Category Archives: Hatred

The Morning After the Mourning After

This morning I went to a yoga class.  I was exhausted and anxious and needed to let go of some stress. My daughter is getting married this evening and all that anxiety has built to a peak of anticipation.  I figured a little stretching and sweating would do my soul some good.

The instructor, Jeff Martens, is a great teacher. He speaks softly during class, reminding us of proper posture and breathing techniques.  He also speaks words of wisdom, meant to guide us into greater relaxation and greater submission to the spiritual process of yoga.

Today he reminded us that every posture is a prayer that we pray with our body and our soul. He reminded us that prayers are not requests; prayer is more than asking for things. The prayers we make with our body are affirmations of all that is already ours: health, peace, communion, joy…or conversely, they can be affirmations that we believe we exist in a state of struggle, discontent, and FEAR.

There has been a lot of fear this week.

I told you in my last post that the days after the election were particularly difficult for LGBTQ persons, minorities, and women.  Many were consumed with fear that they would lose their civil rights, their safety, their nation and their home.  This week wasn’t much different, and I had plenty of people who cried their way through their session, worried about the future and wondering what they should do next.

One of my clients yesterday was particularly upset, and nothing seemed to comfort her. We talked about the allies that are all around her; people who love her, people who are not willing let her be re-victimized or denied safety.  I reminded her that I will always be an ally.  And then I told her that my greatest hope is that there are many good people in powerful places, people who are not willing to silently stand by as millions are denied their civil rights and human dignity. I said that I believe those people will slowly reveal themselves as Trump’s plan unfolds; I believe that one by one they will stand up and say “Not in my America!” and they will be our allies as we fight against a rising tide of bigotry, sexism, and homophobia.

It won’t be as simple as the split between Democrats and Republicans. I told her that we will probably all be disgusted to discover bigots, misogynists, and homophobes among people we thought were our allies.  I’m betting we will also be stunned at the number of staunch Republicans who stand up for civil rights, equality, and justice.  Neither side has a monopoly on righteousness; in the long run, I believe that this will be a great blessing that will work to our advantage.

She smiled at me and said it was a lovely idea, but she wasn’t sure it was realistic.

I told her that I am counting on it.

I never thought it would happen so soon!

Today Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton made an announcement in response to President Elect Trump’s decision to begin deporting undocumented immigrants.  The mayor stated:

“Phoenix is an incredibly diverse and welcoming city where we endeavor every day to protect our community while treating residents with dignity and respect, no matter who you are, who you love or where you come from.

Our diversity is our greatest strength as a community, and our strongest selling point as an economy. It says much about who we are as a people that Phoenix is considered one of the safest and most welcoming cities in the United States for those seeking refuge from the violence of war-torn countries.

That will not change, regardless of who is president.

Residents and visitors can be assured we will professionally and steadfastly uphold the laws of our city. But that does not mean that Phoenix will fall victim to discourse that is openly antagonistic and hostile to members of our community.

The Phoenix Police Department will never turn into a mass deportation force, even if the new government in Washington, D.C., threatens to revoke federal dollars. This is something worth fighting for, and we will not be bullied into taking backward steps on civil rights.

I cried when I heard it on the news, and I cried when I read the article online, and I am still crying as I write this right now.  There are things worth fighting for: our deepest values and dearest morals, but most important is human lives.  These things are worth standing up for, no matter what the cost.

Today the Phoenix mayor (along with mayors in Boston, New York, and Chicago, as well as the police chief of Los Angeles) took a stand against bigotry, hatred, and fear.

This morning I heard that every posture is a prayer, an affirmation of what we have.

Today powerful people in a number of major cities struck a posture of resistance to injustice. They still have some stretching to do before their posture can be firm and true, and we need to join them. We are only beginning to understand just how deeply our privilege (white, straight, male, educated, etc.) has stepped on the necks of our brothers and sisters. As a nation, we need to change our posture to a prayer that affirms freedom for all, justice for all, and welcome to all who would live in peace.

Today I stand in a posture that breathes a prayer of willingness to stand for others, and gratitude for allies in the struggle.

And I am going to stay in posture for as long as I possibly can.

For more information, use the following links:

ktar.com/story/1362041/phoenix-mayor-greg-stanton-vows-city-police-will-stay-deportation-process/

www.azfamily.com/story/33729670/mayor-stanton-phx-pd-will-never-be-a-mass-deportation-force

For more information on yoga or on Jeff Martens http://www.innervisionyoga.com/

Finally, congratulations to Katie and Phil!  I could not be happier for the two of you, and wish you a long life of joy together.  Phil, Michelle, Dan, Jason, and Arianna…welcome to my family!!

