~ notes from an uncommon journey ~


Source: theblaze.com.

So Jerry Fallwell, Jr. (president of Liberty University), one of evangelicalism's first and most enthusiastic endorsers of Donald Trump, was interviewed on NPR on Thursday.
INSKEEP: What have you heard from other evangelical leaders about supporting Donald Trump so early and so strongly? 
FALWELL, JR.: You know, it was funny that rank-and-file evangelicals were ahead of all the leadership.
Great. If that's true, it's way, way worse than I than I'd thought.

[FALWELL, JR., cont.]: They saw for decades conservative Republicans had made promises to them on issues that were important to Christians and conservatives when they were running for office. But when they won, they didn't keep those promises.
When did you ever think they were going to keep their promises to you? When did you ever think that making this country "more Christian" was really at the top of their priority lists? Oh wait—for a long time, I know. So I guess the better question is: Why? WHY did you ever think that?!?

And wait—wasn't Jesus always having to remind people that His is a spiritual kingdom and not about the politics of the day?
John 18:36: Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Also, the phrase "kingdom of God" appears 54 times and "kingdom of heaven" 31 times in the Gospels alone (of the New International Version).

So...maybe—I'm just going out on a limb here—maybe Christians shouldn't trust political leaders to make this country more like, say, themselves...and should instead focus on the spiritual kingdom, perhaps by fulfilling the first and second greatest commandments, the ones on which all "the law and the prophets" hang? Just a thought.

For anyone listening in who may not be familiar enough with the Bible to know, here are the two greatest commandments:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (from Matthew 22:3740)
Love God and love your neighbor. That's it. And in case anyone wondered who his or her neighbor was (so they could get away with making certain people not their neighbor), Jesus told an entire parable to clear up that one.

[FALWELL, JR., cont.]: And I think, you know, like the song by The Who "Won't Get Fooled Again," I think they just decided no more. We want somebody who maybe makes mistakes and maybe sort of talks off the cuff and may not get it right all the time, but at least he's not bamboozling us.
Noooo, Trump's not bamboozling you at all. Not even one tiny little bit.

INSKEEP: Is his personal life or any candidate's personal life relevant to you?
FALWELL, JR.: Well, I think Jesus said we're all sinners. When they ask that question, I always talk about the story of the woman at the well who had had five husbands and she was living with somebody she wasn't married to, and they wanted to stone her. And Jesus said he's - he who is without sin cast the first stone. 
Um...No. If you're going to use stories from the Bible—the book you supposedly believe to be the most sacred of all—and if you're going to use them on a national program, and if you're going to use them to, of all things, justify your support of probably the most unChristian* presidential candidate in American history...at least get those stories right.

There was a woman at the well. And she had had 5 husbands. But a) no one wanted to stone her, b) Jesus talked to her about spiritual stuff—He didn't try to get her elected to public office (there's a ginormous, important difference), and c) Jesus talked to her even though she was both a woman and part of an outcast ethnic group. (Think about it.)

The one about whom Jesus said, "he who is without sin cast the first stone" was the woman caught in the act of adultery, for which a bunch of religious establishment dudes wanted to stone her to death. And...oh yeah, she was, like, a totally separate person.

[FALWELL, JR., cont.]: I just see how Donald Trump treats other people, and I'm impressed by that.
Oh, so you’re impressed by a man who disrespects women, mocks the disabled, and stereotypes people based on country and religion (rather than, say, welcomes the stranger as the Bible says to do)? (And those were just the examples that sprung to mind. We both know there are more.)

Wow. Just...Wow.

* * *

If Trump has done anything "for" us, it may be that he revealed the true nature of many evangelicals (and a lot of other people in this country). As Jonathan Merritt put it in an excellent piece for The Atlantic (emphasis mine):
Evangelicals are acutely aware of their waning cultural influence and shrinking share of the population. These religious leaders care about their principles, yes. But they care about something else even more: power. While not every evangelical leader is enthusiastic about Trump, many are starting to express warm feelings toward the candidate.
I really believe that rather than causing misogyny, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia among his supporters, he has merely exposed it. He has somehow "given people permission" to bring all that ugliness out into the open. As bothered as I am by Trump, I'm bothered even more by the fact that he has supporters—and enough to have actually won presidential nomination.

* * *

Back to Jerry. Does he represent all evangelicals? Certainly not. (He doesn't even completely align [politically] with his own brother, who happens to be the pastor of their late father's church.)

