Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World.

If you grew up in Fundamental American Christianity, chances are you sung the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” countless times throughout your childhood in the church. It was written by preacher Clarence Herbert Woolston in the late 1800’s and it gives children a very simple, yet beautiful global message with these lyrics:

Jesus loves the little children,

All the children of the world,

Red and Yellow, Black and White,

They’re all Precious in his sight,

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

As an impressionable child who knows nothing of borders, politics, world religions, nationalism, or racism, the meaning of this song isn’t hard to understand or digest. As children, it is natural that all children, all people, rather, are precious. We learn elitism, it isn’t born in us. This song that we learned as children has become counter-cultural in the current age, especially here in America. We have been conditioned by society that some children mean more than others. We have been subjected to the rise of consumerism where we want and need to consume more goods, have more things, bigger things and brighter things. We whine if we can only afford a 25′ boat instead of a 32′ boat with a nice sleeper cabin. We complain when we can’t afford a Coach bag. I am just as guilty of it, and trying desperately to find the appropriate balance of possessions and charity. It’s encouraging to see the rise of minimalism that is apparent by the increasingly popular best selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, written by Marie Kondo.

We simply do not need so much. Currently, we have the religious right accepting and supporting building a “Great Wall” at the U.S./Mexico border that will cost taxpayers anywhere from 10 billion USD to 40+ billion USD, depending on which economic estimate you examine. They are willing to spend potentially billions of life saving dollars to ensure privilege for some of God’s children, while ensuring continued poverty and starvation for other children of God, other little children that Jesus loves.

When we resist this idea of nationalism and elitism, we are insulted and accused of being ignorant libtards. We are accused of being unpatriotic and taunted with uncompassionate ideologies such as “we should take care of Americans first.” Why? Why should we only be concerned about people that were born here? This is not what Jesus would tell me. Jesus, I’m sure would tell me to use all the innovative, technological, monetary resources we have to reduce suffering for all the children of the world. Jesus would tell me to resist the fear that somehow taking care of others would deplete my resources to take care of myself and my loved ones. Jesus would tell me that another, better world is possible if only we would change our ways.

Not only are wall resistors insulted, we are being bullied with fear based Christian rhetoric. Somehow being a person with a bleeding heart for the globe has been equated with Satan and his “one world agenda.” To complicate things further, the rapture theology is thrown in where any global movement toward world peace and equality is somehow anti-Christ. This theology is man made, complicated, and only serves the powerfully rich global aristocrats who have historically thrived on keeping the poor down, divided, at war, and increasing. Somehow they’ve conditioned Christians to be unconcerned with this life, and only concerned with the afterlife, even though Jesus continuously seemed unconcerned with the afterlife. He mentioned THIS world and called us to be the light of THIS world and eliminate/reduce suffering for all. 

Love is such a simple theological concept, and I struggle to see the love stemming from the religious right. My hope is that they remember the simplicity of the Jesus they learned about as children. 

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If Being a Christian Means XYZ, then I am not a Christian.

If Being a Christian Means XYZ, then I am not a Christian.

In his book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts Faith and Threatens America,  Randall Balmer cites Billy Graham’s concern about a marriage between the political right and religious fundamentalism.

Billy Graham warned, “I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” Parade Magazine, 1981.

His profound warning is exactly what is happening in our current culture. GOP policy and agenda has manipulated good people into succumbing to the perversion of Jesus’ teachings for monetary gain.

Therefore, I resist with a poem:

If being a Christian means I have to deny healthcare to another human being, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to deny equality to the LGBT community, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to turn a blind eye to the suffering of refugees, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to accept building a wall separating me from another human, so I can be privileged, and they can suffer, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to deny scientific evidence of climate change, therefore contributing to the destruction of the earth, our home, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to desire more guns, lack of gun regulations, and believe the mentally impaired should be able to purchase guns, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means that I have to support building an oil pipeline through sacred land of Native Americans, disrespecting them, their land, and the earth, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to deny another human’s entry into my country because they worship differently, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to deny women access to birth control, cancer screenings, and education regarding their bodies, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to call a woman a murderer for having an abortion resulting from rape, incest, fetal developmental abnormalities, or simply because she is in a bad situation, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to believe that God is going to destroy the earth and only save  select Christians from that destruction after a rapture, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to accept that billions of earth’s species fit onto one boat, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to discredit evolution or science, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to deny suffering people the benefits of medical cannabis, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to pledge allegiance to a flag and nationalism, instead of Jesus and his teachings of love, equality, caring for the poor, and fighting for the least of these, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to deny human beings food because they are addicted to drugs, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to believe in the death penalty, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to believe that women should not be pastors, equal in their homes, or professionally, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to believe that others will go to an eternal hell because they were born in a different culture and religion, then I am not a Christian.

