in a heaven where there are no liberals, no gays, no thinkers, no dreamers, no gentle souls, and where people don’t care about each other?  A heaven where the likes of Betsy DeVos, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell rub elbows and congratulate themselves over their moral superiority and how much power they held while on earth?

My answer is always, no, I do not.   To me, such a heaven would be hell.   And if there is a hell (I have doubts that hell really exists, but that’s a topic for another post), I think I might rather spend eternity there, with all the gentle and thinking and oppressed people.  I’d rather spend eternity burning in solidarity with Muslim mothers and their children, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, rainbow-clad gays, open-minded liberals, feminists, artists, dreamers, curious thinkers, intellectuals, tree huggers, social misfits, truth-tellers, and civil rights activists.  I’d rather spend eternity suffering with all the people the religious right’s legalistic and narcissistic God does not favor:  the weak and the oppressed and the persecuted and the brokenhearted.

They have created a God in their own image — a God who is as sociopathic, rage-filled, greedy for power, and narcissistic as they are, and I refuse to worship such a God.

And then I look around me at the natural world.   I gaze at the sunset over the mountains, I listen to the night-birds and the crickets and the trees singing in the wind.  I feel the warm summer rain on my face, look up at the night sky and marvel at the vastness of the universe and all its billions of stars and galaxies.    I listen to the rhythm of the ocean and feel humbled and grateful to be standing next to it.   I watch the intricate, delicate rosebuds on the bush outside my window burst into full flower.   I listen to my cat purr and feel his warmth on my chest as I fall asleep.

sunset_asheville1

And I realize:   no God as evil and cruel as theirs could possibly have created such a world.  No, the world is not perfect, far from it.  But it’s still beautiful, and evil cannot create beauty or goodness.  There’s no way a sociopathic tyrant of a God could have made something so beautiful and magnificent.   The bad things in the world exist because of us, not because of God.

They will keep attempting to silence us, to make us think we are the crazy ones, the evil ones, the ones spreading (or listening to) fake news, the ones who are destined to spend eternity in a lake of fire.  They will try to convince us that we are the cause of the world’s problems, while they remain blameless and favored by the Almighty.      They will try to wear us down and exhaust us, because that’s how narcissists and sociopaths operate.  A sociopathic society brings out the worst in everyone, so we will be tempted to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, or become filled with despair, apathy, cynicism, or hatred.   We have to stay mindful and not succumb to feelings of powerlessness and fear, because that’s what they want from us.   Remember that they feed off our pain because it makes them more powerful.

We must not listen to them.  We must listen to our own truth and our own hearts.  We will be required to go against our non-aggressive, possibly introverted, sensitive, and artistic natures and speak up loudly against those who wish us harm  — in righteous anger if necessary — but we cannot lose control or act out in violence and hatred.  If we are Christians, we need to pray for our enemies, no matter how outraged we may feel.   We are fighting a spiritual war, a war against truth and goodness, and if we don’t fight for ourselves, we must fight for the survival of those we love and those who have no voice.    If we allow them to beat us down and exhaust us into submission (which they are already trying to do), then they win, and all hope will be lost.

The following verse gives me courage when I start to feel hopeless and despairing and exhausted from fighting against this scourge, and I hope it helps you too, even if you’re a non-Christian.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. — Matthew 11:29

 

 

Christian Dominionism has taken over the GOP.

fascism

Many Christians may wonder how the heartless, draconian, dangerous, and mean policies of the current GOP can be reconciled with anything Jesus Christ actually taught.

The truth is, they can’t. Although our current president (who by all indications is not a religious man, nor has he repented for his many indiscretions both before and after he was elected) panders to the Christian Right, has surrounded himself with “Christian” politicians (mostly fundamentalists and dominionists — more on dominionism in a minute), and has taken on their anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage rhetoric (to obtain support and votes, since these are the two issues that seem to concern these so-called Christians the most), Trump’s behavior (and those of the people he has appointed) is anything but Christ-like. Yes, it’s true the Bible tells us to “judge not, lest ye be judged,” but we are also told (by Jesus) that “by their fruits you shall know them [the evildoers],” and so far, this administration has borne nothing but bad fruit. So, going by that, I feel justified in judging the regime that has taken control of our country.

