Tag Archives: facebook friends

Internet Trolls and Bullies Beware: I’m Not Afraid

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am posting this rather short but pointed post today because I was verbally assaulted by a local Facebook troll, a friend of a friend yesterday afternoon. The man ignored my warning to cease and desist and continued to attack, so I decided to stand up to him and I let him keep going. I challenged him, and called him out, I even told him where I was and challenged him to tell me what he said in person. I hate bullies and unlike some I don’t feel sorry for them, maybe a bit of ity and empathy, but not so much that that I will excuse their conduct or give in to them.

In my life I have habitually stood up for the weak against the strong. When I was a kid I got in a few fights defending the little guys against bullies. In the course of that I determined that I would never let a bully get the best of me, or anyone that I know. William Tecumseh Sherman said “It’s a disagreeable thing to be whipped.” and I will never allow a bully to whip me.

The man’s comments used the typical Right Wing language of demonization to call me all kinds of things, especially “libtard” which he could not stop from using along with differing variations of the F-bomb. The sad thing is that all too often these kind of people get away with what they are doing because people don’t stand up to them. One thing I learned from my dad is not to let bullies get away with their bullshit. He never let me back down from bullies and I don’t. I didn’t like bullies anymore now than when I was eight years old and I will never back down to them. Some people might disagree with me and urge the course of least resistance, but I think that they are mistaken. If good people don’t resist and allow these bullies to run over everyone including themselves by being silent then we are doomed. I won’t let that happen on my watch.

I’ve been to combat. I’ve been shot at. I’ve made 75 boarding missions in the Persian Gulf where I was the only unarmed person on the team as well as the only member without body armor because there wasn’t enough to go around. Likewise, I’ve had the muzzle of a pistol pushed to my skull in an armed robbery when I was 19 years old. I’m not afraid of trolls and bullies.

On this site I’ve been set upon by KKK, Neo-Nazi, and Alt-Right people on this site. Some have even threatened me with physical harm or death, but I say the hell with them and all who resort to threats and violence.

Yesterday I celebrated 34 years of commissioned service with two outstanding young Navy Chaplains and officers over beer at Gordon Biersch, my treat of course. But this guy had the unmitigated gaul to try to interrupt my time with these great guys. He didn’t spoil my afternoon, but I won’t let asshats like that local troll silence me, so I called him out. I told him where I was, and dared him to come to me.

But he didn’t respond, so I kept needling him because I figured that he was a coward hiding behind social media to say things that they would never say to someone face to face. He responded later by calling me to meet him a week from now at a bar I’ve never been to while still calling me all sorts of names. He’s no better than one of Hitler’s Brownshirt thugs and I’ll be damned if I let someone like that dictate what I say, do, think, or believe. He may be used to people rolling over and not confronting him when he threatens or demeans them as he did to my friend’s wife last month by putting pornographic images on her Facebook page to demean her, but I’m not that guy.

That being said I hoped that he would show up so I could confront him in person and maybe kick his sorry fat ass if he tried to assault me. It would have been worth it, I was almost having wet dreams about ducking his attack and then decking him. That being said since the man I confronted is local and I know what he looks like from his Facebook page I’ll be observant and watch my back, after all, dad didn’t raise a fool.

So until tomorrow when I plan on writing about something really interesting,

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under leadership, Loose thoughts and musings

Memories of Molly & Thanks to Friends

 

molly and orioles hat

Dean Koontz wrote:

“No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish – consciously or unconsciously – that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown.”  

As most of you know from what I posted yesterday we had to have Molly Fur, the wonderful dog who saved my life after Iraq put down at the age of fourteen. I knew her loss would hit me hard, however I have always tried to conduct myself in such situations as would Mr. Spock on Star Trek, or Commander Data in Star Trek the Next Generation before he got the emotion chip implanted. That being said I knew that I would cry, however, little did I expect that every time I turned around that I be crying.

Honestly I feel a lot like Robert De Niro playing the mobster Paul Viti in the movie Analyze This, where he tells his shrink played by Billy Crystal: “The other day, I was watching a commercial with a kid playing with a couple of puppies, I cried for forty five minutes! You slap a pair of tits on me, I’m a woman!” But I digress…

Molly meant more to me than almost anything in life. I am convinced that had she not come to live with me when I was stationed in Camp Lejeune away from Judy, that I would have succumbed to despair and found a way to die without making it look like suicide. I probably would have driven off the bridge to Emerald Isle or driven into the trees lining one of the state highways on the way to or from work.

