Category: Current Events


I woke up in an…interesting…headspace this morning, and I’m finding myself easily angered or easily brought to tears. After spending almost forty-five minutes typing up my response to the last link I shared, I am realizing that I really need to not be on Facebook today. The comments I wrote were basically a culmination of three different articles, shared by different people, that hurt my heart. Rin put the Piano Guys on her laptop awhile ago in an effort to help me feel better and it is helping some, but I also have to take the next logical thought step and realize that it won’t continue to help if I keep tying myself up in knots.

One of the reasons of late that I have stopped reading all of the articles that people share and I have stopped responding to things that I find upsetting is because I feel too damn much and I see what I think should be obvious solutions and yet I watch people tear those solutions to pieces, either because they believe I am too liberal or too young or too female or too whatever, and I find that inordinately frustrating.

I have unspoken agreements with multiple people that we are to never discuss politics, because that way lies madness; in some cases, it has been that way for years. And yet, I have watched some of those people’s beliefs evolve far beyond what they used to be and I hear them agreeing with things that do not even make sense, or I see them believing something simply because a republican told it to them and it makes me crazy. I posted a link about Cobb County last night and how they had basically bamboozled bringing in the new Braves stadium and if I were of a mind to build my values and politics only on considering that all democrats are out to get people as so many of the people I mentioned above do, then I would have automatically assumed that the politicians involved in the shady deal were certainly democrats; however, the reality was that they were republicans and they knew exactly what they were doing even as they tried to stand by and say that they did everything “according to the rules”. I’d like to think that people in Cobb County would remember this come Election Day, but I sadly believe that the reality is that a) they won’t remember it and b) they are so anti-the other party that they will vote for the same politicians because it “still is better than the other side” once again voting against their own best interests. It. Is. Maddening.

I am not going to lie; I tend to largely vote democrat because of the two parties, they believe in more things that I believe in, and the current brand of republican wants to do too much to inhibit my life and my choices while trying to claim “religious freedom” and other bull shit arguments that have no place in politics, and that tends to make me angry. (Also, even when I was a devout, regular church going Christian, I STILL believed that church and state should be separated because I no more wanted politicians telling me what to pray and when to pray and what type of Christianity to believe then than I want them involved in politics now.) That said, I actually research both candidates and do occasionally pick a republican option because I feel that in that office they are the better choice, but the key there is that I do my research. I all too often hear the “liberals are all evil/stupid/what’s wrong with this country/socialists/comminists/nazis/ignorant/etc.” argument as though liberal has come to be a dirty word. (In fairness, I have seen liberal friends act the same way about the word conservative and have made comments similar to the ones I am making now.) This polarization is hurting us all and the current main steam media are doing everything that they can to fuel it while still trying to make people believe that they are unbiased, but frankly, if you believe that ANY news source is unbiased then you are showing an astounding amount of ignorance. As Dr. Yow, my American Studies professor (amongst other classes because she was amazing) said, “Everyone has an agenda. Everyone.” Some people’s agenda is to live their life in simplicity and kindness; other people’s agenda is to take over the world in whatever way that they can. It is so important to remember that and to keep it in mind with everything that you read or hear.

There is a huge part of me that wants to just start smacking people’s heads together to see if it would help. I see people that I know to be smart, to be kind, to care about others forget all of that to pursue their own agendas whether it be their own interpretation of Christianity, their political beliefs, or their hate for some “Other”, and it hurts my heart. I often wonder if they ever stop and realize the message they are sending to people. I wonder if some of the people that I am friends with – some family, others I went to school with or met through other ways – have made me incredibly strident in my opinion to not call myself a Christian ever again because I do not want to be counted amidst their number. I wonder if any if them would care or if they already count me as not worth their time because I am not like them anymore. To me, even as a young child, even when I was unsure about things I heard people at church say, I understood one thing: Jesus is love and he demands love in return, not just to him, but to everyone. I remember feeling conflicted in spirit when I would join in making fun of other youth groups or other denominations, or when I would join a group of people making fun of another kid because I wanted so badly to be “cool”. I remember as I got older feeling conflicted in spirit at some of the messages that people around me were saying, and I remember looking at two men who became my adopted big brothers, who had a stronger, healthier relationship than many Christian couples I knew, and wondered how I could believe that their love was wrong. I stayed conflicted on that point and a couple of others for so long that I actually found solace and peace in the pagan community because there was too much hate in the Christian one.

