Santa Baby

Jesus-and-SantaMy kids weren’t raised to believe in Santa.  At first it wasn’t really about Jesus or religion, it was mostly because of how I had felt as a child when I found out there was no Santa and my parents had been lying all of us.  It really impacted me and I could not rationalize lying to my kids like that.  So, they always knew.

As I became more and more entrenched in Christianity, Christmas became more of a religious thing.  We basically ignored Santa and focused on the “reason for the season,” Jesus.  Why put any energy into someone who was make-believe when you had the savior of the world to celebrate?  I know…I know.  And yes, I did make a cake on Christmas Eve and yes, we lit candles and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.  It was always red velvet cake too—you know, to represent his blood shed for us…ugh, I feel like I need a shower now.

It gets worse.  First though, I want to touch upon another cringe-worthy symbol, one that is seen around Christmas time–the Santa kneeling at the manger of Jesus.  When I was a Christian I didn’t like it because, you know, Santa’s not real.  I know…I know.  As a non-believer, it actually makes sense.  You know, two pretend characters coming together—one brings toys and the other brings peace and salvation, kind of like the dynamic duo…yes, indeed; it makes total sense.

Now, let me get to the “worse” part.  As I considered the ridiculousness of Santa worshiping the baby Jesus, I unfortunately remembered something that happened when my older daughter was about two. We had just finished up Christmas shopping at Target and she was getting a little antsy.  We were at the check out counter and I was trying to get her to sit down in the cart.  That’s when the cashier said to her, “You’d better be good.  What would Santa think?”  My little girl looked utterly confused.  My kids always thought it was weird when adults would talk about Santa like he was real…pshhh, ridiculous!  I stopped and looked at the cashier and valiantly said, “We prefer to worry about what Jesus would think,” as I smiled at her, took my receipt, and walked piously away.  Ahhhhhhh…slaps self on forehead…I did NOT say that to her…yes I did.  I can’t even express how obviously ironic that statement is to me now.

What is that sound?  Why it’s the cringe heard ‘round the world…

Come, let us Cringe Together

Calvin Kneeling Praying At Cross 2As I have been thinking about it, there are many things that are cringe-worthy in the Christian world, well, probably the religious world, but Christianity is usually my point of reference and so I’ll stick with what I know. It’s so strange to think that at one time many of those cringe-worthy things seemed like a good idea to me and now I am faced with how embarrassing they all are. There are expressions of Christianity every where I go and I’m not even looking for them.  They are constantly thrust in front of me, even just driving around town, on the bumpers and windows of cars:  Calvin kneeling at the cross, “NOW–Not of This World,” “I’m Not Perfect, Just Forgiven,” “Body Piercing Saved My Life,” etc. (I’m serious.  It really said, “Body Piercing saved my life” with Jesus on the cross—crucified.) I think Christians believe they are making some sort of powerful statement that is a witness to the world, or at least to those who see their message.  I know I did.  Now, it is a reminder of just how brainwashed (for lack of a better word) I was.

One that bothers me the a lot is the Calvin decal. I really cringe when I see it.  I did when I was a believer too though–for different reasons.  Anyway, poor Calvin, portrayed as kneeling at the cross, I mean, I really don’t think Calvin would ever want to do that. His creator isn’t a believer, so I’m pretty sure Calvin isn’t either.

Calvin once said to Hobbs, 
 “This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? 
 If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it? 
 And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?

Hobbs replied: 
I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?

To which Calvin said, 
”Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.

If Calvin were real, I think it would piss him off that he is portrayed at the foot of the cross—kneeling in submission.  He is the poster child for rebellion and non-conformity after all.   Perhaps he is praying for forgiveness for all of that…Now, that’s a strong message.  Hello?  HE’S NOT REAL, but Jesus is…ummmm…never mind.

The irony here is that this decal is a perfect example of blatant copyright infringement—you know, stealing? Hmmm, Christians stealing to get their message out.  I guess they get a pass though.  All bets are off when you are glorifying god and witnessing to a lost world.

