On Shame

The two main part of speech are nouns and verbs.  Nouns are people, places and things, and verbs are actions – things we do.  Shame is a word that can be both a noun and a verb.  It can be a thing or an action.

Have you ever felt ashamed? That feeling you get when you know you’ve done something wrong. That feeling that makes you want to crawl into yourself and disappear. It’s not necessarily a bad thing when it comes from within because it helps keep us in check. Hopefully, it keeps us from hurting others too much. Shame as a feeling is a noun. It has substance and purpose. It is a thing. As a noun it means embarrassment or discomfort.

Shame as a verb means to humiliate, to mortify. Recently, shaming has become a popular thing. We fat shame, slut shame, and poor shame.  We humiliate and mortify each other. For what? To make ourselves morally superior? To show how “Christian” we are?

What got me thinking about shame are graphics like these:

They get shared on our Facebook pages and people don’t really think about how they might affect others. Think about it. Think about how it feels to open up your Facebook news feed and see this stuff if you are a person who, even though you try your best, can’t feed your family without food stamps.  You know, if your one of the more than half of people on food stamps who work.  How do you think it feels to the guy who searches everyday for a job or the man who worked in a factory for 20 years only to be replaced by a computer?  How does our shaming help those people? What does it do?

Seeing poverty as a moral problem is a practice older than the United States.  I’ve been doing a research paper on poverty in Early America and I find that our views today on poverty haven’t changed much in the last 250 years.  (For more on my views about poverty, feel free to read this)  People say that if someone is poor, it must be because of sin or something else of their own doing. You know what? People use to say the same thing about illness. Would you post about cancer or ALS being the sufferers own fault? No, people don’t do that because we know better now. We know that illness isn’t a moral issue it’s a physical issue. We now know that mental illness isn’t caused by demons. We need to apply this thinking to poverty as well. Considering that the poorest parts of this nation are in the Bible Belt which has the highest rate of church attendance and the most people claiming to be Christians, it seems odd that poverty would be a morality problem.

But the Bible says…….
Yes, the Bible says lots of things that can be taken completely out of context.  My favorite is “work or you shouldn’t eat.”  Have you ever looked at the rest of that chapter? Paul is reminding people that just because the Lord was going to return quickly, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our normal everyday things until He does.  The proverbs, written by the son of a king who never wanted or worked for anything, are used to shame people.  Do you know what else the Bible says about the poor?

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

I could keep going, but I’m sure if you can find verses condemning the poor, you can find more that say to help them.

The Bible also has a lot to say about how we speak to others…

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

See, when we shame others for having less than us, we are putting ourselves above them. We are not following the example Christ gave us.  Christ, above all, was humble. He lowered himself because he knew that humility leads to honor.  As Christians, we are to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.”

So, does “shaming” have a place?  When should we shame others? We should call attention to people who harm others. We should shame the rapist. We should shame the racist. We should shame those who hurt children and animals. We should shame those who oppress the poor. Those people need to be made aware that we will not stand by and let them hurt others. We should always be a voice against those who do harm.

Friends, we can stop hurting others with our words. We have control over what we say to and about others. We choose  everyday what kind of person we are going to be. Can we not just choose  to be kind, compassionate, and humble? Can we choose words that build people up – not tear them down? Can we choose to help and not hurt? If we all choose to not let any harmful words pass through our lips or on to our Facebook pages, how much better would this world be?

Before you post things, think about everyone who sees your Facebook page? Is anyone struggling to make ends meet? I’m talking about people you know; your family, friends, people you go to church with. Has anyone been laid off and is desperately searching for a job? Think about them when you post things. Try to put yourselves in their shoes before you shame them, before you mortify them, before you humiliate them. Try to see things from the perspective of those hearing what you say or reading what you post. Maybe then the world will become a little bit more kind.

I’ll leave you with this…

love-pic

On Words

There is a popular country song on the radio right now by Eric Church called “Kill a Word”. I have to be honest.  The first few times I heard the song, I thought it was about fishing. No lie; my brain interpreted the lyric as “kill a worm”.  Let’s face it, I’m not too observant and I expect country songs to be about fishing – not the power of words.

The truth is that words are the most powerful tool we have.  I haven’t always understood this.  I was one of those people who thought the world was becoming too politically correct.  I was of the opinion that it was the meaning behind what was said that mattered and not the word itself.  I was wrong.  This didn’t make me a bad person; it just made me ignorant.  I was ignorant because words had never been used against me.  Maybe they have, but like I said, I’m not too observant.  I also have the blessed ability to not really be affected by much.  I guess you could say I have a “thick skin” or selective deafness, either way the school yard chant about words and rubber and glue kind of resonated with me.  This isn’t to say that I went around hurling hurtful words at people; I’m much too polite for that. These opinions, about words, not people, only came out in private thoughts and conversations.

