Who Am I?

I keep reading and hearing posts about how “all these Democrats” and “liberals” are ruining the country…are anti-God…are anti-patriotic…who hate anyone who disagrees with them…want to take away everybody’s guns…and on and on. You know the kind of language I’m talking about.

Well, I’m not sure who all these Democrats and liberals are that are being talked about. While I am a registered Independent, I tend to vote Democratic, and I would consider myself liberal. But I tend to get lumped into that group.

You might be interested to know that I am an ordained minister who believes in God’s love for all people. And while Christianity is the path that I have chosen, I have also enjoyed sharing with friends and family members who have followed different spiritual paths (or none).

I love the country of America. I lived for a few years of my childhood in another country, but America is my home, and I love it.

I have a number of friends I disagree with politically and theologically–but I don’t hate them. Disagreement doesn’t equal hate; it just means I disagree with you.

While I don’t want a gun in my home, I’m not trying to take away everybody else’s guns. My daughter has a concealed carry permit. I have family who hunt. I’m fine with folks having guns for target practice…for hunting…and even for self-protection if that is their choice. But I think it’s well past time for some common sense gun control so that we don’t keep having to send “thoughts and prayers” to the families of people killed by someone who thinks they have a right to carry a weapon whose only purpose is to kill as many people as possible.

I believe that climate change is real, that we–as human beings–are major contributors to it, and that we must make major changes to try to reverse it before it is too late. I don’t believe we have much time, and I am concerned that a refusal to acknowledge it is far too prevalent today.

I believe that education is more than merely indoctrination…that it should challenge some of our understandings rather than merely confirm us in our prejudices. I want teachers to be allowed to teach, to encourage thinking in our children rather than helping them prepare for test after test after test.

And yes, I support legal abortion. I remember back alley abortions, and I don’t want to go back to that time. There are a lot of reasons why a woman might choose to have an abortion, and I believe those decisions should be made by her in consultation with her doctor, her significant other, and a minister (again, if that is her choice).

I also support equality for members of the LGBTQ+ community. I didn’t always…but I have grown in my understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation, and I can no longer deny individuals the same rights and protection that I have.

Although, as I indicated above, I am an ordained minister, I believe there should be a wall of separation between church and state so that all individuals can worship in safety, without the government breathing down their necks.

I believe that women should be able to feel safe when they walk down the street–and that their experiences should be believed. Yes, I know there are sometimes false accusations, but those are few and far between. It’s far more likely that a woman will not share an experience of sexual assault because of how she has seen other women attacked and demeaned while reliving a traumatic experience.

I also believe that there has to be a better way of working out our differences with other governments than going to war. However, I appreciate those individuals who choose to join the armed services as their way of helping to protect this country that I love. My husband served in Vietnam, and two of my grandsons also served in the military. One was a Marine who served in Iraq and who died far too young. The other was in the army and served in Afghanistan.

I would love for us to return to a time of civility with each other…with a willingness to engage in true conversation with each other as we search to find common ground. I would love to see lawmakers be willing to reach across the aisle to work together…to understand that “compromise” is not a dirty word.

I do also see some posts and comments making similar comments about “Republicans” and “conservatives”…so this issue is not one-sided. We are all guilty.

But can’t we please start seeing each other as individuals? Complex individuals with whom we may agree on some issues and disagree on others? Can’t we please start focusing on finding common ground…some places where we can work together?

We have to, before it’s too late. Before this country becomes so terribly divided that we cannot find our way back together. I just hope it’s not too late…

 

 

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When is the dawn?

There’s a rabbinical story that I have always liked. There are several versions, but it goes something like this:

A rabbi was talking with his students. He asked them this question: “How can we know when it is dawn–the time at which the night ends and the day begins?”

The students were puzzled. One asked, “Is it when you can look from a distance and tell whether it’s your house or your neighbor’s?”

“No,” the rabbi answered.

“Is it when you can tell your animal in the field from your neighbor’s?”

“No,” answered the rabbi again.

“Is it when you can see a flower in the garden and distinguish its color?”

The rabbi was frustrated. “Why do you think only in terms of separations? The dawn has come when you can look into the face of another human being and recognize that they are your sister or your brother. Until then, it is still night.”

That story seems particularly appropriate in light of the last couple of weeks…when we seem to have been unable or unwilling to see the humanity of those we disagree with.

For some right now, it seems as though we are in night, a night that feels as though it will never end.

And yet…

There’s another saying as well that seems appropriate. It first seems to have appeared in 1650 and has been used in various ways, including in a recent movie about England in World War II: “It’s always darkest right before the dawn.”

And that’s what gives me hope.

In what appears to be a very dark time, I have hope that the dawn is not far away…that there are those who can help us see it coming as they help us see the sister and brother in “the other.”

Where is our compassion?

I just can’t be silent.

I don’t care where you stand on the allegations made by Dr. Ford towards Judge Kavanaugh…whether you believe her or him…or whether you aren’t sure who to believe.

But if you listened to her testimony, it’s obvious that something traumatic happened to her so many years ago–something that is seared into her memory. And she is not alone.

