A Hobby of Lobbying: Why I am Officially Done with Christianity

simple_hobby_lobbyI have been waiting for a reason, a way, a path, a purpose, a final straw – something that would “click” so that I could definitively walk away from Christianity without feeling a twinge of guilt or shame.

I would like to thank the Supreme Court of the United States for finally showing me that I walked away from Christianity for all the right reasons.

I thought it was because I was abused by fundamentalist teachings.

I thought it was because I was spiritually progressive and not well-received by conservative congregations.

I thought it was because I met too many pastors whose egos kept their congregations from speaking up against social and emotional manipulation.

I thought it was because the church has historically trampled upon women and gays.

Nope. The reason I walked away from Christianity and all it stands for as an institution is because with today’s ruling regarding Hobby Lobby’s crafty designs on women, their bodies and their families, I can see clearly that Christian Dominance is the number one obstacle to equality and social justice in my country and perhaps, a globally underlying theme in human rights violations.

Binary thinking, combined with capitalism and supremacist ideals are dangerous.

I didn’t need a reason to leave… I needed a reason to stay.

And there was none.

It’s simple: Trying to rebrand Christianity (or get it back to its non-political roots), is like trying to claim that the Third Reich was formed out of an outreach to young people who were just searching for community and meaning in life.

There’s no such thing as a good brand of intolerance.

You can’t pretend that some cigarettes are actually good for the lungs.

Why are we still arguing about Christianity as if dominance is okay, as long as it’s particularly friendly to our own causes?

It is the spirit of dominance that has created these wildly gross rulings and corrupt religious systems.

When Christianity gives up this hobby of lobbying for ultimate authority (be it conservative or progressive), then perhaps the highest court in the land will be the level group where social and emotional intelligence runs supreme…

Because it really shouldn’t be a question, whether an employer can rule over an employee’s body. Slavery is enough of a stain on our history and corporations aren’t voters.

I’m ready when you are, folks.

It’s time to paint a pure faith, one that relies on common sense and individual responsibility.

It’s time to carve out a helpful path, one that requires emotional intelligence.

It’s time to make a career out of giving a shit about each other and giving up our agendas for particular faiths.

Practice whatever faith you want, as a hobby…

And lobby for justice, for all.

(P.S. And if you are feeling particularly political about this, consider that politics is able to use Christian beliefs to get their agendas moved forward… and this whole thing was really about Democrats and Republicans, sparring over healthcare reform. Christianity thus, becomes nothing more than a pawn in a larger money-mongering system. Just sayin’. Perhaps religion is the weapon of mass destruction, the opiate of the masses… the gov’t making pawns out of the religious who think this is a win for them… sigh.)

~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

Exodus International: A Year Later… Can Survivors Rest in Peace?

bxg_Losing_ReligionIf you are familiar with my writing or my blog in general, you know that I am a survivor. If you’ve read Enlightened-ish, then you know that my status as “survivor” extends beyond surviving religious fundamentalism and damage from conversion therapy efforts which organizations like Exodus International lied to the public about for decades. I am also a survivor of… life’s darker components such as bullying and sexual abuse. I speak about these things openly not because it is comfortable or even preferred, but because I believe that there is entirely too much fear of authenticity in our cultures of hashtags and half-assed spirituality. Thus, this post, a year later reflects not only on the year anniversary of Exodus International’s closing, but on the collective survivor movement that most of humanity is in, as we all go through an injustice, inequity, abuse, grief, or obstacle that lands us in the awareness of what it takes to thrive in a world that is often not always fair.

When I participated in the Our America piece last year, I had a feeling it would transform my understanding of activism and abuse. Recruiting survivors to be taped in front of their accuser: That’s “good TV” and appears at first, to be a motion of activism, but was it abusive as well? A group of survivors is invited to witness a respected journalist (with a net worth of $8.5 million) as she tries to remain neutral in the face of a man claiming to be apologetic about making a living selling lies about homosexuality’s “cure” through prayer and specialized suppression techniques. Are you familiar with the piece which aired a year ago? Here you go: Watch it again. Is it activism? Or is it abuse?

I personally can’t watch it anymore. Why? Because even in her “review” of her time with Our America, Lisa Ling continued to exalt Alan as a man who she believes was truly trying to attempt something good out of his efforts to apologize – Efforts which led to inequality, genocide, depression, death, and a mental health crisis among gay people, in addition to a spiritually divisive movement within Christianity. (See her respect for him in minute 4:25 of the link) This is tragic when I know from more than one source that Alan pitched yet another publicity stunt to Lisa, after the Our America piece aired. He continued to attempt to latch on the teat of her innocent assumption that behind it all, he was a good guy trying to do good things…

I don’t believe there are any segments at CNN planned, for her to take him on a trip to Africa where she can cover the story of his apology to the people of Uganda, but like I said… I know from more than one source, this guy has an ego the size of Africa – Or a guilt complex equally as large. Either way, any publicity on his face, or those like him, remains to their benefit because it actually reinforces the belief that ex-gay therapy does work. As long as anyone is still asking if the world is flat, there will be yahoos who believe it. Thus, to truly debunk a myth, perhaps we have to let the ignorant move down their paths of baseless beliefs and hopefully they die off like the plague that they are to the collective awakening to science, spirituality and common good.

But we can’t do that, can we?

I couldn’t.

In January of this year, when asked to participate in a hearing in Virginia, where lawmakers were given the power to prevent abuses to minors, they tabled the decision… but I went, I testified and I thought I was doing the “activist” thing. Here is the link to that drama/trauma and the consequent interview that I participated in for SkyNews.

Do I look like an activist?” I ask myself.

Or do I look like I am being abused by a system of journalism that continues to cater to the aggressor, rather than the survivor?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could stay involved with the survivor movement several times before in my experience… but after these incidents, I did step back a bit and begin to ask important questions about who “wins” when survivors speak up.

Ratings for the TV networks.

Listeners on the radio shows.

Blog hits for those who discuss us.

Opportunities to spread the lies, for those who actually still believe this stuff.

As I continued to evaluate my role, what I saw from all of this attention was how it perpetuated itself in online survivor communities. Suddenly I was being re-traumatized on a daily basis through my Facebook notifications and emails. Survivors have accused one another of not being “real” activists. Those who continue to teach/preach suppression accused fellow Christians of not being “real” Christians. Allies who are compassionate to the cause of equality are accused of not being “real” advocates. Trust levels were lowered and meanwhile, the actual story of surviving these injustices is lost in debate and stats like the following, ignored:

Q10Chart_Harm_Info

And so, for me… I have had to redefine what activism really is in my world. I can’t judge those who are making a career of chasing after evil and simultaneously trying to convince themselves it is not evil. I cannot discern the motives of anyone but me…

My motive has always been to make sure survivor stories are told… in all areas of our survival. In fact, that is why my career shift, towards early childhood education made so much sense four years ago… because if you truly want to stop victims from being victims, we have to empower our children not to become aggressors and to stand up for themselves when there are so many words and beliefs that can offend the soul.

An ounce of prevention, is all I can offer.

That is my activism now.

I look back at Christianity and how it is arguing with itself and it is sad to watch. I hear stories of progressives who don’t feel “progressive enough” and I see how the image of Jesus is crucified in blog posts and newsfeeds… I hear survivors who don’t feel “active enough” and pastors who can’t find churches that are “involved enough” in actual justice-seeking, mercy-leading communities and lives…

But I have to wonder about this meme that passed across my eyes not too long ago: exodus_year_later_1When I wrote my coming out memoir years ago, I recognize that there is “A Time to Yell…”

But what if there are activists who move within a very different world of advocacy?

What if we are quietly making a difference by creating positive change in the future, by investing in young lives today?