But he represents a lot of them. Trump met with 1,000 or more evangelical leaders last month, and he received plenty of praise from them, as well as endorsements from many who once vehemently opposed him. (Source: Merritt's piece, linked above.)

So—I am speaking here to Jerry and to those evangelicals he does represent:

Dudes, your hypocrisy has finally come out.

There had to be at least a strain of this hypocrisy there all along if this—THIS—was ever going to be a result.

Are you proud of yourselves?

Because I'm pretty sure that Jesus is not.


*I've got a newsflash for ya: Being a Christian is not required to be a good president. It's not even required to be president at all. It's possible for a person of another faith or even—gasp!—of no faith to be principled enough, to have all of the right qualities, and to make an excellent president. It really, really is.

P.S. The title of this post is paraphrased from Jon Stewart's epic, not-to-be-missed takedown of hypocritical conservative media and Republicans.

Dear Diamond Reynolds

Source: wired.com

Dear Diamond,

Words fail.

There are no words that could ever adequately encapsulate you’ve been and are going through.

There are absolutely no words that could ever make this better.

But words are all I have right now, so I’ll try to use only those I need…to say:

You are not alone in this. You are not the only one whose life partner died—and before you had the chance to get married, too.

There are hundreds of us (at least). We've become a community. We call ourselves Unwedded Widows. (If you're thinking that you can't be a widow because you weren't married, please read this. TL/DR: Throughout most of recorded history, "widow" had a much wider meaning than one whose legally-declared spouse had died. So you really can call yourself a widow—if you want to. I'll warn you that not everyone "agrees." But...they just haven't learned yet.)

And you would be welcome to join this community. I wish like hell I didn’t need to welcome you to this “club” that no one wants to join.

But—we are here for you. Whenever you're ready for us. And if that's a very long time from now, that's OK. We're not going anywhere.

While we can never know what it feels like to walk in your particular shoes, we do know the pain of our beloved dying. So, as much as is possible, we "get it." And we care.

I wish I could give you a hug and ask you to tell me about Phil. What kind of guy he was, what you loved about him...whatever you wanted to say.

Your love connects you to Phil forever. It's one of the big things that my own widowhood has taught me: Love Never Dies.

I suspect you've already figured that out—because of these incredible words that you said in this video: "Our vow to each other was to have love, to have understanding, to have communication, and to be as one. And as he lays his body to rest and as he's up in heaven, all of those things that we vowed together as a partner, those are the things that I vow to not let go, and to remain keeping those things alive, because he deserves that."

I can't bring him back to you, and I can't make anything "better," even by my words. But I can—and do—send you love, on behalf of myself and the fellow unwedded widows I've come to know and love. And the invitation to join our community will always be open. You would be welcomed with open arms.

My Depression: #WhatYouDontSee

Yesterday I saw on Twitter that it's Depression Awareness Week and that an organization called The Blurt Foundation was launching a social media campaign called #WhatYouDontSee. It's a genius concept because...that's the thing about mental illness: You literally cannot see it. In some cases (like when someone self harms, for example), you can see evidence of it. But you cannot see the illness itself. And as a result of that (and many other factors), misunderstanding and stigma abound. And these things only make it worse for sufferers. The Blurt Foundation said they were "determined to challenge the stigma around what depression 'should' look like, and show the world that ANYONE can be affected by poor mental health." So am I.

So during my lunch hour, I started tweeting and Faceboking (simultaneously, thanks to the Selective Tweets app) some of the ways that depression affects me. My first post announced that I was participating, and then another early post shared the link to Blurt's Huffington Post article about the week and the campaign.
Click on the image for Blurt's campaign announcement.

One thing I noticed pretty quickly: It was crazy easy to come up with examples. I found that to be quite telling.

But the other thing that happened was also telling. Because of the way Facebook works, some of my friends didn't see my first post or the one sharing the article. So they assumed I was posting about what I was going through right then, and they responded with care and concern. And of course, that's lovely. I certainly wouldn't want them to respond any other way. But what I'm betting a lot of them don't realize is....

I live with that shit every. damn. day.

And—that's sort of the point too, isn't it? I live with it all the time, and many in my life have no idea. Or at least...that is how it often seems.

Now, to be fair, some days are better than others. And, with the way my depression tends to work, some parts of days are better than others. It's not equally bad all day, every day. (And thank goodness for that.)

But depression (in a similar way to grief, actually...though the two are different) can rear its ugly head at any moment, and then I'm experiencing one or more of the things I posted about—or any of a myriad other things; it just depends.

