Mennonites and Ladybugs and Me Learning Not to Whine.

In the last week, I’ve seen six conservative Mennonite women with their hair pinned under bonnets and long, flowing, flower dresses.  I know it was 6 times because I counted.  There was one working in the emergency room, there was another one shopping at Target, another one shopping at Safeway, one walking around the campus at my school, and two walking together downtown.  This stands out so clearly to me, because in the entire time I’ve lived in Yakima I’ve never noticed one.  People have told me that there is a conservative community out there, somewhere, as in:  “I think they live in Moxee and make cheese.”  But have I ever seen evidence of their existence?  No, I would have noticed.  (I think.)

So this past week I’ve been wondering why now?  I’ve been missing my home town desperately, so maybe it’s just my mind being tuned to the signs of what I lack.  Or perhaps in all my praying about where the future may lead, this is the universe’s way of reassuring me.  Or, who knows.

Yesterday while I was in the garden, I saw hundreds of ladybugs.  I always see ladybugs in times of great change.

I was crying.  It’s hard to verbalize why.  I was picking tomatoes and red beans furiously.  Just furiously.  I was angry because my best friend moved to the other side of the country.  I miss her, I miss having very many friends.  I feel so lonely most of the time.  It’s not because I don’t have friends in Yakima, although I pretend I don’t so I can feel sorry for myself.  I have a lot of friends but not close friends, not “let me lay my troubles on you” friends, although I have many friends that could become that if I took the time to nurture the relationship.  I suppose I was crying because I was realizing how selfish I can be, how selfish I’ve allowed the past five years to make me.  How guarded and defensive I’ve become, how unwilling I’ve become to invest in others.  How resentful I’ve become of my life.  And why?  Why am I feeling that way?

My life right now doesn’t suck.  I enjoy school, I enjoy work, I don’t fantasize about my husband getting in a car wreck and dying.  Life has made progress!

But I still feel the hangover of exhaustion from all the trauma that led me here, the constant desire for some kind of vacation that I will never get.  It’s been years since I’ve had a single night away from the children.  YEARS.  I can’t even put my finger on the last time I woke up in the morning not feeling completely exhausted.

I sit in the garden picking red beans and wondering when that chore will end.  Why?  I enjoy it.

I stare at the tomatoes and wonder if I should stop watering the garden and let them die.  Why?  I enjoy them.

I curse the fact that anything, even the things I love, even friendships, ask something of me.  Why?  Why?  Why?

When did I decide that I have nothing left to give, no more energy to invest, no more desire to make the effort to make my own life better? I’ve spent the last 30 years waiting for someone to come along and take care of me, and there is still this little part of me that constantly says, “damn it.  Why do I have to take care of myself?”

My mom’s latest favorite phrase is that we have to be ridiculously responsible for our own worlds.

Ridiculously responsible.

It’s still something I’m learning.

But somewhere in the mess of the garden ending, in the gallon of dried pods of red beans and the pile of halfhearted tomatoes, in the soil that badly needs more nutrition and the yard that is giving up on life for lack of nutrients, I heard a small voice asking me if I was willing to be taken care of.  Isn’t all of this part of the same cycle, the cycle wherein I pretend there’s nothing I can do?  As if my life is still something that happens to me, I am still a victim, instead of someone who is capable of making life what I need it to be.

I swear, I heard God laughing.  As if he can’t be my rest, my care, my friend.

As if I’ve been missing the point.

There were ladybugs everywhere, on everything, crawling on my hands.  I was wondering, have I even seen ladybugs out here before?

It’s okay.  It’s okay that I don’t know my future.  I haven’t known my future for five years now, and it’s been okay.  So I had one future wrenched away.  So what?  That future wouldn’t have been good for me.  I do have friends, I do have a life, I do have ladybugs.

I’ll get some sleep eventually.

I tell myself I don’t know how much longer I can remain strong, how much work is left in me.

But don’t I want to find out?

It’s like resenting going to the gym but at the same time wanting a nice body.

When am I going to learn to be grateful for the fact that here, now, I have a chance to make my life something that nourishes me?

So I laid down in the dirt like a crazy person and laughed and cried.  The neighbor walked by and said, “garden fell apart, eh?”

I threw a tomato at him and replied, “it still makes food, ya jerk.”

We had a good laugh.

Laughing is good.

Fear our Love.