I never had that ridiculous Calvin decal on my car window. I had something way more articulate and rational: A bumper sticker that said, “Darwin is Dead and He Ain’t Comin’ Back,” with a Darwin fish, legs in the air.   What?

Oh, there’s more…

I’m Just a Soul Whose Intentions Are Good…

156416_476006925752847_33225970_nI read an interesting article this morning, entitled “In a Crisis Humanist Seem Absent,” by Samuel G. Freedman.  It was in the New York Times and I found it pretty thought provoking.  I’m just going to cover one of the issues I have with this article today, because there are many, and of course, I’m hoping to glean several posts from it.

The first issue that caught my attention was found here:

“It is a failure of community, and that’s where the answer for the future has to lie,” said Greg M. Epstein, 35, the humanist chaplain at Harvard and author of the book ‘Good Without God.’ “What religion has to offer to people at moments like this — more than theology, more than divine presence — is community. And we need to provide an alternative form of community if we’re going to matter for the increasing number of people who say they are not believers.”

First, What Epstein fails to understand, and he claims to be a humanist himself, is that without their theology and their belief in a divine presence, there would be no community. The religious community is predicated on the idea that you believe what that community believes, or, guess what?  You are no longer welcome in that community.  It is a community made up of rules and regulations, and goes after the most wounded and vulnerable in order to convert them into their community. Yes, I am certain proselytizing took place as these so-called communities “reached out,” to the victims of Sandy Hook.

As I read this, a question came to my mind: Why must we, as non-believers, provide an alternative form of community, as this fellow humanist suggests? What does that mean anyway?  We should start organizing, perhaps meeting together once a week, or we start making up rules, or even better “bylaws”? Maybe make some sort of a pact or “covenant”? I don’t know…that kind of sounds like…church, doesn’t it?   We don’t have a “humanist community”;  we are IN our communities as humans.  I’m willing to bet that non-believers, atheists, agnostics, humanists, “nones,” what ever, were very present at Sandy Hook, they were just not standing under a god banner, or preaching from a pulpit, or praying at candlelight vigils.  Yes, I’m sure they were there.

Proof of that is found right in the article itself, when the author writes:

“While tacitly excluded from religious coalitions, humanist groups did respond to the Newtown killings. The Ethical Culture Society chapter in Teaneck, N.J., helped organize a gun-control rally there. The Connecticut branch of the American Humanist Association contributed about $370 to Newtown families from a winter solstice fund-raiser. The organization American Atheists reports on its Web site that it has collected more than $11,000 in online donations toward funeral expenses in Newtown. A secular support group called Grief Beyond Belief operates on Facebook.”

So, with that said, I am a bit confused.  How were we absent?  Did we appear absent because we failed to  have an alternative community in place?  I do not believe that is the case.  I believe what humanists, atheists, agnostics, etc., provide something much more valuable and that is physically and monetarily reaching out to those in need, not out of obedience in the hopes of being rewarded by a mythical god, to bring the “lost” to Jesus, but to reach out in genuine care and compassion to hurting, fellow human beings.  Can we do better?  Of course, all of us can do better, but for me, it’s a quality over quantity thing.

One of the things I came away with from this article was just how misunderstood we, as non believers, are.  It’s pretty clear that part of the problem is that so many look at us through the lens of religion and when they do that, we cannot be seen. Until our country learns to take the “god glasses” off, we will never be fully understood, or appreciated.

Suffer the Children

67938_305412512908484_1193109497_n-1Today’s post will be short, because most of the work was done for me.  Thank you Crazy, Sappy Christians, on facebook.  Anyway, so this picture and the following poem were on the wall of a friend and it pissed me off so much, I had to comment.  I didn’t want her to be all hurt and mad, so I found the original poster’s wall and commented there. You would not believe some of the comments people wrote–embarrassing.  There’s not enough room to share them, but I wanted to share my comment because it is exactly how I feel.  I’m going to post the poem first, to give context and then I’m going to share my comment, with commentary.

