Living in the Cupped Hands of God

I used to get panic attacks quite frequently and thank God for better living through chemistry because there some that were so severe that the only way to deal with them was through medication.
 
I am disabled due to Major Depressive Disorder with Anxiety. The onset was when I was nine and being sexually molested for two years when I was twelve only increased the depression as did being raped by my husband when I was thirty. By forty-five, I was disabled and spent decades trying to get a grip on my symptoms.
 
One thing I have to mention.. pastoral care from the clergy surely can suck. I have encountered very few priests with any gifts in that area. I can’t begin to count the number of times I was tempted to give up my faith because of the way Christians treated me.
 
Then I realized to base my faith on the way other Christians behaved was a serious error. My faith needed to be based on Jesus and the Gospels.
 
Many years ago a friend told me something I have never forgotten. “Gloriamarie, we can’t expect Christians to act like Christians. We can only be thankful when they do.” These words have gotten me through some hairy moments and the awful treatment of abusive Christians.
 
We are all sinners. We are all imperfect. We all have a lot of crap to deal with in this life. Life sucks a lot of the time. My response to that is this: Jesus is.
 
When I was thirty-two, I had a Moment that I think has been the defining moment of my life that told me then and still tells me now who I really am. I think this is true for all of us.
 
When I was in my very early twenties and in the grip of the Insidious Dark, I used to cry myself to sleep, begging Jesus to hold my hand. It would be so easy for Him to do, but it never happened.
 
One Saturday morning in late March 1982 after being on anti-depressant meds for the about six weeks or so, the first time I ever took them, I was sitting in bed sipping coffee and praying the service of Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church. I don’t remember which if the prayers or Psalms provoked me into screaming my anger at God that Jesus never held my hand when I begged so hard for it.
 
God said to me “My child, how could I hold your hand when I hold you in Mine always?” And I had a vision of me in the cupped hands of God standing on the fleshy pads at the base of God’s fingers, holding onto the tips of those fingers in a “Kilroy was here” manner, looking out at the world.
 
I believe with all my heart that all of us live there. All of us are held in the cupped hands of God and no matter what happens to us, whether we are raped, mugged, robbed, sick, beaten, abused, bullied, that we still live out lives in God’s cupped hands and nothing this world can do can ever dislodge us from that place.
 
God never promises to protect us from the various slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and all the varieties of hideousness that living in this world exposes us to, God never promises to interfere with the free will of others, but God does promise to hold us in those cupped hands and we can rely on that.
 
Some horrible shit has happened to me since that vision. I expect some horrible shit to happen to me as a result of living in this country at this moment with this administration. I am disabled, handicapped, impoverished, and the RepuliKKKans want me to die, but whatever the future may hold I live in the cupped hands of God and if I die, I do so in the upped hands of God. Nothing can ever remove me from that place.
 
Except for the exercise fo my own free will and my own choice to step out of God’s cupped hands. It’s a choice we all have: to live our lives in God’s cupped hands or not.
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#METOO

This is going around social media right now:

“Me, too.
Copied: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

When I was twelve a male family member sexually molested me for two years. At first, I would tell my parents who did not believe me and said he would never do that. Eventually, I stopped trying to tell them and endured. The depression that started when I was nine increased. The molestation stopped when he found another younger girl to torment.

When I was married my sex life with my husband was good until it wasn’t. Evangelicalism is a form of religion that invites hypocrisy. There’s a lot of pressure to conform. My husband felt that pressure more deeply than I and in order to make me submissive, he started raping me.

Again, I wasn’t believed. No evangelical friends believed me. My priest didn’t believe me. “He wouldn’t do that. He’s a good Christian man. He’s a nice guy,” were all things that they said.

There was one person who believed me and that was my psychologist and he helped me leave my husband. I still thank God for him to this day. Naturally, I divorced him.

