theworldofdale

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

i’ll be home for christmas (almost)

In Home, News and Politics, Religion on December 28, 2015 at 9:25 pm

I bought a house today. My agent was my friend Laurie. I met Laurie ten years ago at a long-defunct bar called The Lab. It was a bar in Over the Rhine and being just a few years out from the riots, having four people there on a weeknight meant the place was poppin’. I was recently out of a poorly-considered reunion with an ex and Laurie was annoyed enough with men in general to lend a sympathetic ear to my story of mid-20s love gone wrong (or rather, was never love in the first place).

Over the years, that barstool friendship evolved across husbands and boyfriends, jobs and different jobs, debauchery of youth and the circle back to good conversation over a few beers. After referring a few friends to her real estate agent services, I got serious about buying my own place. And when I finally found The House of Dale, I wrote the following heartfelt letter in hopes of swaying the sellers with my earnest declaration of emotions (it turns out all I had to do was want to buy it rather than rent it, but who knew?):

Dear Brad and Angelina*,

Attached is my purchase offer for the home on Pennsylvania Avenue*. I also wanted to share what has led me to this place.

I never thought I’d be able to own my own home. After unemployment left our family leaving Detroit unexpectedly when I was 14 years old, we moved to a small town in Ohio, renting a house from my sister and brother-in-law. My parents still rent that tiny house, 22 years later. After three years of dorm living, I started 18 years of renting. Mostly apartments, a couple houses, usually alone, sometimes with roommates. I thought my “property” ownership would be limited to my car and a square foot of an island off the coast of Maine (life is weird).

A year ago, I got a new job. Previous obstacles to my gainful employment, mostly health-related, had diminished to a point where I could consider what had seemed impossible: home ownership. This not merely a purchase for me; even the mortgage pales in comparison to the true meaning of this contract: security and a willing responsibility to the commitment of providing my life’s sanctuary.

I love this house. It’s a place where I can feel at the home for the first time since we drove away from our house in Detroit 22 years ago. Any dollars and cents in this contract is eclipsed by the heart I offer for my American Dream come true.

Thank you for considering my offer in its entirety.

Sincerely,

Snarkler*

Brad and Angelina didn’t give a shit about my heartfelt letter. They are business people who flip houses for a living. If they gave a shit about my heartfelt letter, they wouldn’t be good at their jobs. It’s okay. I still got the house.

But those words are still true. This hasn’t been so much a financial transaction as the fulfillment of a dream deferred. A home is security. A home is safety. A home is where you have the liberty to wear robes all the time and eat cookies and pizza for breakfast and enjoy privacy for multi-flush poops. You can play music loud and take long showers (but please be responsible in your water use). A place to lay your head is what keeps you going when you’re out in the world, with its unpredictability and disapproval of robe-only ensembles.

When weather is bad, we want to be at home. When we’re sick, we want to be at home. When we’re tired, or scared, or stuck in traffic – especially when we’re stuck in traffic – we want to be at home.

The refugees of Syria, of Sudan, of Afghanistan, of dozens of countries where unspeakable abuse – trafficking, child soldiers, pirating, blatant violence – has driven its people to flee with only the clothes on their backs, risking their lives and the lives of their children, are looking for homes. They are looking for the most basic of necessities – shelter. They are looking for the most essential of liberties – safety. They are looking for the most sacred of blessings – serenity in the comfort of a home.

Any refugee seeking asylum could have written that heartfelt letter. The refugees who are being turned away, who are dying – quite literally – in their efforts to find a home, are being turned back to nothing. Their home is gone. When refugees are turned away, we – the countries that are homes by the very nature our liberty – not only deny them the dignity of acceptance but we shirk our responsibility to care for our neighbor. Their blood is on our hands because we refuse to shield them from the sword.

When we turn away refugees, we. are. Assholes. As my mom said about the sellers after reading my heartfelt letter, “If that doesn’t make them want you to have the home, they are heartless awful people, and I’m sure that isn’t the case.”

Many Americans just celebrated Christmas (and/or the War on Christmas). We are told There is a Reason for the Season. That reason started with a young couple looking, if only for the night, a home. Somewhere safe to bring their child into the world. Somewhere that if say, a deranged king was trying to hunt down and kill their child, they would be secure against the danger. The really Christian thing to do is to help people who are looking for home – a safe place to birth their child, a land where their lives are no longer in daily danger, an urban bungalow for robe-wearing. The Christians would want those refugees to have a home. Because they aren’t heartless awful people. Mom is sure that isn’t the case.

