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Salvation in an Onion Rind

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Yesterday my husband and I were discussing theology, as we so often do, and he told me of a story written by Russian philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky called The Parable of the Onion. Hearing him tell this tale I was moved almost to tears and so I wanted to share it with all of you:

Once upon a time there was an old woman who had died and found herself in Hell. She complained to Satan that her assignment to the netherworld was a mistake.

Satan told her, “You’ve been a greedy, selfish woman all your life. Surely, this is where you belong.”

The woman thought a long time, trying to recollect some shred of altruism in her life. After several minutes she exclaimed, “Aha! I did a good deed once! I gave an onion to a beggar.”

Satan replied, “Oh, yes. That is right. You pulled an onion out of the ground in your yard and handed it (bulb, stalk, and all) to a beggar at the fence.”

At that very moment, God’s hand descended into hell, holding the onion out for the woman to grasp. Holding onto the onion with both hands, the woman found herself miraculously being pulled up and out of Hell.

As she rose, to the woman’s horror, dozens of people began to grasp at her legs and ankles, and as they were pulled up along with her, yet more people grasped onto the lower-most people’s own legs and ankles, until it seemed that the bowels of hell clung like an endless chain from a single woman’s body and the onion to which she clung.

Though there was great weight tethered to the onion, the connection remained secure and God’s hand continued to lift everyone up out of Hell. Remarkably, the onion held; it did not fray.

More and more people who had previously been doomed for eternity found themselves slowly, miraculously, being raised from hell by way of the woman’s firm grasp on the onion. There were soon thousands, and after several minutes millions of people hanging from the onion.

Yet the onion held fast.

Halfway to heaven, which is a long distance up from Hell, the woman looked down at the vast human chain following her.

She was angry and resentful that these people — who may have done even less good in their lives than herself — should be so easily redeemed by virtue of simply clinging to her spindly old legs. She was also afraid, and so exclaimed in a great shout, “If all of you grab on to me like this, the onion will surely break and I will not get to heaven!”

So, resolving not to allow anyone to harm her chances for redemption, the woman began to kick and smash the people hanging from her legs and ankles and toes. One by one as she struck them they fell, with each loss of a handhold causing tens of thousands of people to plunge back into Hell.

But with each kick — though the physical load grew lighter — the onion began to fray. And as the onion frayed, the woman, in her anger and haste, began to kick more ferociously still, thinking that it was the weight of hell’s denizens — and not her anger and selfishness — that tore at the onion.

She kicked until but one person remained clinging to her left big toe, with yet another endless chain of people dangling from him. Millions of people hung from that precious, single toe. Still, the onion held though it was severely frayed. But the woman couldn’t bear the risk of losing her only chance to join God in heaven, so she kicked at the last remaining person; and as the person lost his grip, the onion snapped, and the selfish old woman — from a great height, having made it almost all the way to heaven — fell back into hell.” *

Beyond the obvious comparison of each of us helping to get as many people into Heaven as we can, this simple parable – an old woman clutching at an onion to try to pull herself from Hell and selfishly denying so many others the chance she felt that only she deserved – carried another, more poignant message for me. To me, this woman represents the selfishness of so many in today’s society, who see their fellow man in need and refuse to help them up. Those who see the poor and the sick, the needy and the homeless and the refugee and turn a blind eye, leaving those people to try to find a way to pull themselves out of their own personal Hell and into a Heaven that perhaps we already hold the key to, if only we’d be willing to give that person a helping hand.

We will not find the key to our own salvation by kicking others while they are down and ignoring their cries for help while we desperately try to get ahead. Only by helping our fellow man will we all be able to be pulled into the light that we all so desperately seek.

So next time you see someone standing on the street corner holding a sign or a friend posts a gofundme link for someone in need of help or you see a news story about displaced refugees, instead of turning away think about what you could do to help. It doesn’t have to be much. It doesn’t have to be money. Perhaps the man standing there on the street corner with his sign would like a drink of cold water after standing in the hot sun all day or you know of a group in which to share that gofundme link where the person could get more donations. Every little bit truly does help and every hand you raise to help someone in need reaches down to someone else.

