Friday, June 15, 2018

Use the Bible Carefully

The US Attorney General and the White House Press Secretary both recently cited the Bible in defense of a new US policy to tear children from their parents at the southern border, so I can't really help but write something about that, and I encourage everyone reading this to speak out in some way against this as well, wether publicly or privately. (And my apologies for the formatting here; I'm doing this from my phone.)

All I really have to say is that just because something happens in the Bible doesn't mean it's a prescription for how we should act today. You can pick passages that support genocide against neighboring people groups, obeying the law whatever it may be because government is from God, and even dashing the infants of your enemies upon rocks, if you want to take Psalms literally. But you shouldn't.

That's missing the big picture and the overall message of scripture, and it's just blatant picking and choosing the bits and pieces you want.

And I will concede that we all are guilty of this at times. Everyone who takes Christianity seriously will inevitably misuse, misread, and misinterpret the Bible to bolster whatever view they already hold. We're separated by language, culture, and context, after all. It can be tricky to know how to apply the range of sometimes-contradictory teachings within the Bible. In the end, we all have to "pick and choose," and while there are better and worse ways to do that, none are perfect. But there's a serious and significant difference between doing so to help make the world a more inclusive and loving place--in the spirit of what Jesus said was the summation of scripture and the most important commmand--and doing so to justify the separation of families at a border or any other form of injustice and oppression.

Monday, June 11, 2018

This Is Who We Are

“This is not us. We are better than this. This is not who we are.”

I encounter these kinds of phrases just about every single day, and every time I do I get a little more irritated. Because actually, this *is* us. We aren’t better than this. This is who we are. It may not be who you thought we were. You may wish we were better than this. But that doesn’t change the truth.

We have to be honest about who we are, collectively. We can’t keep willfully ignoring what we’re doing, or at least what we’re all complicit in. We can’t continue to absolve ourselves with our self-righteous “we’re better than this” mentalities. When we see institutions we’re a part of doing harm, we can’t afford to pretend the problem is somehow not ours to deal with, act like we’re better than it, and move on. After all, I can hardly cure my cancer by saying “I’m healthier than this; this is not what my body is.” I have to be honest about it and do every kind of treatment imaginable to try for a chance at being cancer-free some day.

When churches harbor white supremacy, homophobia, sexism, and abuse, we who are Christians can’t just turn away and say “well, that’s not who we are.” It is in fact who and what The Church as a whole is, and we have to deal with that. When the United States adopts a foreign policy of “We’re America, Bitch!” and closes its borders to asylum-seekers fleeing domestic abuse, we who are Americans cannot pretend we’re better than this. We need to acknowledge that we’re all part of the problem, that this is in fact who and what we are right now, like it or not.

So let’s all stop saying “we’re better than this.” We’re not. Instead, let’s work to make it so that someday, we actually are better than this.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Longer I Live, the Less I Remember I’m Dying

When I was diagnosed with DSRCT back in 2014, I did not expect to reach my second wedding anniversary. Now Christina and I have been married just over 5 years. In 2016 when some friends and I decided to plan for an annual Cedar Point trip, I thought “have fun; I won’t be there.” But next week I’ll make the third such visit to my favorite amusement park. My last three birthdays have all been pleasant surprises I did not expect to reach, and while I realistically shouldn’t give myself more than 50/50 odds of reaching my next one, it’s starting to feel more likely than not that I’ll actually make it to 27. Every time I pass a milestone I never thought I’d live to see, it gets a little easier to believe I’ll get to the next one and a little harder to remember that I am in fact dying.

And that raises some tough questions I can’t really answer. How much should I be mindful of my mortality? How much should I ignore that and just enjoy life while I still can? How much should I live every day like it’s my last, and how much should I plan for the future? I’ve been living with cancer for well over three years now. I can’t live a thousand days in a row like each is the last I’ll have. At some point I need to allow myself to think and plan at least a little more long-term than that. But I can’t pretend I have a normal lifespan ahead of me either. I don’t know how to balance that.

So sometimes I write furiously—hoping to get every book I’ve ever thought of out of my brain and into a word document—knowing full-well that the geologic pace of the literary industry means there’s little chance I’ll live to see any of my books get published. Sometimes I stop writing for a month or two, thinking it a waste of my limited time and energy to spend countless hours on something that’ll never go anywhere. I invariably wish I’d knocked out another book in that time though, and I always come back to my writing eventually. A few times over the last three years I’ve started searching and applying for real, steady jobs. Inevitably, before anything gets going I get a less-than-wonderful PET scan and change treatments. I only feel well-enough to be able to hold a conventional job when I don’t have many side-effects, and so far I only have minimal side-effects when my treatment isn’t really having any effects at all.

But maybe this is the right balance, if there even is a right balance. Maybe the best I can hope to do is whatever seems right at the time, knowing my circumstances and approach to how I spend my time will change in a week or a month or a year—if I live that long.