It also did not help that at the point that I left church for the last time, only one person really cared why and no one else asked. At the time, I was dealing with remembering things that had happened to me as a child and as a teen and let me tell you, rape and molestation flashbacks are not fun and they certainly do not leave you feeling social. To this day, I suspect that many of the people I called “friends” at that point thought I left because of a relationship, but the truth is that I left because the secrets I had kept hidden were eating me from the inside out and there was no solace for me at church because I felt no safety. I had overheard too many conversations, usually by adults, blaming victims and after my experiences in middle school with trying to talk to authority figures about things that were happening there, there was no way I was sharing what was making me feel so utterly fragile, not even with my “friends”. One person cared enough to ask after me and even that relationship faltered at the time for reasons on both of our parts but is actually better now which is a thousand kinds of awesome. So, forgive me if my impressions of church these days sound something like, “They will love you so long as you tow the party line and so long as you look happy” as opposed to how I used to find church which was as a place for peace and love, a place to go when you were broken inside and needed strength, a place to find a kinship with your Christian family and comfort at their tables.

That craving for peace and love is one of the reasons that I love Glennon at Momamstery so flipping much. I often read her writing and I feel like I am in church, wrapped in the peace of Creator and the Universe and there is peace -for me- there, no matter how broken, scared, or confused I am. I let G be a guide for Christians for me so that I do not let my heart become full of hate for the others I see who profess to be so very holy, because I do not want to become a person who is that cold and I do not want to be a person who lumps everyone in a group into one negative category. There are a few other people that I have let into that space with G, like Julie Hatcher and Rin’s Aunt Marijo, people who have pieces of the divine inside them, who share it with everyone and demand nothing in return. I know I will never be as selfless as those types of people, but I also strive to carry a piece of the divine inside myself, to shine a light of kindness back to people. I strive to remember that everyone is fighting a battle and to that person their battle can be all-consuming and there isn’t always room for kindness and love to others.

I try to speak to others with love in mind, even when I am angry or when I feel they are terrible people because I also know that they are still people, still humans fighting a battle. In doing so, I am learning that it is possible to love someone and also know that they are just not good people, to wish them peace but also to wish justice for their wrongs. I am also learning that I have to speak to myself with the same love and the same compassion and not just because my therapist tells me to, but because it is right and good and important. If all people are worthy of love and compassion and I am a person, then I, too, am worthy of those things. In opening myself up to loving no matter what (though do not equate love with being a doormat because it is definitely not that), I have also made myself more vulnerable and oh, that is so hard. My heart seems live somewhere between my sleeve and my throat, and I sometimes wonder if it is worth being so open to love and compassion because some days, ya’ll, that shit hurts. It means not reading articles about sad things or awful things and turning a jaded eye, because my heart tends to be right there and it sees the humanity and it hurts. (Coincidentally, this is also why I am learning to be more discerning of what I am reading and to give myself permission to not read every link shared and to set boundaries for myself when it comes to things I know will make me feel/angry/sad/etc.) It also means that I make myself see the humanity in everyone even when I disagree with them, because to refuse to do so makes them “other” and when we start to make people “others”, we stop seeing ourselves in them and it becomes easier to hate them, to dismiss them, to denigrate then, to disparage them, or even, for some, to kill them.

A couple of different interruptions have broken my train of thought, which is likely for the best given that I had aimed for this to be a short but pithy post on Facebook that I have had to shift to my blog for sheer space constraints. (Later, I will likely also shift my comments on the link mentioned above, but I cannot copy and paste from the FB iPad app and I am Definitely not doing it again right now.) I honestly am not certain how to wrap this up at this point, so I think I am just going to let it lie and move on to something else. Yesterday, Dr. Maya Angelou died and it saddened me for a lot of reasons, but one of the deepest was that her words have helped me shape who I am at different times in my life, but especially lately. One of her quotes that I saw shared multiple times yesterday was the directive to “be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud,” and it seems a good way to help some up the concept that “love wins”. If we each strive to be a rainbow in the darkness, then we will make the world a better place. It might be simplistic, but sometimes, simple is truly the best answer. I have several other quotes of hers jotted down in my current journal, but one that I think fits this post nicely, and which I will close with today is about life’s mission. I want to come back and talk about my feelings on Maya Angelou at a later point, but this quote seems a fitting end to this lengthy musing.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive…with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
~Dr. Maya Angelou

Love wins and we can do hard things.
Until next time,
~B

There are many public figures that I frequently try to avoid hearing words from because they make me want to scream obscenities and slam my head into a wall. Mike Huckabee is one of those. His psuedo-Christian preachings tend to make me want to contemplate returning to my Pentecostal roots just so that I can scream in tongues. This week, his words just make me sad. (In fact, the bulk of this post was written on Facebook and was spurred by someone I used to attend church with…someone whose children I taught in Children’s Church…someone who I was surprised to find agreeing with the hateful words that Mr. Huckabee was spewing in the aftermath of the shooting in Connecticut.) I wrote a little about the “God is not allowed in schools” issue the day of the shooting, and I’ve since had several discussions about it that have helped refine some of my thoughts.