Together we can build a chain of helping hands that spreads across the globe. Together we can make a difference. All it takes is one person to start the chain so don’t wait for that person to come along. Be that person. Start that chain. And let’s see how far we can go.
* https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dostoyevsky/d72b/chapter44.html

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To All of My Friends During Pride Month

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First of all, let me explain what Pride Month is, for anyone who may not know. Pride Month is celebrated every year in the month of June and is used to honor and recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer history and identity. It’s a time for those who identify as LGBTQ+ to stand up and celebrate themselves and for those of us who are allies to show our support.

This year for Pride Month facebook decided to add a “pride” reaction emoji. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s that little rainbow-colored flag down there wedged between your pink “love” heart and your “haha” laughing face. I’m sure you’ve seen these jaunty little flags popping up all over the place lately; on pages you follow and memes you like and maybe even your friends have thrown one or two around in reaction to something you’ve posted.

Well, apparently there are some people who aren’t happy about the Pride emoji. Mainly some Christians. Go figure.

One page in particular that I had the displeasure of reading the comments on left me in a bit of a rage:

“I don’t recall downloading anything to get the flag. It flies in the face of my Christian beliefs. I want it removed…”

“…I don’t want my daughter growing up associating rainbows with lgbt 😦 rainbows are a beautiful thing…”

“It infuriates me that this {the rainbow} is being used to represent sinfulness…”

“The rainbow belongs to God and His children. It’s like everything else the enemy wants to steal from us…”

And, of course, the old standby: “Why don’t we get a straight pride month?”

Let’s address that last one first.

Why don’t we get a straight pride month? Here’s a few questions for you, if you are a straight person who has ever asked that question:

When was the last time you had to endure dirty looks when you walked down the street holding hands with your husband/wife?

When was the last time you got called a derogatory name for kissing said spouse in public?

Have you ever received a death threat because of the person you’re with?

How long did you wait to tell your parents and friends that you were straight? Were you worried that they were going to kick you out of the house or disown you for being straight?

Have you ever had another Christian tell you that you were going to Hell for being straight?

And more important, more overreaching that any of that, when was the last time that any government official tried to make a law telling you that you couldn’t marry the person you loved? That you couldn’t use a specific bathroom? That you couldn’t adopt a child?

  • Same-sex sexual activity was actually illegal until 2003. *
  • Until 2011, you could be kicked out of the military for being gay (“Don’t ask, don’t tell”) and until 2016, you couldn’t serve in the United States military if you were openly transgender. *
  • It was illegal for same-sex couples to adopt until 2015. *
  • In 20 of the 50 states you can, to this day, be turned down for a job based solely on your sexual orientation (except for some state and federal positions). *
  • In 21 of the 50 states, to this day, there are no state-mandated laws in place to protect people against hate crimes stemming from sexual orientation or gender identity (there are federal mandates in place under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009). *
  • While it is federal law that housing providers who receive HUD funding cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, only 23 states have laws in place prohibiting such discrimination from housing providers who do not receive government funding. *

So ask me again why we don’t have a Straight Pride Month? Maybe because we straight people have never, ever had to validate our existence to anyone. We are just accepted and the things we do are considered “normal”. We’ve never had to fight for a single right in our lives based on our sexuality. We’ve never been told who we can and can’t love and we’ve never feared for our lives just for being who we are. So maybe it’s time for us to just shut up, sit down and let our LGBTQ+ family finally have some of the rights that we’ve always enjoyed.

And as for all of you Christians, especially the ones asking why we don’t have a reaction emoji that we can use on facebook? You know “the gays get one, why can’t we have one?”

Here’s one to try on. ❤ That’s right. A heart. Because you know what Jesus did? He loved. He loved unconditionally and without question. He didn’t stop to ask the people in the crowd whether or not they were sinners before he passed out the loaves and fishes. He didn’t stop to get offended by the lifestyles and the choices of the people he healed. He didn’t lament Lazarus’ “life choices” before he raised him from the dead. He. Just. Freaking. Did. It. He just did it. And that is what our symbol needs to be every single day. A heart. Because Jesus is love and that is the symbol – the message – that we need to be sending out into the world.

Stop getting offended by God’s promise being “corrupted” and add your heart to it. Add your love to theirs and maybe, just maybe, we can start to heal this hurting world.