 

*Names have been changed

Advertisements

Jesus, take the wheel. And the windshield.

In Communication, News and Politics, Religion on October 25, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Today, I went to Mass. I had fallen off a bit in my attendance during a low couple of months but my priest (I refer to him as “my” priest, although I’m pretty sure he’s seeing other people*) gave me the push I needed to get back in the groove.

*Father PLSJ, please forgive me for that joke.

As usual, the homily seemed to be written specifically for me, because that’s how they work. As usual, I left feeling better. Happier, lighter, more at peace. I was ready to enjoy my afternoon with a little laundry, a little dancing, and probably a nap. As not usual, there was a note waiting for me when I returned to my car.

After the nanosecond of fear that I received a ticket (much like when a police car is behind you on the highway and you start going through your driver’s test handbook in your head, trying to find a law that you are breaking), I got out and grabbed what turned out to be a note.

I can’t tell you exactly what it said. I went back into the church and gave it to my priest (he presided over the Mass). I wasn’t sure what emotion I was filled with – maybe anger, maybe panic, maybe sorrow – but whatever it was, I knew keeping that note would intensify and prolong it.

The gist, however, was that this person was very disappointed that I voted for President Obama (yeah, the sticker is still on my car. Whatevs). S/he wrote how saddened they were by my support for the most pro-choice, something, something, Muslim president ever to be elected. There were a few other sentences about how misguided I was and how they hoped I’d make a better decision in the next election. It was addressed to “Sister in Christ” and signed with a similar vaguely religious but anonymous title.

Putting aside the creepiness of someone who watched me arrive to Mass and then left an anonymous note on my car (the “Sister in Christ” confirmed they knew I was female), I was shaken. I had often joked that someday, the Democratic stickers would result in my car being vandalized when I visited the considerably more conservative town where my parents reside or parked in the parking lot of a church whose parishioners had very strong political leanings. It hadn’t really occurred to me that while parked at a downtown meter outside my (fairly progressive) parish, I would receive a personalized condemnation by someone who considered themselves an authority on WJWD (What Jesus Would Do). It was the first time someone of the same faith had expressed judgment of me. Really – I know that may surprise some who think my wildly liberal views would send lightning surging through my body once the holy water hit my forehead, but this was my first encounter with overt disapproval.

The initial surge of adrenaline that was fueling my anger, panic, or fear has subsided, if not disappeared entirely. I will pray for this person. S/he feels a hollowness in their own faith that must be filled with the damnation of others. S/he is too cowardly to bring their petitions to me face-to-face and have to support their electoral argument. His or her concept of grace is restricted to a box-checking idea of religious merit – that if one votes a certain way or pastes these particular bumper stickers to one’s bumper must be stressful and joyless – rather than the knowledge that grace is extended to all. S/he didn’t hear today’s homily, where Father P’s interpretation of the scripture was that it wasn’t the blind and likely unsavory Bartimaeus who served as the lesson, but the crowd – the followers of Jesus who rebuked Bart and his pleas for help.

Rebuke means to express sharp and stern disapproval because of someone’s behavior or actions. The note of rebuke left on my windshield was probably written in the spirit of good faith. This person thinks they did the right thing. S/he thinks they helped me today. And they did, because I learned that the anger or panic or sorrow that my brain initially signaled to my body’s endocrine system was an extension of the lesson from scripture. While the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus, Jesus called him over and gave him sight, and without the condition of following his teaching. But Bart did follow Jesus. And hopefully, the crowd, and the Note Writer, learns that love, not judgment, is the key to grace.

To the person who left me this note: Next time, speak to me. Put your beliefs in the light and assign yourself to them. If you truly are a follower of Christ, there would be no need to hide behind the anonymity of an unsigned note. You should have the strength of heart to be a true messenger. My prayer for you is that your faith begins to sprout from love instead of the kind of anger only 4-year-old bumper sticker can arouse.

But don’t worry. I won’t vote for Obama again.

