Love. It’s Pretty Simple, Really.

November 10th

bells at San Xavier

I spent this morning running with two friends rambling about how angry I became yesterday reading the most recent ” Interpreter.” This is a bimonthly magazine published by the United Methodist Church and sent to members nationally. To be honest, it normally doesn’t reach the top of the reading pile before it reaches the recycling bin, but yesterday I found myself without other reading material and with an unexpected handful of free minutes.

The stories are a great reflection of what’s happening in congregations nationwide. They are exactly what you may expect — super successful bake sales, cookbook ideas, fundraisers for homeless outreach, book reviews, military ministry, etc. There is typically the foreign mission story too — where we pat ourselves on the backs for nets distributed in African malarial zones, clean wells dug in remote South American villages, hospitals built in Asia. These stories fill my spiritual sails. The idea of being a member of an international church that prides itself on works of God — building schools, wells, hospitals — versus going door to door trying to convert people with the Bible, perfectly suits me. Actions speak so much louder than words.

(See any of the recent anti-gay sex scandals involving male evangelical ministers and their lovely boy toys as exhibit A.)

It seems harder than ever to claim Christianity in this American life. As a Christian, I am under a microscope. I know my every word and action are examined for fault — for proof that I’m no better than anyone else and that my beliefs are silly. Let it be said loud and clear that I have many faults, many of my beliefs are silly (love me some Nacho Libre) and no, I am certainly not better than anyone else.

But apparently, I am more compassionate. Because when I got to the back of this copy of “Interpreter,” imagine my shock, anger and disgust at the letters to the editor that came from a handful of communities across the country denouncing: gay marriage, gay members in the church, helping illegal immigrants, and perhaps the most hysterical — how yoga is a pagan ritual Christians should not participate in.

I’m tempted to write letters back but instead I’ll just stand on this little blog pulpit and scream my loudest:

Hey Christians! If we don’t collectively figure out how to stop being such a bunch of judgmental, hypocritical assholes — we are going to end up the with the dinosaurs and dodos. (Yes, Peggy J. Norris of Bolton, North Carolina — I’m looking at you. Really? You don’t think God loves gay people? Pretty sure God said love everyone. Everyone, Peggy. Not just people like you. Everyone. All. Todo. Tout. Get it?)

And Alan Blackford of Shelbina, MO — as  person who lives in Arizona I can tell you that taking water to illegal immigrants in the desert is something I would proudly be arrested for. Again, while you cite a handful of verses on how we as Christians are to obey the law, I’ll repeat what Jesus said was the most important commandment —love God and love your neighbors as yourselves. Next time you decide to escape the snow and fly south for the winter, to say, Tucson — I pray that you have enough water. Because God forbid you get a little too tan on that vacation and be parched. I’d hate for a Christians with your mindset to pass you by, citing federal immigration law as a reason we shouldn’t help our fellow man. I also pray that you take a good look around your own neighborhood and consider why, Mr. Blackford, your people were allowed to immigrate so freely. (I’ll take a huge leap here and say perhaps our people were on the same boat from Europe. The pasty white boat.) In other words, DUDE! Stop the hate. Think a bit bigger. Think how miserable it would be to roam a desert for, say, 40 days and nights without food and water.

And for you, Lafe Tolliver of Toledo, Ohio — I can only say namaste. May the Lord be with you and may Saint Peter meet you at the pearly gates in a full downward dog to show what an ass you’ve made of yourself to suggest yoga is an “occult novelty.” Really? You mean to tell me there isn’t some social justice issue a bit more important in Toledo you couldn’t get behind? Is this really the best use of your energy? I think not Lafe. In fact, I think you sound a little tense. Could I suggest some Bikram? It would do wonders for your energy and for your attitude. Stretching, learning to meditate and being at peace is not in opposition to our faith! In fact, I’m pretty sure Jesus was a fan of all three.

But most importantly, I am certain that this bickering of how to behave and who to love is pointless. It is a waste of our effort as United Methodists and as Christians. If you feel so strongly that someone is living in opposition to your faith — then lead your life the way you see fit. Show them through actions!

And again, the point of our faith, of our walk with Christ is clear: We are here to comfort each other. We are here to be the light. We are here to love and be love!

That’s right. Peggy, Alan, Lafe — I love you. You are numbskulls, but I love you.

Be well, amigos.

