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. 🖤

PEACEWEAVER intro

This lent, I had another identity crisis. I know, I know, every lent this happens right? Well, I ended up signing my life away that I would no longer do yoga and instead teach an alternative. Ironically, everytime I tried to send the papers, something went wrong. Every. Single. Time. Finally I sent them. You know what happened? Two weeks later I found the page with my signature in my scanner. 🤦🏽‍♀️ Also ironically, I had over and over again seen the Bible passage “let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no.” I saw it again Holy Saturday and I realized. I hated this alternative. I was trying to force myself into it because I was afraid I was wrong about everything, but I hated it so much! What I believe God was calling me to, and I want to share how, is being authentic to myself and what I believe about yoga, the Church, and ministry.

The truth is I love yoga. I sincerely believe in what yoga can do and can teach. I believe in a deep and profound beauty about the Sanskrit language and the way they developed it, and the way that the yogic postures emerged from that. I believe in the cultivation of peace and acceptance that I have found in my yoga circles. Though it is controversial to believe this, I sincerely believe that there are ways that those who practice yoga are genuinely reaching towards the same God that Christians are.

One thing I did learn, though, is that I got a little carried away with yogic spirituality. There are things the Christians need to be careful about in yoga. Our God is a jealous God, not the negative jealousy that might come up in your head when you say it, but if we believe in a God that loves us 100% and with the amount of passion and intimacy that I believe He does, then it only makes sense that He would desire us to love Him back. If you were in a beautiful marriage with someone(for those who believe in polyamory, please understand the point I am making, I am not trying to exclude you, just making an example) showering them with gifts all the time, spending quiet time with them every chance you got, wouldn’t it hurt if they started doing the same things with someone else? Especially someone who hates you? That’s a huge simplification, and we will get into it more, but, although I was not actually praising other gods, things got a little murky for me, and it’s easy to get a little lost in yoga’s philosophy or in the spirituality of those who practice it.

This brings me to the most important thing I want to say. Many Catholics talk about how so many people who do yoga fall away from the Church. They argue that this is a sign that that yoga truly is evil and the devil has a hold on the people practicing it. This makes me so angry, and not because I am so devoted to yoga that it’s more important to me than God. It makes me angry because the argument shows a gross misunderstanding of why yoga leads people away from the Church, and what we can do about it.

I really turned to yoga at a time when I was suffering from a kind of loss that I had never experienced before. The kind that rips you up from the inside out. I had tried turning to the Church over and over and I had been shamed, ridiculed, and accidentally made to feel like I was less valuable of a person because of what I was experiencing(it was not because of a sin). My yoga studio was the one place in the world where I was accepted. When I went to Cambio, I was not a broken person who needed to fix x, y, z. I was just a person who needed to exist.

Some Catholics take issue with that, because they say we should always be pursuing more, and yes we should always be pursuing holiness, but Jesus did not demand this constant new and more intense to chase holiness everyday. Jesus wanted a relationship with people, and He wanted us to experience happiness, and rest. Yes, He wanted his apostles to minister to others, and He said there would be suffering, but He also made wine at Cana, and fed 5000 people so much food that they couldn’t eat any more. This is not a good who wants us to beat ourselves to death with efforts to love Him.

What yoga did for me, is exactly what the name claims to do. “Yoga” means union, or “yoked” or something similar depending on your translation. The intention behind it, is to unite body, mind, and spirit, and yes a part of that intention is to connect to what most of them call ‘the divine.’ For me, it did all of those things, including connecting me with my understanding of who is ‘Divine.’ I learned ways that God was reaching out to early yogis long before any Christians could have come to them. I learned to accept my own body again after feeling betrayed by its weakness. I learned to rest again in a way I had not done in a long time, and with that rest I was able to pray again and sort through the pain I was so overwhelmed by.

As I healed, I was met with so much scorn by the Catholics I know. I cannot even count how many dirty looks or awkward mentions of evil happened around me. I earnestly tried to help those around me to understand, but it felt like they believed I was the spawn of Satan. I cried to a priest one day in confession, “I just feel like maybe I can never belong, but I want to.” His answer, “Why don’t you just leave?”(We weren’t even talking about yoga, this was about an election, but yoga was a huge part of my struggle.)

