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Behind the Book: Islam and Christianity

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On Thursday afternoon, November 12 two suicide bombers entered a busy open air market in the Bourj al-Barajneh district in Beirut, Lebanon and detonated their bombs, killing 43 people and injuring another 239. A third bomber was killed before detonating his bomb. On Friday, November 13 a suicide bomber detonated a bomb inside the Al-Ashara al-Mubashareen mosque in Baghdad, Iraq, killing 19 people and injuring 33 more. The mosque was being used for a funeral. Also on Friday, November 13 an unknown number of assailants carried out coordinated attacks on multiple targets in Paris, France, killing at least 132 people and injuring hundreds more. The extremist Muslim group ISIS has taken credit for, or has been credited with, all three of these attacks. In two days, these terrorists killed or injured hundreds of people in the name of their God.

Many people are pointing out that these people are well within the rights of their religion to do these things; that the words within the pages of their holy book even encourage them to kill. And they would be right. For in these pages are things like this: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on the opposite sides or they shall be imprisoned…” Quran 5:33. And this: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.” Quran 8:12. The Quran is, in fact, littered with passages like this.

Taken from the perspective of someone who knows little to nothing of Islam or the people who practice it in a non-radical fashion, it would be easy to take these verses – and others like it – and the actions of these extremists and condemn an entire religion (one that makes up nearly 23% of the world’s population (1)). It would be easy for us to say that this ideology is just no damn good, a cancer on the minds of the people and the face of the earth, and should be eradicated. And this is, in fact, a very familiar thing to those of us who live here in the United States, especially since the terrorist attacks that were carried out in New York City on September 11, 2001 by radical Islamic extremists. “Down with Islam!” is a war cry that started nearly 15 years ago and still echoes through America’s steel corridors and across her amber waves of grain to this day.

But is Islam really a religion that teaches its people to hate outsiders? To kill those of us that are labeled “infidels”? As I’ve pointed out in the above paragraph there are verses in the Quran that talk about killing outsiders and casting wrath on the unbelievers. But there are also verses like this: “O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace. Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you.” Quran 2:208. And this one that encourages Muslims to show peace and love to Christians:  “…and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: “We are Christians.” That is because among them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.” Quran 5:28. And this one that flat-out condemns the killing of innocent people: “Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely…” Quran 5:32. So it would seem that those among the Muslim faith that commit these acts are going against what their holy book actually teaches.

But what about jihad? Isn’t that an Allah-sanctioned holy war? The word “jihad” in Arabic actually means struggling or striving, not “holy war” as we’re so often told (2). Religious jihad can mean an internal struggle, such as the struggle to be a good Muslim or an external struggle to inform people of the tenants of the faith. Military jihad is allowed but only in extreme cases is deadly force authorized. Generally legal, diplomatic and political means are used before force. In the case that there is no peaceful alternative, Islam lays out strict rules of engagement: innocents must never be harmed and any peaceful overtures (surrender) from the enemy must be accepted. According to Islamic rules, not everyone can declare a jihad. The military campaign must be approved by the proper authorities and advised by scholars, who will decide if the people and religion are actually under threat and if violence is imperative to defend them (2).

Jihad is not a violent concept as it is often portrayed by Western cultures. It is not an open license for Muslims to declare war on people of other religions. In fact, as it is written in the Quran, Christians and Jews are looked upon by Muslims as fellow “people of the book” because they also worship God (or Allah, as He’s referred to by Islam). So, again, it would seem that these extremists are going outside the tenants of their faith, as extremists are want to do.

So on the one hand we have a holy book that is telling people who follow the world’s second-largest religion to kill any who don’t believe, to murder any who are “making mischief” on Allah’s people. And we have people, like ISIS, who are following these passages. And on the other hand we have a holy book that is telling them to love and accept others and to embrace other religions. And there are Muslims who live their lives striving to do just that.

The people who believe that Islam is a religion of hate and violence would have us forget – or maybe they just don’t realize themselves – that the pages of the Bible are spattered with just as much, if not more, blood than the pages of the Quran. In the Bible you can be killed for things like working on Sundays or remarrying after a divorce. Recalcitrant children can be stoned to death for disobedience. Harvesting the edges of your fields is a sin punishable by death. But the Bible also calls for the wholesale slaughter of Pagans:  “On that day of judgment,” says the LORD, “I will punish the leaders and princes of Judah and all those following pagan customs.  Yes, I will punish those who participate in pagan worship ceremonies, and those who steal and kill to fill their masters’ homes with loot…Your blood will be poured out into the dust, and your bodies will lie there rotting on the ground.”  Your silver and gold will be of no use to you on that day of the LORD’s anger.  For the whole land will be devoured by the fire of his jealousy.  He will make a terrifying end of all the people on earth.” Zephaniah 1:7-18. And in 1 Samuel 15:3, God orders King Saul to attack and annihilate the Amalakites. “Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass,” God says to Saul. And when Saul fails in this grisly task, Saul’s kingdom is taken from him by God.

Just as there are many violent passages in the Quran, there are an equal number in the Bible, yet we call Islam the religion of violence? Perhaps Christians haven’t done so much killing on such a wide scale in recent years as militant Islamic groups such as ISIS and that is why we Christians are so quick to look past the blood on our hands but it’s hard to see how we can move forward with all the bodies lying at our feet. From the forced conversions of Pagans in the fourth century (3),  to the Inquisition in the 16th century (in which it is estimated that over 1,200 people were killed in Italy alone) (4), to the Salem witch trials in the 1600’s, our religious history is not a peaceful one (5).  And it doesn’t stop there, fellow Christians. We can also lay at our feet the forced assimilation and conversion of Native Americans in the 17-1900’s, in which approximately 80-90% of the native population was wiped out in North America alone, leaving the death toll in the millions (6). And that’s not to mention the people who are killed by people claiming to be Christians every single day who are members of the LGBT community, minorities, handicapped or anything else that we believers perceive as being “wrong”.

And yet there are those of us, those among the Christian community, who choose to read passages like Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbor as yourself; there is no commandment greater than this”  and Ephesians 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” and we live our lives by those passages, not by the ones of hate and blood and terror. Just as most Muslims just want to live their lives in peace, so do we. So maybe we’re not so very far apart, our Muslim brothers and sisters and ourselves. And maybe it’s time we start trying to see past our prejudices and our preconceived notions. Maybe it’s time for us to turn off the TV and stop listening to those who would tell us that eradicating an entire group of people for the actions of a few is the only answer. And maybe we should stop being blinded by our differences and start trying to see our similarities so we can all stand up, together, as one people and raise our voices to stop this threat to our humanity. Because Islam isn’t the enemy. Extremism is.

