Wednesday, September 2, 2015

You Deserve A Break

It's hard for me to read the news. I used to shun it because I found it so depressing that I couldn't stand existing afterwards. And then I got angry instead of sad, and it made it easier to keep on top of current events.

But with this day in age, it is easy to see everything and that gets a bit burdensome. I'm finding my heart heavy all the time - it is exhausting. I find myself thinking:

Shut up!
Oh my GOD! Stop worrying about [insert problem here]!
They would be better off dead/sick/injured anyway!
This is the way nature works!
It's their own damn fault!
So what?
Get over it!

On the other side of things, I find myself thinking:

How can you be so stupid?
How can you not understand [insert problem here]?
How can you not feel?
How can you not get angry/upset/frustrated?
How can you not do something?
Why is it so hard to see this is bullshit?
Why is it so hard to see this is going on?
Why is it so hard to see these daily things we're doing are causing people to die?!

I think everyone feels/thinks at least some of these things sometimes. And this is the price we pay for conquering the planet, wielding such technology that we do.

Compassion burnout.

So, when you get to this point, take a break. God rested. You should rest. Really.

Take a break already!

And during your break, do all those things that feel good. Eat good food. Laugh with friends. Have sex. Lounge in your underwear. Dance in your living room to your favorite playlist. Take a hike. Go for a swim. Lay on a field and look up at the sky. Play a game. Read your favorite book. Whatever you do, do it fully, completely, relishing joyfully in living.

Only when you are fully rested, soul and all, should you come back to the problems of the world. There are others who were working on things while you were gone. When you come back, others will take a break, grateful in knowing that someone else is working on those problems.

Remember: It's all good. It's all okay. We've got this. You don't need to save something every second of every day, and anyway, you'd die trying. That wouldn't help anything. God does NOT want that. So, pace yourself. Do what you can, and don't worry about the rest. Someone else is working on it. In the mean time, have some chocolate cake. You deserve it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Action: A Divine Directive

I recently read an article from a secular humanist and was struck by the essential difference between nonbelievers and believers. Nonbelievers come to human rights from a perspective of ego (in the traditional sense of the word - it benefits society and humanity long term, which benefits the self) and in the best case, empathy (understanding others' perspectives.

Believers, people of faith, have additional incentives to act morally. We have something that an atheist does not have, can never have. In fact, it is the point which separates the nonbeliever and believer - believers serve Divine will.

In each world religion, it uses different language, but there are serious overlaps and in fact, much common ground between the cultural interpretations of Divine will. These surround issues of charity and treating others as we would like to be treated (compassion and empathy). These are Divine mandates.

Keeping this in mind, it behooves the believer, if he or she is practicing, to act. It would be immoral not to.  We must live our faith through actions directed by Divine will.

In the present socio-political climate, I see two rallying points for people of faith. To live one's faith requires addressing one of the following:
  1. Economic inequality
  2. Climate change
Within each of these areas are additional foci. Let's first unpack economic inequality.

Economic Inequality

Economic inequality is much more than issues of class or fiscal responsibility. It encompasses the following issues (in no particular order):
  1. Racial inequality
  2. Gender inequality
  3. Healthcare
  4. Shelter
  5. Education
  6. Labor protections
  7. Taxes
This is a large list that requires much action for these issues to be addressed. A person of faith can work on any of these issues and be living their faith. However, if a person is not actively seeking to redress these issues, then I urge them to reconsider their faith and question their life choices.

Climate Change

Within the issue of climate change are a group of issues that require people of faith to act:
  1. Food consumption and production
  2. Energy consumption and production
  3. Corporate greed
  4. International trade
  5. Manufacturing practices
  6. Reproductive justice
  7. Sustainable living practices

Now that you know...

This may seem scary and overwhelming, because this list of issues essentially calls for complete social revolution. That level of change frightens many people. After all, it is comfortable to go through the drive-through at fast food restaurants. It is comfortable to let the water run when brushing teeth. Brown lawns are ugly. Being on the top of the social hierarchy is nice. Why rock the boat?

Yes, why rock the boat?
Because God calls.

We can sit here, comfortably ignoring the fact that a black woman was murdered by a police officer for saying what was on her mind. We can sit here, comfortably ignoring the fact that Shell Oil company is drilling for oil in the arctic when we know using oil may bring about the death of humanity.

We can sit comfortably, plug our ears, cover our eyes, and watch as the world burns. That is possible. However, as believers, that would amount to ignoring God. We cannot ignore God. The Divine will, the directive to act, is overwhelming.

What does this mean for my life?