However, having Molly there kept me from this because I wondered what the effect would have been on Molly. Stanley Coren wrote:“The greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back when you go out the door without them.”  I couldn’t do that to her, she loved me too much and would not have understood.

Having Molly with me in North Carolina gave me someone to come home to, and her cheerfulness and devotion kept me going through some of the darkest times of my life. Just having her waiting for me when I came home made all the difference and today for the first time I came home from work and Molly was not there to great me. It really hit me again, that she was gone .

mollybag

Molly was so irresistibly funny, sweet and beautiful and she lived her whole life that way, caring for Judy as much as she cared for me. Molly would sit with me on a huge bean bag chair and watch baseball, sometimes she would be looking at the television so intently I thought she had to be watching the games at least as much as she was comforting me, especially during the 2012 season when the San Francisco Giants won their second World Series title. She hardly left my side during those games.

mollgrin

Thankfully, Molly never developed the taste for beer that our now Senior Dog on Deck, Minnie has, otherwise I would have probably had to pour her out of the beanbag to chase the deer around the house.

Over the past couple of days Judy and I have been showed such care and love by family and friends, in person as well as on Facebook. Likewise I have received so many kind words and thoughts from people who follow me here or on Twitter.

I know that sometimes social media can be poisonous and filled with vitriol. However, that being said such is not always the case. There are a lot of wonderful people out there on Twitter, Facebook and in the blogosphere.  The kindness shown by people people that I have never met in person who follow me on this site and Twitter has been amazing.

editormolly

I think Molly will always be with Me

Your kindness  reduces me to tears, just like Paul Viti, and just like is happening to me right now as I wipe the tears from my eyes. But those tears are not tears of sadness. They are tears of appreciation and thanksgiving, to Molly who saved my life, and for all who have taken just a few moments of time to offer a word of kindness. Those words have enabled me to remember all those times that Molly made my life better, helped keep me alive, and in the process probably made me a better person in spite of myself.

Thank you all so much.

Blessings, Love and Peace

Padre Steve+

4 Comments

Filed under Baseball, beer, dogs, movies

Another Year on the Margins of the Church

1622612_10152232336042059_727365308_nMe and my Little Buddy, Minnie Scule

I have been living on the margins of American Christianity for a bit over seven years now. The watershed moment was when I returned from Iraq in February 2008 my faith shattered and my soul wounded suffering from severe PTSD. I was not in good shape then and two years later after faith returned, albeit in a different form I realized that I no longer fit in the mainstream of conservative American Christianity.

The process of return took me to the margins of the faith that I knew and grew up in. For a while I felt like a victim, but over the course of the years I have discovered a tremendous freedom in living on the margins of the church. Jamake Highwater wrote something that really struck me as true:

“What outsiders discover in their adventures on the other side of the looking glass is the courage to repudiate self-contempt and recognise their “alienation” as a precious gift of freedom from arbitrary norms that they did not make and did not sanction. At the moment a person questions the validity of the rules, the victim is no longer a victim.”

When I began to express some of those changes, which mainly had to do in the manner of how I viewed others I got in trouble. At the time I was part of a pretty conservative Episcopal-Catholic denomination with very strong Evangelical and Charismatic leanings. I wrote that I thought that homosexuals could be Christians and not automatically damned to hell. I wrote that not all Moslems were bad. I expressed a great deal of empathy for non-believers, particularly Atheists and Agnostics having recently come out of a period where for all intents I was an Agnostic praying that God really did exist and care. I also asserted that I saw no reason why women could not or should not be ordained to the Priesthood and the Episcopacy and I expressed other views that while not connected with anything to do in the Christian faith was not politically correct in conservative circles.

During that time period I found that I was getting slammed and “unfriended” on Facebook by people I had previously considered friends whenever I had the nerve to disagree with them, or innocently post something that they disagreed with on my Facebook page. I think that was the hardest part for me, I was shocked that people who I had thought were friends, who knew what I was going through were so devoted to their ideology that they condemned me and threw me away. I found that I agreed with Mahatma Gandhi who observed: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Of course I say that with a fair amount of humility because most of the time I am not a very good Christian, if that means actually trying to emulate Jesus.

