“The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” quoted Stephen Fincher.

The quote is self-explanatory, right?

Tennessee representative Stephen Fincher was responding biblically to Rep. Juan Vargas who suggested that the example of Jesus be a reminder when deciding to cut funds from the SNAP program (what some judgmental, armchair activists and lazy politicians call “food stamps”).

One blogger gives a great account of the irony and hypocrisy in the details of Fincher’s quote here:
http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/05/21/tn-rep-the-bible-says-not-to-feed-the-unwilling-to-work-so-we-should-cut-food-stamps-to-kids/
Another news source gives a few details of Fincher’s own benefits received from the government:
http://m.commercialappeal.com/news/2010/jun/07/fincher-faces-anger-over-farm-subsidies/

It is atrocious that a man with the ability to influence legislation would afflict poor children with more poverty since they are forbidden by the same law to get a job and work for their food. It is repulsive that a man with the power to influence legislation will not “represent” those of his district honestly, especially when his actions place the weight of judgment on the poor while he makes decisions about funds for which he himself did not work. It is unforgiveable that a politician whose motives appear strictly political and partisan should misquote the Bible for those purposes. It is with this in mind that I write the following to Fincher.

Representative Fincher:

Your use of 2 Thessalonians 3:10 was a brilliant play in partisan politics. He who does not work should not eat. It’s plain and simple, right?

I’m onto your secret plan. While this verse states one truth (no work = no food), it also states another. A man who is willing to work should eat. This verse accounts for those who live in poverty (for whatever reason – 2 Thessalonians doesn’t specify) as well as those who are unemployed – the verse you quote uses the word “willing” and not “unemployed”, “lazy”, “on food stamps”, “or “judged unworthy by a politician.” This word “willing” is quite different from “able”. For example, the poor may be willing to change a law regarding the SNAP program to serve in their favor but they are not able without proper representation. Or another example: children may be willing to vote on the future of the SNAP program, however, only state representatives are able. There is a difference, I’m sure you agree.

By using this verse, you are saying that a man who is willing to work should eat, right? This implies that you are working to create jobs for those willing, correct? You’ll insure that before you take food from a child’s mouth, won’t you? It implies also that you intend to survey the willingness of the constituents you represent, too. Thank you for saving these funds for your district’s “willing” in a time when some are honestly not able.

For those unwilling, the Bible has verse for them as well. Matthew 25:31-46 is a good one to quote for those who appear to be impoverished (whether willing to work or not, it appears salvation is given to those who don’t place conditions on alleviating poverty). Isaiah 58 also has a few words about those who are burdened with poverty, too, and it talks about those who call to God or try to use their actions for God while on the other hand oppressing the others around them. The alleviation of poverty is really a concept that is spoken about more in the Bible than Heaven, Hell, salvation, and the church. I challenge you to find otherwise. It’s also very poetic and quotable stuff for when you debate others.

The brilliance in using this quote is that you in essence are saying you will support the “willing!” I’m sure you served your party well in appearing to disagree with Juan Vargas. Little did he know that you were buying a little support on the home front while you work the covert master plan of helping those who are willing to work get food. I bet the children that you’ll help will also acquire the willingness to work if they’re fed, too – but I’m no prophet or politician. However, if I’m mistaken in what I think you are doing and you are planning simply to eliminate assistance to the poor because you believe that the unemployed should not eat (especially children), then please dismiss my letter of applause – I don’t want to share my celebration with an unbeliever. Also, if you’re eliminating the funds with a biblical quote but you’ve found the funds in a place other than the farm program, then now is a good time to let us know.

Let me know how it works out. Since you also quoted “the poor you will always have with you”, I assume you also infer that you have got quite a job cut out for sustaining your assurance to the “willing.” This could be a victory for those who love their neighbors as themselves (sorry, it’s hard not to quote when we’re all in such a quoting mood).

Sincerely,
A child from your district.

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A Two-Step Method For Putting Prayer Back Into Schools

For many christians, putting prayer “back in schools” is the solution to many public, social, and political problems. Few have proposed a way to do that other than a few slapdash petitions and verbal barbs on social media like FaceBook and Twitter. The wait is now over. I am publishing this method on putting prayer in school in a blog. The complete method is below. However, please indulge me with a little backstory and my preface to the step-by-step method that may revolutionize how some approach getting prayer back into public school systems.

My Story

When I was a child we prayed in kindergarten and first grade. I found prayer in school strange because I never saw the need for some prayers. It was unusual to me because I had already prayed at breakfast before I arrived to school. We had a prayer at the start of the school day and we also prayed before lunch (“God is great. God is good.”). I found the lunch prayer equally strange because “good” never rightfully rhymed with “food” and we never used the phrase “in Jesus name” (as I had been taught) before saying “amen.” All my youthful wonder aside, this means that I had at least five periods of prayer in my school days (two prayers at school and three at home). I remember in second grade that prayer was “removed from school.” There was no fanfare, no fuss. The time in which we had prayer was now used for “a moment of silence or meditation” in which our teachers instructed us to think about our values, settle our minds, pray, center or focus our thoughts, or other things that were positive. I was never aghast that prayer was not practiced. I remember using that moment to pray. I also remember using that moment for daydreaming, too.