My point in bringing this up isn’t to say that all priests are awful, or everyone Catholic is judgemental. That is not true at all. However, there is a very vocal part of Catholicism that is not always kind, and frequently even when they are kind they can be really hurtful. The problem with a lot of these people is that they do not really understand the topic they are talking about. They have no experience of the other side, and sometimes they don’t really understand Church teaching on the topic either. There are parts of Catholic theology that get interpreted and thought of in a certain way when there is no real reason for them to be interpreted that way in the first place. It’s problematic because some of these teachings are so intense that they can really hurt people.

That brings me back to my purpose for writing this in the first place. This is a little sneak peek into a little something I am starting work on today. It is called PEACEWEAVER, and it is my story of what I have been through with yoga, but more importantly I hope to help both sides to understand each other. I’ll dive deep into what Catholic teaching says about yoga, but also what the history of yoga is. I will also talk about the ways the Church is not reaching people who love yoga, and most importantly, how they can find new ways to do so. I am passionate about helping people who love yoga to find peace with God, but also to help people who are concerned about yoga to understand what they should and should not be concerned about, and how they can grow closer to their loved ones who do love yoga.

Note: I hope to share excerpts here occasionally as I move through, but if I share too much, you’d have no reason to get the book, so, I won’t share everything. If you disagree with me, I would ask that you please send me your resources, tell me your story, help me to understand your side, and then maybe give me a chance to tell you mine too. I believe that we all are trying to do our best here, and I care about the truth.

Also, please let me know what you would like to see in a book on this topic. Whatever your point of view. ♥️

Disclaimer: This work is not meant to be an endorsement of yoga for Catholics or the opposite. All of us must discern what is right for ourselves. I want to share my story, and my understanding of both sides of the story to encourage understanding on both sides of the issue.

In the Name of Unity: A Seder Meal

Many, many years ago today, the tribe of Israel, living in Egypt, hid in their homes, the blood of the lamb on the door, as a plague passed over them. Many, but less, years ago, Jesus, the Lamb, hid in an upper room, so that He could feed us before He shed His blood. Many years later, faithful people everywhere still commemorate this day. This year is different. This year, we are living this day. We are hidden in our homes, as the Hebrews were, and as the disciples were at first. This year we have an opportunity to be united as God’s faithful people in a very special way.

The tribe of Israel was chosen to be God’s people from the very beginning of time, according to Scripture. However, in the New Testament, we see Jesus welcoming new people, the Gentiles, into His tribe. The descendants of Israel must have been so angry. “You chose us, and now you abandon us, for them?” They had judged the Gentiles harshly and now they were the Messiah’s favorite? It’s no wonder, on a human level, that they did not accept Him.

What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that theologically, Catholics still believe Israel is the chosen people. Fulton Sheen talks about this in detail in The World’s First Love, but to summarize, Jesus said He came to fulfill the law not to abolish it, so what Catholics believe is that Jesus did not change who God’s tribe was, He welcomed more people into God’s tribe. We are His adopted children, because Israel turned from Him. However, Fulton Sheen says, we are still to believe that the Jews have a special place in God’s heart, and he even talks about the prophecy that before the end of time, the Jews will convert and we will all be united. All of this is why it is still so important that we pray and study the Old Testament. 

This year, I believe God has given us an opportunity to feel this unity in a more powerful way than we ever have. This year, we are hidden in our homes praying for a plague to pass us by. Some have even suggested putting red on the door posts somehow,( I have yet to figure out how I want to do this, painting the whole doorpost feels a little rash, and we don’t own the house, and I don’t have red ribbon.) What I would like to suggest is that we take time to live what we have in common. Today, on Passover, let us commemorate with the Jews as they remember waiting for the plague to pass over them, and let us all pray for this plague to pass over us. If it helps you to visualize it, maybe you could put something red on your doors. 