Of course that is not uncommon in the annals of Christianity. Ulrich Zwingli, the Reformer of Zurich was so upset when his students and closest associates became Anabaptist that he had them drowned in the Rhine River. In fact any time Church leaders have had significant powers over people through the levers of the State they have quite often used that power to crush anyone that did not believe like them or questioned their authority.

In a sense for two millennia various groups of Christians have been creating God in their own image and inflicting their beliefs on others. Christians punishing other Christians for having views that they do not agree is so common. Last week a Chaplain of a Nazarene college was fired for questioning Christian support for war in the wake of the movie American Sniper. Sadly most of the time that Christians are condemned by other Christians it is not even for any of major doctrinal beliefs found in the Creeds, the great Ecumenical Councils of the Church, or even of the various Confessions or Statements of Faith of any denomination. Instead they usually have to with unpopular stands on political or social issues. Anne Lamott has a pithy little thought that I love which I think describes this type of Christian persecution: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

In September of 2010 I was asked to leave that church, even though my actual theological orthodoxy, as to what I believed about God and Christ was unchanged. Thankfully another church, the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church, a denomination of the Old Catholic tradition took me in. It is a tiny denomination, much like the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, but very affirming and I fit well in it.

As far as my old church, it was going through a difficult time and the Bishop who threw me out was a big part of the problem. He was removed a few months later when it was revealed that he was plotting to take all of the military chaplains out of the denomination to another without consulting the other bishops. One friend who is still in that church speculated that I was asked to leave by the bishop because he thought I might reveal his plans, even though he had not told me directly about them.

What was odd about that church was that in 2004 I was censured by the then second ranking archbishop in that church, forbidden from publishing and even having or having any personal contact with his clergy where I was living because I was “too Catholic.” The irony was that this bishop was a big cause of the trouble that the church went through including the massive splits that occurred in 2005-2010. He left that church, became the editor of a conservative Catholic website and now is a Priest in the Anglican Ordinate and effectively a Roman Catholic Priest.  I love irony.

Thankfully I still have a number friends in my old church, and thankfully there are good people there doing their best to live the Gospel. I can’t say that I would fit in there anymore, but I have no residual animosity to the current leadership of that denomination and pray that they continue to recover from the tumult and division that marked their struggle from 2005-2011. I admit that it was a painful time and for a while I was quite bitter about how I had been treated, but it has been easier to live by forgiving. C. S. Lewis noted: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Since I have been forgiven for so much how can I not at least try to live in a forgiving manner?

I have written a lot about my frustrations with American Christianity in particular the conservative Christian subculture. Looking at what I wrote I can see that I definitely exist on the margins of that world. But that is not a bad thing, there is a certain amount of freedom as well as intellectual honesty and integrity that I have now that I could not have being for all intents closeted in my former denomination.

Living on the margins allows me to echo Galileo who wrote: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” It allows me to be at the intersection of faith and unbelief and allows me entry into both worlds, both of which I believe to be sacred and both need to be heard, as well as protected.

Thus when I champion religious liberty, it is not the liberty to use religion to bludgeon others or to use the police power of the State to enforce their religious views on others. Unfortunately that is what I see going on in this country as conservative American Christians especially Evangelicals, Charismatics and conservative Roman Catholics wage a Kulturkampf against modernism and secularism. It as if many of the leaders of that movement desire to set up a Christian theocracy. Gary North, a longtime adviser to Ron Paul and many in the Tea Party movement wrote:

“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

Personally, and with no invective intended I have to imagine that if a Moslem leader in this country said something similar that the Religious Right would be screaming bloody murder and that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News would be leading the charge.

 

Thus we see a reprise of the Scopes Monkey Trial in efforts to diminish the teaching of real science in schools and replace it with various religious theories of origins such as Young Earth Creationism. It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue is: equality for women, minorities, gays, teaching science, caring for the poor, the sick and the weak, acknowledging the value of other cultural traditions and religions it seems that many politically charged conservative Christians have no tolerance for anyone outside their often quite narrow belief system. North wrote:

“The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”

I’m sorry but again this sounds not too dissimilar to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, without the sheep and the comfortable clothes, or the Moslem Brotherhood types, Hezbollah or the Iranian Imams. The religion of North might be different from the Taliban but the goals are eerily similar, and only a fool would not see that. But then we Christians are quite good at ignoring the hate being preached by those that claim to be defending us from those “evil” Moslems.