I never daydreamed because prayer was removed as an official practice. I daydreamed because of my character. That is also the same reason that I chose to pray. I didn’t pray because I had been disciplined in the routine established at school, either. I prayed because my family was a praying family. My immediate family was part of an extended family who also prayed. We all attended a congregation of believers who were a praying people. By the time I hit first grade, praying was just like brushing one’s teeth or putting on socks – it was natural, easy, and part of day-to-day living.

My parents didn’t make a big fuss that prayer was out of schools. Neither did our clergy.

Shouldn’t they have made a big deal, written letters, picketed, petitioned, and been up in arms that there would “be a decline in culture”, “problems in the schools”, “the country would go under”, and all the other arguments and vitriol that is commonly slung about by today’s Facebook and Twitter addicts?

My parents and clergy had no problem because they knew prayer actually never left public schools. That’s right – it never left!

You see, when there was no more “prayer in schools”, my five times of prayer a day went to, well, at least five times a day. It never increased or decreased unless I used the moment of silence for daydreaming. Prayer being removed from schools essentially meant that there was no more prayer led by public employees during time in which public funds (paid by no religious group and all religious groups) were being spent for education of children.

Preface to the Two-Step Method:

The removal of prayer led by public employee or paid for by the taxpayer is fair. It’s actually better than fair. It’s actually a better advantage for christianity than the constitutional law of no religious respect and no prohibition of practice would be. To accommodate the “prayer” practice of all different faiths would take a good deal of the school day while the respect of no religious prayer practice benefits the education of all students equally. Furthermore, all faiths would need to be represented, even if the student demographic didn’t represent all faiths, so that the practice is institutionalized and all faiths are proven “welcomed”, with no respect given to one over the other, in the eyes of the state as they truly should be. Finally, all students would need to adhere to any strict variation in practice (different phrases, variations on the concept of “God”, formalities such as facing Mecca, etc.) so that the practice in public school is fair and just, showing no respect and prohibiting none.

As fair and just as this may be, this isn’t actually what many christians want. They want their brand of prayer, their brand of faith, and their religious sensibility propagated as the solution to civil and public ails. It’s this mentality that may prevent the successful completion of both steps of the process. When christians proclaim “let’s put prayer back in schools”, they infer a few thoughts and assumptions that must be addressed before tackling the two-step method.

By saying “let’s put prayer back in our schools” some christians infer three things:

1. Some “christians” assume that prayer was taken out of school.
The assumption that prayer was removed schools is a smack across the face of all praying christians within schools as well as the parents and guardians of those who have modeled and taught the practice. It insults the congregations who have also modeled the practice and worked to provide a safe environment for the practice of prayer to flourish. It insults the students who are praying for learning and social interaction. It insults the teachers who pray to teach well and be able to earn a living. It insults administration who pray to do a good job, manage others well, and uphold strong education standards. It informs students, teachers, administrators, and the public of your mistrust and poor attitude toward their personal integrity. It perpetuates a lie that simply has little basis for productive discussion.

Prayer, just like any practice of faith and religion, is a choice. Just as I chose to daydream during the moment of silence in school, I also chose to pray. The prioritizing of prayer during these times is taught by family and church – not by public employee on taxpayer dollars and state education goals.

Prayer does not need to be led by a public employee for it to occur. This limits God’s plan for prayer and limits the freedom and power of prayer. It certainly doesn’t conform to most christians’ definition of who should pray. What if the employee is Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, or Transcendentalist? What prayer should be led? Christian prayer? Islamic prayer? Qawwali hamd? What shall we force one faith or another to do by enforcing one particular mode of prayer or another? What if the student is any of these varying faiths? Are not these freedoms of faith protected by public law? If they are protected by law, then christians should step out of the way, let the protection occur, and enjoy the protection.

A mindset of faith cannot be legislated. Schools try to legislate the standard of one form of arithmetic without complete success. Why would a christian expect that to be done with ALL faiths (as is fair) with the institution of the one religious practice of publicly lead prayer? Why would a christian marginalize another with whom they intend to “share the gospel” by forcing them to practice faith disagreeably?

Furthermore, when attempting to legislate faith, some christians often limit their willing audience and marginalize those who may hear their cause when they call names and cry “socialism”, “communism”, and “Hitler” when they think of prayer being removed. They should see that it was also attempted by far more powerful rulers such as Nebuchadnezzar (for those needing a biblical reference) and it didn’t work, either. Prayer can be legislated for any faith if one faith is favored in the eyes of the law. The issue then leads away from faith and onto the strength of brute coercion. Any christian will agree that prayer has never been brought about or sustained by such ill-contrived means. Most “christians”, though, wouldn’t mind this coercion by force as long as it’s their faith and not another that comes out on top.