Sources:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_world

(2) http://islamicsupremecouncil.org/understanding-islam/legal-rulings/5-jihad-a-misunderstood-concept-from-islam.html?start=9

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_persecution_of_paganism_under_Theodosius_I

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Inquisition

(5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_witch_trials

(6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_assimilation_of_Native_Americans

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The Hidden Ones: My Life With an Invisible Illness

Invisible-Illness-training-Muay-Thai

My day begins just like everyone else’s. I get up at 7 a.m. get my kids up, hop on facebook and check my updates, get my kids up again, make them breakfast, help to find shoes, backpacks and hair brushes, and wave them onto the bus “Bye! Love you! See you tonight!” Then, depending on how I slept the night before, it’s either coffee, eggs and more facebook or checking emails for me or back to bed for a few more hours before I get up and start my day. Seeing me out and about, walking across the parking lot at Wal-Mart, working my job at a deli, interacting with my kids’ teachers, you wouldn’t guess that there is something lurking in my DNA that is trying very hard to kill me. Looking at me in my day-to-day activities you wouldn’t think that I have a chronic illness. But I do.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been told I had Marfan’s Syndrome. Discovered by French scientist Antoine Marfan in 1869, Marfan’s Syndrome is a hereditary connective tissue disorder that results in abnormally long, thin digits and extremities. It primarily affects the eyes, blood vessels and skeleton (1). I remember when I was 8 sitting in a doctor’s office all day long while my sisters and I got poked, prodded and scanned while we were tested for this. We were all positively diagnosed. So my whole life I’ve lived with the idea that I had this relatively mild form of a disease that caused my aorta to be slightly enlarged and my eyes to be bad. When I was pregnant with each of my three kids, I told my OB/GYN about the diagnosis and he would hook me to an EKG machine a couple of times during my pregnancy and that was that.

Fast forward to August of 2013. I mentioned to my kids’ pediatrician at a routine well-child check that Marfan’s ran in my family and she referred my son (who was the only one old enough to test at the time) to a geneticist to get tested. There was much poking, prodding and imaging and 4 months later the geneticist called me back with some strange and troubling news – my son didn’t have Marfan’s Syndrome. They didn’t know what he had. “He has something in his DNA that looks like Marfan’s but it isn’t,” is what the geneticist told me. “At this point we know that it’s going to affect his heart and his growth because it’s enough like Marfan’s for us to be positive of that but that’s where the similarity stops.” She vowed to do more tests and then hung up the phone. Over the next year I heard from her several times but nothing conclusive ever came of it.

Then came May 27, 2014. It was 9:30 in the morning and I was still in my pajamas, drinking my coffee when my phone rang. It was my mom. “Please come. I think I had a stroke. It hurts so bad.” She was hysterical. I didn’t even put shoes on. I grabbed the kids, jumped in the car and sped the 3 blocks to my parents’ house. She was already on the phone with the paramedics when I got there. The ambulance came and they took her away in a sling because she couldn’t walk. My last sight of her was her being loaded in the back of an ambulance. She died in the helicopter on the way to a bigger hospital. Her aorta had dissected. “It came apart like tissue paper,” is what the doctor who worked on her told me.

Three weeks after my mom passed away, my aunt – my mom’s sister – had her first dissection and her first emergency surgery. A month later, she was in the hospital again with another dissection and another emergency surgery. All these sudden, violent dissections in my family got my geneticist to thinking and she ran another test on my aunt’s blood while she was in the hospital. It came back positive. She ran the same test on my son. Also positive. Over the next several months, many members of my family were tested, many came back positive, including me and my oldest daughter.

We all had Loey’s-Deitz Syndrome. Loey’s-Deitz Syndrome is a connective tissue disorder similar to Marfan’s Syndrome only it primarily affects the heart and blood vessels. LDS (as it is commonly referred to by those of us who suffer from it) was discovered in 2005 by Dr. Bart Loeys and Dr. Hal Deitz. Essentially Loey’s-Deitz makes the walls of the blood vessels and arteries thin and prone to aneurysm. Patients with LDS also suffer from problems with the musculoskeletal system (they are often prone to osteoporosis and scoliosis, even at very young ages), skin (LDS patients often have almost translucent skin) and gastrointestinal systems (LDS patients are prone to a wide variety of digestive issues) (2). Most Loey’s-Deitz patients have a life-long limit on how much weight they can life since lifting significant amounts of weight can put undo stress on the blood vessels. LDS patients are required to undergo annual or semi-annual imaging of multiple types to check for aneurysms and to monitor existing aneurysms. Women who are positive for LDS are advised not to breastfeed since breastfeeding releases hormones that make the connective tissues – already too loose in LDS patients – to soften further, increasing their risk of aneurysm and dissection. This disease affects us in big ways (we can’t to any kind of exercise except light cardiovascular because the risk of falls or getting hit with projectiles, therefore triggering a dissection, is too great) and small ways (no roller coasters that will get our heart rates up too high or movies with a lot of jump-scares). Many of us are going to be on blood pressure medication for the rest of our lives and many of us have had to make permanent diet and lifestyle changes because certain foods and medications can negatively affect the way our bodies work (no antihistamines or regular coffee, or instance). Heart surgery at some point to repair aneurysms – often multiple surgeries – is a given with Loey’s-Deitz patients.

In my own life, the changes were almost immediate. My two oldest kids – who both tested positive for LDS type 2 (3) were both on their school soccer teams at the time of their diagnosis. It killed them to have to stop playing. Because of my new lift limit, there were certain duties at work that I was no longer able to perform. And my kids and I all started going to see a cardiologist every 6 months for endless rounds of tests. We’re now a year into this and my son – who is 12 – has developed an aneurysm in his aorta that is right on the edge of needing surgery and my daughter – who is 10 – is already on blood pressure medicine. I had my first heart surgery on June 23rd, 2015. I had a 5-inch section of my aorta replaced and my aortic root replaced with a mechanical one. Now, for the rest of my life, I have to take blood thinners. I’m 31 years old.

Back before my diagnosis, I was one of those people who saw someone park in a handicapped space and walk in, completely unimpeded and thought “Why do they need a handicapped sticker? They look fine.” I was one of those people who would see a young, able-bodied person on an electric cart and I would scoff. “Get off that, you lazy bum. That’s for actual handicapped people.” But now, especially since my surgery, there are days when I’m so tired just the thought of walking into Wal-Mart to do my shopping makes me want to cry. There are days when I’m in so much pain that I feel like I’m 80 and that electric cart is a blessing. My days now are filled with playing “To Go To the ER or Not” with every little tingle and twinge because you never know when that tingle or twinge is going to be the one that kills you. I wish I was exaggerating. I’m not.

But I’ve learned something since my diagnosis. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than this disease. I’m stronger than that which is trying to kill me. Every day when I manage to get out of bed, every day when I get dressed and go to work, every day when I stand long enough to do dishes or fold laundry. Every time I load the kids in the car and drive the 2 1/2 hours to the doctor, I get a little bit stronger. And that strength is what carries me through the bad days when I just can’t bring myself to get out of bed or go to work. When I just can’t.  And in the end, that strength is what gets us through.

                                 “Fate whispers to the warrior “You cannot withstand the storm”

                                            and the warrior whispers back “I am the storm””

Sources:

(1) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/marfan-syndrome/basics/definition/

(2) http://www.loeysdietz.org/en/

(3) http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/loeys-dietz-syndrome

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Is God Allowed in Schools?

