1.4 Billion Dollars

Today, there is darkness surrounding the Catholic Church. The term is on the lips of everyone conservative or liberal, but for wildly different reasons. One side is posting the associated press article saying that the Catholic Church lobbied for money during the Coronavirus payout and received 1.4 billion dollars. The other is angry about the same article. Catholics are calling out discrimination, while the other side believes they are calling for justice by crying out against them. I wanted to take a minute to address both sides.

First of all, to those who read the Associated Press article. There are some problems with the way this topic was addressed. Catholic dioceses are responsible for so many schools, churches, charities, and more. They need money to keep all of those things going. Several Catholic mothers that I know were talking about increases in tuition by $1000 a month, panicking about how they were going to afford to send their kids to school. Catholic programs where I live distributed food to help those who could not afford any during the quarantine. Ideally, the funds received by Catholic dioceses would help these people.

It is also important to note that the dioceses are not connected. “The Catholic Church” did not receive 1.4 billion dollars-if that were to happen that would have meant it got paid to the Pope, which is not what happened and would not. The money was requested by and distributed to specific parishes and dioceses according to their need. All churches were opened for this, not just Catholics. In other words, the phrasing of the article would be like combining all of the small businesses under an organization that is meant to help them work together and saying that the organization received a lot of money because specific businesses did.

However, for the Catholics who are blowing off this article, there are issues present in the Catholic Church that are legitimate concerns present in this article. The journalist asserts that 11 million dollars was given to a West Virginia diocese that he says just got sued for embezzlement. That is a legitimate thing to feel wrong about. The author is using it to make it seem like the entire organization is evil like this and that’s where all of this money is going, which I do not believe, but it is important to realize that there have been some very intense revelations about misconduct dealing with money by authorities in the Church, who now have large sums of money, and that is a legitimate thing to challenge. It’s also important to note that many dioceses may still have debt left from the sex scandal that is not that far in the past. That memory is in people’s minds already creating doubt about how they would use money. I will clarify that there are stipulations on the loans they received(based on the article loans not grants, which I think is an important distinction) that they are forgivable, but only if the money is used for rent, wages, and utilities. If the money is used for those things, then the needs I discussed above would all fit into that, which I think would put everyone’s concern at rest.

The article above was released yesterday, but even that is in the aftermath of people calling out racist tendencies in some priests. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago my family and I endured an hour long sermon that berated those who are fighting against racism and basically said they are working for the devil himself. I am not excusing persecution in any way, but I have to admit that I could see how even a good person could be incredibly angry and discriminatory against Catholics if this is all they are being exposed to.

I know what it feels like to want to get rid of the Catholic Church. I have been through a lot of pain at the hands of authority figures and I have watched other authorities cover it up, and worse been made fun of by other Catholics for my trauma. By the grace of God, I have met some beautiful people who have supported me in my belief that the evil happening in the Church does not belong to the Church but to people doing wrong in it. However, when Catholics rage about how unfair it is that people talk bad about them, I think it is important to realize there are real reasons for people to be angry at the Church, and we need to show these people that that is not who we are.

As Catholics, we need to realize that there is a lot of anger out there about the Church and it is not all unjust anger. There have been some grievous sins committed by people who appear to be the face of the Church, and have made it seem like it is a dangerous organization. That is a terrifying kind of anger to cope with, and there are many people feeling it. These people should be approached with compassion, humility, and understanding. I think sometimes we jump to accusations of discrimination instead of remembering that people do have legitimate anger and sadness towards us. My hope in writing this is that this would help to relieve this divide that I am observing today. One side sees the Catholic Church itself as one of the most evil villains in the world, and the other sees everyone else as evil villains persecuting Catholics for no reason. What we all need to understand is both sides are made up of people who have been hurt, and seen other people get hurt, and we all want it to end.

Pray that discrimination will cease, but also pray for those who have suffered severe wounds from Church leaders who have not lived according to what the Church is meant to stand for, and from other members of the Church who have not been kind to them.

Christians and Black Lives Matter

TW: To anyone who is LGBTQ+ in my audience, some of this post may be difficult for you to read. As you know, there are very intense feelings in the Christian community about your status, and I am not saying what I say in this post to devalue you or your feelings or your community. I value you. You are valuable and important, and your voice is valuable and important. I just want Christians to understand that BLM is not a LGBTQ+ movement, but that their defense of LGBTQ+ people makes sense with their mission. 

https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/

“Every human life is sacred, because every human person is sacred.”

-Pope John Paul II

Something that has been happening over the last couple of days on my facebook page is this trickle of christians proclaiming their opposition to Black Lives Matter, “I cannot support BLM as a Christian, just read their “what we believe.” I have seen this enough times for it to stop making me roll my eyes, and realize this is an actual danger.

Dear Christians,

No. You absolutely can support Black Lives Matter. In fact, many of the beliefs they are founded on are the same beliefs that Christianity is, and Christians should already believe at least most, if not all of the things that BLM teaches. 

“Black Lives Matter began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism. Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities. The impetus for that commitment was, and still is, the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state.”