I’m not saying that the adult survivors don’t matter because, of course, I am one! We need community, compassion and environments where we can freely discuss our healing process. And the world needs justice-seekers, but doesn’t it also need peacemakers?

Do we need to continually share our stories in places that are designed to inflate egos or publicity?

Do we need to make ourselves vulnerable in order to increase ratings and if we do, how does that affect our own quality of life?

For me… I cannot engage in what former leaders are doing now, like it’s some VH-1 pop-up video of apologies, stats and E-True Hollywood banter. I’m over it.

Not over what they did and not over how much attention they still get for doing it…

But for me, being an activist now means being whole in my home, my heart, my health, and in my work.

My fiancee dreads this post because she knows that most of the time, when I post about this topic, the attention it brings literally causes me physical pain. But I have assured her, this “year later” post represents the highest intentions of doing what we all wish cult leaders and abusers would do after they have disbanded.

Rest. In. Peace.

Can survivors rest in peace too? Can they look at the places where hurtful words and beliefs left wounds and say, “I learned something and I am going to be okay?” Can they remember their trauma without shuddering? Can they learn to rebuild trust?

Can we… be at peace?

The answer is yes.

But the path to “yes” is different for each of us.

So today, on the anniversary of Exodus International’s shutting down, though it began a shit storm of rebuilding efforts by its leader and continues to be discussed in blog posts from people on both sides of the aisle, creating even deeper division within Christianity and families, I can say…

Happy Anniversary, Survivors.

To all survivors… for every year we make it to the next level, OUR next level, we can celebrate.

Let the media culture do what it needs to do to make a living… but let’s not contribute if it interferes with our own desires to make a life for ourselves.

You have survived much, my friends. I am honored to know your stories and be inspired by the tenacity of them… Thank you, for being… you.

Namaste.

~~

DSC_0821Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

3 Reasons to be Grateful for “Failed” Relationships

relationships_2When it comes to love, it is clear that society as a whole sees longevity as the ultimate goal in a relationship. Endurance and even stubborn tenacity are viewed as the signs of “success” or indicators of a quality partnership. In fact, for those of us who have had several long-term relationships throughout our adult lives, they have named us perpetrators of “serial monogamy.” It sounds like a crime or mortal sin, punishable by a lifetime of assumptions about instability and emotional baggage.

But what if those of us who have “tried, tried again” when it comes to love, know something special because of our ability to get back on that horse and chase after a different setting sun?

I have given this a lot of thought, as a person who survived two 4-year engagements and 1 clusterfuck of an 18-month rebound. Now, I recognize that I’m 36 years old and able to stand back and say, “You know, that was pretty ugly at times, but I’m grateful.” I look at my current fiancee and challenge myself about this rare feeling I have: It feels alien-like really… to envision an actual, sustainable, no-nonsense, adventurous, and aligned future with someone who doesn’t see me as a stepping stone to their healing, an obstacle to their goals, or a season in their ever-changing personal journey.

Can you see that so-called “baggage” coming through my words already? Go ahead… ask yourselves this: “Why was I ever with someone who saw me as a stepping stone, obstacle or season?”

The truth is, for those of us who are serial monogamists, we know the answer, but we’re afraid to tell you. If we tell you “why” we are susceptible to being a chapter in someone else’s love story, we may become victim to attracting a changing tide instead of the whole ocean of possibility that healthy love can offer.

But I’ll take the risk, on behalf of us all… and I will tell you why we allow for this… after I walk you through the 3 Reasons we are learning to be grateful for these seasons of love that others call “failed” relationships:

Grateful Reason # 1: Resilience is our Middle Name

relationshpis_Luna_CaterpillarIt takes a lot to start dating again after a woman tells you that you are the love of her life and she has never met anyone who knows her the way you do… then she leaves you a week before your wedding invitations arrive from the print shop. It takes a lot to believe in love again after a lover tells you that you are the person who completes her and she cannot imagine her life without you… then she calls off her proposal of marriage. It takes a lot to believe in the goodness of relationships after a girlfriend tells you that your friendship means the world to her and she would never jeopardize it… then she cheats on you.

What women can do, to women, to men… to anyone – seems criminal. I can’t even begin to imagine being bisexual and feeling like both sexes are available for these emotional lawbreaking activities. Men equally do this to women – I have no doubt.

But ask the serial monogamist if they still believe in love and somewhere inside of theirrelationships_3_luna_moth broken hearts lie this regenerating caterpillar who still expects that love can remain hidden in a safe cocoon and emerge into this magnificent butterfly or moth. We can be shaken but we are built to last. We are the Energizer Bunnies of intimacy and we have no intention of letting someone ruin us for the one who matters… if you are lucky enough to fall in love with us, we are piece of coal that is living under the pressure of failed relationships and a judgmental society until you prove yourself worthy of our trust… then the shine begins to make its way to the surface.

We sparkle.

We cannot be broken.

And we know how to handle the pressure of disappointment better than those who have had love delivered to their doorsteps on silver platters of good timing and cosmic arrangements.

Grateful Reason # 2: Time is on our Side

dating-2Some of my favorite memories of time spent with my wife-to-be are the conversations around moonlight or candlelight, when I could tell she was falling in love with me but I was cautiously sitting back and waiting… not playing games, not sending mixed messages, but with a patience I was sure I had failed to execute before, with such precision, I waited for the dust of infatuation to settle. Meeting new people is like shaking up a snow globe of romance and at first, there is nothing but a flurry of meetings we call dates or hang-out encounters where we attempt to interview for the position of girlfriend, partner or lover. There is a real treasure in being with someone who will feel their fire of passion for you but not show it right away… because when the critic of romance sees that you are still there, still smitten and not nearly as naive as you let on, the critic becomes the biggest fan of dreaming. Idealism erupts like a geyser and not only has the foundation for trust been laid, there is once again, the belief that this “thing” called love, is going somewhere. We who have “failed” may not rush nearly as much… not because “this time, we want to be sure” (because duh, we always say that), but because there’s nowhere we need to be other than right here in the moment. It’s all we know to trust anymore and in life, not only is that resilient, is refreshing to be around, isn’t it? First dates with serial monogamists may not include sky-diving or sex-capades, but you’re going to be in the kind of experience that can lead to bricks and mortar-style intimacy. We know we are going to put in our time… and we are okay with that, most of the time. ;)

Grateful Reason # 3: There are no Eggs, There is no Basket.

The art of detachment is one which comes with many heartbreaks. It doesn’t mean we can’t commit and it doesn’t mean that with time and trust, we can’t show up for the joyful surrender that love can be in a committed partnership. (again) I admit that having been in 8+ years of relationships has left me with scars. I thank two partners and one girlfriend for those scars though… because now I do not put all my eggs in one basket, as they say. I do not expect my wife to “complete” any part of me that I cannot already heal on my own. I do not look to her to do for me what I cannot do for myself. I do not expect her to handle me with special care or do anything even similar to a parent or even a confidant. She is not my playmate and she will not become my pacifier. She is my… friend. My very dear, beautiful, sexy, mindful, brilliant… friend.

Rather than saying that “there’s no one like her,” or fill my or her head with platitudes of “meant to be,” I found myself agreeing with my mom who said, after meeting her, “I can see why you want her as a friend… for the rest of your life.”