There are a few things that you can do right now.
  1. Figure out which political candidate platforms address the most of above issues. Vote for them.
  2. Sign petitions calling for policy changes in these areas.
  3. Educate yourself on these issues.
  4. Educate your family, friends, and neighbors on these issues.
  5. Pick a few non-profit agencies that are doing things in your community to address these issues and volunteer.
  6. Pick a few other agencies addressing either the same issues or others on the above list, and donate.
  7. Eat local or make your own.
  8. Walk more.
  9. Use public transportation.
  10. Practice empathy.
This is a start, but it is by no means an exhaustive list. We must overhaul our lives, and that takes time, resources, and practice. Each step brings us closer to our goal of living our faith in the world.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bigots, Beliefs, and Betterment

The world is complex and beautiful. So are people.
First, faith is not an excuse to be an asshole. Belief, in ANY ideology of ANY kind, does not give you the right to discriminate, to hate, to sadism, to evil.

That is all the self, which uses ideology to justify bad behavior.

Second, I identify with all of the following things:
  • pro-choice
  • wife
  • socialist
  • feminist
  • mother
  • writer
  • artist
  • spiritual
  • political
  • teacher
  • singer
  • social justice activist
  • oh...and by the way...Christian.
I mean, the last one is really obvious from this blog (I think anyway) but you may or may not have known about the others. Some of them are innocuous identities (singer generally doesn't rock boats), but others come with a lot of baggage (feminist...for example) and none of them are mutually exclusive.

I repeat: none of these are mutually exclusive.

Life is not 1 or 0 - it does not function in a binary system of states. People are complex and varied. Belief, thought, and associations are fluid. They change. They morph. They are not exclusionary sets.


So much more I have to learn about this guy...
For example, I love my husband, and I learn more about him the longer I'm around him. While I know him well, there is always more about him I can learn. That is part of why I like marriage so much; it gives me an intimate case study in humanity. And believe me, he continues to fascinate after nine years of being a couple and seven of marriage. And he's just one imagine what that means for 7 billion...

Wow. That is mind-blowing to contemplate.

That number just reinforces the lesson I learned through my husband: you don't know shit so don't pretend like you do.

In the last week a lot of good things have happened here in the US, but these events have shown people for who they really are - some showed their bigotry on the right. Others on the left. The thing is, neither one thinks of themselves as such. Both think they're moral. Both are wrong.

Everyone is flawed. Everyone fails sometimes. Everyone has biases and prejudice in their hearts in some shape or form. The best of people recognize it and struggle with it. The worst encourage and entrench it. I hope I do the former and that if I start to slip into the latter, someone compassionately calls me on it to make me better (as we all should).'s the thing...that is okay. It is okay to have these things because this is part of what it means to be human. We are imperfect. And, when we strive to be better, that is good. That is all I ask  - all I wish for humanity.

Accept yourselves where you are and strive to be better.

This is what God wants, or if you don't believe in God, this is the cumulative effort of the human further it. Work on it. Work on yourselves. Check one another. Be examples in your efforts to improve and love.

And to start, remember to hold yourself accountable before you start throwing stones. They could just as easily hit you. I promise to do the same.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

White Charleston: Practice Humility, Justice, & Love

Recently I have come to a place of acceptance and humility, and through that celebration.

Now I accept myself, really love myself, which makes it so much easier to love others. I am okay with my personal journey, not in competition, but as my personal path. Suddenly everyone is completely equal because they all have personal journeys that are not contingent on mine. Abilities, station - it does not matter. And I am grateful for this understanding because I enjoy everything much more.

When seeing other people as equal, it becomes a joy to watch them. To see others succeed is a great joy. I get excited like they were my favorite team, lover, or best friend. It does not matter how far from my experience they are, I love their successes. I love their joy.

Likewise, when they shrink back from their purpose, I get disappointed. I get angry. I get sad.

When they hurt, I hurt. When they bleed, I bleed with them. And just as if they were a lover or friend, I want to help.

I want to give advice. I want to be a shoulder to cry on. I want to buy them a beer (or a tea) and sit down and let them talk themselves hoarse.

I was not always like this. I used to blame people. Sometimes hate them. And even now, sometimes, I may say I hate a person, but what I really hate is his or her action.

This is the spirit with which I view Charleston. And it is not easy. Not an easy thing to look at the events of last night, in a holy place, in a loving community, hurt because of an uncontrollable characteristic that a person hates.

Yet, I have been in communities touched by violence, by hate. I have felt that grief, the transformation that occurs. And I have heard cries for anger and justice. And in the face of this, I understand them perfectly.

And I am a parent of a boy and know how it feels to watch my son hurt someone. And yet love him.

I have seen people hate blindly, and unreasonably clung to ideologies because of personal insecurities, perpetuated by parents and friends. And it has made me angry and struggle to foster an environment that allowed for change.

And the thing I see most in Charleston, the need I see is the hardest one.

