Why it’s sinful *not* to be affirming of LGBTQ+ persons

Author’s note: I am a heterosexual cis male, married for 30 years to my amazing wife. I cannot begin to comprehend the issues experienced by my brothers, sisters, and non-binary family. I am trying, but even if I can intellectually grasp the things going on I will never fully understand.
This piece is not intended to imply that I ‘get it’. Rather it is directed at the church (in general, not all churches) to encourage Christians to really, honestly consider their stance on the LGBT+ community members and why they think/feel the way they do. Most of what is presented here is opinion (mine) but I hope to reach people. Love is love. Let love be love. God is love. God loves you in spite of what anyone else says.


There’s a phrase used often in Christian churches and by Christians, meant as a positive, but is actually a negative. I hate it. Hate. It.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin”.

The implication of this quote, in my mind, is that while a person has to be loved, there is something about them that is hate-able. Something that has to be changed. Forced out. Destroyed.

I hate the phrase. I don’t use it (anymore). It’s not something Jesus ever said. It’s not something He ever implied.

What makes this phrase particularly despicable is that it is almost always used in only one context. You don’t hear it used to talk about alcoholics or divorced couples or other ‘sins’, but only and specifically about homosexuality.

Love the LGBT+ person, hate the LGBT+ out of them.

Force them to change until they aren’t LGBT+ anymore. By any means necessary (in some churches).

And I’m here to tell you, as a Christian, as one who has spent a great deal of time studying the Bible, who has taken some seminary classes, who has studied some of the Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic as exists in the manuscripts we have that have been translated into our modern English Bible, that that way of thinking is so seriously so shockingly wrong that not only is it bad, it’s sinful.

It is literally a sin not to be accepting and AFFIRMING of everyone, especially LGBT+ people.

Let me say that again.

It is a sin NOT to be affirming of LGBT+ people.

Not just accepting, affirming.

Sin.

A sin the church immediately needs to stop.

 

What does that mean, affirming?

In this context, let’s define how it’s different from just accepting. Many churches and churchgoers claim to be accepting. But going back to that despicable phrase accepting means only that you are doing the first part,  the “love the sinner” part. I accept you, the person. But I don’t welcome all of you. There’s a part of you that is ‘bad’.

That is the way most churches define accepting. We’ll let you in, but we’re still going to try to change you.

Affirming, on the other hand, is very different. Affirmation, in this context, is to value, uphold, defend. It’s beyond accepting to the point of “I defend everything you are”.

To affirm LGBT+ people we need to uphold and defend everything they are.

But what about that verse in Leviticus? What about that verse in Romans? What about…. what about…. what about….?

I am not going to rehash the entire “Biblical” argument ‘against’ homosexuality. Much has been written on the topic, including by me. If you don’t understand how the traditional interpretation of the Bible against homosexuality is wrong (not the Bible, the INTERPRETATION of those verses in the Bible) then I strongly encourage you to do some homework. For starters, I recommend this blog post by my friend Mark Sandlin.

 

That being said, here’s my bigger point, my biggest point:

You cannot love someone into changing what they are.

The church cannot love people into changing their core being.

People cannot be loved into changing the way they were made.

 

Not long ago, my church had a good ministry called “Celebrate Recovery”.

(There are issues with the way CR is executed at many churches, and the source materials are very anti-LGBT+, so I won’t recommend it for all churches, rather this is just an anecdote of my own experiences as it relates to this blog post.)

CR is heavily based on the concept behind Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery group programs, that together people can change things we struggle with. We were a very small church so we had a very small group. Within the group, we had several ‘issues’ that we were all trying to help each other with. Substances, yes, but other addictions and behaviors. I won’t ‘out’ anyone, and I’m not quite comfortable sharing the reasons I was in the group but I’ll make my point (while respecting the anonymity of others).

“The guys” and I spoke a lot about a lot of things in our group. But above all, we acknowledged that for better or worse there were ‘things’ that were ‘built in’ to us. That we were ‘wired’ a certain way. Some of those things we needed help with because, ultimately, medically, they were self-destructive, literally. Others we needed to learn to live with. And others we actually needed to embrace because if we’re built that way, and God doesn’t make mistakes, then we should not only learn to live with it, we should take joy in who we are.

If you’re at all familiar with AA, then you’ve probably heard the Serenity Prayer. In many places, they use the ‘abridged’ version, but in CR we used the entire prayer:

God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.

Serenity, acceptance, courage, living, enjoying, trusting, and ultimately, happiness. It goes beyond just saying “oh well, this is how it is”, it’s finding peace and happiness in the things that are part of what we are.