And this, my lovelies, is how we learn to re-frame the past in order to find a new sound, a new wave, and maybe even a new heart. It helps that when this lover says she loves me, she says it in Spanish sometimes… because the words, “I love you,” are well beyond over-used…

In the end, our baggage is our baggage, but we are grateful because we aren’t committed to our expectations anymore. (Well, except that expectation of loss that creeps in when we are too happy, but that’s why there are counselors ;) ) By now, we have dated/married or committed to people of various incomes, education, spiritual background, ethnicity, sexual expression or even gender identity. The serial monogamist has seen it all! (And believe me, if you want to really learn something, ask the polyamorous!) I know that couples who married someone at 20 years old and stayed together until their 70′s know things we don’t know, but it’s time we stop selling ourselves short for “failing.”

In fact, isn’t that why we fail?

Let’s get to that point, as promised…

What about our “baggage” and this “pattern” of being in relationships that don’t work out? What is the achilles heel of the man or woman who seems to attracts lessons out of lovers?

The answer is that we are a vulnerable hot mess. The reason that we were willing to be with people who see us as stepping stones, obstacles, or seasons is because we have been unable/unwilling to truly love ourselves and the outcomes we seek.

Shit, it’s out there now, isn’t it?

The problem is we love our lovers more than our goals.

We love our partners even, more than our problems.

We love our would-be-spouses more than the self in the mirror.

But together, as we learn to see the value in these “failed” relationships, we begin to apply principles of self-love and eventually I believe we will attract the type of person we actually can spend more than four years with as a couple…

I’m banking on it, actually.

Because if 8+ years of “failed relationships” provided me with anything, it’s success at being myself. This is a priceless gift that many never figure out…

Succeed at being you.

Mr. or Ms. Right may do better than sweep you off your feet… this person will beautifully support you in keeping both feet on the ground when you need it or walk patiently through the muddy and sometimes unfamiliar path of partnership. Be grateful for their past as they are ever-so grateful for you, in their present.

Namaste, my friends… and to my lovely wife-to-be… please continue to mirror that beautiful hope that I remember so well, the first and second times around… third time is more than my lucky charm. It’s the pot of gold at the end of a double rainbow filled with butterflies, endless cliches, and so much pink glitter, we can hardly stand it. Te amo…

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Our Dead Dads… An Enlightened-ish Father’s Day Post

IMG_1786.jpg

Dad’s last sunset rainbow

The raw reality gets us to the point, doesn’t it? Death does that for the living.

I don’t like death, but I appreciate it for how it slaps us on the back of the head, especially when we are busy worrying about petty disagreements, financial distractions, or self-image obsessions that have nothing to do with “real” life or death. I’m not saying everything between the first breath and the last is all nonsense. All I’m saying is that once you’ve had an encounter with grief, you are more likely to be the kind of person whose healthy cynicism distances you from blind or lazy paths of “success.”

Anyway, this year is not my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I wrote about the first though, in Enlightened-ish. I have decided that the best way to remind myself that my dad still matters is to share that complicated, but important chapter from my grief memoir. After you read this chapter, you will understand why our dead dads matter. When we work through our grief, we we snap back into seeing what is important and learn how to free ourselves from burdens and imperfections. For some of us, our dead dads teach us more from the grave… and we miss them dearly not because they were perfect, but because grief is an awful, albeit powerful, teacher.

Allow me to add some context for this chapter – It touches on several themes that came up through the writing of “Enlightened-ish.” There are portions where I discuss what it felt like to leave the Christian Church *again* and also how I learned to let go of heart wounds that came through two relationships. This is the kind of stuff that I dealt with, alone, on my first Father’s Day without Dad – so many layers of grief, thus, so many layers of healing.

In short, healing begins with us, forgiving ourselves, for failing to accept the raw reality and the blunt self-awareness that can set us all free… namaste my friends. Happy Father’s Day, Dad… RIP.

~~

Chapter 12: The Freedom to Forgive and Forget

Enlightened-ishby Gail Dickert.

Feel free to share with permission if linked to the original post.

Copyright, Gail Dickert 2013.

“Father’s Day 2012 – the first when I did not have a phone call to make or a card to send.

I’m surrounded by some of the most thoughtful people that walk this great Earth yet, not one single friend reached out to ask how I was doing on that day.

No texts saying, “Hey, just in case you’re having a hard time, I’m thinking of you.”

No phone calls asking, “What are you doing to remember your dad today?”

No emails or notes suggesting, “The first one is always the hardest but you’re not alone.”

Nothing. Nada. No one.

Were it not for the short texts with my sisters, my mother and the friend I was visiting (who only contacted me because I was visiting her from out of town), I would have been all on my own to reflect, sob and search for solace.

            What I longed for most, aside from the freedom to call my dad, was a friend who would take note of his death.

~~

            When I took a summer getaway to Massachusetts before Father’s Day weekend, I discovered the Freedom to Forgive and Forget. Specifically, while sitting quietly in a secluded sandy beach at Cape Cod, I thought about my entire week away and all of the activities planned. I knew this retreat would be significant but I didn’t know exactly how the awakenings would present.

            It was hard to believe that this freedom would come from anger.

            Being angry at my friends is like punching flowers for not blooming upon my command. It’s hardly reasonable. My friends are brilliant. They consist of people who are globally recognized spiritual leaders and highly educated, mature, energetic, giving, creative, faithful people. I have the most enlightened-ish friends in the world.

            Yet, while I sat near the ocean, watching the waves predictably toss shells, rocks and sand towards my dry spot on this remote beach, I lamented, “This bunch collectively forgot to call me? C’mon Universe! What could I possibly learn from more isolation?”

            The Universe spared no expense on this freedom. There are three concepts to the Freedom to Forgive and Forget. I named them The Three Calls. (That’s three more than I received from my friends.) The Calls I did receive made it clearer for me to see through the fog of forgiveness and land at a place of acceptance and mental freedom. I didn’t know it was possible. Not only is it possible, but it’s also available to anyone with the ability to reframe the concept of impossible.

            There are people who teach that all things are possible, when we align ourselves with God. There are others who teach that all things are within reach, when we focus our thoughts on positive energy. On the contrary, we hear plenty of teaching about what is not possible. We can’t make someone love, we can’t force someone to change, and we can’t know what people are thinking.

           What I experienced on Father’s Day weekend, aside from the lack of calls from my tribe, was the opportunity to attend a mind-blowing, gravity-defying performance from the talented and innovative people of Cirque Du Soleil’s “Totem.” While on the beach, I remembered what I felt while watching their latest traveling revolutionary show.  (If you’ve never been to a Cirque Du Soleil show, I sum it up like this: Extraordinary acrobatic contortionists presenting their unique, artistic skills while defying gravity and reason before an audience whose jaws never leave the floor for 90 minutes.)

            Each show I’ve seen has been better than the one before. Totem was no exception.

            It was significant that the plot resembled my personal journey. The theme of Totem is to explore what happens as creation awakens to the beautiful spark that is “life.” It is deeply rooted in Native American traditions and viewing Mother Earth as a Turtle. (Turtle is my animal totem.) Beyond the theme, it was the tricks, stunts and interconnected costumes, music and physical tenacity of the entire event that allowed me to receive The Three Calls.

            As I watched the professionals deliver a breath-taking performance, I envisioned what my life would be like if I could use my mental faculties to free myself from the past the way they used their physical bodies to free themselves from the ordinary.

            Examining each performer’s acts of courage and bravery, I began the formation of this freedom. This all came to me during the show but it passed before I had the time and mental fortitude and capture it in writing. Little did I know that the same dedication and training it took for a man to balance on his head, on top of a 100-foot pole that rests on the bridge of another man’s nose, is the same mental capacity I can use to rewire my brain into a powerful tool for accessing the Freedom to Forgive and Forget.

~ The First Call: Recognize the Timing ~

            A single collision on the Cirque stage could send any one of the acrobats to the hospital. Bad timing could also injure an unsuspecting audience member too. Likewise, forgiveness is an issue of timing.

