Posted in Howling Sea Lane

The Why Behind the Howl


I’ve done a lot of talking and typing lately that I don’t normally do.  I’ve gotten into internet scraps and blown pretty hard at some people over issues that mean a lot to me.

When it comes to making decisions, I have two filters.  I have my James 3:17 filter and I have my Thor filter.  The Thor filter was born the day my son was, and I looked at him and thought, “I am going to do my best to make this world a better place for you, starting with me.”

My ultimate litmus test is this:  If this were happening to my son, what would I do?  I work from there.

I believe we all want the best for our children.  Our troubles begin when we think the best for our children has to be at the expense of someone else’s child.  Our troubles end when we look at other children and ask ourselves how we can make the world better for all of them.

I want my son to grow up in a world where people work together to see that everyone has enough.  Where, to paraphrase Louis CK, we are all making sure our neighbor’s bowls are full.

I want my son to grow up in a world where you are free to love any consenting adult, who would like to love you back.  I want my son to grow up in a world where you can be any color, or gender, and be the leader of our nation–without people calling you by racial epithets, or genitalia slang.

I want my son to grow up feeling free to worship as he chooses, knowing that if the next guy prays differently, he is no more, or less good, moral, or human than my son.  I want my son to grow up with an open mind, an open heart, and a solid understanding of when to close both of those functions against bigotry, racism, and unkindness.  I want him to stand tall with compassion and empathy, and carry a big stick of intolerance for cruelty.

The world is a scary place, full of anger, and hatred, and abuse.  It is full of people willing to oppress, degrade, and dehumanize others for power and financial gain.  I want my son to stand against that.

So, I have to stand against that, not just agree to disagree with it.

I don’t have any power, or prestige going for me.  All I have is my voice and my ability to type really fast.  But that’s why I post about religion and politics.  I’m trying to stand against a tide, hoping my toehold will make my son’s footprint deeper, so he can raise the next generation to do even better for humanity.  It’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got, and shame on me if I don’t use it.

Posted in music, Religion

Jesus on Toast, and in Music Videos


I hope David Bowie never turns normal.  I would be very sad for him to stop being David Bowie.  That said, I’m going to complain about his latest music video (you can find a link to the video there), but probably not for the reasons you might think.

In Bowie’s latest video, a priestly Gary Oldman (words you never thought you’d see together, right?) walks us into a seedy bar, where several other priests and bishops/cardinals (they’re wearing red, but no hats, so how can I tell?) are debauching themselves with variously undressed women, including the lovely Marion Cotillard.  Bowie, dressed as a Jesus figure, and his band play from the stage.

Oldman, as anyone would, finds Cotillard’s form fetching and selects her to join him on the dancefloor–validating the theory that old, white guys can’t dance.  Cotillard experiences what a Charismatic might call a slaying of the spirit, then presents with stigmata that goes off like geysers from her palms, hosing down herself, Oldman, a saint/angel figure, and the dancefloor (rendering it useless.  Pity.)

His plans for the evening foiled by this fountain, Oldman shakes an angry fist at Bowie, yelling, “You did this!” 

All along, Bowie has been singing these lyrics, so he’s obviously got something serious to say, and he’s got a real bone to pick with how religious leaders treat their flocks.  I’m down with that.  I couldn’t agree more.  Even as a zealot, the worst of my anger and offense was always reserved for religious people who abused their power. 

But here’s the trouble:  When you use religious imagery to address serious issues with misuse and abuse of power, you’re attacking the wrong people.

Do you think any one of those pedophile priests gives a rat’s butt what you do with a crucifix?  Do you think the church leaders who are stealing money from the elderly or the mentally ill care how you interpret stigmata?  Do you think that the warmongering, hate-filled church is worried about David Bowie dressed as Jesus?  No.  Not a whit. 

Why?  Because they know that’s all bunk.

You know who it hurts?  The faithful masses who are already being hurt and whipped.  It’s a pile-on.

The Borgia Pope/Jim Bakker/Bill Carney wouldn’t care if you painted Jesus doing Mary–they’d probably hang it in the bedroom.  You know who cares about that, and who is hurt by that?  The lady who thinks Jesus lives in her toaster.  That little woman who is staring at her toast, thinking God has blessed her is the one who is hurt by that imagery.

And, it is mean, it is bullying, and it is a total missed point to abuse that woman.  Bless her heart.

Only the blind faithful, and the ignorant followers of hatemongers like that church whose name I refuse to give any attention are hurt, or stirred up by it.  Otherwise, it’s just a lazy grab for publicity–and worse, it gives the wrongdoers something to point at, so that people look away from what is happening to the altar boys to throw rocks at a rockstar.

