After ORLANDO: Rebuild with Inclusion NOT Exclusion

After ORLANDO: Rebuild with Inclusion NOT Exclusion

With high hopes and confidence in humankind as capable beings, I intend to suggest a method of coping and healing in the days to come following the mass shooting that occurred in Orlando. At a night club, a social meeting place for LGBT individuals, an angry and deranged individual opened fire on unarmed patrons, killing many and wounding more. This is said to have been the largest mass shooting in American history. There are fifty people who have lost their lives and more than fifty are in hospitals and fighting to survive.

Thinking about how does a community rebuild the sense of safety and security after an act of such terror, I thought about what this club meant to those who were there that evening. People gathered to celebrate life: gay life, lesbian life, transgender life. There had been a sense of freedom among those who attended this club. Now, there is a sense of terror, pain, and suffering. That is what terrorists attempt to do – terrorize. How many of us have done the same thing but without firearms or active physical violence?

The notion of rebuilding with inclusion as a premise may be new to some. There has been such a tendency to exclude based on the principles that have been erringly taught from our church pulpits for far too long. Those who proof text verses from the Christian Bible claim to have the monopoly on God, as if a life-giving spirit could be contained by human means. But nonetheless, there are those who have declared that Christianity is the only way, based on what the Christian writings say. These misinterpretations are based on Gentile, especially Western American, interpretations that have no understanding of the Judaic theme that runs throughout these scriptures.

The issue of exclusion is not healthy or mindful. Not only does this same set of religious doctrines teach against exclusion, the individual who these writings claim is the founder of their faith taught against it. The Jesus of the Bible taught in parables and catchy phrases, such as blessed are the poor and stories like the Prodigal Son. This Jesus, the Christian Christ, also taught to love God first and your neighbor as yourself. He never described the neighbor except for indirect suggestions as that made in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which, by the way, has inspired many to do charitable works. But the notion of exclusion is based on a verse or two that have been misinterpreted and misapplied for many years.

Jesus spoke of being the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He said that no one could get to God except through him. The traditional rendering of this is that unless a person believes in Jesus (as if believing something can make you better than someone who does not believe), they cannot go to heaven (a mythological place that the ancients thought was above the sky and clouds). I want to suggest that Jesus was referencing his way of life and the truth he shared. Jesus owned very little and shared what he had or received. He also taught equality of women and Gentiles (non-Jews). Including the sick, blind, mentally ill (mental illness was attributed to demon possession in those days), broken hearted, harlots, tax collectors, and even the religious, he invited people to unite and love each other as God loves us.

So rebuilding with inclusion in mind means not excluding those who may be different than us. No matter what the individual’s physical or spiritual condition or affiliations, we can all learn to be more considerate and refrain from demanding others conform to our ideas. Rebuilding the community in Orlando and the surrounding areas is going to involve rebuilding trust and the sense of safety. Rather than pinpointing our differences, let us all commit to seeing our similarities. We all need companionship, love, a sense of belonging, safety, security, self-worth, and confidence in our ability to make good decisions concerning other’s welfare, as well as our own. If we are not aware of our abilities to do these things, there are people we can ask for help.

(Florida Counseling Association – http://www.flacounseling.org)

(American Counseling Association – http://www.counseling.org)

For help in the Orlando area: contact 407-228-8272

#afterOrlando

#InclusionNOTexclusion

 

Rebuild

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Biblical Prejudices . . .

Biblical Prejudices . . .

June 7, 2016

As I read over some of the material in my textbook, Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy (Hazler in Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2016), I came across a couple of familiar concepts: unconditional positive regard and conditions of worth (Rogers, 1959 cited in Hazler, 2016). Unconditional positive regard involves an individual’s self-trust and confidence in one’s self to make decisions based on her/his own goodness (Hazler, 2016, p. 174-175). Conditions of worth can be explained as a form of the retribution principle: If I do good, then all will go well or I will be rewarded with love and acceptance; and if I do not do good, if I fail in some way, then I will not be capable of making my own decisions and must look outside/externally to find guidance, not being able to make decisions based on my own worth or goodness (Hazler, 2016, p. 175).

Recently, I have been unsettled by some of the issues and arguments I have heard and read about the LGBTQ community. Not only are people irresponsibly accusing transgender individuals of possibly committing acts against their children, I think some individuals are actually afraid, due to their ignorance. These people have based their assumptions on false information from the media, modern rumors, and prejudiced agenda based on a religious idea from thousands of years ago.