          “Forgive and forget” is good in theory. It is similar to the lofty and spontaneous ideas that Cirque producers have about their acrobats soaring through the air. As like the performance, the actual execution of forgiveness requires exact timing.

Forgiveness is often viewed as the climactic event around which all other spiritual decisions find their meaning but this is not the case. Forgiveness is simply one flip in the trapeze act, one step on the tightrope, or one ball to be juggled on the path of healing. “Trusting the timing” means moving through this part of our awakening with attention to detail.

            When the timing was right for forgiving my exes or the people in my Christian community, I had a lot to consider. At best, I could say their combined actions were unintentional. At worst, I could perceive that all involved needed to be held accountable.   (Enlightened-ish living has less to do with what others have done or not done and more to do with our own choices.)

            As I sat with a mental list of supposed transgressions, I had an image of the Cirque performers, spinning and twisting in their artistic displays of interdependence. I thought, “If one of them fell, would they immediately blame one another?” Using the Freedom to Imagine, I scripted a dialogue between me and the “performers” whose behavior had caused injury to my heart and soul.

            “You missed the catch!” I said to a trapeze partner at the church.

            “I know,” she sighed. “It’s just that you reminded me of someone else for a second and, well I don’t know what happened.”

            “Stay focused!” I barked at the knife thrower in the home.

            “I am sorry,” she replied. “I have so much on my mind, I haven’t slept in days and my head is throbbing.”

Suddenly the call was clear.

Bad timing cannot be underestimated.

            I did not recognize that I was rehearsing with people who were not fully present or able to perform. But with a broken arm and a knife in my foot, I had to take responsibility for my part in the collision.

            My spiritual community was not ready for a progressive person of faith. In fact, they were still recovering from being hurt by other people. No amount of artistic passion, friendship or prayer was going to hurry them along in their evolution.

            My ex wasn’t ready for a relationship. In fact, she had not yet recovered from abuses in her family or the disappointment of her divorce. No amount of nurture, love and prayer was going to hurry along her evolution.

I, however, was ready to fly and take calculated risks.

With a reframed awareness of timing, I could focus my efforts not on their behavior but my own.

I received the call to forgive myself for colliding with bad timing.

I called upon myself to forget what it felt like to force a situation to be what it is not ready to be.

~ The Second Call: Be the Source ~

           The twists and turns of a Cirque show require the performers to use their own body’s inertia and weight in order to create the movement that is desired. At some point, while the beauty is in the timing, the power is in propelling oneself.

            This is equally the case in awakening. Each twist is necessary but I was challenged to keep the momentum going entirely on my own. I set out on this freedom but also the entire book to complete an ethereal To Do list:

To give voice to the grief of my father’s death.

To tell the truth of how it felt to leave a spiritual home.

To imagine healing for my body.

To release myself from the karma Bright brought into my life.

To share the story of one man’s fateful day and my irreversible response.

That was one ambitious set of tasks!

Finding the momentum to proceed when I didn’t have a publisher or agent required a lot of stretching and expanding. Motivation would have to come from somewhere. I didn’t have a book advance and yet I maintained a full-time job while writing.

I had to become my own Source.

This Call came through loud and clear was when I realized that after all of my experiences of 2011-2012, what I was still hanging onto was the break-up with my partner of 4 years, in late 2009. (Before I reveal the details of this partnership, I need to finally give her a name. I will call her Beloved.)

The reason I am still in touch with Beloved is quite complicated and enough to make a therapist tilt their head in wonder. It isn’t necessarily a negative thing.

The Freedom to Forgive and Forget would not have been so powerful were it not for the day we debated about how she ended our engagement, leaving me with the deepest level of disappointment I had felt since…

Well, since my father had abandoned me as a child.

Granted, I had been left by a partner in 2006, but the level of trust that I had for Beloved was adult. This was “grown-up love.”

For better or worse love. (The kind of love I had hoped my father had for his family.)

As we had this awkward and heated discussion, I finally confessed to Beloved and myself that after almost three years, I was still angry that she walked away. I was angry not just because she left but because I never would have done that to her. She did not love me with the same for better or worse love with which I loved her.

She was “my beloved” and no other before woman had convinced me that they could love me with the same acceptance for our differences. When she proposed in 2007, I embraced every gesture like it was a marriage in that private, beautiful moment on a chilly but beautiful day in February.

While on my drive home, after this flashback of a fight, I imagined myself again as a Cirque performer. I thought of this wild task list and how I was editing the most bizarre book I’ve yet to write. I thought of the previous three years and how I hadn’t even come close to forgiving Beloved.

Suddenly the call was clear.

I am my own Source.

I was looking for her to be the source of the compassion I needed.

I was looking for her to be the source of the understanding I sought.

With a reframed awareness of Source, I could focus my efforts not on her behavior but my own.

            I received the call to forgive myself for seeking momentum outside of me.

            I called upon myself to forget what it felt like to be abandoned.

~ The Third Call: Breathe More, Think Less ~

            Sitting close to the stage at a Cirque show allows the audience to see deep into the process of each maneuver. As my friend of 20 years held her breath for each wide leap or fast spin, I looked closely at the rising and falling chests of each acrobat.  All performers were 100% focused on their breathing.

            I watched as two acrobats lifted the ends of a rubber balance beam upon which a smaller acrobat would soon be leaping. With intensity, they inhaled deeply, kneeling down and then exhaled forcefully as they stood up, and moved the beam from the ground to their shoulders. This image, of calculated and timed breathing resonated with my experience of grief.

            Grief has a way of making even good memories painful. This is the sad reality of the emotional unraveling that comes after the loss of a loved one. I noticed this one afternoon when I was talking with one of my teachers at the pre-school. She was sharing some of her thoughts about classroom management, nature-based learning and child-led activities and suddenly I started to remember that her first day at the school was the day my father died.

            Then my mind started to snowball.

September 16th.

The date of my father’s death happened to be the same as the birthday of an ex girlfriend. The woman responsible for so much of her pain and thus, our collective pain in the relationship, was born on the same day of the year that my father died. Death and birth are hardly distinguishable sometimes.

September 16th.

It hasn’t even been a year yet.

I was thinking so much, I couldn’t breathe!

After the teacher walked away, I went outside to catch my breath.

            Once again, grief had taken my breath away. One minute we were just chatting and the next, I was standing under the expansive arms of an oak tree hoping to calm myself down. I thought of the Cirque performers, lifting and shifting and doing it all, one breath at a time.  I longed to be as graceful in my awakening as they but anger within me began to boil. I thought of how death had been used to bring me to life. I resented it. Loss and grief had conspired against me since March 2011 and there I stood, angry at my father for dying, angry at an ex for lying, and angry at the “Universe” for not trying to make my life simpler.

Most of all, I was angry at myself… for crying.

Under that great oak, I knew that it was time to Forgive and Forget and make the ultimate acrobatic move regarding the many losses in my life.

It was time to stop thinking so much about the behavior of others. It was time to stop holding my breath, waiting for the ex to apologize for her lies or for Beloved to apologize for leaving me. I couldn’t be angry anymore at my friends for not calling or my father for not living. My mind was running the show.

            With a reframed awareness to breathe more and think less, I got the call to never forgive and forget anyone, ever again!

            I received the call to forgive myself for holding my breath for anyone or anything.

            I called upon myself to forget what it felt like to over-analyze that which cannot be explained.

~~

After my parents separated, my dad had a saying about how he was always thinking of his daughters.

“When the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me.”

This abstract thought wasn’t very comforting for a grade-schooler who hoped to hear her father’s voice on a daily basis. By high school, I started to understand that for some reason, he didn’t know how to be a non-custodial father. He arguably wasn’t the best father before the separation but it was my impression that at least he was present.

