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Tolerance is a two way street

4 Apr

It’s a gorgeous Sunday afternoon up here in my corner of the world, the type of day that reminds me why I like living in Maine despite the challenges I face at times as a woman of color. It also happen to be Easter Sunday which as a Christian I do celebrate, yet I don’t need this day alone to honor and celebrate Jesus, its something I do every day upon waking.

I rarely discuss my faith on this blog in part because I am at stage in my faith walk where I don’t see the need to bring it up at every turn. Folks who are friends know my faith, much like they know my politics. My faith guides every area of my life even down to the professional choices I have made in the last 15 years…I am the director of a small non-profit agency that happens to be faith based. Yet the agency I run serves hundreds yearly without regards to one’s religion, I choose to work in the vein of Jesus where I try and do good to others. I am human and I fail sometimes and yet its okay.

That said, in recent years I am discouraged by the fact that we live in a time and space where acceptance of others is highly touted yet when it comes to accepting Christians, it seems acceptance goes out the window. I grew up in a world where faith wise I only knew folks who were Jewish, Christian or Muslim…in other words the big 3. Oh, and I knew a few agnostics/atheists but that pretty much was it when it came to religious and spiritual diversity.

Yet as an adult I count among my friends who practice ATR (African Traditional Religions),Pagans, Wiccans, Buddhists, and so on. Knowing these folks has added a rich diversity to my life and allowed me to think about why I chose the spiritual path that I did, I most certainly can’t say it’s because it was what I was told to do when I was a kid because when I was a kid, I rarely went to church. There was no discussion of faith, that is funny to many who know me because my father is in ordained mister, his mid life crisis entailed going to seminary and choosing an entirely different way of life than what I was raised with..it caused some ripples in our family, initially but we all adjusted. I suppose because I was not raised as a Christian it makes me unusual in that I actively sought out Christianity in my early 20’s instead of how many are raised Christian and actively seek to leave it behind in their adult years. I like to think it gives me an interesting view of the world.

I find myself growing increasingly weary of how due to the actions of some Christians that all are judged to be simple minded idiots who are intolerant. Yes there are intolerant bigoted Christians but such folks exist across the religious spectrum, but it seems Christians and perhaps Muslims (I admit I cannot speak for my Muslim brothers and sisters so correct me if I am wrong) get the bulk of the animosity and judgment. On this Easter Sunday I found myself growing angry as I hopped online briefly and checked into a few of the places I frequent when I am online such as Facebook and Twitter to see a whole lot of negative statements being directed at Christians.

It saddens me because I truly see tolerance as a two way street. Up until a few years ago, I had never heard of Samhain, yet while it’s not a holiday I celebrate it is one I have respect for because I have friends for who Samhain is an important holiday. Yet when folks belittle my faith tradition I admit the very human side of me at times wants to lash out with the same belittling that I deal with on a fairly constant basis. I write this yet not to condemn anyone but to suggest that we all be mindful in our words whether in our face to face interactions or even online. If we seek tolerance for ourselves and our families than I think its important to remember it starts with us. To ask for something we are not willing to give in many cases is not realistic.

Random observations on the C folks

2 Nov

Must be in the air, but since as I wrote in my last post gay marriage is on the ballot up here in Maine. You can imagine what the propoganda is like on both sides.  Last night I fell asleep listening to a commercial where the anti-gay folks were saying if gay marriage becomes a reality here that the society could die out. Since apparently the function of marriage is to have kids…um, that may have been the case in 1950 but more and more heterosexual couples are choosing to either not have kids or are greatly limiting the number of kids they have. Yet we have more and more kids being born whose parents are not married. So, I am sorry but that argument is a tad weak.

Switching gears though, I want to comment on a growing trend I have noticed at least here in my neck of the woods. many of the die-hard fundamentalist style Christians, are frankly crazy. I was just joking with the Spousal Unit that all the “true believers” I have met in my 7 years in Maine, frankly scare me.