I have to vehemently disagree with you on this one [in response to her comment with the video that it was worth listening to]. I don’t think that anything that he has to say is worth listening to because he has proven himself time and again to be more filled with hate than compassion. I’ve heard things come out of his mouth that were directly antithetical to things I learned growing up in church.

Instead of trying to turn this into a religious issue, he should simply be trying to pray for the people who are affected by what was a horrible tragedy. Where was God? God was there in the hearts and minds of those children. God was there in the hearts and minds of teachers. There have been reports of one teacher who told her students who believed in prayer to pray for their safety and for those who didn’t believe in prayer to think good thoughts. God was there in her words. God was there with the teacher who sacrificed herself to save her students. She hid them all in cupboards and closets around her classroom and when the shooter entered, she told him they were in the gym. Hers was the only life lost in that classroom and she gave it up for her students.

God guided the six year old boy who took his friends half a mile from the school to get them to safety. He wanted his friends to be safe and after someone picked them up and took them to the fire station, one of his friends reported that “he just wouldn’t stop!”

God was there wearing many names, as he often does. God is allowed in schools and there is no magical barrier that keeps him out of them. What is NOT allowed in schools is religion and it shouldn’t be. First, not every student in this country is Christian and they should not be forced to learn Christian religious education at a public school. Second, whose version of Christianity would be taught? I heard a story once about someone who asked the question, “Why do students not say the Lord’s Prayer in school every day?” and someone else asked, “would you still be all right with prayer in school if students then followed up the Lord’s Prayer with a “Hail Mary” and an “All Father” as many Catholics do? After all, Catholics are Christian, too.

How many Protestant religions are there in the world? Even within a particular flavor of Christianity, not every church agrees on doctrine. (After all, Westboro Baptist Church calls themselves Christian…and they are proclaiming that God sent the shooter to Connecticut and that those people died because God wanted them to. I would surely hope no one would want THAT version of Christianity taught in schools.) There’s not even one version of the Bible, but instead, many translations and versions with differing takes on the text. (And it certainly shouldn’t be the King James version given that King James actually spent a lot of time tweaking parts of it to better suit his needs. It’s why it’s named after him.)

I grew up Christian. I taught Children’s Church. I was a member of Bible Club at my school. I talked about church at my school. And even as a teenager, I didn’t want religion in schools because I didn’t think it belonged there. There’s a difference between faith in God and religion and dogma. People should be able to believe without having one type of belief forced on them over another. I LOVED the moment of silence during the day because it let me take a moment to pause, reflect, and speak to God on my own terms. Before the moment of silence, when a daily prayer was read, I wouldn’t have been near so able to find my moments of peace in the Lord because I would have been listening to someone else’s words and prayers. (Seriously, there were many days in high school where the moment of silence let me find my center and balance for the day.)

Further than all of that, to say that God was not in that school shows a shocking lack of faith. In Matthew 18:20, the Scripture (roughly) reads “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am” and there is not a doubt in my mind that there were people in that school praying their hearts out while that shooter was inside those walls. There are other places in scripture that speak of God’s omnipotence and how he is everywhere and in all things. If as a believer in God and in Christ you believe that to be true, then to say that “God is not allowed in schools” is to say that somehow man’s laws that require a separation of church and state (for some very sound reasons, a few of which I mentioned above) are stronger than God’s will and God’s word.

God was there and no one is keeping him out of schools. (After all, in every school where there is a test, there is likely a student whispering a prayer.) I just do not understand the sentiment behind this type of “preaching” that Mr. Huckabee is speaking here. It seems to argue against itself and it certainly seems to argue against scripture and I don’t entirely understand why that can be considered a good thing.

That was the entirety of what I wrote and I could perhaps easily stop there; however, I am feeling introspective and yes, a bit melancholy, and it tends to lead to a bit of navel gazing. Religion is such a touchy subject and it is both personal and subjective. My interpretation is not necessarily your interpretation or your pastor’s or your priest’s or your shaman’s. Religion is inherently something that should teach us to question our beliefs. Why do you believe what you do? Exploring faith (or the lack thereof) should be a part of one’s journey in life. After all, how can you wholeheartedly follow a deity if you don’t know why you are doing so? Even if after exploration and questioning and studying you find that your beliefs are the same, you at least now know why.