Christians are not the parents of this world.  I say that because at times we act as if we are.  We want to dole out punishment and appropriate discipline to all those whom we see as disobeying.  “Hey. single mom, your current struggles are the natural consequence of your actions!  If you’d followed God’s plan your life wouldn’t be so hard!”  Or, “hey, gay person, you’ve got to get straight to get to God or you’ll burn in hell, m’kay?”  Or, “Hey, society, just going to change a few laws over here to keep your Judeo-Christian values right or God is gonna judge us all, don’t want that happening!”

Missing the point, missing the point, missing the point.

We aren’t society’s parents.  There’s a difference between being God’s ministering hands and feet to express the Gospel to this world and being God’s spank paddle.  One, we are called to be.  The other?  We aren’t.  See, the thing is, all of humanity is called to be God’s sons and daughters.  We’re all siblings.  When I tell my son if he throws his toys his toys are going in my closet and he’s getting a time out, his sister is right there to let me know that her brother is stressed and angry and he can’t help it and he needs a hug and if I give him a time out I’m Mean Mommy.  When I tell her that if she doesn’t respond to me because she’s watching a video I’m going to turn off the TV, her brother is right there to defend her.  They’ve got each other’s backs.  And when I dole out the discipline and go into the other room, guess who is sneaking in to hug and kiss and talk their sibling through it?  That’s the way of things.  I, as my gay Christian friends sister in Christ, see my first and foremost job as being their advocate, not being their jury.  I also don’t need to be their voice of conviction because that is why Christ sent us the Holy Spirit.  What they do need is me as their sister, the one who will stay up late to whisper to them.  The one who will argue for them in the face of judgment.  The one who will conspire with them to wreak havoc when necessary.  Their partner in humanity.

Sometimes, when I read Christian magazines and articles online, I start to picture the Bride of Christ as a nagging wife, saying “didn’t I tell you last week if you didn’t stop that you’d burn in Hell?  How many times must I remind you?”  It saddens me deeply.  Our example is supposed to be Christ, the one who came to Earth to advocate for our healing.  The one who gave us freedom from beneath the law.  The one who acted as the supreme advocate, standing between us and our judgment at the expense of his body, his dignity, and his life.  Yet in his name we enforce the law at the expense of faith, bullying, belittling, and threatening our fellow humans, our fellow brothers and sisters, until they turn from the Church with a resigned sigh, throw up their hands, and disavow God.

And why shouldn’t they?  When I punish my children unfairly, without any sympathy, grace or mercy, because I myself am scared and frustrated, they turn from me.  Our words must be selfless.  They must be motivated by love.  They must be tempered with knowledge of God’s grace and mercy and kindness.  They must be modeled after Christ.  They must never be motivated by our own fears.  Let’s be honest with ourselves- a lot of the condemnation the church heaps out is fear-centered.  No gay marriage?  We’re afraid of the consequences to society.  Discipline the single mother?  We’re afraid of the reputation that embracing her would give our church, and afraid she’s going to keep sleeping around, and afraid that she’s going to expect us to help her out and take her responsibilities on ourselves.  Rebuke the tattooed punk?  Let’s be honest, we don’t understand him.  We find his attitude offensive.  We’re afraid of what he’ll act like if he sticks around.  And that gay sixteen year old boy?  If we don’t rebuke him, he might be gay forever.  And we’re terrified of what that might mean.

It’s not God, it’s fear.  And when we reprimand our fellow man in God’s name, claiming that it is love, all we ultimately do is teach them to fear and reject God.  Are we supposed to hold each other accountable in love?  Absolutely.  Just like how my son will whisper to his sister that Mommy said something and she’d better say “yes mom”.  Just like my daughter will tell my son, “If mom sees you doing that she will be SO MAD.”  But that is something done out of charity, something done out of love, something done out of sympathy and a common goal.  It’s done to improve a life, not to condemn actions.  When we intercede with each other we have to do it out of God’s spirit and heart, and with knowledge of the consequences of our actions.

When I see the multitude of people who love God but are ashamed of Christianity, all I can think is that if we truly were doing things God’s way the result of our actions wouldn’t be fruits of bitterness, doubt, and loss of faith.

Somewhere, something has gone horribly wrong.

heard hearts, oppression, violence, love…

I linked to an old post of mine on Facebook a few days ago (this one) and ended up getting into a fight so bad I deleted my own link.  I had, until then, never done such a thing.  I’ve also never found myself so incapable of expressing and communicating my own point of view.

What is it about the past few week’s issues that have made honest conversation so impossible?  I’ve been contemplating this, and praying about it, and meditating on it, and generally beating my head against it, and I think I’ve finally realized what is going on here.