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We’ve all seen it. The meme that inevitably pops up on social media after a mass shooting  or some other random and tragic act of violence at a school and sticks around for a few weeks like a bad cold. “God, why do you allow such violence in schools? Because I’m not allowed in schools anymore. ~God” or something of the like.

But does praying in schools actually keep faculty, staff and students safer? Since 2005 there have been several shootings at religiously affiliated schools:

  • On October 2, 2006, 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts entered an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, PA, separated the boys from the girls, bound and shot the girls, killing 5 of them and injuring 6 more. (1)
  • On March 6, 2012, 28-year-old Shane Schumerth, a teacher who had recently been fired from the Episcopal School of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, FL entered the campus and killed Dean Dale Regan before committing suicide. (2)
  • On April 2, 2012, 43-year-old One L. Goh, a former student at Oikos University, a Korean Christian College in Oakland, CA, ordered nursing students to line up against a wall and opened fire, killing 7 and injuring 3 more before being taken into custody. (3)
  • On January 7, 2013, 27-year-old Kristopher Smith was killed in the parking lot of the Apostolic Revival Center Christian School in what was believed to be a retaliation killing. The suspect was never caught. (4)
  • On October 4, 2013, 2 students at Agape Christian Academy in Pine Hills, FL were injured after a fight broke out and another student pulled a gun and began firing. The suspect fled by car and was never apprehended. (5)
  • On January 15, 2015, 37-year-old Michael Riley pulled a gun and fired at 2 teenagers he was arguing with in the parking lot of the Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee, WI. During the altercation 3 bystanders were injured. (6)

The evidence would seem to point to the fact that praying in schools does not bring God to lower some protective shield over our schools. And, as history would prove, just being a religious person does not automatically make you less likely to kill. After all we Christians slaughtered millions of people in the Crusades and thousands more in the witch hunts in Europe (not to mention the 80 or so people we killed right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A) just to name a few of the mass historical slaughters that can be laid at the feet of believers of God. Not to mention the number of domestic terrorists in modern times that have claimed Christianity as their own.

So why do people keep using that phrase “Put God back in schools!”? The answer to that one is easy. Because of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. For those who may not be familiar with this, it reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

So let’s break down the part of this that has to do with religion, since that’s what we’re talking about here.

Part one: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” What that means, in a nutshell, is that the government of the United States cannot make any law that promotes a specific religion. This part of the Establishment Clause is often referred to as the separation of church and state, meaning that no person who works for the government – i.e. Congressman, the President, public school teachers, judges, postal employees, county clerks, etc. – cannot, in their capacity as a government official, promote any one religion.

Part two: “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” This gives you – a private citizen – the right to freely exercise your religion however you see fit. It means that you – as a private citizen – can practice whatever religion you want, in whatever way you want, whenever you want and nobody can stop you. And that includes your kids while they’re at school. That’s right, your children have a constitutional right to pray, read their Bible, even lead a prayer or Bible study group of other students on their school campus, during school hours and there is nothing that anyone can legally do to stop them. In fact, there have been several instances in which teachers or staff have tried to stop students from practicing their freedom of religion, the school or staff were taken to court and the student won the suit.

But when you become an employee of the government – in any capacity, if your paycheck is coming from any government entity – then you are no longer a private citizen when you are at work and you, while you are at work, are no longer allowed to publicly practice your freedom of religion. That being said, if you are a teacher and you want to pray before you eat, go ahead. But don’t ask your students to pray with you because that is you – as a representative of the government – promoting a specific religion. If you are the principal of a high school and a group of parents ask you to lead the prayer at a graduation ceremony you – as per the constitution of the United States – are required to step down because that is promoting a specific religion as a government official. But if you want to lead a moment of silence instead in which everyone in the audience is able to pray however he or she wishes, then you can do that and be within your rights. Of course, if you work for a religiously affiliated private school than you no longer work for the government and you can pray with your students all day long if that’s what you want.

So is God still allowed in schools? Absolutely. Because God is wherever those who believe in him are. Just because you, as a teacher or a principal, may not be allowed to lead your students in prayer does not mean that you can’t still worship. Just because you can’t preach and spread the gospel from your desk does not mean that your religious rights are being stepped on. And maybe us being forced to practice a more quiet religion would be good for some of us. Maybe, by being made to turn inward for our God fix for just those few hours a day, we can find something more meaningful, something deeper than what we had before.

Sources:

(1) http://lancasterpa.com/amish/amish-school-shooting/

(2) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/09/us/shooting-shatters-jacksonville-prep-school-campus.html?_r=0

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oikos_University_shooting

(4) http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/08/school-shooting-florida/1817149/

(5) http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/teen-shot-agape-christian-academy-pine-hills/nbF7Q/

(6) http://www.jsonline.com/news/crime/milwaukee-man-charged-in-wisconsin-lutheran-high-school-shooting-b99431381z1-289512441.html

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Sin and the Modern Christian

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Lately we’ve heard a lot about sin. With the recent Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states and the leaking of videos that seem to show employees of Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue to the highest bidder and the Pope turning the Catholic church on it’s head sin is all over the news; you just can’t seem to get away from it.

But what is sin, exactly?

Sin, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is an offense against religious or moral law. Sin as defined by the Bible is a transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4). Most Christians look to the Bible to know what is sin and what is not and there is no shortage of sinful things in the pages of the Bible. Within those 66 books, you can find a multitude of things that God himself, Jesus or the disciples speaking for God considered a sin. Here are examples of just a few:

  1. Adultery (Exodus 20:14)
  2. Divorce (Matthew 19:9)
  3. Disobeying Man’s Law (Romans 13:1-5)
  4. Working on Sunday (Exodus 20:8-9)
  5. Getting Tattoos (Leviticus 19:28)
  6. Harvesting the edge of your field (Leviticus 23:22)

These are, of course, just a small picking of the things the Bible considers sinful. Several of these, including divorce, adultery, and working on Sunday are considered bad enough that the perpetrator can be put to death. Yet in today’s world, many of these things are common-place, even widely accepted. Let’s take divorce for instance. In the United States 73% of the population identifies as Christian(1) while in that country there is a 53% divorce rate(2). In Romania, 99% of the country identifies as Christian(1) and the divorce rate is 28%(2). And in Iceland, 95% of the population identifies as Christian(1) and there is a 37% divorce rate(2). But surely if the Christians in these countries were interested in living a sin-free life as outlined in the Bible, the divorce rates would be much lower, right? Apparently not since we don’t see many good Christians picketing outside of courthouses here in the good ole’ U.S. of A. demanding that divorce be made illegal.

Another thing that we, as Christians, have just learned to accept is working on Sundays. Many of us work in a field where you can request that you don’t work on Sundays but there is little to no chance that that request is going to be honored. And tattoos? Again, I don’t see any picketers outside tattoo parlors demanding that they be shut down because they’re not biblical. And in an economy like the United States where farming and food manufacturing make up 14% of all manufacturing employees and 10% of all US employment(3) it makes no economic sense to only plant or harvest the centers of fields so we’ve let that one slide as well.