The ugly truth is that they have an agenda: turning our democracy into a religious theocracy — an Old Testament-based dictatorship that is to real Christianity what the Taliban/ISIS is to real Islam. They want a Christian version of Sharia Law in which women and minorities are silenced and repressed and “know their place,” in which  political or religious dissent is made illegal, in which non-Christians can be treated as second class citizens with limited or no rights, in which the land, sea and sky is raped and pillaged for human purposes (because taking care of our planet means we “lack faith” in God’s ability to replenish the Earth), in which personal sin (abortion, homosexuality, adultery, etc.) is punished harshly and maybe even by death,  and in which material wealth is regarded as proof of God’s approval/love and in which it’s justified to let the poor and sick perish and die because they are “moral failures”who have not been so blessed with good health or wealth because they are not among God’s elect (a Calvinistic doctrine that we are all predestined for heaven or hell before we are born, which of course begs the question as to how we can also have free will).

If you are thinking about how far this is from what Jesus preached in his most famous of all sermons, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), you are right.    Jesus instructed us us to welcome immigrants  (his own parents would have been banished from Bethlehem and Mary not allowed to give birth there because they were foreigners),  take care of the poor and the sick (one of the most famous, but far from the only, verse in the Bible addressing this is the one about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get to heaven), and turn the other cheek (be humble.)    He railed against pride, greed and legalism.   He counted among his friends the beggars and the homeless.   He valued women as much as he did men.   He gave us the “new Covenant” which was to replace the old Biblical laws found in books such as Leviticus.

Now, the old Testament has much to recommend it, and of course the Ten Commandments are just plain old common sense.   Personally, I have no objection to the Commandments being displayed in courthouses or “In God We Trust” being printed on the dollar bill, because these things don’t necessarily favor only Christians and they’re simply good advice for anyone.      They don’t repress, oppress, or marginalize anyone.  They don’t hurt people or the environment.  They don’t undermine the Constitution or our freedoms.   People who object to these things really ought to turn their minds to more important issues that actually affect their lives.

Yet we have a bunch of Christian heretics high up in government who actually want to set up a fascist regime based not on the Constitution drawn up by the Founding Fathers, but on Old Testament Biblical Law.    This is the desire and goal of cultists (yes, to my mind they are a cult) who embrace an ugly and dangerous doctrine called Christian Dominionism, and Donald Trump, in spite of not himself being religious, is their cult leader.

Here is a comprehensive definition of what Christian dominionism is:

https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-dominionism.html

Christian dominionists may tell us they are saved and insist we need “more Jesus” but they practically ignore the Gospels.  Instead, they cherry-pick passages in the Old Testament that they feel support their beliefs, usually the ones that show God at his most angry, intolerant, and punishing.  There is no Jesus in what they preach and to my mind, they are Christian in name only.  They also have somehow come up with the idea that America is God’s chosen nation (after Israel) and that Jesus will return here, which justifies everything they do that represses or punishes non-believers and the “non-elect.”   But there is absolutely nothing in the Bible that supports the notion that America is somehow regarded as God’s chosen country.

They (as well as many fundamentalist Christians, whether they are dominionists or not) believe that Donald Trump, while not the second coming of Jesus himself, is nonetheless “preparing the way” for Jesus’ return.   They may acknowledge that Trump is a sexually and personally amoral narcissist, but this is okay because in the Bible, God often used sinful people to fulfill his wishes.   They compare Trump to King Cyrus of Persia, a deeply flawed and cruel man who nonetheless freed the Jews.

According to this website,

“He came in, this king, as a secular ruler and decreed for the building of the house of the Lord. He literally made it possible for the Jews to end the captivity,” Lance Wallnau, an evangelical leader and author, told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “Trump has the Cyrus anointing to navigate in chaos.”