Everyone is backed into their own corner licking their wounds, and they don’t care two figs about what the other side is thinking or feeling.  We’re on 24/7 attack and defend mode.  The Christians don’t care why the gay community is upset.  It feels safe, right, and supported to assume that any reason the gay community would be upset is an invalid one since it’s gays doing the complaining.  And does the gay community care about the church’s defensiveness?  Why should they?  Why would the oppressed care why the oppressor oppresses?  It has to be wrong, so why bother listening?  Why have a conversation?

We’re nearing a full on war, where buglers on both sides are signalling out an attack and the language and rhetoric has grown so expansive even the innocent are caught in the crossfire, with the end goal being battering the other side into submission with no regard for righteousness.  I find this far easier to forgive in my gay friends than I do in my fellow Christians.

But, for the sake of both sides, let me explain some things:

Christians, I don’t care what Tony Perkins said last week.  The Family Research Council has a track record going back almost thirty years in which they have routinely blocked moves to overturn legislation that bans sodomy and homosexual acts.  Tony Perkins can grandstand and say, “we don’t try to make new laws”, but actions speak louder than words.  If two hundred years ago a man spent millions lobbying to keep wife beating legal, could he really turn around and say “I’m not trying to make new laws to beat my wife” and have anyone defend him as someone who doesn’t want to impugn women’s rights?  The Family Research Council does think that homosexual “behaviors” should be illegal.  Period.  This is not something that can be argued, it is true, and their own website makes that very clear.  They believe being gay is dangerous, and threatening to society, and they say so.  Routinely.  They fought against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  They lobbied to change a resolution that would challenge a Ugandan law that made the death penalty for homosexuality legal.  They state that it was a matter of semantics and they don’t support killing gays, but guess what?  They held up a resolution that condemned killing gays.  What matters is how that looks to gay people, and it certainly doesn’t look good.

Now, my dear gay friends, I love you.  But you need to understand some things.  All of the hateful, painful, offensive things that Tony Perkins and the FRC say?  They believe them.  I know that this is not comfortable for you to hear, but you need to hear it.  They do believe that being gay is dangerous.  They believe that it weakens society.  They sincerely believe that gay people are more likely to be diseased, mentally ill, and harm children.  They believe that homosexuals have a dangerous agenda.  It may seem completely incredible to you to accept that people may think those things.  It may seem even more incredible to believe, for even a second, that someone could think those things and be a genuinely good person.  Here is the thing:  They don’t hate you.  They are worried about you, and they are worried for your sake.  They don’t want you to be gay because they think it’s bad for you, and they think that if they curb your rights you might give up and go straight, and they think that the loving thing to do is protect you from your fleshly desires.  They are, to put it simply, trying to save your soul.  They just aren’t going about it the way that Christ would.

I know, because I’ve been there.  This is the mindset I grew up with.  I know that when I believed those horrid things, I was becoming the person that I am now.  I believe that other people could make the same journey.

So for the love of God and all that is holy, try to understand the other side.  Try to listen to what they are saying and argue rationally.  Stop pointing fingers and throwing stones and trying to gag each other, it helps no one.  Hatred begets violence.  Oppression begets violence.  Hard hearts unwilling to listen to the other side breed violence faster than bunnies on speed.  It needs to stop, and the only solution is to love the other side to little itty bitty bits and try to rebuild this whole mess in a better image.

I think we can do it.  I think we have to.

Culture and Faith.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the affect that culture has on faith.  It seems impossible to divide the two with any cleanness.  Why?  We are human.  While we may conceptually believe that there is one fundamental, immutable, unchangeable truth and that God is the embodiment of that absolute, how can we ever fully understand it?  We do not have divine minds.  We have human minds, and inevitably any taste of the absoluteness of God’s nature we have, we interpret through fallible brains.  We judge and mold our faith based off of what we feel is right, a feeling that is the culmination of what we’ve experienced.  Our experiences, those things that mold our understanding, are basely human and only remotely touched by holiness.

If you doubt for a moment that is true, just consider the Bible.  In Biblical times if a woman was raped but didn’t scream, she should be stoned.  It’s what the Bible demands.  Do you feel like that is right?  If a man punched a pregnant woman in the stomach and she miscarried as a result, she should be paid a pittance.  Yet today people will cry out that fetuses are human life as valuable as the born- if God feels that abortion is murder, should abortion by violence really be something that one can pay off with shekels?  Why would God say that it is?

It goes beyond that.  There’s also the fact that so many of the fathers of the faith, so to speak, had multiple wives and concubines.  Jacob’s marriage to both Leah and Rachel is often preached as a sermon on the value of faith and persistence, with the fact that he favored Rachel’s bed to the detriment of Leah and her just inheritance is glossed over.  There’s David, the man after God’s heart, who had how many wives and concubines?  Of course he took Bathsheba wrongly but the Bible is clear that his sin wasn’t marrying one woman too many- it was coveting what rightly belongs to someone else and murdering to get it.  Solomon, the wisest of all kings, had so many wives and concubines he couldn’t have slept with each more than two times in a year.  Yet how do we interpret all of that in light of this current day’s conviction that God intended for marriage to be between one man and one woman?

The truth is, we simply ignore the history that is there and rewrite it.  The idea that marriage should only be between one man and one woman is one that evolved as a response to cultural pressures.  If you married your daughter off to a wealthy man to ensure your family’s inheritance, you wouldn’t want that being fudged up by his later picking a superior mate and bequeathing that inheritance to her spawn instead of yours.  Polygamy died out not because God gave a new word, but because people rationally decided it isn’t a sustainable social system.  Nowhere in the Bible does God say, “one man, one woman.”    He says for this reason a man leaves the home of his parents and becomes one flesh with his wife, but that isn’t a statement of doctrine, it’s a euphemism for sex.  Clearly the people that wrote that part of the Bible didn’t interpret it as “one man, one woman” or they wouldn’t have praised Solomon for marrying more women than he could bed.  Besides the fact that if bucking that law leads to the deterioration of society and God revoking his blessing, why would God have so blessed Jacob?  Solomon?  The myriad of men who kept harems of wives and lovers?  It simply does not stand up under sustained thought, and that isn’t the only place where people start to mold faith to culture.  It’s just one that really stands out in my mind.

I think about these things a lot, because when I start to question why God gave the directives he did I start to question how I dress, feed, and raise my family.  I start to feel like prepackaged foods aren’t “clean” or worthy of my consumption, I start to feel like if God laid out the Levitical code today he’d condemn clothes made out of cheap materials in sweat shops.  I start to wonder about a lot of other things, too.

My point is that we can’t just blurt out what we “sense” is true about our faith without applying history, knowledge of culture, and the caveats of our own fallibility.  After all, we don’t know what God said, we know what people interpreted Him as having said.  Yes, we have the Bible.  That doesn’t mean that we understand it.

We interpret it.

And we, as humans, often only interpret what we want to hear.

Let me tell you what Hell is.

The text read:  “Im going to burn in hell ne way.”

*beep beep*

“Life is pain.  Why live?  Pain forever, then hell.  I want it over with.”

I got his address off of Facebook, we’d become friends only days before when he’d been given a copy of my novel.  I wasn’t sure what had inspired him to reach out to me.  All I knew was that I’d stayed home from church that day because I was sick, and here he was.  Reaching out.  Not wanting to die alone.

“Don’t be an idiot”, I texted him back.  “There is love.  There is hope.   If you go to hell I’m going with you.”

Painful seconds passed.

“I’m almost to your house,” I wrote.  “Calling you.”

I will never, ever, forget the pain in his voice when he answered his phone.  When we’d met a few days before, he had been the kindest, gentlest, most soft spoken person I’d ever known.  He had been so quick to laugh, and although he obviously was living with a great deal of pain his spirit shone through.  The voice I heard through the phone was almost robotic in it’s monotone and so desperately lacking in spirit.  “Just stay alive another minute,” I told him.  “I’m turning, where are you?”

He came out on the front porch and agreed to go with me.  I took him to a mental health clinic that was fortunately only a few blocks away.  Even so, it was one of the longest car rides of my life.

“God doesn’t hate you,” I said.  “God loves you.”

“You know what they say?”  He replied, “I would’ve never been gay unless God totally rejected me.”

“For F—‘s sake, you said you’ve known you were gay since you were six!  What did a six year old do to get wholly rejected by God?”

“It doesn’t matter, does it?”  He wiped away tears but it was like wiping at the Columbia, it just kept rushing out.  “I mean, I can’t not be gay and no one cares, I mean, they don’t care no matter what.  It’s like, ‘well sure you’re depressed, it’s what comes from sin.’ And like, ‘the wages of sin is death’ so like if I kill myself, that’s justice.  That’s justice.”

“And here I took you for someone pretty smart,” I responded.  “You know homosexual acts are listed right with gossip and idle talk and drunkenness.  If your suicide is justice half that freaking church needs to put a blade to their wrist.”

“I can’t believe you just said that.”

“Well I’m kind of pissed that you almost died on my watch.  I could say more.”

He just stared at me.

“God is love, right?  You remember my favorite passage.  It’s all over the book.  The people that won’t help you because you are gay can’t be speaking for God because it’s not loving to turn away from someone’s pain.  Whatever they said it doesn’t matter.”

“You didn’t hear them, Ell.  All of the verses, and it’s like, ‘hey, it’s in the Bible.  We’re just being obedient.'”

“Shut the eff up, man, or I’ll pull over and slap you.”

“Ell!”

“I don’t want to hear that crap in my car even if you are quoting someone else.  Forget it.”

“I don’t understand, I mean, I thought you were a Christian.”

“Of course I’m a Christian, that’s why I can recognize bull when I hear it.  The fruit of the spirit is goodness and patience and love and whatever the other ones are.”

“Ha!”

“I’m a little distracted by how pissed I am and can’t do the brain thing, forgive me.”

“What were you saying?”

“Love.  That’s the fruit of the spirit.  If the fruit of their obedience is your death, it’s not my God they are obeying.”

“Oh,” he said.

“And honestly I’m feeling more Christlike right now than I have in years.”

* * *

A few weeks later we would be emailing back and forth, and I would say this.  “What you said about Hell.  I can show you hell.  It’s a kid going to a church because he’s on the brink and he needs someone to love him, and they show him the door.  I don’t know where Jesus is right now, but he is weeping.  And he still loves you.  Don’t give up.”

Here’s the thing:  I don’t care what your personal conviction is about homosexuality.  What I care about is my friend, and other people like him.  Sadly, he’s not the only kid I’ve ever heard tell that story and I doubt he’ll be the last, even though I fervently pray it’s not the case.  I’ve talked enough blades off of wrists for my lifetime.

Here’s the thing:  gay people aren’t the enemy.  Homosexuality is never singled out in the Bible.  It always appears hand in hand with other sins:  hubris, for example.  Drunkenness and gluttony.  Idolatry.  Idle talk and gossip.  What infuriates me more than anything else in the whole debate about sexuality is that you see people saying “we can’t let gays get married because it goes against the Bible” but the same people aren’t trying to pass laws to outlaw idle chatter, gluttony, or even premarital sex.  How is it okay for Christian organizations to be pursuing keeping sodomy laws on the books while their employees chat about who Julie is dating on their breaks?

I’m sorry, guys, that may strike you as an extreme example but I am being completely serious.

The Bible doesn’t make a distinction between the sins it lists.  Being gay is no worse than being a gossip, and both things are equally condemned in the church.

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.  (1 Corinthians 5:11)

At the end of the day, what makes a sexually immoral person such a target as opposed to all of the other sins on the list?

And then we get into discussions about the law and about how opposing gay marriage is just obedience to God.  Let me tell you something:  God never once commanded us to make laws regarding the morality of people outside the church.  In fact, He said something more like:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (1 Corinthians 5:12)

Their sin is none of our business.

The more Christians speak out against gay rights, the more they talk about the sin issue, the more they put out literature talking about how Gay people are sold to sin and more likely to abuse children and get drunk and have “depraved sexual relations” that “go against God”… the more I think about people like my friend, with the razor to their wrist, thinking that there is nothing to do but die.

Let me tell you what Hell is:

It’s a church so focused on sin that it’s forgotten how to love.

We have absolutely no business talking about the sexuality of those not in the church.

It goes against the Bible.

And for those inside the church, we should talk about it quietly, in confidence, not blast about it on the internet for every suicidal 19 year old gay boy to see.

Just.

Stop.

For the love of God, think about what you are doing.

Respect for Gay Christians.

When I became a Christian I was a ten year old girl whose dad was a pastor, raised in a home where everyone had always been Christian.  My grandparents on one side were conservative Mennonites, and on the other side were Amish.  Reverence for God and traditional values were in my blood.  Had I not publicly vowed my faith, it would have been shameful for a lot of people in my life.  When I, as a teen, stopped going to church and publicly condemned the church for having abandoned myself and other freaks like me I’m sure my parents did grieve, and I’m sure there was some genuine embarrassment. When I returned to the church it was like going back to the house I was born in, it was warm and comforting.

I say this to illustrate the difference felt by someone I know who came to the church as a teenager already knowing he was gay.  He hadn’t been raised in the church.  He felt a deep attraction to the teachings of Jesus.  He loved the traditions of the church, he loved hymns and communion and the reverance of the congregation.  He also felt an intense connection to creation and felt he’d experienced God’s love in a way that his life would be empty if he didn’t pursue it deeper.  But he was gay.  He wore purple striped sweater vests and spoke in a soft voice and had mild mannerisms that could peg him as effeminate.  He wasn’t ashamed of or embarrassed by his sexuality, he felt he’d experienced God’s love while being gay and had fallen in love with the church while being gay and didn’t feel the need to pretend to be someone that he wasn’t.

I will never understand the guts or the passion or the sheer nerve that it took for him to walk into a church on a Sunday morning and confess his faith knowing that many of the people in that building would happily condemn him for his sexuality and see him to the door.  I will never, ever, understand the depth of the love he shared with his God that would cause him to take the risks that he took in seeking out a church.  It was easy for me to join the church, far easier to join than it was to leave.  Even coming back with my pink hair and tattoo and big ol’ sack of issues was easier than his first time stepping through the door would be.  I may have been questioned, and I continue to have my faith questioned when I raise my voice about the problems that I see.  Yet the questioned raised against me and the hatred I at times experience and the lovely threats and curses that have been spoken against me are a drop in the bucket compared to what an openly gay Christian experiences.

It takes an incredible love for God and devotion for learning to be a part of the body to move someone into the church while they are gay.  It takes an incredible devotion and constitution to stick out the faith while people are calling you a godless sinner, church after church asks you to leave, and heartbreak after heartbreak colors the path behind you red with suffering.  I could never question the sincerity of my friend’s love for God, I know that his faith has cost him far more judgment and condemnation than mine has.  His choice to remain in the faith is one that has to be renewed daily, while mine is one I could easily take for granted.

I see the determination in the eyes of my gay Christian friends, I see their love for God, and I am awed by it.  Is it easy to understand why, if some are so deeply convicted that homosexual acts are sin, my homosexual friends don’t always come to the same conviction?  Some have, some haven’t, some may never do so.  No, it’s not easy to understand.

But when I commune with them, I feel the spirit singing out.  I cannot reject them, because by doing so I would be rejecting the act of God that brought them into the church, and such a thing is unthinkable to me.

Respect.

Oh, freedom.

Today all over the USA people will be celebrating their freedom, as well they should.  I would like to say “I hate to mar such happy festivities with anything solemn”, but that would be lying.  So, that being said, try to remember as you exercise your own freedom that God is the Author of all things free.  He first gave Adam freedom in the garden, He gave the Israelites freedom from slavery, He gave my own ancestors freedom from martyrdom here in this great country, and He gave all mankind freedom to turn from sin and seek salvation.

Yet, too often we honor that gift with condemnation for our fellow man and hard heartedness.  We continue to believe that it is our duty to police our society’s sins and limit the freedoms of those we believe do wrong.  We continue to heap condemnation on the heads of the gay, the poor, and those who hold belief systems we believe contradict our own.  I have a very hard time enjoying this holiday, because I see the premises on which the Declaration of Independence was written trampled in the name of God, while at the same time people claim the Declaration itself was inspired by the Spirit.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Obviously certain limits must be made- if one person’s pursuit of happiness means raping my daughter I am happy to see his rights abolished.  But what about the rights of the children of the poor?  Are we truly justified in cursing them to destitution because of their parents wrongs?  And by not allowing gay people to make house and home together with the protection of marriage, whose rights are we protecting?  I am as angry about these things today as I was the day I first wrote this blog.  No, wait, that isn’t truthful.  I’m angrier today, because I continue to see people for whom I have no end of love and respect continue to justify the most cynical of condemnations with the Bible, using words meant to convict their own hearts to curse the broken hearts of others.

It is shameful, and sadly, that is what I will find tainting the color of the fireworks in the sky tonight.

I’ll leave you with these words:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and  pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.  (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

If you cannot hold the hands of the poor or the gay or the forgotten or the single mothers or the drug addicts, so be it.

But pray for them, and pray for your own heart to follow God’s in the way that you view them.  Pray that they can feel the same spirit of celebration that you feel, of thankfulness and gratitude, of love for Creator and Nation.  Pray with all the sincerity that you use when you pray in your own regard.

Love.