Here in the United States the sin of the hour, despite all these other things that we should seemingly be worrying about, seems to be homosexuality. Does the Bible talk about homosexuality? There would seem to be a couple of verses in the Old Testament that speak to it, namely Romans 1:26-28 and Leviticus 18:22. Yet why does this particular sin deserve more hate, ridicule and judgement than the others I’ve listed above and the approximately 600 other sins that the Bible lists in it’s pages? Especially when same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states and should therefore be covered under #3 on the list above? Why have we latched onto this one sin when we’ve chosen to let so many others slide?

Perhaps it’s because we feel that this is still one that we have some control over. We can’t really tell our employers that we refuse to work on Sundays or we risk losing our jobs. We can’t only plant parts of our fields or risk taking a financial loss so we feel that dictating the lives of others is an acceptable way to cover our Biblical bases. Or perhaps it’s because we wish to show others that we do still care about the sins in the Bible by choosing one that we feel God felt very strongly about and speaking out about that one. After all, homosexuality is mentioned 6 times in the Bible (divorce is mentioned 22 times but who’s counting?).

So it would seem that today’s Christians have a problem of Biblical proportions. To sin or not to sin, that is the question. Christians today cannot live a completely Biblical life, following all the mandates set forth by the writers of the Bible for what is moral and what is not, because many of those mandates just don’t fit in with our modern world. We no longer have the option of not working on Sundays or killing our kids when they’re bad (not that I’d want to). We don’t expect a man to kill his new bride on their wedding night if he finds out she’s not a virgin. In fact, if he did he’d probably be facing the death penalty himself.

So how do we, as modern Christians, decide which sins we need to worry about and which we don’t? To answer that question I believe we need to turn to the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke many times about loving our neighbor, about not passing judgement on others and about taking a good long look at our own sins before judging the sins of others. One of the most famous examples of this can be found in John 8:2-3 and John 8:4-11. A woman who has been convicted of adultery is brought before Jesus. Adultery is a crime punishable by death and the authorities want to see if Jesus will condemn her for her crimes and carry out the punishment (crimes and punishments that are very specifically outlined several times in the Old Testament) or if he’ll forgive her. Jesus said to the crowd gathered “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” (the punishment for adultery was death by stoning). Nobody picked up a stone and the crowd dispersed. Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more.

So is Jesus specifically telling us to just let people continue sinning here? Maybe. Or maybe he’s telling us that forgiveness is more important than pointing out and punishing other people’s sins. Maybe he was showing this woman a grace that no other would have shown her and, by showing her that light, he brought her closer to God. And maybe that’s what we, in this modern age, need to be doing more of. We need to be doing more forgiving, showing more grace, and focusing less on the sins of the people we come in contact with. Because it’s through that grace, not through our condemnation of their sins, that we’re going to bring people closer to God. And isn’t that the whole point of Christianity in the first place?

Sources:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_by_country

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_demography

(3) http://ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/ag-and-food-sectors-and-the-economy.aspx

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Finding the Common Ground

I was raised in a casual sort of faith. My mom’s family are all believer’s but they don’t adhere to a certain denomination but my dad’s family are Mormon. In fact, my late Grandfather was a church elder and my Grandma – even though she’s 87 and can’t actually attend anymore – is still active in the church. But growing up, I can only recall a handful of months during my entire childhood that we actually attended a brick and mortar church with any kind of regularity. I was maybe nine or 10 and my grandparents had just relocated here to Missouri from Wisconsin and had asked us to start attending our local LDS church with them so my parents obliged. It didn’t last long, though. My parents were casual believers and sitting through hours of services every Sunday just didn’t fit their faith style.

So fast-forward to my teenage years. I’m a shy, quiet 16-year-old, the oldest of three girls, trying – and mostly failing – to deal with the repercussions of my parents nasty divorce on my own when I happen to meet a slightly older, much more charismatic young man who, inexplicably, takes an interest in shy, bookish me instead of the other hoards of young women who would have gladly taken my place. This young man eventually became my husband and through him I was introduced to a kind of religion that I knew existed but had never experienced myself – Fundamentalist Southern Baptist.

We were married when I was 17 and for 13 years I lived the life of a quiet country wife. The kind who was expected to attend church three times a week, know the Bible – and what it says her place in the world is – keep her husband well fed, satisfied in bed, and provide him with children and a clean house. I was strongly discouraged from having any strong opinions of my own, was not allowed to have friends that weren’t approved by him and was forbidden from socializing with anyone without his approval. I was taught that if you didn’t believe in God, you were going to Hell. If you were gay, you were going to a special part of Hell that was REALLY bad. I was taught that black people (especially black men) have a place and that it wasn’t with white women. For 13 years I got to see what fundamentalism is really all about.

Three years ago, I finally got the nerve to leave my ex husband and the fundamentalists with him. After I left, I had a crisis of faith. I knew that the things that I had been hearing the past decade and a half weren’t what I believed but was I wrong? Was the God I knew really just a lie I told myself? Was God really this hateful, vindictive, selfish God that the Baptists believed in? I found myself questioning everything I knew. Shortly thereafter I met the man who I am now engaged to. We had gone to the same high school so I knew that he was an agnostic and after the awful religious experience I had had his skepticism was like a dash of cold water on a fevered forehead. As our relationship progressed, we began having conversations and debates about religion and I found myself talking to him about my frustrations and discussing with him the questions and doubts I was having and, to my surprise, he sympathized with me and encouraged me to explore my faith from the angle of a skeptic, as he did and to see how my belief changed if I approached it with a rational mind. What came out of that exploration is something so much stronger than what it was before. My whole life I believed because I was told that I should. I held a specific set of ideals because these were the ideals that I was told I should have but once I was free of that, I was able to decide what I believed and what I did not.

And do you know what I came up with? I don’t believe that you have to believe in the Christian God to go to Heaven. In fact, I don’t believe you have to believe in God at all to go to Heaven. I believe that God is going to judge you more on the impact that you had on the world around you and on your fellow man than on what God or gods you worshiped when your time comes. I believe that all human beings, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, including the right to be happy with the person they love. I believe that my job in this life is to serve others, to live my life to make others happy. I believe that the Bible is a group of stories written by men and women just like you and I thousands of years ago as those people were trying to explain a world that they didn’t understand and I believe that the importance that some Christians put on that Bible borders on idol worship. My faith is something that has evolved and something that has become distinctly different from the religion of my childhood and early adulthood.  I now believe because I choose to. Believing in God gives me a sense of peace – a sense of purpose. It helps to give me guidance in times of need and solace in times of heartache. When I pray, I do so as if I’m speaking to a friend and the contact soothes me.

