When Facebook Makes Me Cry

It all started when I made the mistake of posting something political on my Facebook page. I've been known to talk about human rights quite a bit but my political posts have been veiled until now. Politics don't bring out the best in humanity and I have a hard time not getting sucked into it. My emotions get strong. My feelings get hurt. Let's face it: I get mean. I become flabbergasted by both the ignorance and the total lack of compassion that this brings out in people. People whom I know I disagree with fundamentally, but to whom I hope to extend an olive branch and listen to with an open mind.
I was already having a bad day. Penny was having one of those almost 3 year old mornings where she thought it was hilarious to do everything the opposite way from which I was asking her. It was exacerbated by the fact that we were in public the whole morning. I have a particularly hard time not feeling flustered when I feel like people are watching how I react to my child when she's being "persnickety." I felt emotionally exhausted. I felt overwhelmed by my child's inability to go with the flow. I felt isolated because every parent around us was interacting with their child in a way that looked a lot more simple and easy than what I was dealing with all morning. 
Then I logged onto my page and saw the "conversation" that unfolded, and continued to unfold throughout the day. Articles being thrown at me (to which I threw articles back...like I said, I was having a bad day). My work ethic called into question. Then my privilege. Then my greed. I start to get sucked in. The words are rising in my throat. I'm tempted to talk about the 18 year old car I've been driving for 15 years or how my husband I have can live on less than $40,000 a year as a family of 4 because we're so careful with money. I want to talk about our 2 bachelor's degrees that aren't putting us to work. I want to explain how we choose to live small because that's one of our essential values. I almost blurt out about how low our mortgage payment is because we played it very conservative when we got into the market 11 years ago and have never been tempted to "upgrade" from our "starter house." I start to get angry as I think about my husband getting up at 5:30 every morning working 2 jobs and how we still can't provide for ourselves without the government programs we're gratefully using because he's been looking for full-time work for 7 months and counting with no success. I want to talk about my small business that keeps my child out of daycare (fewer expenses!) giving us a 3rd income while doing what we believe is best for our child (this is not a judgment, this is actually what we believe about our specific child). I understand what it means to create something from nothing, to generate income from thin air. I understand the amount of motivation and drive it takes to work alone with a 2 year old in tow. I really, really do. 
I want to scream out that this is about us, yes, but the video I posted was about justice for all, access to quality education for all families, races, and socio-economic levels. How could this message of hope get twisted into laziness, self-interest and greed? I want to weep. In fact, I have. 
I've written about taming this beast, this rising voice of self-defense. This is not a new process for me. I have a strong sense of justice and it can make me a bit of a beast. I choose to call it advocacy :) But maybe I haven't given a full voice to the demons, the moment the words of shame come pouring in, the pain and horror that unkind words do when they come into your home on a bad day. I get it; politics are tough. And maybe this is my cue to bow out. Shit's gettin' ugly, people. 
I know I will require an extra dose of self-care after today's events. And my skin isn't very thick.
But I don't want to silence my voice (though I may need to do some unfriending). I know there's a benefit in putting a face to an ideology (granted, I thought my face would receive more respect than it was given today, but the world isn't as kind as I believe. I already knew that) and I'm not ashamed of my beliefs. I believe people need access to health care. I believe that all the poor kids should be fed and educated and have secure housing. I believe books should be in every home. I believe people should be able to fulfill their potential whether they were born in the country club or the ghetto. I believe people want to work and to find something worthwhile and fulfilling to do with their lives. I believe people who do good work, like teach our children, should also be able to have a comfortable retirement. And God help us, I believe people of all races and religions should be free and embraced in this country, not rounded up like a bunch of fucking terrorists. 
I believe in kindness. I do. If I'm not the best economist, ok. I'm cool with that. Let's let the economists put their beautiful brains to work. But what I do know is I will not be silenced. I will not bow down in worship to the almighty hate. I won't do it. So hate my government program-loving heart if you must. But know that I love my beliefs and those who hold them with integrity and with my own integrity fully intact. You don't have to agree with it. But you damn well better respect it. And I will do my best to respect our differences and above all, to temper my passion with kindness. And now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go log off Facebook for some much needed R & R.

