ENOUGH! One Sister’s Thoughts on Orlando

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In the wake of the horrific terrorist hate crime perpetrated in Orlando last weekend, I have felt overcome, broken, outraged, and sometimes numb. I have been stunned by the silence from some who have failed to acknowledge this massacre for what it is. But I have also been uplifted by the outpouring of love for this community, both from inside its ranks and from outside. Heroes of mine have stood up in recent days, spreading love, promoting inclusion, AND relentlessly calling for change. People like Glennon Doyle Melton, Sen. Cory Booker, Diana Butler Bass, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and many others have spoken up, not just for gun control, but for LGBTQIA people everywhere who have been violated by the blood that was shed in their place of sanctuary.

As far as I know, I have never met any of the precious lives we lost that night, yet in some ways, I feel almost as heartbroken as if I had. These good human beings were sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, friends and family. They were our brothers and sisters through this beautiful, terrible life.
They loved and were loved. They did not deserve this. No one deserves this.

They were killed because they loved differently than some people want to understand. They were killed for the hatred bandied about by so-called faith leaders over the centuries they’ve spent misreading religious texts and spreading exclusion and persecution of the LGBTQIA community.

 They were killed by a society that puts guns before the lives of its citizens. They were killed by a radicalized follower of an extremely hateful sect of an otherwise peaceful religious community.

They were killed in their place of sanctuary–a place this community has relied on as a safe space for a very long time. 

They were killed while celebrating their love and affection for their fellow human beings.

So tell me, America:

How have we gotten so far gone that we fight for the “armed militia” part of the second amendment, but disregard the “well regulated” piece?

How have we gotten to the point where the right to own a weapon outweighs preserving HUMAN lives?

When did we decide that we would fight for the lives of unborn babies, but would do nothing to protect them from mass killings after they’re born?

When did we decide that protecting the right to own a tool of death overrules the right to LIFE?

These questions are rhetorical, of course.

My fifth grade teacher was very clear about the importance of learning COMMON SENSE. She would call you out in front of the entire class for failing to display it. I was called out a few times because my head was in the books instead of in the classroom. She was right to call me out. She was right to instill in us the ability to think critically and show common sense.

So I’m calling out the Congress of the United States of America on their lack of common sense: Get your collective shit together and do something. Ban assault weapons AND/OR stop allowing people suspected of terrorism to buy weapons AND/OR require stringent background checks. DO SOMETHING.

Okay, fine, this is a “heart problem” (whatever that means), but make no mistake: it’s ALSO a gun problem. This is BOTH/AND, not either/or. DO SOMETHING meaningful to help prevent another Pulse, Mother Emmanuel, Sandy Hook, or any of the other hundreds upon hundreds of U.S. based mass shootings in recent years that have stolen precious life from this Earth.

And before you start thumping your bible at me, please recall that Christ loved ALL THE PEOPLE.

Let me repeat that because it is crucial: Jesus Christ loved ALL. THE. PEOPLE. 

Recall that Jesus commanded us above all else to love God and love our neighbors (even if they’re our enemies). He loved his neighbors and enemies so much that he DIED a horrifying death for them.

Recall that Christ reached out to those on the margins of society, consistently going against popular religious wisdom, including scripture.

Recall that one of the last things he told his disciples was to put their weapons away. He reminded them that, “All those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

Well, as usual, he’s right, except that now it’s assault riflestools expressly created to killwhich can do a hell of a lot more damage in a fraction of the time.

And while we’re at it: God did not promise you a gun at your conception. That is not one of your rights as a human. It just isn’t. It was a right thought up by a group of white men who had LITERALLY just fought for their lives and independence in a bloody war that took place hundreds of years ago.

If you value your guns more than you value the lives of your fellow human beings, I implore you to do some serious soul searching.

There is nothing more important than our call to love.Literally nothing. Not religion. Not doctrine. Not philosophy. Not race. Not sexual orientation. Not gender. Not class. Not ethnicity. And certainly not guns. Love crosses all boundaries. Love bears all things. Love hopes all things. Love is our highest, noblest call. How will they know that we are Christians? Say it with me: They will know us by our LOVE.

If your brand of love doesn’t extend to all the people, ask yourself why.

Perhaps you disagree. That’s cool. Well-meaning people can disagree. But in the meantime: I’ll just be over here loving all the people–including you–because love wins.

Grace and peace.

And if you want to know what to do, Glennon has covered that very well over here. Go! Join us! Write your elected officials! Get involved in the push to end gun violence. Enough is enough.

Why I Don’t Eat Animals

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I went fully vegan and mostly gluten-free in January right before my return to seminary.