Are You Sure You Want to Say That?

This week has been a hard week of watching one unkind thing after another, mostly on Facebook or the news.  I would love to say that I can rise above it all but I can’t simply because of one thing: the dang Christians.

I have been a Christian my whole life and I know, and have experienced, Christians making terrible mistakes and doing incredibly stupid things.  I have been blessed not to have been deeply damaged by those ‘stupid things’ but that’s mostly because I had very loving and kind parents who provided me with plenty of love-based Christian teachings that countered all the judgmental, ‘holier-than-thou’ crap that I experienced at the hands of others.

Nothing beats good parenting when it comes to overcoming the slings and arrows of growing up in the Church.

And then…I became a pastor.

After I began doing ministry, I began to understand at a much deeper level the immense damage that Christian leaders can do to the community with judgmental words, with words of condemnation, and with the way that they dismiss the experiences of others they deem ‘not Christian’ or ‘not truly Christian’, thus rendering those realities and the people that experienced them insignificant.

What in God’s name are we doing?

Over and over again I am confronted with horrible words posted on Facebook by church leaders and pastors who supposedly preach the love of Christ while condemning anyone who doesn’t believe and behave like they do.  Some of them even condone violence!

Over and over again I am assaulted by news reports of another church leader or pastor arrested for horrifying crimes…some financial, some sexual, some for crimes against children.  I could swear that I remember Jesus saying that it would be better to tie a millstone around your neck and drown yourself in the sea than to lead a little one astray.

I’m getting the feeling that we’ll be able to build a pier with all the Christians tied to millstones that we’re going to find, if you know what I mean!

One of my clients brought up another incident in session the other day, and I guess the look on my face shocked her. She said that I looked like I was going to cry…and she wasn’t far from the truth.  I have come to the point where my heart actually aches and cries out to God when I hear reports of cruel and unloving Christian behavior, especially when that behavior comes from a pastor—the very people that God called to lead His children, to guide them in the way that leads to peace.  How can we tear apart the very people we were called to shepherd?  How can we not see the carnage we leave behind and the people we destroy?

My reaction shocked my client. I guess she didn’t realize just how deeply her words would affect me. She started to apologize for upsetting me and I told her that she had done nothing wrong. I had simply come in contact with another example of what is wrong with the Church.

You see, we are all broken people. We come into the world whole, but then circumstance and losses and the failures of the people who are supposed to love us start the cracks forming…little cracks that over time can develop into huge broken areas in our souls.  And as life goes on, losses become tragedies that define our lives, events we can neither escape nor undo, and our own choices add to the sorrows that break us.  Sometimes our choices become the tragedies that we cannot escape and we become our own worst enemies.

At some point in our journey in this life, the world itself starts to tear us apart one chunk at a time, labeling us ‘Not Good Enough’ or ‘Worthless’ or ‘Ugly’ or ‘Stupid’ or (insert racial epithet here) or (insert gender based insult here) or (insert sexual orientation based insult here)…  It goes on and on, and each negative label tears us apart a little more.

In the end, we end up broken and torn, un-whole and aching, wondering what we did to deserve what life has dealt us.

The funny thing is that our lack of wholeness isn’t really that problematic if we will simply own our broken and torn places and then seek out the healing places.

I’ll try to explain what I mean, but I need you to be patient for a moment.

Most of us are aware that Alcoholics Anonymous groups use the 12 Steps to guide recovery from addiction.  What you may not know is that there are also 12 Promises that they count on as they recover, and I have found one of those promises to be crucial to my own sense of wellbeing.

“#10 Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.”

At first you may think “What does that have to do with this post?”  More importantly, what does this have to do with our broken and torn souls?

Well, when you read the fuller text of the 12 Promises, it tells you that you no longer have to fear people and economic security because really, what you are fearing is not having enough…not enough friends, not enough money, not enough acceptance, not enough stuff, not enough wisdom, not enough information.  Promise #10 is that we will no longer have to fear all the things that people and money can bring or deny us.  WHY? Because…within the group (in the case of the 10th Promise, they are referring to the 12 Step group) we will find everything we need.  Essentially, the promise is that within the group, we have everything we need.  Do you need a truck so that you can move?  Ask the people in your group.  Do you need someone to help you sort through some feelings? Ask the people in your group. Do you need to borrow a mixer so that you can bake your child a homemade birthday cake?  Ask the people in your group.  Do you need comfort because you’ve realized the magnitude of your brokenness? Reach out to the people in your group.

