An Abomination to God

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about a family with a transgender child. His comment regarding this family who is loving their young child in the best way they see fit was, “How disgusting. An abomination to God.”

That makes me sad for so many reasons. The first is because those are uncharitable, ugly words of hate and judgment; the second is because those ugly words are cast on a family doing what they feel is best out of love for their child. Even if you disagree and think they are grossly misguided, you cannot fault the point of view they are coming from. Nor do you have the right to cast stones. None of us have that right, do we? “Let those without sin cast the first stone.” Right? Sin is sin, and whatever your definition of sin is, you are still a sinner–and so am I–and you still expect people to love you and treat you with respect, yet you choose not to treat others the same way. What happened to the rule of treating others as you would have them treat you? Try to look at it this way: we all sin; some of us just do it differently. Besides, weren’t we taught not to worry about the splinter in someone else’s eye?

The terrorists who attack our country do so out of their religious beliefs. You get angry at them for attacking “us” (in the only circumstance you consider us all one unit), yet aren’t you doing the same to others in your religious judgment of them? No, you may not be physically killing people, but you are persecuting them, attempting to kill their choices, their freedoms, their spirits (which is ultimately the same thing). Yet you deny that you are doing the same thing the terrorists are doing. And in more irony, their reasoning is the same as yours: “for their God.” And you find that unacceptable.

I know that you were taught that every person before they die will have had the opportunity to hear the Word of the God that you believe in; you were also taught that some may choose not to follow it. I also know that you’ve been taught that the loving God that you worship has allowed every single person to make their own choices, and that He will be the one to judge them on their last day. You were also taught to live by the example Jesus had set–Jesus, who befriended the outcasts and the dregs of society, treating all of them with love; Jesus, who did not attack, spit on, curse, or defame in any way that man who betrayed him directly. If the man you were taught to emulate did not judge and persecute people then, why do you feel the need to do it now, in His name? Are you not putting yourself above him by doing so?

On Mother’s Day of this year, a woman in Michigan decided to stand out in a busy intersection holding a sign that said, “Thank Your Mom Today For Not Being Gay” and was assaulted by another woman who threw a Slushie at her.

–Technically speaking, her sign was incorrect; many people have Mothers who are not their birth mothers through adoption, which means their Mothers could be gay–but that’s another tangent.

I do not condone the actions of the woman who threw the drink at her; hate as an answer to hate is never effective. What bothered me is that the woman with the sign told reporters she was doing it “out of love.”

Public judgment–shaming, anyone?–never comes from a place of love. Isn’t love supposed to be kind?

Isn’t everything supposed to be about love? What about 1st Corinthians 13?

1 Corinthians 13 – New International Version (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbalIf I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongsLove does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Where is the love in persecution? Where is the love in dishonoring others? In keeping record of wrongs? In the lack of tolerance? In not treating others with kindness? In not allowing others the same freedom of choice that your own God gave them?

I have one more question for you to consider: What if–what if–the people with different beliefs and lifestyles were put here to test you and your own faith? Job was tested. Did he lash out at others? He suffered immense personal loss–as in, directly affecting him–and he attacked no one. Yet some of you feel obligated to persecute people that have no direct effect on your lives other than the fact that they live differently than you and you are forced to share the same oxygen source with them? God made them, too; and God doesn’t make mistakes, right?

And “those people”–as you call them–treat you and your beliefs with more love and tolerance than you show them. Think about it. You are very vocal about your judgment of them at the mention of them. I have yet to see a gay person go off on a tirade about how wrong or “gross” heterosexuals are when they see pictures of them. Some of you regularly post bible verses on your Facebook page. And people leave those posts alone, don’t they? I’ve never seen anyone’s post of a bible verse attacked by an atheist or homosexual. Why is it that the ones who are being attacked can show more of a “Christian” attitude of tolerance, love and kindness?

Think about that. Where is your love? Where is your kindness?

How about this radical idea: why not practice the “Random Act of Kindness” towards someone living a lifestyle you don’t agree with? Unconditional kindness. The Christian way. Wouldn’t that be quite a testament to your faith?

I’m not angry at anyone. I am sad. Why can’t we just love each other? Why do we have to draw all these lines between each other? How can anyone ever be truly happy and loving if they harbor hate or anger towards anyone?

I am by no means perfect. But I believe in love. And I love you.

*At the time I wrote this I had 703 friends on FaceBook. I may have less after people read it. But it will not change my feelings about any of you.