This is no empty threat, throughout the country Christian Conservatives and their political front men are ramming through laws that have but one intent, the establishment of a Christian theocracy and the persecution of those who do not agree. Allegedly all of these laws are designed to “protect religious liberty” but in fact are nothing more than a legislative attempt to disenfranchise non-believers or others that the majority does not approve. Unfortunately the people pushing these laws do not understand that once the become law they can be used against them if another group comes into power. They set precedent and under such precedent even Sharia Law could be enacted in Moslem dominated areas of the country, such as Dearborn Michigan, or polygamy in separatist Mormon communities in Utah and Idaho.

I am sorry but that is antithetical to the thoughts of our founders and the real defenders of religious liberty in the early days of our republic. John Leland, head of the Virginia Baptists and a key player in the drafting of the First Amendment and religious liberty protections in Virginia wrote:

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever…Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

Leland understood what he was talking about, because in Virginia Baptists and others were being persecuted by Anglicans who before the Revolution had been the State Church of Virginia and wanted to be again in the new republic. James Madison wrote of the danger:  “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

I will defend the right of religious conservative to believe what they want, including the right to teach it in their churches, church schools and homes and to express those views in the public square as part of real dialogue. I may not agree with them, but if I want my views to be protected I should grant others what I would want. What I cannot support is the attempt of some politically active Christian conservatives to force those views on others through the power of the State, the public schools or any other place where the citizens of our very diverse and pluralistic society have to co-exist.

Likewise, I have become much more outspoken in defending those who are the targets of real Christian hate, in particular the LGBT community, unbelievers, especially atheists and agnostics and Moslems. That may seem odd, but really, if we as Christians do not show God’s love to them, just how do we expect that they will embrace what we believe?

I love the movie Inherit the Wind. I especially love the scene where Spencer Tracy playing the fictionalized version of Clarence Darrow gives a logical yet passionate defense of religious, civil and intellectual liberty.

“Can’t you understand? That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we’ll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!”

Since I don’t want to go back to the 16th Century I will be content to live in the freedom that I have on the margins of contemporary American Christianity. Personally I would rather be there than in the 16th century.

bloom-county-liberal-label-1

Back in 2010 when I was getting kicked out of my old church and suffering the rejection of friends it wasn’t something that I enjoyed. However, I am grateful to be where I am now and to have the freedom that I enjoy. I certainly didn’t plan it this way, but I am definitely okay with the way things have turned out. Living on the margins of American Christianity beats the hell out of living within the hateful, greedy and oppressive structures that permeate our American Christian landscape.

Peace

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under christian life, civil rights, ethics, faith, LGBT issues, ministry, philosophy, political commentary, Religion

The Freedom of Living on the Margins of American Christianity

1622612_10152232336042059_727365308_nMe and my Littlest Buddy, Minnie Scule

I have been living on the margins of American Christianity for a bit over six years now. The watershed moment was when I returned from Iraq in February 2008 my faith shattered and my soul wounded suffering from severe PTSD. I was not in good shape then and two years later after faith returned, albeit in a different form I realized that I no longer fit in the mainstream of conservative American Christianity.

When I began to express some of those changes, which mainly had to do in the manner of how I viewed others I got in trouble. At the time I was part of a pretty conservative Episcopal-Catholic denomination with very strong Evangelical and Charismatic leanings. I wrote that I thought that homosexuals could be Christians and not automatically damned to hell. I wrote that not all Moslems were bad. I expressed a great deal of empathy for non-believers, particularly Atheists and Agnostics having recently come out of a period where for all intents I was an Agnostic praying that God really did exist and care. I also asserted that I saw no reason why women could not or should not be ordained to the Priesthood and the Episcopacy and I expressed other views that while not connected with anything to do in the Christian faith was not politically correct in conservative circles.

During that time period I found that I was getting slammed and “unfriended” on Facebook by people I had previously considered friends whenever I had the nerve to disagree with them, or innocently post something that they disagreed with on my Facebook page. I think that was the hardest part for me, I was shocked that people who I had thought were friends, who knew what I was going through were so devoted to their ideology that they condemned me and threw me away. I found that I agreed with Mahatma Gandhi who observed: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Of course I say that with a fair amount of humility because most of the time I am not a very good Christian, if that means actually trying to emulate Jesus.

