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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Resistance, Victory, and Hope: Finding Strength after Week One of Trump’s America.

As we approach the end of week one of the Trump presidency, yesterday was the most unsettling yet. The silencing or “gag order” of several agencies from communicating with the public, the executive orders to progress with the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, and then the day ended with a tweet from Mr. Trump, “Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among many other things, we will build the wall!” 

This tweet coming at the end of such a heartbreaking day was no doubt just an egotistical punch in our already sick stomachs, and one more knife in our hearts. The battle is not lost, however. The Body rose up yet again in Truth and Justice.

Silencing the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) spurred a rogue former employee of Badlands National Park to frantically start tweeting climate science facts. Soon they were deleted due to the gag order. Bless his/her heart! What troubling times if tweeting science is an act of rebellion. This sparked a little revolution of sorts in the world of climate science. A new Twitter account emerged called @AltUSNatParkService, with the tag line “The unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of U.S. National Park Service. Not taxpayer subsidized. Come for rugged scenery, fossil beds, 89 million acres of landscape.” In their feed, climate science facts are shared among their nearing 250k followers in less than a day of its creation. Other similar resistance pages have also begun.

This is beautiful. This is Hope. The God I believe in is rising up through us. Everything is being exposed right now. Most importantly, the light. In the pit of my despair yesterday, I was drawn to read Matthew 10. It is a list of instructions that Jesus gives his disciples. Immediately after reading, the peace came. He tells them to speak to the lost. He tells them to not be afraid. He tells them to travel from city to city proclaiming “good news” from the rooftops that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Tells them to cure disease, heal the sick. He tells them to keep standing, even if it means walking away from those who don’t hear their message. Tells them that they will be hated. He tells them most importantly to believe in protection, and to take up their cross, do what is right. 

The God I believe in is hearing our cries about the destruction of our planet and creation. He/She hears the cries of the refugees that are banned from entering the US as of today. This God is with Standing Rock, and with us all as we watch the erection of this wall. We know someday it will come down and what a celebration that will be for a future generation. I hope my children witness that great event and display of love and unity. This God is fighting with us, not out of fear, but from Mighty power. Just look at the global women’s march on Saturday! What a ROAR from the Spirit. 
As we continue this rising, remember we are not fighting for victory, we are fighting FROM victory. Love wins in the end. Restoration wins. Healing wins. Compassion wins. God/Life/Spirit/Creation wins. 

In Malcom Gladwell’s acclaimed best selling book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,  he seeks to explain and describe social trends and great social movements. He states ” The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” 

Friends, we are on the other side of the tipping point, which all evidence points to the election that struck the match. The Body and its’ Message will continue to spread like wildfire. Let us be grateful and proclaim the good news. 

In The Hunger Games (Book 1), by Suzanne Collins, a profound quote about Hope is given from the evil President Snow…

Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.” 

Let your Spirit continue to ROAR WITH HOPE. 

Cleansing the Temple: Our work post the inauguration of Trump.

As I awoke from my depressed slumber from the late eve of election night, I immediately checked my phone for the results. There it was. Donald Trump had won the presidential election of The United States of America. Tears started to well, and body temperature began to raise as I could feel my cheeks getting hot. A great feeling of sadness waved over me and all I wanted to do was pull my blanket over my head and stay all day in the dark. I couldn’t, however, it was time to play mom. Time to shuffle the kids off to public school where they are the minority in a heavily populated Hispanic school district…my purposeful choice.

As I pulled up to the drop off loop, I just sat there in line, observing. I observed the village hard at work to provide a quality education to all of these kids. I noticed the Hispanic women volunteers helping the parents get their children out of the car, help them put their backpacks on, and usher them inside the school. A school where every sign on the wall and every piece of paper going home to parents has an equivalent Spanish version of it. I watched the children walking through the door, children of every race, creed, and religion, and teared up realizing that they were unaware of the mourning of that day. Unaware that millions of their fellow Americans voted to put a racist, xenophobic, chauvinist in the highest seat of their land, who showed by his words and actions had no respect for anyone or the planet. The Hispanic children were unaware that some members of their family might be deported.

As I drove out, alone and on my way to yoga, I could finally deal with my emotions. I began to scream. And cry. And scream. And cuss. I can honestly say that in all of my 35 years of life, never have I felt that type of anger. It was pure madness deep down at a core of my soul in a place I didn’t even know existed. The Holy Spirit within me felt like a deranged monster, but there was a softness and deep sadness there too. All through yoga that morning, I cried. I couldn’t stop. The energy in the entire studio was collectively low and filled with  a silent, deafening grief.

It wasn’t because Hillary lost. It was the soul crushing disappointment of my fellow Americans. I didn’t know what we truly are before that day. My spirit was completely broke and knowing my entire family supported Trump made the day that much more enlightening and disheartening. My disappointment with the hypocrisy of evangelical Christianity pierced my soul as well. Who was Jesus to this institution?

