In Catholic elementary school, one priest admitted to our eighth-grade class that none of the Bible stories we’d learned in the lower grades were meant to be taken literally, that they were just “examples” to give us an idea. I had to ask. An idea of what? What the church wanted? What God wanted? What men who were writing this book thousands of years ago wanted? He wouldn’t say, and though I went on to Catholic high school, there continued to be mixed messages from adults regarding religion.
At first, I took what was worth keeping and dismissed the rest. I read that in a quote somewhere, and it sounded like a good idea. 🙂
Someone later told me if I didn’t believe and support 100% of what the Bible said, I was a “cherry picker.” It ruffled my feathers at the time; I was young, but, in truth, most of the people I knew were cherry picking right alongside me. They wanted to believe in a higher power, in eternal life. They wanted to feel safe and protected, be loved unconditionally and always forgiven, and to know they could always count on prayer. We wanted to be loyal to our faith while having empathy for others, realizing it isn’t all or nothing, one extreme or the other. We knew that fear-based worship had nothing to do with love.
Since then, I’ve watched many of the most faithful people suffer— not just from financial difficulties and health problems but feeling lost, feeling down, fearing they’d never get what they wanted, what they needed. Despite their praying and continuous efforts, their unmet expectations continued to disappoint them. They often repeated the adage that if you don’t suffer here on earth, you suffer in the hereafter (something like that). Well, we all suffer, but I don’t believe there is a loving father of all creation who wants his children to suffer continually and mercilessly.
Granted, a lot of the time, too, we cause our suffering, thinking everything is about us. Because we can be such masochists, we don’t want to confront certain things to find out that what we’re torturing ourselves with has no basis in truth or that, much of the time, whatever it is doesn’t matter. Some people, too, while vulnerable and suffering, want others to suffer with them. They want to punish and destroy, harm where they might have helped, and I don’t believe that is part of any divine plan. We have the capacity to cause ourselves and others so much pain. 😦
Stopping negative thoughts, for so many of us, is often easier said than done. Even a simple concept like staying in the moment so that we won’t worry needlessly about our past or the future often eludes us. We need a constant reminder to do that! We have our distractions, our obsessions, things that may impair our judgment and distort our reality, and all the time we spend living in false realities, people can take advantage of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and keep us in bondage. But that’s something we have to fix. No one can fix it for us. No one can even help us fix it if we’re not willing to do all the work. And it’s hard work. 😉
This aside, there were many reasons I questioned what I’d been taught as a child. My indoctrination had sorted me into a belief system that worshiped a patriarchal god whose texts subjugated women, enabling a patriarchal society where that subjugation could continue to varying degrees across the globe.
And the funny thing is, for the longest time, I still wanted to believe much of what I’d been taught in my younger years. I was so desperate to believe that, at one point, I sought out devout Christian friends who had what I saw as unshakable foundations. I thought they could say something that would convince me I was wrong. Those people shut me down or shut me out as if I could corrupt their thinking.
You know, it was okay at one time (even cool) for people to go on their little spiritual journey, and the outcome mattered only to the individual. Mine went all the way from Siddhartha and The Prophet to Way of the Peaceful Warrior and beyond. I read about Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Pantheism and more recently the beautiful Bahá’í faith. Everything I learn fascinates me. Back in the 90s, I befriended an Egyptian family who passed along much of what was good about Islam and talked about some of the things they struggled with, not unlike many Christians with the harsher truths of the Bible. These days, however, people seem to get upset when you don’t believe what they believe. Even the word journey seems trite.
Exploring is important, though—especially having that freedom to explore. When you do it extensively, the outcome, whatever that may be, brings you to a much higher level of authenticity. You can embrace whatever you choose to believe with less concern about whether someone is going to try to prove you wrong, mock you, or corrupt you.
Still, when you dare to conclude that you don’t believe what your parents and teachers taught you, you find yourself struggling to figure out where you do fit in and what you do believe. You tough it out without your happy place in moments of distress, without feeling safe or protected, and you listen to people make harsh judgments about people like you—that you edged God out, that you don’t have a moral compass, that you are egocentric.