Eventually, I went to seminary and I had healed enough from the rape to start dating again. My fellow seminarians told me they wanted to date me because of my “brains, beauty, and obvious competence.” In the three years, I dated several men for differing amounts of time, two of them long enough to begin to have some serious feelings for. Mind you, we were at an evangelical seminary so sex was not part of the dating relationship.

In every case, regardless of how long or how short a time we had dated, each man would come to me, tell me how much he valued our time together, would always treasure it, but he had met someone down at the College and he believed that relationship had a potential he didn’t see in ours.

Graciously, I wished them well although inside I felt as if I had once again been raped because like my husband, they wanted someone more submissive and a much younger, more naive woman was one who still believed that malarkey about a wife being a second-class citizen instead of one who was equal partners with her husband, according to what Paul wrote in the original Greek.

Those verses about heterosexual marriage have been translated into English with an agenda which is to make sure women are property, not as people with brains, minds, souls, and spirits of our own, created as much in the image and likeness of God as any man, with our own vocations as much as any man. Paul’s intention it says in the Greek is for heterosexual women to be equal partners with their heterosexual husbands. Paul preaches egalitarianism.

If followers of Jesus universally reclaimed Paul’s original purpose for men in and women in heterosexual marriage, if we internalize it and start living it, we would be a beacon to the world teaching men and women what a heterosexual marriage is supposed to be and maybe it would filter throughout the world and we would see rape for the deviant perversion it is.

If You’re Overwhelmed Right Now

If You’re Overwhelmed Right Now

I don’t know you but I think I know some things about you.

I think you’re exhausted right now.
I think you find it hard to fall asleep; worrying what might happen if you do, the monsters you imagine may run amok overnight.
I think you wake up in the morning, and the first thing you feel is a thick dread for the coming day and the brand new terrors surely awaiting you.
I think you fear for people you love deeply; those who give your ordinary days meaning, those who are close enough to touch and who you know are threatened and frightened.
I think you fear for strangers far off in the distance; those whose faces and names you’ll never know and yet whose suffering you still fully grieve.
I think you look at your children across the room and that you mourn the world they’re walking into, that you expend so much energy trying to shield them from the kind of nightmares that they shouldn’t ever have to face in the light of day.
I think you feel the very bedrock of the things you used to stand upon shaking violently in these moments; once elemental truths about country, about God, about the goodness of people and the future of the planet that no longer seem as true.
I think you wear the crippling fatigue of these days in the ever-sharpening lines around your eyes, and in the tired smile you find it more and more difficult to form.
I think you feel fully pressed against your capacity to feel or care or continue.
I think you feel like you’re attending a perpetual funeral for America.
I think you’re at the end of the last thread of your rope.

And I’d like to tell you that you’re wrong to feel these all of things.

I’d like to argue each point with you; to chip away bit by bit at the massive weight upon your shoulders, to expose your every fear as simply a mirage, as just the darkness playing tricks on you—but I can’t do that.

I can’t do that because I’m not convinced you’re at all wrong to feel these things. In fact, probably all I can do is to let you know that I think you’re likely right about all that feels not right—and that I am with you in it.

Maybe the best and only gift I can give you today is to let you know that you’re not alone and you’re not crazy. You are in good company in this plentiful misery.

Perhaps knowing that someone else feels affinity with you in all your frazzled, sickened, outraged desperation is enough to sustain you a little longer. Maybe hearing that at least one other human being is suffering in solidarity with you, is itself a comfort. Maybe these words will be enough to tether you to hope for a little while longer—and that would be a victory.

Because in times when threat comes and grief visits and sadness lingers, the greatest weapon we have is hope; the belief that somehow, in ways we can’t understand or see or make sense of—we will outlast the demons and the darkness and the very non-rightness of the present. All I can offer you is the invitation not to lose hope and pray that in accepting it, I’ll be able to keep going to.

I don’t know you but I think I know something about you.

I know that I’m overwhelmed along with you.