Here’s the poem:

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38

when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.

Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.

They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.

They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.

They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.

“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.

“This is heaven.” declared a small boy. “we’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”

When what to their wondering eyes did appear,

but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.

He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.

Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.

And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring

Those children all flew into the arms of their King

and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,

one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.

And as if He could read all the questions she had,

He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”

Then He looked down on earth, the world far below

He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe…

then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,

“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”

“may this country be delivered from the hands of fools”

“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”

then He and the children stood up without a sound.

“Come now my children, let me show you around.”

excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.

All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.

and i heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,

“in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

— with Andrea Marie.

Here is my original facebook comment:

“There are so many problems with this:  First, so Jesus has the power to protect and alter things and yet he let the children be slaughtered. Second, he promises that he will take care of the one little girl’s parents after he stood by while their lives were decimated?  What kind of monster would do that? Third, he’s going to retake “His Nation” now? When is he going to retake the nations where women are treated like animals and children starve to death in the arms of their mothers by the hundreds? And finally, I don’t get accompanying picture.  Do the little children have to go to school in heaven or was Jesus in school with them and stood by as a young man mowed them down? Perhaps he’s decided to start hanging out there again. I’m not sure why this would comfort anyone and why anyone would consider this beautiful…I guess it’s just me.”

It’s obvious that the idea that the massacre was due to god’s judgment is the underlying theme in the poem, because it says that Jesus is now going to deliver the country from “the hands of fools” and he’s now decided to let his “power and presence, reenter this land.”  So, evidently we were bad and so he wasn’t here.  Also, where are the adults that were killed?  What about Ms. Soto, the teacher that hid her children and lied to protect them and lost her life?  From some of the comments I’ve read about her, made by Christians, she showed way to much cleavage and supported gay rights…Well, I guess we all know where she went.

I’m sorry.  I’m not feeling very empathetic today.  Christianity is gross

I Can’t Remember…

smelling a flower“I miss the smell of Christmas,” He said nonchalantly.

My breath caught and my chest tightened.  “What do you mean?”  I asked, already knowing and trying desperately to sound normal.

“I don’t know…I remember that Christmas had a special smell, you know, and when the air smelled that way at other times, I would remember Christmas. It felt good.  I don’t have that anymore.”

I could feel that familiar lump in my throat, the one I always get when I think about that day, and although I was fighting it, tears began to well up in my eyes.  Thankfully, he was unaware of the impact his words were having on me and I was determined not to let him know.  He talks about it so little, I don’t ever want to react in a way that would make him feel hesitant to do so.

“I really think memories are linked to smell,” he continued, “like Thanksgiving and other times.  It’s as if not being able to smell anymore, is causing those memories to fade and I miss them. I miss the smell.”

All I could say was that I was sorry and then I reminded him of all the other things related to memory and the good times we have had and again, I reminded him that perhaps one day that part of his brain will heal and those smells will return and he will appreciate them in a way he never could have otherwise.  I reminded him of how lucky he is that in spite of his brain injury, he can laugh and walk and talk and play basketball, and be treated normally.  He nodded.

After that, all I could do was hold my breath and hope for control, at least until I dropped him off at school.  Then I could give in.  It’s like a panic attack I think—the tightening and the sinking feeling.  It’s almost like reliving that day.  Just like when I drive by that hospital—the one where I first took him, certain there was something horribly wrong.

Kids are resilient though—we all are.  He’s come a long way.  He has gone from saying, “If I have to stay this way, I will kill myself,” (He didn’t know that it was probably permanent at the time) to smiling at me and telling me dinner is good and taking the Spirit Championship for his senior class by drinking a horrible concoction in the fastest amount of time.   All in all, it’s okay now.

