The Fourth Commandment

We are already a month into this and the prewriting seems to be working. I hope this is as interesting to you as it is to me.

The traditional version of this commandment is from Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15. It goes, “remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord  your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son, your daughter, your male and female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.” The BCP version is, “and to set aside regular times for worship, prayer, and the study of God’s way”.

The traditional version is rather interesting with its inclusiveness. The day of rest is for everyone. Doesn’t matter who you are, a slave, a woman, or a foreigner. Even animals get to rest on this day!  That’s something you don’t everywhere, even today. This day is for worship, but it doesn’t end there. It is about rest. No work was to be done at all!  A day where you are to do nothing, could you imagine that today?  I don’t think we can do this. We simply lack the ability to stop. We need to learn this skill or our health will deteriorate. Without rest and relaxation, we will cause harm to ourselves, physically and mentally. The ancient Hebrews were, somehow, able to see this and made it a commandment to take a day of rest. I find that amazing.

The traditional version is also about spending time with God. It’s a relationship and if we don’t put time into it, it will fail. This shouldn’t be work to make time for those with whom we are in a relationship.

The BCP version lacks the day of rest, which I think is important. Time for rest is very important. We are so busy that we rarely take time to relax. We go and keep going until we can’t go anymore and that is not good for us, our family, our friends, and God. We barely have time for what ‘needs’ to be done, so having time for anyone or anything else doesn’t happen often.

If we don’t spend time with God, how can we know them?  If we don’t take time to read the Bible, then how will we know if someone is deceiving us about our faith?  If we don’t worship together, how can we build a community of faith?  Our lack of communities dismays me. Few take the time to get to know each other. Even fewer take the time to create and maintain communities. Very few take the time to meet with others for mutual support.

They both agree on taking time to get to know God. They also imply that we need communities of faith. We need them because we cannot make it through life alone. Most importantly, and sadly not included in the BCP version, we must rest regularly. On a side note, in the BCP, this is the end of the section on our duty to God.

Third Commandment

Today, I’ll be talking about the Third Commandment. It is in both Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11. It goes, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name”. The version in the BCP is, “to show God respect in thought, word, and deed”.

As usual, I’m going to start with the traditional version. What’s it trying to say?  I think this one is quite obvious, don’t swear by God unless you mean it. Don’t use God’s name to defraud others. Don’t use God’s name to enrich yourself in any way.

This is one where I feel the traditional version is better than the one in the BCP. Not that I don’t like the version in the BCP, it is pretty good. They go in different ways. The traditional version is more about not using God’s name for selfish purposes. The BCP version is more about how you relate to God. It’s more individual than the traditional version. The traditional version focuses on the social aspect of respecting Them.

One of the things I see Christians do too often is put words in God’s mouth. They say that they alone know what God has said and is saying. All too often, it is merely a way for these people to use God’s name to bring them money and power. Others become legalistic, they stick to the words in the Bible and ignore what the spirit of those words are. How is that respecting God?  How is turning a deaf ear to the message in the Bible respecting anyone?

To sum it up, we should love God with our whole heart and mind and soul. If we do that, then we will be respectful towards God. Part of being respectful towards God is to not put words in Their mouth. And to not use our relationship with God as a way to bring power, glory, or money to us, especially in a fraudulent way. If we truly respect God, then we will take the time to discern the Spirit of God’s words, all of Their words.

The Second Commandment

The next one up is the Second Commandment. Traditionally, it is, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of the parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” This is from Exodus 20:4-6 and Deuteronomy 5:8-10. Whew, that is an awful lot for something pretty simple. The BCP shortens it to, “To put nothing in the place of God”. I wonder if ancient scribes were paid by the word.

Again, I notice that the traditional version implies that there are more gods out there. I suppose it could be trying to say that the God of the Bible is the one true god. Or, it could mean that the God of the Bible was one of many and the primary one of the Hebrews. The polytheism and henotheism in the Bible has always intrigued me. Maybe because there are so many who will insist it isn’t there.

The traditional version should be summed up as, don’t worship idols and be true to the Lord your God. Much simpler and easier to remember. The version in the BCP is more interesting and much, much shorter. It also invites the question, “what do I put in place of God?” Many put work and our pleasure first. But the one thing I see worshiped in place of God the most is money. We Americans do have an unofficial religion and it likely has more practitioners than any other religion in the US. We worship money like a god. We trade our time, our health, and our relationships for the stuff. Many will even trade their values and parts of who they are for these little slips of green paper.

Too many of us have become slaves to money. Money was meant to be a tool to make our lives easier and we have made it our master. We put people who have lots of money on a pedestal and demean those who have little. Money is funny that way. We’d call someone with a million hammers strange or a hoarder, but if it’s a million dollars, then it’s ok. If you have a lot of money, you can circumvent the law, while those without money are often put under a heavy yoke by the law.

This is not the way God intended things to be. God wants us to keep them in mind because everything that is, was, and will be is a part of them. Part of worshiping God is helping others without counting the cost, without asking if those you help are “worthy”, and without degrading and demeaning those who ask for help.