This is the most important thing to understand about the BLM beliefs. This is their mission, their origin, their purpose. They are not called “Black lives matter,” to position themselves about other people, as many Christians are saying. To make themselves some sort of perfect race better than everyone else. The phrase is Black Lives Matter because they are not being treated like they do. Also, for those who believe this makes them Marxist, it is ridiculous to say that they are separating people out and saying only certain groups matter. First of all, because their focus is to help one certain group of people, that doesn’t mean that everyone else does not. Also, the divisions were already there, they are just pointing them out. 

“Every day, we recommit to healing ourselves and each other, and to co-creating alongside comrades, allies, and family a culture where each person feels seen, heard, and supported.”

This is such an important sentence. Here they are admitting that they are flawed and in need of healing, which is what Christians should be doing consistently. They are also are committed to working with others, including “family” which should be a beautiful testament to a desire to build up our community, and to emphasize the family which Christians should be excited about, considering how often we talk about “the family is under attack.”

We acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences and commonalities.

God created us all different in so many ways. Christians believe that each part of the body of Christ is important and has a role to play, and since that is the case, we should be behind this statement.

We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people.

In some ways, this one is a given, but “by extension, all people,” will become more important as you read on.

We intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.

So many people have used straw man arguments against BLM talking about how they want to stir up trouble, or they are so violent. The actual movement, wants to RESTORE not to deplete. They are clear that they are working towards beauty, not harm.

We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter, we need not qualify our position. To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others.

(To the Marxist argument) It is not fair to expect an organization that is trying to help black people, to not talk about Black-ness, or be Black.

Also, Christians should be 100% behind desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others because “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

We see ourselves as part of the global Black family, and we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black people who exist in different parts of the world.

Again, it takes so much humility and courage to speak this way. They are also setting an example for what they mean by white privilege, or by ‘privilege’ in any context. They are not saying that privilege makes you a bad person, just that there is a different impact on different people and that matters.

We are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location.

Here’s where it gets a little trickier. All they are saying here is that, these LIVES MATTER. Many Christians tend to get offended whenever people talk about LGBTQ+ rights, but THESE LIVES MATTER. These are people, you may not agree with them, or like how they are living, but you should 100% believe that their life matters. Pro-life, from conception to natural death, MUST include these lives. In Jesus’ ministry, he sat with the sinners, and He saved an adulteress, we know that He valued all lives, even if you do think they are sinning. 

Also, did you notice they added religious rights in there? It’s easy to skim right past and forget that that is something we are fighting for too.

We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.

Again, they are not saying they are trying to make more people transgender, or that their focus is on them. They are saying that they make space for them to be a part of their community. Again, these people still matter, even if you disagree with their lifestyle, they should be allowed to be heard especially on these issues.

We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.

This is where it gets a little murky for some Christians. Here you are right, they are saying that they want to help Trans people. The fact that they want to “dismantle cisgender privilege” may be a concern, because many Christians are concerned that the Trans community is ‘destroying gender roles.’ I am not going there today, because that’s a huge issue that is going to take a lot of writing to talk about, and I am trying to focus on this for now(we will get there at some point). However, BLM encouraged their readers to understand the need for dismantling this privilege by citing trans-antagonistic violence. They are trying to help you to understand that whether you believe in what Trans do or not, they are getting hurt, and that is not ok. As I’ve mentioned earlier, we should agree with that wholeheartedly.

We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.

For more on why this is amazing and super Christian, check out FemCatholic.

We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.

It is important to understand all of their beliefs in this context. 

We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.

In a world where the family is not valued, and mothers who want to have children are mistreated, this is a true pro-life stance, and it should be applauded, as well as their work to help families to work with them. 

We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

This is getting twisted and mixed up all over the internet and it is really sad. In America, we have developed this intense small-family structure that is just the parents and the children. Other cultures encourage extended families and other adults around to be involved in each others lives. Even in the very limited exposure to minority communities that I have, their families have a bond that I do not often see in the white community. They have aunts and uncles hanging out with them all the time, grandparents live with their kids, adults from other families help each other out with raising their kids. This community is so important and beautiful and something we should all be working toward. It is so frustrating to me that people are saying that they want to destroy the family. 

Also, it is important that they added “to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.” They are anticipating your fears and concerns and trying to let you know, you are safe.

We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).

If you are a Christian and you made it through my other comments, this may be the rule that makes you step back. Depending on your denomination, you may believe that people are created as man and woman and created for each other in which case their problem with heteronormative thinking may feel like an attack on you. My own beliefs on this are super complicated and I am not really ready to articulate them because it would be a mess of words in ten thousand directions. However, it is important to remember that over and over BLM has discussed the importance of empathy, and every person feeling included. That “every person” included people of different religious beliefs, which may mean YOU.

Empathy helps us to see other people who are suffering the same thing, or something similar to what we are. Queer people have been through so much violence and pain, it makes sense through the lens of empathy that anyone trying to achieve justice should affirm them too.  From their perspective, all they are saying here is that man/woman only, and being attracted only to the opposite sex makes people feel they do not belong, and they want to make sure those people feel like they belong. or these people have suffered too, and we do not want them to suffer more. That’s a natural movement of empathy, and even if you do not believe that heteronormative thinking is a problem, I think we can all learn from the place of love that inspired this.