Some people say if they could go back and change a horrible incident in their lives, they wouldn’t, because of what they have learned.  I guess they are better people than me, because if I could go back to that day, I would have insisted on giving him a ride to soccer practice instead of letting one of his teammates do it.  Life doesn’t work that way though and I can’t go back.  We just find the good where we can.  We’re closer, I’m more understanding of those who have to see their children suffer, and Noah has a greater appreciation for things he didn’t before.

One of the most difficult things is helping people understand the gravity of his loss.  He lost one of his senses, one that adds vibrancy to life, but also one that protects him from harm (Toxins, smoke, etc.)  It’s a huge loss, yet people tend to make light of it.  That is until I tell them the,“I Miss the Smell Of Christmas” story and suddenly, in their eyes, I see it—the light of understanding.  That means everything.

Suffer the Children

befreeMost of my kids’ friends are living or were raised in staunch Fundamentalist Christian homes. These kids have so many struggles.  Some have nothing but hate and disdain for their parents and/or church leaders.  When they tell me some of the things their parents/teachers/pastors say and do, it’s just appalling.

One friend of my son’s, a kind, soft-spoken, talented young man, has been held up as an example in his church’s youth group as a sinner and someone not to aspire too.  His youth leader even suggested that he was possessed by a demon.   Even though he says that he knows that isn’t true, he struggles with depression and anger and I really think there is a part of him the wonders if there is something really bad about him. His parents, both pastors of this church, force him to attend their  and have made it clear he is expected to serve there, in spite of how disappointed they are in him.  If he does not, they will not pay for school and he will be kicked out. He is 19 years old.

Just recently, the music teacher, at my son’s high school, told another friend that if she thinks about her boyfriend more than Jesus, then she has a problem.   The truth is, she does think about her boyfriend more than Jesus and I believe a small part of her believes what this teacher says—that she has a problem.

Those a just a couple of examples; there are many more, but getting to know these kids and having a chance to have discussions with them has convinced me that these kids need someone to talk to, someone that tell them they are okay.  They try to laugh it off, but ,from their behavior, you can tell if affects them.  I do have encouraging discussions with a close circle of my son’s friends, but there are so many kids out there that feel helpless, hopeless, angry, confused and sad and have no safe sounding board.

If I could reach all of the kids that are struggling in a Fundamentalist home and/or church, this is what I would want them to know:

  • Don’t lose heart.  This is not forever.  You’ll become independent and be out from under your parent’s and your church’s control and have plenty of opportunities to find your way in the world.
  • Life is a journey and you don’t ever have to decide exactly what you believe, ever.  I still don’t know and it changes.  It should, if you are to grow.
  • You are perfect just the way you are.  Just because you don’t fit into Christianity’s idea of good or right, or beautiful, you are ALL of those things.
  • Your sexual desires are wonderful and NATURAL.  NOT having them would be unnatural.  You aren’t a pervert.
  • You’re going to make mistakes.  Everyone does.  Own them and learn from them.
  • Believe me when I say this.  There is no personal God up in a heaven that is blessing and/or condemning you.
  • You are your own “god.”
  • Most importantly, although your parents and/or church have threatened you with the idea of eternal punishment, there is no Hell.  There is not.  I promise you.
  • So learn and grow with an open mind.  Question everything and don’t feel guilty about it.
  • If you don’t get the answers you need, keep asking.
  • Be kind to yourself first and then be kind to others.
  • Embrace your humanity.
  • Love and be free.

I truly feel such a burden for these kids.  Perhaps because my own children suffered under fundamentalism and I feel so very bad for the burdens I placed on them and how I made them feel that my love was conditional, and sadly, in some ways it was.   I can’t change that now, but I can learn from it and continue to strengthen my relationship with my kids and look for opportunities to encourage other kids as well.  They need a safe place to vent.  I want to be that safe place.

I have no cute ending, but at least I posted.  Three days down, twenty-seven to go!