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/10/13/youre-overwhelmed-right-now/#comment-288101

My response:

Here’s what I am convinced is so overwhelming to many. At this moment, we have a government with no checks and balances, an administration dedicated to the destruction of not only the U.S. Constitution and civil liberties but also of common decency.
 
The latest antics of the Hair Führer of the Alt-Reich attack the poorest of the United States and would deny them something Jesus orders his follows to do: “care for the sick.” He reveals his inhumanity and total depravity. If you support him in these things, then you too are inhumane and totally depraved.
 
The inevitable comparison of the GOP with the Nazis has shredded Godwin’s Law so much that it no longer applies. If we are willing to be taught by history, we must see that the people the GOP are targeting are the same people the Nazis first target, “all persons who suffered from diseases considered hereditary, such as mental illness, learning disabilities, physical deformity, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and severe alcoholism.” (https://www.ushmm.org/collections/bibliography/people-with-disabilities)
 
No one who truly follows Jesus may allow this. No one who truly follows Jesus will allow this. No one who truly follows Jesus can agree with this.
 
If there are those who claim to be Christians and think the GOP is on to a good thing, then your theology is deeply flawed to the point that your salvation is at risk. See Matthew 25:31-46. The Church has consistently interpreted this passage in exactly the same way. Damnation is the result of failing to clothe the naked, care for the sick, feed the hungry, and providing the needy with what they require.
 
It’s as simple as that. You can use your words to claim otherwise, but you are only attempting to defend that which is depraved, indefensible, the inhumane.
 
People who wish to be accounted on the side of the angels must act, speak up, and demand this administration reverse its course.
 
One way to persist in resistance to the evil Trump and the GOP has already done and still intend to do is my FB group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff, where I post actions, petitions, info, actual news, evidence, facts. There’s a pinned post that I highly recommend people read. I also ask a screening question so I can keep the spammers and the trolls out. Please answer it so I can approve you with delay. All who read this are invited.
 

 

The Church’s Wasteful LGBTQ-Phobia

The Church’s Wasteful LGBTQ-Phobia

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/09/28/churchs-wasteful-lgbtq-phobia/#comment-286539

It seems nothing brings young, white, cisgender Evangelical guys together, quite like talking smack about “the gays.”

Yesterday I watched a group of such folks interacting on a friend’s timeline as they discussed the recent bathroom bills here in America. It’s become an all-too familiar sight: professed Christians falling all over themselves to ridicule Transgender men and women, to minimize their pain and abuse, and to do what far too many young, white Evangelical guys do: imagine themselves experts on Biology, simply because they’re read the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis.

I looked on as they massaged each other’s egos with insider religious language, as they patronizingly poo-poo’d the firsthand testimonies from LGBTQ men and men and women who tried to educate them, as they let fly with a barrage of know-it-all pontification about the inner workings of complete strangers. It was a microcosm of the Bible Belt Church’s sinful obsession with sexuality; the way homophobia and transphobia have become false idols they worship with unrivaled passion.They will do anything to hold onto to this inherited, antiquated fearful religion—even at the expense of the innocent human beings they fracture in the process.

Over the past two decades as a student pastor, I’ve sat with and listened to hundreds of LGBTQ young people, and I’ve had a front row seat to the violence the Church has manufactured: the depression, self-harm, and the isolation it breeds. As I watched these guys recklessly make bold public pronouncements about gender and orientation, I couldn’t help think about the people looking on; those too afraid or too hurt to respond. I thought about the people in their churches, about their family members and co-workers and neighbors. I wondered if they had any inkling of the harm they do to these people every single day—and I’m almost positive they don’t. 

So many white Evangelicals have existed so long in the bubble of their inherited privilege, they’ve come to believe they’re the baseline for humanity and the rightful moral policemen for the world; so self-assuredly telling other people what is true about them, instead of actually listening to them speak their truth. Once they decide they’ve figured God out (and that God looks and thinks and loves like them)—there’s no humility, no effort at compassion, and certainly no considering they might actually be wrong—they just bulldoze strangers with a theology of damnation, delivered with hubris and ridicule, and some condescending lip service about “truth in love.”