My path was a bit different. I started to question some of the things I’d learned in church during history classes at university. Renaissance and Reformation history is a fascinating subject and you learn a great deal about the path that Christianity has taken over the years. If you take classes in the periods before the Renaissance, you’ll learn of the origin of Christianity and how it began as a mystery cult with people meeting in secluded houses in secret for fear of persecution. Honestly, studying history is always fascinating but studying religious history is definitely something that will make you think.

Another university level class that made me consider my faith was actually Spanish. Learning a new language and the origins of that language saw me beginning to question the Bible and its translations over the years. If you do some research on the Bible, you’ll find multiple translations and multiple editions and there are differences in every single one. (If you research nothing else, I strongly urge you to look up the history of the King James Bible. It’s pretty fascinating and certainly isn’t as close to the original texts as possible.)

In my study of history, mixed with my curiosity about languages, I learned about the Council of Nicaea. If you’re not familiar, the First Council of Nicaea was a meeting of Christian Bishops in 325 C.E. One of the main goals of this first ecumenical council was to determine the relationship between Christ and the Father (which still seems pretty pretentious to me). The argument had arisen within Christendom about whether or not the Father and the Son were of one purpose or were of the same divine being. Each side used Scripture to back up their arguments and the argument essentially came down to language and word choice. (Hmm…I wonder if this might have had anything to do with translation?) Ultimately, they decided that the Son was the true God. This led to the Nicene Creed which has been a point of contention at several times over the course of history. Along with determining the nature of God and the Son, the Council of Nicaea also decided to change how the date of Easter was determined, dealt with the issue of a small schism, and came up with a list of new canon laws that would become part of the Christian religion.

Okay. Let me get this straight. The Emperor, a group of Bishops, and some other dudes got together and decided what the Divinity of God was and wrote some new laws to add to the Bible. I…I…I…of all the hubris of man, this one ranks pretty high on my list of “what the heck” moments. I understand that they were trying to bring agreement to the many sects within Christendom and I understand that they thought they were doing what was best, but I can’t help but wonder how this particular group of men was so led to act.

Yet it is within councils like this one that much of the dogma and the doctrine of modern Christianity was born. Even today, heads of churches sit and make these types of decisions. Factions within religions happen when one group doesn’t agree with another. And somewhere in the middle of all of this the messages of love and hope seem to get lost.

I’ve been through church splits: twice. It’s painful and it’s upsetting and it can shake your faith to the core…right up to the moment that you realize that the building is your church and the people are your friends but your God is wherever you are. Both times it took time to heal, though the second was worse than the first for me personally and it changed the dynamic of church going for me. That was the point that I stopped going because the people in the church at that point were doing nothing for my relationship with God.

Over time, through a lot of study, soul-seeking, prayer, and perhaps a bit of navel gazing, I’ve come to my own conclusions about Deity, the Divine, and the Universe. I’ve come to realize that the strongest message from my young life was that God is love and if you go to him, there will always be love. What I’ve learned from watching battles amongst religions and battles amongst public personas who feel they have a claim to speak on God’s behalf is that the message is “we will love you if you do exactly what we say and we will support you if you do exactly what we say, but if you deviate from that, we have no space for you.” It makes me angry and it makes me sad. Jesus taught a message of love. His greatest commandment is to love one another. How could that be confusing? Love one another.

We are all people and we all have our own beliefs. Trying to make your neighbor become Roman Catholic or Buddhist or Episcopalian isn’t what the message was. The message was to love one another or to respect one another or to treat other people as you wish to be treated. In this country, we seem to have an increasingly vocal minority subset of the Christian faith that want to legislate their religion into everyone’s daily lives. These are the same types of people who argue that we must always stick to the Constitution which makes them hypocrites because the First Amendment gives freedom of religion to everyone and it was designed to keep the government from creating a state church. The Founding Fathers left England because of a state church and because of religious persecution; they didn’t want the same fate to happen to their new country so they instituted laws to make it so that wouldn’t happen.

And yet over the years politicians have been slowly working at breaking down the separation of church and state despite the fact that it goes against the Constitution they are supposed to uphold. Many people like to toss out the Pledge of Allegiance and yet the words “under God” didn’t appear until the 1950s; that clause was not originally part of the Pledge.

People like Mr. Huckabee try to stand up and argue that we are a Christian nation and it isn’t true. Yes, there are a lot of Christians in this country; however, what we are is a country that is supposed to cherish religious freedom and freedom from persecution. Teaching one type of religion in schools is the exact opposite of what the framework of our country was built on.

