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Monday, June 17, 2013

Loving Thy Neighbor

This week's blog post has been bouncing around in my head for a while, trying to consolidate into a single cohesive thought without much success. I'm not sure even now I can get all my thoughts in line, but I'm going to try. Basically it all comes down to one thing: Hate.

I'm not talking about the frustrated, "Ugh! I hate this computer/car/traffic." I mean complete, unrelenting hatred for people you don't know. For people different from you, in a group whose views and lifestyles you don't share. A hate you have so ingrained that nothing anyone says or does will ever change your mind.

First of all, I want you all to know how much its hurts to hear hatred so strong being spewed by people I know and love. It physically affects me to the point I have to leave the area where the tirade is taking place or I get nauseous. How the people such attacks are aimed at deal with the abuse, I can't image. What crushes me even more is when God is brought into the argument. I completely shut down at that point.

It doesn't matter what 'group' the attacks are aimed at - ethnic, GLBT, men, women - it's still wrong. For anyone wondering, yes, I'm a Christian. Currently I'm Episcopal, but I was brought up Catholic and switched to Baptist in my teens. In all my years of Christian education, the one main ideal that I've always tried to cling to is 'Love Thy Neighbor.' It doesn't say, 'Love Thy Neighbor if they believe everything you do.' Not, 'Love Thy Neighbor if they share the same skin color.' It's simply 'Love Thy Neighbor.'

Signs outside churches proclaim: All Are Welcome, but oftentimes 'outcasts' are shunned. We cling to saying like, "What Would Jesus Do?" Most of the time I feel like they're really asking, "What Do I Think Jesus Should Do?" For the record guys, Jesus didn't turn away anyone. His message was one of love, not hatred. Of tolerance towards all.

The recent surge of states ratifying same-sex marriage has brought out the best in humanity, proving that many of us are willing to accept people as they are. It has also brought out the worst. I don't think I need to expound on this second statement, since it had to be a debate in the first place. And the debate is extending its tentacles past the older generations and trying to take hold in younger ones.

I've been told not to read certain children's books to my kids because the stories depict things that are 'unnatural' and I should shield them from such topics. The fact that a book written about such garbage could be published has fallen on my (semi) deaf ear more than once. Here's some news for you: this book which not only helps kids understand families with two mommies or daddies, is based on a true story.

Not only is it true, but hiding the fact from my kids that such families exist is ludicrous. I have many friends who are in happy, healthy, long-term gay or lesbian relationships. Some have expressed a desire to have children and I know they would make fantastic parents. At some point, my own children will pick up on the fact that their family isn't like ours, but I want them to understand that it's perfectly ok.

Before anyone brings up the argument about kids being brought up in such households lacking a positive female/male role model, I'm going to ask you to look at your own family. How many of you have relatives that are single mothers/fathers? How about divorced/remarried? Do those kids still have good role models to look up to? Do they have a loving and supporting family? Guess what? So do the kids in any other family dynamic. Trying to cling to the Perfect Family model is ridiculous. Even back in the 'good ole days' there were single parents, kids raised by aunts, uncles, grandparents. Family is family. Family are the people who love you, end of story.

Now, I've gotten slightly off-track. I told you trying to get my thoughts to settle down was difficult. What I'm basically saying it love is so much better than hate. When you're going around with anger towards people you don't even know at a personal level, it's going to consume you. Every time I hear someone spouting it off, I want to (gently) shake them and ask them if they're listening to what they're saying. If they know why they're so angry and hate-filled. Most of them are sadly too stubborn to understand. To realize they've allowed themselves to be consumed by hatred so strong, they can't even pinpoint why it is they hate them so much. It's never going to benefit you, just wear you down. Your life will be much fuller if you let more people into it.

I'm going to ask everyone to do something for me. Take the time to know people for who they are, not what they are. Don't let labels define them. You want to fill your life with people who are funny, like to watch scary movies and spend the day at the beach? Find the people out there like that. Find the people who are good people, the ones who you enjoy being with. Want to hang out with the guy who loves everything about Star Trek, but word around the office is he's gay? For the love of God, make friends with him. No, seriously. You want to spout biblical verses, make your actions speak louder than those words. Because they really do. 

Don't turn around and cut someone out of your life simply because you find out they're different. Unless you find out they're one of those reptilian pod-people trying to take over the government. Sorry reptiles, I think Earth has enough problems without you guys trying to run things.

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