When you’re out there licking a crucifix (that doesn’t happen in this video, surprisingly, since everything else did), you aren’t making a statement about abuse of power, you’re giving the abuser something solid to take away attention from what people only suspect he is doing.  “Your daughter came home crying from that mission trip?  Oh!  All these rock musicians are ruining our youth and confusing them with their sacrilege!  It’s the devil!  Look at this video.  We should protest.  And send your daughter back over to my office tomorrow night at 8pm.  I’ll get her involved in making it happen.  That will give her a purpose.”

We end up thanking the Problem for offering up a solution.

So here is my plea to legitimate artists everywhere:  Don’t focus on what Toaster Lady loves, because when you stomp on her Jesus Toast, her pastor is going to tell her that you are the problem.  Keep the focus on the ministers, and keep yanking on that curtain that hides what’s going on behind the baptismal.

And, David Bowie, stay weird.

Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior, Family, Religion

My Soul Cries Out to Thee


I left work early today, and I was home before Mom brought Thor in from their excursions.  I was more than two hours earlier than I ever get to the house.  When I heard them coming in the front door, I told B, “I’m going to hide.”  So, I threw a blanket over myself and sat on the sofa–hiding in plain sight works on 7 year olds.  It works on Grandmas, too because I had to wave at Mom to get her to notice me, and put a finger over my lips to keep her from exclaiming.

Thor was standing not 3 feet from me, and B said, “Hey, I think there is a lump over there on the sofa that might want a hug.” Thor paused, then walked over to me and started laughing.  And he laughed, and laughed, and laughed until he had tears in his eyes, hugging me, then leaning back to look at me and laugh some more.

It’s amazing and wonderful how something so simple and silly can bring so much joy.

My mom called me later to tell me how happy it made her to see how much the boy and I love each other, and to say, “And that’s how much I love you, too.”

You guys…I am humbled and grateful every day of my life.  It isn’t possible to do enough to deserve the love I’ve had around me, and it pricks at the most latent parts of my spirituality.  Critics talk about how the desperate and the downtrodden invent gods to make themselves feel better, but it is when I am at my happiest that I most want one.  I just want to say thank you and express my gratitude to someone–I need to say thank you*!  I’m after God’s heart because mine gets so full.  I miss my old zealotry and surety the most when I am bursting to say thank you.

Thor wanted to show me one of the Bibles my mom has bought him–it’s verse style, not story style, so he’s very impressed.  I asked if he’d like to see my favorite verse, and he said yes, but he certainly hoped it was in the New Testament because the Old Testament sure is boring.  He was in luck.

Romans 8:38, 39 reads, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

He read that out loud in whatever translation his was, and I said, “That’s my favorite verse, and that’s how much I love you.  Nothing can ever separate you from how much I love you, or change that you are mine.”

It’s always been the “because He first loved me” aspect of Christianity that attracted me to the faith.

At this point in my life, I have a thousand more questions than I will ever have answers regarding God, but that’s okay.  Because if the god I chose  loves me anywhere near the way I love Thor–anywhere near the way my mother loves me, then the questions and uncertainty won’t bother him at all.  Not even my disbelief could separate me from that love.  (Sacrilege!  I know.  But not even his willful refusal to acknowledge me would make me turn my back my son, and I am an imperfect being.  It is possible [I think not probable, since he doesn’t show any tendencies toward serial killing or despotism] that he could do things to horrify and make me not like him, and possible that he could distress and disappoint me, but there is nothing that could quell the love I have for him.  Maybe that’s part of the imperfection of humanity–if it is, I prefer it to deity.)

Anyway…it is in every sense of the word a blessing to be married to my husband and into his family, and to belong to the family I was born into, and to have the family of friends I’ve made, and especially to be the family that we became when we had Thor, and I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has made even an ounce of it possible.

Here is Thor, having bored himself to sleep, reading Genesis.
Here is Thor, having bored himself to sleep, reading Genesis.

 

*This is a real issue for me.  I have sat on hold for 15 minutes waiting for a store manager, just to say thank you for good service.  I have a compulsive need to show gratitude that can manifest in a slavish devotion depending upon the level of thanks I am giving.  I guess there are worse compulsions?

Posted in Howling Sea Lane, Lancient History, Religion

Father Where Art Thou?


By now you’ve probably all seen the AP news report about a Massachusetts third grader, who has been denied access to a local parochial school due to his parents’ sexuality.  Since I was on religion yesterday, I thought I would pick up the thread and share my opinion here. 

Prefacing all of this with the understanding that it is entirely legal for the school to refuse entry to any child, I want to talk about why I have a personal problem with the decision.  First, let’s go back to Matthew. 

