PRIDE – conversion therapy

Living the PRIDE.  It’s not only about protests and political action, but also about enjoying the freedom to live as created.  There continue to be many who oppose that pride6freedom and would return America to the days prior to 1950 when the closets were filled with gay men and women who feared physical harm, incarceration and personal shame.  We’ve come a long way, baby, and those closet doors have been permanently thrown open never to be shut on us again neither by government nor religion.

But, some will try.  Conversion therapy is alive and well among fundamentalist Christian groups determined to “change” gays, especially minor children, to a heterosexual orientation.  Years ago this conversion used barbaric methods including shock therapy, aversion therapy and in extreme cases, lobotomy.  Being gay was not an acceptable family nor church circumstance.

Today’s methods, not as drastic, resort primarily to counseling and role playing in attempts to make a gay person straight.  Conversion therapy is, however, unanimously discredited by mainstream psychological and psychiatric associations citing the potential for severe emotional damage to developing young minds.  Many of those who condone this ‘therapy’ apply the delusional thought that the lifestyle is chosen and not innate.

Whenever this hypothesis is presented to me, my response is always, “OK, so you are a straight man/woman.  If heterosexuals were a 10% minority and you were directed to become one of the gay majority, either by will power or conversion therapy, could you do it?  Could you refute what has always been normal behavior for you?”

Usually the response is hands thrown in the air, a shrug, a scornful face and a few expletives as that person abandons his/her attempt to ‘change’ me.  I WAS BORN THIS WAY.  But even if my way of living were a choice, you, dear evangelizer, have no right to inflict your views upon me.  That’s the wonderful thing about freedom – we have the right to choose.  Choice is life’s golden ticket.

I have referred numerous times to the SPLC, a non-profit dedicated to exposing and c6fe7102aaf9242136b451907b02957d[1]prosecuting discrimination against minority groups.  Recently, it won a New Jersey case against JIFGA, Jewish Institute for Global Awareness, citing the bogus practice of facilitating gay to straight conversions.  Not only was JIFGA ordered to dissolve, it also will be paying the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and a financial settlement.  Follow the link above, JIFGA, for the full story.

 

$$ MONEY $$ – is it overrated?

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Lord knows I have carried a basketful of stupid decisions and irrational choices in my lifetime which have determined my ‘prosperity’ status.  But truly,  my recollections from years past point simply to a contented life earned and learned by living a simple life.

We were not prosperous by today’s standards.  But, in my eyes, we were the most affluent and blessed people on earth.  Stuff and money did not matter.  We did not compare to the Joneses.  I never went to bed hungry, never walked to the school bus in rags, never slept without a blanket.  Life was good.  In retrospect, what made life good was the fact that just about everybody we knew lived as we did.  We counted our blessings everyday, helped those neighbors who had fallen onto tough times, worshipped in a beautiful country church with other folks who knew the meaning of sharing, compassion, and humble faith.  Oh, a few thought they were special and had the inside track to God, but most of us just accepted that maybe we didn’t really know all the answers and we tried to live a life that pleased family, friends, and neighbors and in doing so, hopefully pleased God.

Yes, we had abundant security even if we did not have money.  We depended on each other knowing that the world would have to end before any one of us would abandon the other.  Do we have that security today?  Do you know your neighbors’ names or where they were born?  Would your community feed you, house you, and clothe you if hard times hit or would you need to pitch a tent in the woods and eat bugs and lizards?

Compassion prevailed back then because we were a community of individuals who knew each house and family along the country roads leading to church, to the general store, to the Ford dealer, to the Grange hall, to the telephone office where an operator manned (or womanned) the switch board 24 hours a day, and to the undertaker’s house to which  each of us would someday take a quiet journey.  Everybody knew everybody else – Mrs. Johnson’s bouts with depression, the Mitchell children needing new shoes, the insurance agent’s penchant for Jack Daniels, and the milkman’s weekend trips to the city to walk on the wild side.  We did our best to live right, but none of us were cocksure of eternity and none of us claimed to have the answers.  Life was a mystery and we knew it was wise to leave it as such.  In that simple, uncomplicated, unsophisticated bygone community of farmers, our lives had meaning.  Life was precious and each member of that community had a sense of belonging.