We cultivate an intergenerational and communal network free from ageism. We believe that all people, regardless of age, show up with the capacity to lead and learn.

This is so beautiful in a world where the pro-life are fighting against euthanasia and other issues against older people. BLM is reinforcing our stance that all life matters including those who are older, and also younger. 

We embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.  Just…yes.


The End.

Okay, so that was long, if you made it through, thank you for reading. You have now read the beliefs of BLM along with my own commentary on them to help Christians to understand how they can still be a part of BLM. For any more information, please go to their website I cited above.

IN MEMORIAM. ❤


“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”

“On the fourth anniversary of Pulse.
In the middle of Pride month.
During a global pandemic.
Donald Trump’s cruelty truly knows no bounds.” ~ Joe Biden

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/06/12/868073068/transgender-health-protections-reversed-by-trump-administration. Note: this article has a left bias, but it was the clearest description of the bill I could find.

This is a powder keg.

Gonna dive in anyway.

In 5. 4. 3. 2…….

Ummmmm now?

Ok.

Come Holy Spirit.

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”

First of all, I want to note to those in my audience who are not Christian, are LGBTQ, or are already uncomfortable about this topic, this article is FOR you, not to you. Please understand that I am approaching this issue mostly through the Christian lens, though I will at times be addressing to you as an audience for your understanding.

Ok. Now.

Dear Christians, especially Catholics,

Yesterday, Trump created a rule designed specifically for you. He re-defined ‘sex’ as man and woman, removing the purposeful ambiguity created by Obama in the Affordable Care Act. The rule, should it pass, would make it so that hospitals and insurance could deny care to Transgender people. It also, for some reason encompasses abortion, like Obama’s did, which means Trump’s rule would allow Christians to refuse to give abortions, while Obama’s made it incredibly difficult for them to do so.

Here’s the thing. When Obama’s law passed it endangered human rights for Christians. Insurance companies scrambled to start supporting abortion and reassignment surgeries, but Christian companies cannot support abortion and don’t support reassignment surgery in every case. Colleges had to choose whether to go out of business or to go against their beliefs. Famously, Hobby Lobby, the controversial Christian icon, had to file a lawsuit in order to keep from funding abortion. Medical students I knew faced this on a smaller, but scarier, scale of having to decide whether to perform an abortion in order to pass medical school. It was a dark and scary time for Christians. No one wants to be forced to do something they believe is wrong, and that is what was happening to Christians at the time.

However, what many of you, Christians, do not understand is what this law meant for transgender people. This meant safety when they went to the doctor, it meant they could get care even if someone did not believe what they were doing was right. It meant that doctors who were ‘grossed out‘ by them could not fall back on religion as a way out of caring for their bodies. It meant that if they really did need reassignment surgery they could get it, even if their resources were limited. To them, taking their right to medical care without discrimination away, is justifiably terrifying.

An important part of the NPR article I posted above is when Andersen points out that there needs to be a separate bill which promotes the human rights of the LGBTQ 🏳️‍🌈 but it does need to allow for religious rights. The problem is, Trump didn’t suggest this bill. No, instead, he reversed their protections, without introducing any new resources for them, leaving them in danger of being discriminated against, and unable to defend themselves.

What’s more is he did this on the anniversary of the worst act of violence that has ever been committed against LGBTQ+ people. During a pandemic, when we are already facing a shortage of medical care, for a disease that is extremely dangerous. That means that doctors could deny them care because of who they are, and they could not do anything about it(unless of course they have the money to sue, which you know….no one does.) Trump did all of this in a time when he is not only failing to care for the human rights of Black people, but actively inciting violence against them, and also after abbreviating the secret service as the “SS,” the most iconic racist regime ever to stain our history.

Trump’s catchphrase MAGA, Make America Great Again, fails to mention that what he is built on has nothing to do with what made America great. America was great because it gave us a safe place to practice our religion, live our lives, exist, without one person or group of people being able to dominate over everyone else. We built our government as a democracy so that everyone would have a voice, we preserve freedom of speech, so that even those with whom we disagree will be protected. Trump destroys everyone in his path in the name of ‘Christianity’ but without respect to the personhood of people who are outside of his demographic. This is not Christianity.

Christians believe that every single person has value and is made in God’s image. In Scripture, a woman was caught in adultery, and in her time, that was an offense punishable by death. Jesus stopped them. Jesus protected that woman and sent the men away. Is that what we are doing here? Is leaving transgender people in danger during a pandemic the ‘Christian’ thing to do? I do not believe so. If this were being done in a Christian fashion, we would do everything we could to make sure the rights of both sides would be preserved and we would fight for justice for all of us, not just for our own agenda.

A phrase we throw around all the time is “love the sinner, hate the sin,” but do we really think about what that means. Christian “love,” what we are called to, is a desire for the good of the other person. Often, we use love as a weapon, everything we are doing that hurts the other person is ‘for their own good,’ but that is not what Christ’s love looked like. When he defended the adulteress woman, he could have used that argument to excuse her murder, but instead, He gave her life and He was gentle to her. That is what love looks like and it is what our love should look like in this situation. Please, in any way you are able, protect the LGBTQ+ community, preserve their lives and be gentle. Even if you do not agree with what they are doing or how they live, they are human and they have value. God loves them as much as He loves you.