When it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation, I’m amazed how many Christians still rely on a literal handful of 4000-year old verses written in another language by authors they often can’t verify and know very little about—than millions of flesh and blood gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender men and women standing in front of them telling their stories. (Not to mention, Science.)

It’s all such a waste that such vast resources are expended by Christians continually fighting a battle that bears no redemptive fruit, that actually multiplies people’s marginalization, that generates unnecessary pain—and a war that Jesus isn’t asking them to wage in the first place.

Jesus did say that he came to bring help to the poor and oppressed; that those who loved him would care for the least, that they would be fierce lovers of people. Yet I don’t see a passion to be about these things, and that’s one of the most wasteful sins the Church is guilty of. If Evangelicals were just a fraction as burdened to stop poverty, hunger, systemic racism, or bigotry as they are about policing LGBTQ folk’s bedrooms, bathrooms, and body parts—we’d have very little poverty or hunger or racism or bigotry.

But I guess those other things encroach too much on these folk’s comfort, they’re more personally inconvenient, they’re far more taxing than simply dismissing a total stranger based on who and how they love and imagining they’re being righteous.

Every day I grieve the way Christianity is putting LGBTQ people through undue suffering, the callousness of the hearts of so many of those who claim Jesus, and the excuses we make for doing everything but what Jesus actually called us to do.

It’s all a terrible waste.

Daresay the same old same old voices will shout out erroneously translated Bible verses to say how wrong homosexuality is. <yawn>

The issue is NOT and NEVER has been whether or not homosexuality is wrong in God’s eyes. The issue is the same as it ever has been. The issue is stated in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is repeated in the Christian Scriptures. The issue is that we must love our neighbors as ourselves as God first loved us.

However, all the homophobic rhetoric is responsible for heinous acts that have no place in God’s Kingdom and are not welcome in heaven.

If a reader of this blog thinks there is anything justifiable in the following two stories, then my most loving recommendation is that the reader seek mental health treatment with great urgency.

Dear Wheaton College: Hazing Has No Place in Christ’s Kingdom
SEPTEMBER 27, 2017 BY LINDSEY PAR

“It certainly doesn’t seem possible to be focused on Jesus while kidnapping, physically restraining, and attempting to insert an object into someone’s rectum before beating him and leaving him half-naked on a baseball field with two torn shoulders.

“Five young men who identified as Christians not only singled out another young man for violence, but also signaled their Islamophobia and homophobia in the process. According to the victim’s statement, the football players who kidnapped him played Middle Eastern music and claimed to be Muslims who wanted to have sex with goats before telling him that he would be their “goat” for the evening. The Islamophobia is obvious; the homophobia of their action is shown in the way they attacked his masculinity in their efforts to humiliate him, as Wheaton alumnus Hank Chen explains. In an act of team bonding that is a modern manifestation of building cohesion through violence, these five men asserted themselves not only against a vulnerable freshman, but also against those whom they consider enemy others – Muslims and the LGBTQ community.”
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/teachingnonviolentatonement/2017/09/dear-wheaton-college-hazing-no-place-christs-kingdom/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=Best+of+Patheos&utm_content=57

“Trans Teen Brutally Murdered in Missouri; Four Charged”

“Three people have been charged with first-degree murder in the brutal slaying of a transgender teenager in Houston, Mo., and a fourth has been arrested on other charges.

“Ally Steinfeld, 17, was found dead last week in a rural area near a mobile home occupied by one of the suspects, the Associated Press reports. Both local and national media identified Steinfeld by a male name, but The TM Planet, a website focusing on transgender issues, identified her as Ally. She had been stabbed repeatedly, including in the genitals, and her eyes had been gouged out, according to the AP. Her body was burned in an attempt to conceal evidence of the crime.”
https://www.advocate.com/crime/2017/9/26/trans-teen-brutally-murdered-missouri-four-charged

 

The kind of people who teach their children that such actions as those above are righteous, are also the kind of people who elected mentally deranged people such as Roy Moore and Donald Trump.