A few years ago we were attending a start-up church that was initially non-denominational, the pastor and his wife were young and seemed sane. Well they were until they decided to change up the program and become Pentecostal without telling us, we had to part company over speaking in tongues. Now being that this is a small town, of course you run into these folks and you are only a few degrees of separation from one another. Well the wife of Mister Tongue Speak considers herself a bit of a fashionista and well she befriended a fellow who happens to be gay; well her husband, Pastor Crazy Azz, put his foot down and banned his wife from being friends with the gay fellow. Um….how many layers of crazy is that?

Now if that wasn’t bad enough, I witnessed this weekend being in a space with the two servants of God who are always cordial when I see them but I was chatting with a dear friend who happens to be gay who they know, and you know what that these Christ like followers did? They ignored my buddy, like he wasn’t even there.

I admit this post is a vent about that situation and hope my friends don’t mind me posting but I have a reason. Look, but if you want to be Christ like, well treating folks like shit is not the way to go. I daresay that such behavior most certainly isn’t going to win any souls for Christ seeing as how even I as a Christian with evangelical leanings finds such behavior offensive.  In fact a deep reading of the bible without any background would make a logical connection at least for me that Christ was loving and caring in almost all his interactions with others. There are a few places in the New Testament where Jesus is less than gracious but by and large he sought out folks who were on the edges of society. He treated them with love and respect, he did not resort to petty behavior to condemn them.

So if I were one of these Praise the Lord types…you know the ones. Ask a question and they answer it with Praise the Lord, yada yada. I might work on being a decent person because I cannot see how on judgement day, you can say well Father I carried out your work but I was intentionally mean and hurtful to others, since I only hung out with folks who were just like me.

I am reminded constantly of Paul’s words in Corinthians “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” I have made a choice in my life to know all kinds of folks and to let the light of Christ shine in me. I rarely talk Jesus and God with folks unless they ask me. The only time in recent years, I made an exception is when one of my dearest friends who is an agnostic was talking suicide. I shared my faith and how its gotten me through and told him I was praying for him. He later thanked me for that discussion when he was feeling better and we have never discussed it again. I never feel the need to tell folks unless we have that type of relationship that I am praying for them. Why should I? Other than to make others feel bad or feel that I am judging them, why should or would I? In the end I think it can do more harm than good and make others avoid me like I avoid Pastor Crazy Azz and others of his ilk.

So I guess I am wondering how and why folks are so off track about how to be Christ like? Seems the Bible is clear instead people are running on their own agendas which I think fuels the anger and hostility. In current day society, there is nothing wrong with difference but I think we need to be mindful and respectful of others.

Note: I recognize that I have many readers who are not Christian, but this post was written from my Christian lens.

Going to church….get me my piece

28 Jun

On Sunday mornings when I get ready for church, the usual things that I think of bringing to church aside from my purse generally include a bible and perhaps a bottle of water. Never would I think that bringing a gun to church would be okay, but hey maybe I am out of the loop. After all I do attend one of those more liberal churches, of course that was not always the case…considering I have spent a lot of time in Baptist and Pentecostal churches I am pretty familiar with how my more strict brothers and sisters in Christ think …then again, I stopped attending those churches back when we are under the Bush regime so maybe things have changed. Ya know…we got that damn darkie in the White House.

Check out this piece….seems Ken Pagano the pastor of one New Bethel Church in KY, just hosted a bring a piece to church day. Oh, I meant bring a gun to church but considering piece is slang for gun, I think it’s more fitting. Call me crazy, but church is supposed to be a peaceful place. I cannot think of anything less peaceful than going into God’s house with guns. In fact considering Jesus himself threw folks out of the temple for selling in the temple (Matt21:12-13), I can’t believe he would be none to pleased with some of the folks these days who call themselves Christians which implicit in that name is the fact they supposedly follow Jesus.