Stop being offended and start loving others. That is, after all, what Jesus commanded us to do.

 

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. ~Mark 12:31

 

Sources: 

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_the_United_States#

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Selective Salvation

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Let’s talk about something that all Christians know a thing or two about – salvation. Salvation is what we all strive for. Depending on your denomination, we live our lives attending church and listening to the gospel, and then when we reach the age of accountability we hit our knees in church one day and pray the Sinner’s Prayer and ask God into our hearts. We’re dipped into the water and washed in the blood of Jesus and our sins are swept away and we spend the rest of our lives following the tenants of the Bible so that we can go to Heaven when we die. And if we’re really serious about this salvation thing, if we really love our fellow man like the Bible tells us we must, then we spend a fair amount of time seeking out those sinners who have yet to see the error of their ways and we try to bring them into the light. We try to get them to renounce their sinful ways so that they, too, can be washed in the blood of Jesus and secure for themselves a place in Heaven.

That all seems so pure and clean and amazing, doesn’t it? But there’s just one problem. One wrench in the cog of the salvation machine. Who gets to decide another person’s salvation?

For example, say that before a man is baptized and saved, he looks at pornography on a fairly regular basis. Then in church on Sundays he begins to feel guilty about that, like it’s not something he should be doing, so he makes an effort to stop but it still isn’t enough; he still feels dirty and unclean about it and it eats at him. So one Sunday he feels particularly called and he gets up in front of the congregation and kneels before that pew and he asks Jesus into his heart. A few weeks later he gets baptized and the sin he felt he was committing by looking at that porn is gone and he feels clean again. And the church’s teachings tell him that the transgressions he committed before his baptism are forgiven. But he can’t stay away from the porn for long and eventually he goes back to it.

Does that mean that his baptism is null and void because he went back and sinned again after he was baptized? Not according to the church. According to most church doctrine, that’s why Jesus was crucified – to forgive us when we fall. When we inevitably sin again. The church doesn’t teach that we have to be baptized every week or once a year or that we have to have a once-a-decade dunking to wipe the slate clean again because that’s what Jesus’ death was for.

And that brings us to the wrench. Remember the wrench we mentioned before? The one grinding up the cogs that make the church’s salvation machine run so smoothly? Who gets to decide another person’s salvation?

If you knew that the person sitting in the pew next to you on Sunday was now riding the pornography wagon again would you tell him he was going to go to Hell when he dies? Would you feel the need to save his soul? Probably not. And why would that be? Because he’s been baptized? Because he’s sitting in that pew every week and listening to the sermons? Because you were a witness to his salvation?

Now what would your answers to those same questions be if that man sitting next to you was gay? If you knew that the person sitting in the pew next to you on Sunday was gay would you tell him he was going to go to Hell when he dies? Would you feel the need to try to save his soul?

What if the gay man was baptized? Would his sin not have been washed away just like that of the man who watched pornography and masturbated? Yes, you say, but he continued in his sin after his baptism so his soul is still doomed to Hell. Sure, but did the straight man not also continue to sin after his baptism when he continued to watch porn? So why is the gay man’s sin worse than the straight man’s sin? Why do  you feel comfortable in continuing to condemn the gay man to Hell when he has supposedly been saved in the same way that the straight man has been?

After all, the Bible also considers pornography a sin (Matthew 5:28, James 1:14-15). Looking at this, it would appear that some Christians are saying that Jesus’ death only covered some of the things listed as sins in the Bible and that they’ve decided that being gay isn’t one of them.

So again I ask, who gets to decide another person’s salvation?

The bottom line is that it is not our place as lowly humans to decide who gets into Heaven and who doesn’t. We are not the ones guarding the Pearly Gates. We are not the gatekeepers. And we do not get to stand in judgment of our fellow man, overlooking the sins that we deem “less” while condemning those we deem “unforgivable”.

So the answer to the question that I’ve asked here is that we are not the ones who get to decide when another person is saved; when they are born-again. Only God gets to decide that and none of us are God. None of us are worthy to judge the heart of another and what is in the hearts of others is the only thing that matters when the end comes.

We have our commands. We are told to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are told not to judge. So perhaps we, as Christians, should spend less time worrying about the souls of others and spend more time worrying about what lies in our own hearts.

