“So this is the new year, and I don’t feel any different.” – Death Cab for Cutie
It has been some time again since I last posted. Primarily the reason for this was not lack of words or rumination, but rather an often silent and sinister creeping depression and melancholy that I had slipped into for some time. I fight this from time to time. It has been more pervasive of late. 2016 was a year. A big crazy year.
In the span of those few short months, I’ve watched sadly as fascism, racism, violence, hatred, anger, fear, and the raging of the nations overtook so many. I have had an inexplicable and overwhelming sense of impending doom, culminating in a singular day of late, in which I literally felt the sorrow and anguish of others physically, as I listened to the most unusual presidential inauguration I have ever witnessed in my short life here in my beloved America. To be clear, this is still my beloved home and I am not leaving, because my love for this land and for my brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, children and family who live here is not dependent on who sits on the throne of the American Empire. And let us be candid – it is an empire. In many ways, if not all ways, it is THE Empire – the greatest superpower – and its commander-in-chief is considered to be the “most powerful person in the world.” Be that as it may, regardless of who sits in that oblong office, or what you think of that individual as a person, to me the truly terrifying thing about this latest Empirical election was watching what can only be described as predominantly white Christian American privilege showing its seedy underbelly to the shock of many, and we are now in, as Aladdin says, a whole new world, whether we believe it to be good or not. Whether it was a campaign gimmick or not, those who have quietly or vocally held racist and fascist beliefs have been emboldened and encouraged by the rhetoric thrown around this past year by our new President. While fascists, racists, bigots, misogynists and other hate groups have always existed, the difference, this time, seems to be that so many of those people also identify themselves as “Christian.” Continue reading
“…but first, it will make you miserable.” While it has been some time since I’ve written here, as I sit outside only a couple of weeks after the deadly attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, I find myself finally able to finish this post that I started several months ago. All that I have seen and read since that Sunday, as well as time to reflect, has given me a chance to try to make sense of something that I have worked through for some time – the notion or theory of cognitive dissonance – and primarily its relationship to so much of what I have experienced both in my life, and what I see coming forth from others, especially those from my own Christian faith, and especially in recent days.
For those unfamiliar with Cognitive Dissonance, it can best be described as our psyche’s response to conflicting beliefs or actions entertained at the same time and our tendency to increase the value of one belief over another, be it true or not, in order to restore consonance – in other words, to “set our mind at ease.” I believe that it is precisely a rapid growth in CD that is behind much of the division we see in the world today. As people become increasingly isolated by the very technology created to connect them with others, and there is an increase in the unwillingness to change as people, especially when confronted with something that is contrary to one’s own deeply held beliefs, the result is what we see in the news. If we are to be balanced, sane, and healthy people, then we must, from time to time, take stock of our lives and reevaluate whether we are on a good and level path, and more importantly, if what we believe is true because it is true or simply because we want it to be true.
It is the week of giving thanks. The US holiday of Thanksgiving is tomorrow and most of those in the country will be doing their cooking, baking, basting, and often traveling to be with family and loved ones, to celebrate the holiday or at the very least, to enjoy the time off of work. It is one of those magic holidays where, regardless of your beliefs, religion, or stance on any issue, being grateful for what you have and giving thanks for things is a universally recognized virtue.
It seems rather ironic that, at such a time, there is now a raging debate in the United States about whether or not to welcome and care for refugees fleeing from atrocities in their homeland that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. The governor of my state, along with many others, issued a decree that our state would not welcome these refugees until such time as the federal government “made assurances” that proper security measures are being followed. While I often refrain from posting and commenting on political issues, this one seemed to jump out to me as being an issue that is neither political nor difficult to understand, but rather, a crystal clear moral issue at its root – whether or not to welcome and care for refugees who have abandoned everything they’ve known and risked their lives to ensure the safety of their families and loved ones – and yet it is sadly being used as political fodder, religious rage, and fear mongering. What is most disturbing to me is the response I have seen posted on social media and in the news from “Christians”, who have vehemently stated that such refugees should NOT be welcomed and cared for by the United States, UNLESS they are proven to be of no threat, or, even more unbelievable, ONLY if they are also “Christians”, in which case they would be considered “safe.” I find myself wondering at times…often, actually…if I believe in the same “Christ” that these other loud voices believe in, or if there is some disconnect with the words and the Man and how that is lived out. The times are very strange, and so, to be as informed and certain as possible, I have read factual documents on refugees and the processes they must go through to legally enter the US, and I have also reviewed the Gospel writings and saying of Jesus as well, to be sure that I understand what is written and what He told His followers to do, and you know what…I still can come to no other conclusion than that it is a fundamental responsibility of anyone claiming to be Christian to care for those that seek help and to welcome them.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:10-11
***An initial disclaimer… This is not a post that is intended to stir up political debate, but rather ask some hard questions. It is also targeted primarily at any who claim to follow Jesus and identify as Christian. ***
As a rule, I am not an overly political person. I dislike labels and boxes and in general, work hard to be, as the Apostle Paul said, “all things to all people.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23) This is not to be flaky or to dodge having to answer tough questions when asked them, it is more out of a simple desire to meet everyone where they are at in life, and to make no assumptions about their heart, motives, or beliefs before truly getting to know them as a person; in essence to see everyone not as “the other” or an object to be dealt with, but persons to be loved.
I mentioned in my last post that I have, at times, struggled with depression and anxiety due primarily to loss and grief, and also to poorly managing my own mental health as I ought. It wasn’t until I walked through that valley with my own two feet however, that I truly understood how others who struggled similarly felt on the inside, no matter their exterior demeanor. Life has a way of kicking the crap out of you and leaving you beat up, bedraggled, and bleeding on the ground. This is not news to anyone who’s lived for some time and suffered any sort of loss. The difference on this side of the fence is that, once you’ve walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” or experienced “the dark night of the soul”, you often find that things are now cast in a completely different light, and if you let it happen, hopefully you find yourself a much softer and more compassionate person. Continue reading