And that is how the church should be! In the bigger, broader, greater sense we need to take JOY in our differences. Just as we wouldn’t kick out someone who was struggling with addiction to substances that damage their body, we shouldn’t kick out people who identify their gender or sexuality differently than how we view as ‘traditional’ gender and sexuality.

I am in no way comparing gender identity and sexuality to alcoholism. The latter is a disease that can (and in thousands of cases does), if ‘given in’ to, kill you. The former is, well, what it is. But in both cases, the church should view them as ‘the way people are wired’, rather than accepting the disease by shunning the other.

I hope that makes sense. What I’m trying to say is that we, the church, have been hypocritical and that, in itself, is a sin.

But let’s go further.

There’s another expression that gets thrown around a lot in the Christian community:

WWJD?

What Would Jesus Do?

“Well,” some church leaders might say, “Jesus was a good Jewish man, He would have followed the Old Testament which says in Leviticus blah blah blah…”

But we actually KNOW what Jesus would do. Because we know what He DID. At least some of what He did as recorded in the Gospels.

And what He did was this: love people.

Let me rephrase that: He DANGEROUSLY loved people.

By far the best example is the woman caught in adultery. (Again, not comparing being LGBT+ to adultery, but bear with me.)

To paraphrase the story, the religious leaders of the time brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. By their laws, it was required she be executed by having rocks thrown at her until she was dead. A brutal, painful, and I imagine a slow way to die.

So they bring her to Him and say “what would you do? Our laws demand she be executed!”

Jesus says “let those among you who have never sinned throw the first stone.”

One by one they drop their stones and leave.

That took some serious guts.

By the law that these religious leaders followed (most of which was made up junk on top of the laws of Moses that they claimed to have followed), they could have not only executed her, but Him as well. On the spot.

In the story, the Pharisees pose the question and Jesus doesn’t immediately answer. He IGNORES them and bends down and writes something in the dirt. (We don’t know what it was, he could have been playing tic-tac-toe, who knows?) They ask him again, and he tells them “if you’re sinless, throw the stones” and GOES BACK TO WRITING IN THE DIRT!

He not only takes a dangerous stand, He has the gall (from their point of view) not only to take a stand against them but to basically blow them off.

Dangerous.

He loved her, in spite of her actions, and he did so in a way that could have immediately resulted in his death.

And this isn’t the only example.

There’s the Samaritan woman at the well. The Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed. The centurion and his servant, the possessed man who lived in a graveyard (a Gentile – non-Hebrew – which we know because the people nearby raised pigs)…

These are all people that the religious leaders of the day saw as outsiders or worse. Even his closest disciples were sometimes like “Dude, what are you doing?”

Jesus loved people, no matter what their condition, location, or circumstanced and He did so dangerously. Wrecklessly.

And then He told us to do the same. The greatest commandment. The one He said that all the others hang one: “Love your God and Love Your Neighbor as yourself”.

While Jesus took these words from the Old Testament laws, He also flipped them. While the Old Testament command to love God was an order, something you had to do, and the rules about your neighbor were things you were to avoid (“don’t do this to them, don’t do that to them”) Jesus used a very different word.

That word is “ἀγαπάω” (agapaō). You might have heard the English word “agape” (ah GAH peh).

Rather than being passive or an avoiding of certain actions, agape is ACTIVE. And not like an order, the Greek word implies a flowing out, something that exudes from you.

Like joy.

A way to think about it is a child at their own birthday party. Imagine that joy, that delight and squealing with happiness, as love for your neighbor.

That.

But then Jesus goes further. Who is your neighbor?

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan. But what many modern readers miss is who the characters are in the story.

There’s the victim. We don’t know who he is. The only thing Jesus tells us is where he was coming from and where he was going. Other than that we don’t know his nationality or anything. Generic man.

There’s the robbers. Mentioned in passing, they beat and strip the victim. They’re not important to the story.

Then there’s the three main characters.

A priest. A Levite. And a Samaritan.

The priest and the Levite are important people. They work in the Temple and care for it. They teach the law and lead the songs and more than anyone else they should know what God wants people to do.

Think of them like a preacher and a worship team leader. They stand before the congregation and teach people about who God is and what God wants.

But both of them leave the victim there. Broken and bleeding and naked, they ignore him. Worse, they go out of their way to go around them. Like road-kill. Imagine you’re driving on the road and there’s a large animal, maybe a deer in the road. What do you do? You go into the other lane to get around it. That’s what these guys did to the victim.