Within the group, we have everything we need.

In our lives, we group together with friends, family, Church members, coworkers, colleagues, neighbors, even with something as simple as the folks in our yoga class. We have tons of groups we participate in.  And each member of every group is broken and torn. Some are broken and torn in the same way that we are, and some are broken and torn in different ways.  The people that are broken and torn in the same way truly understand how we feel, and the people who are broken and torn in different ways are often strong exactly where we are weak and they can offer us someone to lean on.  Do you see?  Within the group, we have everything we need!

I think that this is why Christ founded the Church.

The Church is supposed to be a place where you take your wounded, broken soul and find peace, healing, and love.  You are supposed to find unconditional acceptance inside the Church and people who will walk with you along the path to finding a relationship with God and a deeper love for yourself; one that reflects the abundant love that God has for you. When you love yourself in the right ways it’s so much easier to love everyone else in the right ways.  Christ wanted us to be able to turn to the Church to find our group…the people who understand us perfectly because they are familiar with our particular brokenness, and the people who can help us understand what things might look like if we weren’t broken or torn in that specific place—people who can be strong while we wait on our healing, while we discover what love can do.

This is why it breaks my heart and hurts so much when pastors use their position and power to judge, to condemn, to be the force in the world that breaks and tears and stomps and does damage.  We have enough sickness in the world to do that already and we don’t need the people of God to help the sickness and hatefulness along, you know?

If you are one of the people who has been broken and torn by the very people who were supposed to love and nurture you, by the Christians who were supposed to help you find your path to God, please accept my heartfelt apology.  It was never supposed to be this way, and you have no idea how much it hurts me to know that the Church failed you.  Let me encourage you, however, not to give up…because God has way more up His sleeve than you can imagine and there are many wonderful people in the world, both inside and outside the doors of the Church.  Look for your group—the one that will love you for the broken, torn, beautiful creation of God that you are—and then set about becoming part of what makes it possible for the group to have everything you (and the rest of the group) needs.  Don’t just take, because no matter how broken you are, God has not failed to fill you with good things that have been kept hidden just for a moment like this.  The fantastic stuff that is you cannot be destroyed by the world. It can be broken, and it can be torn, but it cannot be destroyed and God delights in making treasures out of the brokenness that we bring Him…and it works best when we do that with a group of people who are willing to be a living expression of God’s love to us while we wait on our healing.  This applies as much to pastors as it does to everyone else: find your group and let yourself be healed in the most wonderful ways.  And don’t be surprised if the group you find is inside the Church, because there are just as many wonderful people in the Church as there are holy terrors.

If you are one of the pastors who is doing the breaking and tearing, know that I cry for all you were called to be and have abandoned.  You have bought into the lies of the Enemy, who tells you that your power and your false righteousness are impressive to God.  Trust me: you and I cannot impress the God who created the entire universe, and God has no faith in our ‘righteousness.’  If he did, He never would have sent Jesus. The proof that your ‘righteousness’ is worthless is hanging on the cross, bleeding and dying for all the damage you’ve done.  It’s not too late.  Abandon your righteousness and own your brokenness and you can be healed…or admit that you love the blood on the edge of the blade of your self-righteous words far more than you love the man on the cross.

American Dream To Me

Have you been on Facebook lately? Watched the news much? Listened to talk radio?

If you have, you might just be thinking that the American Dream is coming to an end, that the US has become one giant mess of racial division and hatred. And there is plenty of evidence to support that worldview, except for one thing: it’s not true.

I used to have a professor in seminary who would say “Everything you see and hear confirms your fears, and your fears are still not true.” It took me a long time to understand his statement, but he’s right.

Just because you hear all about on every news source you turn to doesn’t make it true. I’m going to say that again: just because you hear about divisiveness and hatred every day on TV doesn’t mean that this nation is consumed with racial divisiveness and hatred.

Pay attention: THE NEWS DOES NOT REPORT ON WHAT IS GOING RIGHT IN THE WORLD–mostly because that’s kind of boring. News programs report on crime, violence, economic problems, and worldwide concerns. Sure they’ll throw in the occasional human interest story that will make you feel good, but most of the time in any news show is dedicated to reporting what is going wrong in the world.

If you focus on what’s wrong for very long, it will seem like what’s wrong is all there is to focus on.