Please also pray for them and the horrible fear and sadness they are feeling right now.

With prayers to the archangels, who have no gender(seriously look it up in Church teachings in angels).

Love,

Julia

The Tapestries(from PEACEWEAVER)

While I was practicing yoga regularly, I redecorated my home. My tastes were bohemian, but I was concerned about surrounding myself with tapestries made in India about gods I do not understand. I searched for Catholic art, but I could not find anything that even remotely hit the style I was seeking. What’s more is that everything was the traditional Catholic paintings that I had grown up surrounded by, the ones that embraced suffering so fully that it was all I could feel when I saw them. Other people may not have the history I have with them, but there is a lot of pain and confusion for me in the typical Catholic art. As I continued to search I eventually found a few pieces I really loved, but they were so expensive I had no hope that I could afford them within the next century. I was so angry at how expensive everything was, and so frustrated that I finally decided to just get the Indian tapestries, but I would only get the ones that had a strong Christian spiritual meaning for me.

I chose a popular yellow tapestry with the symbol for Aum in the center because of how God had revealed Himself to me in their philosophy, a tapestry of elephants-which God had used to help me pray about some issues in my life, and a peacock tapestry that as far as I could tell was not associated with any deities. I treasured these tapestries. I took every picture in front of them, I planned which one I was going to use in the baby’s room, when I hopefully someday got a nursery. I laid them on the bed gingerly when I needed color in my room during long periods of stress. I designed my bedroom around them when I was pregnant with my first child.

As my two babies grew into toddlers, they used to love to play with the tapestries. During a time of particularly difficult post partum depression and hormone balance aggravated by what I can only ascribe to spiritual warfare, my oldest pulled on the corner of one that I had awkwardly hanging from the curtain rod in our basement apartment. It shredded down the whole side. She had pulled on it before leaving little rips, but this time the whole thing was shredded. A postpartum rage rippled over me and a she ran giggling to the other room, I ripped the tapestry in half, holding my breath while I cried so she wouldn’t hear me.

It occurred to me that that particular tapestry was probably not a great one to have around kids. My husband and I knew and understood the reason I had it and what it meant, but my girls would not for a long time. I threw the remains of it away mourning the independence I had lost. I cried too about how in motherhood the pretty pieces of art I loved were getting destroyed, the worst was a painted bowl I ate from for practically every meal. It was a bag of chunks of ceramic now, and it broke my heart.

The thought that the girls would not understand the tapestries stuck with me. For about a month I prayed and thought about it until in a progesterone and anxiety and spiritual dark night induced haze I pulled them all down and threw them all out. I kept the peacock one a little longer because it didn’t have a deity, but one day in another of these turbulent days I read on google there was a cult that worshipped Satan in a dark blue peacock, so I threw everything in my house that had a peacock on it away. (I found out later that the peacock is a symbol for Jesus so take that for what it’s worth.)

I honestly don’t know if it was wrong for me to have the tapestries in the first place or not, God knew it was about Him. I think maybe it was ok for me, but not my kids who were too young to understand and impressionable. As I began to do yoga and decorate again, I got alternating answers from God, yes yoga, no idols, yes art, no misleading art. I began to pray that God would help me create art that would meet that desire for color I had, and that He would help me to help others with the same struggle.

At first I thought maybe His answer was no. I started finding all these Catholic artists who were amazing. Plus, what I was trying to do with tapestries wasn’t working. I was painting, and when I did I prayed beforehand. When I work on any art, it is a prayer with the Holy Spirit, I ask Him for help and sometimes I can feel His guidance, sometimes I can’t, but the best is when I dive see the plan and it suddenly turns into something amazing and I can’t take credit for it. I went through a phase where nothing was working, these weird amalgamations of color sort of happened and took over everything I tried to make.

I hated them, and I felt so down on my work, Until a few months later, when I realized that the paintings resemble the crystals and nature art I love so much, but are all actually connected to God. I could not wait to buy every single one(but I had to because we were on a low income budget with toddlers. 🤦🏽‍♀️) What’s more is I already had them available to buy as tapestries. When I built my page on a website I didn’t even know had tapestries, I allowed them but it did not even occur to me that this was an answered prayer. Months later, in the middle of the night I woke up and realized I had created a line of bohemian tapestries that were rooted in God and not gods. The tapestries I needed 5 years ago. I laughed to myself once again about how the Holy Spirit works, and wrote this out for Him.

Selah

Note: This post is not meant to be a promotional post, but if you are interested in my tapestries they are available at https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/julia-odonnell

The Man in the Moon

What if God is the man in the moon?

What if He loved us so much that His Son’s

Presence was not enough of a present.

What if He wanted to send His own face,

To watch over us, mourning our grief from above.