Trump as “Cyrus,” President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “Babylon,” the Jews as either modern-day Israelis or Americans? It’s not only evangelical Christians who buy it. Before the election, Rabbi Matityahu Glazeron predicted a Trump victory based on an analysis of Bible codes, which he said also pointed to the new president as a Cyrus-like figure.

In a pre-inauguration faith gathering, Likud Knesset member Yehuda Glick, in Washington, D.C. for the festivities, expressed a like sentiment. Calling the new president “the king of the United States of America,” Glick said that if Trump moved the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, “He will be the latter-day Cyrus!”

Trump has also sometimes been compared to King David, a similarly flawed man of the Old Testament who was a hero to the Israelites and made Jerusalem its capital.

Here is a list of “Christian” justifications for the evil, un-American agenda the Trump regime and much of the GOP are trying to make reality.   I am not making this up.  I wish I were.  The source I used for this list can be found here.   There are many other sources, and a quick Google search should point you to them, but I found this source the most comprehensive and will serve for the purposes of this article.    I will warn however, that this website makes for some disturbing reading.  I don’t recommend reading it if you want to get any sleep.   You can read about their plan for taking over the Republican Party (we are seeing many indicators of their agenda being fulfilled under the Trump administration)  here.

Public education for all is to be abolished in favor of religious, private education.  If you can’t afford a private, religious education, too bad, you must not be one of God’s elect.   Ignorance is good, because it keeps the undesirables in line.   Educated people ask too many questions.  How long before our child labor laws (because that’s socialism) are repealed?    Put those indigent kids to work!

Defunding protections for the environment.  Apparently, for Christian dominionists, stewardship of the earth is irrelevant, in spite of numerous Bible passages that tell us that the Earth belongs to God, and we are only to use it sustainably.    They believe that because in Genesis, Adam and Eve were told to “fill the earth and subdue it,” and “take dominion over it,” that means it’s okay for us to vandalize God’s creation and expect Him to clean up after us like parents coming home to find trash all over the house and graffiti drawn all over the walls after their unruly teenagers threw a drunken weekend party.  They justify unsustainable environmental practices such as strip mining or fracking by saying that only a person of no faith in God’s restorative ability would want laws that protect earthly resources.

Why the mainstream media should be suppressed.

The GOP war against women.  It ain’t just about abortion. They want a patriarchy where women are treated as second class citizens with fewer rights than men and where women’s health is legislated and controlled by high ranking men.  If you want to get an idea of what life might be like for women if the current GOP gets their way, read Margaret Atwood’s eerily prophetic 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

Why it’s “Christian” to take “entitlements” away from the poor and middle class.  According to Christian dominionists, God has selected certain individuals to take power over America (a Christian nation!) in preparation for Christ’s return.  In order for them to have the power they need to do what God has ordained, He has blessed them with material wealth like some cosmic lottery machine.   So if you aren’t rich, then God has not chosen you, and in fact you are probably predestined for hell anyway.   This is a morally repugnant (and uniquely American) theology based on Calvinism and the Puritanism that grew from that.  It explains how some far right Christians can reconcile their faith with Ayn Rand’s (herself an atheist) philosophy of selfishness, otherwise known as “objectivism.”    Never mind all that socialist business about Jesus loving the poor and weak —  he didn’t really mean it!  Using dominionist logic, Saudi Arabian oil sheikhs must be even more favored by God, since they are richer than any American Christian.

While “the little people” need more rules and regulations (Jeff Sessions wants to bring back the War on Drugs — hey, gotta fill up all those for-profit prisons!), corporations shouldn’t have any regulations (laws that keep them from exploiting or abusing people, animals, and the environment) because regulation cuts into their profits, and we already know those profits are ordained by God and should not be interfered with.