Many other people have come to their faith the same way I have; through trial and error, through long years of exploration and many different experiences. And it is my own experience with coming to my faith that makes the next part of this blog post so hard to write. I have lived the last several years of my life trying to use my faith to be as inclusive as I possibly can. To take the hateful, perverted thing that modern Christianity has become and turn it into something better, more loving. Something that more people can understand and embrace. Yet there are those out there that simply refuse to see that some of us are trying to turn it all around.

I know that there are people who have been hurt by religion. I know that there are people in the world who look at religion and see nothing but the bad it has done. You see the war and the death, the hunger and the hate and the blood and the hypocrisy. Believe me, I see all those things too. I cannot go back and change the Crusades, or the Salem Witch Trials. I can’t go back and stop the airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center and I can’t bring back the millions of innocent people that have been killed in the name of God since then or in the time between. I’m sure there are people who are going to ask why God himself didn’t stop those atrocities if he’s so almighty and I can’t answer that question. I know that doesn’t satisfy you but maybe it’ll make you feel a little better to know it doesn’t satisfy me either.

Religion has done some horrible things, has contributed some unspeakable atrocities to the history of the world, but there are those of use who are devoting our lives to changing things. There are those of us who want nothing more than to see peace and love reign supreme on this earth. To say that all religion is evil is to invalidate all that we’re trying to accomplish. Can we not put aside our differences and work together for a common good? Can we not recognize that, though our methods might be different, our goals are the same? Extremism and fundamentalism are the problem here, and that is to be found on both sides of the argument.

So, please, stop looking at the world and seeing religion as a whole as the enemy because we’re not all out to see the world burn. Let’s take our strengths – your thirst for knowledge, your rationality and critical thinking skills, our desire for change and contacts in the religious world – and use those to our advantage. Work with us to identify a common goal – a goal of making the world a more peaceful place by stamping out those who promote hate and bigotry and hypocrisy – and let’s see how far we can take this. Let’s stop fighting each other and be the change we want to see in the world.

.

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The Race For the White House 2016: Who is Bernie Sanders?

download (1)

This week we’re going to be looking at Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders but since Mr. Sanders’ voting history goes back 24 years, we’re going to be doing his a little differently. Instead of covering the entire history like I’ve done with previous candidates, I’m just going to be covering the last 6 years or so. I’ll still be focusing on his personal background and his voting history on six topics: Healthcare, Education, Job Creation (including minimum wage), Social Programs (medicare/medicaid, SSI, EBT, etc), Gun Control and Human Rights (including LGBT rights and women’s rights). I get all my information on voting history from the website Project Vote Smart and there are many, many more topics than these six so I would encourage you to look up the voting histories for this and all the candidates on other subjects that interest you.

Bernie Sanders: Personal Information

Bernard “Bernie” Sanders was born September 8, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York to Eli and Dorothy Sanders, his mother being born in New York and his father being a naturalized Polish immigrant. After graduating from James Madison High School, Sanders spent his freshman year at Brooklyn College, where he studied psychology before transferring to the University of Chicago. While there, he was active in the Civil Rights Movement and an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Sanders was also one of thousands of students who traveled to Washington D.C. in 1963 to take part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. After graduation, Sanders spent several months in a farming commune in Israel before returning to the US and moving to Vermont. (1)

In 1971, Bernie Sanders began his political career when he joined the anti-Vietnam War Liberty Union Party in Vermont. After that, he ran in and lost several elections, including two bids for the US Senate in 1972 and 1974 and for governor of Vermont in 1972 and 1976. In 1979, Sanders left the Liberty Union Party to work as a writer for the nonprofit American People’s Historical Society. In 1981, Sanders ran for Mayor of Burlington and won, going on to serve three more terms, choosing not to seek reelection in 1989 so he could briefly teach political science at  Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. (1)

In 1990, Sanders ran as an Independent for the Vermont seat in the US. House of Representatives and won, becoming the first Independent elected to the office in 40 years. This was a post that Sanders held until 2005, when he ran for and won a seat in the US Senate. On April 30, 2015, Bernie Sanders announced that he was running for President in 2016.

Bernie Sanders: The Issues

Healthcare:

*On December 3, 2009: Yea on S Amdt 2791 – Preventative Services Coverage Requirements (1.1)

*On December 22, 2009: Yea on S Amdt 3276 – Senate Health Care Bill Amendments (1.2)

*On December 22, 2009: Yea on S Amdt 2786 – Health Care and Insurance Law Amendments (1.3)

*On December 23, 2009: Yea on HR 3590 – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (1.4)

*On March 25, 2010: Yea on HR 4872 – Health Care Reconciliation Act (1.5)

*On December 9, 2010: Yea on HR 847 – 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (1.6)

*On February 2, 2011: Nay on S Amdt 9 – Repealing the IRS 1099 Provision From the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (1.7)

*On February 2, 2011: Nay on S Amdt 28 – Repealing the IRS 1099 Provision from the Health Care Bill (1.8)

*On February 2, 2011: Nay on S Amdt 13 – Repealing the Federal Health Care Law (1.9)

*On April 5, 2011: Nay on HR 4 – Repealing the IRS 1099 Provision From the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2.0)

*Co-Sponsor: S Amdt 3058 – Expands TRICARE Coverage of Autism (2.1)

*On March 13, 2013: Nay on S Amdt 30 – To Prohibit the Use of Funds to Carry Out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2.2)

*On March 31, 2014: Yea on HR 4302 – Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (2.3)

Education:

*On August 5, 2010: Yea on HR 1586 – Aid to States for Medicaid, Teacher Employment and Other Purposes (2.4)

*Co-Sponsor: S 2343 – Extends Student Loan Interest Rates (Reid Bill) (2.5)

*On May 24, 2012: Nay on S Amdt 2153 – Prohibits Increase in Interest Rates for Student Loans (Lamar Bill) (2.6)

*Co-Sponsor: S Amdt 2156 – Increases Funding for the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program (2.7)

*On June 6, 2013: Yea on S 953 – Student Loan Affordability Act (2.8)

*On June 6, 2013: Nay on S 1003 – Comprehensive Student Loan Protection Act (2.9)

*On July 24, 2013: Yea on S Amdt 1778 – Limits Interest Rates for Certain Federal Student Loans (3.0)

*On July 24, 2013: Nay on HR 1911 – Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 (3.1)

*Co-Sponsor: S 2432 – Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (3.2)

Job Creation:

*On June 21, 2011: Yea on S 782 – Economic Development Revitalization Act (3.3)

*On October 11, 2011: Yea on S 1660 – American Jobs Act of 2011 (3.4)

*On November 10, 2011: Nay on S Amdt 928 – American Jobs and Economic Growth (3.5)

*On July 19, 2012: Yea on S 3364 – Bring Home Jobs Act (3.6)

*Co-Sponsor: S 2223 – Minimum Wage Fairness Act (3.7)

*On July 30, 2014: Yea on S 2569 – Bring Home Jobs Act (3.8)

Social Programs: 

*On October 27, 2009: Yea on HR 3548 – Extending Federal Emergency Unemployment Benefits (3.9)

*On March 10, 2010: Yea on HR 4213 – Extending Unemployment Benefits and Certain Tax Credits (4.0)