But then there is the Samaritan. It’s important to know that this guy is a Samaritan. To the people Jesus is talking to the very word Samaritan would have been shocking.

To be blunt, the Israelite people of Jesus’ time saw the Samaritans as… well, mutts. They were the descendants of Israelites but they had ‘muddied’ themselves by marrying outside the tribes of Israel. But WORSE, they had also polluted the religion of the Israelites and worshiped God in places other than the Temple.

To the Israelites of Jesus time, they were, in essence, terrorists.

But here comes this Samaritan, and he sees the victim that the priest and Levite had ignored and had gone out of their way to avoid, and he takes the poor guy and not only cares for him, but when he has to continue on his way pays the inn keeper to care for him and to send him the bill.

And Jesus holds this guy up as the example to follow. Someone who everyone sees as a terrorist is the example to follow in loving your neighbor.

Love dangerously. The Samaritan loved the guy dangerously. He didn’t know who the guy was. If the victim was also a priest or a Levite they guy would have acted violently toward the Samaritan, but he didn’t care and took care of the guy anyway.

Love. Dangerously.

The greatest commandment. To paraphrase given the example Jesus gave in the parable: Love God and Love even those who are extremely different from you and do so in a way that risks your own life.

If that is our greatest commandment, and the word Jesus used implies an active, flowing, uplifting love, then to do any less for anyone in our midst is a sin.

And that includes not only includes but INSISTS the LGBT+ community.

To not affirm people as they are, as they define themselves (if such affirmation is not including self or other harming, like addiction) is, by definition, breaking the greatest commandment.

And to break that commandment is the greatest sin.

This entire post is way off on a rant and ramble, but this is something I feel very strongly about.

Love is love.

God is love.

WWJD? Love.

Too many people, too much of church teaching hinges on a couple of verses that are taken completely out of context and in our English Bibles are translated improperly. Homosexuality, in the context of the Bible as a whole, is not even really there. It’s not in the Ten Commandments, it’s not in any of the teachings of Christ and I, personally, feel that we as a church, as a faith, as a community need to move beyond it to the bigger broader teaching of Jesus. And that is to love, to actively, violently, DANGEROUSLY love people where they are. As they are. To AFFIRM them as they are, so long as what they are does not involve self-harm or other harm. And if it does then that is the part we heal. Everything else we embrace.

To do any less is breaking the greatest commandment. And is the greatest sin.

 

Ok, I’m done ranting. I love you. I violently dangerously love you. I mean that.

 

 

Patriotism, Jingoism, Theology and Love

TRUMP WILL START THE END OF THE WORLD, CLAIM EVANGELICALS WHO SUPPORT HIM

– Newsweek, January 12, 2018

 

“If you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t care about the end of the world, you’ll be in Heaven. Let Trump drop the bomb, I don’t care.” – paraphrased from several conversations I’ve had (and maybe you have too) on social media over the past year.

“Trump’s eventually going to have enough and then do the right thing and just use the nukes. And it’s about time too.” – paraphrased from several other conversations I’ve had (and maybe you have too) on social media over the past year.

 

Trump supporters (some of them, anyway) seem obsessed with the idea of ‘The End’ and nuclear war and they see it as A GOOD THING.

To be blunt, what the fuck is wrong with these people?

They claim to be Patriotic Americans, they claim to follow Jesus, they claim to love their neighbor. But they are also ready to nuke the crap out of people and kill millions and bring about the end times to Jesus will come.

And these are people in the front row of the so-called Christian Right. Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Falwell, Jr. and many others have expressed this type of thinking since Trump was elected President. They’re ready for Jesus to come and they’re OK with nuking the world to make it happen. (Or at least war, some other nonsense they see as fulfilling Biblical Prophecy.)

In their opinion, Jesus is OK with killing and harming millions, if not billions, in the name of God, so it clears the way for Him to return.

To be even more blunt, what the actual fuck is wrong with these people?

(Side note, if you don’t like my choice of words, I apologize, but I also direct you to my blog post “I Love Jesus But I Cuss A Little“.)

How can you claim to follow Jesus, but at the same time want America to nuke everyone, causing untold destruction, pain, misery, and death? What sort of theology leads you to the belief that the United States can and should start a war for the purpose of bringing back Jesus?

There’s a lot to unpack, Biblicly. (The issue is obviously greater than just theology, but that’s where these folks claim to be coming from, so that’s how I’ll answer them.)

The verse that gets thrown at me most often as justification for war is Luke 22:36:

 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (NIV)

“See?” they might say to me, “Jesus wasn’t anti-war! He told them to get a sword!”

