Tag Archives: freedom

being shamed

Today was hard, in a way that’s kind of hard to explain. Someone decided they needed to unfriend me, but that wasn’t enough. He needed to message me and shame me, blame me, for the unfriending. I’m not close to this person. At all. In fact, he’s contacted me before about my beliefs, saying that because I call out certain politicians/pastors/public figures, I’m not a good Christian. Apparently, I stand for nothing, because I don’t stand on things the way he would like.

Even though my life is unchanged by this person unfriending me, it rattled me. It especially disturbs me when people in ministry do things like this, and it serves to harden me even further against “church people” and the church in general. This leads me ask several questions:

If he had known that “churchy” phrases and certain language serve as triggers when they’re used as weapons, that they can make me feel sick to my stomach all day and derail my thoughts, would he have chosen to write differently?

If he had known that these kind of encounters are actually very disturbing to me and I’ve written extensively about how these sort of out-of-the-blue accusations about the state of my faith, would he have started out his message with, “I know this won’t phase you at all”?

If he had spent any time at all getting to know me as a complete person, and that I don’t actually spend all my time “mocking” Christianity (which I actually never do, just institutions and people I believe misrepresent it), would he have decided I haven’t actually “strayed from the straight and narrow,” but that it’s all just part of being young, having questions, and working through challenges?

I don’t know the answer. All I know is that he was completely inappropriate, hurtful, and intent on shaming me. If he hadn’t intended that, he would have just unfriended me and said nothing. Unless you know me, know my struggles, and have made any attempt at all to connect with me, you don’t get to tell me what I’m doing wrong and make statements implying that I’m spreading darkness. That need to shame, to accuse, is not from God. It’s not coming from a place of love, because God’s love does not seek to bring on guilt.

This person said that he “felt sorry for me.” I feel sorry for anyone else who has to experience this kind of treatment from someone who claims to be in position of spiritual authority, because apparently if I don’t agree or comply, I’m not worth bothering with in his eyes. Apparently, I can’t even be tolerated.

I won’t miss that kind of treatment. I want a life full of love and understanding, even in the midst of disagreements. I will keep fighting for that, and I know I’m not alone. God does not shame me, so I feel no shame. I’m free from that.



Strangers in a Strange Land

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They fled poverty, corruption, and abuse to our country, a land that cried,

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

When they came to our country, we called them terrorists and thieves. 

By the color of their skin, we judged them all. By the language that they spoke, we called them all drug lords, human traffickers, and alien. 

It didn’t matter to us that they did not have the luxury of time to go through a system that takes decades for the best of men and women to go through. 

It didn’t matter that they loved America or freedom enough to pay taxes to a country they weren’t even legally recognized by. 

But the greatest injustice was when they sent their children to us, an act of desperation, and we spewed hatred at them. 

We slammed the door on the least of these. Called them selfish and spoiled when they wouldn’t eat food that made them sick. Blocked their path and forced them to return to crowded shelters. 

We made every excuse we could to not treat them as men, women, and children, but as security risks, as potential disease-spreaders, as animals. 

God have mercy on America. 

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Hobby Lobby: A City On A Hill

Trigger warning: Incest, sexual abuse 

Hobby Lobby has been in the news a lot recently and its 5-4 victory is being heralded by many Christians as a moral victory. There’s a lot of emphasis over the fact that Hobby Lobby was not objecting to every kind of birth control, but only the kind that “could cause abortions.” Let’s say for a moment that this is true, even though the science on that is very much questionable. 

So Hobby Lobby cares about life. They don’t want to be party to any abortions. I guess that’s sort of admirable. 

Why then, are they making money off of companies that create the very products that they claim contradict their Christian faith? You can review Hobby Lobby’s 2012 Annual Report of Employee Benefit Plan (as filed with the Department of Labor) and see that about 3/4 of Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) assets are tied up in companies like Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, who makes Plan B and ParaGard. Other companies include Forest Laboratories, whose Cervidil is used to induce abortions. That is not a question of science – that pill will cause abortions. And yet Hobby Lobby won’t pay for a pill that they only “believe” might cause an abortion? 