            It was that day on the beach at Cape Cod, when I sat with my silent phone and thought, “Dad, is that you?” that tears began to flow – the taste of these tears, so bitter and the anger, so tangible.

How dare he abandon his children in such fashion! How dare he not prove that he was thinking of me and behave in a manner that matched this so-called thought he had for my well-being!

            As I stared at my silent phone I debated between two options.

I could keep waiting for it to ring – berating my friends for being forgetful while I simultaneously remembered the wound of abandonment.

           I could turn it off –  forgetting what it felt like to wait for a call to forgive while I simultaneously remembered that I didn’t do anything wrong by having expectations that my father would be there for me.

            It was in that moment that this freedom turned me into a great contortionist!  I forgave myself for needing a call, turned off my phone and took a two hour nap on the beach. Surrounded by sacred stones and no other voice than the one inside of me, I was assured that this freedom was a call I could receive.

~~

Forgiving my friends for forgetting to call on Father’s Day was a natural act but forgiving me and forgetting what it’s like to live in impossible situations was an act of artistry of Cirque De Soleil proportions.

The Three Calls highlighted that I now have the capacity not to force a situation regardless of bad timing, not to seek external affirmation, and not over-analyze. With the Freedom to Forgive and Forget, I barely remember what it felt like to be bound.

All I can think about is what it feels like to be free!”

~~

To purchase Enlightened-ish and learn more about how grief can lead to spiritual awakening, click on the links within this post or here, to see reviews/commentary.

458190_254963957940988_1997742215_oGail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

4 Tips for Talking to an Introvert… from an Introvert!

There’s no easy way to say this: Introverts are often treated like martians from a mystical Silent Planet where all the laws of physics are reversed or constantly changing. The language on this Silent Planet is likened to a pre-school classroom where instead of words, communication is limited to passive nods, gestures and grunts. Or perhaps, worse yet, introverts are viewed as helpless fetuses who receive nutrition from the umbilical cord of the extroverted culture, destined to be “born again” into the proper state of extrovert – breathing the same air as the rest of creation, feasting on conversation and the big, wild and wonderful world of social gatherings, large crowds, and a network of opportunity.

They just need time to gestate, right?

Eventually they will be normal, right?

Someday someone will write the perfect description for this alien creature so that all can learn from its wisdom without getting contaminated by their inter-galactic goo of anti-social slime, right?

Barf.

Here’s what I know: Most of the blogs I read about introversion are probably not written
by true introverts. Why do I know this? Because most introverts would never take an hour of your time to explain 30 of their personality characteristics. (If this takes me more than an hour to write this, I’ll give up on it!) I’m not saying I haven’t learned something about myself from reading those articles, but to be perfectly honest, if you want to engage with an introvert, consider my 4 Tips for Talking to an Introvert before you dare post another meme about it. Let’s get this over with… in 15 minutes or less and 4 short tips, let’s get this out there and never speak of it again. ;)

# 1 – Don’t Call Someone Out on Being an Introvert

Much like coming out of the closet, an introvert may or may not want to actually discuss what it feels like to need time alone (not want it, but need it, my friends). True introverts may prefer, in fact, not to discuss what makes them different from most of the tweeted-out, status-infiltrated, website-logged, insta-communicating world. This doesn’t mean we don’t or will not talk about it, but trust me… we know what we are and we don’t necessarily find it interesting to tell you all about it. From my time around introverts, the less said about it, the better. Why? Because it doesn’t change these facts:

  • Yes, we are still coming to your party.
  • No, we will not have much fun as you.
  • Yes, we can be different and still have a meaningful connection.

introvert_meme_2# 2: Do Call an Introvert

It’s not okay to assume that we don’t like phone calls, have difficulty using our words, or would prefer quick texts to see if “we are okay,” as if we are beating a social cancer every day of our lives by being introverted. Call us. We talk. Do not call us to talk about meaningless things, however. If an introvert cuts you off and says, “Oh I just realized I have to go…” this is what happened:

  • You were focused on meaningless things like how some co-worker, who you know nothing about, left paper out of the copier and that pisses you off because “he always does that.
  • You said something equally boring or insignificant about your pet’s bathroom habits.
  • You insisted on calling the person an introvert and saying something like, “I get it. I need a break from people too sometimes.” (It can be a pet peeve for introverts, to be told by extroverts that it’s about “people” or “being alone.“)
  • You interpreted their silence to mean that there was something wrong… which created something… wrong. (Silence is golden, not broken).

So, yes we like to talk – but let it be a gift, that you have someone in your life who doesn’t allow you to lazily banter about frustrations you can control or situations you cannot control. In our collective opinion, there are counselors/pastors for this process, not introverts. We want to know about you and how you think, feel and live, not what irks you about your neighbor’s lawn.

introvert_meme# 3: Don’t Assume an Introvert is a Nerd

Introversion doesn’t necessarily mean that all that interests a person is his/her own thoughts, video games, books, and long emo-walks through the park after dark. There is nothing particularly “shy” about introverts. We are not nerdy, though some of us may qualify, and we are not socially awkward, though some of us certainly qualify in that area too. What we are is the life of our own party… of observations in our heads. If we trust you and you aren’t downloading to us that we are some rare species, you will get an invitation to said party and actually enjoy hearing our insights about the overall human condition. In short, if life were an X-men comic, introverts are Professor Xavier. Note this – because when we do get out of our own ways or society sees us as allies to social change, we thrive as powerful leaders with the ability to do much more because of our super hero skill called: Observation.

# 4: Do Assume an Introvert is on a Spectrum

As with any label, there is a spectrum of behavior and outcomes that come with knowing an introvert. You wouldn’t assume that a gay person always loves the pride parade in June. (Speaking of which, what you will never see is an Introvert Parade. ;) ) You wouldn’t assume an African American person likes fried chicken. You wouldn’t assume that a Christian is a bigot. (Okay, that one hits close to home). Would you also assume that an introvert “doesn’t like people?” That’s the most common assumption. On the contrary, introverts love people and can enjoy going out in order to support and participate in meaningful events. But here are ways most introverts self-regulate their awareness of their own spectrum of tolerance for crowds, events, people… remember this when trying to meet up with one:

  • Introverts plan for social engagements. (So don’t be last minute with us. It’s hard to be spontaneously interested in a socially draining event. But give us two weeks notice and we will be there!)
  • Introverts go through cycles too. (Sometimes we bloom, sometimes we hibernate. No big deal.)
  • Introverts like to know at least 2-3 people in a large group. (Just a hint for planning).

In short, if I could offer only one tip to talking with introverts, it would be to find out what the person finds meaningful and create opportunities to discuss those topics and ideas. Let’s be honest here: Why do we bother talking about anything less than what introverts require? Perhaps their true superpower is drawing out the highest forms of communication from those around them… and calling us all to be more aware of how we waste airspace with mindless chatter.

So, to close… we aren’t aliens, but if we were, it would totally be worth welcoming us to the extroverted planet. It would be an invasion of mindfulness, as our species learned to take risks and explore your society. Harmony for all, my friends… harmony for all.

I leave you now to make plans for that long emo-walk after dark…

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Religion’s Original Sin: Exclusion

tree-of-knowledgeIt is not sufficient to simply label me as ‘anti-establishment’ or opposed to organized religion.

What I oppose is not as powerful as that which inspires me.

Inclusion inspires me.

When we make efforts to bring others closer together, by removing barriers to community and friendship, I am inspired.

When we focus our intentions toward shedding light on taboo or under-discussed topics, I am inspired.

When we courageously admit that exclusive religion itself is the agent of sin among humanity, I am inspired.