Many, many people have shared stories since her testimony–stories that in many cases have never been shared with anyone else. Some of these stories go back even more decades than Dr. Ford’s testimony.

And in each of these cases, the individuals have re-lived some of that original trauma. Memories, pain, anguish have been triggered for these folks as well as for some who have chosen–for a variety of valid reasons–not to share the details of their own experiences.

And what has happened?

They have been disbelieved…questioned…and, even worse, laughed at and mocked by the president. Not just him, but those who were at the “rally” where he mocked her cheered and joined in the laughter. WHERE IS OUR COMPASSION?

How many of those who were cheering and laughing have family members who have experienced sexual assault? Would they still be laughing and cheering if it were their daughter/mother/sister/grandmother/aunt who was being mocked?

And what about the children who were there? What did they learn? That it’s okay to laugh at sexual assault? That it’s a joke? That women’s voices don’t count? That women can’t be believed at all, but men can always be believed?

I’m just sick today. I cannot believe the level of cruelty that has been unleashed in our country.

And so I ask again, WHERE IS OUR COMPASSION?

Hypocrites?

I’ve been seeing the word “hypocrite” thrown around a lot these last few days, and I thought it might be a good idea to step back…see what the word really means…and who it applies to.

Interestingly, the word originally comes from the theater, a translation of a Greek word that means “actor” which itself comes from two Greek words that mean “an interpreter from underneath.” Why? Because Greek actors wore large masks and interpreted their characters from underneath the masks.

According to Merriam-Webster, it then took on an extended meaning to refer to anybody who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they weren’t. Then in the 13th century, it showed up in religious texts, referring to someone who pretends to be morally good or pious to deceive others. Finally, in the 1700s, it showed up with the meaning it tends to have today: “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.”

If we’re really honest with ourselves, we are all hypocrites at some point in our lives. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t dome something that contradicts what they say they believe (and yes, I’m including myself in that).

When we start talking about politics, the word “hypocrite” really gets used. It is certainly not limited to any one party; all political parties have hypocrites and make hypocritical statements.

No one is immune.

As someone who has chosen to follow Jesus, I am challenged to not be hypocritical…to try to make sure that my stated beliefs and the way I live are congruent–that they match. Am I able to do that all the time? No. Do I regret when I miss the mark? You bet!

Right now I struggle, though. I hear many who loudly proclaim their Christianity insist that we should all live by the ten commandments (the law of Moses, not Jesus–although still good rules to live by)…not lying, not committing adultery, not stealing, etc., etc. But at the same time, I see and hear those same self-proclaimed Christians supporting and excusing individuals whose lives and actions are in direct contrast to the those commandments and to the standards loudly held by those Christians.

I struggle. If I were not already a follower of Jesus, I’m not sure I would be attracted to the religion that claims his name. I find myself understanding Gandhi’s comment more than I used to: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

What if, instead of demanding that we live by the Ten Commandments, those of us who are Christians follow Jesus’ challenge to love God with all of our heart and soul and then loving our neighbors as we love ourselves? Would that make it easier for us to avoid the label of being hypocrites?

I hope so. We’re not all going to ever agree completely, and that’s all right. But I would challenge all of us to do our best to make our beliefs and actions match. That would make a better world for all of us.

#MeToo

Trigger warning…

 

We’ve heard a number of people talk about memories being triggered by something someone says…or a smell…or a place.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve never experienced a sexual assault–but last night a memory came to mind that let me know just how close I came. I don’t know what triggered the memory; maybe it’s all the stories I’ve been hearing/seeing lately about strangers and friends who have experienced assault. Maybe it’s all the discussion around the allegations related to Judge Kavanaugh. I don’t know.

But here’s my memory.

First of all, you need to understand that I was one of those incredibly naïve young women in the 1960s. I had a lot of friends, but I didn’t date much in high school. Instead, there was a group of us who hung out together.

When I went away to college, I was still very naïve. My college was a church one, which meant there was no drinking. In fact, it was conservative enough that there was no dancing either. But we had a lot of other coed activities–safe activities.

I don’t remember all of the specifics of the situation. I don’t remember the date or the event, but I do know that we had had some kind of end-of-school activity. At the end of it, one of my classmates–let’s call him “X”–asked me to go for a walk. He was someone I’d been friends with for that year…and I’d had a bit of a crush on him. So I was thrilled he’d asked me.

We walked over to the football stadium. Our campus was small enough (and in a small town) so we walked just about everywhere. We sat on the bleachers, just snuggled together–him with his arm around me. We didn’t say much or do much of anything else–just looked at the stars.

I’m not sure how long we sat there, but it couldn’t have been a long time, because I had to be back at my dorm at a specific time. X is the one who said that it was time to leave.

As we were walking back to the dorm, he started talking. Again, I don’t remember the specific words he used, but I do remember that what he was telling me was that he had planned on raping me when he asked me to go with him. He changed his mind–I don’t know why. I had had no idea that I was in that kind of danger from him.

The one thing I do remember him telling me was to not be so trusting…that I might not be so fortunate in another situation.