Of course that is not uncommon in the annals of Christianity. Ulrich Zwingli, the Reformer of Zurich was so upset when his students and closest associates became Anabaptist that he had them drowned in the Rhine River. In fact any time Church leaders have had significant powers over people through the levers of the State they have quite often used that power to crush anyone that did not believe like them or questioned their authority.

In a sense for two millennia various groups of Christians have been creating God in their own image and inflicting their beliefs on others. Anne Lamott has a pithy little thought that I love: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

In September of 2010 I was asked to leave that church, even though my actual theological orthodoxy, as to what I believed about God and Christ was unchanged. Thankfully another church, the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church, a denomination of the Old Catholic tradition took me in. It is a tiny denomination, much like the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, but very affirming and I fit well in it.

As far as my old church, it was going through a difficult time and the Bishop who threw me out was a big part of the problem. He was removed a few months later when it was revealed that he was plotting to take all of the military chaplains out of the denomination to another without consulting the other bishops. One friend who is still in that church speculated that I was asked to leave by the bishop because he thought I might reveal his plans, even though he had not told me directly about them.

What was odd about that church was that in 2004 I was censured by the then second ranking archbishop in that church, forbidden from publishing and even having or having any personal contact with his clergy where I was living because I was “too Catholic.” The irony was that this bishop was a big cause of the trouble that the church went through including the massive splits that occurred in 2005-2010. He left that church, became the editor of a conservative Catholic website and now is a Priest in the Anglican Ordinate and effectively a Roman Catholic Priest.  I love irony.

Thankfully I still have many friends in my old church, and thankfully there are good people there doing their best to live the Gospel. I can’t say that I would fit in there anymore, but I have no residual animosity to the current leadership of that denomination and pray that they continue to recover from the tumult and division that marked their struggle from 2005-2011. I admit that it was a painful time and for a while I was quite bitter about how I had been treated, but it has been easier to live by forgiving. C. S. Lewis noted: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Since I have been forgiven for so much how can I not at least try to live in a forgiving manner?

Last night I wrote about my frustrations with American Christianity in particular the conservative Christian subculture. Looking at what I wrote I can see that I definitely exist on the margins of that world. But that is not a bad thing, there is a certain amount of freedom as well as intellectual honesty and integrity that I have now that I could not have being for all intents closeted in my former denomination.

Living on the margins allows me to echo Galileo who wrote: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” It allows me to be at the intersection of faith and unbelief and allows me entry into both worlds, both of which I believe to be sacred and both need to be heard, as well as protected.

Thus when I champion religious liberty, it is not the liberty to use religion to bludgeon others or to use the police power of the State to enforce their religious views on others. Unfortunately that is what I see going on in this country as conservative American Christians especially Evangelicals, Charismatics and conservative Roman Catholics wage a Kulturkampf against modernism and secularism. It as if many of the leaders of that movement desire to set up a Christian theocracy. Gary North, a longtime adviser to Ron Paul and many in the Tea Party movement wrote:

“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

Personally, and with no invective intended I have to imagine that if a Moslem leader in this country said somethings similar that the Religious Right would be screaming bloody murder and that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News would be leading the charge.

Thus we see a reprise of the Scopes Monkey Trial in efforts to diminish the teaching of real science in schools and replace it with various religious theories of origins such as Young Earth Creationism. It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue is: equality for women, minorities, gays, teaching science, caring for the poor, the sick and the weak, acknowledging the value of other cultural traditions and religions it seems that many politically charged conservative Christians have no tolerance for anyone outside their often quite narrow belief system. North wrote:

“The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”

I’m sorry but again this sounds not too dissimilar to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, without the sheep and the comfortable clothes, or the Moslem Brotherhood types, Hezbollah or the Iranian Imams. The religion of North might be different from the Taliban but the goals are eerily similar, and only a fool would not see that. But then we Christians are quite good at ignoring the hate being preached by those that claim to be defending us from those “evil” Moslems.

This is no empty threat, throughout the country Christian Conservatives and their political front men are ramming through laws that have but one intent, the establishment of a Christian theocracy and the persecution of those who do not agree. Allegedly all of these laws are designed to “protect religious liberty” but in fact are nothing more than a legislative attempt to disenfranchise non-believers or others that the majority does not approve. Unfortunately the people pushing these laws do not understand that once the become law they can be used against them if another group comes into power. They set precedent and under such precedent even Sharia Law could could be enacted in Moslem dominated areas of the country, such as Dearborn Michigan, or polygamy in separatist Mormon communities in Utah and Idaho.