And there’s this verse in Matthew:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword (10:34 ESV)

“See?” they might say to me, “Jesus is all about conflict and fighting and division! That’s what He wants here!”

And they point to the Revelation of John and its (supposed) description of Jesus:

Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. (19:15 NIV)

“See?” they might say to me, “Jesus is about to slay millions with is sword and rule with his scepter!”

And of course, there are a lot of verses in the Old Testament that talk about war and God commanding the Israelites to slaughter all the people and Psalms and Proverbs about enemies being struck down and so on…

Is this the Jesus that really was? Or just the one they have made up to justify what these earthly men want?

Even if you are a Biblical literalist, who sees the Bible as literal and/or infallible, you have to be raising your eyebrows at any interpretation that leads to Trump dropping The Bomb on anyone.

How can Christians be in support of death and pain and destruction?

What did Jesus say in his own words? If we claim to follow Jesus, shouldn’t that be the highest authority, even above the rest of the Bible? If we’re Christians, shouldn’t we follow Christ and not Moses or David or Solomon or Paul?

Also, when we’re looking at Jesus words, shouldn’t we take ALL his words, in context rather than just picking verses that support our position (like those above?)

If we follow Jesus, shouldn’t we follow everything He taught and not just the parts we like?

Now, obviously, a study of the Gospels (the first 4 books of the New Testament containing all the quotes from Jesus) is a huge undertaking. Many have devoted their entire lives to it and have written volumes and volumes on the subject. I can’t hope to possibly write a summary here that could sum up everything Jesus said, did, and taught. It’s beyond the scope of this blog.

But what I can do is give you a place to start for you to look for yourself and reach your own conclusion, which, in my opinion, is what God really wants from all of us. He wants us to take an honest look at what He has said and done and decide for ourselves.

And since we’re talking about Jesus, that is where I want you to start. The New Testament, the first 4 books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Read them. In any order, doesn’t matter, since they all 4 talk about the same events from the point of view of 4 different authors. They overlap. All together they are kind of a long read in one sitting, but it can be done in an afternoon you want, but I’d suggest taking some time and not just blow through them.

While you’re reading or when you’re done consider these questions:

What idea or concept did Jesus talk about and practice the most?

What did Jesus say about our enemies?

What opinion do you have about Jesus? Is he someone you’d like to be with or is he someone you think is just angry all the time?

When Jesus speaks, do you think He means for his lessons to be applied to everyone, no matter who they are or what position they hold in work or government? Or can some people ignore Him for the “greater good”?

 

I’m not going to tell you what to think about Jesus. I want you to figure it out. From my writing above and elsewhere you have probably figured out my opinion of the idea “Jesus is OK with war”. But I want you to tell me what you have figured out out Jesus opinion on the topic.

Comment below or on the page on Facebook! I want to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day 2017

There is a lot going on in the world. Literally, too many natural disasters to even be able to talk about them all. And there’s politics and there’s entertainment and so on and so forth.

In all the noise it’s easy to miss this one. Today, September 10, is Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day.

Rather than share tons of stats on how it’s the second leading cause of death in young people, the number one cause of death among veterans, and other such facts, instead I want to share my own thoughts and experiences.

You see, dear reader, I was almost one of those statistics. On more than one occasion.

I’ve struggled with depression as long as I can remember. Since my early teens. I’ve been at that place of darkness and emptiness and feeling nothing but fear that the darkness and emptiness won’t end. The place where death seems like the only release from that fear and darkness and emptiness.

And staring into the pit, I jumped.

Hindsight being what it is, I look back and see the choices I made that led me to that place, the circumstances that put me there, and the really terrible actions I took that could have been disastrous to my family.

But I also see that I had opportunities for help. That there were people trying to help.

I don’t know if any of you reading this are in that place. My experience was that long before I got there I had already shut most of the world out. But if you are, then please, talk to someone. Anyone. Talk to me, if you’d like.

I want to address the rest of you as well. Chances are there is someone in your life that is in that place. Someone you know at church or school or work. Maybe in your own house. And you can help.

Reach out. Be a friend. If you think the person is in imminent danger, call 911, but the best way to help is to just be a friend. Even if/when they push you away, just be a friend.

Suicide is preventable. We need to do more than talk about it. We need to engage with people Even people who claim to be introverts and never want to leave their house. Maybe especially those people because isolation is one of the danger signs. Even introverts will talk if you ask. Maybe in text or chat, but they will talk if you try.

Above all, just love people. That’s the best way to go.