Everything you see and hear confirms your fears and your fears are still not true. So let me drop some truth on you:

Anyone who tells you that America is rife with division and hatred is lying.

WE ARE MORE UNITED THAN WE REALIZE.

The truth is that you don’t care what ethnicity your neighbor is or what their religion is, as long as they maintain their home and help you create a safe neighborhood for the children to play in.

You don’t care what country or state they came from as long as they will sit next to you at the PTA meeting and work to increase the quality of the schools.

It doesn’t matter what strange foods they eat or how they dress as long as they will help you set up the Halloween Festival in the park in your neighborhood…if they will sit next to you and smile at the children’s costumes…if they will help you with the clean-up afterwards.

You don’t care what your neighbor earns or where they work.

You don’t care who they love or who they choose as their partner, as long as they are private in their lovemaking. (Praise the Lord…I don’t want to see anyone getting their freak on.)

You don’t care what they drive. You don’t care who they vote for. You don’t care what TV shows they watch or what music they listen to…as long as they don’t play it so loud that you are forced to listen to it.

In the end, all you really want is for the person who lives next door to be a GOOD NEIGHBOR…so that you can be a good neighbor towards them and together you can build a safe neighborhood for everyone to live in. All our differences are meaningless when we are kind to each other…once that’s taken care of, what matters is what we have in common.

And we have more in common than we realize. We all want a safe place to raise our children; a good job so we can support our family; enough money to save for our future; and a community that stands together for the good of all. And the things that make us happy are the same: a loving partner, a cozy home, good friends, and occasionally a barbecue and a beer so that we can sit back and enjoy how good life is.

The things we have in common are so much bigger than the differences that supposedly divide us.

And of course, you will always be able to find people who are only in it for themselves, who don’t care about being a good neighbor or a good person. People who are willing to let the public support them; who don’t care about their property; someone who makes things harder for everyone around them. Those people will always exist and you are free let them ruin your ability to believe that we are best when we are united, but I don’t recommend it.

America is not about the red, white, and blue. America is about the black, white, brown, red, and yellow. America is not defined by our geographical borders, but by the unity of the American people, which is far bigger than coasts and islands, and transcends skin color, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity.

Anyone who tells you that you are living in a country that is divided is LYING. Our unity is bigger than our diversity. It is entirely possible that we are able to be unified because of our diversity, since the American Dream is based in the idea that anyone can succeed in this country if they are willing to work hard enough—anyone, regardless of color, gender, or sexual persuasion. We do love our success stories in this country, and we hold up those successes like beacons of promise to remind us that our goal is to be an equal opportunity nation. It’s no wonder why so many people are trying to immigrate into our nation. And while we may not truly have achieved the equality we seek for all persons, we are still striving for it. We are still working to end discrimination, still striving to recognize the areas where our biases create invisible walls that prevent others from achieving their dreams, discovering that even unknown privilege is a problem.

In the United States of America, we have ideals that are far higher than our actual achievements and we are still working to reach those ideals.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you that our ideals cannot be achieved. If you are losing hope in those ideals, get out there and work to make those ideals a reality in your community. You are only one person and you may not be able to change a nation, but changing your little corner of the world is a great start.

I like what Joe Biden had to say in his speech at the Democratic National Convention: “We are America, and we OWN the finish line!” Indeed! Now…let’s work to make sure that everyone crosses that finish line in the most spectacular way possible. Sounds like the American Dream to me.

Get The Sackcloth

Every now and then I come up against a week that just blows me away.  This week it wasn’t work or anything to do with work that knocked my socks off.  It was the sheer weight of evidence that discrimination and hatred are alive and well in the United States of America.

It isn’t that I wasn’t aware of this before this very minute. Discrimination and hatred have always been a part of our culture in the US and I don’t see that ending anytime soon.  I guess that I have just chosen to focus on the areas where the mess is slowly being chipped away, where things are actually improving. I like to focus on the positive and look for evidence that God is doing great things.  Usually I don’t have to look too far before I find evidence of God’s grace and handiwork, and not long after that I find myself filled with peace and joy, having much to praise God for.

Sadly, the last few days have been filled with an increasing amount of despair.

I like to watch the news, sometimes watching it twice a day: once during breakfast and again just before I go to bed. The news acts as a kind of bookend to my day, keeping me aware of the world around me so I don’t end up cocooning in my office with my clients, or cocooning in my home office with my books and my blog, or cocooning on the couch with my family…basically the news rips me out of my cocoon!  Unfortunately, the news is not there to tell us all that is good in the world.  Usually, the news reports on what is broken, destroyed, and badly in need of repair.