I am sorry but that is antithetical to the thoughts of our founders and the real defenders of religious liberty in the early days of our republic. John Leland, head of the Virginia Baptists and a key player in the drafting of the First Amendment and religious liberty protections in Virginia wrote:

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever…Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

Leland understood what he was talking about, because in Virginia Baptists and others were being persecuted by Anglicans who before the Revolution had been the State Church of Virginia and wanted to be again in the new republic. James Madison wrote of the danger:  “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

I will defend the right of religious conservative to believe what they want, including the right to teach it in their churches, church schools and homes and to express those views in the public square as part of real dialogue. I may not agree with them, but if I want my views to be protected I should grant others what I would want. What I cannot support is the attempt of some politically active Christian conservatives to force those views on others through the power of the State, the public schools or any other place where the citizens of our very diverse and pluralistic society have to co-exist.

I love the movie Inherit the Wind. I especially love the scene where Spencer Tracy playing the fictionalized version of Clarence Darrow gives a logical yet passionate defense of religious, civil and intellectual liberty.

“Can’t you understand? That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we’ll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!”

Since I don’t want to go back to the 16th Century I will be content to live in the freedom that I have on the margins of contemporary American Christianity. Personally I would rather be there than in the 16th century.

bloom-county-liberal-label-1

Back in 2010 when I was getting kicked out of my old church and suffering the rejection of friends it wasn’t something that I enjoyed. However, I am grateful to be where I am now and to have the freedom that I enjoy. I certainly didn’t plan it this way, but I am definitely okay with the way things have turned out.

Peace

Padre Steve+

6 Comments

Filed under christian life, civil rights, faith, laws and legislation, Political Commentary, Religion

Sometimes It Is Better to Say Nothing: Learning Better Social Media Manners and Boundaries as a Christian

bloom-county-liberal-label

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln

I like social media. I frequent both Facebook and Twitter but after a number of years of emotional frustration I have been working the past few months to turn over a new leaf in how I conduct myself on it. I am learning though that sometimes strongly held opinions need to be muzzled in places dominated by people that like to slam their opposition with what amounts to sound bites, usually accompanied by some vitriolic picture and phrase to paint whoever and whatever they oppose in the worst possible manner. This is especially bad on Facebook and though I like the medium as a way to stay in contact with friends I am growing tired of its use as a vehicle to promote political, religious and other issues in a manner that cheapens debate and actually destroys any chance of reasonable discourse.

I used to join the political, ideological and religious wars on Facebook until they wore me out. I would try to enter into actual dialogue, get blasted, often by third parties that didn’t know me and then find that I got spun up and drawn into the muck. When I did that I felt cheapened and that something died in me. It wasn’t real debate, it was shouting and sometimes people that I thought were long time friends turned out only to be friends so long as I completely agreed with them.

Twitter seems to be a better fit for political discourse because at least there no-one is claiming to be a friend. They are followers or supporters maybe even haters and trolls but it is easy to not be as personally consumed by debate so long as one knows that going in, where I don’t know if Facebook has that distinction or if people understand that friends can disagree and still be friends.

Some of my twitter comments do end up on my Facebook page, but I do try to keep things separate. I would rather use Facebook now to keep up with friends and attempt to stay out of the political, social and religious wars that often envelope those pages. To do that I have worked over the past few weeks not to enter into those firefights on other people’s Facebook pages, even if I think that they are full of crap. I don’t have the energy for it. I would actually rather write well reasoned articles here and then deal with the replies.

As far as those that decide to comment on things I have on my Facebook page I try to be civil and reasoned now and sometimes just leave negative comments alone, not because I am afraid of conflict, but because I would rather try to maintain relationships rather than prove myself right. I figure that time will always tell.

I have around 1150 Facebook Friends. I would have a good number more had I not gotten into some of the firefights that I have over the years. Some was my own fault, but others, well intolerance is more common, especially among the more “conservative” Christians who I spent much of the last 20-30 years hanging around with. I was actually surprised to see how many of them were quick to savage me when I didn’t agree with their (and my former) religious-political-social views. Things got so bad that earlier in the year I went through my friends list and weeded out the dozen or so worst offenders, those whose posts that were the worst, most vicious, intolerant and mostly inaccurate that showed up on my page. I didn’t need the vitriol, hatred and viciousness. Out of 1100 or so friends I only got rid of about a dozen, and the sad thing that most were ministers, many from my former denomination which kind of creeped me out.