Matthew 19:13-15 (King James Version)

 13Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 

 14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 

 15And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence. 

Jesus did not ask his disciples to do a background check on the adults bringing the children to him.  He did not ask if little Ezekiel’s parents were his followers, or if Elizabeth’s mother was still smoking crack, or if Alpheus’ fathers were still gay, or if Delphine was still being raised by her aunt because her mother was in prison and they weren’t sure who her father was.  And if he was aware of each child’s individual situation, he did not look over them with a finger against the side of his mouth, tapping away the ones who weren’t good enough until he found the ones whose parents lived up to his idea of pre-Christian standards.  No.  He touched each and every one of them, loved them individually, and then went on his way.  Such is the King of Heaven. 

More to the point, when Jesus taught he didn’t require your holiness before you were allowed to listen and learn.  He didn’t ask that you pass a test of righteousness, or be without sin.  He didn’t even ask that you be attempting to live according to Levitical law.  He asked nothing of you, and gave everything of himself.  

Jesus did not ask you for money.  He gave you fishes and loaves. 

Jesus did not ask you for your righteousness.  He gave you his own. 

I get so angry and so aggravated at the Church universal, and how exclusive and exclusionary it is.  You can’t come inside unless you fit the standard mold. 

There is a local christian (and I am always being purposefully distinctive about upper- or lower-case letters) radio station that advertises with the slogan, “Safe for the whole family.”  You would be hard pressed to find a piece of their marketing that would not lead you to believe the slogan ought to be, “Safe for the whole straight, white family, which includes at least two children.” 

I worked for an international religious organization for years.  Some things they got very, very wrong, but other things they got right.  One of the things they got right was that everyone was accepted into the church*.  Liars, cheats, drug addicts, fornicators, adulterers, gay, domestic abusers, gang bangers, strippers, abortionists and anything else you could want to shake a finger at, they were there sitting next to me.  The only things that required background checks or agreements regarding lifestyle choices were teaching positions–and that’s as it should be. 

How do people learn if they can’t be taught?  Imagine if the public school system was able to turn away a child because of the color of his skin.  How could that child learn, and grow into a man who could earn a living and participate as a citizen?  We aren’t so far away from that time in our secular history, and we all agree that it is wrong.  So why are we still shutting the church doors on people?  “I’m so sorry,” we say, with a prim little smile on our lips and sorrowful eyebrows, “but we just can’t have you in here.  When you stop drinking, you’ll be welcome.  But until then…  Tsk.  I’m sorry.  We just can’t.  Think of the children.” 

Yes.  Think of the children.  Please, for the love of God, think of the children. 

I attended Catholic school as a non-Catholic, and I am grateful for the education I received.  I am also grateful for having been forced to actually read the Bible in its entirety, and for having Mrs. Cardenas and Sister Sue Ann there to try and decipher it for me.  Though I did not make a decision for Christ until I was in my twenties, those ladies laid a foundation for me.  And isn’t that the whole point of having a religious school?  Even if I had chosen to continue in an agnostic existence, I am a better person for having learned the philosophies taught by Jesus.  

Aren’t religious schools intended to be places to instruct children on what your religion believes are the right and proper ways to live?  In that case, wouldn’t you be welcoming the ones whose backgrounds were contrary to your own with wide arms?  Aren’t those the children who need you the most?  Aren’t those the parents you want to win over with love?  Aren’t you in the business of saving souls through education?  And isn’t your god strong enough to overcome any taint that some poor heathen child might bring into your camp?  Aren’t you called to be a light unto the world? 

One of the things the ministry I worked for got wrong was money.  Money money money.  Toward the end of my time there, it was all about getting money.  We were in a meeting one morning, discussing just that.  We were instructed to pray that God would cause something to happen that would deliver over to our ministry the finances of wicked men and women based on this scripture: 

Proverbs 13:22 (King James Version)

 22A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. 

I’ll save my full Old Testament/New Testament rant for another time, and just say this:  Either you believe Jesus fulfilled the OT or you don’t.  You shouldn’t be mixing and matching Levitical law and the commandments of the Christ to build your doctrines.  That said, I asked in the meeting, “Shouldn’t we be praying that God [being no respecter of persons, who would do for anyone what he did for Paul] rescue the wicked, and turn their eyes from darkness to light, so that they turn to Christ?  And that way, doesn’t the wealth of the wicked become the wealth of the just?” 

If looks could kill.  They didn’t like my idea.  