I can almost point to the day on a calendar when my attitude changed.  I was stranded in an airport reading a book while waiting for my plane to board  when a nicely dressed woman breeze by in a huff.  As she walked away, I heard her say “Those damn #$#$%@ are ruining this country.” This wasn’t something she said under her breath either; the entire terminal collectively gasped at the disparaging remark.  She meant for everyone to hear what she was thinking – not just her target.  We fellow travelers exchanged nervous glances and we mumbled to our companions about how horrid of a woman she was, but not one person called her out or sought out the target of her rage.  Within minutes the normal din of the airport terminal returned and the moment was quickly forgotten.

I was reminded of this incident the other day when I read a comment about President-elect Trump along the lines of “I’d rather have someone I know is a racist than someone who I don’t know what they are hiding.”  This comment sent a chill down my spine.  Suddenly, I was back in that airport terminal witnessing what it was like when a woman thought the world needed to know exactly what kind of person she was.  She too was proud of her hatred; the difference was that the people in that terminal were shocked.

People are no longer shocked by hatred.  In fact, I think it’s become celebrated.  Not caring if your words hurt has become a point of pride.  The attitude that kindness and consideration is nothing more than “PC bullshit” is now the norm.  I use to make excuses for older people because it’s “all they’ve ever known.”  Well that’s only true if they’ve been living under a rock for the past 50 years.  Everyone knows what words are harmful, what words cut so deep that they may as well have been carried in on an arrow.  It’s not okay folks.  I’ve heard people say that our President-elect isn’t a racist or homophobic or any of the other things “the liberals” claim he is.  He may not be, but this week, he just placed the de facto leader of the alt-right movement into a position of influence into the white house.  These are people who carry signs proclaiming that diversity is white genocide.

How many times have you heard the phrase “If you lie down with dogs you get fleas”? This is a phrase that is told to teenagers who are hanging out with the “wrong crowd.”  Well, even if our President-elect had never once said an off-color thing (which he has multiple times) he still didn’t stand against those who did.  While he has had plenty to say about the people protesting him this week, he has yet to speak against the hateful words that many of his supporters have proudly displayed throughout his campaign.  If you are a white, Christian American, please imagine for a second that you are not.  Imagine you’re an African-American mother trying to explain to your children that the men holding the sign saying “make American white again” doesn’t really mean it or that their new president doesn’t really hate them.  Imagine you are a Muslim American family sending your daughter to school everyday scared that she will be assaulted because she’s wearing a hijab.  Imagine you’re a Mexican-American third grader who has only ever known the United States as his home worried that his parents, who have also been here since they were children, are going to be deported because they have never been able to afford to become citizens.  Put yourselves in their shoes for one minute and tell me this is all okay. Tell me these words aren’t harmful – that they’re just words.

So, how do we “kill a word” like the song says?  We kill them first by not using them.  We kill them by reminding people that they are not okay when you hear someone say them. We kill them by replacing them with kind words.  We kill them by realizing that words can hurt.  We kill them by purposefully removing them from our collective vocabulary.  Let’s kill these words once and for all.  Let’s kill the hateful words and replace them with words of love, acceptance, and kindness.  Get up and shake off the fleas. Be kind. Be respectful. Love your neighbor.

 

 

On Hope

This election has shown me some of the ugliness that exists in this country, but something good has come out of it that I couldn’t have predicted and it has given me hope.

Over the last few days I have spent a lot of time on Facebook.  Not just scrolling through, but actively engaging with people.  Through this, I have met a few people who, like me, are saddened by what is taking place in this country.  They are saddened by the racism, sexism, and hate in general for people who are not white, straight, and Christian.  Within these various groups of strangers, I have found my voice.  That may sound funny to some who know me, since I never seem to be silent, but the truth is that I have been.

When people make remarks that are racist, I have been silent.  When men make sexist jokes, sometimes even directed at me, I have been silent.  When someone says something disparaging about a different religion, I have been silent.  My silence tells people that it’s okay.  My silence makes me an accomplice to the hate.  This is not okay.  It’s never okay.

Through random post in random groups on Facebook, I have met people, who are complete strangers, encouraging one another to join together to fight the hate.  They are pledging to “Love, honor, and call out racist bulls***” when ever they see it.  They want to “create a world filled with learning, laughter, and compassion” and to “work together to foster equality knowing that together we will build a world far better than we could imagine alone.”  Is not an amazing attitude to have at a time like this?