*On April 16, 2010: Yea on HR 4851 – Unemployment Benefits Extension (4.1)

*On July 20, 2010: Yea on HR 4213 – Unemployment Benefits Extension (4.2)

*Sponsor: S 3985 – Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act (4.3)

*On October 21, 2011: Yea on S Amdt 791 – Limits Farm Subsidies to Individuals with Incomes Under $1 Million (4.4)

*On June 13, 2012: Yea on S Amdt 2392 – Reduces Funding for Food Stamps (4.5)

*On June 19, 2012: Nay on S Amdt 2181 – Limits Farm Subsidies to Farmers with Incomes Under $250,000 (4.6)

*On June 19, 2012: Nay on S Amdt 2174 – Limits Eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (4.7)

*On June 19, 2012: Nay on S Amdt 2172 – Rescinds Bonuses to States for Administering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (4.8)

*On May 23, 2013: Nay on S Amdt 953 – Limits Subsidy Payments for Individuals with Incomes More Than $750,000 (4.9)

*Co-Sponsor: S 1845 – Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act (5.0)

Gun Control:

*On April 17, 2013: Nay on S Amdt 719 – Authorizes Reciprocity For the Carrying of Certain Concealed Firearms (5.1)

*On April 17, 2013: Yea on S Amdt 715 – Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act (5.2)

*On April 17, 2013: Yea on S Amdt 714 – Limits Firearm Magazine Capacity (5.3)

*On April 17, 2013: Yea on S Amdt 713 – Prohibits the Sale of Assault Weapons (5.4)

Human Rights:

*On December 8, 2009: Yea on S Amdt 2962 – Prohibiting Federally Funded Abortion Services (5.5)

*On November 17, 2010: Yea on S 3772 – Paycheck Fairness Act (5.6)

*On December 18, 2010: Yea on HR 2965 – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act (5.7)

*Co-Sponsor: S 1925 – Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (5.8)

*On March 1, 2012: Yea on S Amdt 1520 – Authorizes Moral and Religious Objections to Certain Healthcare Items and Services (5.9)

*On April 26, 2012: Yea on S 1925 – Reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act (6.0)

*Co-Sponsor: S 3220 – Paycheck Fairness Act (6.1)

*On December 4, 2012: Yea on Treaty Doc 112-7 – The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (6.2)

*Co-Sponsor: S 47 – Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (6.3)

*Co-Sponsor: S 815 – Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (6.4)

*On November 7, 2013: Nay on S Amdt 2013 – Exempts Religiously Affiliated Employers from the Prohibition on Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (6.5)

*Co-Sponsor: S 2199 – Paycheck Fairness Act (6.6)

*Co-Sponsor: S 2578 – Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014 (6.7)

Sources:

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernie_Sanders

(1.1) http://votesmart.org/bill/10638/28284/27110/preventive-services-coverage-requirements

(1.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/10666/28358/27110/senate-health-care-bill-amendments

(1.3) http://votesmart.org/bill/10639/28360/27110/health-care-and-insurance-law-amendments

(1.4) http://votesmart.org/bill/10637/28361/27110/patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act

(1.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/10896/29270/27110/health-care-reconciliation-act

(1.6) http://votesmart.org/bill/12446/32964/27110/911-health-and-compensation-act

(1.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/12608/33256/27110/repealing-the-irs-1099-provision-from-the-patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act

(1.8) http://votesmart.org/bill/12610/33258/27110/repealing-the-irs-1099-provision-from-the-health-care-bill

(1.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/12607/33253/27110/repealing-the-federal-health-care-law

(2.0) http://votesmart.org/bill/12858/34385/27110/repeals-the-form-1099-provision-in-the-patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act

(2.1) http://votesmart.org/bill/15950/41999/27110/expands-tricare-coverage-of-autism

(2.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/16352/43144/27110/to-prohibit-the-use-of-funds-to-carry-out-the-patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act

(2.3) http://votesmart.org/bill/17705/47279/27110/protecting-access-to-medicare-act-of-2014

(2.4) http://votesmart.org/bill/8954/31718/27110/aid-to-states-for-medicaid-teacher-employment-and-other-purposes

(2.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/15158/39847/27110/extends-student-loan-interest-rates-reid-bill

(2.6) http://votesmart.org/bill/15224/40028/27110/prohibits-increase-in-interest-rates-for-student-loans-lamar-bill

(2.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/15467/40615/27110/increases-funding-for-the-fresh-fruit-and-vegetable-program

(2.8) http://votesmart.org/bill/16814/44550/27110/student-loan-affordability-act

(2.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/16813/44548/27110/comprehensive-student-loan-protection-act

(3.0) http://votesmart.org/bill/17294/45797/27110/limits-interest-rates-for-certain-federal-student-loans

(3.1) http://votesmart.org/bill/16854/45790/27110/bipartisan-student-loan-certainty-act-of-2013

(3.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/18384/48682/27110/bank-on-students-emergency-loan-refinancing-act

(3.3) http://votesmart.org/bill/13524/35632/27110/economic-development-revitalization-act

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

(3.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/14160/37329/27110/american-jobs-and-economic-growth

(3.6) http://votesmart.org/bill/15598/41154/27110/bring-jobs-home-act

(3.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/17854/47752/27110/minimum-wage-fairness-act

(3.8) http://votesmart.org/bill/18753/49616/27110/bring-jobs-home-act

(3.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/10289/28134/27110/extending-federal-emergency-unemployment-benefits

(4.0) http://votesmart.org/bill/10828/29024/27110/extending-unemployment-benefits-and-certain-tax-credits

(4.1) http://votesmart.org/bill/11006/29576/27110/unemployment-benefits-extension

(4.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/10828/31560/27110/unemployment-benefits-extension

(4.3) http://votesmart.org/bill/12441/32951/27110/emergency-senior-citizens-relief-act

(4.4) http://votesmart.org/bill/14025/37093/27110/limits-farm-subsidies-to-individuals-with-incomes-under-1-million

(4.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/15318/40315/27110/reduces-funding-for-food-stamps

(4.6) http://votesmart.org/bill/15463/40602/27110/limits-farm-subsidies-to-farmers-with-incomes-under-250000

(4.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/15464/40604/27110/limits-eligibility-for-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap

(4.8) http://votesmart.org/bill/15465/40606/27110/rescinds-bonuses-to-states-for-administering-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap

(4.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/16822/44578/27110/limits-subsidy-payments-for-individuals-with-incomes-more-than-750000

(5.0) http://votesmart.org/bill/17428/46392/27110/emergency-unemployment-compensation-extension-act

(5.1) http://votesmart.org/bill/16584/43806/27110/authorizes-reciprocity-for-the-carrying-of-certain-concealed-firearms

(5.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/16582/43803/27110/public-safety-and-second-amendment-rights-protection-act

(5.3) http://votesmart.org/bill/16585/43809/27110/limits-firearm-magazine-capacity