The most important and beautiful thing we have in common tonight, though, is the meal. Tonight, the Jews hold “seder meal” a special meal in commemoration of the Passover. Christians too, all Christians-not just Catholics, also have a special meal to commemorate tonight. Tonight, Jesus instituted the Eucharist, whether you theologically believe it is a symbol, or actual presence, or in remembrance, all Christians believe that this bread and wine is significant. Jesus did not institute this meal on the Passover on accident. On the feast of unleavened bread, He offered the unleavened bread(that’s why our hosts for Communion are made the way they are) up as His body, so that we would not miss the analogy He was making. The Jews used to sacrifice a lamb, He offers His body and His blood so that we will not miss that He is the new lamb. We don’t do animal sacrifice because Jesus came to replace the lamb. 

Tonight, then, what if we all in unity offered the seder meal. For tonight, we could meditate on what we have in common and share the tradition of unleavened bread and wine. Jews, Catholics and Christians alike believe in the importance of the bread, so maybe we all can eat some kind of bread in commemoration of this night. If you don’t have bread or wine, maybe just take some today to meditate on the meaning of this day, and live today in a different way than any other. 

For those who are not Catholic or Christian or Jewish, I know you are a little left out of this post, please know that I see you, and I want unity with you too. There are many divisions in this world, and one of the reasons I write is to help people see common ground. We have common ground with you too, I just have to shed light into one spot at a time. 💚

Recoil

Here’s a poem inspired by a scrupulousity spiral yesterday

Recoil

I read a meditation
And it said,
“Picture yourself
Among the crowd
That crucified Jesus.
A few Easters ago
I cringed
When the Gospel instructed,
[Crowd speaks]
Crucify Him.
I trembled.

In the name of guilt
We daydream we are
Murderers of God
The worst sinners we could be
But I am not evil.
I spent my entire life
Trying not to be
So I don’t want to pretend I am.

If I were there,
I would be screaming
Crying my heart out of my chest
I wish I would rise up
Or be a help to Him instead.
I’d like to imagine I’m Veronica
And touch His loving face,
Or Simon and graze His arm
With love while I helped Him
With His Cross.

Don’t tell me I’m a monster
And my sin’s same as murder.
I love my Savior with all I am.
He chose to be crucified for me
Because He loves me
I will not punish myself
For every mistake
And make it all my fault
This isn’t about me
It was for me,
And that takes Him away.

Original Sin

When I gave birth the third time,

Everyone told me what a perfect birth it was.

They marveled at how calm and “unafraid” I was,

How I “roared” my baby earthside.

I’ve ached in that lie for a while now,

Lost in their awe and my own despair.

What they didn’t know is that

While they were calling me calm and unafraid,

I was facing the endless exile of humanity

With trepidation, anger, and despair.

While they were resting and calm,

My head bowed over the water’s edge

And realized nothing will save me.

This is an effect of original sin.

My husband leaves every morning for hours,

Like so many other husbands.

He’s far away, but not as far as many others;

I’m not blind to my own privilege.

He feels so far away to me though,

A piece of my heart leaves with him,

And the hole aches inside of me.

But, “the man shall work…

and the woman will long for her man.”

They tell me, “it could be so much worse,”

My own voices, and others sometimes,

And I know they are right.

I am lucky to be alive, lucky for my family,

Blessed even.

But they are missing the point.

It’s not about my pain being so horrible,

It’s about pain being horrible.

It’s not that my struggles are the worst,

It’s that they are the least.

It’s not a little pain,

It’s the largest pain there is.

It’s the anger, it’s the fear, it’s the hope,

In the face of a God who will not relent.

Or sometimes won’t. It depends….

On what?

On His mood? On my merit?

If God shall number our sins,

“Lord, who can stand,”

But if God does not hear our merits,

Lord, who can stand that either.

Eve may have fallen, and so have we,

But we have also begged you to return.

We have made you king.

We have fallen again and gotten lost

In this terrifying world you have created,

But we have come back to you and we have begged you to return,

No more to go away.

But you won’t hear us, Lord.

Please forgive me, my anger Lord,

My heart breaks over nothing, I know.

My heart breaks for the whole world,

I cry for days over a 6 month old boy I never met,

I break in half over a family who loses their father and almost their mother.

I shatter over shootings, over bombs, over countries, over worlds,

That cry out like violent small humans for your help.