For those of you shaking your heads and denying that there’s anything wrong with the new leadership.  There is.  Maybe not for you, but for many there is.  Since Tuesday night, suicide hotline calls from LGBT teens has gone through the roof.  They are scared of future legislation that might restrict their lives or threaten their safety.  Whole schools have dismissed early because of an abundance of racial slurs and threats.  Families are worried about being torn apart.  This friends, is a problem.  A problem that was caused by silent compliance.  I read a blog post earlier.  Here it is so I don’t have to write it all out: The Cinemax Theory of Racism Basically, someone who voted for Trump, even if they are not racist, sexist, or any of the other things he stands for, they were willing to accept those things in order to “Make America Great Again.”

In random Facebook conversations, in Random Facebook groups, I have seen that America is already great, if you know where to look.  I have seen that there is hope for our future. The hope is in people who want to make this country great for everyone in it.  The hope is not in the silence – the hope is in the collective voices of those standing up against all the terrible things that the election of that man represents.

 

 

On Grief

Y’all, yesterday was rough.  I discovered that this election meant more to me than I ever could imagine.  I experienced feelings that are usually reserved for things that happen within my private sphere.  For the first time, I made an election personal.

There are 5 stages of grief:  Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Denial happened for me around 8pm Tuesday night.  I am in the anger stage right now and that’s okay. I will get through this, but it’s a process.  You may ask why I am experiencing grief. I don’t know that I have a firm answer to that question, but I do know that I’m not alone.

Tuesday night, I couldn’t make myself go to bed.  I dozed in my recliner, but I never slept.    I watched in disbelief as it felt like all the hope I had built up for the future was gone. Truthfully, I know that is an exaggeration, but it was how I felt at that moment.  When Marianne got up she asked me how the rest of the coverage went and I just started crying. No amount of soft words or “it’ll be okays” were going to make this situation any better.  I couldn’t even really tell her why I was crying. I mean it was an election and my side didn’t win. It happens to half the country every four years! Where was all this emotion coming from?  I don’t really get that emotional over much and here I was sitting staring at my best friend with not enough words to express all the feelings.  I was grieving and though I didn’t realize it yet, so was half the country.

When I got to school, I went to see a friend.  We got through our hellos and again the tears started.  We cried because we had lost something.  We lost lots of somethings.  We tried to talk out our feelings, but there were not enough words – just emotion.  We sat through my first class; because at that moment, that was where I needed to be.  I needed a metaphorical wake.  When the words came, they expressed our fears, our sorrows, and yes, our grief.  We talked about what we have lost.

Women all over this country have lost the ability to say, with confidence, that our bodies are our own.  This isn’t only about abortion either.  When this country elected Donald Trump as our next president, it decided that it was okay for a man to gawk at, comment on, or grab any part of our bodies.  This country elected someone with absolutely zero respect for women.  This country elected a man who thinks he can “grab her by the pussy” or walk in on naked teenage girls because he has money.

If you are a woman who has never encountered any type of sexual harassment, you are in the minority.  From a young age, our bodies are not our own.  We get pulled into laps and tickled whether we want it or not.  As we get older and start to look like women, our father’s friends tell him to “keep us locked up” and more often than not, comment on our growing breasts or say “call me when she’s 18…”  When we become an adult, it doesn’t get any better.  During college, 1 in 4 women are raped and even worse than that statistic is the fact that we are blamed for it.  When we go out with the girls, random men rub against us and grab our behinds.  It’s all okay though because it’s just what men do.  When they tell us to show them our breast to get a drink, it’s okay because it’s just a joke.  It’s just “locker room talk.”  When we enter the work force, we learn that sexual harassment is just part of life.  When we are looking for a mate, we learn that rejection can be dangerous because if you turn down a date with someone it’s because you are a lesbian who “needs a lesson on what it’s like to be with a real man” — not because you’re just not interested.  With this election, we told our little girls that all of this is okay.

Some of us have also lost the right to health insurance.  Mitch McConnell has already said that their first order of business will be to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  You can read my whole story from earlier in the week here: http://wp.me/p84ZbE-g .  In short, I have Lupus and if the ACA is repealed, I will have no protection from the insurance companies.  They will be able to charge me whatever they want or deny me coverage all together.