It was the final nail in the coffin to my Christianity. The next three months thereafter I struggled with depression, an existential crisis, a family I didn’t really know or understand, and what to do with my passionate rage. I checked out for a while, then I’d argue on Facebook, then I’d check out again. There was no place to escape, the frightening reality was now my reality, and tweet after tweet, and cabinet pick after cabinet pick, further took me down.

In two days He will be inaugurated. He’ll place his hand on a sacred text and take an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States. After all of his contracting words and plans to this oath, America will watch him swear on a Bible he’s never read. I don’t know why good folks are blinded right now, but they are.

But the one’s that see, I’m speaking to you. I have found you, we have found each other, and for that I’m thankful. I see countless regular Americans pushing their sleeves up and working. Speaking out, standing up for what’s right, through blogs, art, podcasts, books, and music. I see many black sheep of their Christian families rising up to say “No More.” I see them leaving the Church and joining a body of people fighting for humanity and the planet. It’s beautiful, and may not be happening if we weren’t facing such catastrophic times. This gave us power. This election has fueled our rage.

Our anger is justified. I imagine Jesus felt this same passionate rage when he saw the merchants and money changers doing the business of greed in the temple. That deep spiritual anger caused him to flip over their tables, and make whips out of cords to drive them out. This story has been included in all four gospels and has been named “Cleansing of the Temple.” Read more about this story here.

Our work is just that, cleansing of the temple. God’s temple is everywhere. Let us keep going. We won’t be stopped. Our purpose is clear, and let’s try our best to keep our rage burning with love. Love will win, and deep down at our core, we know that is true. And that surge in Spirit you’re feeling, it’s real. Let your day job be your side hustle for your real work.

Ecclesiastes 3 1-8 begins “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…and ends with “a time for war, and a time for peace.”

We are in the middle. No time to waste. Use your gifts, this time is the reason we have them.

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Debating Jesus, Part I.

From the moment I was born, I was immersed in Fundamental Christianity, pointed toward Jesus. I had no choice in the matter, nor did I have any other reality to perceive. Jesus loves me, he died for me, and I have to earnestly ask him to come into my heart, and if I don’t, I will go to hell after I die. Hell was explained in very literal terms where it was an actual physical place where fire would burn me FOREVER and “not even one drop of water” will be given to me to relieve me from my eternal agony.

As a little girl this scared the shit out of me. This belief that I must be saved to escape eternal hell fire was reinforced over and over through 3 weekly sermons from my Grandfather, Sunday school class, church community, parents, and little religious pamphlets called “tracts” that I would read waiting for my parents to get done talking, or in true fundie language, “having fellowship” after church.

Obviously, there wasn’t a choice to make. I had to ask Jesus into my heart. I remember the first time I said the magic words on a Sunday afternoon. I was 6 years old, and made a decision to follow a “God” I didn’t know or understand. I made the decision to love this God, even though the only reason I did was so that He wouldn’t destroy me. I was so afraid to die. I was so afraid of God.

And so, my life from there on out sent me on a journey to study “the Word”, “get to know Christ”, and get other people to say the magic words too, so that they wouldn’t be tormented with burning in fire forever.

The words of Jesus were to be studied, followed, and regarded as ultimate truth with no debate.

Naturally, during my abusive marriage, I was brought to my knees in surrender. The only answer I had was to follow God’s word. Pray more, study more, and go to church more. Surely, if I was sincere enough and fervent enough, God would transform my husband. It was a sin to get divorced. It was adultery to be divorced and move on to a different man. I had no other resource for truth other than follow a religion that tells me time and time again that all of life’s problems can be solved using the Bible.

So I began to study. Specifically, the words in red, Jesus’ words. I was transformed by them… Teachings of love, forgiveness, grace, non violence, healing and repentance. I became very liberal politically and began to get extremely angry at the hypocrisy of Christianity and the GOP. They and their policies were in complete contradiction to the words of Jesus, which they so adamantly claim to follow and believe in.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across a doctrine of Jesus that I disagreed with before I understood how and why Christianity seems to be on such a different path than what He taught, specifically, the Sermon on the Mount.

They disagree too, but too arrogant in their ego and pride to admit it, and too scared to debate Him. There are so many beautiful, engaging truths that Jesus said I agree with. But there is one thing he said that I cannot and will not agree with.

I disagree with his doctrine of divorce.

Read more about the doctrine of divorce in Debating Christ, Part 2.

If he were here sitting at my table today, I would tell him that I disagree. And I am fairly certain that he would say “Me, too” after he heard my reasoning and plea. After all, I may not have known why I was inviting him into my heart at six years old, or what that even meant other than a ticket out of hell, but now, as an adult, I know what that meant, and what it means to me now.

I invited him into my life. The same way we invite friends or teachers in. I invited him to commune with me, in conversation and in friendship, a two-way street where an authentic exchange of ideas exist.

Read Part 2 of Debating Christ