~K

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Faith
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34 Responses

  1. i love you, kelli. this was beautiful. and perfect.
    i see you living every moment of your life for the good of others – and you inspire me more than i can ever say.
    peace.

  2. I find that these views are more reflective of cultural values and family up brining rather than Christian values. It’s just expressed as Christian values – and in many cases wrongly so. Many think they are Christians just because they go to church, and think that what they think is automatically Christian. The Bible does not directly address illegal immigration and global warming or issues of war and peace – however there is direction on how to deal with these issues. The vast majority never take the time to figure it out and simply resort to the culture they exist in to shape their views.

    I certainly don’t want to come out and say these people don’t have the faith. All I know is that we are all hypocrites and fall short of the glory of God. Our real position is very lowly. We are of the dust and shall return to the dust. We have a brief time when we can ask God to lift us up so we can reflect His glory here on Earth.

    I just wish people would take the time to understand this.. but alas they don’t. I pray that God would grant me the grace to love them too… 🙂 I have struggled with this mightily…

  3. I am not familiar with that publication, but how sad for the United Methodist Church for publishing those articles. What happened to “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”?

    Sadly, some members of my church recently put up a fight about our food box ministry. They were angry that the some of the food boxes we put together as a congregation each month were being given to “illegal” families. I was shocked and disgusted. Really? An illegal alien is still person and a neighbor, and if they are hungry, we are called to feed them too! Shame on you for not wanting to help your neighbor when you have the means to do so. Even my very republican husband who may have more conservative views on immigration, said we are a church providing food for those in need- it doesn’t matter what their legal status is. Those church members were advocating that families receiving our food boxes needed to prove citizenship. I am happy to report they were overruled, and our food boxes are still going to ANY family in need regardless of legal status.

    I appreciate your rant and agree that we as Christians need to practice more compassion and like you said “love your neighbor” whoever that neighbor may be!

  4. [STANDING OVATION]

  5. HugoPolanco November 10, 2010

    I really appreciate this blog post. They key word here is LOVE.

    Love everyone.

  6. I did a bit of ranting here too and then lost it. Thanks for doing it all so beautifully. I know why I love your blog and you so much…we are “soul sisters”. Every issue you mentioned are issues I struggle with in my our church(Catholic)…my own parish…my own friends and even some family. How can we possibly as Christians exclude anyone…gay or straight, legal or illegal or someone who chooses yoga over another type of meditation or prayer. God is God…prayer is prayer and we are all God’s children. Why can’t we love unconditionally? Jesus made it so darn simple and this world has made a royal mess of it. SIMPLY LOVE.

  7. Unfortunately, there are a lot of “Sunday Christians” as I see it. I’m a Christian and try to live my life with balance. It irritates me to see judgmental Christians out there (or even the really preachy ones who are trying to recruit, but only succeed in turning others away from our religion!)

  8. Love is you / You and me / Love is knowing / We can be.

    – Sir John Lennon

    Love wins, friend. Love wins.

  9. Julia Ferre November 10, 2010

    Other folk are hard to stomach sometimes. Keep calm, and carry on.

  10. I’m an old school catholic, old testament too. I don’t believe you can pick and choose from the bible and then apply what you believe will work for you or your future policy/vision.

    I remember asking a born again Christian (don’t get me started with getting born again) can you remember exactly when you fell from grace?

  11. Great post. When I got to the part about taking water to illegal immigrants in the desert, I was reminded of what my priest recently asked us, “If it were illegal to practice your Christian faith and you were arrested, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”. So many people forget that Christianity is about love, not hate.

  12. Larissa Stretton November 10, 2010

    Seriously. You nailed it.

  13. Wow. I’m surprised you didn’t see a letter about how gay immigrant yoga instructors are what’s wrong with this country.

    (Nice responses to them, by the way!)

  14. Great post Kelli. Thankfully not all people, churches, and/or denominations are as narrow-minded as the people you quoted.

    At my church:
    1. We freely give food to people who are here (quote/unquote) illegally.
    2. We welcome gay and lesbian people (and even let them be pastors!)
    3. Our lead pastor’s wife is a yoga instructor

  15. Kelli! I am with you 110 percent! This is why I stopped going to my Catholic church. You can’t talk the talk and then put restrictions on God’s love based on someone’s interpretations. God or whatever you call the Higher Being loves all of us and we should take care of each other and this planet on which we all live. The rest of it shouldnt matter. Embrace each other not turn our backs on each other. Can’t we all just get along!