Oh God see us in our weakness and have mercy on us.

We are so desperate for your love we are destroying each other,

God, we want you in your fullness,

We just don’t know it yet,

Have mercy on our misguided attempts to find you.

Reveal yourself, and hold us until we stop crying,

Like a mother with a flailing infant,

Hold us in our fear, despair, rage,

While I kick my legs against you and scream,

Hold me and receive my tears,

Understand that I am lost in your exile,

And I just want You to come home.

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.

I’m not LGBTQ, but I don’t Belong Either

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/08/18/churches-need-less-tradition-more-flexibility-welcome-teens-column/2011731001/

This article and others like it have been posted and talked about on my online and in person Catholic groups over and over again. There’s always a couple of people kindly talking about it and then the avalanche of more traditional Catholics who start mocking the author and saying, “Oh they just want the Church to be open to whatever, be ok with doing anything, anything goes, they just don’t like rules.” It’s so frustrating to me because they get so caught up on deciding that this girl is a sinner and therefore shouldn’t get to belong in the Church, in their eyes, that they forget that this girl is a PERSON, and God loves people.

Catholicism is not an exclusive club for the perfect people, though it is often treated that way. I think a lot of people like the idea that they are the people who are “right” they are “God’s people” and everyone else is wrong. There is something liberating to that, I get it, that makes you one of the ones making it through the narrow gate, as it says in Scripture, and “they” are the evil ones.

Let me just come forward now and say, I always felt like I didn’t belong. I wasn’t doing something wrong. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was a praying the rosary daily, offering it up, making sacrifices, going to Mass, and being kind kid, teenager, adult. I was M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E. I was terrified of doing something wrong and God would hate me, I was shunned in multiple Christian groups, once for a rumor because I quoted a sex joke on MySpace-so that all made all rumors about me true, once because I danced at Homecoming(no I didn’t grind but that’s what everyone thought), once because they thought I was on birth control, when I had really had miscarriages. I was HATED by the Church no matter how hard I tried to do things right.

I cannot tell you how many times I have raged about what a horrible place the Catholic Church is, and I am not one of the people who are just made because they don’t want to follow the rules. Stop blaming it on some public sin, or then not being good enough. The Church, as it stands right now, is not a welcoming place. There are Churches that are welcoming, there are a few groups that are welcoming, but they are few and far between and the hurt we are causing is monstrous.

The Church has a huge power, and that is to connect people with God, or to disconnect them from Him. My friends are falling away because they do not feel welcome or loved. I have wanted to fall away because I often do not feel welcome or loved. At my amazing Alma Mater, Ave Maria University, I met people who taught me that God is love, and He wants us unconditionally, and any rules He makes for us are to help us to live better lives. That God is a God who finds ways to heal people whether it is in Mass or not, He finds ways to help people, even if it’s a walk in nature. That is the God St. Paul talked about in Scripture when he talked about “easing burdens” for the people.

If it were not for that experience, and some that I am happy to be having right now, I would not be Catholic anymore. I would have run as far away from the Church as I can. Instead, I cling to what I can find of the God I recognize as a God of love, and I try to bring Him to others. I do not shame the people I know who have left because I have felt their pain, and I have seen how they have been hurt. And, for better or worse, I point out what the Church is doing wrong, because I pray and hope that one day Gods mercy and love will be what people think of when they think of the Church, and not anger and hate.

Mother Teresa, who ministered to all faiths, and saw the pain humanity is in, pray for us.

Yes, The World Needs God, But Not Like That

A couple of weeks ago, there was a shooting in Texas that just devastated me. A couple days before I watched The Hate You Give, which rocked me as well. Both of these events are on the heels of, and preceding so many horrible tragedies and fearful events happening all over they world lately. I find myself desperate for God’s love to be present in our culture. However, I immediately feel guilty and annoyed at this sentiment, which then makes me feel guilty and annoyed for feeling guilty and annoyed at that. I caught myself thinking at one point, “The world just needs God,” and immediately rolled my eyes at myself. That phrase is one I have heard a thousand times, and it’s one that makes me instantly angry and I disagree with, even though I technically agree with the sentiment.

