Friday, October 22, 2010

Pervasive attitudes

Yesterday, I posted this article on my Facebook page. It's an article from Sojourners, a liberal Christian magazine. The cliff notes version of the article is this: True Christians should stand up against bullies in school. Jesus reached out to and befriended the outcasts, and so should we. Even if someone disagrees with homosexuality, that person should defend someone being persecuted for their (real or perceived) sexual orientation anyways, because it is the decent, human thing to do.

A couple of responses were posted that caught my eye. Well, one really, but it is a response(I think) to a previous comment, so I'll post both. The first comment in question was this:

"I wish more "Christians" stood up to the hate crowd within their ranks."

I very much agree, obviously. Then, another comment was posted:

"I never feel that bullying is okay in ANY situation; including a gay lifestyle. It is, however, contrary to scripture if you believe the Bible to be inerrant. It is not my place to tell others how to live,nor should I feel bad for feeling ...the way I feel. Bullying, when done by Christians is what gives Christianity a bad name. Promoting the gay lifestyle or endorsing it, knowing it is against God, is not what I consider to be the answer either. Where do we draw the line on what we call sin anymore? Everyone that knows me knows that I do not have a mean bone in my body towards others, but I have to speak up once in a while too. I know many do not agree and thats okay too :-) When we can no longer agree to disagree, we really have a problem right?"

On a surface level, and initially, it seemed like she was basically agreeing with the article, with the exception that, unlike the author, she disagreed with homosexuality. I'll admit that over the years, this person has learned to become much more respectful in how she states her opinion, although I unfortunately still can't get into deep conversations with her because we are just too different. Therefore, our relationship remains superficial(I will add here that this person is a close relative, so it's not like I can just end the relationship due to irreconcilable differences).

However, the more I thought about it, the more this comment angered me. Yes, fundamentalist, literalist Christians disagree with the rest of us on many issues, including homosexuality. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. If it were all polite discussion or even "I'll respect you, you respect me" in an adult fashion, that would be fine. But it's not. Even semi-polite, somewhat respectful tones such as this leads to the bullying and violence. Take the lines she said, where she commented that it is against God, referencing the scriptures as inerrant, and lamenting what is and is not considered "sin" in our society. If a young child were to hear that from his or her parents, that child would begin to see GLBT peers as "sinners'", and therefore "outsiders" or "unclean". And I need not go into detail about how harshly young kids treat outsiders. Or what if the child hears that from his parents, and comes to realize that he is a GLBT youth himself? Now, on top of struggling with sexuality, he will probably struggle with spiritual guilt as well. In fact, this study even points out that many Americans very well believe that churches are a contributing factor in GLBT-related suicides.

I'll never understand fundamentalism, even in its most polite forms.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It Gets Better

I'll begin by saying, that I've done a little bit of redecorating of the blog. I've reorganized the location of the blog archive, list of followers, etc. But the most significant change is a links section. To the right, below the list of blogs I follow, you will find a list of recommended links. It is small for now, but will of course grow as I have time to add things, and find new links. They will be about anything I feel strongly about, be it social justice or spirituality. Listed alphabetically, the beginning list is as follows:

- The Ancient Order of Druids of America = a Druidry organization providing resources and knowledge in Revival Druidry, which I plan to pursue more once I'm finished with my secular academic pursuits

- LEARN Horse Rescue = a local horse rescue that assists neglected horses

- The Gnostic Druid Fellowship = a Gnostic Druid organization with membership in both the AODA and the Universal Gnostic Church

- The Trevor Project = a resource for youth and young adults who struggle with depression and suicide, geared particularly towards GLBT youth and those who are perceived as such

-Unitarian Universalist Church of the Younger Fellowship = online fellowship for UU young adults ages 18-35

Last night, I attended a workshop centering around Social Work and Spirituality. It addressed the fact that the NASW does not officially have services to assist with spiritual struggles in the sense that they have assistance for substance abuse, mental illness, etc. Yet spiritual beliefs are often a major component of the client's life, and often is a running thread to both the client's strengths and weaknesses. So what is a social worker to do then? It was a great workshop, held by the local Unity minister (Unity is an interesting New Thought belief in itself, which I will likely devote an entry to in the future).

