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.

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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!

 

Fertility

Hi y’all!  I’m back to the virtues from the ADF. This week is one of my favorites and one that can easily be misunderstood, fertility. Fertility is more, much more, than it’s obvious definition. It is more than simply having a lot of biological children. Let’s check in with our good friends, Merriam and Webster:

1.a. producing or bearing many crops in great quantities

b. characterized by great resourcefulness of thought or imagination

2.a. affording abundant possibilities for growth or development

b. capable of growing or developing

c. capable of producing fruit

d. capable of breeding or reproducing

And all of that is after thinning it out a bit by removing some of the bits that just don’t apply to this discussion.

For our purposes, fertility means bringing something into reality. Although, I must admit to liking growing and developing as well. It’s about manifesting something, anything,  be it plants, a relationship, or breaking a bad habit.  Fertility is all about change, but not any change. It must be initiated and maintained by you.

How does this play with the other virtues?  Wisdom is used to determine what to create. Courage is needed to actually start your creation. It gets you past the fears that come with something different. Vision lets you see the end and some of the problems that may crop up on the way. Perseverance helps keep you going until the end and to plow through the tough times. Finally, moderation helps you keep from burning out.

“Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower” Review

Today’s post is my review of “Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower” by Tom Krattenmaker.

This book held a lot of promise, but didn’t quite deliver and it came off as a bit too preachy. Yes, you read that right, an atheist came off as too preachy about Jesus and, yes, a Christian is saying this. He pushes, rather than leads, people to use Jesus’ life as a model. I really like the underlying idea because Jesus said and did many things we should be emulating today, but Mr. Krattenmaker did not show us as much as he told us what he means by living according to Jesus’ example.

This may give the impression that I didn’t like the book. I think this book is pretty good, but could have been so much better. Still, it is a good book. There is much to ponder in its pages. He talks about many subjects, including, racism, poverty, and sex. After introducing each topic, he goes on to explain how a follower of Jesus might act. I wish there were more examples of people doing this. One of things that Mr. Krattenmaker does not do is to chastise Christians for their failing to ask like Jesus. I would not have been so generous, if it were my book.

He talks about how men treat women as objects and how we, as a society, do not truly hold men accountable for how they treat women. In response to this, he shows how Jesus treated women. Jesus was one of the few to acknowledge the women around him. Mr. Krattenmaker writes, “the stories make it clear that women were part of the Jesus community and were the people he called friends”. He points to the story in Luke 7 about the ‘bad woman down the street’. This poor woman comes up to Jesus at a party with the elite and washes Jesus’ feet herself. She is a fallen woman and simply being present at this party is offensive to most of the guests, but not to Jesus. Instead, Jesus accepts her as she is, something that Christians could learn to do.

As Mr. Krattenmaker writes in chapter 5, “Saved from What?”, “Jesus shows you that you cannot so haughtily condemn and walk away from those around you who suffer”. Jesus often tells people what they don’t want to hear and if we were to follow Jesus’ example, we may speak truth to power. Mr. Krattenmaker almost makes it sound like those with wealth and power would be called by Jesus to help those less fortunate than themselves.

My favorite chapter is number ten, “Found in Translation”. This is the payoff and what I think the whole book should have been. He writes, “Me?  I am keen for the time being to take a break from learning and debating about Jesus and who he was, cosmologically speaking, and am more interested in focusing on what he said and did and what we can learn from it, whatever our location on the theological spectrum”.  He does have academic writing down, though one may wish he were a bit more relaxed and casual in his writing. I have read journal articles of both physics and philosophy, so I can understand what he is saying, but this would have benefited from being more conversational. However, that quote is one of my favorite from the book. What does it matter who or what Jesus is?  What matters is the example he set and how we might follow that example. And that, dear readers, is the point of this book.

And finally, to make the FCC happy, I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

 

Hospitality

Welcome back for yet another one of my posts exploring the central tennets of ADF Druidry. Today, I pick on hospitality. This one is my personal favorite. 

What is hospitality all about?  This is a idea that has been around for a long time and most, if not all, ancient cultures practiced a form of hospitality that would be considered radical today. Ancient hospitality was open to all but a very few, and those few usually  had to cross a line. 

Let’s see what our friends Merriam and Webster have to say about hospitality.

hospitable treatment, reception, or disposition

hospitable: 

1:a: given to generous and cordial reception of guests

b: promising or suggesting generous and friendly welcome

c: offering a pleasat or sustaining environment

2: readily receptive

I must say that I love this definition. All of it is simply perfect. 

So, what does all of this mean to us?  Well, it is acting in a generous way to all. Treating our guests and our hosts well. Hospitality is a reciprocal relationship. We must respect both our hosts and guests or we are not honoring our commitments to them. Part of respecting our host is being hospitable to the other guests.

All this means we need to treat our host, the earth, better than we have. We are all guests here and we have been treating our host very poorly innded. We should treat all of the other guests here well, too. People deserve respect simply because they are here and we have a duty to help others. Being hospitable demands that we work together to show respect to our host.

Moderation

Hi y’all, ready for the next of the Nine Virtues?  This one is one of my favorites. Moderation, what is it and why is it important?  As usual, I’ll ask my good friends Merriam and Webster what they think.

1a: avoiding extremes of behavior or expression: observing reasonable limits.

b:calm, temperate

3:not violent, severe, or intense

Obviously, there is more to the definition, but I picked out the parts related to our discussion. Also, this is for moderate, not moderation. The site kept redirecting me to moderate everytime I searched for moderation.

So, what does this mean to me?  It means that we should be careful to not let ourselves get unbalanced. We must make sure that we don’t under or over do anything. Moderation is dependant on the person as well. Something that is moderate for me could be overdoing for you and underdoing it for someone else. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Aristotle said something very  similiar many years ago. Learning our limits is important, since it is hard to know what is moderate for us if we don’t know our limits. 

On to why moderation is important. It is important because going to extremes is bad for us, for our health, our wealth, and our happiness. Eating too much makes us fat and too little makes us unhealthily thin. Reacting to our emotions is similar, too much and we are shouting at our loved ones over a trivial matter and too little allows stress to build up until you explode. Either way adds to stress, which is not good for our health. It doesn’t matter what it is, we must use our wisdom to be moderate in what we do, including moderation.