Tag Archives: religion

A Holiday Reminder for the Religious

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought now would be a good time to bring up religion. You see Christians running around during winter, claiming that Christmas is being forgotten, that no one knows what it truly means anymore. The issue I see with that idea is that Christmas decorations go up in stores before Halloween, some of the most prevalent decorations have angelic themes, if you drive around for lights you’re going to see manger scenes, and it’s impossible to listen to the radio without hearing songs about Jesus.

Christmas time is a special time. You will never hear more love or more hatred out of the Christian community. It should be entirely about Christ for them, about spreading love and beauty and knowledge, but it turns into a guilt fest more often than not. If there is one thing that gets through to Christian readers in this post, I hope it’s this: That LOVE is what should guide your every move, not just now in this season but always.

Personal story time!

Growing up, I was always different. I was a product of the new generation – governed by television shows from another country, video games from other countries, and books from all over the world.  I was a liberal mind before I knew what it meant.

My mother is the very best type of Christian you can find. She loves God and the bible and dislikes anyone talking bad about her religion. Her home has many decorations invoking the name of God and speaking of love. She majored in psychology and minored in world religions. She never tries to impose her beliefs on others, but is open to discuss her religion, or any other religion, to anyone who’s interested. She has taught me so much about acceptance and equality that I sometimes forget that the world isn’t full of people like her, who have such a simple and beautiful idea of how to treat others.

I grew up kind and loving and not wanting to hurt others. I wanted to spread excitement and joy and, for a time, my love of Jesus. I’ve touched on some reasons I stopped liking church in a recent post, so I won’t retell that story. I’ll just summarize.

Over the course of my life, I was taught to love others, to not judge them for their life choices, to accept people, and to forgive people seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:22 for that last one). But it’s hard to love your own people when you see them treat others harshly, especially during the holidays.

As I told a cousin recently, I am not bitter at Christians just for their treatment of the LGBT+ community. I am bitter for their treatment of others, but I am also bitter for their treatment of me – one of their own. After I was moved into the teen category of placement for youth programs, I never felt comfortable around people at church. I was picked on in middle school at church for my hair, my glasses, my twin sister, and my lack of athletic skill. Even when we moved and joined a new church that was said to be so loving and accepting, I didn’t find any comfort.

It was nearly impossible to have any type of conversation with any of the people I met there. If I wasn’t speaking only of Jesus, if I wasn’t praising my every waking moment of success to him, if I was talking about anything I had an interest in, I was given weird looks, pitying looks, and uncomfortable silence, as though they were debating what to do with me or waiting for me to turn the conversation around and focus only on God again.

I read novels that weren’t sold in Christian bookstores. I watched TV shows that were about fantasy lands and people. Never mind that other kids in the group were watching reality TV, at least theirs was ‘real’. I still didn’t play sports, and I didn’t play an instrument. How was I supposed to fit in, apparently, without these specific skills and interests? I wanted to go to a non-Christian school? Oh no. Poor thing. I watched movies in theaters and I have friends who aren’t Christians and don’t go to church. Scandalous.

Do the majority of Christians ever listen to themselves? You’re trying to build walls around a very limited interest set and then smush everyone inside them. This is not the way to gain new church members. This is not the way to show a love of Christ year round. If the true meaning of Christmas is being lost, the only ones you have to blame for it are yourselves and your behavior.

My friends who aren’t Christians know the Christian meaning of Christmas. I knew an atheist who knew the bible forwards and backwards. He knew the Christian meaning of Christmas. I love Christmas and I love sharing those feelings of giving, acceptance, forgiveness, and love. I love sharing them all year round, and this is the time of year where most people recognize the need to share them.

But it’s hard to stay positive when you find yourself surrounded by groups of religious people all claiming that no one understands and everyone is just faking it and how dare people try to exclude Jesus from their celebrations and…

Stop.

So someone celebrates different from you. So someone doesn’t celebrate at all. This does not make them evil. This does not make you holy. We are all on this Earth, suffering and struggling together. Spread love, not hate. Emulate the God (or gods) you believe in and accept others this holiday season.

If someone passes you on the street and says Merry Christmas, say thank you. If you see a sign that reads Happy Hanukkah, smile at it. If the song on the radio declares a bright Happy Holidays, sing along. Someone is wishing you well, and spitting on those wishes does not make you any better, or any happier, in the end.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

RM

Growing Up, in the Words of…

As a very old bit of wisdom says, “Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.” And whether you believe it was said by Carroll Bryant, Chili Davis, Bob Monkhouse, your therapist, your mother, or someone totally different, it doesn’t matter. It’s not true.

I mean it is true. No one necessarily has to grow up. Unfortunately, most of us are forced into the act.

When you’re young, people praise you for being creative and asking questions and playing pretend and imagining great things. They tell you that you can be anything in the world, anything at all, when you get older. They praise your curiosity.

Then somewhere along the way they tell you to sit down and be quiet. The world spoon feeds you and tells you to grow up. Don’t do that. You’re too old for that. Stop finger painting and reading children’s books and watching fantasy and sci-fi shows and watching clouds and playing pretend and dancing in the rain and chatting up strangers while waiting in line and being so nice to people and being silly and enjoying bumper cars and laughing when someone farts and dreaming of being the president and JUST STOP trying to be something you’re not.

Well who decided what I’m not?

I certainly didn’t decide I wanted to stop helping the kids at church with their arts and crafts and learning fun songs about the endless and bountiful love of an all-powerful, accepting God. The assistant pastor told me I had to go play with the teenagers who teased me for things I couldn’t change and who never played anything I was good at or ever wanted to learn about anything religious. So I grew up, and I stopped loving religion. I stopped loving church because I was told I was too old to have fun there. I was too old to enjoy it.

I didn’t decide the playground was too childish for me or that laughing out loud was inappropriate. The parents who stare at me like I’m about to abduct their children even when I’m just on the swing set making myself dizzy decided that. The guy at 2 am at IHop who complained that me and some friends joking around was disturbing his meal decided that. I didn’t stop enjoying those things. I became ashamed of those things because of society.

I used to revel in my originality and my interests, and now I hide myself from even my extended family because the world has decided I must grow up, I must. I must grow up or I’ll fall behind. I must get a job at a desk or working for minimum wage. I must get a Doctorate. I must get married and have 2.5 kids and a dog.

But I want to wind down after working with a fantasy novel and play video games until I pass out and put bright highlights in my hair and go to work with it and get too emotional over television shows about people who don’t exist and sleep with a giant stuffed tiger and dream about traveling the world and having the job I always wanted to have and get my face painted at a carnival and play on the jungle gym and sing to myself in public and skip when I want to and break out into dance and have fun my way, not society’s way.

And who decided that I couldn’t? Because there’s something wrong in society when we force our citizens to give up on their dreams and to put aside originality to fit in and succeed and yet claim we want “creative individuals” in our job postings.

Growing old is mandatory, and in this world growing up is a rule. And if you break it, you’re either a success story told to inspire others to keep treading the mill or you’re a failure and society uses you to wipe their shoes after work.

Break the mold for a second with me and use your imagination.

What kind of world would we have if we let people keep dreaming as they got older? What kind of innovations would we have if we just let people grow whichever way they wanted to?

Stop telling people to grow up. The greatest horror this world imposes on us is the idea that we must grow up or be deemed a failure.

Ciao tutti,

RM