I still want to punch Nazis, but I won’t

It started a while ago. Before the incidents in Charlottesville, VA. It’s been slowly seeping in around the edges of our society for a couple years now. Well, actually, it’s been a whole lot longer than that, but our current political environment here in the US has allowed it to gain more momentum and more followers.

I’m talking about the modern white supremacist movement. Specifically, modern American Nazis. Complete with swastikas, the Roman arm-extended-palm-down salute, and chants of “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” and, more recognizably “sieg heil”, or in English, “hail victory”.

Literal Nazis, armed, I might add, with assault rifles, thanks to our right to bear arms here in the US. How did we get here?

That’s a long story, and that’s not what this post is about.

It’s about me. Ok, I know, that’s really self-centered in this time of strife, with a literal hurricane flooding parts of Texas as I write, with our President doing whatever the heck it is he’s doing…. but yes, it’s about me.

See, here’s the thing. I’ve been running this ministry/community/I don’t know what it is for almost 4 years. There are nearly 4500 people that have joined. For better or worse, I need to set an example. And sometimes, probably a lot of times, I don’t do a very good job of it.

Like now. With the Nazis. I want to punch them.

Literally, I want to show up at the next protest and just go around punching Nazis in the face. Hard.

Why? Because anyone who has studied history at all, especially pre-WWII Germany should know that Hitler didn’t start out with all the power and camps and ovens, he started with a few followers. And that’s what we have now in the US, a few Nazis with guns and votes. We could just punch them all and knock them back down the stairs of history here in the US. At least that’s my thinking (and admittedly flawed, but that’s my feeling.)

My grandfathers were in WWII. On my mom’s side my grandfather was in a plane crash that caused him life-long pain and need for medical care. Admittedly, I don’t know much about my dad’s side, other than he served and never spoke about it. I’m sure all of you have stories of your grandfathers or fathers, or even your mothers and what they did during the war.

We have a chance to stop another war. That’s how I feel.

So I have expressed the desire to punch literal Nazis.

But now I have to admit that I was wrong.

Yes, stubborn, bull-headed, often hot-headed me is admitting that he was wrong.

My desire hasn’t changed, I admit. I still, in my gut, want to punch them. But I am admitting, as a follower of Christ, that the ‘punch them’ approach is the wrong one.

I am publicly repenting of any post that endorsed or seemed to endorse violence against anyone.

Because in my heart of hearts I have always known that, in spite of my desire, violence is always wrong.

I can give you a whole religious/spiritual/might-be-just-coincidence story about something that happened the other day, but maybe another time.

The point is, for anything I said on the facebook page or in the community group that advocated or seemed to advocate violence, I’m sorry.

And I’ll try to do better.

Christians Are Not Allowed To Be Racists Or Nationalists Of Any Kind

Once again our headlines are filled with stories and images of people, mostly 20-40 something men of European descent carrying banners with swastikas on them, flashing the Roman salute that has become forever associated with Nazi Germany, and other horrible things we thought we as people of the world had put behind us at the end of World War 2.

But here we are, once again looking at what amounts to outrageous levels of racism.

And to make matters worse, many are claiming to do this in the name of God. They claim it’s God’s work they are doing, carrying torches, protesting the removal of statues dedicated to men who sought to preserve slavery, and intimidating people they believe are ‘less’ than they are.

But the fact is, Jesus taught the exact OPPOSITE. Over and over and over again. How a person can claim to believe the teachings of Christ, yet carry a Nazi flag, I will never know.

Let’s look at the most obvious example, the parable of the Good Samaritan.

To really get this story you have to understand who the Samaritans were.

In Jesus’ time, they were considered the lowest of the low. While they generally believed in the same teachings, they believed they were not required to worship at the Temple nor follow the myriad of rules set up by the leaders in Jerusalem.

As a result, they were outcasts, unclean. Ethnically and socially they were to be treated as lower than animals.

(There is a lot lot more to it than that, and if you are interested I highly suggest you research it. The Wikipedia article on Samaritans is a good place to start, and the references there can get you to some great information.)

So in the parable, found in Luke, chapter 10, starting in verse 25, we have a man, robbed and beaten and left for dead. We don’t know much about the man except that he was going from Jerusalem to Jerico. So there he is, at the side of the road and along comes a priest, a holy man who works in the Temple. He sees the man and goes to the other side of the road to avoid him. Along comes a Levite, also one who works for the Temple. He, too, goes to the other side of the road to avoid him.

And then along comes our Samaritan. Remember, he’s the lowest of the low. Being seen with and associating with an Israelite would get him in huge trouble. For his own good, and possibly for his own life, he should likewise pass on the other side.