Lately I find myself as I recently wrote growing increasingly weary of so-called Christians. Reading the New Testament there is nothing there that I have read that leads me to believe that Jesus was a man that would be down with bringing guns to churches, while Pagano states not all Christians are pacifists, was not Jesus a man of peace? Heck, in Matthew Ch 26, when Jesus was down to his last hours on  earth….when one his own crew pulled out a sword to strike the servant of those who would betray Jesus, Jesus states “Put your sword, in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matt 26:52). One of Jesus’ own was ready to use a piece and here Jesus was saying nahhhh, lets not do that.

So how does one who claims to love Jesus stray so far from his teachings? Because we as humans decide we are going to do what we want and say the Big guy told us, then again these same people will fight hard against issues such as abortion and gay rights.

As far as Pagano and his crew they believe that because this country was founded at a time when carrying a piece was a good idea that it’s still a good idea now….newsflash times have changed.

I’m sorry but folks of this ilk are just one of many reasons that I feel Christianity is losing its cachet here in the good US of A. Folks are seeking spirituality and peace in these crazy times but guys like Pagano are making it easy to just bypass Christianity and look at other faith traditions . After all, I don’t know about you but the idea of praying and holding hands with a guy strapped to do battle does not leave me with a peaceful feeling and if I need a piece, well Norm’s Guns and Ammo is not too far from me and I won’t even need to hear a sermon. Just go in and buy my piece.

So you don’t say

25 Jun

I have a confession to make, one that I have only really stated to the Spousal Unit but now I am ready to share with the world. Christians scare me and I am a Christian. No, I am serious….while I attend a UCC Congregational Church which at times feels a tad light and fluffy, for the most part it meets my needs for a church home.

The larger issue is that as the director of a faith based organization, I come across a lot of Christians of all manner, some who are low key and some who are so over the top that even I, a person that tipped my toe into the more fundamentalist styles, find myself cringing.

For reasons of privacy and the fact that there are folks in my professional circle that access this blog, I can’t get specific as it would not be proper but I can share that personally I am sick and tired of folks that blindly praise the Lord and want to turn him into a magic genie who meets all needs.

Fact is since the death of my Mom five years ago, my faith has been in flux. During her illness, I never ever thought she would die. Even when a dear friend who was a medical school dropout (she did 2.5 years) told me that the type of cancer my Mom was battling had a low chance for long term survival. Yeah, I read all the stats but at that time I was still living in the land of where Jesus said whatsoever you ask in my name, I will do for you. (John14:13-14)  Clearly that meant Jesus was going to heal my Mom, and that life was going to be all good. Well that did not happen, not by damn far….

So one could say, I had a good case for ditching this Christian gig, right? Well, I did briefly toy with the idea but truthfully her death gave me a reason to study the word on a deeper level and when I did, I realized that in many cases we don’t get what we think we ought to have or need. No, for me I find I have found grace and peace, a quiet presence that seems to hold me tight no matter what. Christians often call it the Holy Spirit and I do think it is the Holy Spirit that Christ promised he would leave us with.

Yet even with the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, I walk a fine line in that my brain has not been overtaken and that I use common sense which I think is also a God given gift. So many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are holding out for the fantastical supernatural experience, they are so geeked up that they bring others in telling them that Jesus and God will do this and that for them. Some even go so far as to say if you are broke, sick….fill in the blank of whatever afflicts you, that you are suffering because you obviously have a shortage of faith! Really, you don’t say.

So a cold or financial hardship is the result of lack of faith? What about Job, that was a whole book in the Old Testament about a man who had plenty of issues. Even the guys who followed Jesus did not exactly have great lives as a result of their involvement with Jesus. Heck, one could almost deduce that trying to walk the Christian path could bring more woes upon a person, almost like a supernatural battle between good and evil….

At the end of the day, I am no Christian scholar but I can say that selling Christ as the magic cure-all for everything seems to go against everything he stood for especially when the man Jesus Christ seemed to have led a simple life focused on helping others….quick aside, very few of these holly rollers ever seem to spend much time engaging with the type of folks Jesus did.