In the conversation on Facebook, someone replied and essentially said that everyone has their own opinion but I believe religion should be in schools. The person in question did not address ANY of the arguments that I made against it nor did they consider the points at the end. They simply decreed “religion should be in schools.” After inhaling for a moment, I set about typing a reply and this is what I came up with:

Why? Why would you rather leave a child’s religious teaching to someone whose beliefs you know nothing about as opposed to taking them to your church and having them be taught in the house of worship you CHOOSE to attend.

On the other side of that argument, if you believe that religion should be in schools, and you understand that the same Constitutional amendment that allows you to freely practice your beliefs also was designed to ensure that -no- national religion was placed into law, then would you be comfortable with students learning about -all- religions? If you want Christianity to be taught in schools, then you would have to allow equal time to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Shinto, pagan and earth based religions, and -every- other religion that makes up a part of our country today. There is not room for picking and choosing here because the Constitution is pretty clear about not allowing a national religion because the Founding Fathers were firmly against the idea.

I grew up Pentecostal. I also spent time in a Southern Baptist church with my Granny. I also visited several other churches either with friends, with family, or for revivals. There were differences in every church I went to and though the basic idea was the same, the methods of getting to that basic idea were occasionally vastly different. After all, there is a rather large difference between a Pentecostal service and a Catholic Mass. Every time people start talking about wanting to put religion into schools I always want to know how they feel they are going to manage to come into agreement about -what- to teach. No one has come up with an answer yet. I tend to get a lot of “I don’t agree with you and I think religion should be in school” type comments like yours without even a thought to how it could be implemented.

As a mother, I would far prefer to be the person in charge of my daughter’s religious upbringing than I would some of the adults who have been at her schools. For that matter, I am very glad that I am in charge of my daughter’s religious upbringing as opposed to certain members of my family. Religion should be a decision made as individuals and as parents. It is a matter of choice and it should remain that way. And wanting religion in school or not doesn’t change the fact that God -was- there that day. I’ll leave you with a quote from a minister that I came across the day of the shooting and then I’ll stop writing paragraph’s on [name redacted]’s wall. The minister’s name is Jennifer Crumpton and what she said struck me as very poignant and was written in response to people like Mr. Huckabee and his “God is not allowed in schools” message:

“In my role as a Christian minister, I have to speak up about the lie politicians and others are putting forth, that the CT shooting happened because “God has been removed from our schools.” This is a dangerous, irresponsible, and and theologically immature statement. God is not found in the rules or activities sanctioned by a school, or the doctrines that make that an issue. God is in the hearts of human beings, children included. And praying to God will not in fact avert the tragedies of our world…we’ve all seen/experienced that tragedy happens inexplicably. God does not “allow” things to happen because we do not adhere to human-concocted doctrine and superstition. Where is God? God is grieving with us. But God is not smiting children because of the separation of church and state.”

Where is God?

All around as the divine always has been.

I’ve said it before and I will likely say it again, but if the type of $deity that you worship is the type that would send a gunman into a school of elementary school kids and let them be murdered or if your $deity is the type that would send a hurricane to demolish part of creation just to “teach a lesson” then I want nothing to do with said $deity. If that’s the type of $deity you believe in, then your $deity is a big bully and I have no time for that in my life.

While I am not always successful, I do strive to be the type of person I believe I should be: kind, compassionate, caring – in other words, not a dick. Do I fail? Certainly. I can be a raging *censored* but that doesn’t mean that all of my efforts are equated with failure. Part of being a human is trying and failing. So instead of dwelling on the failures I try to make amends and I try not to kick the crap out of myself for being an asshole and then I try to be the person I strive to be. I look for the divine all around me because I believe that is where Creator exists. I see the divine in cats because Bast has certainly laid her claim on my life. I see the divine in things great and small because the divine is a part of all of us. Things like this shooting in Connecticut and the other rash of shootings that have been publicized hardcore on the news make it so easy to slide into a mindset of “the world is a terrible place and everything is horrible and blah blah blah” and yet if you do not seek out the good and you do not find the light in the darkness then your spirit will wither and fade.

The idea that Creator in all its forms would be so cruel and callous as to take some of the most precious parts of its creation and snuff out their lives in a fit of pique enrages me. The fact that people genuinely believe that and worse that they believe those actions are just actions just blows my mind. Do not try to tell me that “God is love” to only turn around and tell me that your God is a child murderer because someone sinned. Um, excuse me? Wasn’t that why he sent Jesus to die on a cross again? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Is this ringing any bells yet? If you believe that Christ’s sacrifice was to save the world from having to make sacrifices how can you turn around and believe that a tragedy is a punishment from God? And if you are a person of great faith who faithfully follows all of the rules and who repents when you stumble, what does it say about your God if tragedy befalls you?