2. Some “christians” assume that because prayer is out of schools, God is removed from schools.
Oh believer, tell me, where is it that God cannot be? Is He everywhere? Is He nowhere? Does He only grace the habitation of the righteous while shunning the haunts of the unbeliever?

God does not need christians to define or locate where He is. Saying that God is not in school is a terrible admission of lack of faith on the part of any christian. To say “God is not in our schools” is the same as saying “I do not believe in the power of my God enough to think he could be in schools.” For shame! The same God that is able to forgive sins and make the sun to rise and set is certainly able to be present in a school without your belief (see the book of Job for biblical reference). He is able to do so despite public or private recognition, the presence of christians, or the proclamation of prayer led by a public employee. The believer that professes such a statement says more about his/her faith rather than what he/she believes to be sound public policy. Remedy this lack of faith and the process of prayer in school will be brought about easily and efficiently.

3. The “christians” who assume prayer has been removed from schools are actually the ones who removed prayer from schools.
Here’s where you’ll think I’ve gone off the deep end. Wasn’t prayer removed from public institutions by activists and atheists such as Madeleine Murray O’Hare and Christopher Hitchens? Not so! Maybe activists removed the time that public officials were made to lead students of all faiths (or no faith) in prayer, but christians who believe that prayer is not in schools must not be teaching their children to pray in school. Why else would there be such worry?

My children pray in school. They pray at home. We talk about prayer and we talk about praying in school. We talk about the times that have happened and that will come when they feel that they’re the only people in their class that pray to God. That’s how I know they pray. That’s how christians are taught to pray in Matthew, too. It’s not a public spectacle on the street corner, but rather a private affair that addresses one’s most personal needs. It’s an intimate conversation that a single creation has with its Creator.

That’s proof that prayer is still in public school (or at least in a few schools in our city). If those up in arms would do the same, there’d be no more need to clamor. This is perhaps the biggest assumption to realize and address before tackling the two-step method.

I know these three assumptions are pretty strong statements inferred by well-meaning christians who are simply “wanting to put prayer back in schools.” As strong as these statements are, they are equally as true. The problems of education, politics, or civil disobedience aren’t solved by the “prayer back in schools” mindset. This mindset exposes the frightened demeanor of the weak christian who’s bent on clamoring to prove some semblance of faith in the public eye. It exposes the ignorant state of a believer that would try to secure his/her own beliefs before others by unwittingly placing limits on an omnipresent and omniscient Deity. It exposes the apathetic faith of a believer who would imply that the cure to social ills is by hindering education with religious practice and by abdicating spiritual responsibility and guidance to public officials.

Still, there are those who would like to see children of all faiths led publicly in prayer by their teacher or administrator at school (whose faith has still yet to be determined or legislated). As promised, here’s a guide to get that accomplished quickly and efficiently:

A Guide To Put Prayer In Public Schools:

Step One:
Teach your children to pray.

Step Two:
Repeat until children no longer attend school.

It won’t be done with a Facebook meme, a Twitter war, a public petition to the White House, or by griping about this or that president. Remember, this exposes your weakness, not the public’s, not God’s. At best, you alone look foolish. At worst, you and any others that may buy into this brand of fear-based “faith” will look foolish. If you don’t have children to teach, then feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, sit with the sick, guard and care for the widows and the orphans. You will then have an eager audience and may learn a thing or two about prayer in the process.

If none of these ideas are suitable as process or solution, then I am open to other suggestions. As long as my faith isn’t legislated, I am free to say and explore the ideas I’ve proposed and accept ideas from those who agree or disagree. I can even take these concerns to my closet for prayer in my own time, my own language, and my own priority. When I do so, I will not limit the power of God by implying that “He’s not in this place or that place” or that one institution or another would be so much better if I legislated and coerced the practice of prayer.

If christians were successful at showing the love and mercy of God as He wants us to do, then there would be no need to legislate any law, let alone “prayer in schools.”

“Weep With Those Who Weep”

“Weep with those who weep” is such a short, simple statement.

Its simplicity should not be ignored because it can be uttered quickly. In light of recent events, to weep with those who weep does not mean simply saying or thinking “I’m sorry” during time of loss or sorrow. This time is to be respected and given the dignity of its process by those witnessing the aftermath of loss or tragedy.