I leave you with the link to a great song from my youth that reminds me of many folks who I come across. (its Front 242’s Welcome to Paradise)

I will not worry

20 May

A few weeks ago, I took my first yoga class. For years I have been fascinated by the idea of yoga, yet old habits die hard and as a recovering Evangelical Christian, I have been a bit fearful of yoga….looking back my fears were based on ignorance. Fear that my mind would be taken over by impure read um Christian ideology. Truth is my faith is strong and those were silly childish fears but I digress.

No, as someone who gets stressed to the point of anxiety attacks, I realized that with everything going on in my life, that I need an outlet for dealing with stress in a positive manner. A manner that does not result in a need for trips to the ER and a dose of Ativan to calm me down.

So I took that first class, I walked in skeptical but left feeling refreshed. The class I am taking is Ashtanga yoga which is a tad physical but still forces me to focus and not worry. However after the first few classes, I was still too wound up and decided to sign up for a Yoga Nidra class, which has no focus on the physical and is focused strictly on the mental practice of yoga.

Um….why haven’t I done this sooner? Seriously, it was an hour that was so needed. The class is a guided meditation and while it sounds hokey as hell, as of right now it works. As the hour progressed, I focused on my goal which is to not worry. I worry way too much, I wake up at 3 am to worry, go to sleep worrying. Truth is when I am engaged in intimate time with the Spousal Unit, I have a hard time turning my brain off. As you can see, I think way too much. Despite being strong in my faith, my human inclination is not to let go and let God but to pray and worry which really is a bad idea.

During my session as the layers were peeled off mentally, I entered a state where I found myself repeating that I would not worry but my mind started reminding me of my favorite bible passages that speak to not worrying. It was a truly cathartic and relaxing experience. In the midst of what some of my fellow Evangelicals would call an un-Godly experience, I felt God’s presence deeper than I have in a very long time.

Sometimes we all need to let go of the mental baggage we carry and open ourselves up to new experiences, as we might surprise ourselves with the new insight that we glean. As for me, this has been a peaceful week. I still have money woes and other trials going on in my life, but instead of worrying, I instead am choosing to trust that things will work out, that God is in charge and knows what I need.

So if you are a worry wart, I highly recommend taking yoga and specifically yoga nidra if its available to you.

The spirituality of my hair

14 May

There is nothing like a post on Black women and hair to get some attention in the blogosphere. Of course Black women and our hair have a rather deep and unique relationship. Thanks to all those who posted on my last post, as I lamented over what to do about my beloved locks, I must admit I am still unsure but due to a reaction I had a few hours after writing that post, I know I need to think about it.

See, when I first cut my hair and went natural, I was a hair evangelist, much like a newly born again Christian who feels the need to share the goods news of Jesus Christ. I spent the first several years of being a proudly nappy haired Black woman telling other Black women who had not gotten on board with their naps that they must find and embrace naps. Looking back I shudder now to think about how obnoxious I may have been, but again I wanted to share the good news.

It wasn’t until I started my dreads that I stopped being such a zealot about natural hair on Black women. I will be honest and say that I generally think most Black women look much better with their hair worn naturally but I am also at a point where I can admit when a sista has a banging relaxed style. However most sistas I see in real life with relaxed hair generally look ho-hum at best. Of course the key to hair in general is maintaining it well no matter if you have chemically processed hair or not.

No, see my dreads were not a fashion statement. I had wanted dreads ever since I was 17, going so far at 18-19 as to stop combing my hair thinking that they would lock…it didn’t happen, instead I looked a hot mess. So back I went to the relaxer and later wearing my hair short and natural.

It was the death of my beloved mother that made me take the plunge, her death changed me at the deepest core. I am not the person I was prior to her death, in many ways and the Spousal Unit agrees, I am a nicer person. I strive to be deeper and more compassionate. My mother used to tease me that I was a bitch and the truth is I was very much a bitch and I knew that I needed to change. Her death was the catalyst for me growing up and getting in touch with my inner woman who is compassionate and caring, though lately I wonder if I have gone too far with this niceness bit but that’s for another day.

So how does hair fit into this? Well the process and journey of locking requires patience I have learned. In the early days I had a lot of ugly hair days, a lot of days that felt unsure and I will be damned if there was not a connection between the state of my hair and the state of my mind. As my locks started out as unsure babies much like the new me after my mother’s death, eventually they started toddling…sort of like a toddler does and so on.