It seems much more likely to me that as the minister I mentioned above said, God is grieving with us. The power of free will is a very dangerous one and it isn’t always used with the utmost care. That doesn’t mean that God abandons us in our hour of need.

God was in that school Friday whether religious dogma was or was not.

God was there. It is now up to you to examine your faith to figure out why you could believe that he wasn’t.

——

I suspect at this point that this has gone far beyond the long ramble I expected and has turned into an epic tome. I’ve been writing it off and on for a few hours now and I really didn’t get any sleep last night because I was trying to get things together for Girl Scouts today and things together for our impending trip, so at this point, I am impressed that I’m making full sentences. I suppose if you want the tl;dr version it would be this: The Divine (in whichever form you believe in) is everywhere and that means that the Divine was at that school on Friday (and given that it’s been released that the killer had a lot of ammunition with him, I’d say there are some pretty obvious examples of divine intervention) and dragging religion as a debate for public policy won’t change that. Also, kids pray in school even if no one leads them in a prayer. And they are probably pretty good at figuring out a prayer on their own. I was always clever enough to do so.

Until the next time I decide to ruminate about the Divine…

Hope

I believe in hope.

At the darkest times in my life, when it felt like everything was ruined and nothing would ever be the same again, there has always been a part of myself that has believed in hope. It is part of what it takes to be a survivor in this world: when all the chips are down, you have to hold out that something will happen to make things better.

The tricky thing about hope is that it isn’t always instantaneous and it isn’t always easily accessible. Sometimes you have to wait for things to get better and sometimes you have to suffer for a bit before you find something that reminds you that hope is real. It can make it really hard to believe in much of anything.

Belief in hope makes me stronger. One of my favorite quotes is from a poem by Emily Dickinson. The part I keep in mind is that “hope is the thing with feathers”; it is a part of my personal belief system and one of the mantras I have to remind myself of sometimes. The entire poem, however, is a part of that simple quote.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers-
that perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest in the Gale is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird –
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity, –
It asked a crumb – of me.

Hope is how I manage to maintain a semblance of sanity in the face of tragedies like what happened today in Newtown, CT. There is a part of me that wants to rage at the uselessness of killing twenty children and the devastation that one man wrought on a small town – and perhaps on all of us at the same time. I want to rage at a universe that would let something so senseless and so devastating happen. Not so complacent to place blame on one deity, I want to rail at them all and demand an accounting of them for what took place in that school today. Yet I don’t.

I don’t because to place the blame on a higher power is as effective as placing the blame on Mickey Mouse or any individual politician or any particular video game/tv show/movie/comic book character/other form of media. The blame falls on the shoulders of the man who walked into that school with three guns and started shooting. The blame falls on the shoulders of the person who felt that it was his only recourse.

I also don’t blame the universe because in reading stories that have trickled out from the situation, I have seen the hand of the divine in the midst of the pain. I see it in the hands of the child who waited for his friends and helped them get out of the building. I see it in the inspiration of the teacher who locked her class in the bathroom and managed to put a storage unit in front of the door. I see it in the injury of the teacher that stood in front of the door to keep the shooter from opening it. I see it in the children who managed to stay as calm as possible and who tried to support each other as the tragedy raged around them. I see it in the hands of the emergency rescue personnel as they worked tirelessly to get the children and teachers out of the building and who took them to safe places to reunite them with families. The higher powers that we believe in were there, working in the ways that they could and doing what they could.

I am old enough to understand that $deity is not Superman or Batman and Creator will not come sweeping into the room to save the day every time something bad happens. Life doesn’t work that way. Instead of blaming $deity for that fact, I look instead for the ways in which the divine does work in times like this.

In the wake of the mall shooting in Portland earlier this week, I stumbled across someone using a quote from Mr. Rodgers that I had not seen before. The base of the quote is “look for the helpers.” Today, I saw the quote in its entirety and it moved me even more than the simple “look for the helpers” that I saw.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Look for the helpers. It seems so simple and yet it can be so easy to lose sight of that in the wake of terrible things. It can be easy to see nothing but hate and violence and fear. Look for the helpers. Believe in hope for better days.