But instead, he helps the guy, puts him up in a hotel and makes sure he’s cared for, even offering to pay his future medical bills. Knowing full well that when this guy is well he will probably treat him as every other Israelite treat Samaritans – as scum.

Jesus uses this parable to answer the question “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and after telling him to love his neighbor, the follow-up question, “who is my neighbor?” Basically, Jesus says even when you have been taught to avoid someone, don’t, treat them as equal.

And over and over again Jesus teaches Love Thy Neighbor. I tried to compile my own list of all the times Jesus taught that or something similar and in the end, I pretty much highlighted all the red letter passages in my Bible. Love for all humans, I believe, is that absolute core of who Jesus was as what we, as Christians, are meant to be.

To claim to be Christian, and at the same time ‘better’ because you are ‘white’, or to wave a Nazi or Confederate flag… it’s just not possible. You’re not really one or the other.

Likewise, you can’t be a ‘nationalist’ anything. Oh you can be happy to be American, celebrate the 4th, put a flag up on your house, that’s OK, but to claim America is better than Mexico or Panama or Brazil just because Americans are better… that’s not really a thing. Especially if  you are Christian. Because if you are, then your real home, your real citizenship is in Heaven and all Christians, no matter where they call home on earth, are your fellow citizens, literally your family, and you’re not better than them because of where you live on earth.

So, to be very clear, let me state once and for all —

Stop it.

Freaking stop it.

For the love of God, who you claim to believe in, STOP IT.

 

 

Op-ed: Netflix, Dear White People, and the "Let's All Be Offended About Something We Haven't Seen" bandwagon

Today’s outrage: A new show coming to Netflix called “Dear White People”.

This new show, that expands on Justin Simien’s 2014 movie of the same name, has not been released to Netflix yet, with a due date of April 28.

I did not see the original movie. Judging by the IMDB page, not many people did, it only grossed $4 million – a tiny sum for movies these days. The synopsis of the movie is “the lives of 4 African-American students at an Ivy League college”. The synopsis for the show expands it a little more, saying “At a predominantly white Ivy League college, a diverse group of students navigate various forms of racial and other types of discrimination.”

But what has people upset, upset to the point they are unsubscribing from Netflix, is the trailer that dropped yesterday. You can watch it below:

 

 

The trailer is…. interesting, to be sure. But those boycotting Netflix are saying it’s “reverse racism” and “promotes white genocide” and a long list of other ridiculous claims. Personally, I don’t see how they are getting any of that from this very brief trailer.

Now I’m not saying people aren’t allowed to be fans of the things they want to be fans of, or unsubscribe from the thing they want to boycott. Likewise, Netflix is allowed to produce or purchase whatever they want.

My issue with this particular situation is this:

If you’re boycotting Netflix over this show, are you really doing it for the right reasons? Or are you just doing it because someone told you to be mad about it, because someone else is doing it, or are you really, honestly angry that this show will exist and you’re no happy about the themes in it?

The Band Wagon effect. I hate it. I think it shows the very worst of what mankind can and will do.

This clip is literally 30 seconds long. It shows a bunch of disjointed clips from the show, most less than a second long. The voice is that of one character, probably taken from one scene in one episode. And because of that people are quitting the entire Netflix network. I’m sure there are a few people that saw the original movie and are probably upset that Netflix has made a show out of it, but I promise you that the vast majority of people deleting their Netflix accounts are doing it because of something they saw on facebook or twitter and not actually any first-hand experience.

The same goes for the whole Ivanka Trump/Nordstrom thing. People are writing #BoycottNordstrom because someone (ahem) told them to be offended that they weren’t carrying Ivanka Trump’s clothing line anymore. They didn’t ask Nordstrom WHY they weren’t carrying the line, whether it was a business decision to distance themselves from the White House, or whether it was a financial decision because the line wasn’t selling well, or the supplier wanted more money and made the line less profitable….. No, they just jumped on the social media bandwagon to boycott Nordstrom. A good percentage of them probably haven’t shopped there in the first place.

As I said before, you, me, and everyone else, are free to like and dislike the things we do. And we’re free to spend our money, or not spend it, on the things we want. If you want to boycott Netflix or Nordstrom or any other place, don’t let me stop you. But just ask yourself:

Why am I doing this? Is this something I am really upset about or am I just acting upset because someone told me to?

I don’t have any idea whether Dear White People will be any good. The trailer looks interesting and is certainly controversial in its presentation, but most good art is controversial. And I’m not going to tell you to watch it or not. But before you boycott Netflix, make sure you’re doing it for your own reasons and not someone else’s.