    Kudos to you Kelli!

  16. I completely agree with Shailesh Ghimire who commented earlier. I’m Catholic and love my church and what it teaches. There are many Catholics out there who don’t know the Church’s standing on gay rights, immigration and other hot topics (the media doesn’t help and often misrepresents our church). They seem to go along with the culture in the US. I know that my Church is based on love and it’s definitely hard sometimes to love “hypocrites.” So all I can do is pray for me to be more open to them and for them to be more open to love.

  17. Well said, Shailesh Ghimire! I couldn’t agree more! So many things have been done and said in the name of religion that are not Christ-like at all.

    Thank you, Elaine for your suggestion of praying for ourselves on this topic.

    Kelli, you are such a good example of loving your neighbor, even if that neighbor lives on the other side of the planet. Our neighbor is the one that is need, and we’re neighborly when we are the one who helps.

  18. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

  19. I’m a Lutheran, admittedly not the best as far as church-going but I am a believer. Anyway, it’s always bugged me how there are so many factions (bodies) of the Lutheran church, different synods, etc. And how Lutherans are Protestants but there are so many different Protestant religions, all those also probably divided within themselves. And the Protestants are Christians but so are Catholics. There is just too much divisiveness, all in the name of Christianity. All these breaks occurred over theological, social, or interpretative differences and so many of them are minor or trite. Once again, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is getting ready to split because of issues with–of course–gays so there will be yet another Lutheran faction. You can’t just say you’re a Lutheran, for instance, you have to qualify it. You could be ELCA, ALC, LCA, AELC, Missouri, Wisconsin–it’s crazy. It all annoys me beyond belief. Everyone thinks their own little way of thinking is the only right way and most of it is petty crap.

    Anyway, I went off-topic but I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  20. So… what I want to know is why did they print all these letters? I’m all for debate but I don’t think those things are really up for debate as far as Methodist doctrine is concerned. Have you thought about sending in your post to be printed as a response? (Maybe with the names removed just to show some grace. Or, maybe not.)

  21. Wow! Peggy sounds more like a Fred Phelps deciple than a member of the UMW. That man gives Topeka, Kansas a bad name.
    There was a nice interview with Bishop Jean Robinson on ACT this afternoon. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/11/10/131218517/bishop-robinson He said death isn’t the worst thing, not living your life is the worst thing. I think I’m going to tack that up somewhere I can see it.
    xo
    and love!

  22. Wonderfully said, Kelli!

  23. Amen to LOVE, even the numbskulls!

  24. My heart goes out to anyone who picked up that magazine and thought those letters reflected their church. It is very painful to find that the brand of faith you grew up with and is part of your culture is not accepting. So many are faced with that. So much pain has been inflicted in the name of Christianity.

    I am thankful that as an adult I was able to find a reconciling Methodist church where we believe that God is LOVE, that all people are welcome and equal in the family of God, and that God is for us, not against us.

    Keep on keeping on Kelly!

  25. love you more than ever woman!

  26. I could have a little faith left in me, but certainly I can’t stand the church anymore, as an institution. Having the City of Vatican planted on my native soul makes me more angry than I’d like to be. And being surrounded by morons going to church every sunday, praying God, and acting like haters as soon as they came out of Mass, doesn’t help either………I know many good people (not religious ones) helping others just out of love and compassion, some of them are gay, some are foreigners, but all of them so loving and caring. I’m sure among them there’s a yoga trainee too…

  27. Ashley Grimes November 12, 2010

    Amen Sister!

  28. What a great post!!!! And thank you so much for the beautiful card and gift card:) I love you!! These last few weeks have been decidedly weird!!!

    My brother has been having a very lively discussion on facebook along the lines of your post…as for myself, as a professed fairly liberal Mormon, I’m saddened by a lot of viewpoints of Christians…for me I try to live my life in a way that would be pleasing to Jesus Christ…having malice towards none…loving my neighbor as myself…being accepting and loving towards every one of God’s creatures (both human and non human:))…being charitable and always remembering that charity is the pure love of Christ. There are days and even months when I fall short of this ideal that I hold for myself…but I always know that today is a new day and I can chose each day to live how I want to live.

  29. It’s things like that that make people stay away from church. Which is sad. Why people have to look down on others is beyond me.

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