Today’s times are troubling.  The ones who proclaim to be spiritual leaders seem to be speaking from both sides of the mouth, their lives betray the words coming from the pulpits.  Some houses of worship have become palatial with a senior pastor, junior pastor, assistant pastor and a staff of office help.  Preaching hell and damnation for those who don’t adhere to their narrow litany of thou shalts and thou shalt nots, they go home to an equally impressive mansion with amenities and ‘stuff’ which most of the congregation cannot afford.

The gospel of prosperity and exclusion which I am hearing from numerous religious leaders nationwide starkly contrasts to the teachings of Jesus that I remember from my little country church years ago.  Humility is lacking, compassion is lacking, love for every member of humanity is replaced by an attitude of tribalism.  The strident position of excessively cocksure Christians evidenced today is alarming.  “You are going to hell, but I’m not because I have discovered the path to salvation.  I am a believer, you are lost.”

I don’t remember in my younger experience that Jesus taught any of those things which extreme-right fundamentalists are pumping from their pulpits.  Maybe I wasn’t listening well enough, maybe I missed the spiritual boat just as I missed out on the prosperity boat.  But, you know what?  I would not trade the soul security and contentment which I learned in that country church attended by simple folks who practiced a gospel of humility and social justice.  I would not trade the peace of mind I have for all the promises today’s prosperity preachers dangle from their pulpits of hypocrisy and intolerance.

Just a few thoughts from a simple man who still believes there is more to life than money.

 

the angry Christian

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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I probably would not write about faith and recovery if I did not have an unyielding, nagging directive to dispute the abounding, fear-filled theology which controlled my life for many of my early, formative years.  It is my sense that many others also suffered and continue to suffer an “ism” of hell fires and damnation.  It is for them that I return to the memories of pain caused by delusional theology in order to propose another way, the Way proclaimed by Jesus, our Christ.  I am the way, the truth, the life seems to be lost on a religion more concerned with retribution, payback and profit than restoring life abundantly to the world’s lost and dying.  Mega churches, millionaire televangelists, a gospel of affluence are obviously missing the mark set by Jesus to minister to the poor and downtrodden, to seek heaven at the bottom of the social ladder rather than in the far reaches of the universe.

In the book of Mark, a man comes running to Jesus asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus answers that one must live by the commandments.  To which the man said he had followed them all.  Then,

“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross and follow me.” (1)

The man went away sad.  We don’t know if he sold his possessions or if he cherished them more than a relationship with God.  Soul sickness, however, does not discriminate between rich and poor.  Selfishness and avarice are not limited to wealth and power.

Fortunately, through the recovery rooms of AA and the loving compassion of fellow trekkers, a restoration of soul for me was possible.  The first step in this restoration was grasping the concept of “God as I understand God.”  It is a foundational tenet of AA’s recovery program which has enabled millions of doubters like myself to find mental and spiritual health in a sea of unhealthy religious dogma.

God hates me, and God wants to burn me in hell’s fires.  Imagine living with those thoughts for the first 33 years of your life?  I tried to drink myself to death thinking I could drown with alcohol those haunting visions.  I tried to wear the atheist armor and the agnostic unbelief to no avail.  God still despised me and was waiting for me to commit the ultimate sin that would seal my fate in hell.  In truth, during the years of alcoholism, I was already serving my sentence in his realm of fire and brimstone.

I don’t go there today because the God of my understanding does not take me there.  Together we find green pastures and still waters.  We are as One enjoying peace, solace, contentment, and treasures of the soul.  It seems silly to me today that anyone who is seeking would choose a vengeful, wrathful, hateful old man as their God.

