Why…?

For quite a while, I’ve felt like I really don’t have a group of people that I can really call a core  ‘community’.   Yes, I’m a Christian, but   I am tolerant of others’ choices for their own lives, even if I don’t understand them, or in some situations have any interest in hearing about them ( I don’t want to hear about anybody’s sexual interests… not. my. business.).  I refuse to shun the person.   Why do I have to believe the same as some other human?  Just because they’re a pastor or Bible teacher doesn’t mean they got it right (just watch late night TV preachers… they cast a shadow of doubt on a LOT of Bible teachers, no matter what level.)   I do believe that many are good pastors… but I won’t support any preacher who cherry picks which people are worth their compassion and attempts to understand.  I won’t support any preacher who promotes intolerance.  God made us all.  Period.  And we’re all flawed. Period.  Not one of us is better than the other.  Why do Christians tolerate intolerance?  I don’t have to agree with someone to understand that the choices based on the free will GOD gave them is their prerogative- and it doesn’t have to be mine.  I don’t have to shun them.   I feel like  an outcast most of the time.  I feel shunned by the ‘shunners’.    Add to that that the country is going down the tubes, and I really don’t like most people.     Why do people insist on continuing to prove that they are best avoided?   Or simply say they’re  one thing, and then never back it up?

I haven’t been a regular church goer for a long time (work hours when I was working, then  medical issues that make being away from home for more than a brief time logistically difficult).   Now the folks who went to the church I grew up in will take THAT statement as the reason for all of my frustrations… but my personal faith in God/Jesus is  stronger than ever.  God is the only constant and hope I have.     I KNOW what it was like growing up in a  subculture of evangelicalism- and as a kid I loved going to church.  It was a great experience in the youth groups, choirs, and babysitting in the church nursery.  I truly loved it.  Since it was essentially my only source of social contact, there were no conflicts.  I was still ‘one of them’.  We all believed the same. For the most part.  My folks enjoyed a glass of wine now and then, and dad might have a beer (one) once in a while, where as many were convinced that even one drink was a sin (drunkeness is a sin… a social drink is not, imho).  But the ‘big stuff’ was all part of the church teaching.  Without any personal thought involved. Back then, it was just how things were.   I’m very thankful for a solid church upbringing (and the vast majority of my core beliefs are the same);  it was a consistent environment.  It just didn’t allow for exposure to the actual world as a whole.   I had no idea that things could even BE all that different among other people.

As a kid, it really didn’t matter to me what or who was out ‘in the real world’, since school and (figure) skating were my pretty much my only exposure to people who didn’t go to that church (there was the trip to Europe in the summer of 1977, where I first saw men openly holding hands while walking down the streets of Amsterdam, and hookers had storefront windows with literal red lights that glowed if they were ‘busy’).  It was a time period where society wasn’t as cruel as it is now, and the anonymity of the internet wasn’t even on the radar- so any criticizing, mocking, and name-calling was done in person, and ONLY among  very close friends- unless it was overt cruelty towards strangers.   I was a kid, so not really expected to know any different.  People were simply more decent.  The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ philosophy had little to do with anything related to sexual orientation in my world,  but included politics, money,  and religion when being amongst folks whose views weren’t already known.   Why did people find it OK to reject others as ‘the enemy’, when they don’t even know them, most of the time based on assumptions from one comment?

Well, then I grew up.  After nursing school, I moved 1200 miles away on my own to start out my life out from under the shadow of being “the principal’s kid”.  I was not only in a different state and overall culture, but was in a city that had  a huge variety of people whose demographic groups I’d never encountered.  The first cross-dresser I ever saw was at a Walgreen’s checkout.  He was buying the make-up for himself, which I hadn’t even thought happened ,   until he turned around and smiled politely at me with full face make-up (foundation, mascara, eyeliner, blush, lipstick).  I was gobsmacked !  Where in the world had I landed? Why does the church exclude simply informing the youth growing up about the various types of people in the world, and how best to show kindness?  Why don’t they teach about using one’s brain to determine if a situation is safe- and not just a blanket “help your neighbor”?   Though now, I’d guess that there is some exclusion clause to avoid anybody gay, who’s had an abortion, or is on food stamps.  Those issues seem to earn rejection without regard to the person who is struggling because of them.

I was also a young nurse during the early years of the AIDS crisis.  I’d never known anybody who was gay (that I knew of at the time- later on I found out differently).   Even church hadn’t really mentioned homosexuality much.  It was a ‘given’ that men loved women, and women loved men.   Women wore makeup, men shaved their faces, and things were supposed to be all “Leave It To Beaver”.  I knew the terms- polite and otherwise – for homosexuality and what it meant- but that was it.   I had no clue that even in my own family, that there were those who were ‘different’ (neither of the two I knew back then were ‘out’ at that time, then two more became known when I was much older).   I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  All four (known) are/were (one is no longer alive) stand-up folks, and simply a joy to be around.  Why shun an entire demographic group?  Were they not also created by God?