If being a Christian means I have to openly accept things that Jesus vehemently spoke against, then I am not a Christian.

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What if you were a refugee?: How to Inspire Empathy.

Like millions of human beings around the world, I am struggling to understand the political and spiritual climate in the United States and globally. The world seems to be very polarized and divided. We can pretend that the divide doesn’t exist. We can blame it on politics, religion, or the media, but it’s pretty clear that there are two sides right now. The divide has become more apparent in this historic 2016 election, and continues to deepen with everyday.

However, this divide is only a symptom of the disease. We are one earth. One species. We all come into the world the same way. We all bleed the same. We will all die. No matter what race, religion, creed, gender, or political affiliation, we are all human beings, first. I believe the divide we are seeing today is a result of us forgetting that simple fact, that we are all the same blood. Arguably, we are all related somewhere down the ancestry line. We are brothers and sisters, and we are failing the family as a whole.

One of the central tenets of Jesus’ teaching was to love others, and “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” This is also a core teaching of most all major world religions including; Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Islam. Religion unfortunately has failed us. It has created another label and self identity rather than teaching us to see ourselves in others.

I could’ve been born a refugee. I could’ve been born into a Muslim family. I could’ve been born a black male in America. I can separate my ego, name, and physical body from my spirit and understand that I could’ve been anyone and in any situation. Just because my experience is being a white American, privileged Baptist, doesn’t mean I am superior, or in some elite group of people going to Heaven. Just because I was raised with this elite set of ideals, doesn’t make it true. Radical Islam has been hurt by this elitism too. They think and are raised that they are the ones, they are right, and it’s their duty to God or “Allah”  to shove it down the throats of the world. The killing of others by radical Islam is no different than the Christian crusades, just happening centuries later.

Still the division persists. How do we get rid of this division and why is it important? Empathy is the cure and it is important because humans are suffering at the hands of our own prison of self importance. Some of us are born with the natural gift of empathy. We can easily put ourselves in others’ shoes. It’s as natural to us as breathing. Others cannot do this.

I can easily imagine being a 14 year old girl, raped in the ghetto. I can envision the rape on some stained bare mattress in a dilapidated crack house on the state streets of Flint, Michigan. I can experience the emotions of that girl. I can feel her fear and desperation all the while feeling her self worth destroyed and spirit crushed. I can imagine the blood and pain. I can feel her suffering internally and externally.

What if she gets pregnant? I can feel her hopelessness. I can feel her being reminded of the traumatic rape event by the fetus growing in her womb, knowing she won’t be able to provide for this child. I cry thinking of how scared she is and then she’s greeted with “Christians” at planned parenthood, waving signs calling her a killer, sinner, and whore. I can understand her choice and decision.

I can imagine being a refugee. I can feel their fear and desperation only to come to the US and be turned away. This is not what we are called to be. I can imagine the broken hearts of the mamas that just want their children to eat, and merely survive.

Others cannot. Others cannot put themselves in another’s shoes.

How do we inspire empathy? How do we get them to understand that it’s up to us to treat other humans exactly the way we would want others to treat us? Begin by sharing your stories. Share your abortion stories, share your sexual assault stories, share your stories of a family member dying because of having no healthcare. Share your stories of rape. Share your stories of being persecuted as a member of the LGBT community. Share your attempted suicide stories. Share the stories of the suffering and keep asking them open ended questions to make them think, such as:

What if you were a refugee?

What if you were born a Muslim?

What if you were threatened with a gun?

What if you were sexually assaulted?

What if your child had a disability?

What if you were black and your unarmed dad was just shot by a police officer?

What if you grew up in the ghetto with uneducated parents and went to a public school that has an illiteracy rate of 80%?
What if you were a person unable to experience empathy? I would want someone to help set me free from my fear and prison of self importance.
Keep going. Keep sharing. Keep asking these kinds of questions. Empathy is the cure.

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The Good News in the Age of Trump: Believe in the Age to Come.