And yet, in my own moment of truth, I became a better person than I ever was, an increasingly more authentic and less narcissistic person, because I wasn’t trying to believe something that didn’t make sense to me or fit in where I didn’t belong. I wasn’t pretending to be something I wasn’t, without realizing, and I had stopped building the false self I continually needed to expand on with the accumulation of more shame and feelings of inadequacy. I’m not saying this is true for everyone. It was true for me because I lived in a false reality about everything, including who I was.
While I never believed there was anything about me—ethnicity, religion, color, socioeconomic status, that set me apart from anyone else or made me better than anyone else, I did start out in life believing I was on some mission empowered by God. And without realizing, I had disconnected myself from others.
Of all I had learned, one of the things that stuck with me above everything was the whole love one another thing. Yes, I really liked that part. Isn’t it a basic theme in all religions? But it wasn’t the non-believers I’d see hating and punishing one another without conscience.
And there was that perfect love hath no fear business in a society that seems overrun by fear. It began to seem as if allegiance to a god was some way of feeling righteous and superior enough to justify atrocious behavior toward one another—all fear-based and with this tunnel vision about getting to this perfect place called Heaven where we never have to die. Of course, we are human, and as humans, we often fail, but at some point, we have to look at the bigger picture, realize what’s happening and start looking for answers. Because we want to do better, don’t we?
One of the biggest problems in this world is that people don’t get along, don’t respect each other, and often don’t regard one another as fellow human beings. They can’t understand one another because they don’t listen to each other. They don’t put themselves in someone else’s place and say, “That could be me.” Instead, they look for reasons why that wouldn’t happen to them because they always behave the right way, or they are the “right” sort of person their god wants them to be. It enables them to detach. It’s always this idea that people reap what they sow until tragedy hits home. And it’s easier for some to believe what they want to believe without further exploration because they can be like the child who has to hide and protect his or her cherished toys so that nobody can take them away.
I would never want to shut down people who don’t believe what the holy books say or the people who don’t know what to believe. I don’t want to dismiss the cherry pickers trying to find a safe middle ground or silence the faithful. They are all entitled to their beliefs, as long as they are not committing or condoning crimes against humanity.
I believe, too, those who bring hate into the universe, using it as a weapon, and a divisive tool, these people are significant only at the moment because their time is over. People advocating hate, violence, and oppression serve no divine purpose in doing that. Our higher power is not a means to bury others, to condemn them. That power would connect us not divide us and bring us all together in the end. No loving deity would send some hateful bully to fix what is wrong in our world, and no one who carries that much hatred will go very far, because hate cripples and ultimately destroys. We have defeated that before, and we will defeat it again.
We can fight with a warrior’s resilience and never fight alone.
Our job is to keep resolving things internally, so that we continue to evolve as humans, deepening our understanding, our empathy, and our compassion. Suffering can be a beautiful thing when we are constantly evolving, but not if we’re stuck in the same place emotionally without learning from everything we endure. Every one of us can enlighten as we evolve, heal, learn, grow, and transform.
I truly believe the continuous goal is healing—not simply individual healing but collective healing. We each have our gifts and our tools for contributing to the greater good, and it’s one big, collaborative effort, during which time we need to remain connected as part of a larger entity.
If we must keep influencing ourselves with thoughts, let those thoughts be reminders that we are divine, created by the divine, and divinity surrounds us, and in that way, we have much more power than we know.
We have that power for a reason.
We don’t see everything just yet, and we don’t know everything, but we are creating the future, the world we want to live in, and the world we will leave our children. I’m also going to dare to believe we can keep evolving toward a much higher consciousness and create the idyllic world we envision.
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© Copyright August 2, 2016 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without permission.
It’s easy to get pulled into a state of terror these days. There is deliberate fear mongering and propaganda, so it’s often hard for people to know what to believe.
They want accountability and honesty from their leaders, and they deserve that. It is understandable that people are tired of oppression by corrupt and manipulative bullies who don’t care about the people they serve (and yet many turn to other deceitful and manipulative bullies to fix it.) But I don’t blame hardworking people for saying they’ve had enough of their tax dollars spent on benefits for others that they don’t even get for themselves. I’ve worked in law firms, too, where attorneys boast about getting disability benefits for clients who are not disabled. So yes, many of the systems we have in place do not work, and we need leaders who will reassess them—whether it be border control, gun rights, our welfare system, or disability eligibility.