I have no idea how many gay men I took care of who had full-blown AIDS (“HIV positive” really didn’t happen without already being very ill… the disease wasn’t identified until various symptoms of full-blown AIDS had already developed; now, antiretroviral meds enable those with HIV to live much longer, and with a decent quality of life).  In the early years, HIV was an automatic death sentence.  There was no hope at all, like there is today.  Most of their families back then, and even their partners, had kicked them to the curb.  Families were ashamed, and partners were terrified to be associated with someone who had “it”.  But what I learned was that these human beings were going through horrific, long deaths, that left them just alive enough to realize they were never going to be OK, and that they’d been abandoned.  Why  shun those who need compassion?   I also learned about the dangers of stereotyping when an entire heterosexual family died from AIDS after the wife gave birth to the son, but needed a blood transfusion- with blood that wasn’t tested for the virus- then breastfed her son, and had normal sex with her husband.  All three died.  Nothing they did had them ‘in the closet’, or on anybody’s ‘judgement’ list.   I was beginning to understand that things weren’t always ‘this or that’, ‘black or white’, or even ‘because of’ assumptions.   All of these people had names and stories, and there simply wasn’t time or desire to judge or hate.  They needed compassion.  Why not just reach out to anybody who is hurting, without judging?

Why the contempt for those who need help?   There is an assumption that the majority of those on welfare are just bums. Why  choose to believe the worst?   It takes a LOT of hassles to get help !  And even then, it’s a sub-poverty existence.  I’ve been on disability since 2004, and until I was eligible for Medicare 2 YEARS after getting Social Security Disability (not the same as the private employer-based disability insurance I paid for when I was working), I  would have had to spend $2000 per MONTH before I was eligible for Medicaid benefits. Each month.  That would have meant no apartment, utilities, medications, food, etc…  So the government sets the income cut-offs for getting help  to exclude the majority of people who need help.    How does it make sense for someone who is medically disabled to not have access to medical care, including medications?    Why are only some people worth taking care of?   Would Christ look at someone who  is sick, hungry, naked, and/or homeless and kick them to the curb?   Not the Lord I learned about !  Remember the sheep and the goats?    There is some belief that people in this country are taken care of no matter what.  That is false !   People die here daily because they can’t afford medications or treatments.   And it’s not just cancer.   Why is that OK?

Why can’t we just disagree, and not be told “Oh, it’s no big deal” (well, to me it might be !), or “get over it” (why should I, when the person who told me this is still bitching about Obama, and called Mrs. Obama the ‘n’ word repeatedly- from her holy evangelical tower?).   Why can’t we just understand that everybody views things in different ways EVEN when we all believe in God (for those who do) ?    There isn’t just one ‘flavor’ of Christian !!  It’s a little like the four gospels- each author had a different viewpoint, but that doesn’t make any of them wrong !    Matthew was a tax collector.  Mark never actually heard Jesus, but followed Peter, and interpreted for him when needed.  Luke was a doctor.  There is no consensus as to who specifically  wrote the Gospel of John- as well as 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelations.   But all four loved the Lord.  Why is it so hard for Christians to understand – and tolerate- that the belief in Christ is so much more important than the specific  issues that are argued about?

Why has it all ended up like this?   And why does it seem like people would rather be nasty, or not understand that it’s OK not to agree on everything, even if we believe in the same God?   That one baffles me.   I’m just glad that God knows my heart- and those who judge me are really judging themselves.   I might not tow the evangelical rope any longer (I prefer ‘non-denominational’)  but I still believe in the same God of my childhood… and miss those who were part of it, but now seem to prefer to push people away.    Why is that so ‘bad’?   Why has it become so much more preferable to simply avoid humans?   Even (and sometimes especially) those who had been church ‘family’….  it all hurts my heart.  Mostly because they’re so unaware of how much it hurts to suddenly not be ‘good enough’ because I don’t mirror all of their rigid beliefs.

 

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Nobody ‘Deserves’ AIDS…

I was a young nurse in the late 80’s when AIDS was really exploding.  I’d hear some really snarky comments about ‘well, those guys deserve it’.  Really?  Looking back, with more years of experience and observation under my belt, I’ve got some questions about other people who may have deserved their ‘end’.