Because even when you are righteous it is easier to pray for someone’s destruction than someone’s salvation.  And even when you are righteous it is easier to judge someone else’s lifestyle and avoid them than to share a cup.  (I am thinking of my grandmother spraying down furniture with Lysol in front of him when an openly gay friend of my cousin would visit her house.  Embarrassing!)  And even when you are righteous it is easier to say no to one child than have to explain to however many other children that even though your religion does not condone the lifestyle that this child’s parents lead, your god still loves that family and sees them as part of his family.  And, in fact, loves that family so much that he sent his son to die for them, just like he did for you. 

Do you see?  I get so angry!  God loves gays and God loves druggies.  God loves prodigal sons.  And do you know what?  God loves the ones who never love him back.  

I am a mother first and foremost and I want you to know that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will ever be able to separate my son from the love I have for him.  Nothing he does could make me stop loving him.  Nothing could make me give up on him.  He doesn’t have to be anything other than mine, and I birthed him, so that will never change.  He could deny me all he wanted.  He could change his name.  He could run to Timbuktu.  I am still his mother, and I would still love him.  And I would never, ever give up on him. 

God feels that way about you, about me, about Hitler, about Tom Cruise, about Rick James, about Betty Ford, about Marc Jacobs, about Ellen Degeneres, about that guy who lives next door to you, about your 7th grade science teacher, about that homeless man, about every single child in his creation.  That love doesn’t go away.  That love doesn’t die.  That love is perfect. 

The religious school is upset because the little boy in question only has mothers, and has no father.  I’ve got news for them.  That child has a Father, and it would serve them well to talk to Him about admission requirements.

*After Amy, who worked and sat in the congregation with me at this institution, read the post she reminded me:  I agree completely, except that I would say “that church” wasn’t accepting of everyone. You commit any crime known to man and be accepted but I dare you to be a divorcee in that church. Even though every gosh darn person in leadership was divorced [and they had created a whole new doctrine to allow divorce of ministers], you’ll be
treated like an outcast.

Posted in Howling Sea Lane, Religion

FISHing for Business of Fishers of Men


Context is everything, isn’t it?  You take one detail out of context and the whole story changes.  Out of context a stolen handkerchief becomes all the evidence Othello needs to believe Iago’s whispered machinations.  A half-heard conversation is the plot device in half of all romantic comedies.  Religion certainly suffers from contextual conflagration.  I am initimately familiar with that one.

We end up with cards and door-talkers on our front porch all the time, advertising this or that service.  Lawn, handyman repair, babysitting, you name it.  I don’t pay much attention to any of them, but the surest way to get me to throw a business card or flyer away is for me to spot an Ichthys (Jesus fish), cross, or dove on it.

I’m a Christian.  I am just wary of people who use symbols of faith to advertise their business.  I know that the various emblems are supposed to signify trustworthiness, or solidarity, or make me feel comfortable doing business, but I can’t help feeling that if you are willing to take something holy and full of meaning, something that should inspire reverence and awe, and slap it on a piece of colored copy paper as a means of recommending your ability to snake my drains, you aren’t taking it as seriously as you should.  So, my brain connects the dots to the conclusion that you don’t take the message of Christ seriously, and therefore don’t take me seriously, and won’t mind trying to charge me $500 for a new toilet when all I need is a $3 orange plug thingy.  No thank you!

Think about that.  Do you think Moses would have had an image of the Ark of the Covenant stamped on his business card?  Why, or why not?

The why-not is easy.  The Ark of the Covenant belonged in the Holy of Holies, and all it was was a container for the Ten Commandments.  How much holier the image of the cross, the fulfillment of every other commandment and the symbol of our salvation?  It’s not just a throwaway.  It means something other than that people should shop at your knick knack store.  I say this as someone who used to have an Ichthys on her car.  Reformed whatevers are always the worst, aren’t they?

But I digress.  I was talking about context and had in mind Matthew 6:19, which reads from the NIV: “19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Usually, when we hear this scripture, it is in reference to monetary wealth or ownership of things, but when you look at the verse in context of its chapter, we are actually talking about prayer and charity, and whether we prefer God’s reward for our acts of righteousness, or the praise of men. 

I think this is why the use of holy symbols for personal gain bothers me.  A cross on your business card is shorthand for set of very detailed and defined characteristics.  What you are asking me to do, when you have that dove of peace stamped on your card, is make a connection between your business model and Jesus Christ.  You are asking me to make a mental connection between the service you are offering, and the service Jesus offered.  And as much as I need my air conditioning, it is a stretch to assume that your ability to fix my leaking coolant is akin to Jesus’ ability to save my eternal soul.  The context of the symbol means everything.

More, you are enticing me to give you my business based on a public show of your religion.  This means you are asking me to give you my business based on your having trumpeted your righteousness in the streets–exactly what Jesus warns against in Matthew 6. 

I should know your business is christian in its practices by reputation and living example, not by a logo that any thug can draw.