P.S. It really is creepy to watch me and leave a note on my car, so let’s just also keep that in mind when evangelizing, ‘kay?

same love

In News and Politics, Relationships, Religion on May 23, 2015 at 5:32 pm

If you’ve read more than three posts on this blog, I’d first like to congratulate you on being part of such an exclusive group. Secondly, you may have noticed that a lot of post titles are music-related. It didn’t start out as a conscious decision, and it’s still not a rule so much as a tendency. But this title does refer to a specific song: Same Love by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert. It’s essentially a song in support of the GLBTQ community. When I first heard it, it was Mary Lambert’s sweet lilting chorus that hooked me (pun acknowledged, considered, and kept but not necessarily intended).

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

It’s a melodic expression of an age-old sentiment: the heart wants what the heart wants. Everyone who has known love knows the irrationality of it. I know far too many people (myself included) who spent a stupid amount of time and energy on a relationship weaker than the first little pig’s straw house. The frailty might be obvious and insurmountable – the straw house had no chance against the wolf’s inexplicably strong lungs – or it might never be realized – like water eroding the earth until the Grand Canyon reaches depths that far exceed its relatively mild epithet would imply.

The beautiful thing about love is that, like faith, it regularly overcomes the cyclopean odds against it and endures the wind and fire and hangry wolves determined to destroy it. We have as much control over whether we love the same or opposite sex as we do whether we love some asshole who tries to get you fired (you know who you are).

I recently became a Catholic. The why and how and whatnot are for another day. For the purposes of this post, most people are aware of the Catholic church’s stance on marriage equality (they are not in favor). What you might not know is that this judgment on marriage validity is not limited to the Adam and Steves of the world. There are some very specific reasons why the church’s stance on gay marriage is what it is – and they are mostly related to the inability to produce biological progeny. I won’t go into them here because you can look it up yourself on this thing called Google (or Bing, if you prefer your search results identical but further apart).

What interested me as I learned the premises on which the case for which marriage inequality was based, I realized my own (extremely hypothetical) marriage would not be recognized as valid by the Catholic church – and many priests would refuse to perform my ceremony.

Why? Because I do not want to have biological children. I will not be having biological children. There was a time in my life when I planned on a Brangelina-style brood of biological and adopted children who represented at least 5 continents. Life, being the great teacher it is, gave many practical arguments in favor of keeping the doors of my egg store closed, not the least of which is serious mental illness (in fact, it’s probably the most). The interaction of medication and hormones and the physical, mental, and emotional stress of pregnancy made it an easy decision – for ME. Please note, people prone to hysteria, that I am not making a statement on whether women with mental illness should have biological children. As always, I do not give a shit what other people think or do, in the same way I don’t give a shit what other people think about what I think or do.

Because of the motley logic leading to my unused uterus, the Catholic church would not consider my marriage valid – or “real,” as one would say in non-Catholic terminology. My imaginary husband could divorce me and get what is essentially a “get out of marriage free” card from the church – an annulment would be a no-brainer. The reason you get married is to have children. Yeah, it’s also to unify with another human being who you will love and honor through sickness and health, wealth and poverty, good times and bad, but the baby-making is still required. It’s not an either/or proposition.

Is it difficult to belong to a religion that can (and would) refuse to acknowledge a lifelong commitment I made to a man who probably will fart under the covers and leave the toilet seat up and forget to buy bourbon when we run out? Sure. There are other tenets of the Catholic church with which I don’t agree, but just like any relationship, I make compromises and I know the commitment I made on April 4, 2015 will be tested like any other eternal promise. I grant the church something that it is sometimes slow to grant to others – flexibility. My faith, like love, will face the obstacles life presents, and against all probability it will prevail.

But here’s the catch – I can still get married legally. I am free to receive all the benefits of marriage – not just the dutch ovens and empty bourbon bottles, but insurance, estate protection, hospital visitation – all the fun, sexy stuff that comes with a government-issued document. This is where my religion breaks my heart – crossing the line between church and state to intervene in what is legally none of its business, but moreover, it opposes the highest and most central of Catholic tenets – human equality, dignity, and love. Losing sight of Catholicism’s strongest belief – love – has resulted in the promotion of well… not love. And that, unlike love, can change. If it could, and if it would, it can change.

__

Postscript:

As I completed this post, the shuffled playlist on my iPod played “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons. Not as prophetic as if “Same Love” had come on, but it still seems appropriate.

__

Post-postscript:

If you’re wondering if I wrote about gay marriage before, I have, although even I don’t remember writing it. The best thing about a horrible memory is re-reading things like it’s the first time… even when you wrote them. I also remembered my previous blog, which if I was the ambitious sort, I would import into this one or however computers and websites work.