There is much more, but I’ll leave it at that.   These are the same people that condemn radical Islam for its treatment of women and their tyrannical governments that suppress religious liberty and terrorize those who don’t believe, but they want to do the very same thing here under the rubric of Christianity.   They are hypocrites who twist real Christianity into something more closely resembling a fanatic religious cult in which “freedom of religion” means the freedom to force their religious beliefs on others by making them the law.    They whine about Christians being persecuted because of creationism not being taught in public schools or because some people say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”  (personally, I doubt Jesus cares whether we celebrate his birthday or not), but they feel perfectly free to persecute those who don’t believe exactly as they do and just want to live in a country where everyone is equal and treated fairly.

In spite of our differences…

benedictine.crucifix

My dad wasn’t perfect and I don’t idealize him or his memory.  Lord knows, he wasn’t a great father.  In fact, he could be a pretty lousy father and he even admitted it later on.  But I loved my dad.  Deeply.  He was my rock, even though he could erupt at any moment like a volcano.  And I still love him, no matter what kind of “baggage” we had together.

My dad wasn’t crazy about Catholics, even though he married a lapsed Catholic woman (my mother).  I was sent to a Catholic school starting in 5th grade, for two reasons–the first one being that the public schools in my area weren’t very good and I’d get a better education at a Catholic school (Catholic schools are notorious for providing an excellent education and they do value a well-rounded worldview).  The second reason was because I was being bullied in the local public school.

In my Catholic school, I found a refuge away from the dysfunction at home.  I loved my school, and I loved the Friday masses, even though I was not allowed to participate in Communion.  It sometimes felt like my real home.  The nuns there took me under their wing.  I thought they were angels and (except for one of two of them who could be mean) I was always in awe of their kindness and compassion.  I loved the quiet and peaceful way they moved.  I loved their softness. I loved the way they seemed not quite of this world. These were the qualities I was starving for, coming from a home full of anger, chaos and sharp edges.

Because of my positive introduction to Catholicism, I was always attracted to it, in spite of not agreeing with all of its doctrine.    The Church has changed a lot over the years, since Vatican II, and embraces science rather than denies it.  Science, too, is about the truth.  I feel that the Catholic church is the “thinking person’s Christianity.”  Of course, I know it’s not the only one.  I know denomination doesn’t matter; it’s a matter of personal preference.  I love the liturgy and the history and the mystery of Catholicism.   But that’s just me.

I do have issues with their stance on abortion, birth control, women in the priesthood, and homosexuality.   But these things don’t affect me directly.    I believe with all my heart that the Communion wafer is not just symbolic.  Every time I partake of the communion wafer, I feel filled with the Holy Spirit and know this is Jesus’ gift to his people.

In April of 2015, after nearly a year of preparatory classes (RCIA), I became a Catholic during the Easter vigil mass.   My father, in spite of his misgivings about the Catholic church, gave me this Benedictine Crucifix, which hangs in my room across from my bed, so Jesus is always the first thing I see when I wake up.

Thank you, God, for giving me my new faith, and please help strengthen me in that faith, especially now when I’m in so much turmoil. And thank you for my Dad, who although we had our issues, was able to put aside his prejudices and give me such a beautiful gift from the heart.

Original Sin or Original Self-Centeredness?

This is a wonderful post about the origins of narcissism and its antidote, empathy, written by one of my new favorite bloggers.

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Jesus Without Baggage

Many Christians believe humanity is so broken, and nature so violent, because of Adam’s disobedience in the garden. They say the world was originally perfect but Adam ruined everything. Furthermore, all Adam’s descendants are born with ‘original sin’ and alienated from God because of Adam.

Other believers cannot accept this explanation of our brokenness. Yes, the world is very imperfect and often harsh. Yes, we are subject to the human condition of pain, suffering, conflict, alienation, and death, but none of this is caused by Adam’s alleged sin.

Recently, I shared that the story of Eden is not an historical account but a marvelous reflection on our human condition. In the following article I determined that ‘original sin’ does not exist.

But if our problems are not caused by original sin from Adam, then how can we account for them?

What Do We Mean by Sin?

First, I think…

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