Lie:The Problem with what John Cooper(of Skillet) said against Joshua Harris

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2019/august/we-need-to-value-truth-over-feeling-skillets-john-cooper-reacts-to-christian-leaders-renouncing-faith

I grew up in the shadow of Joshua Harris’ “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” The parents all around us were ecstatic and excited about this reverent and holy new way of dating, while I gazed on in horror and watched the future of my dating life crumble in the flames. You might think that sounds melodramatic, and, to be fair, this was my teen self, so it may have been, but if you knew the nights that my mom and I spent crying and screaming at each other, and how much time I spent crying into my pillow in confusion about sexuality and chastity, you would understand that it isn’t dramatic, if anything, it’s an understatement. I still deal with repercussions of the confusing anti-sex but pro-marriage theology put forth by those who adored Josh Harris and others like him.

When Harris came forward and renounced what he taught, admitting it’s flaws and being honest about the struggles and defeat it caused in his own life, I was devastated to hear the pain he is going through, but it healed my heart to hear him renounce it. I had lived by it because that’s what my parents and faith community believed was God’s word on dating, but I could see the damage it was doing while it was happening and I felt so helpless and confused by it. Harris humility in coming forward healed a part of me that had felt so ashamed of my own anger and confusion.

Much to my dismay, soon afterwards a singer I admire for his authenticity and raw honesty came out against Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson(the lead singer of Hillsong United who also admitted his struggles of faith.)

He said:

“Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once ‘faces’ of the faith are falling away. And at the same time, they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?)as they announce that they are leaving the faith.”

I was so disappointed in this. First of all, because I really like Skillet and I felt personally misunderstood because this was such a deep part of my experience. More importantly though, this is very dangerous thing for a Christian to say.

Here John Cooper is showing a profound misunderstanding of what Joshua Harris is experiencing, and giving way to some ways of thinking that could be very damaging to Christianity.

Something I find very powerful and admirable about what Joshua Harris did is that once he believed he had done something wrong, he did not repent and slink into darkness. Instead, he did everything he could do to right what he believed was wrong. John Cooper’s mockery of his ‘announcement’ completely takes for granted the pain that must have come along Joshua Harris’ experience. As someone who experienced a great deal of suffering because of him, it meant so much to me to hear him admit the problems in his work. What he gave everyone who had ever been hurt by him permission to do is to stop battling the fear that he was right, because he wasn’t so they can rest. That is so incredibly valuable and Cooper is devaluing it.

Cooper’s words about how people who ‘abandon’ their faith shouldn’t go talking about it is similarly insensitive and actually dangerous. On a human level, it is cruel to suggest that if you lose your faith after being an evangelist you should then be sentenced to a life of silence like some sort of permanent punishment for not believing.

More importantly, though, saying something like that calls into question the integrity of those who are teaching Christianity. Genuine testimony comes from the heart, from a real experience of God, especially in Protestant circles which is something I love about them. Cooper seems to be saying that those who are in ministry should only be public about certain experiences. That immediately makes me want to ask, is he being honest? If he believes he can’t speak out if he disagrees, can I trust when he says he does agree?

Now, I know on some level this isn’t really what he is trying to say. However, it does give an impression of cultivated truth that has been a struggle for me in the Church. Painting over Christian lives to make them look perfect and free of any doubt ever hurts ministry because people who are not of faith or who are struggling with faith can see this lack of authenticity. They may not know what it is or why, but they can feel it. I can feel it. When people push a Catholic to only write the positive things about godliness, or when people edited saints biographies to make them look perfect, or when authority figures tell teachers not to tell the truth, this all adds up to create a narrative of Christianity as full of unreliable narrators.

I would rather praise Joshua Harris for being genuine and authentic and pray that he keeps seeking truth than to condemn him for coming to a different truth than me. I believe God is truth and He will bring good out of our authenticity. On another level, part of the beauty of the Christian life is in conversion, and if one is not allowed to admit the feelings of doubt, or the suffering one is feeling in relation to the faith, it negates the possibility of sharing that story with others.bAfter my own miscarriage and some other trials, I was very honest about my trials with faith for a long, long time. These people also knew when I was fighting to get closer and when I felt like giving up. When I share my stories now, the know the blood, sweat, and tears that went into my conversion, and they understand that I am different than I was when I first believed. I had my phase of “la la la God is good,” Christianity, and a phase of “FEAR God” Christianity, and I am always journeying through deeper and newer understandings of faith and lacks of faith, but I could not share that story if I believed I could only share it when I was right. In fact, and a little ironically, for a long time I couldn’t write this post for that very reason.

Overall, I think something that Christians need to understand is that there is a profound value to allowing someone their own real life experience. God has given us free will for a reason and we all pursue truth in different ways and from different angles. There is something beautiful and perfect in that even when it scares us. I am not saying that everyone is right about everything, but we can’t just force everyone to share our opinions, instead we should encounter them where they are at, and try to help them through their experience. What if John Cooper were to put down his high horse, and write to Joshua Harris and say, “Hey man, I cannot imagine the pain you must be going through. More than a lot of other people I can understand what it feels like to be held up on a pedestal for my faith. Can I be here for you through this?” Maybe they could actually learn from each other and experience a profound community instead of Cooper seeming to shove Harris into forced isolation for struggling with faith the way that every Christian does at some point in their faith life.

