Responding with Grace

The SCOTUS ruling and announcement about same-sex marriage blew up my Facebook account.

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Lots of people have lots to say. Most of it isn’t all that helpful. In fact, some of it is simply hateful. But here are two examples of responses from two friends of mine on Facebook. One’s a Christian, and one’s not. But they both gracefully acknowledged the tension and spoke with grace towards others they might not fully agree with. I love that I can call these two gentlemen my friends.

From my Christian friend, Rory:

“Marriage can be hard. In a marriage, love only wins when you consistently, over a long period of time, make the sort of choices that don’t always feel “lovely” or “winning.” It requires commitment, a long-term perspective, humility, a willingness to consider someone else over yourself, a willingness to prepare for the possibility and responsibility of raising children, a denial of consumerism and selfishness and cheap promises, and an investment into and from your community.

Above all it requires the conviction that there are very, very few things, perhaps only death or sustained / serious infidelity, that truly amount to acceptable reasons for ending a marriage. This might mean that over the years you discover that you’ve actually married a few different “people” rather than the one person to whom you spoke vows. It is only under these conditions (and more) that marriage truly acts as a fundamental building block for society, as the SCOTUS mentioned in their ruling yesterday.

So, to same-sex couples who can now marry: sincere congratulations, but also, welcome to the long, good, hard struggle. I hope, for the sake of our children and grandchildren and societal flourishing, that you are in this for the long haul, and that as a result of more people having access to legal marriage we can start to see more of the benefits to society that marriage provides. It will be good to have more allies in the struggle against broken commitments, no-fault divorces, and children who are orphaned / parentless / shuffled-around-between-warring-parties / all that.”


From my non-Christian friend, Eric:

“To those who are disappointed by yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on the legality of gay marriage, I hear your anger. I don’t share it, but I hear you. I understand that you feel disgusted and horrified at the sin you feel this country is permitting, and that you may not feel the same pride in our nation as so many of us do at this moment. You have every right to these feelings and to continue disapproving of homosexuality, although you will likely face significant challenges from others each time you express these thoughts. I expect that these challenges will become stronger in the months and years to come. I truly hope that you won’t use these challenges as a reason for extricating yourselves from our collective society.

If you can find it in your hearts to forgive those who you feel are misguided, sinful, and deceived in their feelings of love for another person, I hope you will do so. It will bring you peace. I also hope you may find the courage to direct this anger and disgust toward other fights. Your anger and faith are ideal weapons for fighting poverty, sickness, violence, and hatred in our own communities and across the globe. I’m certain you will find many more allies in these fights than you have in your fight against gay marriage — you would have my support and my allegiance, at the very least. If you can bring the same level of organization and dedication to these other battles, I guarantee that we will have every chance of creating a truly just and loving world.

To my friends who are thrilled with this ruling, and especially to my gay friends for whom this changes everything, congratulations! This has been a long, and difficult, and uphill climb from the start. It’s so incredible to see these accomplishments come into being, when they often seemed so far from the realm of possibility. Your expressions of love, tolerance, and acceptance are a joy to have in this world, and I am so happy that you now have these equal rights in the eyes of the law. Whether or not you choose to marry, keep this spirit of love in your heart for all people. Celebrate this ruling, and celebrate your love. Please remember that those who oppose you will not change their hearts and minds by being told they are wrong. Their hearts and minds will only change by seeing you love and be loved. Stay vigilant, stay beautiful, and let us continue our push for equal rights and opportunities for all.”

A Reflection on the Fact that Women are my Heroes.

A Reflection on the Fact that Women are my Heroes.

Over the course of the past couple days I have seen a number of things on my Facebook feed referencing the realities of what it is like to be a woman. More specifically, the contrast of being a working mother versus a stay-at-home mother. Or a single woman versus a married woman with children. And for some reason the question of who has it worse seems to arise. I am not sure why this question seems to be asked so frequently. I don’t really even want to hypothesize too much. It could be a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side” or just simply being envious of a life that isn’t yours, not being content with your own life.

Personally, I am guilty of this in my own life. No, I’m not saying I have it worse than a woman, or that I would rather be a woman. I’m saying that after getting married, or especially after having my son I would look to my single friends with envy. They had so much FREEDOM. They could practically do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. I would think, Man…that would be nice. 

But how selfish is that!? As I think those things, and covet the single life, I forget what a blessing it is to be married. So many of those single people (but not all) would also LOVE to be married. But they are single. They would gladly give up some of that freedom to have a life partner.

As I go out to the plaza in my neighborhood with my son (I’m a stay-at-home dad), or out to eat, I envy those who stroll past with just their wife. No strollers. No whining or crying kid. Just them. And I catch myself thinking, Wow! That would be SO nice. To just be here with my wife. Not having to worry about taking care of a baby. So much freedom!