This is textbook hypocrisy. This is not a company that should be exalted as “super Christian.” This is a very shrewd, very successful company that somehow managed to use religion as a way to get out of paying for “certain birth control.” You can call this a victory for employer rights, but don’t call it a moral victory. 

This is only one of the questionable actions Hobby Lobby has taken. In 2013, there was an uproar in the Jewish Community over the company’s unofficial/official policy of not carrying Chanukah goods. When a customer asked an employee at her local store where they were, shes was told, “We don’t cater to you people.” When the customer called another store in Marlboro and asked again why they didn’t carry anything for Chanukah, the employee replied, “Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values.” 

Whether or not Mr. Green actually feels this way is not known. Hobby Lobby has since apologized and promised to start stocking Chanukah items. It should also be noted that the company was not breaking any laws by not selling Chanukah goods. However, this definitely makes me feel a little sick and hope that those insensitive and, frankly, dumb employees were fired. 

Most revealing of all though, is Hobby Lobby’s decades-long support of The Institute of Basic Life Principles, which has recently been in the news because of the accusations against its founder Bill Gothard. For years, Gothard has led a radical sect of Christians and taught on the evils of rock music, dating, and public education, which he claims teaches kids “how to commit suicide.” He has always dismissed mental illnesses as “varying degrees of irresponsibility” and held to a very rigid and extreme view of gender roles. He resigned this past year after more than 30 women stepped forward and accused him of molestation and sexual harassment. One woman describes how after sharing with Gothard about how her father had raped her, Gothard used her desire for a father figure to draw her close to him so he could molest her. This was in the early ’90s. 

Hobby Lobby’s support of Gothard’s organization has been mostly through purchasing expensive property and buildings. Gothard has said the Green family was led to support him after attending a conference. The Hobby Lobby CEO David Green has even endorsed a book of Gothard’s in the past. Since the accusations and Gothard’s resignation, Hobby Lobby has not commented on their support of his ministry or their personal relationship with the man. 

Again, supporting a certain organization is not a crime. I don’t mean to suggest that Hobby Lobby gave money or property to a man they knew was violating the women he ministered, too. However, even if Gothard had not molested anyone, his teachings are radical enough to cause many Christians to pause before buying from Hobby Lobby, or call them a shining example of a Christian, American business. 

They are a business. A company. A corporation. And corporations cannot be Christian. Their owners can be, but their owners can also be Christians who hold some very troubling and at the very least, confusing views. 

When Rick Santorum makes his movie about the Hobby Lobby case, I doubt any of these details will make it into the final cut. 












Nelson Mandela: His Own Words

Nelson Mandela Reflects on Working Toward Peace

I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free-free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of slow-moving bulls. As long as I obeyed my father and abided by the customs of my tribe, I was not troubled by the laws of man or God.

It was only when I began to learn that my boyhood freedom was an illusion, when I discovered as a young man that my freedom had already been taken from me, that I began to hunger for it. At first, as a student, I wanted freedom only for myself, the transitory freedoms of being able to stay out at night, read what I pleased, and go where I chose. Later, as a young man in Johannesburg, I yearned for the basic and honorable freedoms of achieving my potential, or earning my keep, of marrying and having a family-the freedom not to be obstructed in a lawful life.

But then I slowly saw that not only was I not free, but my brothers and sisters were not free. I saw that it was not just my freedom that was curtailed, but the freedom of everyone who looked like I did. That is when I joined the African National Congress, and that is when the hunger for my own freedom became the greater hunger for the freedom of my people. It was this desire for the freedom of my people to live their lives with dignity and self-respect that animated my life, that transformed a frightened young man into a bold one, that drove a law-abiding attorney to become a criminal, that turned a family-loving husband into a man without a home, that forced a life-loving man to live like a monk. I am no more virtuous or self-sacrificing than the next man, but I found that I could not even enjoy the poor and limited freedoms I was allowed when I knew my people were not free. Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.

It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.

When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.