Note: This post is not about John Cooper, I don’t know him he could be perfectly non-judgemental in real life. However, this particular incident is an example of the kind of things I have heard Christians say a million times and it is a great example to explain why this attitude is damaging. Please do not hate on John Cooper if you read this. If you are in a position to Joshua Harris some comfort and love though, be my guest. 🖤

Happy New Year 2020:2 Weeks Later

I am at that weird point a couple of weeks past the new year where it feels like all your resolutions were useless and stupid, and all the hopes of the New Year seem to be empty. 2019 was a war for me, and I was so excited for 2020. I felt in my bones that this year was going to be different, but the first day felt like a reality check. Social Media and daily life was full of reminders that people still die, the fall is still real. The 2020 pain was overwhelming and this year has not gotten off to the sparkling glitter that I was expecting. I gritted my teeth and told myself to manage my expectations and everything was going to be ok.

Today, I felt God reminding me that He does want abundance for us, and I felt the bitterness of the last few weeks working in my heart. A prayer thread I follow asked us to “Ask big” from God, and I felt a voice in me saying “why bother?” It was followed by the Gospel passages about Jesus feeding the 4000 and the 5000. Then, I watched a powerful meditation about nature and God and the ache of my desires weighed on me even harder. My little ones cried for daddy, reminding me how far we are from the together-more-often family life we are working towards.

There are times in life where we keep the faith even when everything around us looks impossibly dark. In 2019, I thought I was probably dying, I was in physical and emotional pain almost constantly. God and my faith in Him has worked so much in my life in the past year, and He has brought beauty from struggles I never would have imagined. I received and acted on life-changing opportunities and I am so incredibly grateful for them. Still though, doubt in Him creeps in so easily.

Maybe what we need to remember when we feel this way is that this is exactly what the serpent did to Eve. He made her believe that God does not want what’s best for us, and she believed Him. Over and over in my life I have been close to my dreams and I have given up because they were hard and I couldn’t see them ever working out, but last year, over and over I pushed through these terrifying times, and that’s when the Spirit took over. God worked in those moments when I felt like I could not go on. He didn’t always change everything, but He knew what I needed the most and He would fill that. He let me see over and over how He was working in stages so I would be ready for each step.

When Jesus came, He showed us the kind of love He and the Father want to show us. He healed the blind, the lame, the sick. He raised the dead. He comforted those who were hurting and fought for those who were marginalized. He sacrificed Himself to save us, but even in death He emerged victorious. He showed us that He has power over everything including death, and He wants to use it for us. It is true that there is still suffering, and even Jesus Himself suffered, but what God really wants for us is the abundance He brought with Him, not the suffering that is present in the world.

So today, though I’m feeling discouraged and lost, I will give that to God. I will remind myself of His goodness. I will be patient waiting for His goodness and I will continue to serve Him. A writer I admire wrote a prayer about her deepest struggles, “Lord, you can, but even if you don’t…” I am praying that prayer today while I fight for my dreams, and lay them at His feet. I pray that this year is a year of miracles, and that God heals every single person from the pain that is breaking their hearts. I pray that He frees us from the weight on our souls, and that He restores. Even if He doesn’t do it every single time for every single person though, I believe that He wants to, and in time He will. He will wipe away every tear. Continue to ask big from Him, even when it feels like He is not listening. Then, ask Him to pour His love on you in the meantime.

How to Pray about Same Sex Marriage

A few months ago, I went to a Rosary event at a parish in my city. It was a gorgeous day out, a farmer’s market down the street, and a small gathering of people in the square of the parish praying the Rosary for the Nation. It was a really beautiful experience and I kept thinking what a great witness it was. That is, until we reached a certain set of prayer intentions. One of the prayer intentions was “for an end to same sex marriage” and my heart broke. All I could think was that if someone who experienced same-sex attraction had come up to that Rosary in the square, it would only have taken 10 minutes for them to feel like they do not belong there.

Don’t take me the wrong way, I understand that the Church teaches that same sex marriage is wrong. I am not arguing that point right now. What I am arguing is that even if the Church does believe that homosexuality is wrong there are better ways to pray about it, especially in an event that is meant to evangelize.

The first and most important problem with this prayer is that to someone who is same-sex attracted it is a prayer that they will never get to experience the committed love that straight people do. (Again, not arguing whether it is right or wrong at this point, just arguing points of view.) Can you imagine being drawn to a beautiful prayer service, only to hear them pray that you could never get married? How would that make you feel? All I could think was what a punch in the gut that would be. What’s worse is that they already have to deal with so much from the world, people acting like they are worthless, and in that moment, I can only imagine it would feel like God hated them too.

I closed my eyes and continued the prayer in my head, “Lord Jesus, if same-sex marriage is wrong, then take away their desire for same-sex marriage. If it is not, than help the Church and the world to understand and embrace them. Lord, if you get rid of same-sex marriage, then comfort these people who will feel so lonely and abandoned.” I’m sure there would be LGBTQ people who would be displeased with the prayer because it allowed for the possibility of same sex marriage being wrong, and Catholics would object to it because it allowed for the possibility of it not being wrong, but my point is that right or wrong was not the point for me in that moment. The point was that if this prayer got answered, people would suffer. Whether it is right or wrong, their hearts would be broken, at least for a time, and we were praying for that break as if we did not care about the people who would feel it at all.