The first inklings that I would eventually be vegan came early on. For as long as I can remember, driving past the cow pastures and seeing trucks full of chickens, cows, and pigs really bothered me. I knew where they were probably headed and it bothered me that I’d just seen a particular type of animal and suddenly that animal’s flesh appeared on my plate.

I remember one particular instance when it felt acutely painful. We were on a family vacation to New England and were eating lobster at every stop. Most of the restaurants let you choose your lobster. So I would look at these sad little lobsters who were basically like cows headed to slaughter and think, “Nope, I can’t do it.” But as long as I didn’t choose the lobster, I was able to eat them. Guiltily. Choosing, again, to close my eyes to the torture of the animal so that I could enjoy a tasty meal.

And then, sometime in August of 2013, it changed.

That’s the thing about life: experience shapes you. If you’re lucky, it may even radically change you.

I went pescatarian (no meat except seafood) on August 14, 2013–a decision made primarily for my health. Meat was terribly difficult to digest. As a person with lupus, I have flare-ups of gastroparesis (basically a kind of stomach paralysis). Fibrous foods and those high in fat can pose a real challenge.

I also began questioning whether dead flesh was really a very nourishing food. Why are we supposed to fuel our bodies by consuming the decomposing flesh of another being?Does. Not. Compute. I read up (Eating Animals, Skinny Bitch, anything by Kris Carr, and much, much more), watched documentaries (Forks Over Knives, etc.), and chatted with vegan friends. I was afraid to visit PETA at the time, though I have since gotten over that “fear.”

Even armed with this info, I didn’t go vegan. I worried about how narrow my diet would get if I had a flare up and couldn’t eat many veggies. And, if I’m being really honest, you guys, I just really loved seafood.

I did not think I could EVER give up seafood. I was born in Maryland and would spend summers on my grandfather’s boat on the Chesapeake Bay when I was young. We’d have crab feasts every summer. I have fond memories of sitting around a newspapered picnic table with extended family picking Maryland Blue Crab. So I was pescatarian, and yet…

I flirted with veganism for short spurts during that time. I’d “cleanse” my body of animal products and gluten periodically (simply by abstaining from them). I felt good during those weeks. At some point last year, I began considering what being vegan would mean for me.

One thing you should know about me is that I am terribly indecisive. I always have been. It’s what has kept me sitting on this post, editing it for days now. I’d like to put a positive spin on it and say that it’s because I’m just that thoughtful. Perhaps, so, but I’m probably thoughtful because I’m anxious about… everything.

The one way I know to make decisions that works for me is to create a pro/con list and simplify. So it came down to this:

Should I be vegan? I feel better that way. I abhor the torture animals go through in factory farming practices. I live in America in the twenty-first century and I have the resources to abstain. Logic says, yes.

Should I still consume wheat and gluten? I’m not allergic, but I feel better when I don’t. I don’t need it to live. Logic says, no (but don’t be a maniac about it).

Finally, I “bit the bullet” (strange metaphor for an herbivore, I guess) and stopped knowingly consuming animal products.

No eggs.

No dairy.

No meat.

No seafood.

No. Animals.

I find out new and perplexing information about products I use every day. One that got me, for instance, is that most wine is NOT vegan. That’s right. That magical elixir made from a most precious fruit is NOT always vegan. Luckily, even though I love wine, I’m not much of a drinker (more than a glass of wine and I’m practically on the floor), so this doesn’t pose a huge challenge. Plus, there’s always Barnivore!

I’m also researching other products I use (lotions, toothpaste, etc) and replacing them with cruelty-free products. I won’t be buying any more leather items, obviously.

Before someone comments (as some of the more obnoxious meat eaters tend to do on vegan posts), “But BACON!” <insert all the eye rolls> I’d just like to say that bacon is not what would bring this vegan back to meat; I’ve never been especially fond of it. And knowing the truth of how it becomes bacon has put me off it permanently.

I have found that being an herbivore is best for my health and fits my worldview, but I cannot tell you what’s best for you. I’m not saying that everyone should be vegan or that you aren’t a good person if you consume meat. I’m the only one in my household who abstains (but the rest are not big on it, to be honest). When I do get animal products for them, I shop as responsibly as I can afford to, avoiding those from factory farmed animals.

No matter what you choose to eat, be as conscientious and mindful as you can about where it comes from (this goes for more than just your meat). Do this for your health, for the health of our planet, and for the well-being of its other inhabitants.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Tolstoy:

“When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to him who suffers, and try to help him.” 

Grace and peace.