Posts Tagged With: Non-Religious

Meet the ASS in TomASS

Only In Vegas

YES, that is a photo of my legal license plate when I lived in Las Vegas. And YES, I that is my nickname. AND YES again, I am proud to put the ass in TomASS. Now… just so you understand, the ass part of my nickname does not refer to any anatomic feature of my body, my Gluteus Maximus is actually quite MINImus! My nickname was given because I am rather honest and direct and this is often confused for being an ass. Add that to the fact my real name is Thomas – we get Tomass.

DivergentA couple years ago, I read “Divergent”, now also a movie. It is set in a dystopian future that has society divided into 5 factions dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue. One of the factions is Candor and their virtue is “truth” and they value honesty above all else. They understand that the truth can sometime be sharp and there is a need for transparency, so their “Choosing Ceremony” item is glass. My sister read the book also and said as she read about the Candor faction, she visualized me, even though I feel I am more Divergent (lol).

I should have a warning label that reads, “Don’t ask me ANY questions without being prepared for Honestyan honest answer.” Most that know me know the dangers of even simple questions like, “How do you like my new hairstyle?” or “How do I look in these jeans?” I do see value in honesty. Do not think it is a one-way street, I expect people to be honest with me as well. If my breath is bad, tell me so I can do something about it. If and outfit looks bad, tell me so I don’t priss out wearing it again thinking I am so cute (lol)! 

Now we also need to establish that just as I will call someone out on their political, religious or social views; I do not mind being called out on mine. I grew up in a small town where the VAST majority all think the same: Jesus, conservatives, and conformist are all good traits; while being nonreligious, progressive thinking, and Sophiarebellious are bad traits. I never knew any different until I moved and people began to challenge me on my views and I not only learned, I grew as a person. I feel I am better member society because the opinions I have now were formed by experiencing a variety of life experiences and people that were honest enough with me to take the time to talk and share – even when we did not agree.

Many feel agreement is how a conversation or debate should end. That is FAR from what I seek when having conversations, discussions, or even debates. For many, a debate is seen as argument. But here is where I venture a little from a simple ass to being an asshole – if you can not defend and support your opinions… don’t expect to be taken seriously. If you have opinions and are frightened of those with different opinions, face the fear of learning Karenand ask questions, challenge others and one day you could be like me an opinionated ass that is proud to share and learn.

A LOT of people like or even love the characters Sophia on “The Golden Girls” and Karen on “Will & Grace” because they were so bluntly honest. It is kind of how I hope others see me, although I have learned some are not brave enough for a friendship with the likes of me (Sophia or Karen), their opinions and views may be too weak or undeveloped to be challenged. But it is one more reason for me to love the friends I do have because even if they are a different faction and do not value the truth above all else, they have decided I am not a lost cause. After all this I have shared, I hope others see the ass in Tomass simple means I am a human in training like all of us should be! I would much rather be an ass man than a yes man! 

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Discarded Obama Campaign Stickers

I was visiting overseas during the U.S. Presidential election, but I tried to stay informed. This was my first time to ever contribute to a Presidential campaign. I was also the first time I was really actively involved in any campaign. The Obama campaign had sent me a few bumper stickers as a thanks for donating and I was so excited that whenever I do get home… I was going to be able to post my Obama stickers on my little OLD truck. But my conservative mother threw them away! No thought given to the idea I may WANT them. No consideration, just trash. Some I had actually purchased. 

This campaign MEANT something to me! I willingly gave up my middle class lifestyle because of my Multiple Sclerosis and I had a tough decision to make – my lifestyle or my health. My health won-out! I gave up living in a nice house with one of my most favorite people in the world as a roommate, driving a BMW convertible and living in the exciting city of Las Vegas for living at home with my parents, with no car, in a small town in Mississippi. Like I said… NOT an easy decision, but a necessary decision. I knew the sacrifices I was going to have to make and I was lucky to have a loving and supportive family to help me.  

I struggled for two years with no healthcare because my M.S. was a pre-existing condition and this was during the time Obama was trying to get what is now labeled Obamacare passed. For the first time I saw something in politics that directly affected me and it was the President leading the cause. My new standing as a poor person with no insurance helped me see a side of this issue like others could not. I was living solely on my social security disability income and living at home, I was still only barely by. Eventually I qualified for Medicare and FINALLY had health coverage.  

My conservative, Republican, Christian family that watched more Fox News than ANY other news outlet, called Obama a socialist and believed all Fox News said, even though I was one of the very people Obama was trying to help with Obamacare – they saw it as evil and bad and so was Obama. This is when a passion for what was going on in politics began to grow IN me. My frustration also grew because I could not get them to see and understand – I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE” Fox News is demeaning! My parents had Social Security & Medicare and others in my family even had Medicaid and they witnessed my struggle with health issues all-the-while I had no health insurance. I began to see “conservative” to equal – I got mine and I do not care about you.