The original sin may be the sin of exclusion… Perhaps the first victims were Adam and Eve. We remain under this cultural atrocity when we practice any religion that excludes others based on our self-defined superior knowledge.

We must make our way through the extrinsic, regulatory, tyrannical perspectives that have enslaved humanity and forge our self-regulated paths back to the garden… 

Aho, amen and namaste, my friends.

~~

Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose recent book, “Enlightened-ish was published in 2013. Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. She has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Vulnerability Series… because Pain Matters

vulnerabilityWhen I wrote Enlightened-ish, I knew I was taping into something unusual… looking at spiritual awakening through the lens of a raw, complicated and emotional grief process was just plain weird. I mean, who writes from a place of vulnerability? Who writes and publishes words that are part of a process? Who dares put in print what will potentially fade with age and healing?

I did.

Responses to Enlightened-ish vary, but almost all of my readers so far use words like, “floored” or “brave.” I don’t feel very brave and I didn’t write it to shock anyone… I wrote it because it wasn’t written and I wished that someone would have spoken to me as freely as I spoke to myself, honestly. Grief was intense and separating from suicidal ideation, toxic spirituality, unhealthy relationships and aligning myself with psychic intuitions and energy healing all within a period of a few months was… well, it was weird!

What remains though is that the book is involved in saving lives, namely my own.

And now, as I have considered what to write about next, I look at the pain in my body (Managing chronic pain since May 2013,) I realize the same thing that happened with my father’s death and the face-to-face experiences with death – the book I want to read hasn’t been written.

No one talks openly about pain in a way that feels real. There are affirmations designed to make it go away, medications pushed in order to silence it and plenty of belief systems orchestrated to diminish or mystify its value.

I am embarking on a vulnerability series that will start as a blog, but as you can expect… will end in another book.

Why?

Because like grief… pain matters.

And it matters now…

Not 3 years or 2 months from now, when I am finally out of pain.

It matters now, while I type uncomfortably from my couch, between treatments… now, while I am on medical leave… now, while I can barely walk in the mornings and now, while I learn to celebrate pain’s meaning without demeaning my spirituality, relationships and dignity.

It is my highest goal to write what has not been written… and while I expect to do mighty things for my online friends and loved ones once the royalties catch up to the investment of self-publishing, do not be mistaken.

I write these weird things for myself.

It does not make me selfish and it does not make me a narcissist.

It makes me a writer and a person who becomes the change she wants to see in the world.

I want to see more transparency.

I want to see people share their stories.

I want to see people own their shit, establish their dreams and become a part of the whole that is our human condition.

I do these things because pain matters… because we matter… because I matter.

Namaste, my friends. Please share the links to the book and stay tuned… because if you think Enlightened-ish was raw, just wait and see what will come out of physical pain…

To buy Enlightened-ish, click here. Feel free to follow the process here on Facebook.

~~

Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. She has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Her new book, Enlightened-ish became available April 25, 2013 and chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

Phelps, Fear and Loathing – Death Doesn’t Become Us

Fred-Phelps-720x360When I think of Fred Phelps on his death bed, I think only one thing: Even death won’t end his brand of evil.

Now, of course there are many opinions out there about how we should respond to the news of Fred Phelps pending death. Folks in the gay community, or particularly, anyone with a heart and soul that isn’t marred by fundamentalist religion, are trying to find a way to reconcile themselves to his passing. Some jest about picketing his funeral with signs and protests while others are hoping to turn the other cheek and share some kind of “eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” mantra. (Taking morally superior high-ground? How Phelp-ish of us? Barf.)

Here’s the thing that I notice when I take off my rainbow hat and matching ascot and also set aside any preconceived notions about barfy words like “forgiveness” or “healing.”

If I put on my pre-school professional hat, what I see is how fear of death affects people. I see it in children when we address the passing of some of our animals at our school. When a goat died a few years ago, we had a funeral, shared memories and laid out flowers on a mosaic stone that was made by our children. Still to this day though, some of the children come up with wild stories about what happened to the goat. They are so confused, yet somewhat excited about death – it brings out their brave curiosity and their incredible story-telling skills. When we lost some ducks to a pack of coyotes, children were telling stories for weeks – in one story, I found out that the Director (which is ME), actually wrestled a coyote trying to save the ducks. Unbeknownst to me, a child’s infatuation with trying to understand what happened, created a sense of heroism in their leader that was entirely inaccurate.

Death scares the shit out of us, folks.

It scares us into a lack of social and emotional intelligence where we start making up stories, projecting outcomes and claiming to be, and in this case, ironically, superior in our understanding of such unknowns. This fear causes us to emotionally, psychologically and spiritually travel down as many creatives paths as it takes before either the Grief Train derails or it comes into a stationary place where we can get off and get on with our lives… peacefully, but more aware than before we got on it.

So, Phelps is dying – well duh. He’s human. And the man isn’t even dead yet, but because of media attention combined with our fear (and empathy for one of his children, at least), we are now asking ourselves how to respond not to Fred Phelps, but our own fear and loathing about mortality.

Here’s what I know – as a woman whose father’s death changed her life to the point where she had an Enlightened-ish experience – death brings out the weirdest, most challenging responses in people. It is a mirror of our own mortality and a mirror of any unspoken needs to reconcile to others and to ourselves. Worse, for some, it reflects a need to reconcile with their images of a God-figure, which may be gracious or somewhat moody about mercy.

So as you post and reply to this story, of course remember that he is human too and that “only God can judge,” if there is one. But largely consider that regardless of his legacy and how foul it will be, you have a legacy. I will have a legacy.

What we are probably reconciling in any public figure’s death is that we are in fact, not far from that end ourselves.

What we have in common with Phelps is this – we too, will die.

And so the larger question isn’t how do we reconcile death, which cannot be predicted…

But how do we reconcile ourselves to life, which is comprised of the choices we make, the people we love and the threads and blogs we opt to share?

Much love, my friends.

In memory of Matthew

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. She has appeared in FOX DC News, Sky News and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Her new book, Enlightened-ish became available April 25, 2013 and chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

And the Oscar Goes to… Ironic Stereotypes!

1898093_10151940862420778_2062419657_nPost Oscars, the interwebs are a buzz with accusations of stereotypes about Jared Leto’s portrayal of a transgender character in that one movie, while the rave is all about that white boy with the twinkle in his eye whose hero is himself in a few years. Meanwhile, we have a new beautiful, dark-skinned goddess of beauty in the young woman who played a slave girl…

With great contempt for the blind following of Lupita and the blatant disregard for the person of Leto, I offer 3 Reasons to Stop Talking about the Oscars and Get Global:

1. Lupita came from a life of privilege. In her acceptance speech she pretty much admits that a lot of people suffered, while success landed on her table like a silver platter. Thanks for the humility, but we were too busy stereotypically finding affinity for the skinny, black girl who says something about achieving your dreams. She went to Yale School of Acting. Who goes to Yale for acting? People of privilege, that’s who! Her father is a PhD-wielding, high-ranking Kenyan politician and whether we realize it or not, people of privilege come in all shapes, sizes, colors and orientations. Where is the outrage that a slave girl part wasn’t played by someone… who came from nothing?

2. Leto came from next to nothing. So he chose a role that didn’t portray the most accurate depiction of the transgender community – As a gay woman, as a WOMAN, I see films every day that depict versions of my faith and identity that are horribly inaccurate and lead to additional stereotypes. Remember that big movie last year, which depicted bipolar disorder in a way that made me wanna punch someone in the face, then laugh about it? You know the one I’m talking about – yeah. Played up on every stereotype and made it look like my ten years of silence about treatment were completely justified. Silver Linings, my ass. That wasn’t my story and watching it with others who knew about my diagnosis was painful.