 

“…Jesus thought for a moment and then replied, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone…”” ~John 8:7

 

 

 

 

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One Christian’s Review: Beauty and the Beast

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Warning: This review contains spoilers

I want to start by saying that I freaking loved this movie. Like absolutely, completely loved it. And here’s why:

 1) This movie is pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of the Disney cartoon that we all know and love. It starts the same (although the beginning scene in which the Prince is cursed is extended a bit), they used much of the same dialogue from the cartoon and every single song from the cartoon is in this movie (I got goose bumps during the tavern song where they’re all singing Gaston’s praises. The cast did such a good job with that song that I wanted to get up and dance with them). They did add, I think, 4 or 5 new songs but these new additions just added to the soundtrack because they’re all amazing. They also added a bit more back story to the Prince, talking about his family, and they talked about Belle’s mother. They didn’t talk about either of these things in the cartoon but these new additions just added more depth to the live-action version, making it seem more real, somehow, and less like a remake of a cartoon.

2) They did a wonderful job with casting for this movie. Every actor here nailed their role (Luke Evans as Gaston and Emma Watson as Belle are particularly note-worthy). These people weren’t just actors doing a job. They were these characters and it was wonderful to watch.

3) This movie is visually beautiful. Obviously there is a lot of CGI used here but it’s done so well that you can’t tell it’s not real. It’s just gorgeous.

Again, I loved this movie. It was well worth the money we paid to watch it and I give it a solid 10/10 rating. Go see it. Seriously. Take your kids. Take your friends. Hell, go alone. Whatever. Just go see it. You’ll be glad you did.

Now, on to the part of this review that I wish I didn’t need to do. The soul-crushing, child-corrupting gay sex part of the review.

So I know you all have heard about the controversy surrounding the “openly gay” character in Beauty and the Beast. We all have. It’s been a big deal. So here’s my take on the whole thing after seeing Beauty and the Beast for myself.

Their “openly gay” character (Gaston’s faithful sidekick, Lefou) isn’t openly gay at all. In fact, he and Gaston have discussions at least twice in this movie about Lefou dating or being interested in women. Lefou never disavows Gaston of the assumption that he’s interested in women, something I assume he would do if he’s as openly gay as people are claiming. Yes, Lefou’s character is effeminate, speaking in a high-pitched voice at times and making certain hand gestures and body movements that some people, I’m sure, would see and automatically assume “yep, he’s gay”.

At one point in the tavern scene I mentioned above, where Lefou leads the townsfolk in a rousing song about the awesomeness that is Gaston, Lefou sort of wraps himself in Gaston’s arms while he’s dancing around Gaston in adoration. There’s a moment of awkward silence. “Too much?” Lefou asks. Gaston nods and the song goes on.

Later in the movie, during the scene towards the end where the members of the Prince’s household are defending the castle from the torch-and-pitchfork wielding townsfolk, the wardrobe aggressively dresses three men in women’s clothes (if you recall, this also happens in the cartoon, only there’s just one man instead of three in the animated version). Two of the men run away screaming but the third looks pleased with his new look and sort of prances away happy. This scene takes maybe five seconds to play out.

Now we come to the big gay love scene in the movie. The one that is sure to turn unsuspecting children into ravening gay predators and leave Christ weeping on his throne in Heaven. In the story, Gaston is dead, the residents of the castle have been returned to their human selves , the Beast has been magically transformed back into the Prince by the power of Belle’s love and the whole castle is celebrating with a ball. There is much dancing and merry-making and everyone, including Lefou, is on the floor twirling to the music with someone else.

At one point Lefou twirls away from the woman he’s dancing with and finds himself suddenly arm-to-arm with none other than the man who walked down the steps during the siege on the castle happy about his new dress. The two smile at each other…aaand the camera cuts back to Belle and her Prince.

Wait, what?? That’s it? Where’s the passionate gay kiss? Where’s the two men rushing into each other’s arms?

Sorry, folks. That’s all she wrote. That one scene – Lefou and a random extra with a whole 10 seconds of screen time in the whole movie touching arms for maybe 2 seconds while smiling at each other (it’s seriously a blink and you’ll miss it situation)is what all this fuss has been about.