In short, Christians should be worshiping God, not people, not things, and most definitely not money.

First Commandment

Hello all, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to write and type up a few posts and try to build a bit of a buffer. With luck, this will help with the whole not being exactly emotionally stable thing.

So, we’re on to everyone’s favorite, the fifteen, no, ten commandments. I’m going to take them one at a time and in order. I want to go in depth about what each one means to me. I’ll be using the Episcopalian and NRSV versions. For the Episcopalian version, I’m going to pull it straight out of the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer.

The First Commandment is, “To love and obey God and to bring others to know him”. I like the way this is worded. It sounds less harsh than the more traditional version.  That version goes like this, “You shall have no other gods before me”. This is from both Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7.

Looking at them, they look like they are mostly statements about who God is. I feel that the one from the BCP is close to the traditional version in spirit. We Christians should listen to and love God; that’s part and parcel of being a Christian. And that means reading the Bible, the history of the Bible, and the history and culture of the people who wrote the Bible. Without knowing about all of that, you can’t truly understand what is written in the Bible. It requires more than just that, though. We need to go to church regularly to worship with others and make sure we aren’t starting down paths that will lead where it’s not healthy to go. It means praying and creating time to hear what God is saying.

One thing that has always been interesting to me is how the traditional version says ‘you shall have no other gods before me’. Not that you should have no other gods, but that you should worship the Biblical God first. Read that way, you can worship other gods, as long you you revere the Biblical God above all others. I think that this is rather interesting and something that Christians really ought to think about deeply. Maybe others aren’t wrong, they simply aren’t us.

Anyway, to sum it all up, the First Commandment is about who God is and your primary duty towards them. And maybe we should be more tolerant of others. Just maybe.

On being right with God

There is this sign in the town where I lived for many years saying, “Americans Need to Get Right with God”. It may surprise you when I say that I agree with this. Hold off on the torches and pitchforks for a minute and let me explain.

First, let me explain what I think this person means with the sign and say that I do not agree with that. This person likely means that we should be a ‘Christian’ nation, return to ‘traditional’ marriage, and kick all the LGBT people out of the country. I think this person doesn’t understand what being right with God actually means. Hint, it isn’t hate and oppression.

What does God ask of us?  To treat others with respect. I know it sounds odd, but there are lots of times when that is what they, very explicitly, tell people they want. As way of an example, I’m going to try an update to the Good Samaritan. Sadly, it is horribly misunderstood. Anyway, here goes.

You’re driving along 81 and suddenly your car doesn’t feel right and is making an odd sound. You pull off to the side of the road and get out. Your rear driver-side tire is flat. You have no spare and no Fix-a-Flat. Your phone, you remember, is sitting on your kitchen table, so you try to flag someone down. There’s not a lot of traffic, but you see a Mercedes coming up fast. You try to flag it down, but the congress critter driving it doesn’t care and speeds on by. You wait a few minutes and you spot another car coming. The driver is wearing a dog collar, so your hopes rise. Surely, a priest will aide you, and you try to flag him down. And, he speeds on by. A few more minutes go by and another car is coming. You flag the driver down and to your shock and horror, a young black man wearing a hoodie steps out. He calls for a tow truck and pays for the tow and a new tire and runs off before you can pay him.

Now, which one of these guys acted most in accord with God’s will?  I think we’d all agree that it’s the modern Samaritan, the young black man. Why?  Because, even though he is looked down upon by most, he stops and helps his neighbor. You see this in both the Old and New Testaments. God elevates those who are poor, hated, or unwell because they take the time to help others. Kindness, even that done by non Jews, is rewarded. Reminds me a bit of the Sodom and Gomorrah story. The reason these cities are destroyed isn’t because they are filled with gay men. And it doesn’t have to do with the angels being angels. It is all about how foreigners were treated. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were know to treat foreigners poorly. The reason they wanted to rape the angels was to show power over them and humiliate them.

So, with all this said, what do I think it means to get right with God?  It means speaking out about any and all kinds of oppression. Working towards justice for all. Treat everyone with respect and kindness. Help one another without counting the cost.

On being trans and suffering from mental illness

This one is going to be a bit long and may be triggering. I’m going to talk about the shooting in Tunkhannock, trans issues, and mental health.

Somewhat recently in Tunkhannock, there was a shooting at a Weis. This is terrible in and of itself and will make the lives of those struggling with mental illness harder. Those who do this sort of thing often have struggled with mental illness themselves. They also don’t receive treatment. Why don’t they seek treatment?  I can only speculate about why, but the stigma surrounding mental illness, the cost of treatment, and the lack of therapists and psychiatrists are the most likely reasons.

It can be very hard to find a therapist and even harder to find one that clicks with you. Much harder to find than that is a good psychiatrist. They are all expensive if you lack insurance, anywhere from $80/hour and up. I’ve personally seen up to about $300/hour. Even if you have insurance, there are copays and deductibles that can make treatment unaffordable. My good insurance covered all of my mental health care without any copays, but I had to hit the deductible of $250 first.  But the biggest reason, without a doubt, is the stigma around mental illness. We are thought to be stupid, unreliable, and dangerous.