 

And that’s good advice in general. With anything and everything, make sure you’re doing it for your own reasons and not someone else’s.

Jesus would not Repeal the ACA

In the very early hours this morning, the US Senate voted 51 to 48 to begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act, or as it is commonly known, Obamacare.

There are many misconceptions about what the ACA is and what it does. Too many people think that it just taxpayer-funded health insurance. And while that is part of it (known as the Public Option, and the expansion of Medicaid), there is so much more in the Act that was intended to help and protect people, and repealing it, without something to replace it is not only dangerous for those that depend on it, but, honestly, unBiblical, and immoral.

As my title implies, I don’t think Jesus would, if he were a US Congressman, vote to repeal the ACA. Let’s look at what we know of Jesus from the Bible, the teachings of which many of the GOP (who want the ACA repealed) claim to follow:

There are 31 stories of Jesus healing an individual in the first 4 books of the New Testament (the Gospels), and there are at least 20 stories of Jesus performing ‘mass’ healings (more than one, often referred to as ‘multitudes’)[1]. Jesus cared not only for the spiritual needs of those who came to him, he cared for their physical needs, their illnesses, their blindness, their paralysis.

And on top of setting that example, Jesus also taught his followers to care for people.

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  

– Luke 10:25-37(NIV)

 

I don’t think it’s an accident, or merely narrative tool that this parable is about a man that is in need of medical care. He could have mentioned a man in need of food or someone without a home, but Jesus chose to use a man that was dying. The Samaritan, henceforth known as “The Good Samaritan”, gave his time and his money to care for a man in need, and Jesus used this as his answer to the question “who is my neighbor?”, but also the original question “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Which brings us back to the GOP and their wanting to repeal the ACA. Republicans like to say “this is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles”. And as such our government and laws should reflect that. But when it comes to things that actually help people the way Jesus did, they say, bafflingly, that “it’s not the government’s job”.

If our Constitution and laws make us a Christian nation (we can argue it doesn’t, but for the sake of this post, let’s just agree with Conservatives on that point), then shouldn’t the actions of the government set up by that Constitution reflect the actions of the Christ it supposedly represents?

The Affordable Care Act, while not a perfect piece of legislature, and something that needed to be tweaked and fixed from the start, was a huge step forward in protecting the life and liberty of American citizens. Providing health care for all harkens back to the very words of our founding documents. In the Declaration of Independence, it’s written “[men/mankind] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[2] And in the Constitution “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”[2] (Emphasis mine.)

So not only in the teachings of the Christ they claim to follow, but in the founding documents they claim to hold so dear, are Republicans facedwith concepts that show that repealing the ACA is not only a sin, but morally and ethically, and patriotically, WRONG.

Benefits of the Affordable Care Act

Benefits of the Affordable Care Act

Now it can be argued that people shouldn’t depend on the government and the Public Option shouldn’t be in there giving people ‘free’ healthcare. And again, I am not saying that the ACA doesn’t have issues that needed to be fixed from the start (and, arguably, they would have if Congress had focused on doing so from the start instead of voting hundreds of times to repeal it.) But there is way more in there than the Public Option. Let’s look at just a few things in there that, if repealed, would do more harm than good:

 

Children covered by parents insurance until age 26[3]

Coverage under your insurance no longer ends when you child turns 18, this means your son or daughter is covered as they pursue their education or as they get their first job and enter adulthood, taking the pressure off of them so they can focus on become responsible adults and eventually able to obtain their own insurance.

Cannot be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions[3]

You change jobs, or are transferred to a new state, or something else happens that forces you to change your insurance. But you have an illness, maybe even a very serious one. Insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage of that condition. This adds amazing security to cancer patients, or diabetics, or any number of people with an endless list of conditions. This gives you the confidence you need to find a better job, or move closer to loved ones.

No lifetime limit on coverage[3]

This is a personal one for me. 10 years ago, before the ACA became law, I became ill. Very ill. To this day we don’t know exactly what is wrong with me, but it involves a lot of crippling pain, weakness on my left side, and some brain issues. Before I was terminated from my job (because I couldn’t do the job anymore) and my insurance was still in effect, I had to have some very expensive tests done. All of which required approval from my insurance before they were done, so I thought they were covered because the insurance approved them. But then the bills came in, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bills that I will never be able to pay back. A call to the insurance company revealed a sad truth. They could set a limit on how much they pay out and can cancel my policy for reaching that limit, without warning and without covering procedures they had previously approved.
The ACA ends that despicable rule. The insurance must cover the things they agree to cover in your policy, for as long as your are paying your premiums and cannot set some arbitrary limit and put your health in jeopardy.
This is really important for cancer patients, whose treatment is literally life or death. And anyone else that needs lengthy and sometimes lifetimes of treatment. A car accident, like the one my mother was involved in, can lead to years of recovery. Now insurance companies can’t just cut us off.