What I can’t relate to, however, is all the tribalism, elitism, and hate. None of that is necessary or important in achieving our goals, and it’s just devastating. This behavior has sickened me to my core since childhood.
People say things like, well how can you not get defensive when you hear that there is white privilege, or “they” accuse white people of doing things you don’t do and never did? They also argue that white people also find themselves in difficult circumstances.
Okay, well, here is why I don’t get defensive.
1. It is obvious that I don’t do those things.
2. I have seen other people do this stuff, and it breaks my heart. The injustice is my primary concern in addressing the matter, not my defense. So I feel that speaking out against it is the very least I can do and, believe me, it’s not much and not enough.
3. As a person perceived as white, I have experienced white privilege. It’s something we take for granted, and it’s not simply about socioeconomic status, but about justice and human dignity denied. As only one example, people see me and assume they are safe, whether it’s a cab driver, an employer, a coworker, and so on. Overall, they treat me better, and I can make the comparison because I have always had relationships and friendships with black people. If we look at it as women, we should be able to understand it on some level, since women are often not treated the same way men are in the workplace, walking down the street, or in social situations.
The white privilege defensiveness is similar to men’s defensiveness when women talk about rape culture. Many men know that they are not guilty and feel no need to defend themselves but feel compelled instead to stand up for the people who do have to deal with the trauma, the abuse, and the injustice.
I do get defensive when I’m talking about rape culture, and someone has to point out something like women can be mean and aggressive, too. Um? It’s not that I don’t know that, but what does it have to do with anything? Don’t take attention away from the issue at hand. It would never justify anything anyway.
With white privilege defensiveness, the rationale seems to be that we keep people as victims by validating them, empathizing with them, and fighting alongside them for equality and the dignity they deserve. I don’t think people are kept down by that. I believe what keeps people down is the constant dismissal of their pain, the degradation, the humiliation, the fear of injustice, and the continuous crushing of their will, their faith, and their hope. This type of oppression kills the self-esteem people need to empower themselves, and it’s flat-out terrorism.
And please don’t tell me that those of us who want to help in this ongoing crisis support laziness and everyone getting free stuff. As someone who worked in the corporate environment for nearly a quarter of a century, almost half of that time with chronic illness and disabilities, I can attest to the fact that so many out there are doing their utmost to cope. We don’t know their stories, their circumstances, or what challenges they face, and it’s not always the narrative we hear over and over.
Enough with the stereotypes already. Just like all the gun violence—a white man is evidently the good guy with a gun, while the black man with any type of weapon is a threat. Honestly, I don’t mind any mentally stable, rational person owning a gun. The problem is everyone thinks they are stable and responsible until they’re not, and so many apparently are not. How do we even address that?
But for so many, it is all or nothing.
I see a lot of middle ground, which is an impossible place to be in these days. You cannot form alliances like that, and yes, people want allies. We are the same color. We have the same ethnicity. We agree about who God is and what he wants from everyone. We have the same political view. We hate the same person, so we know who the enemy is.
Here is my question, though, all or nothing people, where is the balance? Because life has taught me, it is always about balance, and the truth is often somewhere in the middle. Extremes are inflexible and maybe even a little insane.
And it’s the apathy that kills me.
Even today, as the nation mourns the deaths of brave police officers and two more young African-American males, we have people out there trying to divide and spread hatred—blaming Obama, Hillary, liberals, etc. I may be a little more of a Centrist, but I highly identify with liberals and their concerns, especially these concerns, so if you are blaming liberals, you are blaming me, and I am not okay with that.
Hey, I’m sorry that some people who are feeling terrorized now think “Kumbaya” is for hippies on drugs, and that it’s not popular anymore to ask that we love one another. Fear has everyone in a panic.