I’ve seen some of the typical things cropping up today, from “everyone should have guns to stop this kind of thing” which is, in my opinion, a specious argument at best and downright ridiculous at worst to a picture on FB that has a letter to God from a concerned student that basically asks why God didn’t stop the tragedy and a reply from God that says, “I’m not allowed in schools.” These types of things are crazy-making.

First, we as a country do need to be having more conversations about guns and gun violence. This isn’t me saying we should get rid of all guns or that we should attack the Second Amendment or anything like that. It is me saying, “Maybe it is time we examine some of these laws more closely and maybe it is time we start working on ways to stop these types of things from happening. Maybe we need to look at licensing legislation again and we need to consider things like how weapons are stored and maybe, just maybe, we even need to start educating our children about guns and gun safety so that they stop being ‘mysterious’ and instead are more commonplace items.” But having conversations about these things is important and it is something that we should be doing instead of cowing to the lobby behind the “we should be able to have whatever kind of gun we want because the constitution says so”.  At the same time, we should also be having a discussion about mental health treatment in this country and how we can make access to it easier and more affordable for those most at risk for the need for it. We should be finding ways to let people get help that won’t cost them hundreds of dollars for a single visit. We should be figuring out how to help those who need help. This, too, should be part of the conversation about gun violence in this country because mental instability has been a key factor in many of these tragedies.

Second, God is not banned from schools. There is not some metaphysical anti-God shield that kicks up outside the school doors. Teachers pray. Students pray. Schools have multiple types of Christian student groups. What the law has done is to keep religion out of schools and that is an entirely different animal than keeping God out of school. The Christian faiths of the world cannot even agree on one set of rules (which is why there are so many different types of faiths both Catholic and Protestant) so how on earth are we supposed to figure out what to teach at school? And why should there be one type of prayer in school instead of a moment of silence where each person can pray (or not) as they wish? God was in that school today and if you believe that he wasn’t because there is no mandatory school prayer and because there’s not mandatory religious education, then I don’t want to believe in the same God you do.

The shooting today was a tragedy. Twenty-eight people are dead because one person shot them. Twenty of those people are children between the ages of five and ten years old. They had entire lives ahead of them and now, with the firing of a bullet, they don’t. There is no real logic in this and seeing as how the killer shot himself, we may never have any idea why. His brother (who was mistakenly named as the shooter early in the day) has said that he has a history of mental illness. But mental illness alone does not make you shoot up a school. Seeing as how it is a tragedy, blaming it on the “gun control lobbyists” or the “no gun control lobbyists” or “the lack of God in school” or whatever other political or religious banner is not helpful.

Grieve for the lives lost and the families left behind.

Empathize with the children who survived but who now have lived through something truly horrifying.

Say your prayers or light your candles or do whatever it is you do to seek peace and healing from the universe.

Cling to hope for healing and recovery in the coming days.

Stop looking for a way to turn this into a “we should do this thing or that thing” argument and instead, consider your fellow humans and look for the helpers.

Tonight, I’ll just keep giving my baby girl hugs and I’ll keep reminding myself that though my heart is breaking for the families of the people who died today, my daughter and my nieces and nephews are safe in their homes. I’ll keep looking for the helpers and I’ll keep looking for the little glimpses of light in the midst of the horrible, horrible thing that happened today. I’ll cling to the fact that the divine lives in us all and that perhaps Creator, too, is grieving for what happened today. I think I also will light a candle and whisper a prayer for those we’ve lost and those who’ve been left behind.

With a heavy heart I seek peace. With grieving tears, I seek comfort. May the light remain stronger than the darkness. May the families of those lost find hope, comfort, and love. May the families of the survivors find peace in the face of terror. May the children of Sandy Hook Elementary sleep peacefully; may their dreams not be filled with the horrors they have seen. May we all come together as people and sow love instead of hate, harmony instead of discord, and solace instead of fear. May my prayers join those of my fellows to sing a song to the hearts of those who need hope the most tonight. Amen.

Today we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and our country. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject and will come back and add them later. At the moment, I’m enjoying the end of family time.

For all those who have fought, who continue to fight, and who will fight for our freedoms, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without all of you this would be a much different place.

A Few Thoughts on Tolerance

Three teenagers have killed themselves this month either because they were gay or because they were believed to be gay. Three. They were all around thirteen. In two of the cases, there were reports from several sources that the boys were being relentlessly bullied by other children at school. In the same two cases, the school districts in question have denied that any complaints were made.

I lived through bullying in school. It is part of why I have strived to teach my daughter from her very early school days that what other people think of you doesn’t matter nearly so much as what you think of yourself. It is a lesson that I am still trying to learn and I’d like her to have a head start on it. As I have told her, there will always be someone ready to laugh at you for the things that you like, so you may as well like it anyway.