Needless to say this created a struggle for me in relating to my family and even strains our relationship today. I felt like an outsider in my own family.  Church was so important and BEING Christian was even more important. But as the conservatives boasted of their Christianity, I witnessed a great deal of not so Christian actions. Being gay has helped me see “church”, Christians, and even God in a much different light. I saw the principles of the Democrats relate more to Christianity than the “religious right”. I wrote a blog specifically to try to engage people to explain how “conservatives” were Christian (http://wp.me/pKLa8-GU) and e-mailed a blog that asked the same but in a friendlier tone than I had be able to muster! (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2012/11/time-for-christians-to-make-a-choice/) Republicans extol their Christianity but for me it conflicts with their politics and I feel the Democrats live it by their politics.

I see Jesus as someone that would spend time with gays, having wine and talking with them, not standing in line at Chick-fil-a so the company has more money to prevent gays having equality! I see Jesus touting the GOOD of Obamacare, not worrying how it could affect his personal coverage if the uninsured get access to care! This creates for me my biggest struggle – it makes me see my dearly devoted, Christian mother and others in my family as hypocrites! They already dislike me for being so different in how I think… how could they deal with being viewed as hypocrites? Or possibly even racist because of things they say about Obama? Oh yeah, that is why it was such an internal struggle for me to live that close to them. I hate myself for seeing my family the way I do. We DO love each other… but there is no respect unless there is agreement and I just can’t agree with them. They refuse to listen to my points because I think they do not want to see the hypocrisy. But any attempts I make to talk and try to understand only ends badly! I am a critical-thinker and NEED more than rhetoric and “faith” to understand things! Now I live far away and even at a distance it still hurts me!

My father was diagnosed with Dementia and suddenly Fox News was not on the tv as much (if any actually). A few months later he had a stroke, then 9 days later died. At his funeral, all that spoke (including me) mentioned his trademark little, old, piece of crap Toyota trucks he had over the years.  I did eventually get a little money and had the opportunity to travel to see my friend I call Little Buddy (one of my FAVORITE people in the world) and when I returned from that trip – I bought a little, old, piece of crap Toyota truck like my Dad used to have. I was looking forward to putting my Obama stickers on MY little, old truck, but they were thrown away because no one considered them relevant at that house  – the same as me… discarded without consideration or concern!

P.S. I do love my family and they do love me… like my facebook relationship status says – it’s complicated! My writing is to express feelings I am unable to share otherwise and this is how I feel now.

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The North Pike Pharisees

Why do so many Christians feel they are entitled to have prayer at public school functions? Don’t they have church and even Christian schools for those that find that important? Why do so many Christians STAND UP with outrage on an issue like being told to stop praying at ballgames, but so few Christians stand up for the poor, the hungry, the ones needing health care or for the civil liberties of others? Why can’t Christians understand that freedom of religion in the United States also means freedom FROM religion?  Most churches offer Sunday School, youth programs, worship, and some even offer mission opportunities for school aged children, teenagers and young adults.  Church provides a place to learn and exercise one’s religious beliefs and practices – not public schools – well not public school football games (or any school functions for that matter)!

North Pike Schools is one of the latest schools to be told by threat of lawsuits to stop praying at school functions. I graduated from North Pike Schools where I attended all 12 years of my compulsory education. On September 23, 2011, the North Pike School Board received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation reminding them of current laws regarding prayer at school functions. This of course has enraged the local Christian community. So many Christians forget all opportunities where they can exercise their religion, but tell them there is something they can’t do…. then they become livid!

Superintendent of North Pike Schools, Dr. Ben Cox handled the situation administratively saying, “North Pike will suspend prayer at sporting events and other functions. The school board doesn’t agree. Students, patrons and parents will still have the individual right to prayer.” (1) This would have been the best place to stop, but he went on to say, “It’s not a violation of federal law to have prayer at an event as long as the school does not initiate it. We encourage our patrons to express that right of religious freedom.” (1) This is how I translate the last part: it is not a violation of federal law to push the issue by trying to find a little loophole to bypass the law and have students and parents pray anyway. So I hope students at North Pike read this as I remind them it is not a violation of federal law to try to find loopholes in the school’s handbook, guidelines, or rules.  I encourage the students to exercise their rights to dress and behave how they want at school, and I challenge them to express this right.  When your parents say be home at 11:00pm for curfew, come home, then go right back out because they only said be home at 11:00pm; they did not say you cannot go back out. This is what Dr. Cox is suggesting; just find a way to justify doing what you want regardless of the law or rules.  Let us teach our students instead of following the rules and/or laws, let us just find a way around it.(2)

Christians’ arrogance is one of the main reasons I no longer self-identify as a “Christian”.  I do not see many that act Christ-like, but this fact does not make me less a follower of Christ to say – this is not what Jesus would do.  The Bible has often been used as a weapon against me because I understand its purpose differently, so let me turn the tables and use their “source” of how to behave against them.  Matthew 6: 5-6 says, ““And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  Now, I also know the Bible also has passages that support praying out loud.  So, like with most issues, we can all misuse and interpret the Bible to support just about any of our opinions.  But I also know the Pharisees (Luke 18:9-14) were not looked upon fondly by Christ as they patted themselves on the back for how holy they were.  I am sad to say, I see Pharisees in this issue and some will say they see the Devil in me. I feel God inspires me to stand up when I see injustice done in the name of religion or even freedom of religion; but other than God on my side, I also have the law on my side!