It's time we normalized the experiences of those with mental illness. In fact, it's way past time. And by "normalize," I mean: to help others living with it know that the things they experience are normal for their condition. And it's past time we helped those living with it know: You are not alone. And it's past time we corrected the many misconceptions that are out there, like...it's just a bit of sadness, and one could snap out of it if they wanted to. Nothing could be further from the truth.

These are the reasons I'm sharing so personally this week.

With sharing comes greater awareness. With awareness comes greater understanding. With understanding comes a greater capacity for connection and empathy. Both for those suffering and for others around them. (And as Brené Brown says, in the RSA video The Power of Empathy, "...rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.")

If you're living with depression and want to participate in the campaign, you can simply talk about it on social media, and use the hashtag #WhatYouDontSee.

If you're struggling with depression or think you might be, and you could use some help, start here.

When Grief is Not Enough

In the years since my loss and in the grief that came after it, I have heard many a message about seizing the day, about living fully—because life is short, and we don’t know when our own will end. And, hello—a loved one's death drives that home. Except…when it’s not enough to fully drive that message home.

Wait,…what?!? You mean the love of your life died and your most-cherished dreams shattered, and that's not enough for you?!?

How could it possibly not be enough to do that?

When depression is your other constant companion, that’s how.

If I’ve learned one thing about depression from my own experience, it’s that, contrary to popular belief, depression is not just about being sad. It’s about being so sad that you are de-motivated. For anything and everything. Even things you supposedly want. (Well, that’s my layperson’s definition, anyway. I’ve just…lived it is all.)

And having survived the death of the person I loved (and love) the most has not, in itself, flipped that on its head. In fact, it was the cause of a lot of it.

See, grief and depression are not the same thing. They can often feel the same, but they have (at least) one giant difference: Grief can ultimately motivate a person to live fully, to embrace the now…since you now realize, like you never did before, that you don’t know when there won't be any “now” left. Depression…has the opposite effect. And when you have both (oh, along with a history of a host of other traumas)...well, they can "play off" each other, make each other worse, and just pull you even further into the fucking pit.

I'm not as far down in the pit as I once was. The early years of grief were a hell on earth of wanting to die but not wanting to kill myself. It's not that bad anymore, but there is still a giant element of "just going through the motions." A giant element of only "motivated" sometimes to go to work because I want to avoid having to rely on others for financial support. And I do go out socially, and I can and do have a good time.

But the undercurrent of depression is always there.

Sure, hope matters. ...Not that I have any.
(OK, I'm exaggerating. But not by much.)
So—you can tell me that Hope Matters. You can tell me about kicking the shit out of option B. Or you can exhort me to, instead of thinking of life post-loss as plan B (and therefore inferior) at all, think of it as creating a new plan A. You can encourage me to put it all in a virtual cement mixer, to become fodder for a new foundation. You can even remind me—with good reason—to wear the damn watch!

And you'd be right. It's just that I'll be over here, going...Look, I get it. Life is short. So. fucking. short. But for all of my "getting it" mentally, I'm still without sufficient motivation or energy (physical, too) to do much of anything about it. I mean, living out my life as it is now tends to take all of my energy out of me. And I've tried so. many. things. to improve my physical energy. And I guess some of it has helped. But it's still not...well, enough.

One thing I am doing is learning about shame and its antidote, empathy; wholehearted living; vulnerability and courage; and the process of rising after falling—by reading the books of Brené Brown and by taking her online courses, the Living Brave Semester (which covers the content from her books Daring Greatly and Rising Strong; FYI, this course is offered every January) and The Anatomy of Trust (FYI, this course is offered all the time and is free). (Update: Dr. Brown closed Courageworks, her courses business, in December 2017.)

One of the biggest realizations that the Living Brave Semester course has led to or reinforced is that I need to learn how to love myself. It's not like this is a brand-new thought, but only recently has it truly become a priority. Because it has finally sunk in: You cannot pour anything out of an empty pitcher. In other words: you can't give any more love to others than you have for yourself.

In fact, we recently finished the Daring Greatly content, and one of the exercises for the last lesson was to write a manifesto. ("Manifesto" probably gets a bad rap. I mean, it can bring to mind extremist individuals or groups. But it simply means, "a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group.") Anyway, since I'd already realized the importance of self-love, what my manifesto needed to be pretty-easily occurred to me.

So...will learning to love myself "work"? Will it give me enough "juice" to finally  Live Large?

I certainly hope so. ...See what I did there?
© A Road Less Traveled

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