I guess somebody turned the tables when we weren’t looking. Those of us advocating compassion, kindness, and acceptance are the enemies. We have a far religious right believing there is an eternal reward for elitists who lack empathy because it’s part of their “religion” to do so and because they want all the power and control.
“The devil made me do it” defense applies only to priests.
And I don’t care what they say. When people shame and scorn you for speaking out against pedophile priests, that’s part of the problem. When the Hollywood community conveniently ignores the child abuse, sexist culture to avoid discrimination, that’s part of the problem. Anytime we close our eyes to horrific things happening because it interferes with our agenda or someone else’s agenda, that’s part of the problem.
Some people go so far as to say that empathy is Satan’s new agenda.
Well if that’s true, Satan has an army of candy-ass peace seekers who feel the pain of humanity and speak out for dignity and justice for all. Kind of like Superman. Except we are no more superior than the next guy. We just care about other people, and when they suffer, we suffer, too.
So let me tell you; Satan’s bad-ass, powerful army includes honest, law-abiding citizens who cry for this world—not the proud, greedy, gluttonous, and covetous bunch of bullies, or those merely in bondage to cognitive ease.
And I’m just going to say this one more time. Love and acceptance are what feels healthy and right to me. I want that for everyone, along with plenty of peace, happiness, and success to go around. Is that too much to ask? If so, what is the point of this life really?
“The world is getting too small for both an Us and a Them. Us and Them have become codependent, intertwined, fixed to one another. We have no separate fates, but are bound together in one. And our fear of one another is the only thing capable of our undoing.” ― Sam Killermann
Here is something else I’d like to share.
The police officer in this video talks about much needed change, and it’s worth watching.
© Copyright July 1, 2016 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without permission.
Awhile back, I read comedian Steve Harvey’s rant about atheists and their lack of a moral barometer.
Then there was this rant by that Duck Dynasty dude:
“I’ll make a bet with you. Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude? Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’
Let me ask then. Is fear of punishment the only reason he doesn’t do these things? Does he think belief in a deity is the only thing stopping everyone else? What kind of mind even comes up with this stuff? Most of us want to help others not harm them. I can’t speak for all, but my conscience is my moral barometer. It is not fear of punishment from a deity.
This kind of prejudice, however, is what concerns me about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
So a young Indiana couple, Crystal and Kevin O’Connor, found themselves in the center of that controversy. They claim reporters tricked them into boasting that they supported the law and would not serve gay people in their pizza place. They later backpedaled, saying they never said such a thing. They said it was only the gay weddings they didn’t want to service with their pizza. Yeah, okay, whatever.
I would not have threatened these people. I wouldn’t have gone to Yelp and written a scathing review about their pizza. I wouldn’t have trolled them in any way. If I were in Indiana, I probably would skip their pizza, but that’s about it.
Hordes of angry people did react, though, with a vengeance. The O’Connors were “forced to close their doors.” Then supporters rallied to collect $300k for them. (It may be more by now.)
That is some incredible luck in a day where unpopular things go viral, and the backlash is instant and brutal. Go ask my author friends about internet trolls, O’Connor couple. It’s not pretty. Freedom of speech is a precious and beautiful thing, but there can be consequences because other people have freedom of speech, too, you see. They react.
Let’s talk about religious freedom, though—honor killings, public beheadings, terrorizing infidels. In Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal, you can get a seven-year prison term for anything “seen” as promoting homosexuality. They tried to pass legislation requiring their citizens to report homosexuals and their activity or face punishment themselves.
So where is the moral compass of these people who kill and terrorize in God’s name?
People may say, come on, those are extremists or now see all we’re doing is not serving people. We’re not burning or stoning people or putting them in jail. I think they have to realize that every step backward brings us closer to that. So why wouldn’t people be angry and resort to extreme measures to prevent this? Why would we accept going backward in any of the areas where we have made progress?
Another comment allegedly made by Crystal O’Connor is that you can believe anything you want. Well, yes, Crystal, but your beliefs don’t trump the law. That’s a great thing because rapists, serial killers, and child molesters may feel they have some justification for their behavior. (Oh right, the law…I think Duck Dynasty dude forgot about that, too.)
© Copyright April 2, 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without permission.