3. June Squibb came from a little bit of something and a little bit of nothing. If you know the mid-west, you know that Illinois is about as generic as any other part of the United States. To come from generic and have the kind of talent she has, is pretty impressive, but then again… stereotyping worked to her benefit in this. I mean, they needed an old lady. And they got a talented one at that. Not to say she deserved an Oscar but I’ll say this – a white woman gets passed up every day for promotions and still gets paid less than her male counterparts. So… while we were watching the movies…

Lots of generic people were doing something extraordinary – like going to work, going to war or going insane, but making the best of it because of their own private resilience.

Truth be told, I didn’t see any of these movies in the last year – why? Because I was unable to sit comfortably for the last 10 months due to chronic pain.

I’ll say this – when they do a movie about me, I don’t care if that person has chronic pain. I care if they can act and represent the story in an artistic way that matches their personal integrity.

That’s what Lupita did…

That’s what Leto did…

And that’s what June did…

It’s called acting.

Now… while transphobia needs to be addressed and no one wants to have their names butchered (I hear Idina actually changed her name to Adele, just because the Almighty Travolta said it that way ;) ), what I know is that we have to take a deep breath and realize that Hollywood isn’t a mirror…

But our responses to their mishaps are a reflection of us… and our own front porches that need to be swept, ya dig?

We are our worst enemies when it comes to stereotypes…

We cannot help sometimes, but perpetuate the need to act, be pissed or have an opinion…

How much greater good would we be in the world, if we could amplify the need to understand?

Let’s ask one of Lupita’s childhood servants. (No, it’s not confirmed she had one, but anyone with a global understanding of politics in Africa knows it’s likely.)

Okay then, how about this – consider this post a Requiem for a Stereotype… and when you’re watching Son of God, don’t think for a minute that the actor is a Christian, let alone… Jesus. And if you aren’t sure what it’s like to come from a life of privilege, be raised by a single mom, be transgender, have a diagnosis of a mental disorder, or… be old, ask someone who knows. Simple enough? Okay thanks… Can we get back to global issues now?

5 Reasons to Lose Christianity… but Find Jesus

It was with great trepidation that I prepared this post, but now, as I share it, there is a sigh of relief in my soul…

After years of trying to identify as a “Gay Christian” or a “church-affirming” person of faith, it seems that the logical side of my brain has had deep conversations with the part of my soul that is tired of drama. Together, they have agreed that the most effective form of spiritual abuse prevention is to avoid triggers.

And Christianity triggers me at the core of who I am – an emotionally awakened, self-regulating, gay woman with an altruistic mind.

First, let me offer an important backdrop for this discussion before I offend most of you with my experience.

We’ve all seen it in social media and even personally witnessed it in some local congregations:

Christianity has been undergoing a very powerful re-branding effort.

At first, this seems to be a good idea, as it is not a faith that has been known for love or kindness to… well, anyone who isn’t white, male and straight. I truly want to get behind the “progressives” who talk about not being “that kind of Christian,” as they follow Jesus’ teachings and attempt to paint a nicer, softer version of this politicized religion on the stained canvas of spirituality.

However, as a Bible College Graduate and a woman who thinks about this topic more than any healthy person should, I recognize that the reason that there is so much conflict over Christianity is the simple fact that its “holy” book is laden with highly disturbing passages, analogies, stories and directives in the name of a God-figure.

Moreover, being progressive right now means big bucks. It means more blog hits, increased interviews, acolades of “bravery” from those who have been wounded by the church, and a false sense of pride in a “new” movement in the faith. (As if the United Church of Christ folk haven’t been teaching this progressive stuff long before it was made cool… I digress).

What we know about the Christian Church is that it is losing popularity… why? Because it should. It’s archaic, draped in a toxic history, shrouded in conflict… and basically the idea of finding community in our modern age is no longer tied to religious beliefs. More folks are happier to stitch and bitch at the local Panera, rather than tithe and survive at dogma-soaked congregational settings. Community, while always difficult to establish, is easier to access and try out, be it through Meet-Ups or the fact that, oh I dunno… we have cars and public transportation, so we don’t need the same local presence that we used to need in order to feel connected. We find out about common interests and we value them much more than our belief systems. Oh yeah, and this social media thing seems to do a good job of helping people feel more connected (perhaps at the expensive of emotional connection at times, but again, another post).

We also know that Christianity is losing popularity because it has this set of beliefs about LGBTQ people, women and overall concepts of social justice that don’t fly with the younger generations. (Did the Biblical writers bother to speak out against slavery? Nope. Sure didn’t. On the contrary, it kinda said, “That’s okay. Slavery happens.” Young people (and yes, some older folks too) do not want to be told what to do based on a book written by men in a time in history that is barely relevant to their own. More and more people are interesting in conversations, not sermons… and giving to the actual community, where it’s tangible and they feel the immediate effects, rather than investing in a pastor’s salary or a building fund. (Your local non-profit… where real church happens?)

However, what the Church is doing, in its well-designed re-branding effort is to make itself hip. Doing as the Romans, they have their loud music, powerpoint screens, even social justice projects, and giving illusions of “cool” when behind it all, the fact remains that there is an extrinsic authority that regulates the Church – the Bible.

Various interpretations and various texts to argue about – but in the end… it’s their holy book – Their script, their point of reference and their reason for the season of known as “Christian.”

But without the Bible, tell me this: Would there be a Christian Church?

I wager there would not be.

Without a book claiming to have authority…

Without a building claiming to be sacred…

Without a leader claiming to be anointed…

Where would the Church be?

It would be in the people.

And thus, we would possibly see that the teachings of Jesus would have some room to grow… once they are no longer confined by books, buildings and budgets. (Oh and egos, but that’s another thought altogether).

So this leads me to a very direct and poignant call to support a great exodus from Christianity. Hanging on to Jesus’ teachings may be the hard part and it is optional, in my opinion because some of his teachings are socially and emotionally under-developed. But without any further ado, I offer you something that will upset many of you. For others though, it may put the nail in the church coffin. You have been waiting to hear that it is safe to walk away. It is safe to lose Christianity… here are 5 reasons why…

1. Lose Christianity because… their holy book is profane.

Unlike most spiritual texts, Christianity’s “holy” book is grossly tied to violence, inequality, 1947957_278200805670461_1195406355_ncrimes against humanity, injustices towards women and minorities and frankly, a key plot twist that never sounds appealing – child sacrifice. The older I get, the more I realize that killing your son has got to be the least creative option for achieving justice. I would like to say, “Hey God, I hear you made hummingbirds, dinosaurs and the ocean, but when it came to retribution, your creativity leveled out at killing your kid? Epic creative fail.”

1782130_278199992337209_142745578_nOne of the most obscene Biblical passages regarding God’s need for justice/righteousness is when he turns two bears on a group of 42 bratty kids for making fun of one of his prophets, Elisha. Yeesh. I want God to get my back, but what’s with all the child-murder? I work with children… In fact, I work with about 42 every day and if they say mean things at times, it’s because they are kids. Doesn’t God know they are just testing out hurtful words vs. helpful words? A book that tells this story about that God should be banned, at least for anyone under the age of 18!

 

2. Lose Christianity because… you don’t need to be the house negro to make a point.

Ouch. Did she just say that? Actually, I’m anonymously quoting a friend who made that statement in regards to LGBTQ Christians. We can make our points about spirituality without subjecting ourselves to the system that keeps the white folk empowered (straight?) and the colored (gay?) scrubbing windows and able to come in from the rain at night. We all know that Jesus is not the same as “the Church.” Do you really think that if he was hanging out among any of this today, he would recognize these “churches” as what he meant when he said to gather and share? The Church is a system and in the end, the return on investment is low for its inhabitants, as its owner (pastors and politicians) reap either financially or psychologically. (Oh, there’s the ego conversation again…) There is a safer way to find spiritual community than surrendering your identity to the system.