Dabbles in a Minority Position

I've not had many experiences in being a minority. I'm white. I grew up in an affluent neighborhood. I was privately educated. My only real minority experience came from being a female who loved ministry in a church environment that preferred its ladies demure and supportive of male leadership as God-ordained and superior. But other than that, especially in my conservative church as an untitled minister (that darn vagina sure caused problems), I've never been on the receiving end of church rejection. I played by all the rules and reinforced them later as a leader. 
As I've sifted through my faith after my husband got fired from ministry, a lot of my traditional church values have been through the fire of loss, trauma and a desire to not tolerate anything that doesn't ring true in my spirit, regardless of the way I was taught to view everything. 
This process has turned me into a Christian who has much more progressive leanings than how I was raised to see God, the world and the Bible. I'm really, really happy about it. It feels like coming home. When I stopped going to church to tune into myself and to undo some of the messaging of who I was taught God is versus who I knew in my heart He was, I didn't know if I would ever go back. It started to feel irrelevant to my life (which was a HUGE turnaround from not knowing who I was outside of the church community). I no longer cared about church squabbles and politics. I wanted to be a citizen of the world, to know it, to love it, to participate in it, rather than shutting myself off from it because we're "so different" and it might sully me in some way. Embracing my humanity and the world we live in has been such a freeing and healthy thing for me.
To my great joy and surprise, I have found a faith community that supports and encourages my spiritual process. Rather than needing to translate the messages I was hearing on Sunday so I could maintain healthy boundaries and not wallow in shame and duty, I found a community that values what I value and challenges me to go further with it. It has blown me away. I cried the whole way home the first time I attended my new church. I couldn't believe something this good actually existed. Turns out, you don't have to be conservative in order to follow, love and value the messages of Jesus. It's been so healing and beautiful for me (and for Macy, who attends with me). 
This morning, I was watching Bruce Jenner's courageous interview with Diane Sawyer. (You should watch it. It's on Hulu). And as he told his story of hiding his transgender identity all his life out of fear of hurting the people he loved, I realized that I too am in a fear dilemma. While I'm happy to be a gay-loving, peaceful, simple living, advocate and believer in Jesus, I am running the risk of being ousted by "my own." I experienced a taste of this after I posted a simple article about Christians serving the gay community by providing wedding services when asked. I'm afraid that by following my heart and my faith and my true spiritual self I will be rejected by my people. My ministry comrades, my family, my childhood friends who have spent years totally "getting me" might misjudge me, label me, disrespect or patronize me. I've never really been on the receiving end of this. I always hung out in environments where I was the majority. It's scary and a little sad not feeling accepted for something that deeply matters to you. 
I'm learning the danger of labeling myself and others. As I happily label myself "progressive," that term might lead others to think they already know where I'm coming from based on assumptions of what it means to be a progressive. Likewise, I think my more conservative friends felt called out by some of the articles I've shared online, making them feel misunderstood or labeled in a negative way. I really want to create an online space that's safe. I sometimes unfriend people on Facebook for that reason, because dialogue requires a certain level of respect and human decency that not everyone is ready to give online. I feel an obligation to tend to my safe space by eliminating threatening people from that conversation if they can't be respectful of others. 
My faith process is so sacred to me and while I'm excited to share things on here, I am also not in a position where I feel comfortable defending myself or having to prove the validity of my convictions. My values are valid because they are true to my heart and because I really try to live by them. There are a lot of reasons and relationships and stories that have contributed to that process for me. And I like to tell my story when I feel safe and compelled to do so. But I do not owe anyone anything nor am I an expert on anything but myself. There are resources written by true experts on any number of religious and political positions. I've used them and everyone should read and explore any issue or faith position they want to learn more about. 
It's a new power shift for me to run the risk of being rejected on my home turf. It's helping me identify with what it must be like to be a minority. I know my experience is so small in comparison to true, live-long minorities and I fear by even using the term "minority", I'm dishonoring all the pain, grief and violence experienced by minorities that I'll never really understand. I guess I want to say, you never know when you're in a power position, if your life might lead you down a path that inverts that power. I'm learning so much from this experience. I'm reminded that I am valid and that I am "the least of these". I'm not better than anyone else, ANYONE else. But I'm also okay and I'm good. There is a place for me at the table. I have so much to learn. And I'm honored to be learning. I feel it is one of life's greatest privileges. 
I spent a lot of my life believing that conservative values were the only way to follow Jesus. That I needed to tune out my culture and my own evil heart, or at least beat it into submission, in order to be a Christian. When we find we can no longer do that, most of us walk away from faith entirely. And let's face it: we're leaving in droves and we're not looking back. What I have joyfully and humbly discovered through blind luck and beautiful friends, is that I no longer have to choose between my heart for people and my heart for God. That by tuning into my culture, my humanity and the stories of the people all around me, my faith is becoming deeper. I'm finding myself in the Bruce Jenner's and Eric Garner's. And my heart breaks. A lot. But my faith in God is not easily threatened. Being asked to prove its validity is still painful, frightening and very triggering for me. I'm learning to decline proving myself. I don't have to do that. What I do have to do is be true to the spirit within me that tells me: I matter. Kindness matters. God loves me. And because of those things, so does every single living, breathing person on this planet. And I refuse to tell them otherwise.