When a person or the group in which the person is a member denies services, mistreats, abuses, causes harm or intends to cause harm to a member of a different group based on the characteristics or attributes of the other group members being different, it is prejudice. Prejudice is not acceptable and is NEVER okay. It is not appropriate to chastise, punish, or alienate any group based on nonconformity to social, political, or cultural norms.

Taking this one step further, I want to bring up the topic of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Back then, there were many who firmly believed that it was acceptable to own slaves and acceptable to mistreat people of color. The basis of this misconception was that the Bible said it was okay to have slaves. Again, this idea was based on religious ideas that were almost 2,000 years old.

Since then, we have realized the errors of our ways and there has been some growth towards the equal and fair treatment of people of all ethnic backgrounds. There is still much work to do and growth is needed to continue our plight towards equality in this realm, but the American culture has adopted some better ways of protecting the rights and affirming the privileges of people of color. There is much more involved with the topic of civil rights still needed in this area but this article cannot begin to discuss all of them.

This brings me to my next subject. In the here and now, there are many fighting against equal rights, privileges, and protection for our LGBTQ neighbors, friends, and family members. These individuals believe that their rights to religious freedom are somehow being taken away if our LGBTQ citizens are treated as they ought to be treated – equality and justice. Rather than see how damaging their actions are, these persons insist that they have the right to mistreat, deny services, and alienate LGBTQ members all based on their being different than the majority group. Remembering the definition of prejudice mentioned earlier, I cannot see how anyone cannot see these actions as prejudiced and against LGBTQ individuals.

My last point reiterates one made previously about the civil rights movement. After 50 years, we have seen how horrendous the segregation acts were, we can see that people of color and women have just as much value as White men. We can see that voting rights and rights to higher education should not be withheld from anyone based on the person’s characteristics and physical attributes. Alarmingly, we should also be aware that these misconceptions were fueled by a literal biblical interpretation. This same biblical prejudice is now being used to condemn another group that does not fit neatly into the cultural standards of this religious crowd. And all of this is based on a sense of superiority gained from words written over 2,000 years ago, some over 2,800 years ago, of which results in the malicious degradation of others without considering the premises of their religion’s founder.

When we make decisions based on our own inherent goodness, the personal worth and value that leads us to want fair and just treatment of all, then we can see that unconditional positive regard guides us along. Healthy cognition can aid us when making decisions to NOT go along with the crowd but to stand up for what it means to be more fully human, by treating others as we want to be treated. When we have allowed the majority, no matter how prejudiced in their views and actions, to dictate what we should believe and how we should mistreat others based on ancient sources, then we have succumbed to conditions of worth; thinking that our value comes from belonging to the group that seems to be in charge.

Those who attempt to convince others into thinking that educating ourselves with the current literature for the sake of finding truth is a waste of time are misinformed by thinking that all we need is one BOOK to find all the answers for all time. I want a doctor who has read medical books! I want a psychologist who has read the mental health literature! I want a surgeon who is educated with the most current medical/scientific findings! The prejudiced, religious view that is disregarding the painful consequences of treating others as if they are not good enough, that their value is based on whether they conform to our wants or ideals, or that they are somehow not acceptable the way they are, must be in denial of how damaging this behavior and these words are to our friends, neighbors, and family members who belong to the LGBTQ community. If they do see how horrendous this behavior is and continue to do so, then I have to question the value or worth of their religiousness.

Reference

Hazler, R. J. (2016). Person-centered theory. In D. Capuzzi and M. D. Stauffer, Counseling and  Psychotherapy: Theories and interventions (6th ed., pp. 169-190). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

False Security of Inerrancy

False Security of Inerrancy

Attributing the perfection, infinite wisdom, divinity and the holiness of God to any object, whether a totem pole, a relic, or a set of writings, is idolatry; consequently, pertaining to a book we are all familiar with – the Bible – it is called bibliolatry. After reading an interesting article written by John Pavlovitz (Why This Christian Doesn’t Need a Perfect Bible), I had some startling revelations. For so many years, the church has proposed the inerrancy of the scriptures, as if these writings of antiquity contained absolute truth and nothing less. In fact, some of us have assumed that the numerous authors believed that what they were writing was literally breathed from God and that their testimonies and stories were completely factual and could hold up to historical scrutiny indefinitely. Our assumptions have misled us into some dangerous and dogmatic territory.