On a final note, there is the current "activist fad". Remember a couple of years ago, when everybody was talking about Darfur? Particularly on social networking sites like Facebook. Likely, the problems in Darfur have made little progress, yet when is the last time it has been discussed? That's the sad consequence of social justice projects becoming mainstream, I guess - eventually, interest dies out, just like with every fad.

However, the current one is one that has affected me in ways that I don't recall having been affected since I became interested in the environmental movement. The environmental movement seems to be doing well becoming more mainstream, while keeping in touch with the original grassroots goals. Hopefully this one will as well.

The fad that I speak of is The Trevor Project. In the last couple of months, there have been a string of well-publicized adolescent suicides due to being bullied for being gay, or even just being "perceived" as gay, due to somehow being different from most other heterosexuals. And that's not even considering the number of bullying-related suicides that likely happen that don't get publicized. Due to this, yesterday was a day designated to raising awareness of bullying and those who struggle with suicidal ideations because of it, particularly within the GLBT community. Supporters were encouraged to wear purple, or change their facebook profile picture to a provided "It Gets Better" logo.

I've been there. I know what it's like to go to sleep, hoping you don't wake up because you just don't want to deal with it. I'm straight(although I'll admit I've had my periods of questioning), but due to being smaller, more underweight, and much less athletic than other boys my age, I was one of those that was at times "perceived to be gay". I was very shy, and through one circumstance or another, most, if not all, of my closest friends would be females. One of my earliest elementary school memories was being in kindergarten, on the school bus, and a 5th grader calling me a "fag". By late middle/early high school, people generally finally started leaving me alone, and I was fortunate in that I was never physically attacked or threatened. But words were plentiful. There was another time an older kid on a bus showed me a picture of a naked baby and asked if I liked it. Or the time, my freshman year of college, I returned from visiting my (at that time primarily female) group of friends and someone had drawn a large penis on the markerboard outside my dorm room(if I recall right, "fag" was written next to it as well). So being persecuted for being "different" and struggling with major self-esteem issues because of it really hits home with me, I guess. I will close with a very powerful video by a Texas senator at his local council meeting. Watch it, and show your support for him, and encourage your own local politicians to be as empathetic as this guy. Then, tell others about it, raise awareness about resourcing to stop bullying. It starts with us, the adults. One at a time, we can make it better.

Friday, October 15, 2010

God in America

Recently, PBS aired a miniseries over three nights(Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) called God in America, which chronicles the religious history of the United States, and the impact of religious beliefs on nationwide events, such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, abolition, etc.

Obviously the focus was on the Abrahamic faiths, in particular Christianity, with a small section on Judaism. That was what has been most prominent in our history, after all, even if our founding fathers were primarily Deists. I was pleased to see the documentary carried out in an objective, informative way, yet also in a way that allowed the viewer to vicariously experience, to the extent possible, the struggles that the people went through in their lives, and emotionally connect with the material. I didn't get to watch it on television, but I watched it online. I may get this as a gift for an uncle who is a bit of a history buff. Good watch!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


It's funny how life is. I've been in a bit of a nostalgic, "deep" mood(melancholy, perhaps?) the last couple of days. I think it started the other day, after the kids were asleep, and a coworker and I started talking about our younger years of high school, college, etc. I just kind of realized how far I've come in life, and how far I really need to go still.

Then there was an event that was a little bit furthered later on, while browsing facebook. Anyone who has a facebook and risks addiction to it, has probably at some point stumbled upon former classmates, acquaintances, etc. via mutual friends. Although I did not talk to him in this instance, one I stumbled upon was a former college roommate, from freshman year. We didn't talk very much that year - I actually thought he was kind of arrogant/snobbish at the time - so I didn't, nor do I currently, feel the need to contact him. Just happened to notice him. Turns out he's gay, in a partnership with someone else from our university, and active in a growing organization for Baptists who are accepting of homosexuality.

My first thought was surprise at his orientation - through the mindset I had back in college, he didn't really "come across" as such, didn't fit the stereotype. My second thought was "wait, there are Baptists who are actually ok with gays?", which led to my third thought "So, even a gay guy found someone at a Christian university before I did."

