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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.
 

 

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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.

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.

Why My Faith is Political

posted with permission from the author

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/07/10/why-my-faith-is-political/

“You should stay out of politics and stick to preaching the Gospel.” – Bill, a Christian

Several times a day I’m chided by a well-meaning friend, complete stranger, or soon-to-be-disconnecting social media acquaintance for being “too political” as a Christian and or as a pastor. Curiously, I most frequently I hear these sentiments from Conservative Christians—and I’m never quite sure what “Gospel” they want me to stick to, but it certainly isn’t the one Jesus mentioned:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come – Jesus (Luke 4:18-19)

I’ve long ago learned that this carefully constructed code language can almost always be translated as, “The personal faith convictions which you are expressing publicly are now bumping up against my daily life—and this makes me uncomfortable and I want to make you stop.”

Embedded in the reprimand is the myth that there is somehow a way of being spiritual without also beingpolitical; some sharp, easily identifiable, universally accepted line delineating the sacred from the secular, the supernatural from the practical, religious matters from civil ones—and that Church People can and should learn to “stay in their lanes”.

The only problem with such suggestions, is that if you are a committed person of any faith tradition, life is the lane. It’sall spiritual stuff.

For me, this means that my faith isn’t an isolated activity that I engage in between many other non-religious ones. It is the very lens through which I view everything, and it likewise informs every facet of my life: the work I do, the words I write, the causes I support, how I spend my money, how I experience community, the way I vote, how I see and discuss the world. To suggest I separate my spirituality from any area of my life is like asking ask my brain to function independently from my circulatory system. The two are ultimately inextricably linked. Their existence is symbiotic.

Granted, many American Christians have somehow managed to construct something they’ve named Religionwhich allows such a disconnect. Many practice a strangely compartmentalized faith, one where they divide their time neatly between a spiritual life and the rest of life. This kind of thinking allows many folks to go to church for sixty minutes on the weekend—and to be largely unaffected by Jesus the rest of the week. It also allows them to openly support politicians without a trace of Christ’s benevolence, compassion, or humility. It enables them to claim they emulate the healer Jesus, while taking healthcare from tens of millions of people.

For far too many Christians, being in a building on Sunday and praying, singing, reading the Bible are “spiritual things.” Anything bleeding out beyond the church walls (especially stuff that inhibits their personal comfort or established prejudices) is quickly labeled political and therefore declared off-limits. This isn’t how faith works.

Christians who chastise other believers for being political simply aren’t paying attention to what Jesus taught, did, or called the faithful to do. He wasn’t urging people to withdraw into a cloistered religious bubble existence, and he wasn’t asking them to suppress their beliefs to keep the peace with the culture around them—even the prevailing religious system that claimed to speak for God.

Jesus was equal parts gentle personal pastor and subversive community activist.
He was compassionate shepherd to the sheep in his care, and defiant defender squarely up in the snorting faces of the wolves.
He gave equal time to transforming people’s hearts and to renovating social structures.
If we try to only hold on to one aspect and not the other, we do so at the risk of creating and replicating a counterfeit Jesus.

While he absolutely taught the virtues of one’s personal spirituality, Jesus did so while calling people in community to publicly respond to the injustices in the world. He preached a countercultural Kingdom of Heaven/God which stood in sharp contrast to the Roman Empire, the strongest political force in the world at the time. To be obedient to God and faithful to the teachings of Jesus in this time, by its very nature became a political statement.It had to, because of how differently it called a person to live in the world. Nothing has changed.

Ultimately, are these political matters or spiritual ones:
Eliminating poverty?
Caring for the planet?
Ensuring equality for all people?
Confronting violence and bigotry?
Caring for sick people?
Avoiding war?
Protecting the vulnerable and young in our midst?
Fighting government corruption?

If one is a person of faith these matters have to be both—or that faith is rather neutered and inconsequential.

I fully resist the idea of America as a Theocracy in anyform. The dubious moment sixty or so years ago when the Religious Right shacked up with our political system and produced the twisted love child that is the current Republican Party—is one of the most destructive and embarrassing moments in our recent national history and that of the Church as well.

This toxic alliance has given birth to and nurtured the dangerous lies that:
1) God is American.
2) America is Christian.
3) The GOP has the exclusive rights to Jesus—and they get to make sure that the first two rules are both strictly guarded and fiercely enforced.

I am not at all saying any of this. Our nation’s initial decision to officially separate Church and State wisely makes sure that no group of religious people of any kindcan enforce their beliefs on our civic system. This is good and right and necessary—but to ask someone to separate their personal beliefs from the world they live in, is impossible. The very idea that a person of my or any faith convictions has a tidy little fenced off area where they “do their religion,” is ludicrous and rather demeaning at its core. 

I would never propose that another human being (religious or not) should ever be required to share my personal faith convictions, or that those convictions should be the law of the land. But I refuse to censor those convictions or to be bullied or shamed into believing that to share them in any number of ways, is somehow bad form for a respectable Christian. It’s Christ’s form—and ultimately that’s who I need to take my cue from.

Whether you identify as Christian or not, my faith does not need to be your faith—but don’t expect that faith to stay only where you believe it is supposed to be to keep you comfortable. You don’t get to decide that. I don’t even get to either.

If you’re a professed Christian and you believe that your faith in Christ can be separated from anything else or that it can ever be politically neutral, I’m going to suggest that your heart has not yet been fully saturated by the Jesus you’re claiming.

When it has been, you’ll find yourself called to more than a political party or even your own country. You’ll realize that your entire life is spiritual and that everything is on the table—and you’ll speak loudly into all of it.