The common ideology of the all-or-nothing mentality of some church-goers, that if the Bible is not without fault, if the scriptures are not T H E  W O R D  O F G O D, then it is worthless, must be replaced by the truth. It amazes me to think that somehow we have viewed and honestly worshiped the Bible instead of the God of the Bible. It may be difficult to accept or admit but the symptoms are quite easy to identify. The most apparent indication of bibliolatry is fear that manifests as anger when someone suggests that the Bible is not absolute on everything. In addition, holding on to ideas that are based on prejudiced or discriminatory views, even though we know we have been instructed to love God first and love our neighbors as ourselves, is an obvious symptom that our beliefs are faulty or not based on God’s ideal – love.

The Golden Rule, do unto others as you want them to do to you, is universal across the planet. In nations far and wide, this rule of true humanity appears in the literature of all the early written languages. Hinduism proposes doing no harm to any other, including all living creatures. Buddhism calls for selflessness. Islam teaches surrender to God and God only. Christianity is summed up in two statements: Love God first and love your neighbor as yourself. Judaism also teaches the primacy of loving God and justice. So, if any of us are still holding onto the beliefs that some groups are not as worthy as others, some are preferred and some are hated, and particular behaviors separate humans from the Source of Life, then we have traded love for judgment and criticism.

Reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation will provide the reader with the written form of traditional history as told by the Hebrews, except that we have translations with a contemporary, more modern view. These writers were not concerned with writing historical data that could be supported by archeological evidence. The stories that were often conveyed by storytelling were told in ways so that the hearers could remember them. The interpretation of events was always through the lens of the storyteller’s concept of God. We can see the evidence of the changing persona of God throughout the writings in the Bible.

As the warrior God, the Old Testament peoples desired favor when they went to war. During these ages, there were bandit raids and territorial battles. This is how any one group of individuals increased their resources and their numbers. Employment, businesses, and corporations were not even thought of during the Old Testament days. Rustling, raiding, looting, and killing were the primary occupations of warriors. There was agriculture but most individual tribes obtained resources by stealing from neighboring camps.

It makes sense that God was seen as a God of Battle because that is what the people needed to be successful in their way of living and surviving. If a people lost in battle, then they perceived God to be against them for some reason. As early as the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews, the people began to see God differently. Rather than see God as only a God of wrath and war, they began to wonder why they had been defeated. This is when the God of Justice entered into the picture. Israel started to think that the reason behind their deportation and exile was their neglect of justice.

The poor peasants had been paying literally back-breaking taxes so that the aristocrats could live plush lives. Many people died of starvation and went without basic life necessities. Others were forced to take loans to pay taxes and ended up as indentured slaves. The Temple had been the primary focus of Israel and it was an elaborate trophy of riches that was adorned with gold and precious stones; all at the expense of the farmers, peasants, and poor. At this point, during the Babylonian Captivity, the image of God was slowly becoming more focused on justice and mercy. Again, this image of God served a purpose; namely, Israel needed a God of justice and mercy to provide hope of returning home.

As we enter the New Testament, we see John the Baptist and Jesus teaching new things. It had been assumed that wealth was a sign of holiness or God’s approval, and poverty was a symptom of defilement and being cursed. These cousins, John, and Jesus, changed the way people saw things. Rather than have to change their social status, many came to the Jordan River to be baptized or cleansed from defilement. This one act gave people something that all the Law of Moses could never do – a clear conscience. The ones who were cleansed by the water came up clean and new. They did not have to become wealthy in order to be viewed or see themselves as blessed by God.

A paradigm shift occurred when Israel’s poverty-stricken people were told that they were blessed rather than cursed. Ideas about God’s character were transitioning from negativity and punishment towards justice, mercy, and acceptance. Jesus emphasized this change of direction with his Sermon on the Mount. No longer were materialistic possessions considered the identifying marks of God’s approval. Instead, blessedness became an issue of the heart.

Returning back to the initial issue of bibliolatry, let me explain why I included the information contained in the last few paragraphs concerning the changing faces of God. The absolutism required to hold to an inerrant Bible does not support the changing faces of God because the literal interpretation therein indicates that God does not change. Let me further explain that God did not change over the hundreds of years that the Bible was put into written form. What did change is the human understanding of God, and if the human understanding of God changed over the span of time covered in the Bible, how can we be satisfied with holding to concepts that are now thousands of years old? Our understanding of God should be changing as it grows and develops just as Israel’s understanding changed and grew as they progressed in their humanity.