We have lost what little equality we were gaining in this country.  The Republican voter base is largely made up of conservative, evangelical Christians.  Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for these people; respect for their beliefs and their devotion.  Many of my closest friends fall in this category, but that life is not for everyone.  They believe, for the most part, that women are to be subservient to men.  How is this still a thing?  Every woman has the right to live life as she chooses — with or without a man.  We lost the ability, for now, to show little girls that a woman can rise to the highest office in America.  We lost this, not because Hillary Clinton wasn’t qualified, but because men refused to vote for her.  She lost to a man with no experience, no decorum, and no respect for anyone.  She lost because sexism is still a thing here in the US.  Sexism is blaming a woman for her husband’s affair.  Sexism is calling a strong woman nasty.  Sexism is judging a candidate by what she wears instead what she says.  Sexism is paying a woman less for the same job as a man.

Yes, sexism is still a thing.  Racism is a thing.  Homophobia is a thing.  Xenophobia is a thing.  We cannot continue to let these “things” control our country.

I am not the only one grieving.  The women in this country are in a state of mourning.  We will pass through all the stages and recover.  We will rise.  We will educate.  We will vote again. What we won’t do is be silent.  As of right now, there is a secret Facebook group that is over 3 million women strong.  This group was started less than a month ago.  Women are joining together to fight for ourselves.  To fight for our bodies.  To fight for the LGBT community, immigrants, people of color, and anyone else who will be marginalized in our new political climate.  We will fight and we will win because we truly are stronger together.

On Election Day

Well friends, today is the day.  The day we pick the next president of the United States of America.  For the last several days, I have explained the reasons I am voting for Hillary Clinton to fill that position.  Today, I want to talk about something else.  Unity.

No matter who wins today, there will be a loser.  Let’s not make it the American People.  This has been a very nasty election cycle and it makes me worry for our future.  I wish we could go back; back to before this election started and put some thought into what we would say, or more commonly post, in the months that would be to come.  We have relationships to heal.  The truth is that on Wednesday morning, we will all still be family, coworkers, neighbors, and friends.  Those bonds didn’t disappear when we decided to disagree so furiously.  Come January we will have a new government who are going to need to work together too.  Can we set an example for them?  Can we unite again?

I have heard Republicans say that they will not recognize Hillary Clinton as their president if she wins and Democrats say they are moving to Canada if Donald Trump wins.  There are people already claiming that the election is rigged.  We need to be careful.  Yesterday on the news, a reporter compared this election to the election of Abraham Lincoln.  He won the presidency and it split the country in two.  It happened then and it could happen again if we let it.  We can’t let this division remain.  We can’t let the fear that has driven this election continue.

I saw a quote today: “Every single day we need to choose hope over fear, diversity over division.  Fear has never created a single job.  Fear has never fed a single family.  And those who exploit it will never solve the problems that have created such anxiety.”  If you are on the losing side today, don’t let the fear take over.  Don’t let the hate continue. We can’t go back in time and unsay the things we have said, but we can move forward with genuine kindness toward each other.  Whoever our new president is will have a big job ahead of them and I hope that we do our part to help.

If you haven’t voted yet, join me at the polls.  Join me in electing our next president.  More than likely we will be voting for opposite sides, but don’t let that tear us apart.  You wear your “Make America Great Again” hat and I’ll wear my pantsuit and then we’ll go and have a metaphorical drink together, because as long as you’re kind, I want you to stay in my life. As much as I support Hillary Clinton, if she doesn’t win, I will still be an American and you will still be my friend.  I won’t stop fighting for all the things this election represents and I won’t let hate win.

On reconciling faith and politics

It should be more than clear by now that I am supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.  I am also voting, for the most part, Democrat down the rest of the ballot.  I have a confession to make though.  I use to be a Republican.  I voted for George Bush in my first Presidential Election in 2004 and John McCain in 2008.

I can give myself a pass in 2004.  I was 20 years old and the only thing I knew outside of my wretched home life was the church.  Not just any church either; a church of the Pentecostal persuasion.  I didn’t listen to any music that wasn’t labeled as “Christian.” I didn’t watch any movie with an “R” rating  (when I give a funny, “I’m pretending I know what you’re talking about” look when you bring up 90s and 2000s pop culture — this is why).  From 13-18, I “kissed dating goodbye” because the temptation to sin would be too much for my developing body (this is why I don’t have prom, homecoming, senior trip, or post-game bonfire pictures).  I had shunned my best childhood best friend because she was a “Jezebel”.  Wait, what was that?  Yes, that really is a thing in some churches.  Personal note: if anyone reading this was present during this time period and you think I am out of line – I’m sorry and if any one that was present during this time and you feel the same way, I am also sorry; there is a support group on Friday night (just kidding, but there probably should be).  Don’t get me wrong, everyone was perfectly lovely to me.  I’m agreeable and have some sort of charming quality I can’t explain, like a kitten or puppy,  where people want to treat me with overall kindness, for the most part at least. There were a few instances when I felt how others must have felt standing under the scrutiny of the church people, but I digress.  The truth is, I was one of them.  The way I treated my childhood soul mate was the most shameful thing I have ever done.  She died shortly after she turned 22 in a car accident thinking that she was not only unloved, but unloveable. She was truly the best of us. She loved without limits and she loved God with all of her heart.  She saw us as her family, only her family told her she wasn’t good enough, and I wasn’t enough of my own person to stand up for her.  The point is, I didn’t know how to think for myself yet.  I was told the democrats were bad because they supported abortion and gay marriage and if I was really a good Christian, I would vote Republican.  Period.