While we can be unreliable, we aren’t stupid and are only very rarely dangerous. I tend to over commit myself when I’m feeling good and then crash and have trouble keeping my commitments. For the most part though, I am able to do what I say I will. And most people with mental illness are smart, creative, and productive. Most importantly, we aren’t any more dangerous than anyone else. Yet, we get treated like we’re about to kill everyone around us all the time. If we could be treated like everyone else, that would go a long way to dropping this stigma and making it easier for people to admit they need help. And if we could make treatment easier to get, well, that’d be near paradise.

Unfortunately, this shooting will also come down hard on trans people. It seems that this individual was trans and couldn’t deal with it. Could be because we are treated worse than dirt by many, many people. Could be that the American ideal of masculinity is toxic to everyone. Could be because people think we are mentally ill or trying to trick people. Yet again, it is down to stigma and stereotypes.

I absolutely hate trans jokes. Why?  Because they are all the same. The joke is always about how trans women aren’t women. Which leads me to the stories that get told about us. We are the villain or the victim, never the hero. There is always so much fuss made about being trans when all it needs to be is a detail. These stories, both about trans people and those of us suffering from mental illness, need to change. Once the stories change, we’ll change. People are quick to think that words and stories are minor things. They are both magic and the most powerful sort we have. Don’t believe me, what does a therapist use to heal mental illness?  Words and stories. The way you heal is often changing the story you tell about yourself. Words and stories influence the way we think.

There is this odd idea that trans people are simply having delusions. What most people don’t know is that being transgender was once treated like having delusions and not one treatment changed anyone from being trans. Just like conversion therapy. You can’t torture us into not being who we are. Being trans is a piece of who and what we are and that can’t be changed. You can’t make a left handed person right handed, no matter how hard you try.

Trans people do deal with mental illness at rates higher than cisgender people. Why might that be?  We are demeaned, demonized, and bullied almost constantly. We have to face violence and the threat of violence everyday. We get kicked out of homes, jobs, and groups because we are trans. We are verbally and physically attacked simply because of who we are. To avoid all of this, many try to stay hidden, to be someone else. All of this takes a toll on our well-being.

We have trouble getting any kind of trans related healthcare. I have to drive to Harrisburg twice a year. Insurance rarely covers trans healthcare. We have to worry about what will happen if our other healthcare providers find out we are trans.

So, now that I’m done with all the doom and gloom, what can we do about it?  One, we can start trying to change the stories told about trans people and those suffering from mental illness. Mostly, though, don’t be so quick to judge us. Maybe speak out for us when you see someone trying to put us down or hurt us. Seek help yourself, if you think you might be dealing with mental illness. Trust me, treatment helps. Same goes for being trans. Try to find some of us and talk with us. Most of us are nice people. Simply treat us as normal people, because we aren’t much different from you.

I’ll leave you a line or two from Hank Williams, from ‘Men with Broken Hearts’:

You have no right to be the judge, to criticize and condemn.
Just think but for the grace of God it would be you instead of him.

Piety

Hey y’all!  Sorry about the month without posts. I’d like to blame it on something, but I was simply being lazy. Anyway, this week’s post is the last of the nine Virtues of the ADF.

I debated whether to have piety or fertility as the last one in this series. I chose piety because I think it rather neatly finishes off the Virtues. Also, piety is more interesting and difficult. To really understand what piety means in this context, it’s important to start with how Ár nDraíocht Féin, also known as A Druid Fellowship, views the gods. They are hard polytheists, that is, they believe that the gods are real and each is it’s own separate entity and they each have their own desires. That’s one of the things I love about the ADF, they don’t water down what they believe to get more members. And, they are orthopraxic, which means that they don’t care what you believe, only how you worship if you are doing an ADF ritual.

Let’s see what our friends Merriam and Webster have to say about piety:

1: the quality of state of being pious

a: fidelity to natural obligations

b: dutifulness in religion

2: an act inspired by piety

3: a conventional belief or standard

They also list reverence, virtuous, dutiful, and devout. I think I’ll start using a different dictionary since this one loves to define words using the word you want defined.

What is piety?  I like piety as reverence. If you aren’t revering something, you can’t be pious. Virtuous also seems right. Having a set of virtues to follow and following them is pious. Piety should not be confused for following what someone tells you to do. To really have piety, you must have your own relationship with who or what you worship or revere.

Piety sounds a bit like hospitality, doesn’t it?  They both revolve around relationships and honour. Hospitality is more about being there for others, including the gods, and treating them with respect. Piety, on the other hand, is more about how you live your life and is about your relationships with your deities or values.

Doing ritual right is also a large part of piety. In the ADF’s case, it is using their ritual outline when performing an ADF ritual. In other cases, it depends the particular faith. For many, this means attending some sort of ritual on a regular basis. But it could be anything from communing with nature to meditation.

I hope this trip was interesting for you as it was for me. Soon, I will start in on the Ten Commandments. See you next week!