From Richard Rohr @ Center for Action and Contemplation:

In authoritarian and patriarchal cultures, most people were fully programmed to think this way” (the life of Jesus as a ransom to an angry, demanding God) – “working to appease an authority figure who was angry, punitive, and even violent in ‘his’ actions.  Many people still operate this way, especially if they had an angry, demanding, or abusive parent.  People respond to this kind of God, as sick as it is, because it fits their own story line.” (2)

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(1) MARK 10:21

(2) CAC.ORG

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A friend recently observed that we (those of us who do not fit the WASP heterosexual mindset) have suffered tremendous oppression and discrimination at the hands of “believers” who profess the creeds and tenets of Christianity.  Historical accounts of this abuse can easily be googled and verified.  The legislation passed following the “rights” movements culminating in the equal marriage rights amendment under President Obama’s administration gave all enlightened people a glimmer of hope that such discrimination had been swept away forever in America.  Unfortunately, with Trump’s election and the advance of fundamentalist, evangelical Christians in the political scene, this celebration of social advancement was short-lived.

I personally have extreme difficulty reconciling my belief system, which is based on Judeo-Christian ethics, to what the politically vocal minority of Christian believers led by a cadre of so-called American spiritual leaders is foisting upon America “in the name of Jesus” and within their concept of God.  Where are the men and women of faith who are tolerantly, inclusively driven by compassion and love for all of creation?  Why are they not speaking out in defense of the Christianity which speaks for me?

Whenever I reference scriptural verses to support a viewpoint invariably someone will dispute my interpretation of those verses as not “proper within the framework……blah, blah, blah.”  Screw your framework.  The Spirit dwelling within me is as valid and as real as your theologically correct, fundamentally sound, and hypocritically driven gibberish.  I trust that spirit which drives me while many of you are still searching for the right gear to engage.  Let’s begin a dialog which tells the truth and invites unbelievers to join in the conversation.  That is how our faith can become a beacon for the lost and hurting.  It’s time to give up the proselytizing and simply join all of mankind regardless of race, creed, sex, and orientation in creating a better world.

One of my favorite writers, Ethan Walker the 3rd, opens his book THE MYSTIC CHRIST with the following words:

“And what is wisdom?  Wisdom is knowing that we are all one.  Love is what it feels like, and Compassion is what it acts like.”

From 1 Corinthians 13:2 in the NIV we are advised:

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

There are several thoughts I can share with my friend who is as challenged as I am by what is being passed off as Christianity.  First of all, no man has a free pass to heaven.  The doctrines he supports, the creeds he professes,  the name he chooses for his god will get that man nowhere if he doesn’t trust in the truth of wisdom, love, and compassion.  Furthermore, as a non-believer, my friend should never be intimidated with the threat of eternal damnation because the bottom line is that any theology whether it is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu is nothing more than a philosophy born out of man’s need to express spirituality.

 

 

grease (not the musical)

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“If we would imitate Jesus in very practical ways, the Christian religion would be made-to-order to grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity, and care for creation.”  Richard Rohr

Is your particular denomination, sect, or theology greasing the wheels of human consciousness?  Does your particular denomination, sect, or theology emulate the love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity and care for creation which all of your scriptures attribute to Jesus?  No?  Then how dare you affirm your interpretation of your holy writings as the inerrant and infallible word of God?

I have never been one of those “in your face” promoters of any particular faith walk.  You know who I’m talking about, don’t you?  Someone in your church, in your neighborhood, on your media screen?  My way is the only way, my way is Biblical, my way is God’s truth.  Maybe I’m describing you.

Again I say, “If your faith does not affirm Jesus (or any of the other of God’s messengers who brought us the same message) as a reservoir of love and compassion, then perhaps that faith which demands blind obedience to creeds and tenets is not genuinely Godly.  No, I’m not “in your face”, I’m simply posing a question

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

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That sword of which Jesus spoke could be a reference for the need then to excise the law-ridden, hypocritical theology of the Jews.  We have the same scenario today.  Religionists who have abdicated their moral authority to celebrate equality and justice for all of God’s humanity regardless of  faith tradition, politicians who have bedded down with those religionists to rein in a sizeable voting bloc, and voters who have transgressed their profession of morality to gain political favor by electing a man who has shown absolutely no moral fiber or integrity….all are destined to fall to the sword Jesus carried into the theology foray.

No, I’m not here to be “in your face”.  Having suffered a torturous and humbling journey through the jungles of “Christian fundamentalism” and having survived that journey with a deeper and more sustaining faith than ever in my personal quest, I am here merely to ask questions.  Does your church/denomination grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, justice, inclusivity, and care for the creation?

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