We need to remember compassion when we pray for intentions like these. We need to remember that there are people who genuinely do not believe they are doing something wrong and yet will feel shunned by this kind of prayer. I am not saying that the prayer I prayed is quite the right way to say it, because it is just what came into mind at the moment. I do think, though, that if Catholics are going to pray for an end to same sex marriage, then we have to pray for healing for all of the people that would hurt. In the same way, whenever we pray for something that may hurt other people in some way, even if we believe it is for their greater good, we must also pray for protection and/or healing for them.

To be honest, I even do this when I pray for snow days now. “Jesus, I would love a snow day today, but please protect everyone and if I need to not have a snow day in order that people will be safe I accept that.” It’s cheesy, but true. 😉 (Yes, I pray for snow days, my husband works long days and I’m home alone with two toddlers, 8-0 ) On a more serious note, I also recommend this if you are praying for an end to abortion, because there are a lot of scared women out there who are desperate and feel like they do not have a choice, so if abortion is not an option, they are going to need some serious help from God and from us. I also pray this way when I am angry at someone and praying for resolution, I’ve been praying for whoever is working on my taxes for the last 10 months of trying to get my tax refund.

To put it all simply, if you are going to pray for something that may hurt others, pray for protection and healing for those people too. Ask God to comfort and help them if His will is to answer your prayer, and be there for them yourself. Most of all, please, if you are evangelizing to people, do not start out with condemning them ten minutes in, there are some teachings of the Church that are really, really hard to understand, and it takes a long time to appreciate or even accept them, but compassion and love are the most important things to know about our God, and that is how we should start the conversation, with His love, and ours because of Him.

Amen.






Longing for God’s Will: What did Mary Know

In my advent journal this week there was a meditation about how Mary “longed for what God was asking of her.” The meditation referred to how Mary asked “be it done unto me according to Thy Word,” when the Angel Gabriel told her she would be the Mother of God. It continued to talk about how Mary’s yes would have been a continuation of other yes’s in her life; that she would have had a habit of saying yes to God’s will for her. The combination of the two thoughts made me curious, was Mary longing for this her whole life? What if the Angel Gabriel was the answer to a calling she had always felt?

According to some historians, Joan of Arc always knew she would be a great soldier, but no one believed her. It would not have made sense to believe her at the time, women did not fight. Yet when God called her to be a soldier, Joan said, “I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” The Angel Gabriel tells Mary not to be afraid when he appears to her, and today, the Immaculate Conception feast day, we celebrate our belief that she was born to do this, so it doesn’t seem too out of touch to suppose that maybe Mary knew just as Joan of Arc did, though perhaps she would not have said anything because if people wouldn’t believe Joan of Arc was destined to be a soldier, how could we expect them to believe Mary would be the Virgin Mother of God?

Often, Mary is described as this kind of perfect blank canvas, as if the only good thing about her was that she was nothing at all except open to God, but that is not what Catholics believe we are meant to be, so why do we expect that of Mary? I believe she was a real person with emotions, passions, and desires, and meditating on her longing for God’s will in her life, really helps me to imagine who she would have been. God uses our desires to guide us towards His will, so I wonder if we can learn about her through what He asked of her.

We know very little of Mary, basically that she was a consecrated virgin, betrothed to a widower, from a quiet family and town. Based on what God would eventually ask of her, I wonder, did she long for a child? Did she allow herself to be consecrated knowing that she wanted a child? Did she know that she would have a child even though she was consecrated? Did she know her child was going to be God Himself before the Angel told her?

I keep imagining that she did long for a child and she knew there would be something important about Him, although maybe not the fullness of it. I keep thinking what courage it would have taken to consecrate her virginity knowing that she had that desire. Many times in life, I have had experiences when it seemed like there was no hope for what I really wanted, but then God pulled it out of thin air in a way I never could have guessed, and I keep wondering if that is what happened to Mary. Over and over again I have heard the same story, people have a desire that seems absolutely crazy, but God fulfills in a grander more amazing way than anyone could ever have imagined. What a deep meaning that would lend to the Magnificat? Was Mary filled with gratitude for an answer to prayers she had prayed her whole life long?

What do you think? How do you imagine Mary before her story in Scripture begins? What do you think she was thinking and feeling when the Angel Gabriel came to her?

The Hierarchy of Suffering

This meme has been going around like wildfire lately. It expresses the common idea that the way not to judge others for their struggles is to think that maybe they are not as strong as you are. On the surface, the intention is great. The idea is to encourage people not to judge others’ suffering. Every time I see it though, or hear someone express the idea it visualizes, I get so frustrated about the more subtle issue with this idea.

In the picture, one dog is smaller than the other dog. There’s nothing wrong with that, he’s a Jack Russell terrier, they are meant to be smaller than a Golden Retriever. Of course, the mud comes up much farther on the Jack Russell Terrier than it does on the Golden Retriever because the Golden is taller. In the same way, many people comfort others who compare their struggles to others saying, “Maybe God gave you this cross because you are strong enough to carry it,” “Maybe she just couldn’t handle what you are going through,” and other variants of you-must-be-stronger-than-them-because-their-struggle-is-smaller-than-yours. That’s where I struggle.