Tragedy and loss are crippling and unwelcome. Such events witnessed by the public extend beyond comprehension and usually well beyond the information the public is given. When tragic loss of life is witnessed but not experienced firsthand, the public has diverse and confused reactions due to its limited involvement and spectator’s vantage point. While victims and survivors suffer devastation, the acts of hate, violence, or injustice arouse within most spectators indirect, empathetic reactions to the tragedy. The emotions and reactions are different and deeper for actual victims who experience these feelings in purest, direct form. Unless the spectator is involved directly in a tragedy, he/she cannot fully understand or know how to react to a situation. A spectator can never express grief or shock in the same way a victim will. The process for victims begins as they first cope with tragedy and then the following public reaction. There is nothing easy or painless about the process. The only certainty is that this process must run its course. There is only one thing a spectator can do within this process with complete understanding: weep with those that weep.

No more. No less.

I have read “weep with those who weep” all my life. Considering recent tragedies, I understand that this must be done without interference. These five, simple words are the only correct reaction to tragedy.

There is no saying “I am sorry” while offering explanations of tragic events.
There is no offering of condolence while rationalizing why tragedy happened.
There is no sympathy for victims while at the height of sorrow using that tragedy to springboard onto political issues.
There is no sorrow shared while the highest priority is sharing death or tragedy on national media.
There is no grief when grief is overcome by hunger for media sensationalism or revenge upon a tragedy’s perpetrator.
There is no sincere condolence while exercising public rage within reactionary outbursts on social media.
There is no solace given while making victims relive a tragic moment by publicly speculating if more prevention were possible.
There is no sadness shared in immediately placing blame for tragedy on a person, official, political idea, religious preference, or hypothetical situation.
There is no weeping with those who weep while declaring “God must be put back in schools (or govt., or anywhere)” – displaying a lack of faith through the message that one could possibly believe in God’s omnipresence and at the same time believe that He is not somewhere, that He would abandon a person or place, or that He can be removed from a place by a mere man.
There is no shared sadness in proclaiming “Jesus come back now, please” when He sent those proclaiming such a statement as His messengers of hope, His peacemakers, and distributors of His love – all here to serve in times of tragedy.
There is no sympathy in saying “I have to say or do something” if we skip the simplest, purest action man is called to practice during times of tragedy.

How callous are we to human sadness, suffering, and loss that we redirect our thoughts in a time of weeping toward a time of rage, upheaval, pontification, religious indoctrination, or political purpose? How shameful that those professing faith dare infer that God was not somewhere during tragedy by invoking His presence “back” to that place in time of suffering – as if He were never there, had been removed, or could possibly be blamed. Are we that eager to express our strongest personal platforms that we need to steal the spotlight from another’s tragedy during their time of need? Shame on those who are guilty. Apologies to those who have to unnecessarily bear a second burden created by the hands of those who speak and act this way.

There is a time to rest public voice, set aside foolish and indirect rage, lay aside political motives, put to rest all the “what I would have done in that situation” statements, stifle the attempts to place blame for not preventing tragedy on people/groups/ideas, give no credence or attention to the promotion of a tragedy’s notoriety, and simply do the one thing we are called to do: “weep with those who weep.”

No words necessary. Simply weep.

For christians this truth is equal to every truth we hold dear. It is as real as the earth and sky and should be as natural as breathing. It involves two parties: those weeping and those weeping with them. There should be no other parties involved or other time periods imposing weight or constriction during the need for weeping. This time deserves its own space without media attention and social media armchair reactionism. Respect of this time is, for lack of a better word, “sacred.” To everything there is a season. There is a time to break down and a time to build up – they are separate and equally important times. There is a time to weep and a time to mourn – to infringe on these times is simply not the right course of action, no matter how strong the cry for vengeance or the demand of media attention is. There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing – knowing which time to embrace a certain person or issue is more important than the issue itself. There is a time to keep silent and a time to speak – being able to differentiate between the two allows us to “weep with those who weep” in truth and honesty without the excess baggage of rage and self-serving “free speech.” There is a time to love and a time to hate – knowing which time to exercise which act should eliminate bickering over the nonsense of political issues in order to promote the love that brings forgiveness, understanding, and healing in times of tragedy.

Perhaps knowing when to love and when to hate is the essence of weeping with those who weep. If to others we express sorrow for loss of a loved one by only expressing hate for a murderer, then we have served only ourselves, wrapping what we perceive as love within a package of hate. Love wrapped in hate is still “hate”. If we express love for those who have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one by arguing the ins and outs of politically-based laws and constitutional clauses, we miss the forest for the trees. If we try to comfort another and express God’s love by proclaiming that man should bring Him back to a certain place, we make null and void the essence of His now questionable love and provide the very basis of His rejection for those suffering. In any situation like these we at best ignore those who are most in need. At worst, the tragedy is shamefully exploited for personal purposes or opinions. This is a cruel mockery and abuse of love, one of God’s greatest gifts. Love works best when placed directly on its target and in the proper order demanded by the process of grief and loss.