3. Lose Christianity because… they can’t seem to reel in their rogue right-wing.

1602068_275828789240996_643552855_oOften times I hear progressives and conservatives isolate themselves from one another. “Fundies” are viewed as the enemy while I hear “liberals” are just as much a problem for those who believe in “Biblcally-based” things like marriages, families and 401k’s. For a religion that they are trying to brand as one of love, there is a schism deep within itself that is undeniable. If these two groups could figure themselves out, I may take the whole lot more seriously, but when you tune in and really listen to what’s going on, you can see this: One side of the coin despises the other side and claims they have different values. They are on the same piece of silver, no matter if you flip it 40 times and apparently Jesus isn’t even enough to bring them together! If the progressives are so grand, rather than recruiting the de-churched or those who happily walked away, why not take all that liberal “Jesus is love” stuff and lavish it on the brothers and sisters of the faith? In short, even Jesus said, “Get your backyard in order before taking over the neighborhood.” (Or some shit like that… a plank eye comes to mind, but thankfully, Bible College was a long time ago ;) )

4. Lose Christianity because… their God is kind of unstable.

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Be it the Old Testament or New Testament, the holy book has a way of making the Creator sound like a petty father who can’t determine whether to smite or smother. It’s a simple fact that the religion is based on God “loving” the World that he SENT HIS SON TO DIE. Meanwhile, there are rules and regulations that differ based on interpretation and no routines are established for what “really” pleases God. (Do justly, walk humbly and seek mercy rings a bell but apparently even that is too vague).

AZ_Refuse_ServiceWorse yet, is when Christians ignore the absurd nature of the God’s supposed decrees. When I saw this sign to the left, I didn’t think, “Yeah, you tell ‘em.” After I thought, “Don’t you know how to spell virgin?” I thought… “Why am I the only person who thinks that it’s ridiculous to make so many excuses for this strange holy book? It’s full of nonsense at times!

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Even more emotionally unpredictable and illogical are the belief systems themselves. For example, prayer has a complication in that it is entirely unreliable, yet it is a key ingredient of the faith. Exactly what part of the brain is working to monitor something so circular and illogical as prayer? If prayer works, does that mean that I have influence over God? If I do have influence, what does that say of this egomaniac God who only blesses those who know how to talk to him/her/it properly? As a person who teaches social and emotional intelligence, I have to say, this god could use some lessons on being assertive vs. aggressive, as well as learning the power of choice in order to maintain healthy relationships.

5. Lose Christianity because… you have the Freedom to Be and Leave.

I wrote about this in Enlightened-ish and am sharing an excerpt below because I think it’s time that the bigger picture of our core beliefs be considered. Sometimes we stay attached to Christianity because it’s our cultural reminder of family memories. Sometimes we stay out of obligation because “they aren’t all bad” or because we like the community and we’re too busy to find it elsewhere. Sometimes we stay because of actual convictions related to the cherry-picking of verses that matter to us. (Cherry, or cotton, I don’t know. Ouch). But in the end, beliefs are in fact chosen… and if Christianity is too violent, dramatic, unstable or just plain illogical for you… the Freedom to “Be” and Leave means you have options. I can’t promise that other religions are any better (as most are male-driven and seem to reflect a lack of social intelligence) but perhaps a fresh start will feel good after all of the lost friendships, church-hopping, blog-bantering and arguments in your faith journey.

From Enlightened-ish: A Grief Memoir about Spiritual Awakening:

“For as disillusioned as I felt about the church prior to my father’s death, I never intended to write about anything specific related to my time in a progressive church… Leaving the Christian Church became a key breakthrough for my spiritual awakening. 

“I cannot have my spiritual journey tied up in the success or failure of an organization. It sounds like high-risk behavior for a spiritual person to place all his or her eggs in the collection basket so for me, I cannot support a place where my investments are not diversified. The ROI for the Christian Church would make my spiritual portfolio plummet.

“Many members of the community had hoped I would stay connected, in spite of how this place contradicted my core beliefs (core beliefs discussed in depth, in Enlightened-ish). I didn’t trust any of the leaders to understand where I was coming from in separating from the community. The gossip and lack of emotional intelligence had become toxic. I cut ties altogether with some subgroups of the church. Once the standard operating procedure for conflict management became, ‘Efficiently shuffle things under the rug and psychoanalyze one another,’ I knew my time was up… I gave myself the freedom to “be” and “leave.”

In the end, religious leaders benefit from having followers because those followers surrender their most valuable resource: The ability to self-regulate. If the Bible, a pastor, or even God regulates you, you are not on a path of becoming a self-actualized person

And I know this, because I was once a person who falsely believed that surrendering “my” plan for “God’s plan” was a part of being a loyal, obedient and even wise follower of Christ.

This manifesto, coming from me, is pretty bizarre really – a woman who dedicated her life to Jesus at a crucial age, attended years of church camps, graduated with honors from Bible College, served several churches in youth and pastoral leadership positions and even continued to engage in “bridge-building” with people on the progressive side of this conflicting issue.

But it’s time.

Because the truth is… the Church is not an ally to itself, let alone an ally to the rest of the world. (Um, exactly what teaching is behind hate/discrimination bills? Church teaching, that’s what.) For every minute we spent trying to criticize it or rebuild it, we lose time that could be spent focusing on the person of Jesus, our relationships with our neighbors and the ability to self-regulate during conflict in order to reach peaceful, mindful communication.

So, what about finding Jesus? (Yikes, can it even be done? Well if you are still reading, let me sum this up already so we can all move on!)

Jesus was probably the most misunderstood and messed up figure to ever try to be a spiritual teacher and healer. Imagine that, without social media and the written word, I died today, but 70 years later, less than twelve of you tried to write up some thoughts about my life. Good grief, I hate to think of how you would portray me, even if you loved me ;)

And so it goes… we can go on a search for Jesus, if we feel that he matters… that may be valuable to some of us…

But what the Christian Church has shown us is that it is time to let it go of their business.

Because for many, it is nothing more of a reminder of a broken culture, a crucified faith and a burden to our collective ability to Love One Another. And if it weren’t for the Bible, we would probably be church and no one would have authority over how we live it out.

Walk gently through these explosive thoughts… and know that even if you stay involved with the organized church, this isn’t a judgment against you… but having been there, what I know is that a part of you wonders why you’re doing it. If you ever get tired of the drama, it is in fact, safe to walk away (even if just for a season).

No matter what, I wish us all the ability to breathe deeply as we seek to reconcile ourselves to… ourselves.

~~

This post goes out to three “influences” in my cyber communities. The first is a blog post from a Facebook friend. Please check this out and know that the content is well-prepared by a former Christian leader. It is honest, raw and will probably make you re-think your position on homosexuality and the Bible.

The second influence is a Facebook Page called, “Holy Shit.” I do not know the admins (yet), but I stumbled upon their page and found myself feeling at home, revived and encouraged by the satire, the honesty and the community. I know I can’t please ‘em all, but as I lose readers with this post, I know there are ten-fold to gain. Knowing we are not alone – What a valuable influence for us all, no matter what we choose.

To the folks at CTofBM, this doesn’t mean I love you any less either. You remain supported in your chosen frontline duties of the Christianity Branding War… but if you ever fold up shop and call it quits, no judgment here ;)

~~

DSC_0821Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. She has appeared in FOX DC News and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Her new book, Enlightened-ish became available April 25, 2013 and chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.