In 2008 I really had no excuse.  I had plenty of time on my own at this point.  I had lived lots of places and my passport was quickly filling up.  Honestly though, I wasn’t really into politics.  I was 24 and the world was good.  There was no poverty in my world by this point.  There was no racism or bigotry, at least not in my circle.  I was voting my laziness.  I didn’t research candidates.  I didn’t even know what a platform was. I didn’t care who became president.  I was, however, still a Christian and Christians vote Republican, so that’s what I did.

Everything started to change in 2012. I was 28.  I felt like I had lived 12 lifetimes due to life circumstances and illness.  I was working as an advocate for people with disabilities.  I was single. My cats and I spent Friday night watching NCIS reruns.  With my much slower, rural life, I had time to observe the world around me.  Publicly, I was still the same person, but inside I was changing.  Maybe it was the move to West Tennessee where racism and bigotry were rampant.  Maybe it was my own health issues.  I really hope it was the former, but I honestly don’t know; it happened so gradually.  I voted for President Obama in November of 2012 and I didn’t tell a soul.  I was still afraid my people would judge my Christian heart and find it lacking.

Well, now I’m 32 and I know for a fact that the only people who know the state of my heart are me and Jesus.  Me and Jesus think my heart is good — even if I vote Democrat.

So many people say, when asked how they can justify, as a Christian, voting for Donald Trump, the antithesis of the religious right, that they are voting for a platform not a person.  Well, I’ve examined the platforms and I still don’t understand.  I’m voting for a platform AND a person.  A person I believe to be a person of faith.  A person who cares about people.  A person who, like a good Methodist, proclaims that we should “Do all the good we can, for all the people we can, for as long as we can.”  See, while I am no longer affiliated with the church of my youth, I am still very much a Christian.

Three years ago, I walked into my local United Methodist Church and almost instantly, I felt at home.  Here was a group of people who worshiped together without condemnation.  A place I could worship without fear.  A place I could invite anyone to join me without having to explain the things they couldn’t wear or the parts of their lives they couldn’t talk about.  To be honest, this is not what I expected.  I live in a town in West Tennessee with a population of 5,000 people.  It sounds strange, but anyone of any color of any background of any orientation – anyone on any point of the “Christian” scale could walk in the door and feel welcome and comfortable.   See the thing is, I was no longer comfortable saying that I went to a church where everyone was welcome when they really were not.  If a lovely family with two beautiful children walk in ready to worship and be accepted into a community of faith but happen to be a family with two dads or two moms, I want to worship in a place where they can sit next to me.  Where they can serve their community. See, what church is to me is a community and communities are not homogeneous.  They are not made up of just one kind of people.  I want my politics to reflect my faith.

Here is the truth friends.  I was going to post all of the political facts and compare the platforms, but then this turned strangely personal and it no longer seems to fit.  Instead I’ll just tell you why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t want to revert back to a country where people are ostracized for who they love.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think everyone should be welcome in our country.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t want to live in a world where women are subservient to men.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t think sexual assault is okay to joke about.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think everyone should have access to health care.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think everyone should be paid a living wage.

Most importantly, I am voting for Hillary Clinton for girls like my friend from long ago.  I don’t want a country ran by people who think it’s okay to shame a young lady because she is beautiful or label a 16-year-old girl as “too promiscuous, too much of a threat to the ministry” to even clean the bathrooms in their churches.  I don’t want this to continue to be a country where girls are told it’s their responsibility to protect the boys from impure thoughts; that it’s their responsibility to keep themselves from getting raped.  I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because it’s not okay to grab women by any body part.  I’m voting for Her for all the hers out there.

I am voting for Hillary Clinton because I have grown in my understanding of what it means to be a Christian – I want to do all the good I can, for as many people as I can, for as long as I can.