To the white community of South Carolina, be humble. Be apologetic. Be responsible and own your place in this act. And seek justice in the spirit of healing your community. Seek education, integration, exposure, and understanding. Seek forgiveness in a humble, responsible way. Own your faults and seek to correct them. Learn empathy. Learn compassion. This is the path I know God would want for you.

The black community of South Carolina is not required to educate, or even to forgive you. It is your responsibility to extend an apology. It is your responsibility to ask what reparations must be made. I know in a spirit of Divine love, this is the quickest path to healing. And I want you to facilitate healing. I want you to be better and recognize your role in this.

This takes time. It is never fully done. But you can make progress. You can improve. You can practice an empathetic love that spans every human-made barrier.

There are peacemakers everywhere. There are books and classes and organizations that would help you. Reach out in love. It is the right thing to do.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Sacred Human: Duggar and Jenner?

There are some things on which everyone should agree. And many pay lip service to such principles, however in their daily lives, in their words, it is a very different matter.

In the past few weeks several issues have dominated American pop cultural media, namely Josh Duggar and Caitlyn Jenner. These two individuals are radically different, and the issues they raise in public consciousness are very different, and yet, they pull at a fundamental issue that flies in the face of many identities and ideologies Americans hold dear. One, is an abuser, a hypocrite, defended by people clinging to a certain idea. His victims blamed for his evil acts, he going without punishment, and them going without assistance.

The other, a woman, once a man, who struggled with the question of who she was at a fundamental level, finally coming out in a very public way, to raise social consciousness of her trans brothers and sisters. Her efforts have opened her to a world of ridicule and abuse personally, even as she has given hope to those trans individuals of lesser means.

Duggar is given value above and beyond his victims. His victims, in fact, are relegated to less than human, even by certain members of the public. Meanwhile Jenner struggles to be viewed for her humanity, and her sacrifice of celebrity-outing forces many to confront their fundamental understanding of gender, thereby placing her in the crosshairs of many.

One is defended by the Christian right. The other is spurned by it, probably as devil-spawn.

What would God want for these two people? What would God want people of faith to do in the face of those with similar circumstances? 

People have inherent value as human beings and should be treated as such.

I believe that God wants all people to be valued at a fundamental level, that all people, by nature of being humans, have intrinsic value and deserve respect, courtesy, and compassion. This means, even a person who commits acts of horror, deserves these things. Does that preclude justice? No. As every human has value, victims deserve justice and a community deserves healing. But every person is a human being, even those who commit crimes.

If a person decides to change their body, to go against their cultural norms, their humanity has not changed. Whether you agree or disagree with their choices is unimportant due to one principle - they are human and deserve to be treated with value.
So what does this inherent value require of us? What would God have us do?

Well, if all people have value as humans then we have an obligation, as people of faith, to act on this standard in every aspect of life. This is not just an issue of respectful language or compassionate justice. It extends to all aspects of life, therefore:
  1. Education should be accessible, which requires us to accommodate differences that might otherwise be obstacles, such as consolidated educational access or wealth.
  2. Public spaces should be safe for all people engaged in their daily tasks - these spaces should be spaces of peaceful and compassionate interaction.
  3. In order to maintain humanity and honor our children's value, we must safeguard our environment, seeking to bring about balance between our fundamental needs, and the rights of Earth.
  4. Healthy food, living space, water, and access to care must be easily available to all people.
  5. To see the value of all people, one must have a degree of empathy. This must be understood at a deep level, and therefore should be a part of every aspect of culture. The first question we must ask is, what are the feelings involved? Only then can we find a positive solution.
  6. All people deserve the same rights and privileges as they are equal. There is no difference between people in this respect - no preference on any single identity or belief or appearance or ability etc.
  7. If a person is struggling in some way, it is our duty to address the struggle, as a family, community, country, and world. Rather than shame or vilify that person, we should extend our hands in supportive care.
  8. We must act from a place of peace when coming to conflict - in our daily lives, as well as the global stage.
  9. Justice must be served in a way that facilitates healing of victims and community, as well as intervening and rehabilitating perpetrators. 
If we are to do this, everything changes. How we live in every part of our lives must change. How we address one another, how we spend our time and money, the kinds of legislation we pass all must change. And that is uncomfortable for people. Some will have to give up their present state of excess. Others will be lifted up. And that is threatening and frightening to many.

If you find it threatening, I urge you to think about why you find it threatening. What is so upsetting about everyone having inherent value? What is so upsetting about these potential changes? Only then will you know where you must focus your energies to align with God's desire for our world.

If you find this exciting and uplifting, I urge you to act in accordance with this Divine vision. Challenge those who find it uncomfortable in a way that allows them to confront their perspective and facilitates personal and social growth.