There is a time to refuse media sensationalism. There is a time to set aside “being right” and “expressing one’s voice” in order to make peace as far as it is up to you. There is a time to set aside oneself in order to give to another in order to rebuild the framework of community. Only those directly involved in tragedy know the time frame for weeping. That time frame demands and requires public respect. This time should occur without the public’s clamoring for a role in the story of the tragedy. Its length is decided only by those suffering and not by the general public’s whim and rubbernecking. There is time for silencing tales of notoriety, ignoring news reports designed to whip up frenzy, avoiding social network bickering, and minimizing current tragedy by comparing past tragedies, forsaking ourselves and our inclinations in order to simply do what is right: weep with those who weep.

Simply weep. No more. No less.

Flu Shots

I have never had a flu shot. I do not like the notion of putting something into my body that made of the disease. Despite it being a prevention or cure, it is still disease and that bothers me. There is also the method of administering the disease that involves sticking a sharp metal object into my skin that causes more pain than it possibly cures. I never think about it as a worthwhile measure until the days each year where the flu is rampant and each pharmacy advertises flu shots.

I didn’t consider a flu shot until the week I was sidelined. I was miserable. Every joint ached. It was hard to breathe because of congestion. Full breaths hurt because of the stress something as insignificant as a breath had on the aching muscles and joints. I coughed until I was exhausted. Sleep only came with the help of medicine. The fever was spiking unpredictably.

There was a deeper level to the pain of this sickness. I’ve had the flu four times. However, this is the only time I’ve had it when I have had children. My toddler also had contracted the flu and was suffering with the same afflictions I mentioned above. This hurt me far more the the actual symptoms from which I was suffering. I could only watch her from a distance. She couldn’t voice her feelings completely as adults or children do. Her eyes told a story of unrelenting illness and pain. I hurt for her and had a feeling of helplessness I hadn’t known before.

The one thing that eased my suffering in her sickness was the great mediator between the world of the sick and the healthy:  my spouse. During this time, I was given medicine, food, time for rest, and a reprieve from the chores of the house. My daughter also received 24/7 attention – attention that I couldn’t possibly give her because of my feeble physical state.

My spouse worked tirelessly during this time. At times I thought I heard my spouse coughing and sniffling. The deep fear that we would all be sick terrified me. My feelings put my toddler before myself, of course, and I began to wonder how I could get her to the doctor in my state. The first impulse to take her was on the weekend which would mean a trip to the emergency room. The next time was at a better time during the physician’s work week – a less expensive charge to my insurance. My spouse would be up to bat again, giving up precious days off to take care of this.

I couldn’t help but think of how I would do this by myself without her. It would be absolutely miserable. Is this the pain a single parent must face each time a struggle comes about? How does this measure against a working single parent or a single parent on welfare who works but has to manage a family as well? How does a single parent manage the situation of under-employment and being sick on top of having a sick child? How much does an emergency room trip cost a single teenage mother? How much does a person without insurance cover the cost with a minimum wage job and no benefits? How can a parent manage this if they have no family nearby to provide support during these times? These hypothetical situations can’t help but be speculated when the 2011 census report tells us that there are 10 million single mothers and 5.2 million of them are owed child support. I can’t understand this and I hope that I never have to do so. My pain is great enough just watching a child go through this – and I have the means to take care of the illness.

That found me thinking of some of the things the church has said about children lately. It’s not the standard chapter and verse where Jesus suffers not the children to come to Him or how a father shouldn’t provoke his children to wrath. It’s the highly politicized message of judgment toward children that portrays christians as hateful and vindictive when we publicly voice an opinion on homosexuality and abortion. Most christians, upon reading that last statement, will automatically reach for their six-shooters and arm themselves with the verses from Romans, Matthew, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and similar passages that show what the Bible says about the two hot-button subjects. I do not think the church considers what it has done with this message.

We have voiced a hatred not only for abortion, but for those who have them, consider having them, and/or support the procedure. We do not consider the pain and deep-seeded, life-altering emotion that comes with having abortion. We do not consider the events that lead up to the pregnancy that brings about the choice on whether or not to abort:  how sensitive are we to rape, incest, or lifestyle that has taught that abortion is simply an option of birth control? We do not consider the under-the-gun, split-second decision of a mother who, in the delivery room, has to make the choice to abort or deliver and risk her own life. Notice that I’m not providing a list of excuses supporting the practice of abortion, but rather a list of real subjects we ignore when we make flippant statements or trite internet posts. We think that we are voicing God’s word on the issue when we really are displaying our own limited understanding of the topic and voicing an opinion that is buckshot and will hit anyone regardless of where they stand on the issue. It is understood that christians will generally fall on the side of opposing the practice. What is not understood is why christians aren’t willing to support the solution to “the problem.” We want to outlaw the procedure at the operating table and that has always baffled me. This is like trying to avoid a flood by fighting the crest of a tidal wave instead of providing regular, preventive maintainance to a dam that could burst without proper care. More simply stated, christians are battling the issue at the wrong point of expedition and that makes them come across as ignorant of the issue and ignorant of the text from which their beliefs come. They generally speak against sex education, providing cheap or free contraception, programs that rehab and/or provide contraception for prostitutes, and homosexuality. Some even go further and battle funding for education and health care – two issues that would by nature limit the practice.