People guilty of such hich crimes and misdeamors had better get help very soon. I mean that with all love because otherwise too many lives, those of both victims and perpetrators are lost to hate and fear.

What Is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything by Rob Bell

My internet crashed yesterday and so I picked up a book I had purchased a few months ago and has been sitting on the To Be Read Pile.

The Bible lives in more ways than one.

As someone with a bachelor’s degree in Biblical and Theological Studies and a master’s in Theological Studies from a seminary north of Boston, MA, I was blown away by how much Rob Bell taught me in this book. I opened it. I read the first sentence. Then I devoured it in one sitting, my heart leaping with excitement and joy the entire way through it.

Having come to think that was not the best way to read it, I am now going to reread it, one chapter a day, in prayerful meditation.

Every person who picks this book up is going to get something out of it. If you are a person who has questions about the Bible, this book is for you. If you have a friend who is into the Bible, and you can’t figure out why this book will tell you. If you have been reading and faithfully studying the Bible for a long time, I think this book has something to offer you.

About Charlottesville

It occurs to me that there is an admission missing from this conversation about Charlottesville which is that if we are white citizens of the USA, we are racists.
 
It doesn’t matter if we consider ourselves to be conservative or liberal, on the right or on the left, alt-right or alt-left. If we are white in the USA , we are racist. None of us like to be called racist but that doesn’t mitigate our responsibility to confront our racism, cop to it, and deal with it.
 
The collective sin of the USA, the besetting sin of the USA is racism. It is as much a founding principle of our country as is protest. We have been racist since the beginning. The Founding Fathers allowed racism in the USA.
 
Our whole history is one of racism. Look at what white people did to the Native Americans. Look at how white people treated Asians when they came here. Look at how white people took over the parts of the current USA that was once part of Mexico. Look at how so many of us are treating Muslims among us.
 
If we are white in the USA, we are racist.
 
What puzzles me is the fact that all people of color have yet to unite against all of us white people, gang up on us, and take over. It’s really kind of a miracle that they have treated us with such forbearance over the decades.
 
Oh, I know many of us have families who emigrated to the USA well after the Civil War and we are not responsible for slavery, nor did we have ancestors here who owned slaves, but how very quickly white immigrants to the USA learned to be racists.
 
Descendants of Irish immigrants who live in Boston are so racist that black people can’t get jobs in South Boston, except at the Boston Globe. Landlords won’t rent to them. Well, I should say this was true of Southie in 1993 when I moved from the Boston area. While I don’t know, I imagine it is still true.
 
I remember when the descendants of Jewish immigrants exploited the black people of New York City because the Jews were the landlords.
 
My own grandparents immigrated in the 1920s and quickly learned to hate people of color. My father was appalled when I brought home friends from school who were black or Asian and wanted sleepovers. He was polite enough to their faces, but when they were gone…
 
We white people of the USA are so racist that we are in denial about our white privilege. We all have it, regardless of our political or religious affiliation.
 
This is especially ironic if we are Christians because our Jesus, when He walked the earth, was a person of color. He probably looked more like a young Saddam Hussein or a young Yasar Arafat than any of the white actors who portrayed him in films.
 
If we are white in the USA, we are racist and we need to repent, confess, and make amends.
 
Some of us are aware of that we are racist, some of us do confront our white privilege on a daily basis, but it is danged hard work because it is so ingrained in us we don’t notice or realize it unless someone, usually a person of color, points it out to us. Let us, in the name of the God we love and worship, receive their words in humility as the grace they are.
 
P.S. Before posting this, I read it to a friend who is a black woman and asked her what changes I should make. She told me this is what people of color want every white person to accept about themselves.