(5.4) http://votesmart.org/bill/16586/43816/27110/prohibits-the-sale-of-assault-weapons

(5.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/10650/28314/27110/prohibiting-federally-funded-abortion-services

(5.6) http://votesmart.org/bill/12418/32830/27110/paycheck-fairness-act

(5.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/12449/32979/27110/dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal-act

(5.8) http://votesmart.org/bill/15123/39745/27110/reauthorizing-the-violence-against-women-act

(5.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/14746/38557/27110/authorizes-moral-and-religious-objections-to-certain-health-care-items-and-services

(6.0) http://votesmart.org/bill/15123/39746/27110/reauthorizing-the-violence-against-women-act

(6.1) http://votesmart.org/bill/15815/41670/27110/paycheck-fairness-act

(6.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/15948/41992/27110/the-convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities

(6.3) http://votesmart.org/bill/16132/42500/27110/violence-against-women-reauthorization-act-of-2013

(6.4) http://votesmart.org/bill/17391/46284/27110/employment-non-discrimination-act-of-2013

(6.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/17392/46288/27110/exempts-religiously-affiliated-employers-from-the-prohibition-on-employment-discrimination-based-on-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity

(6.6) http://votesmart.org/bill/17767/47429/27110/paycheck-fairness-act

(6.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/18702/49361/27110/protect-womens-health-from-corporate-interference-act-of-2014

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The Race for the White House 2016: Who is Marco Rubio?

download (3)This week’s Presidential candidate post is going to be about the fourth individual to put in their bid for the White House: Marco Rubio. We’ll be focusing on his personal background and his voting history on six topics:  Healthcare, Education, Job Creation (including minimum wage), Social Programs (medicare/medicaid, SSI, EBT, etc), Gun Control and Human Rights (including LGBT rights and women’s rights). I get all my information on voting history from the website Project Vote Smart and there are many, many more topics than these six so I would encourage you to look up the voting histories for this and all the candidates on other subjects that interest you.

Marco Rubio: Personal Information

Marco Antonio Rubio was born May 28, 1971 in Miami, Florida to Mario and Oria Rubio – both Cuban immigrants who eventually became naturalized American citizens. Though his family claimed the Roman-Catholic faith, they attended a Mormon church from the time Rubio was 8 to the time he was 11 while they were living in Las Vegas. Rubio graduated high school in Miami in 1989 and attended Tarkio College on a football scholarship for a year before enrolling in Santa Fe Community College. In 1993, Rubio earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Florida and in 1996 he earned his Juris Doctor degree cum laude from the University of Miami Law School. (1)

In 1999, Rubio ran for a seat in the 111th House District in the Florida House of Representatives, representing Miami. He won unopposed in November, 2000. In December, 2002 Rubio was appointed House Majority Leader by Speaker Johnnie Byrd and in November 2003, Rubio became the first Cuban-American to become Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. On May 5, 2009, Rubio announced that he was running for Senate under the Republican ticket and he won the general election with 49% of the vote. After being elected to the Senate, Rubio was assigned to the Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation, the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. While serving on the Senate, Rubio has also taught a political science course at Florida International University. (1)

On April 13, 2015, Marco Rubio formally announced that he planned to run for President of the United States.

Marco Rubio: The Issues

+ = Florida Key Votes

Healthcare:

*On April 6, 2006: Nay on A 990255 – Florida KidCare Funding Amendment (2.0)

*On April 25, 2007: Yea on CS HB 7189 – KidCare Eligibility Expansion + (2.1)

*On February 2, 2011: Yea on S Amdt 9 – Repealing the IRS 1099 Provision From the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2.2)

*On February 2, 2011: Yea on S Amdt 28 – Repealing the IRS 1099 Provision From the Health Care Bill (2.3)

*On February 2, 2011: Yea on S Amdt 13 – Repealing the Federal Health Care Law (2.4)

*On April 5, 2011: Yea on HR 4 – Repealing the IRS 1099 Provision From the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2.5)

*Co-Sponsor: S Amdt 1520 – Authorizes Moral and Religious Objections to Certain Health Care Items and Services (2.6)

*Co-Sponsor: S Amdt 3058 – Expands TRICARE Coverage of Autism (2.7)

*On March 13, 2013: Yea on S Amdt 30 – To Prohibit the Use of Funds to Carry Out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2.8)

*On March 31, 2014: Nay on HR 4302 – Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (2.9)

Education:

*On March 23, 2006: Yea on HB 205 – Prohibition of Certain Financial Assistance to International Students + (3.0)

*On April 6, 2006: Nay on A 990269 – Teacher Salary Increase Amendment + (3.1)

*On April 6, 2006: Nay on A 990264 – Education Funding Amendment + (3.2)

*On May 2, 2006: Yea on HJR 447 – Classroom Size Requirements and 65 Percent of School Funding for Classroom Instruction + (3.3)

*On April 30, 2007: Yea on HB 7145 – Private School Scholarship Program Expansion Act + (3.4)

*On May 2, 2007: Yea on CS SB 1710 – State University Tuition Increase + (3.5)

*On April 28, 2008: Yea on SB 2692 – Teaching Evolution in Public Schools + (3.6)

*On May 8, 2012: Nay on S 2343 – Extends Student Loan Interest Rates (Reid Bill) (3.7)

*Co-Sponsor: S Amdt 2153 – Prohibits Increase in Interest Rates For Student Loans (Lamar Bill) (3.8)

*On June 19, 2012: Nay on S Amdt 2156 – Increases Funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (3.9)

*On June 6, 2013: Nay on S 953 – Student Loan Affordability Act (4.0)

*On June 6, 2013: Yea on S 1003 – Comprehensive Student Loan Protection Act (4.1)

*On July 14, 2013: Nay on S Amdt 1778 – Limits Interest Rates for Certain Federal Student Loans (4.2)

*On July 24, 2013: Yea on HR 1911 – Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 (4.3)

*On June 11, 2014: Nay on S 2432 – Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (4.4)

Job Creation:

*On June 21, 2011: Nay on S 782 – Economic Development Revitalization Act (4.5)

*On October 11, 2011: Nay on S 1660 – American Jobs Act of 2011 (4.6)

*Co-Sponsor: S Amdt 928 – American Jobs and Economic Growth (4.7)

*On June 5, 2012: Nay on S 3220 – Paycheck Fairness Act (4.8)

*On July 19, 2012: Nay on S 3364 – Bring Home Jobs Act (4.9)

*On April 9, 2014: Nay on S 2199 – Paycheck Fairness Act (5.0)

*On April 30, 2014: Nay on S 2223 – Minimum Wage Fairness Act (5.1)

*On July 30, 2014: Nay on S 2569 – Bring Home Jobs Act (5.2)

Social Programs:

*On October 21, 2011: Yea on S Amdt 791 – Limits Farm Subsidies to Individuals with Incomes under $1 Million (5.3)

*On June 13, 2012: Nay on S Amdt 2392 – Reduces Funding for Food Stamps (5.4)