Somewhere about 2 years ago, my locks reached a state where they started to look good and again looking at my internal state, that is around the time I started to feel steady and stable emotionally in being the new me. Even now the state of uncertainty that I have around my dreads is similar to what I am facing personally…regular readers know that in recent months I have blogged about my financial woes and even my marital issues. As I told the Spousal Unit the other night, the state of my hair seem to be bound to the state of my mind.

I wrote in the comment section of my last post that I feel like cutting off my locks would feel like I am cutting off my antenna, I know that sounds dramatic as hell but honestly that is how I feel. I neither want or need my locks to be perfectly groomed, but much like my financial life is feeling out of control is how I feel my hair looks and feels at the moment.

So while I am still unsure about what I will eventually do, I know that I need to be still and wait to be led as there may be lessons still to be learned on this journey.

Whose truth?

23 Jul

I was not raised in a traditionally Black Christian household, basically church was something we went to every few years, would have been even less than that if it were not for my Pops. My Mom was raised by her Dad who was an atheist and my Pops was a lapsed Southern Baptist. However when I was 17, Pops was diagnosed with throat cancer and given less than 6 months to live, on what he thought was his deathbed, he had a mid-life conversion and long story short he didn’t die and went to seminary and ended up becoming a minister and pastor much to my Mom’s dismay.

By the time he became a preacher and got his own church, I was already married with my own family, however I started coming to his church and ended up becoming a born again Christian. Its been many years and while I still have a deep and personal relationship with Christ, the truth is Christians scare me. I find Christians to be some of the most insincere and hypocritical folks around, I know that is a rather blanket and possibly offensive statement but after years of faithful church attendance and bible reading I decided a year ago to skip church and set  out to gain a better understanding of the word of God sans a preacher, admittedly I have occasionally used my Pops as a reference since he is a rather unorthodox preacher.

In the year since I stopped attending church regularly and stopped searching for a church home, I have immersed myself in the works of folks like Marcus Borg and many others and honestly I feel cheated. Like most faithful church goers who never go beyond what their preacher says, I never understood the foundation of how the Christian church really came to be, how Christianity stole from Paganism to create holidays that we revere such as Christmas. While I still believe that the Bible is God’s word, I am now aware that the words were written by men and also reflect the value system of the times in which the books were written. A point that never seems to get mentioned in many traditional churches, this is why we have Paul offering rules on women in the church, yet upon deeper reflection and research is it practical to say these teachings and advice should be applied in current times? After all how many women especially in the Black community are the true workers at the church holding it down while the preacher reaps all the glory. My Granny died giving all her money to a church that did nothing for her, when she needed a furnace, medications, where was the church? I suspect she was not the only faithful attendee who gave yet when she needed her community it was not there for her.

I also have come to face that the Bible has been misused to keep down and oppress others and as a Black woman, I grapple with that daily. Don’t get me wrong I have always known the bible was used as a tool of oppression but I guess it really hit home when I set my heart to truly grow closer to God and yet studying the bible have really thought how the biblical truths have been used to justify many wrongs.

 Right now I am praying for clarity, there are moments when I think perhaps this Christianity thing is not real but there are too many things I have seen and experienced in life that lead me to know its real.

What’s not real though is how people use the bible and God to create a false truth for their own purposes, be it to sucker people into their congregation or keep people feeling bad about themselves. In an election season we don’t have to look any further than the highly regarded Evangelical Christian vote to see folks who misuse God to create their own truth. These same folks get up in arms about abortion but I ask where is the compassion that Jesus showed on earth? Instead of getting up in arms about so-called liberal issues, if Evangelicals took that same energy and used it with a spirit of compassion maybe there would be less hungry and homeless folks in America.

Right now I am pondering my own journey which may lead me to seminary (talk about irony, another family mid-life journey) but I wonder am I the only one who ponders the issue of truth every day and wonders whose truth to follow?