On that note, I remember having tried to talk to school officials about what was happening to me in middle school. My good ol’ boy counselor told me that “boys will be boys” and, basically, that I needed to toughen up. My Mom thought I was exaggerating and it was years later before she realized just how bad some of the things I was going through every day really were.

My heart breaks for these three little boys because the adults who were supposed to be protecting them didn’t. In one of the cases, the parents have said quite clearly that they made complaints to the school and the school is denying knowledge of the complaints. Do I doubt that the schools were utterly non-responsive to these situations? Absolutely. On the whole, our schools do a poor job of handling bullying and all too often, behavior that should, under no circumstances, be tolerated is chalked up to “kids being kids.”

I wonder how many other children – because thirteen is still very much in the child category to me – feel that suicide is the only answer? How many other people are drowning in their own heads because the people around them are intolerant and hateful? I wonder how many of the parents of the children who were bullying these boys actually know that their children were doing something like this…and a quiet part of me wonders if any of them would care because the reality is that kids learn things from the environment around them. A lot of them quite likely learned their intolerance from their families.

Whether you agree with something or not, there is, in my opinion, no excuse for treating another human being in the fashion that drove these children to kill themselves. There is no call in tormenting someone because of their sexual orientation anymore than there is call for tormenting someone because of race, gender, social class, or religion. And quite frankly, I don’t care what religion you fall under or if you fall under one, the Golden Rule really -is- applicable to every day life: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It really should not be that difficult a concept: treat other people with the same respect that you want them to show you. Do you know what I would love to see? Stories about situations where the group at large turns on these small groups of bullies and says “No, that’s enough.” I would love to see stories about how the education system stops failing these children and instead, turns on the bullies and says, “No, absolutely not in our hallways.”

K’s school actually has a pretty strong no bullying policy and it is an active part of their environment. They have monthly workshops on it and there are areas in the school that have no bullying signs and things like “Be a hero” and basically other signs and images that encourage kids to be decent to each other as opposed to tormenting each other. I like that a lot; however, I also remember hearing things like that from administration and teachers when I was growing up and I remember the reality as well. That is why I teach my daughter to be proud of who she is and to be comfortable in her own skin. That is why I tell her that if someone is being mean to her or giving her trouble at school that I want to know about it. I have made certain that she knows that no matter what, she can come talk to me and I will help her sort it out. Sometimes, sorting it out is simply explaining things like, “Honey, people laugh at other people all the time because they think it makes them cool,” or “I’m sorry that this situation made you feel this way; how do you think you can change it in the future?” Other times, it is explaining how her own actions in a situation helped make it turn out the way it did. So far, we’ve not had anything major happen. A few giggles over Ne Hao Kai Lan socks notwithstanding, K has always had pretty good luck at making friends and being one of the kids that the other kids like to be around, but I also am prepared for the fact that middle school is coming…and children become completely different during those years.

I am kind of losing my train of thought, in part because I cannot get past the anger and the outrage that I feel on behalf of these children and the worry that I have for other kids in the same situation and in part because I just want to run around hugging all the children I see and telling them, “No matter what, there are always people who love you, even you feel like the whole world is against you.” For that matter, there are a great number of adults who could probably use the same hug.

Talk to your kids. If they tell you that they are being bullied, look into it. Talk to their teachers. Talk to their administrators. Keep a record of who you talk to and when you talk to them. Use e-mail as a method of communication. Write letters. If the administrators don’t listen, go to the school board. Take it as high up the chain as you have to in order to help protect your kids. Remind them every day that they are loved. If you cannot find resolution in your child’s school, look into options for relocating them to a different school: sometimes it can make a difference.

Consider what you say around your children. Is the off-color joke really appropriate or is it simply helping to spread the culture of hate and intolerance to the next generation? There really is a difference between not agreeing with someone’s lifestyle and intolerance: are the words that you use around your children words that are respectful of other people or are they filled with dissension and mistrust?

Think about the choices that you make and the words that you choose to use and remember that hate and intolerance do nothing for the future of our country. But perhaps most importantly, remember that no matter who you are, no matter what you believe, what you feel, what other people tell you, you are loved. Do not let despair and hate and intolerance make you believe otherwise. Seek help. Hold onto the hope and the knowledge that there really are other people out there who will love you and support you.

Try to share a little love and a little hope with the world around you. You might be surprised at what you get in return.

And while on the whole, I am not a huge Plato fan…these words seem apropos today: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”