All in all, you are going to have to really, really be looking for those homosexual undertones in order to find them in this movie because, other than those two barely-there scenes, the homosexual aspect of this movie just doesn’t exist. The “openly gay” character that so many fundamentalist Christians that I know personally were boycotting this wonderful movie over is not even remotely openly gay and doesn’t even once in the entire 2 1/2 hour running time mention anything about his sexuality. I don’t understand how your kids could possibly be indoctrinated into the “gay lifestyle” by what they’re going to see in this movie because there’s literally nothing to see. And if you don’t want to see two guys touching arms while smiling at each other for the time it takes the average person to blink their eyes than just leave as soon as the scene with everyone dancing starts. There. Problem solved.

The bottom line is this. This movie was visually beautiful, musically amazing and a faithful adaptation of a beloved classic. That in itself – the faithful adaptation part – is a reason to celebrate. The love story is moving and the writing is at turns witty, funny, poignant and thought-provoking. You will laugh, cry and be moved in ways that a good movie should move you.

This story is one of redemption, of family, of loyalty and friendship, of love in all it’s many forms. And above all it’s a story that teaches the incredibly important lesson that we need not judge others by what we see with our eyes, but by what they have in their hearts. These are lessons that are desperately needed in this world where compassion, empathy and love seem to be going extinct.

And if you are so closed-minded that you are going to deprive yourself of that experience because of rumor you heard on some blog or an article you read on a website – a rumor that I am telling you now is completely groundless – than I feel sorry for you. Because with a mind and heart that narrow, your world must be a dark, lonely place indeed.

 

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Know the Vote – Veterans Issues

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We recently had a Presidential election here in the United States. In all the years that I’ve been following politics this was probably the most contentious election I’ve ever participated in, with hard lines being drawn, accusations being thrown and information and misinformation flying like bullets. So I wanted to write this to inject some facts into one of the issues that seems to be a hot-button topic among a lot of people – veterans issues.

Here’s the truth about how lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voted for veteran’s care bills for the last 10 years. All information came from ProjectVoteSmart.com.

HR 4297 – Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005 (1)

-Introduced November 10, 2005

-Passed in the House May 10, 2006; Passed the in Senate May 11, 2006

-Signed into law May 17, 2006

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to adopt a conference report that authorizes and extends $69.96 billion in tax credits and cuts through 2010.”

– Voted for (House): 229 Republicans/15 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 51 Republicans/3 Democrats

– Voted against (House): 2 Republicans/182 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 3 Republicans/39 Democrats

HR 1585 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (2)

– Introduced March 20, 2007

– Passed in the House December 12, 2007; Passed in the Senate December 14, 2007

– Signed into law December 28, 2007

– VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to pass a bill that sets authorization limits for Defense appropriations in fiscal year 2008 at $688.31 billion.”

– Voted for (House): 188 Republicans/182 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 46 Republicans/44 Democrats

– Voted against (House): 4 Republicans/45 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 1 Republican/2 Democrats

HR 4986 – Defense Authorizations Bill (3)

– Introduced January 16, 2008

– Passed in the House January 16, 2008; Passed the in Senate January 22, 2008

– Signed into law January 26, 2008

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to pass a bill that sets authorization limits for Defense appropriations in fiscal year 2008 at $688.60 billion.”

– Voted for (House): 187 Republicans/182 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 45 Republicans/45 Democrats

– Voted against (House): 4 Republicans/42 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 0 Republicans/2 Democrats

HR 3221 – Housing Bill with Energy Tax Credit Extensions (4)

-Introduced July 30, 2007

-Passed in the House August 4, 2007; Passed in the Senate April 10, 2008

-Signed into law July 30, 2008

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to pass a bill that increases mortgage grants, mortgage limitations, various property assistances to the homeless and veterans, and the line of credit for mortgages under Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

-Voted for (House): 45 Republicans/227 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 26 Republicans/44 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 149 Republicans/3 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 13 Republicans/0 Democrats

HR 4899 – Fiscal Year 2009-10 Supplemental Appropriations (5)

-Introduced March 21, 2010

-Passed the the House March 24, 2010; Passed the Senate May 27, 2010

-Signed into law July 29, 2010

-VoteSmart synopsis: “Vote to concur with the fifth portion of a divided question on a bill that requires the President, no later than April 4, 2010, to submit to Congress a plan for the “safe, orderly, and expeditious” redeployment of armed forces from Afghanistan, including military and security-related contractors, including a timetable for the completion of such redeployment.”