Your premium must be spent (mostly) on your healthcare, you can even get a refund if you don’t use your insurance.[3]

The ACA sets a limit on how much of your premium is used for administrative costs. The rest MUST be used for your health care. Insurance companies can no long make monstrous profits by not providing the care they are supposedly in business to provide. In some states you can even get a refund on premiums you paid but didn’t use for health care. This ensures your money is used for it’s intended purposes – your health.

 

These are just a few of the things put into the ACA that benefit ALL Americans. These are the things that will be stripped away when congress and our new President repeal the ACA without replacing it with a new law that includes these (and many other) things.

To do so, to just rip away the protections of the ACA from American citizens, is not only irresponsible, it’s immoral.

Please call and write your congressmen (https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials) and tell them to do all they can to protect us, the American citizens, from this action. If the ACA is to be repealed, the consumer protections in it must be kept intact by replacing it with another law that includes them. We cannot put the lives and health of our fellow citizens, our neighbors who we are called to love, on the line for political statements.

 

[1] “31 Individual Healings of Jesus Christ”, http://stronginfaith.org/article.php?page=111
[2] “America’s Founding Documents”, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs
[3] “Key Features of the Affordable Care Act”, https://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts-and-features/key-features-of-aca/

Obligatory Advent Thoughts

I’m trying. I’m really really trying. Normally I love Advent. I love the secular celebration with the decorations and trees and lights and songs, and I love the Church celebration, with the candles, the quiet, the peace, the songs…

And this year I’m really really trying to love it again. I really am. But I just…. I just can’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have hope, I still have some joy, still have my faith.

But in my heart, I don’t have the happiness, the anticipation, the Merry-ness of Christmas this year.

Part of that is the US election. There’s a feeling of dread that clouds everything here right now.

But more than that is a huge heaping pile of ‘stuff’ that seems to have dropped on my family. My kids in particular.

I can’t talk about all of it right now, but let’s just say that, of my 8 children, 4 of them are having some pretty serious issues right now. Serious, life-altering, nothing is ever going to be the same again kind of issues. And in every case, I can’t do anything. I’m their father and I can do nothing but watch from the sidelines as they work out these things on their own. I can be there, I can talk to them, I can make sure they have a bed and food, but other than that, I have to let them go through these things.

And it’s killing me.

It’s supposed to be this wonderful time of the year, especially for kids. But I can’t do that for them. Oh sure we can get some presents and shiny paper and Christmas jammies, but those are just ‘things’. Their problems aren’t going to go away because of those things. They’ll have happiness for a minute, but then reality is still there on December 26th. And they still have to deal with it.

So here we are, second Sunday of Advent, and in my church, they’re lighting the ‘peace’ candle (your church may have different names on different Sundays, or no names on the candles at all, but at our’s it’s “peace”.) But we’re home, again. I’ve lost count of how many Sunday’s we’re missed. At this point, I don’t know if we’ll go back. Not because of anything the people at church have done, or haven’t done, just because it’s too hard to actually be there and explain everything that going on. I know the folks there will be patient and loving and understanding and truly be the family I know they are, but to have to share all of this…. stuff….. it’s just too much. That’s on me, not them.

So we’ve pulled back, to take care of our own little tribe. And we’re trying to deck the halls and have a holly jolly Christmas, but none of us are truly feeling it in our hearts.

So it’s hard for me to write, as so many others are, a nice happy little advent blog post about hope and anticipation and coming together and blah blah blah when my family is drowning.

My thoughts this advent are focused on work, on caring for my family, on trying to get from where we are to where we are well and safe and mobile again.

And I know so many of you are in the same situation. Whether it’s because of the US election and what you know is coming, or because of your own circumstances, or maybe even things you’re dealt with your whole life.

I want you to know, dear reader, you are not alone. I am right here with you, and many others. Maybe you can talk about your problems, maybe like me you need to keep silent for now. No matter your situation, please know that you are loved.

And on the other side, is Jesus. Just as at the end of Advent we celebrate the coming of Christ, even as He is with us now, so too, at the other side of your sorrow and trouble, is Jesus, even as He is with you now.

Peace to you, dear one.