This would be why the news is currently reporting on politics.

I realize that we are currently attempting to find two decent individuals that we can choose between for the next president of the United States; it’s not as if the news simply decided to start talking about politics and nothing else.  Actually, I think I would be comforted if they talked about politics and nothing else because much of what I am hearing about the presidential race has little to do with politics and has much to do with all the -isms: racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism.  When you boil it down, all those -isms condense to one thing only: hatred.

I could insert a pithy quote here from a wide assortment of candidates (especially Donald Trump) that is anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim…or anti-women. (God bless poor Megan Kelly.)

But it isn’t just the candidates that are filled with hatred.  It’s my fellow countrymen!  My fellow Americans are busy spouting just as much hatred as any candidate on the podium, and some of them have chosen to add in the distinct flavor of violence as well.

At a recent Trump rally, a protester raised his voice and began shouting anti-Trump statements.  Understandably, he was removed by security, and this is not the problem.  As he was being removed, someone yelled “Set the *&#^%@ on fire!”

Who says that??? Who, in this country where free speech is revered as one of the most important rights we have, advocates to set a man on fire for speaking freely?

And then there were the pictures of klansmen in full KKK regalia outside Nevada caucuses, rallying for “President Trump”.  There didn’t seem to be one shred of shame in them as they paraded around, advertising hatred and yelling pro-Trump slogans…yet they hid their faces.  When you are doing the right thing you shouldn’t need to cover your face and hide your identity.   The KKK likes to say that they believe in God and the United States of America.  The only people I know who talk about God and Country are Boy Scouts and members of the US Armed Services…and none of them hide their face and very few of them advocate racial hatred.

These examples are only a few drops of water in the lake of evidence that we are neither as tolerant nor as free of hatred and -isms as we had hoped to be over 50 years after people of color and women achieved equal rights in this country.

I could give you a lengthy discourse related to all that is wrong with our country, but strangely, the show Black-ish nailed it just last night.  Please watch this clip. It made me cringe, but it was right on the money.

Black-ish Explains Why Racism Isn’t Over

The funny thing is that I started cringing even before Anthony Anderson made his point.  I started cringing as the clip of Obama was showing because I remember watching that exact scene during the inauguration.  I remember the moment that Obama stepped out of the limo and started walking down the road.  And I remember the sudden knot that grew in the pit of my stomach and the sick feeling that gripped me immediately.

I was waiting for the shot to ring out that would end our new President’s life.

I had trouble believing, back in 2008, that the sheer amount of hatred that had been levied against Barack Obama prior to the election wouldn’t conspire to end the hope that his election had brought to me and to many people in our nation.

The fact that Barack Obama is still alive and is our President eight years after his election is a testimony to just how far we’ve come in this country.

The fact that we have campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter (and that we argue about why we need such a campaign) is evidence that things are not progressing as they should.  We are still a racist nation.  And the clearest evidence of that is that we have to have “special episodes” of television programs like Black-ish and then again on Chicago PD to address the widespread violence against Black people in this nation.  Yes…Black people. Not African Americans…that’s not what the campaign is called.  It’s called #BlackLivesMatter.

Yes they do!  Black lives matter!

Women’s lives matter.  Women’s sexual rights matter.  A woman’s control over her own body, which is gift to her alone from God, matters.

Gay lives matter. Gay couples matter.

Hispanics matter.  The lives of American citizens always matter and Hispanics are, by and large, American citizens.

Native Americans and First Nation People matter.  And the truth about how our nation has continued to sin against the Native Americans must be told, because the truth always matters.

Immigrants lives—legal and illegal—matter.

In the end I could go on and on.  But I don’t have to, because God’s children matter wherever they are, whatever color or gender or sexual orientation they are.  God loves all of God’s children and your particular opinion about that person’s spiritual status as a “sinner” or a “saint” does not absolve you of recognizing their inherent worth, nor does it give you permission to treat that person poorly or to discriminate against them.

Hate is not a Christian value.

Oppression is not a Christian value.

Discrimination is not a Christian value.

Jesus came to free us from the power of sin and the havoc that it wreaks in our lives and yet despite the many ways that we confess His name and call him our Savior, many of us appear to be clinging to all the things that Jesus came to free us from.

I look at such things and I despair of our nation’s future.  I don’t know what we need to do to stem the tide of hatred in our nation, but we need to do it soon.

Job 42:6  “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”