But how selfish is that!? As I think those things, and covet the childless life, I forget what a blessing it is to have children. So many couples (but not all) would LOVE to have children. But they for some reason don’t have any or can’t have any. They would gladly give up some of that freedom to have a child.

I’m not really sure how I got on that tangent. What I originally started writing to say is that women, both single and married, both in-the-work-force moms and stay-at-home moms, are my heroes.

Women historically have had it much worse than men. Inequality, injustice, and sexism is just a reality for them. Some fight it more than others, yet no matter what seem to be criticized for what they believe. Women are incredibly under the microscope at all moments, being challenged and pigeon-holed and stereotyped for nearly every decision they make or are a part of. They put up with a lot.

I believe that women have an incredible amount of pressure put on them to live into or up to a certain expectation given to them by the cultures they are a part of. This includes their own national culture, their socio-economic culture, their racial culture, and their religious and family culture. There are pressures and expectations on every side, and it seems to me that no matter what decision a woman makes she often feels guilty for the life she lives, or perhaps has to explain herself to those with different expectations. If she isn’t married, why not? If she is married without kids, when are the kids coming? If she works while having children, how could she do that? If she stays home, why would she give up a promising career? Women seem to live in a constant “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” state. No wonder depression numbers are so considerably higher for women than men!

Women have it bad enough to be challenged by society in general, and by men, but when the comparisons and contrasts of “Who has it worse?” or “Who has it easier?” enter the picture…it’s just unnecessary.

My greatest influences, role models, and mentors have all been women. Women are the ones who have inspired me the most. (And this is especially true of my own mother and my wife.)

Women don’t need any more pressure. They’ve been beaten down enough! I want to support and thank the women that I come in contact with. I hope you do the same.

Let’s love better. Let’s love well. 

Women,

Thank you. You are my heroes.


Here are some of the comments that I am referencing from Facebook. I will leave their names anonymous.

Woman one: A wonderful mother with three children who works to help provide for her family. She wrote this as a response to a blog post by Matt Walsh criticizing how we treat stay-at-home moms.

“I have got to stop reading these things. The myth that working moms enjoy manicures and coffee breaks and conversations is pretty short-sided, too. I work to be a partner with my husband to house, cloth and feed our kids. Thanks to our government and our society, my hard-working husband’s income doesn’t cut it. When a family pays HUNDREDS of dollars a month for health insurance…HUNDREDS of dollars for public education, etc. it doesn’t go nearly far enough. We are SO grateful for the jobs that pay the bills, but honestly, if I have to hear one more time how noble it is that women put their whole lives into raising their babies, I think I’ll go postal. Guess what? ALL moms are moms 24/7/365. I don’t sip lattes at work. I WORK and pay our bills, and arrange teacher conferences, and meal plan and make grocery lists and field texts from my kids about school and their lives all while I eat pb&j from my lunchbox in 30 minutes. I suck up a tear every time I leave home in the dark and come home to crabby, tired kids who gave their best fun and hugs to my (wonderful) sister. ALL parents deserve respect, not just the stay-at-home ones. Ugh! Now, excuse me while I remove the paper jam from the printer because it ate the print job I was waiting on while reading this. Livin’ the dream, huh?”

Woman Two: A wonderful single woman who inspires me with her compassion and her passion.

“Today my spiritual director said (unprompted) she believes single women work harder than married women with children – we have no one to help with daily tasks and we’re driven by the belief that since we aren’t supporting a husband or children we must work/serve harder to prove our usefulness and value to society. I have NEVER heard a married woman say anything other than how lucky I am to be single, how I get to do anything I want, how much “me” time I have, how hard marriage is, how Jesus is my husband, how common it is for women to have children at 50 if I just have more faith…ugh. I don’t know if it’s harder but it is indeed hard and I am so very thankful to have a married woman affirm this instead of shaming me about not being grateful for my circumstances!”

Both of these comments received many comments and will probably continue to have more. But it seems the overwhelming response is that all women’s lives have their challenges. There have been a number of other posts that I have seen on Facebook referencing this topic. But it seems that most agree that we shouldn’t have to compare and contrast and try to decide who has it worse and who has it better.

Let’s be kind to one another. Support one another. And love well.

What can I do about violence in America?

I am a pacifist.

I have been for a number of years now and my feelings of pacifism have not only grown, but they have become an integral part of my psyche. They shape my worldview. They shape my attitudes toward being pro-life. And I am not simply talking about the unborn, but all people in this world no matter age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, political views, etc. I am simply pro-life. All life.

I think I often forgo talking about being a pacifist because of how much it enrages people who are not. And being a pacifist, I want to avoid any potential violent situation. (It may also have something to do with me being non confrontational, too.)