Then, I realized, I was letting my desires get to me. I was doing the very thing, albeit on a lesser scale, as what I complained about in my previous entry. I was being judgmental towards this person based on the opinion I had of him when we were roommates, and letting myself get jealous because I know all of these people in fulfilling relationships, and I average about one date every three months, if even.  In general I'm okay with that - I would rather be single than be in yet another destructive relationship. But sometimes, I must admit, it does get kind of dull and depressing when you live in a region of the country where people tend to be married and with families by the time they're 30, and here I am, still in school, at times wondering if I really have anything to show for my life at this point. I think that's always been one of my biggest downfalls - I don't really remember the last time I actually felt like I accomplished something, or did something that really made any kind of lasting impact in the world around me. Where is my sense of purpose in life? Did I ever even have a sense of purpose in life?

I'll finish this one out with another music video. It's a song that gets in my head fairly often lately, somehow especially when I get into melancholic moods. The video is a fan-made video, as I couldn't find an "official" video(guess it hasn't been released yet), so I don't like that very much. But it does at least include the lyrics, so I don't have to type that out. The song is "Believe" by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Druidry is made an official religion in the UK

Here is an article that laments the fact that Druidry is now an official, charitable religion in the UK.

It saddens me that people are still so narrowminded and arrogant to believe that only Christianity(or, at best, theistic faiths) deserves special recognition. I'm not sure about in the UK, but I know that here in the US Buddhism is pretty much an established religion. And Buddhists aren't theistic, or at least it isn't a requirement to be theistic, and any belief in gods is kind of a "side comment" to their religion, not a focal point. Indeed, many Zen practitioners believe that Buddhism isn't just a religion, but can also be a spiritual practice to supplement the practitioner's primary religion(as I am beginning to incorporate Zen practices into my practice, I tend to subscribe to this viewpoint myself). Druidry is similar - most practice it as a spiritual supplement, but indeed many Druids do consider Druidry to be their primary religion.

"Judge not, lest you be judged." Too bad so many Christians have forgotten this.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Animals Said to Have Spiritual Experiences

This article on MSNBC discusses scientific evidence that animals, like humans, have spiritual experiences, based on experiments involving the areas of the brain that are connected with spiritual experiences, such as near death experiences, out of body experiences, etc.

I've believed for a long time that animals have souls. There's nothing new here, for me. However, it is nice when science and faith interconnect and kind of "meet in the middle". Being someone who sees no conflict between science and faith, such scientific evidence serves only to confirm and strengthen my faith.

 And who knows, maybe the more research such as this is done and confirmed, the more humans will learn to be more respectful of our non-human neighbors.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Playing Catch-up

So, I recognized I haven't been consistent in blogging lately. So I thought I'd kind of catch everyone up to where I've been.

I'm off of work today. Thank goodness.I actually was scheduled to work. Sort of. For this month, in attempt to experiment with a more consistent schedule between work and internship, I put down day shift hours(7am-3:30pm) for my weekdays on my October calendar of availability for my paid job. This is an attempt to have a fairly consistent sleep/homework schedule across all days. I will be changing it up again starting next month, though, as I'm taking on more responsibilities at my internship(i.e.I finally have a caseload to manage) and will need to be able to attend Friday morning meetings. And of course, due to church and classes, my weekends will always be evening hours.

But near the end of the year, my place of employment tends to change things up to help their budget, and give us flex/part-time staff less time. I'm definitely on schedule for my weekend hours I put down - although the admin that does the schedules messed up on the hours, and scheduled me to work 3pm-10pm on my Saturdays, even though I don't get out of class until 4. So, I talked with my direct supervisors, and those days I will be working 5-11:30, as I originally put on my calendar of availability. And Fall break from school(Oct. 14-17) I'm taking off of work too, in order to have a scheduled, definite break and finish up a project that's due on the 23rd.