I was taught at a very young age, as long as I can remember, what the “good news” was. In fundamental Christianity, it is a central concept in which all others branch from. This “good news” is indoctrinated in us, and we are told to go out into the world and preach the good news. It is our reason for existence, our life purpose, and where we find hope to make life worth living.

So, what is this “good news” that we are supposed to preach to the world?

Simply stated, and yet theologically complicated, the “good news” is nicely tied up in one verse, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son, so that whosoever believeth in him, shall not parish, but have everlasting life.” The good news is that we can have eternal life, and not go to hell after we die, if we believe in him. In order to prove our belief, one must be saved, which means asking Jesus into your heart, confessing you’re a sinner, and living your life following Jesus.

We are also taught in fundamentalism that those who are saved will take part in the rapture. The rapture is when Jesus takes all the believers up to heaven “in the blink of an eye” and leaves all other people, including atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) to suffer on earth during a seven year tribulation period on earth. This tribulation would be filled with the worst torture, starvation, disease, plagues, and wars the world has ever known.

This “good news” I was taught was downright horrifying. I remember coming home from school when I was 6 years old and no one was home. I thought for sure my family was raptured, and I was left behind. I can’t tell you the terrifying panic I felt as a little girl. This fear was always with me. Always afraid I would be left behind.

I believed in the rapture until I was 30 years old. My hope lived in my belief that “any day now” Jesus would come get me. I could escape and leave this shitty world behind. God was going to destroy it anyways. The worse things got, the closer we were to the coming of Jesus. There was no reason to try and change the world, or bring peace, heal the nations…my central purpose was to get others saved so they wouldn’t be left behind. However, I didn’t really believe this. It brought me fear and sadness. It didn’t bring hope or promise. Did I love others more than God did? I don’t want anyone destroyed. I don’t want any humans to suffer. I don’t want anyone to hurt. As I delved into my own spirit, I began to see a different ending. What if there was no rapture? What if the world was going to get better? What if the message in Revelation was, in fact, restoration of creation?

Now this, would be good news.

These questions led me to start over. I hit the reset button on my faith, and one of the first books I read was Barbara Rossing’s scholarly critique of the rapture in her best selling book, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation. Contrary to the premillenial dispensationalist vision of the Bible and geo-political events, Rossing argues that Christians are called to a renewal of the earth, not to await its destruction. We pray this in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” She writes, “The Lamb is leading us on an exodus out of the heart of empire, out of the heart of addiction to violence, greed, fear, an unjust lifestyle, or whatever holds each of us most captive. It is an exodus we can experience each day”.

During this reset, I had to unlearn everything and become a blank slate. I started reading the Gospels. Specifically, the words in red, the words of Jesus. I knew there were mistranslations. I knew there were misinterpretations, so my rule was to test what I was reading against my own spirit. If a story or message was present in at least three of the gospels, there was a pretty good chance it was a message I could rely on.

The overwhelming message of the gospels is to preach the good news. However, the good news was completely different from what I was taught in fundamentalism. Jesus explains what the good news is to his disciples, before he died. Jesus preached the good news while he was alive. The good news was not wrapped up in his death, or his murder at the hands of the religious empire. Simply stated, and not theologically complicated, the good news was that the kingdom of heaven is near. It was a proclamation of freedom for the prisoners and recovery for the blind, to set the oppressed free. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is within us. This place of unconditional love, healing, peace, forgiveness, and restoration for all people is found within us. This Kingdom begins in our mind. It is the light we seek. It is the world we desire. It is our dream and it is the age to come.

Currently, in the age of Trump, there are many of us that are experiencing immense grief. Every issue we know in our hearts to progress toward for humanity is being threatened or destroyed. Healing disease, loving and caring for the poor, protecting the planet from climate change, world peace, unity, equality,…seems that dream is dying. We are experiencing the death of a dream. However, I have realized the dream is not dead. It is the good news. The age to come will come, perhaps by different means than we thought.

I believe in the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe in the age to come where the outer becomes the inner. Our inner world, our inner kingdom will become the outer world. We must still believe. We must bring it about, in our words and actions. In the end, we win. Restoration of all people wins. Restoration of all creation wins.  The good news is for all people.

To be a believer means to believe in the coming of the Kingdom. It means to believe that God will go after every lost sheep until all of creation bows in peace, unity, and love for all.

Hope is rising. The kingdom is growing stronger. Our light within is getting brighter as we connect, and resist. We will overcome the darkness. It is the way. It is the truth. It is the life.

The age to come.

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