The problem with the phrase “The World Needs God” is that most people who use this phrase mean it in a very particular way. “The World Needs God” means that the world needs people who believe the same thing I believe, teach the way I teach. Mostly, what it really means is “the world needs people who follow all the rules I believe in.”

In my experience, the people who use this phrase are often the same ones who talk about how “the homosexuals are taking over” and they are going “ruin the family” or are hateful towards mothers who are thinking about abortion, or who are unkind to a woman because her skirt is one inch too short. What they mean by “The World Needs God” has nothing to do with who God is as a person, and everything to do with who they believe He demands every person to be. These are the same people who talk about how the Church is getting smaller and that’s a good thing because all the lukewarm people are being weeded out.

What I mean when I say “The World Needs God” is something very different than the above. What I mean when I say it, is that the world needs UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. The world needs a force of love and acceptance that heals wounds on contact. The world needs tenderness, thoughtfulness, kindness, respect, and love. The world needs something that is more powerful than itself that can radically help people suffering in an unkind world. When I say “The World Needs God” I mean it in a desperate plea for an outpouring of love and mercy that can heal the hurts that are far too big for any one person to heal.

I’ve had many eyes rolled at me for making this distinction. “Oh but rules are important too.” Sure. Yes. How we act is important. But what did Jesus do when He came? Did He come down and look for people doing wrong so He could make them feel bad about themselves every day? Do you think He would’ve been invited to dine with the sinners every night if He had? He talked to people about sin when they hurt others, or when they already knew what they needed to change. Far more than that, He worked miracles in their lives, He touched people, He was kind to people when no one else would be kind to them.

What would the world look like if Christians stopped talking about who doesn’t belong and who’s not good enough and started letting everyone know that God wants them? What if we looked for the abandoned and lonely and told them they were worthy? What if we healed people, touched people, embraced people? What if we were happier with a loud bustling Church than a quiet perfectly fine Mass?

I have seen churches where this happens and it changes everything.

So yes, the world needs God, but not a God who only shames every person who comes to Him. The world needs Jesus who loves people where they are at, and guides them tenderly to their best self.

T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. Part II: The Babies

Just to clarify; This may not have been what Tupac meant, but this is what keeps coming to me when I think of this line. A post closer to what he meant is in part one.

The

Hate

You

Give

Little

Infants

Fucks

Everyone.

I’m going to write about something I don’t particularly like to write about.

Abortion.

I know, you’re rolling your eyes, so am I every time I read another of these posts.

Oh great, here’s another hateful post talking about how our society are killers, and we are evil.

Look, that’s not fair. Abortion is a very complicated subject because for centuries we were not able to get much information about babies in the womb. Even St. Thomas Aquinas wrote an article that could be used as a defense of abortion. He said that the soul joined the body at birth. Well, if that’s the case, then technically according to the philosophical definition of a human body as a body soul composite, then it wouldn’t really be considered a human until birth.

The problem, for lack of a better word, is that we have a lot more information now. We have seen babies shy away from the instruments used for abortion. We have seen babies born at 21 weeks and LIVE, even if not for long.

I do not believe we are a society of killers, I do not believe that pro-choice people are murderers. I do, however, believe that these children are in pain. I also am starting to believe there are consequences sometimes to actions we don’t understand.

Just some consequences of abortion are:

Struggling in motherhood is not respected or valued in the same way as it could be, because we had the power to end it, so people don’t need to help mothers because they will just condemn them and say they shouldn’t have had a kid in the first place.

There are women who are suffering because they chose not to have their own child, and now their bodies and minds cry out for their baby who is missing. (This is a real struggle that happens to moms who have had abortions, not necessarily all but enough to be a serious suffering that people are enduring.)

There are men who have made children who will never get to meet them.

There are children who know that someone in this world did not want them to exist before they were even born. That is a horrible feeling to grow up with.

Our society is in a social war and constantly talking about the death of children, what does that do to a collective consciousness?

The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone.

I don’t think anyone would deny we are a culture in pain. I would not go so far as to say abortion is the only reason, but I don’t think it’s helping the situation. If babies are supposed to be our hope for the future, then what happens when we end then before they begin?

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