I never told anyone. Not until now.

As I look back at that naïve young woman, I wonder… I think I was so surprised and shocked that I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. Had he followed through on his original plan, what would I have done? I don’t know…but probably nothing. I would have thought that I had done something wrong…would have been scared of what my parents (and my church) would have thought. I doubt that I would have filed charges. I think I would have probably tried to forget it…as I forgot the rest of the experience until now.

Do I remember his name? Oh yeah. Do I remember what he looked like? Oh yeah. Do I remember the weather? Oh yeah. Do I remember other details? Not specifically.

So do I believe women who make allegations but who don’t remember all the details? Oh yeah. I was fortunate in that X–for whatever reason–changed his mind. Many others were not as fortunate.

#MeToo…but who?

I’ve been reading and watching the news this last week and it’s gotten me to thinking…

While I am aware that men can (and have been) sexually harassed and abused, these thoughts are going to relate to women–primarily because I am a woman.

There have been lots of questions swirling around the allegations made, and I don’t want to get into the politics of them. What I do want to do is just simply share some thoughts and concerns they’ve triggered.

Some women remember very clearly every detail of the experiences. Others remember only bits and pieces–sometimes because of the trauma, other times because of other choices they made leading up to those experiences.

Why don’t women report when they’ve had these experiences? I can think of a few of the many reasons:

  • For those whose experiences go back decades, they lived at a time when anything sexual just wasn’t talked about.
  • They may have been afraid.
  • They may have “learned” that it was their fault.
  • They may have seen how other women were attacked and disbelieved and simply didn’t want to go through that themselves.

When women did come forward, the legal focus often fell on them.

  • What were they wearing?
  • Why were they in that place at that time?
  • Were they drinking?
  • How did they know for sure it was assault?

And on and on.

All the concern seemed to be for the man. What was this allegation going to do to his future?

But what about her? What about her future?

She was “damaged goods.” If she told a potential partner what she had experienced, what was going to be his reaction? 

Somehow she wasn’t seen as a “real” person. What the assault did to her didn’t seem to matter. What was important was what the allegation would do to her attacker’s future.

Have things changed? Not really.

We still tend to focus on the impact the allegation would have on the person accused–and don’t seem to worry about the impact the experience has had on the victim. 

We still find all kinds of reasons not to believe the accuser…or to find ways to make it her fault, either for the experience or for waiting so long to come forward.

I wonder what would happen if we saw every woman as a “real” person–as a mother, daughter, grandmother, sister… Would we react differently? Would we be more willing to truly listen without judgment? to consider the impact these experiences have had on them?

Would it change what we teach our sons? Would we finally put to rest the idea that “boys will be boys” who have the “right to make mistakes” as they’re learning how to be men, mistakes that impact significantly the young women they violate? 

There are so many stories out there. They differ in details, in the amount that women remember. But they are there.

It’s time for us to listen.

Missing table fellowship…

I wasn’t sure whether to title this post “Missing table fellowship” or “Sometimes I feel isolated”…either would have been an appropriate title.

So what do I mean by that?

Many of you know that I have lived with MS (multiple sclerosis) since 1976. It’s gone mostly pretty well–at least since the first five years. Because of the vagaries of this auto-immune disease, there is some unpredictability to my life. I’ve learned to live with that.

But there’s one change MS has made to my experiences that creates that sense of loss. The one constant in my schedule is a daily nap. Sometimes it’s as short as 30 minutes; other times it’s as long as a couple of hours. There’s no specific time I have to take it–but I usually do it around noon. That’s what sometimes makes me feel isolated.

When I go to retreats or other all-day events, the schedule is often very full, with meetings leading right up to lunch and beginning again shortly after lunch. So my choices are (a) to forgo my nap…which really isn’t a choice, because if I do skip the nap, I suffer the consequences the next day, or (b) skip lunch in order to take my nap. Obviously, my choice is (b).

But that means that I miss table fellowship. It’s more than just sitting around the table, eating. It’s the visiting, the sharing, the continued development of community.

The people that I attend these events with are always very nice and very welcoming…but I often feel a little bit on the outside because I’ve missed that time of fellowship. (And when I fill out surveys afterwards, I usually mention that concern.)

There have been some events that I’ve attended where the schedule is wonderful! There is time set apart after lunch for everybody to spend some quiet time however they choose…napping, meditating, walking… At those events, I feel fully a part of the community, and I am very appreciative of the sensitivity of the schedulers.

I’m not casting blame on anyone. We’ve traditionally filled our schedules full, trying to get the “most bang for the bucks” when we pull a group of people together for these types of events. Sometimes, when I’ve mentioned my need for some time for a nap, the schedule has been arranged to allow that–not just for me, but for others who might find it useful as well.

I’m wondering if maybe it’s time that we consider that a period of intentional quiet time should be an important part of a scheduled event. I may use it for a nap (and so might others)…some might use it as an opportunity for meditating, walking, processing the events/information of the morning…

Maybe the Spanish custom of a siesta after lunch is something we should consider more seriously!