*On June 19, 2012: Yea on S Amdt 2181 – Limits Farm Subsidies to Farmers with Incomes Under $250,000 (5.5)

*On June 19, 2012: Yea on S Amdt 2172 – Rescinds Bonuses to States for Administering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (5.6)

*On May 23, 2013: Yea on S Amdt 953 – Limits Subsidy Payments for Individuals with Incomes More Than $750,000 (5.7)

*On January 14, 2014: Nay on S 1845 – Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act (5.8)

Gun Control:

*On March 26, 2008: Yea on HB 503 – Firearms in Vehicles + (5.8)

*On April 17, 2013: Yea on S Amdt 719 – Authorizes Reciprocity for the Carrying of Certain Concealed Firearms (5.9)

*On April 17, 2013: Nay on S Amdt 715 – Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act (6.0)

*On April 17, 2013: Nay on S Amdt 714 – Limits Firearm Magazine Capacity (6.1)

*On April 17, 2013: Nay on S Amdt 711 – Prohibits the Sale of Assault Weapons (6.2)

Human Rights:

*On April 27, 2007: Yea on CS HB 71 – Florida Unborn Victims of Violence Act + (6.3)

*On April 27, 2007: Yea on CS HB 1497 – Abortion Waiting Periods + (6.4)

*On April 26, 2012: Nay on S 1925 – Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (6.5)

*On December 4, 2012: Nay on Treaty Doc 112-7 – The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (6.6)

*On February 12, 2013: Nay on S 47 – Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (6.6)

*On November 4, 2013: Nay on S 815 – Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (6.7)

*On November 7, 2013: Yea on S Amdt 2013 – Exempts Religiously Affiliated Employers from the Prohibition on Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (6.8)

*On July 16, 2014: Nay on S 2578 – Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014 (6.9)

Sources:

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marco_Rubio

(2.0) + http://votesmart.org/bill/1466/4191/1601/florida-kidcare-funding-amendment

(2.1) + http://votesmart.org/bill/4255/13271/1601/kidcare-eligibility-expansion

(2.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/12608/33256/1601/repealing-the-irs-1099-provision-from-the-patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act

(2.3) http://votesmart.org/bill/12610/33258/1601/repealing-the-irs-1099-provision-from-the-health-care-bill

(2.4) http://votesmart.org/bill/12607/33253/1601/repealing-the-federal-health-care-law

(2.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/12858/34385/1601/repeals-the-form-1099-provision-in-the-patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act

(2.6) http://votesmart.org/bill/14746/38556/1601/authorizes-moral-and-religious-objections-to-certain-health-care-items-and-services

(2.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/15950/41999/1601/expands-tricare-coverage-of-autism

(2.8) http://votesmart.org/bill/16352/43144/1601/to-prohibit-the-use-of-funds-to-carry-out-the-patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act

(2.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/17705/47279/1601/protecting-access-to-medicare-act-of-2014

(3.0) + http://votesmart.org/bill/1246/3524/1601/prohibition-of-certain-financial-assistance-to-international-students

(3.1) + http://votesmart.org/bill/1469/4197/1601/teacher-salary-increase-amendment

(3.2) + http://votesmart.org/bill/1464/4187/1601/education-funding-amendment

(3.3) + http://votesmart.org/bill/1468/4195/1601/classroom-size-requirements-and-65-percent-of-school-funding-for-classroom-instruction

(3.4) + http://votesmart.org/bill/4326/13520/1601/private-school-scholarship-program-expansion-act

(3.5) + http://votesmart.org/bill/4240/13213/1601/state-university-tuition-increase

(3.6) + http://votesmart.org/bill/6864/18963/1601/teaching-evolution-in-public-schools

(3.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/15158/39847/1601/extends-student-loan-interest-rates-reid-bill

(3.8) http://votesmart.org/bill/15224/40027/1601/prohibits-increase-in-interest-rates-for-student-loans-lamar-bill

(3.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/15467/40615/1601/increases-funding-for-the-fresh-fruit-and-vegetable-program

(4.0) http://votesmart.org/bill/16814/44550/1601/student-loan-affordability-act

(4.1) http://votesmart.org/bill/16813/44548/1601/comprehensive-student-loan-protection-act

(4.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/17294/45797/1601/limits-interest-rates-for-certain-federal-student-loans

(4.3) http://votesmart.org/bill/16854/45790/1601/bipartisan-student-loan-certainty-act-of-2013

(4.4) http://votesmart.org/bill/18384/48683/1601/bank-on-students-emergency-loan-refinancing-act

(4.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/13524/35632/1601/economic-development-revitalization-act

(4.6) http://votesmart.org/bill/13909/36879/1601/american-jobs-act-of-2011

(4.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/14160/37329/1601/american-jobs-and-economic-growth

(4.8) http://votesmart.org/bill/15815/41671/1601/paycheck-fairness-act

(4.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/15598/41154/1601/bring-jobs-home-act

(5.0) http://votesmart.org/bill/17767/47429/1601/paycheck-fairness-act

(5.1) http://votesmart.org/bill/17854/47753/1601/minimum-wage-fairness-act

(5.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/18753/49616/1601/bring-jobs-home-act

(5.3) http://votesmart.org/bill/14025/37093/1601/limits-farm-subsidies-to-individuals-with-incomes-under-1-million

(5.4) http://votesmart.org/bill/15318/40315/1601/reduces-funding-for-food-stamps

(5.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/15463/40602/1601/limits-farm-subsidies-to-farmers-with-incomes-under-250000

(5.6) http://votesmart.org/bill/15465/40606/1601/rescinds-bonuses-to-states-for-administering-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap

(5.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/16822/44578/1601/limits-subsidy-payments-for-individuals-with-incomes-more-than-750000

(5.8) + http://votesmart.org/bill/6725/18563/1601/firearms-in-vehicles

(5.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/16584/43806/1601/authorizes-reciprocity-for-the-carrying-of-certain-concealed-firearms

(6.0) http://votesmart.org/bill/16582/43803/1601/public-safety-and-second-amendment-rights-protection-act

(6.1) http://votesmart.org/bill/16585/43809/1601/limits-firearm-magazine-capacity

(6.2) http://votesmart.org/bill/16586/43816/1601/prohibits-the-sale-of-assault-weapons

(6.3) + http://votesmart.org/bill/4241/13217/1601/florida-unborn-victims-of-violence-act

(6.4) + http://votesmart.org/bill/4246/13237/1601/abortion-waiting-periods

(6.5) http://votesmart.org/bill/15123/39746/1601/reauthorizing-the-violence-against-women-act

(6.6) 0http://votesmart.org/bill/15948/41992/1601/the-convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities

(6.7) http://votesmart.org/bill/17391/46285/1601/employment-non-discrimination-act-of-2013

(6.8) http://votesmart.org/bill/17392/46288/1601/exempts-religiously-affiliated-employers-from-the-prohibition-on-employment-discrimination-based-on-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity

(6.9) http://votesmart.org/bill/18702/49362/1601/protect-womens-health-from-corporate-interference-act-of-2014