Rest in Peace, Helvio, and May the Rest of Us Live in Peace With Each Other

Helvio “Al” Silveira
1967-2014
I went to the funeral service of a classmate today. Even though we are in our 40s, that is and always will be how I think about him, as a classmate, because that is the main circle that I traveled in with him. We each have many circles of friends; they are not separate circles apart from each other, but instead are like the ripples in a pond beginning with a small circle in the center, a larger circle surrounding that first circle, an even larger circle surrounding that second circle, with an unending amount of ever widening circles spreading outward continuing on into infinity. And each of our own circles connect with everyone we know.
Our feelings about the death of someone we know can vary greatly depending on our perspective, onwhich circle we shared with that person. We all know what it’s like to hear about the passing of celebrity that we never knew personally, that we may have enjoyed on television for most of our childhood. We may think, “What a shame,” and spend a little while enjoying fond memories that they were part of. We may feel that we’ve lost a part of our childhood, yet accepting the fact that life goes on is still fairly easy on that level. Of course, that person would have been a part of one of the very outer-lying circles around us. It is easier to accept and deal with.
When it happens in one of the circles closer to home, our perspective and emotions change, getting more intense the closer we get to the center. With Helvio, we were not in each other’s innermost circles; but our circles were close enough that they connected through the circles of some of our own closer friends. We shared some of the same people in our innermost circles. It is in this that I am reminded of the phrase “six degrees of separation.” When I think about that, I realize it is not degrees of separation but degrees of connection. We are connected through the shared experiences of many years ago, and now by the special people that we shared. While we may have lost touch since high school, we have been still close enough through our connections to “touch” each other – maybe not in the direct sense, but in that ripple effect that every person’s life has on everybody else around them, and further. The butterfly effect, where even the smallest event or action can have a large effect in other places. We learned about that on a small scale in the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Like his parents to him, Helvio passes on himself to his children, and they are taking him and his spirit further, affecting every person they come into contact with. Al was a police officer. Like all police officers, he shares a connection directly with every member of the community he serves in, whether they are aware of it or not. Think about that on the small scale, when he was on traffic duty and stopped someone for speeding. That may not seem like much, and to some it may seem like an aggravation. However, think about the possibilities if that person had not been stopped and had continued on and hurt or killed another person. That person, as well as all of their circles would have been directly affected by that. Everyone who serves the public in any way directly impacts all of the lives around them. We are all connected, whether we see the ties or not.
I am sad about Helvio’s passing; he was a good man. But I know so many others who are and will be feeling his absence in a much greater way. I saw my friend, Richie (who overlaps in a few circles of mine, going back to when we were 13), who is one of Helvio’s “Brothers in Blue” (another circle-bond) this morning at the funeral service. He was in full uniform and one of the pallbearers. I don’t even know if he saw me or knows I was there. But I saw him. And I saw his face. He was looking directly ahead at all times, going through the ceremonial traditions. And I saw his pain. And my heart wept with him.
As an aside, regarding the ceremonious traditions certain groups have when a member passes–whether it be policemen, firemen, military, religious groups, or any other kinds of group– they are important because they highlight the bond of the circle—the unbroken, continuous circle around that person. If a funeral procession interferes with your commute, or blocks a road or roads in your path, remember that whether or not you see it you have a connection with that person in some way, and in that moment you are touching each other. Take a moment to be aware of that.
During the mass I saw many familiar faces, people in different circles of mine and Helvio’s. Separate circles yet connecting. I saw his love, Lisa, who I don’t know, and I can only imagine the grief she must be feeling, and I feel so very deeply for her. I listened to his son talk about him, his love for his father was so very evident, and it was obvious that Helvio will still be around for a long time. Another one of his ‘brothers’ shared some wonderful little details with all of us, giving us a small look inside the circle he shared with his fellow police officers. I listened to the stories the priest shared about his conversations with Helvio. And then I realized that I felt very fortunate to be let in on parts of his life that I didn’t know, and to have been at least a part of one circle of this man who was loved by so many.
I myself have not said much, or posted on Facebook, too much about Helvio. I do not want people saying to me that they are sorry for my loss, when there are so many others who have lost so much more. Besides, it is not just one person’s loss – it is ourloss. Beginning with his family, moving outward into his close band of brothers and friends, his community, and moving further outward.
To be able to see the invisible connections between all of us, is to be able to see how we impact the lives of others. In some cases, like in Helvio’s case, the impact is obvious. I grieve alongside of his family and loved ones, with and for them. And I am proud to say that I knew him, however distant my circle was.
I have to add this: I am a firm believer in signs. Before I went to the funeral service I had posted on Facebook a complaint about the hair from my cats being all over my clothing. My close friends are very aware that the majority of time I leave the house without any concern for my appearance, only making sure that I am is covered as I have to be. Yet the cat hair on my pants bothered me enough for me to say something publicly about. I found my daughter’s lint roller – I don’t own one myself – and made the effort to remove the cat hair. I went even further to take the lint roller with me, and before I got into my car made a careful effort to remove the hair from my pants. I never do that; if—and I mean if—I even bother with a lint roller, it is only once before I leave the house. I don’t even consider taking it with me, yet I did today. And then during the mass I heard a story about Helvio’s obsession with keeping his uniform pristine and his many lint rollers. I firmly believe that I was given a nudge this morning to make sure that I did not go to the church with cat hair all over me. Helvio—Al—may be gone from us in the way that we are used to, but he is still here.