If more Christians stood up for “causes” other than those that only affect them, I would have more respect for their outrage.  Where is their outrage for how the poor are treated in the U.S., where is their outrage for how healthcare coverage is not available for all, where is their outrage for how Wall Street wrecked our economy with no executives being arrested – only given bonuses, where is their outrage for working Americans losing their homes in foreclosure?

Pastors and Christian leaders may ask themselves, why is the number of Americans identifying as “non-religious” growing? (3)   May I suggest behavior like this affects their Christian witness!  Maybe fighting to keep prayer in schools, this behavior makes fewer people see Christ and only see people that are unjustly angry?  Many Christians have forgotten to minister to people and only unite for self-serving purposes!  And before arguing that people identifying as non religious is growing because prayer is being taken from school, look at it as people have seen these same Christians fighting to keep prayer in schools while NOT seeing them stand up for the poor, hungry, sick or lonely.  They have seen them persecute, name call, and justify hatred while bullying groups of people in the name of God!  But I can speak for myself: I identify as non-religious, but I do still believe in a God, the principles of Christ’s teaching; however religion has done more harm to my faith than help it grow!

Christians can always pray to themselves, and I am lost to understand why they feel everyone should be exposed to the practices of their faith.  They are free to say a prayer to themselves any where, any time; no one wants to stop that, but praying to an audience gathered for a school function is not appropriate.  This arrogance of feeling persecuted because they are told to follow the law reminds me of how spoiled some act…. I can do what I want… this is a Christian Nation!  I fell to remember learning at North Pike that this is a Christian nation, I remember learning that the United States is a Nation founded on FREEDOM!  As they have freedom OF religion, the rest of us have freedom FROM religion!

The founding fathers came to America to escape forced religion.  King Henry VIII established The Church of England (the Anglican Church) as THE religion for England.  So escaping from being forced to practice a certain religion is what inspired the founding fathers to start a new nation….. not establishing another Christian nation or they would not have felt religious persecution in England.  Their intent was that religion would not be part of government.  In the United States, public schools are funded by government funds and Christian practices should not be endorsed by the school, nor should Atheism, Muslim, Hinduism, Buddhism or ANY faith. 

Schools and teachers have enough responsibility to teach, inspire and keep students safe in an academic environment; so, let’s not add religious education to the public schools responsibilities.  Could schools even compete with all the various Christian faiths as to what is appropriate to teach about religion.  I do not think many practitioners of the Pentecostal faith would want a Methodist or Baptist to teach Christian values to their children or vice versa… not to mention Catholics!  The only thing I have found they all can agree on is hating gays!  I have been told if someone does not like prayer at school functions, they can stay home – oh that is a great argument, the praying Christians get to decide who comes to PUBLIC school functions!  My response is, if someone objects to following the law… they can send their kid to private school where Christianity is part of their curriculum.  Christians could simply decide to meet before school functions in the parking lot, say a prayer, then go in to watch the game or better yet – just pray before they leave home for the game or function.  A moment of silence – that is a joke!  Spontaneously reciting something like the Lord’s Prayer out loud, in unison – WOW… group defiance and disrespect for the law 101!!!  But heaven forbid they try finding a simple, legal solution that even satisfies the people that see things differently instead of trying to find ways to just circumvent the law.

I love the teachers, coaches and leaders at North Pike, I received a great education there, and know the dedication it takes to be a teacher, but let’s teach the students right – they are are school to learn, to be educated in academics.  Children learn from the example set before them and North Pike’s leadership is encouraging anarchy, encouraging finding ways around the rules – so do not be surprised when this example is followed by the students in areas other than expressing their religious rights!  I am a former youth minister and I dare say that less than 50% of these students are even actively involved in church.  Many feel they are standing up for their Christian beliefs but how dare people that don’t agree with them stand up – even fellow Christians that see football games as a place to watch football… not a place to pray?  What is your goal North Pike?  Education or religion?  Embrace the lifestyle of the Pharisee or hypocrite and enjoy its consequences!!

*(1) –http://www.enterprise-journal.com/news/article_4215d664-f103-11e0-bb58-001cc4c002e0.html

*(2)http://www.enterprise-journal.com/news/article_4f643ef2-f282-11e0-82f2-001cc4c03286.html

*(3) – http://www.christianpost.com/news/survey-non-religious-americans-on-the-rise-in-every-state-37380/

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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