There is this idea that there is a hierarchy of suffering. My dislocated elbow is not as intense as my friends breast cancer, my post-partum depression is worse than someone else’s anxiety, etc etc and so on. It leads to a kind of competition about suffering. There are real life consequences to this competition-who gets taken care of in a hospital, who is allowed to talk about their struggles, who doesn’t get judged for being tired, who gets help from friends or the Church. To be fair, we live in a world of limited resources, so to a certain extent this can be avoided, and to a certain extent there is a hierarchy of suffering, no one would argue that a paper cut or a dislocated elbow is as bad as cancer.

However, I do think that the hierarchy of suffering is much more complicated than we might think. There are so many unknown factors that go into suffering that sometimes a seemingly small thing can be monumental and something really big can be nothing. When I had a placental abruption and ended up in the hospital terrified that my baby and I were going to die and then went through a terrifying labor, it was honestly far less terrifying than the experience I had with my dislocated elbow, as ironic as that is. Recovering from the elbow has been actually much more difficult than recovering from what should have been a much more difficult trauma.

The reason for this is that there are countless factors that contribute to how intense pain and suffering feels. Researchers are finding more and more just how many things affect how the brain perceives pain. There are whole industries and books based on all the different ways we can affect the pain in our bodies.

As far as my example above about birth vs. my elbow, there are some big obvious differences. I got a baby out of the equation, not so with my elbow. I did fear for my life in a way I didn’t need to with my elbow. However, I DID fear for my life with my elbow, because I have already been struggling with Post Partum Anxiety that has been debilitating, and I wasn’t struggling with that as intensely during labor. This was not helped by the fact that when I fell I was actively praying, and it seemed like an answer to a prayer, which felt like God was a God of wrath who hated me, sending me into a terrified circle of spiritual crisis that haunted me the whole night, while the doctors and nurses encouraged me with prayer during labor.

Another huge difference is the care I got. When I went to the hospital for my placental abruption, I had been reading Hypnobabies which works really hard on preparing women to communicate with their doctors. Because of that I was able to communicate my anxiety and physical worries in a rational way, and did not feel guilty for forcing doctors and nurses to stop and listen to me if I felt like they were rushing. On top of that though, immediately when I got to the hospital, the nurses attending heard my requests and needs and did their best to meet them, even when they were silly. When I dislocated my elbow, the nurse immediately denied every request I had, rolled her eyes at me, and communicated her annoyance to a doctor who came to help. No other nurses came in contact with me until much later.

I believe the care I got for my elbow is a consequence of exactly what I am discussing in this post. A dislocated or broken elbow is nothing in the grand scheme of things. I am aware of that. I am aware that much much worse things happen to people every day. But the care I got reminded me of that every second of my struggle. Every second I felt reminded me, “you don’t matter because it’s not your femur, it’s not cancer, it’s not blood.”

I was also dehydrated, hungry and away from my baby while breastfeeding. All things I didn’t realize until much later, but that are probably the explanation for the random cold sweats and hormonal shifts that turned into panic attacks that plagued me all night on top of everything else, and probably made the care I got worse because the nurses couldn’t see what was happening so it just looked like anxiety to them.

When I dislocated my elbow, I had a veritable cocktail of things that are known to make pain worse, while during labor I had many that are known to make it better. On the surface and on paper the elbow should be nothing. Anyone comparing the two would have said that labor was worse, but after the traumatic labor I was joyful and relieved and felt invincible; after my elbow I felt that there was no hope in life, angry, and worthless.

My point is that what someone’s suffering looks like on the outside may be nothing compared to what it looks like on the inside. The assumption that someone’s pain is not as intense as yours, or you are just stronger than they are dismisses the fact that you have no idea what is going on in their story. You have no idea what is making their pain worse or better or different than yours. I think it’s comforting to us to feel like our pain is better than someone else’s because then our needs deserve to get validated, but that’s just part of the competition. We need to feel like our pain is enough to be worth taking care of, so we have to put down other peoples because it highlights how bad our own pain is. The problem is that that affects how we take care of the other person, and how we view them, as well as how we describe their problem to others and help them to get help. Their suffering grows and our need to justify our own gets more intense too.

I want to live in a world where we recognize that everyone’s suffering matters. In the Gospel, when Jesus was carrying His cross, about to be murdered in arguably the most monstrous way possible, He stopped to talk to weeping women. He told them not to weep for Him, but for their children. I have heard some say that He is telling them to weep for sins, but the way He says it tells me that isn’t the case. I believe He was genuinely expressing compassion for the suffering that women experience, while He was on the road that we would say is the worst suffering imaginable. I would like a world where everyone does that, where everyone accepts that we are all on an unimaginably and sometimes unbearable journey, where we accept our own suffering and that of others as worthy of healing, no matter what it is, where we acknowledge that our struggles do not make us better or worse than anyone else, just different. Then, we would have a spirit of sorrow for everyone’s tears even if we didn’t understand why it was so hard. We could show the same amount of compassion for someone who had to wait at the DMV as someone who got crushed in a car accident. We could heal all the big hurts and all the little ones too.

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