No wonder so many non-Christians want to have nothing to do with us when the face that they see is one of hatred, bigotry and intolerance. Today I saw a friend, who is a minister, on another friend’s page blast someone that he did not agree with. The tone my minister friend framed his comment was arrogant, condescending and demeaning to the other person, a young person who was obviously struggling with faith. I decided not to jump in knowing that no good could come out of another debate on someone else’s page.

So I am learning to shut up a bit and try more to let the grace of God permeate what I do on social media. If some people think that is foolish I guess that it will have to be that way. There are some things that do spin me up but I am going to try to treat people, even if they disagree with me or I them the way I would want to be treated. I will probably screw this attempt up later tonight or tomorrow but I am going to do my best to be a better citizen on the often un-social social media. Hopefully in doing so maybe set some kind of example that will maybe help people with radically different views find reconciliation and not just toleration.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Importance of Community for Military Families

Some years ago the theme song of the television show “Cheers!” struck a chord with people, because it expressed the desire of many people.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

We live in an increasingly disconnected world despite the proliferation of devices designed to make communication easier. Our dependence on these devices often serves to disconnect us from community because we use them to accomplish things without any human contact.  I mean really, what percentage of our Facebook “friends” really know us and how many can we go to when the chips are down.

We shop in massive stores, attend mega-churches, exist on fast food bought at a drive through and we don’t know our neighbors. To most organizations we are not real life human beings but statistics whose only value is in profit and market share.  And we wonder why so many people are depressed, lonely and even despair of life.

Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.

Having a place where people know you and care about you matters. It is important to us as individuals and it is important to the people that come to us for their medical care. Cheers was a neighborhood bar where people from all walks of life knew and cared for each other. We miss that a lot and we often suffer because of it, especially those that go to war and their families.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

In our military communities be they Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force we have shared hardships and culture but even with that it is a difficult life. The military does its best to provide a multitude of support services including unit based Family Support Groups, family service centers as well as centers and associations for single servicemen and women.

But even still those support structures often are insufficient due to the transitory nature of military life, changing and sometimes uneven leadership of these organizations. Add to this the unrelenting demands of the wars and deployments and the wounds of war brought home which affect even the most resilient families.  PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, traumatic amputations, substance abuse, domestic violence, high divorce rates and suicide are everyday parts of the military family and community life.

One of the other aspects not directly attributable to the wars is how the communities around the bases treat the military.  In some major metropolitan areas the military simply blends in to the civilian community, even where there are large bases such as in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.  In such places there may be a large military footprint but it is easy to blend in.  In other areas where the military installations are the sole reason that the areas have large populations such as Killeen Texas, the home of Fort Hood, Jacksonville North Carolina the home of Camp LeJeune and Fayetteville the home of Fort Bragg the military presence is loved and loathed. There are many retired military in these areas as well as many veterans and often they are supportive. However in each of these cities there exists a large contingent of individuals and businesses who take advantage of military personnel and their families and some of these are former military personnel. Sometimes people in these communities despite their outward show of support for the troops do all they can to make the military personnel unwelcome.  Now this is not helped by the bad behavior of some military personnel and their family members which is then used to discriminate against good and law abiding military personnel.

But there are good people, organizations and businesses which do their best to help make these “strangers in a strange land” welcome.  For me that welcome has been often linked to people that I know at minor league ballparks such as Harbor Park in Norfolk and Grainger Stadium in Kinston. There is a special church, Saint James Episcopal in Portsmouth Virginia that I enjoy on the rare times that I have to visit it is a place I can call home and my friends at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach.

Community really matters because as Americans we are all in this together.  While I have focused on military communities large numbers of American cities and towns are enduring great hardship, and this disconnect between people, evidenced by the fact that we often don’t even know our neighbors has created a social isolation that only breeds hatred and discontent.  With this true lack of community we should be surprised with increasing crime, violence, discrimination and prejudice.

Community doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes illusion of perpetual prosperity only serves to drive us apart.  However, sometimes communities are reborn when facing crisis, people begin to look out for one another again and the welcome sign means that you really are.

But, what is neat is when we do find that special place for ourselves and when we can provide that kind of home to others we can really understand the last stanza of the song from Cheers which never aired on television.

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy