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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Can This Country Ever Come Together?

And I’m not necessarily talking about who wins the election in 2 days- though that ‘s a big part of it, but it’s way beyond that.  Everywhere I turn, there is such hate and divisiveness.  It’s so far beyond disagreement with any sort of mutual respect.  It’s bitter, hostile, and wishing the other ‘side’ ill will, or making personal attacks that go beyond disagreeing with views and beliefs.  And, it has no limits demographically. But recently, it does come through in the political hate each side seems to have for the other side.  Have people forgotten that there are decent human beings who happen to disagree?  Sure, there are politically based people in the public that I really don’t like (from both sides- extremism is very unpalatable no matter who does it).  There are many I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with. But I don’t wish anything dreadful on them.

In reading some of the comments on news stories, or even on YouTube for something totally unrelated to politics, the venomous comments are horrifying.  The topic can be a song, a video on some personal tragedy, or whatever. There is hate everywhere. Social media has made this so easy.  It’s the chickenshit way to spew contempt without having to actually come face to face with the person or ideas they abhor.  And there is no indication that there is any value for the person who may disagree.  It’s sad.  Pathetic. Terrifying.  There are comments about the person not deserving to live, that anybody associated with them isn’t worth taking up space on the planet, etc.  Over a disagreement in beliefs.  Says a lot about the desirability of being part of either side when personal attacks are acceptable.  I want nothing to do with either ‘side’.

We have people in this country who shoot a theater full of Batman movie goers ‘just because’ (and yes, I realize that mental illness was behind that to some degree- yet it was also well planned, so some measure of clear thinking was involved).  I’m grateful that the current candidates haven’t been harmed in a society that can produce Columbine, the Batman Massacre , killing of Amish school students, etc.  I pray for whoever wins the election.  Nobody deserves to be mowed down.  And in this society, I can see it happening very easily.  Some idiot will become a ‘martyr’… and some will be delighted, though without daring to say it at that point. Then it would be wrong- but to be so hateful otherwise?  It’s become a sport.

I cleared out many political ‘shares’ on my FaceBook page this morning.  These are from people I know.  I wish I didn’t know a thing about their political views (from either side) because most of it is followed with some type of disdain or hatred.  Republican, democrat, ‘other’, or independent.  It doesn’t matter. Politics has come to be equated with hate and division.  There are so few civilized discussions, and personally, I don’t want to know what my FRIENDS think about politics.  I’ve shared some things, and have tried to be selective, but I now feel that it’s just perpetuating what I loathe.  I was wrong to send anything political to anybody. I apologize.

No matter who wins the election, the media and social media will continue to provide an outlet for those who are bitter and hateful.  None of that solves anything. We all know that politicians just want to be right for the sake of being right- for votes- not to do anything productive. And those who campaign can’t really fulfill anything they promise since they’re not the final step in decision making- unless it’s to veto something, or their buddies are in control of the House of Representatives and Senate.  Congress seems to be a cesspool of hatred.  A microcosm of the country at large.

I’ve had a relative (a.k.a. family member) describe me in bitterly hateful terms because I asked to not receive anymore e-mail propaganda from her (and I never sent her anything from ‘my side’). She hadn’t returned e-mails (about ‘hey, how are you?’) or had anything to do with me for over 20 years.  Yet she decided she knows that I’m a hate monger?  No.  That relationship is over.  It’s one thing to disagree. It’s something else (and a deal breaker) to make it a personal attack.  And yet, that’s all I see from so many people- including Christians, who ‘talk’ about not being judgemental, but can’t seem to shut up with their judgements about those they disagree with.  Those who don’t care about God, but claim to want everyone to get along, are just as guilty.  If people can’t be civilized I really don’t care to know them.  Disagreeing is one thing, when it’s done with respect that both sides feel passionately about their beliefs.  But when any side demands respect and refuses to give it, they’re all hypocrites.

There are a good number of ‘friends’ who I wouldn’t have anything to do with if I knew them for purely political reasons.  There are some family members that I’m stuck with until they cross the line and get personal with their attacks.  And yet mostly what I see are hateful posts that cause me to wonder if the sender thinks the horrible things about me because I don’t agree with their views about someone they don’t know as a human being.  Public figures are not humanized. They have become objects.  And social media has made categorizing and objectifying people the way to interact.

Eight years of Bush-hate has become four years of Obama-hate (or Obama worship- depending on the ‘side’).  No matter who wins this election on Tuesday, there will be more hate.  And it does cross over into relationships.  Even if I agree with most of what my friends believe, I don’t want to see their hatred.  Maybe some folks need to unfriend me.  If hatred over someone they don’t know is that important, that’s probably a good thing to just get rid of me.  I’ll understand.  I don’t agree completely with EITHER candidate or ‘side’.  I don’t identify with any party.  Sadly, it’s become picking the less of two evils.  I’m embarrassed by many of the conservative pundits.  And I dislike many of the far-left personalities.  Extremism isn’t appealing no matter where it comes from.

So, I wait for Tuesday to be over with. Just get it done.  The tone for the next four years will be set in a heartbeat.  Obama wins, and the right hates; Romney wins, and the left hates.  There is no middle ground anymore (at least what is made public- maybe there are some who stay quiet that can be more discreet and humane).  Regardless, our country is ruined. Until there can be some sort of cooperation and removing the person’s ideas from their value as a human being, we’re going to continue to fail.  If we can’t pay for our debt, we’re going to be like Greece (who had a major corporation refuse to send a cancer drug to them this week; google ‘Merck and Greece’).  If we don’t take care of our own, we’ll have people needlessly dying and/or homeless- generally through no fault of their own.  And these seem to be the only two options….no middle ground that can be agreed upon.  So we’ll fail. We’re already dropping in health and education categories with other countries.

While I still think that this is the best place to live, it is a horrible place to exist among so much hate.  So, the 25+ countries that read this blog- this is my view. I still love my country…but less and less the people who make their opinions known in hateful ways.  For now, it’s worse from those on the right…. but if Romney wins (as it was in the years with Bush), the left will spew their venom.  And in the end, it does nothing to fix anything.