-Voted for (House): 45 Republicans/227 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 26 Republicans/44 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 149 Republicans/3 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 13 Republicans/0 Democrats

HR 3082 – Continuing Appropriations (6)

-Introduced June 26, 2009

-Passed in the House July 10, 2009; Passed in the Senate November 17, 2009

-Signed into law December 22, 2010

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to concur with Senate amendments and pass a resolution that appropriates funds for the federal government until March 4, 2011.”

-Voted for (House): 1 Republican/192 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 25 Republicans52 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 146 Republicans/19 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 14 Republicans/2 Democrats

S 1660 – American Jobs Act of 2011 (7)

-Introduced October 5, 2011

-Bill failed to pass the Senate October 11, 2011

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote on a motion to invoke cloture on a bill that establishes programs designed to increase employment in the United States.”

-Voted for (Senate): 0 Republicans/48 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 46 Republicans/3 Democrats

HR 933 – Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (8)

-Introduced March 4, 2013

-Passed the House March 6, 2013; Passed the Senate March 20, 2013″

-Signed into law March 26, 2013

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to concur with Senate amendments and pass a bill that appropriates funds for the federal government for fiscal year 2013.”

-Voted for (House): 203 Republicans/115 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 20 Republicans/51 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 46 Republicans/3 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 25 Republicans/1 Democrat

Sources (and to read the full wording of each bill):

(1) http://vot(1esmart.org/bill/3307/8593/27110/tax-relief-extension-reconciliation-act-of-2005

(2) http://votesmart.org/bill/4562/15963/27110/national-defense-authorization-act-for-fiscal-year-2008

(3) http://votesmart.org/bill/6073/16857/27110/defense-authorizations-bill

(4) http://votesmart.org/bill/4650/21324/27110/housing-bill-with-energy-tax-credit-extensions

(5) http://votesmart.org/bill/11452/30599/27110/fiscal-year-2009-2010-supplemental-appropriations

(6) http://votesmart.org/bill/12444/32992/27110/continuing-appropriations

(7) http://votesmart.org/bill/13909/36879/27110/american-jobs-act-of-2011

(8) http://votesmart.org/bill/16279/43150/27110/consolidated-and-further-continuing-appropriations-act-2013

 

 

 

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The Boy in McDonald’s

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My family and I stopped at a McDonald’s in Marshfield, Missouri tonight on our way home after a long road trip. We ordered our food to go because we just wanted to get home and we sat down to wait. I went up to fill my drink cup and when I came back, there was a young boy, maybe 8 years old, standing there. My son said the boy had some questions for me. What followed was one of the strangest and saddest conversations I’ve ever had with a stranger:

He asked me if I loved Jesus Christ. I responded that I did. He then asked me if I knew Genesis 9:7 (Go forth and multiply). I said I did not and he proceeded to quote it to me. Then he asked me if I go to church and when I said no he asked me if I ever listen to any sermons. I told him that I sometimes listen to sermons on youtube and he asked me if I ever listed to any by someone named Rockway. I told him that, no, I’d never heard of that man and that I normally just listen to whatever catches my eye.

Up to this point the conversation had been fairly benign, although I will admit that it was a strange conversation to be having with a small stranger in the middle of McDonald’s with the smell of grease and french fries hanging in the air and I had to wonder where this kid’s parents were and if they knew he was talking to random strangers. But this is where the conversation gets very sad:

Boy: “What do you think of the Catholics? Do you think they’re bad?”

Me: “No, I don’t think anyone’s bad.”

Boy: “But they let the gays get married and they let them hold hands and kiss in church and that’s bad.”

Me: “Don’t you think that Jesus would want all of us to be happy? And if the people they love are making them happy than why is that bad?”

Boy: “But Jesus is against the gays.”

Me: “Some people think that, that’s true. But I dont’ think that God would want us to hate anyone, do you? I think that there’s enough hate and meanness in the world that God would want us all to be happy and kind to each other.”