One other thing. Some people hold to the idea that the Bible contains answers to every question. This assumption does not account for the progression of humanity over the last two millennia. Life has changed considerably since the disciple whom Jesus loved (John) was exiled on the Isle of Patmos. The writers of the books contained in the Bible did not believe that they were providing all the answers for all time. In fact, the Rabbis and other religious teachers of those times expounded significantly on the scriptures. There are volumes of writings not included in the canonization of the Bible, including the Talmud and the Mishnah.

We assume too much when we think we understand the Bible when we do not understand the context from which it came. The authors of the Bible were profoundly Jewish, with the exception of Luke, and wrote from the lens of Judaism. We, however, are contemporary Americans attempting to be Christians but haven’t even grasped who Jesus was or what he was really after.

#bibliolatry, #falsesecurityofinerrancy, #changingfacesofGod

Self-Discovery & Brain-traps

Self-Discovery & Brain-traps

In order to identify a problem, we must know that the problem exists. This involves the process of self-discovery, and self-discovery requires the willingness to be open and honest with ourselves and others. Our friends and family members can be sources of honest feedback during the process of self-discovery, and they can be there with us as we celebrate the freedoms we experience as a result of beneficial change.

So what is a brain-trap? The term is not in the dictionary, rather it is something I named a few years ago when I began my journey of self-discovery.There are certain things we learn as we develop as children, adolescents, and adults that we carry with us unaware. Some things become habits, some things are embedded in our character or personalities, and some things are thoughts and ideas that we hold to without ever questioning them. All of these things are potential brain-traps – things that influence our decisions and behaviors but that are hidden in the recesses of our minds. Until we become aware of these influences and/or beliefs, we cannot identify them nor can we understand why we make the choices we do.

I have a funny example of which I remind myself when I need to stop taking myself so seriously. Unbeknownst to me, I had a poor, poverty-stricken mentality that I had carried with me from my youth. The result was that I had a constant fear of not having enough. This mental deprivation caused me to hoard certain things and save others, denying myself the permission to use things for fear that I would run out or never be able to replace them. I used a dilapidated sponge for days until it was literally falling apart when I had a brand new one under the kitchen sink. Finally, I said to myself, “Go ahead and use the last sponge and I bet nothing bad will happen.” It took some coaxing but I got out the new sponge, the last sponge, and I used it. Guess what? Nothing bad happened!

I share that somewhat comical story because I know there are other people who struggle with the same issue, whether it pertains to money, food, clothing, or whatever. These brain-traps are also present in our belief systems, our worldviews, and our opinions – sometimes and sadly at the expense of others. How do we develop negative mindsets about other people, different beliefs, and individual “otherness?” Our culture, the media, and our families embed strong persuasions as we grow from children into adults. What are we telling our children about others? Are we justified in our assumptions? I have found that most of the time our negative perspectives about the uniqueness or diversity of people from different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds are rooted in outdated sources of information that have been passed down from generation to generation – without their validity being properly questioned.

We are concerned about teaching the truth but whose version of the truth is most valid? Is any one group entitled to claim the monopoly on truth without using their self-appointed claims to the truth? Is truth static or relative? These questions reveal the nature of brain-traps. They are elusive and well-hidden. One measure I have found useful is to ask, “What agenda does this belief meet?” Another question is, “Who profits and who loses?” Finally, “Is there a tangible benefit for my neighbor as well as for my family and me?” Brain-traps are developed over time, it takes courage to seek them out and bring them out into the open, and the willingness to replace them with more accurate and beneficial assessments.

 

First blog post

After a disappointing experience of using my personal social media page to share my thoughts and concerns, I realized that I needed a place more private and individualized to publish my writings. The encouragement of a lifelong friend compelled me to venture into the world of blogging. So without any previous experience with writing or publishing blogs, here I am. The views and perspectives I share on this blog are, for the majority, nontraditional, properly researched, and often veer quite far from conventional wisdom. Therefore, I implore the readers to take a few moments to contemplate what they read and try to empathize. In the fast-paced, techno-world that we live in, sitting still for a few moments and taking the time to really think about things can be quite the task; but that is exactly what it takes to be a critical thinker – One who thinks independently and who can assess circumstances and data without being unnecessarily persuaded by illogical fallacies. My intentions involve sharing some of what I have learned from a life of difficult lessons, a fair amount of mental health information I have been taught in academics, and as much as I can concerning my spiritual journey of which has enabled me to see far beyond the traditional definitions and belief systems that bind and condemn.