It is only by spreading this vision that we will be able to move forward with our humanity - that we can find a world filled with wholeness, peace, and compassion.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Morality, Calling, and Signposts

Bleak? Or a change in the weather?
I am struggling to see the good in the world today. Last night I read another article about another group of politicians intending to hurt people by taking away basic necessities and it kept me awake. It made me physically sick. It made me so angry that someone who claimed to be for family, for God, would do something, even if it is only political strategy, at the expense of people's lives.

There is no excuse.

No major world religion I have read about wants this. And I have read a LOT about gods. I have read a LOT about religion. A LOT. It is one of the things that comes up in my life over and over.

And I love people. I mean, I hate them, but I love them. Sort of like Jonah. Sometimes I don't want to save people from themselves...some of them may not deserve it...but then again, even the worst can repent.

And they should have a chance. But shouldn't there be consequences for hurting thousands of people? Isn't that - more than anything - immoral?

But I cannot focus on this. I cannot keep turning towards this, except as motivation to spur me forward - to create positive change around me. And I am motivated. Everything I read stokes my fire. Every conversation I have pushes me in the same direction.

This past week I met a person who gave me a huge jolt of positive energy. Talking with her affirmed what I am doing. I realized that God wasn't content with closing all the other options, but decided to send me a few more signposts. I received positive responses to my speaking inquiries. I received positive responses to my story from more than one quarter - from friends, strangers, and professional acquaintances.

If there was any doubt, it is gone. Whatever happens from here on out, I am not worried. Whatever happens, at least I know I'm fulfilling my calling. And that is edifying, even as it requires fire.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Silence is Poison: I'm Talking Now

This has taken a lot of thought - a long time and much consideration. There are so many issues in our country and our world, I struggled to decide what to write - what focus was most needed here.

So here it is... the hard bitter truth.

It is easy for me to sit here, in the comfort of my parents' house, and make pronouncements about the state of the world. For the time being, I have food, a bed, a roof, and a loving family. I have education. I live everyday with consolidated power and resources that others fantasize about. I live in a place that is the perfect temperature most of the year. The ocean is minutes away. Flowers bloom all year. The sun shines.

It would be easy to sit here and ignore everything. It would be easy to get roped into ideas about prosperity being a heavenly mandate. It would be easy to forget about the other difficult parts of my life, to let them fade into memory, and ignore their lessons. It would be easy to forget my beautiful students from Oakland, or the farm workers down the road, or the women and children in shelters downtown. It would be easy.

I could ignore murders, rapes, molestations, homelessness, and unemployment. I could ignore victim blaming and the consolidation of power and resources by the wealthy. I could ignore rich white Christians getting hot and bothered about marriage equality, while people are dying in the streets and poor children go without food or shelter.

I could ignore these things, and eat a three course meal every night on china. I could drink expensive mixed drinks and wear designer clothing and party like everything was fun and fancy-free. I could.

And if I did, what would I be? Not Christian. That is for sure. No, I would be the embodiment of sin. I would be evil.

It is our responsibility, no matter how privileged we are, to stand with our sisters and brothers. It is our responsibility to expand access to education and health care. It is our responsibility to expand the possibility of love and friendship. It is our responsibility to serve one another and give voice to the voiceless. It is our responsibility to shed light on the places of shadow in our society.

Do not be fooled. God does not want us to stand with the law when the law protects privilege. God does not want us to stand with power when that power is one of oppression.

And this is uncomfortable. God requires us to get uncomfortable. That means, accepting the fact that yes - men are the most dangerous threat to women.  That means accepting the fact that yes - white people have systematically oppressed minorities for centuries. That means accepting the fact that yes -  our entire American society, law, culture, and businesses, are structured to funnel more power and resources to the rich.

When we accept these things as true, the whole game changes. The conversation shifts. And then the question becomes, what are you going to do about it?
There are three options:
  1. Keep quiet. Do nothing, which means you are for the current situation.
  2. Actively support the current situation (i.e. punish people for being poor, kill black men and women, punish women for being women, punish gay people for being gay...).
  3. Or you can protest. You can write. You can fight. You can share alternative news narratives. You can educate yourself on how to be an ally to those with less of a voice, those with less privilege, and fewer rights.
I denied this call for many years. I denied it, and with it, a part of myself. I stayed silent, and it was an evil thing. I made myself sick. I was the worst kind of sinner, and for that, I beg your forgiveness.

It is for all these reasons that I wrote my story in THRIVE. It is a small story, in a large network of stories. There are so many people who have endured worse. There are so many people who were never given the chance to speak. It is for them I reveal myself. It is for them, I do the thing I was called to do - to be vulnerable. I might not be able to protest in Baltimore, or volunteer at Planned Parenthood, or All Out, or aggressively lobby for income-based penalties.

But I can do this.