Boy: “I don’t hate anyone.” He’s obviously confused by this point. Then he gestures to my kids. “Would you let them marry someone who’s the same?” I assume he means the same sex.

Me: “Yes, I would. As long as the person they were with treated them right and made them happy than that’s all that matters to me.”

Boy: “I wouldn’t let my daughter marry someone who was the same.” He pauses for a minute, as if he’s unsure of what to say next. “If you think I’m being rude I’ll leave.”

Me: “You’re not being rude. I don’t mind talking to you like this at all.”

He stood there for another few seconds, just looking at me, and then he walked away. About that time, they called our number, we got our food and we left.

But I thought about that boy and the things he said the rest of the way home.

What kind of twisted mind would take the innocence of youth and poison it that way? What kind of person looks at their child and thinks “I must teach them to hate the same people I hate.” Do they not stop to think of the part of their child’s spirit that they may be killing while they plant their vile seeds? Do they not think about the lives that their child may impact in the future with that sort of awful and backwards thinking? Every child has the potential to do great good and, instead of fostering that miraculous potential, these parents decided to foster their own prejudices instead. Even now, nearly 6 hours after the incident as I sit here writing this, I just can’t seem to wrap my head around that one concept.

We as followers of Christ have a responsibility to the world to make it a better place. To leave it in better shape than it was in when we came into it. We are to be God’s hands, his feet and his mouthpiece here on Earth and I fully believe that the root of our religion is very simple; Love one another. Every other thing that we will ever do as believers grows from that one basic tenant. And when you teach this concept to children what you’re doing is expanding on what they already know – that everyone is the same and that we’re supposed to be nice to each other. This concept comes naturally for children; it’s something they’re born with. I’ve heard many atheists say that indoctrinating children with religion is akin to child abuse and I always argue against that for the reasons I stated above. How can it be child abuse when you’re just encouraging something that comes so naturally to a child? But meeting this boy tonight might just change my mind. This child was absolutely indoctrinated.

The whole incident left me feeling so sad. Children aren’t born hating anyone. They don’t care what color you are, or what your religion is or whether you or your parents are gay or straight as long as you’re willing to share the cool toys in the sandbox. And someone had taken this child, this impressionable young mind, and they were beating that innocence and goodness out of him. They may not have been using whips or wooden spoons or cane switches, but it was being beaten out of him nonetheless and they were replacing that thing that all children have – that light, that wholesomeness that is the very essence of childhood – with something dark and poisonous. Something that would grow to consume him if he didn’t someday throw it off. That one thing he said, more than anything else “I don’t hate anyone,” tugs at my heartstrings. Because the kicker is that he probably doesn’t hate anyone, not yet. Right now he’s just parroting the things that his parents and the other adults in his life have told him to say. He’s just reading his lines, lines that – at this point – he probably doesn’t even understand.

I don’t know if that boy is even going to remember anything I said when he wakes up in the morning. I don’t know if that meeting is going to change anything for him and I suspect that if he told his parents the details of what I said they probably told him something along the lines of how lost and wrong I was. But eventually that child is going to come to a crossroads in his life – as all believers do – and he’s going to have to decide if he should continue down the path he’s been following his entire life or if he wants to get off that path and tread somewhere else. Somewhere where the light shines on everyone and Jesus’s love doesn’t have to be earned on bended knee. And maybe this is ego speaking but I hope that when that day comes he’ll think of the random stranger in the orange shirt that he talked to in the McDonald’s in Marshfield, Missouri when he was just a boy and about the things that she said. And I hope that he chooses to walk in the light and leave the darkness behind.

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When Love Feels Like Hate

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Alright, everyone. Let’s do it. Let’s talk about that phrase that gets thrown around in the religious community almost as much as much as “I’ll pray for you”: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” What does this phrase mean, exactly? Well, it’s supposed to mean that we love everyone but that doesn’t mean that we have to love or condone the sins they’re committing. Just like I have to love my Aunt Margot because she’s family but I don’t have to love the fact that she hauls a flask of rotgut whiskey to family functions and then insists on singing “Put the Lime in the Coconut” at the top of her lungs while we eat dinner.  Seriously, Margot. Stop doing that.

