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Christians: Do You Remember How To Love?

This blog was extremely difficult to write. In a way, it is my response to the recent polarizing Chick-Fil-A controversy and heated religious debate over the 2012 presidential election. My intent in writing this was not meant to be accusatory but instead, a challenge to those that read it. –JL

I have only one question for all the self-identified Christians of the world: “Do you remember how to love?

I was raised on the Christian faith. For most of my first 18 years, if the church doors were open– my family was there. Yet, I was taught to believe interracial dating and marriage were wrong, homosexuality was wrong (it goes without saying that gay marriage was an abomination) and that basically, all other religions and even Christian denominations outside our own — were misguided and most likely would not reach the kingdom of heaven. I was taught Catholics were not true Christians and that the Baptist belief, once saved always saved was a fallacy.

In my late teens, I decided I wanted to change churches and go to my cousins’ church which was charismatic. My Dad was so angered by this decision, he told me I would have to move out if that’s what I chose. So I did. After some thought, he quickly reconsidered and came to the conclusion that as long as I was going to church… it was better than me not going at all and I was allowed to move back in.

Now at the age of 49, I am coming out as Agnostic. I’m not sure what to believe.

From my earliest childhood memories, I was taught to ‘Love one another‘. The Bible verse, one of many that repeat this phrase, comes from John 13:34:

I am giving you a new commandment to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (International Standard Version)

In preparing this blog post, the phrase ‘and the greatest of these is love‘ kept sticking in my head. So I had to look it up. The verse reads:

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, New Living Translation)

I was taught love the doer not the deed. Love the sinner not the sin. That’s Unconditional Love.

But where has it gone?

It is supposed to be the goal of all Christians to not only lead by example but also to witness and bring the hope of Christianity to the whole world. What I’ve seen in my lifetime, is the growing desire to create laws and alienate people that do not subscribe to the same belief system as those of the Christian faith. How is that demonstrating unconditional love? The gay rights movement is not about receiving special benefits above those of others. It is about seeking equality. Equality that is prevented by unnecessary laws created by Christian lawmakers in an effort to secure special rights for themselves and in effect, taking away the rights of others.

Marriage Equality is a legal issue, not a religious one. No one is trying to force churches to recognize, perform or accept marriage ceremonies in religious terms. Laws make marriage a legal contract and give many special benefits to married partners not available to unmarried couples. Tax breaks, issues over property ownership and healthcare are all brought into play. The Christian right campaigns and preaches against marriage equality because they believe it weakens the very definition of marriage and somehow impedes on their rights. It has become a hateful game of morality vs. legality… and exhibits anything but unconditional love.

This might be a good point to remind you that the origins of marriage were actually based on a man’s declaration of ownership of a woman. Marriage was not originally based on a religious contract with God.

The staggering divorce rate in our county is at 60% among those without an expressed religious affiliation but is still a huge 38% among those identified as practicing Christians. Maybe Christians could focus more on counseling and nurturing couples through those difficult times, sharing love and support with those that need guidance, instead of blocking loving partners from legally committing to one another.

The alienation that Christians are creating in the name of protecting their religious beliefs is having a devastating effect on the moral and religious fiber that was once tightly woven into our society. People are being driven away. Hate and fear is replacing love.

Religious Differences. The Religious Right has continued to accuse our President of being Muslim despite his identification as a Christian believer. They see that as a threat and fear that any religion unlike theirs, challenges their existence. Our country protects all religions and provides for their freedom to worship. The Christian proclamation that theirs is the only true religion is yet another example of hate and divisiveness in our country. More than ever, we need unity, compassion and acceptance.

Fear-Based Christianity has replaced the Christianity based on love and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

So where is the love? The saying goes, You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  In that case, why are so many Christians so bitter? If only Christians could return to the basic concept of loving their neighbor instead of fearing them, there might actually be a chance of a Christian resurgence in America.

All  you need is love.

Sharing Loss and Pain: No Words Can Express

A friend just had to say goodbye to her beloved pet. My cousin just lost his Mom and his dog in less than a year. Two years ago, I stood by as a family of a former student laid their daughter to rest and a co-worker buried her husband.

So much pain and grief.

I find myself without words.

I realize nothing I can possibly say will make it better. My words are not going to heal the pain or make it go away… and silence doesn’t help either– I hurt a friend deeply when I didn’t reach out– because I didn’t know what to say.

I am here.

It’s the best thing I can think of to tell someone. Maybe that’s all they need to hear– to know that you are thinking of them, that you stand with them, you’re there to listen and that you share their grief.

When I find myself confronted with someone’s loss, I get frustrated and angry that I don’t have the right words to express how I feel. No words can truly express the love, the sorrow, and the empathy– wanting to reach out but not clearly knowing the right way to do it. I have experienced loss in my life and I know that no one else can feel or has felt it the way I do. Sometimes it feels like people say things because they should, not because they understand. I cannot pretend to know exactly what someone else is feeling, which makes it so difficult to know what words to say.

I am here.

Nothing makes me angrier than to hear someone belittle someone else’s grief.

“Why are they so upset? It was only a pet.”

“They hardly knew them! Why are they so emotional?”

How dare anyone be so unkind and unfeeling! What right does anyone have to judge someone else’s grief?

Loss is Loss.

My animals are my children. Losing them is a traumatic experience. They are members of my family. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand that. They’ve either never had a pet, or never taken the time to bond with them in the way I do. But- some people do understand how real that loss can be and that it can be as, or even more devastating than the loss of a person.

A friend of mine, battling leukemia, said that she’s had people say things to her like– “Don’t worry, it will get better.” or, “You’ll be fine.” She told me how angry it makes her feel because it isn’t fine. It just isn’t.

So, what are the right words to say?

I wish I had the answer.

To all my friends, acquaintances and those that may be reading this that I have never met… I do feel your pain. When you grieve, I grieve with you. I just wish I knew the right words to say.  The best I can think of is: I am here for you.