It is made clear what christians seem to hate – and that’s the problem. Christianity isn’t defined by what one hates – it’s defined and even governed by what one loves. In the message of hate we lose what christians actually want, especially when it comes to children. There’s no outcry for fostering and adoption of children that are up for abortion. Christians won’t drop their signs of protest at abortion clinics to plead with any woman in order to adopt her unborn child. The religious blowhards on FaceBook make every election about abortion in part – not about adoption, fostering, or safe sexual and familial practices. The elections are not made about preventing unwanted pregnancies or improving health care so children are, quite frankly and callously, more affordable or are least not the death blow to a struggling woman or family (and just as a side note, every president since Roe v. Wade has had to support abortion, swearing as he entered office to uphold law despite the personal beliefs he or she campaigned on). We’re too busy throwing our personal beliefs about a procedure or a candidate around on social networks like FaceBook to do anything productive to solve the problem. Despite its personal nature, FaceBook opinions are seen by way too many to not touch someone who has had the pain of a lost child in their lives. Despite intention, these broadcasted “truths” are still judgmental, depicting the pious broadcaster unaware that the truth wrapped in the sin of judgment and insult is still sin. In truth, matters of a sexual, reproductive, and familial nature should not be so loudly broadcasted. We don’t announce “I didn’t abort my baby and let her be born!” via FaceBook (yes, it’s a silly example), so why would we profess other matters against another person so insensitively?

The same goes for same-sex union. Christians will protest and broadcast their feelings on same-sex union anytime an issue comes up in a public forum. A couple gets married, christians protest. A set of laws come up on a ballot, christians protest. A president gets elected, christians protest and often exclaim that one candidate is “pro-gay marriage” and will proudly take membership as a branch department of one political party or another. We want to outlaw the practice of marriage between same-sex couples at the alter, or better stated:  at the wrong point of expedition. We do not consider that there is no protest of the practice of divorce nor outcry for its repeal at election time (and as a side note, future President Reagan – an oft-quoted patron saint to many christians – made divorce as quick as same-day with his No Fault Divorce Law – a sign of the times in 1960 that is still flourishing today past his death). We do not consider that man allowed the state to recognize a religious institution, to determine the exact time it began and license that union, that man decided how to tax a marriage, that man decided what civil rights “marriage” is entitled, that man decided how/when/for what reason marriage can end by law, that broken marriages are still governed in child support by the state, and that marriage could be altered permissably by democratic process.

Furthermore, as we bring the subject back around to children, we deny children who could be adopted into loving homes their chance of having a family because christians are too busy judging the process that will allow a two parent home, a two parent income, a two parent power of attorney, and a two parent support network the opportunity to raise that child even if we disagree with the nature of the union. We don’t want to call same-sex union “marriage” and we don’t want the freedom of democracy to prevail and allow “civil unions.” We essentially say that we would rather leave God’s gift unattended with no parents or at best, government care, than to have a child grow up in a home with loving parents. This point, I’m sure, makes most christians’ blood boil. They assume that I advocate homosexuality because I advocate union by civil law, the right to adopt, the civil rights that allow one person power of attorney in another’s life, the possibility to take responsibility for actions by law.

Therein is the problem:  you’re too busy judging me to be part of the solution. In 2012, there were  approx. 424,000 children in foster care in the United States according to www.childrensrights.org. Their average stay in the system is three years, shorter than the period most god-fearing christians have to wait to vote a “gay-loving, abortion-having” president out of office. In the 2008 census, the number of christians in the United States numbered 173,402,000. That’s roughly 409 christians for every child in foster care. According to our message, the message about our deep personal beliefs professing our own adoption into a family that is a City on a Hill, there should be no child without a family. There should be no orphan in a religion that in its purest form boils down to caring for the widows and the fatherless. A population that lives this remedy will be represented by civil authority accordingly. Our current message is demonstrated by our fruits and our fruits scream hypocrisy. For christians who still can’t fathom this idea as part of faith, consider that Rahab, a lady who is recorded in history as a hooker, is known more for what what credited her as righteousness and faith rather than her sexual exploits. Consider that she wasn’t a member of Israel, God’s chosen group. Consider that she, not you, is compared to Moses and the other legends of true faith.

There is an important truth I know about children when it comes to theology:  “Children are a gift of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward.”

When we treat God’s gifts (whether that be the children or the womb that bears the fruit) with contempt, judgment, or disdain we heap His judgment onto ourselves. We aren’t fostering or adopting vehemently. Our voices at election time don’t scream, “I’ll adopt NOW. I’ll foster NOW. Let me HELP.” We reek of judgment, ignorance, and obstinance. Our language is the language of hatred. We voice personal opinions in a buckshot manner and then relinquish owning up to our statements by saying, “it’s what God said.” How dare we blame God!

When God said it, he said it with His voice in His own words. He governed how you should say it with the two greatest commandments:  Love God; Love you neighbor. There are also those examples derived from these laws that use phrases like “as a mother gently nurses her young” and “language seasoned with salt.” There is also that verse that says something like “be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you.” One can’t be “prepared” to give an answer to someone to whom they speak if they don’t know that person, the situations that frame the conversant’s mindset, or the common language in which to frame the love of God. Preparation in this event isn’t a one-way street. It simply is not possible.

It’s time we owned our message and spread some love. It’s time to put our foot in the race to push forward, not kicking against the thorns. It’s time to fight the good fight.

I can’t imagine how I would have remedied our illnesses without the aid of my spouse. I cannot imagine taking my child to the hospital and being denied entrance to the facilities because my name isn’t on a piece of paper that man devised. I cannot imagine the pain or dispair of a decision that would cause me to give up my child because of the increase in suffering on a life without proper income, healthcare, or education. Why have we taken a simple issue and politicized it? Why do we call those in need “entitled” when we are all one tragedy away from the same position? It all simply disagrees with my faith.

I am thankful for my blessings of children and spouse. I am also thankful that the flu is quickly cured. However, my earlier views reflect the more serious matters of discussion. I don’t want to put a view that is mostly disease into my body. I don’t want to push away others and cause pain by the method in which “love for neighbor” is too often enacted. I don’t think about such messages until the disease that affects many christians rears its ugly head and I have to explain my views to those with whom I’ve had longstanding conversations about the actual message of Love. The flu is quickly cured. The other disease needs the methods of a much Greater Physician.

Day 17: I Am Thankful For a Cell Phone

Today I am thankful for a cell phone. Not my cell phone, mind you, but a cell phone I saw this past Saturday.

My drive to work took me on a detour route through a rougher part of town just off my normal route downtown. A homeless man sat at the corner of an intersection with his belongings gathered closely beside him. I assumed the bags were his since it seemed he had one that looked to be clothing and personal effects. Another seemed to be cans and/or various things that could be put into one of the local machines for some quick change. There was also a blanket draped between the bags and over his lap. He did have one belonging that seemed not to match the others. He sat talking on a cell phone as cars passed and the city began to show the life of the weekend and almost-holiday activity.

I was sitting comfortably in my car when I saw him. I had my coffee in the console and my coat laying in the passenger seat. I hadn’t put the coat on because I had taken the time while getting ready that morning to preheat the car for a few minutes before driving it. However, one needs a coat in the car just in case of a flat tire or other emergency. I saw him talking on his cell phone as I sat in traffic two lanes away from him. I thought of stopping to see if he needed anything but by my clock, I was pushing just getting to work on time. I needed to get there on time in order to post a FaceBook status that would let those there know where in the building to meet. Time was of the essence and by my car thermometer it had already warmed up a degree since I’d started my drive.

It wasn’t the coldest Saturday that we’d had but it was close to it. At 37 degrees it wasn’t freezing. I made the walk from the house to the car earlier without discomfort but I’d have been a fool to not bring a coat along. I had felt the bite of the cold on my ears as I got into my car. It was cold enough that at that intersection that the man’s hat was stretched down as far as it would go. His coat was wrapped tight, hood pulled up, and cell phone inserted between hood and hat and he held it with gloved hands. I assumed he was under the blanket earlier but his conversation may have turned his attention away from keeping the blanket tight. Perhaps 37 degrees now seemed warm compared to the dip down in the 20s just a few hours earlier before sunrise. I cannot say for what reason he had moved the blanket or why he had felt no need to use it now.

I am thankful for that cell phone.

I am thankful that he had a line outside of his existence that could reach a shelter, emergency service, agency, church, or hotline. I am thankful that he had a way of reaching family members and friends. I am thankful that he had a line that routed to him personally in the event of an employer calling for labor. I am thankful that someone, somewhere had the kindness to give it to him, buy it for him, or provide a way for him to purchase it whether that someone was a friend, family member, non-profit agency, church, or the government.

I am thankful that he had the courage to use the phone in public. The judgment of those driving by is not an easy load to bear, I’m sure. It had to be hard to ask for his simple needs such as food, shelter, or currency when those he asks draw any number of assumptions about his hunger or other needs as he’s holding a cell phone. Those assumptions happen quickly and come with massive weight. It seems that there are those who wish to begrudge the poor not only of their poverty but also of the belongings they may own – as if a cell phone were an insult to the state of poverty or owning one despite being homeless is an insult to those above poverty level.

I am no different from those who make assumptions. I know at first glance I assumed he was homeless, that the things sitting around him were his, that the phone was given to him rather than purchased of his own accord by his own means. I made the assumption that he had something to keep him warm in the 37 degree weather (after all, he had a cell phone, right?). I analyzed the sight of him and weighed it against my agenda for the morning. I could have stopped but my excuses were many:  the light turned green, there was a lane of cars that prevented me from turning to stop and help him, I have a scheduled appointment, and he looks like he has “stuff”, he has a cell phone and it’s obviously working, and it’s only 37 degrees – not freezing. He may not have even been homeless, for crying out loud. I am thankful for that cell phone – so that the Lord has provided him a line to reach out and talk to someone if for no other reason than to give him a person with whom he could speak about enduring the assumptions and resulting judgment of a sinner like me.

This phone was an older “flip phone”, not a smart phone, and for that I am also thankful. I would hate for him to have had immediate access to the pious, posturing throngs on social networks like FaceBook who post about the poor who own cell phones and the poor who buy frivolous luxuries like smart phones when they should be purchasing only absolute necessities or should instead be out looking for jobs. Everyone with social networking capability has friends, “religious” and/or “patriotic” pontificators, who are the first to profess the burden this man on a cell phone places upon them personally.  I would hate for him to have seen the posts regarding a lazy, poor man who had no sense to get out of the bitter cold, or was too lazy to get a job, or preferred to mooch off “lawabiding taxpayers” but doesn’t mind talking on his “government” or “Obama” cell phone. I’m sure he would have been judged the same way if he were in the grocery store standing in line to purchase whatever food can be purchased with the money that can be made from a grocery bag of recycled cans (I’m assuming that was his job – shame on me). I am also thankful that I didn’t see someone taking a phone camera picture of him to post on FaceBook with some trite, politicized statement about the economy, the poor or poverty, or, God forbid, a political candidate or partisan idea. I would have hated this for the man’s dignity even though I wasn’t sure how incurring public judgment, his demonization, or stripping him of dignity measures up against a night in freezing temperatures. I barely know the pain of any of these situations and I didn’t stop to help him in his situation, so how can I know what is worse?

He helped me realize I have no true understanding of the plight and perspective of those who are pushed by poverty into the fringes of our society. I realized that my assumptions and judgment didn’t help this man one tiny bit when he needed it most and that my prayer at that moment didn’t warm him, feed him, shelter him, befriend him, educate him, or share the love of Christ with him. The congregation I donate to each week wasn’t there to give to him anything. The non-profit organization to which I donate wasn’t there to shelter him, shower him, feed him or warm him. At best, at very best, I can hope that what I pay in taxes helped provide that phone that gave him a tiny path out of the pain of the cold. I know what I pay in taxes is small in comparison to others and that it is then diluted by the amounts paid the millions of Americans who also pay into that system. However, I do hope that some of that went to him. Upon realizing that a man was left in the cold, I didn’t care whether my taxes were routed directly from a government program or from a government benefit to a non-profit that has enough compassion to provide such. It’s a very, very long shot that it did, but it may ease my conscience if I knew absolutely and without a doubt that he benefitted from something I provided. This long shot is a statement of guilt that shows that I’ve chosen the judgment of myself that provides the least shame to me. This does not change that my whole assessment and action is shameful and reproachable, full of greed and selfishness. It’s shameful on me as a christian, an American, and as a person that I reduced the situation to “taxes.” I can’t guarantee that my taxes helped this man. I can, however, guarantee that I’ve helped build and perpetuate a world that is sustained and can only be navigated well and efficiently by owning and overusing cell phones, computers, and technology. I helped him have the need of owning a cell phone to function and prosper. I can’t say I helped him get one.

In my mind I had wished him to “go in peace, be warmed and filled” and was even arrogant enough to offer a prayer to my God on his behalf knowing full well that God had already answered this prayer and sent a people to cheerfully warm and fill him. How dare I assume this man needed no blessing that morning. How dare I presume to weigh the hypothetical situations of taxes, abuse of charity, another’s lack of responsibility, or political ideology against the very real sight of a human being sitting in the cold. What was the danger or risk in this to me? This man could have been a thief, a murderer, or an addict which my scripture says is an offense to him. However, I didn’t know any of this – I couldn’t know any of this. The only true assumption is that this man was cold and unsheltered – and my scripture says that this is an offense credited to me.

Lord, my prayer now is to ask You to please save this man from sinners like me. 

I am thankful that his cell phone brought about my confession. Confessing weakness and ignorance is, I pray, the beginning of strength and knowledge. Hearing this about myself brings about faith, and hearing this is just like hearing the word of Christ at the end of Matthew 25. I’d heard that passage many times before read aloud and recited publicly. That Saturday, I actually heard it. Faith will come by hearing; and hearing by that word.

I am so thankful that he had a cell phone so that he could call someone, anyone, better than I was that day. Whether he knew it or not, he called someone better for me.