Events like the Sandy Hook shooting and the Aurora Movie Theatre shooting, among others, make us all reflect of the horrors of gun violence in America. Gun control discussions flare up nearly instantaneously. While many point to these tragedies for further evidence for the need of more gun laws, thousands go out and by guns in response. Facebook becomes a polarized battlefield of opinions on what should be done about guns in America. My newsfeed perhaps is filled with more pro-gun photos, statistics, calls for overthrowing our President, and comparisons to Nazi Germany than most because I am Facebook friends with a lot of people from college, which happens to be one of the largest and most conservative Christian Fundamentalist schools in America. For some reason Fundamentalists love their guns. A lot. I mean, it’s nothing new. It’s kind of been a thing for a long time. (Consider J. Frank Norris…)

I’m a stay-at-home dad of a four month old. While taking care of him, I see a lot of the news. Recently the news has been quite focused on the discussion of gun control in America. People like Piers Morgan, who are for more gun laws, rightly calling such laws “common sense laws,” are trying to ask the obvious simple questions like “Why would someone need a semi-automatic assault weapon?” People who are pro-guns respond, “It’s not about needs…It’s about our SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT to have such a gun!” (I write in capital letters because they yell and get enraged at such questions.)

Who cares about our rights if it means people are dying in association to these rights? If the complete foundation for the argument is the second amendment, then let’s please get rid of the second amendment. That can’t be the basis of your argument. It was written by musket carrying men over 230 years ago. Do people honestly think the reason the President of the United States wants stronger gun laws is because he is afraid of a country in which its citizens have guns and the supposed ability to overrun the government? No. That has nothing to do with why Obama wants stronger gun laws in America. Zero.

Also, I have never really paid attention or given too much thought in the past to the power that the NRA holds in America, but it is kind of scary. It’s scary in a number of fronts. 1) The political clout they carry in this country has traditionally been quite impressive. They have incredible influence over elections, laws, studies, and media. I would argue from what I know about them that they have always been out of touch with reality, but their most recents efforts in this “debate” have clearly shown that they are not only out of touch with the facts and the common sense realities of what guns do to our country, but their tactics are pretty sinister and uncalled for. (Take the YouTube commercial they made railing against Obama and where his children go to school.)

I shy away from political discussions normally. They are usually not worth entering into for me because no one ever seems to change their mind. But this topic is different for me. I’m upset by the Christian response for one. (That’s another topic for another day…) But I am also deeply concerned about this topic because I see that there is potential for change politically. President Obama is really pressing for more gun laws. (Can you imagine what this would be like with Mitt Romney? I can’t.) I want to do everything I can to encourage a country in which people don’t kill each other.

So what can I do? I’m a pacifist. I don’t and will never own a gun. I challenge people and their view of their “unalienable right” to own a gun. I value all human life equally. I promote hearing the stories of those who have to deal with gang violence and who live with the reality of fearing for their own life due to gun violence in their communities.

I want to do more.

When I see all the pictures and responses on Facebook and Twitter I totally see the love and glorification of violence in America. I’m not saying that video games and movies make people shoot people. But they do normalize violence. They make violence entertainment. And even for me, a pacifist, it is super hard not to play video games in which the goal is simply to shoot people. A lot of this has to do with the fact that some of the best and most popular games in the industry are the violent ones. They are the games that my friends play. They are the ones that are visually the most impressive.

As far as movies go, a large percentage of the top movies every year are focused around violence. Like video games, they make violence be entertainment. It’s so entertaining that we shell out large amounts of money a year just to watch it. As a country we pay billions of dollars a year to witness violence as entertainment.

I must say, as a pacifist, when I watch these movies and play these games there is a sense of conflict for me. If I play a violent video game, I feel pretty hypocritical. I can talk myself out of it in a number of ways, the easiest being that it is virtual and has nothing to do with reality. But if I am spending my time, and considering it entertainment, to shoot people…what does that do for me? I shouldn’t find that entertaining.

The hook with movies is that usually violence is also coupled with a sense of justice. It isn’t usually violence for violence sake, but violence with the purpose of enacting justice upon those who deserve it. For most, there is a satisfaction in witnessing that. It makes us feel good. We allow violence to comfort us.

I am always wanting to be a more consistent person in my walk and my talk. Always improving. With this in mind, I am now making the hard decision to not allow violence to entertain me. This means not playing video games in which violence is the focus of the game. This means not watching violent movies for entertainment. I want violence to disturb me, not comfort me.

People are so shocked by events like the Sandy Hook shooting and the Aurora shooting. When I turned on the TV and heard and saw the horrible reality that more people had been slaughtered, I was sad. I was not surprised. I was not stunned. This should not surprise us. There are so many aspects of our society which allows for these tragedies to happen. Our laws, lobbyists, entertainment, selfishness, supposed “rights,” sense of justice, etc. all lead to such tragedies.

I continue to try and value life more. I continue to learn what it means to love my neighbor and also what it means to love my enemy.