But is that really how we – Christians of the world –  are using this much-used phrase? Are we really loving all of God’s people and just hating the sins they’re committing? Let’s take, for the sake of this post, homosexuality as our example. Many Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin. That it explicitly states in the Bible that laying with someone of the same sex as you would with someone of the opposite sex is sinful and an abomination before God. Therefore, in God’s eyes, being gay is a sin. But doesn’t God say that we’re supposed to love everyone? Love the sinner, hate the sin to the rescue! So, how do we do that? How do we go about loving another of God’s children the same way God loves us (as we’re commanded to do) while hating their sins?

Well, in the case of homosexuality, we fight against legalizing same-sex marriage so people can’t legally commit that sin. And we encourage conversion therapy for gay youth so that we can cast out the sin. And, of course, we preach our sermons against anything that might promote the homosexual lifestyle because it’s important to keep them away from the sin in the first place. And if the gay people are fully committed to their sin than we have no choice but to pray for them and hope than they come to God and turn away from their heathen ways, returning into the fold, clean and sin-free. We try to warn them of the consequences of their actions, we tell them of the perils of Hell that await them if they don’t turn away from homosexuality, that they can’t possibly get into the kingdom of Heaven with that sinful stain on their souls. Because that’s really all we can do, right? We can show them the way and hope that they take the straight and narrow path.

So we can sleep well at night, fellow Christians, knowing that we’ve done all we can do to love those gay people, those homosexual children of God while still warning them of the wrong that they’re doing. While still hating their sin and trying to turn them away from it. We can rest our heads and knew we did our best.

But what of those gay people? How do they feel about the steps we’ve taken? Put yourself in their shoes and see if you still feel like you’ve loved that sinner the way God would want you to. Imagine that you’ve met someone that you love and that you have proposed to that person and you want to spend the rest of your life with them but you can’t. You can’t stand up before a minister and your friends and family and God and profess your love for them because a particular group of people said that your love is wrong and sinful and it should be illegal. But hey, those people still love you so it’s okay!

And imagine that you are a teenager, swimming in feelings that you don’t understand, confused about who you are who is taken from everything comfortable and familiar and put through horrendous mental torture in which you are told that the person you think you are is wrong and sinful and that, if you continue down that path, you are going to burn in Hell for all eternity. But your church family is telling you they love you as you lie sobbing, broken, lost, alone and confused so it’s okay!

And imagine that you are a Christian who just happens to be gay, who believes that God loves you because you are His child and, just like any good parent, He loves all His children equally, no matter what. And then you are confronted with other Christians who are telling you that, no, God doesn’t love you the way you are. That you have to change yourself or you won’t be good enough to deserve God’s love. But these people love you so everything – all these hurtful, hateful, mean things they’re saying to you are all okay!

One thing that we Christians are horribly guilty of is picking and choosing which sins are worthy of our time and which are not. We have, for some reason, decided that homosexuality is one that is the big One-Way Ticket to Hell while working on Sunday – one that is a sin punishable by death in the Bible and is so bad it got it’s own Commandment – is almost completely ignored. Where are the people walking through Wal-Mart and Target on Sundays telling all the employees they’re going to Hell for working on the Sabbath? Where are the lines of Christians picketing in front of courthouses to get legislators to pass laws making it illegal to work on Sunday? And what of divorce? I’m a divorced woman and I’ve never, ever been told that I’m going to Hell because I divorced my husband even thought the Bible’s pretty specific about that.

So here’s the bottom line. Our Christian love feels a lot like hate to those on the receiving end of it and that is never something that we should be promoting. That is never something that we should feel good about because that is not going to bring anyone closer to God. In fact, it’s just pushing people further away. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a phrase that we made up to make ourselves feel good about passing judgement on other people; people who are doing things that we don’t like. Because it obviously has nothing to do with what the Bible says we should or should not be doing or we would be taking a much stronger stance on closing down Long John Silver’s and not wearing polyester blends. Nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about us loving the sinner and hating the sin. In fact, it says pretty explicitly that we’re not to judge anyone and that we’re to love unconditionally. It’s God’s place to judge and at the end of it all, we’re all going to have to stand before him and answer for our own lives. So let’s leave the judgement up to Him and just love each other, shall we?