Yes, I’m a Christian—But I’m Not With Them

Posted with permission from the author

JULY 12, 2017

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/07/12/yes-im-christian-im-not/

 

My parents always said to be careful who you associate yourself with because you are known by the company you keep—that the people around you reflect on you and manufacture other’s perception of you from a distance.Sometimes that mistaken association will be so detrimental and embarrassing, that you will need to speak out and severe the connection.

I’m a Christian, and I realize that word may come with a great deal of baggage for you. You might have an idea about the kind of person you believe that makes me, simply because of the professed Christians you see out there in the world or the ones you may know. You may believe you know what I think or how I feel or how I vote because of the way someone else thinks or feels or votes.

Since I’m aware of this potential association and since I too see what you see every day—I need you to know where I stand:

I’m not with the Christians who shilled for this President, who sold their souls and leveraged their pulpits for political capital, who continue to defend his every vile deed, every reckless Tweet, every gross abuse of power—despite him not bearing the slightest discernible resemblance to Jesus. 

I believe this President and his Administration are fully devoid of Christlikeness.

I’m not with the Christians who believe healthcare is a luxury saved only for the rich and the well; those who claim to be followers of Jesus, the healer—while throwing the poor and elderly and ill, to the wolves of circumstance or sickness.

I believe all people who are physically, emotionally, and mentally ill, deserve every chance to get well—and by more than just thoughts and prayers.

I’m not with the Christians who police the bodies and bathrooms and bedrooms of strangers, who distort the Bible in order to justify their fear of people for who and how they love; the ones who’ve turned gender identity and sexual orientation into a weapon of damnation—who would tell adults who they can fall in love with and marry and raise children with.

I believe LGBTQ people are made fully in the image of God and deserve every happiness and right this world has to give them.

I’m not with the Christians who savagely beat their breasts about their shrinking religious freedoms, while regularly manufacturing monsters out of Muslim men and women seeking to live out their chosen faith tradition here in peace, without silencing,harassment, or discrimination—those Christians who do not admit or call out the prevalent and deadly extremism in our faith tradition.

I believe those practicing Islam should be as free and unfettered in this country as those who claim Christianity.

I’m not with the Christians who believe a woman’s body is anyone else’s jurisdiction but her own, those who believe they can legislate their morality upon another human being or take a woman’s personal autonomy from her for any reason.

I believe that women get the only say in what happens to and within their specific bodies.

I’m not with the Christians who refuse to acknowledge their privilege and bias.
I’m not with the Christians who believe everyone should be able to get a gun, but not every one should be able to get prenatal care.
I’m not with Christians who believe God is responsible for Donald Trump’s Presidency.
I’m not with Christians who believe they have the Bible figured out enough to condemn anyone else.
I’m not with the Christians who believe they get to tell strangers they’re going to hell.

Yes, I’m a Christian, but I don’t want you to mistake me for those who may claim to speak for me or represent me by default—those you may have sitting across from you at dinner or worshiping next to you at church or preaching on TV or Tweeting diatribes. 

I hope that the fruit of my personal faith is apparent.
I hope that it yields compassion for the hurting, protection for the vulnerable, eyes for the forgotten.
I hope it champions equality for all people, truly diverse community, and a love that transcends difference.
I hope these things are obvious and that they set me apart from those Christians who may speak a different message with their lives—and quite loudly at that.

I also want you to know that there are many of us out here; people with a real, prayerful, fervent desire to follow Jesus, who feel like we’ve had our identities stolen by the pulpit bullies, fear mongers, and Bible bigots who make the headlines and steal the bandwidth and monopolize the conversation.

We want you to know that they do not speak for us. We don’t believe they speak for Jesus.

I guess what I’m saying, is that I hope you won’t too hastily judge all of us based on those who share the name of our faith tradition, and little else. We are as distressed as you with what we see them doing in the name of Jesus these days.

We’re exhausted by their hatred, fed up with their intolerance, disgusted by their violence—and no, we’re not with them.