Look at the number of celebrities who have died from drug and alcohol abuse/addiction.  They must have ‘deserved’ it, eh?  John Kennedy, Jr.- risky flying conditions, he must have deserved to go down, too.  The guy who came up with the Atkins diet- he slipped on ice, fell and cracked his head a good one, and died as a result.  Must have deserved that.  You think they have nothing in common? Well, consider this:  all high risk actions have high risk consequences. Period. 

I grew up in an evangelical church, and know the stand on homosexuality from that arena.  There was no looking at the person aside from the actions that caused some to contract AIDS.  I got to know some of the AIDS victims (and yes- they were victims of a disease that is incredibly cruel).  Not everyone who got AIDS back then (and certainly not now) was gay. And even the gay guys deserved some compassion.  Hey, church- love others, right? Or just ‘some’ others?

I’ll never forget one guy; he’d been with us for several weeks, and was deteriorating.  The family wanted him to be ‘comfort care’, no heroics; the doctor wouldn’t write the order.  Now this guy was lucky to have anybody around at all. Most of them were alone after all of their ‘friends’ and ‘family’ bailed out on them after their diagnosis. The nurses were their only contact with other humans.  Anyway, one night this guy stroked.  It was bad. The doctor still wouldn’t write the ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order, so if he had started going south (even more) we would have had to ‘code’ him.  I talked to the doctor, who was great with AIDS patients, and normally very realistic with prognoses. He still thought this guy would pull through, at least this time. The nurses knew he hadn’t had a seizure as the doc thought; the period of symptoms after the ‘seizure’ had lasted too long.  The night after the stroke, this patient started to look worse (hard to do).  His nurse that night was doing all she could to keep the guy from trying to take his last breath. There’s not much to do, really , but hope- and try nudging the bed now and then trying to stimulate a breath.  The family was pleading for us not to do anything, and the charge nurse was on the phone to the doc, letting him know that we were going to have to proceed with a code very shortly if he didn’t give us the order to let him go in peace.  Well, it got worse, and his nurse was to the point of putting a back board behind him (a hard, thick plastic board that provides a surface that allows chest compressions to ‘work’), and I was grabbing an oral airway (to keep his windpipe open until the code team got there and put a tube into his lungs)…we were literally seconds from starting a ‘Code Blue’.   As his nurse and I exchanged helpless glances, the charge nurse came in and said “We’re done.”, waving the written telephone order in one hand.   Everybody in the room exhaled a huge sigh of relief.  The patient was pronounced dead within a minute or two. And the family was the one around him instead of ‘strangers’ pounding on him when he took his last breath.  I still have a basket that the family had left full of candy…reminds me of him. That night was one that haunted me for a long time. I was 24 years old, and learning some really intense lessons.

Then there was the heterosexual guy who was in bad shape with AIDS.  He wasn’t going to live (as was the case with virtually %100 of AIDS patients in the early days).  His wife had contracted AIDS  from a blood transfusion after giving birth to their baby.  The wife and baby were already dead.  Blood supplies are tested now; they weren’t back then.  Her high risk behavior was to give birth. His high risk behavior was to love his wife in a faithful relationship.

The guy who was transferred up from ICU was really sad.  I was helping his nurse get him settled in the room. We were adjusting blankets, the TV, and making sure he had the urinal nearby. He couldn’t speak well, but nodded when he understood what we were saying.  Very pleasant guy, with considerable AIDS related brain damage.  Anyway, his nurse and I had finished getting him settled, and left the room. We had gotten about six feet down the hallway when we heard him cry out “Oh, no. Oh, no.”, so we immediately u-turned and went back in to the room.  The patient had wet the bed. He didn’t have the ability to react to the need to urinate and reach for the urinal anymore. When we got him up to the chair by the bed, so we could change the linen, he kept saying “I’m so bad. I’m so bad.”  It was heartbreaking.  He was so ashamed.

People can be all judgmental all over the place.  But be sure to include everyone on that list. Don’t just isolate one sin, and ignore the rest in your wrath and condescension.  We all needed Jesus to keep us from eternal damnation.  I don’t see anybody around me now who even comes close to having the right to damn someone for their actions.  If you do, there’s a preacher in Kansas you might enjoy.  He’s at a church with ‘Westboro’ in the name.  You know- the bunch that pickets military funerals?  For my fellow Christians, I’m not asking anybody to put blinders on and ignore the Bible. In fact, I’m asking you to live it.  Hate is a choice.  But so is love.  If Christians won’t step up and help those who really need the love of Christ, who will?  Nobody deserves to suffer, and everybody can be saved.  If the first thing you think of when you are reminded of a particular group of people is ‘sin’ and some form of judgement, then love isn’t the first thing on your heart.  I’ll pray for you.