Anyways, while the admin kept my weekend hours basically definite and only the hours needed to be changed, my weekdays(typically Wed-Fri), rather than scheduling me for 7am-3:30pm, she put me down as "A1". They do this with most flex staff during this time of year to help with their year-end budget crunch - list them as "A" rather than officially scheduling them. "A1" means that I'm available to work first shift that day if the supervisors need me to come in, i.e. short staffed due to call-outs, etc. However, if they don't call, then I don't work unless I choose to go in(and then if they have too many staff, I may get sent home). Today, they didn't call and I chose to not work. I've decided that, at least this month, I'm probably not going to go to work on my "A1" days unless I'm called in, at least as long as I can afford it. For one, I hate being there. I'm trying to get another job as it is, whether it's a paid position at my current internship, another group home, or even the local Barnes and Noble. The place is insane, unsafe, and as much as I love working with the kids and have connected with them well, I'm just tired of being there, been there two and a half years. So why would I choose to come in if I don't have to? So if I only work 5 days this month at the paid job, so be it. I'll use the extra time to finish my paper, and after that get a head start on my Christmas shopping. I have money in a savings account that I put money in with each financial aid overage check I get for such circumstances. The only financial reason I'll need to work is for holiday shopping money and to start saving for a DC trip I'm hoping to take with a friend for spring break - and that won't be too expensive, since we'll both be contributing, and all we have to pay for will be the trip there and back, the hotel, food, and souvenirs, as most tourist attractions in DC are free to get into.

Since my Wednesday evenings are more available, as even after this month I'll be putting myself down as Day shift on my work availability calendars for Wednesday(or not at all)(only Thursday and Friday hours will be changing, the days will generally stay the same, and I'm going to give myself at least one day a week off from both job and internship for "me time"[typically Sunday, but if I have to work a Sunday to complete the required number of weekend hours at work, I'm giving myself that Wednesday off]), I'm going to try out a local Buddhist Meditation group at a downtown center for Tibetan Buddhism. I really need it, especially after an aggravating conversation I just had with one of our most incompetent supervisors whilst typing this. I go flex to help with school schedule, they know this, nobody tells me there are or aren't restrictions concerning what hours to put myself down for, and then I get hassled for doing what flex staff are allowed to do? Hell no.

Anyways, the other thing I've done, is clear out space for a seasonal altar. The altar I have previously put pictures up of is my permanent altar. This one will be devoted to holidays/seasons. For now I'm going to use another TV dinner table.

I've actually found three altars on Abaxion that I really like, that I may buy over time: the "Magical Mini Altar"
the Triquetra Altar , and the Dragon Magic Altar Table . Since they're all relatively small, I may buy one for spellwork/divination, one for my seasonal altar, and one to replace my current permanent altar.

So that's how things have been in a nutshell. Now I have to go to the library. Fun.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Druidry and Wicca: Syncretized

This Witchvox article discusses the growing practice of blending the religion of Wicca with the spirituality of Druidry. Early on in my path, I did this myself. As anyone who has read this blog knows, I no longer consider myself Wiccan, but have returned to Christianity, most heavily influenced by Gnosticism. Although my actual spiritual practice has diminished lately - something I'm trying to work on - I do still consider myself a Druid. And, like Druidic Wiccans, my Druidry does have elements of Witchcraft still in it.

To me, Druidry seems more solar, more masculine. It has a wealth of rites and rituals. The Ancient Order of Druids of America, the organization I plan on joining once I finish grad school and therefore have time to focus more on such things, has grades/levels and corresponding curriculum for enhancing your spiritual practice. Each Degree has required readings or practices to choose from, ranging from divination to herbalism, learning about local nature, etc. There is a large focus on interacting with nature and growing in knowledge and philosophy.

Wicca, and subsequently Witchcraft, however, seems more lunar/feminine to me. The focus is more on the energies that surround us, lunar practices, and spellwork. Druidcraft, as mentioned in the article, is the blending of the two. In my case, I do practice spellwork on occasion - although it has been awhile, as I've been too busy and haven't felt the need. What I have done has seemed to work pretty well, and what hasn't, I attribute more to my own lack of focus or mindset. I suppose spellwork is just like any spiritual practice - like the theme of the movie Skeleton Key, if you believe in it, it works, if not, it won't. Sometimes I feel like I may need one to help out in a situation, but the words/methods won't properly formulate in my mind, a kind of spiritual writer's block. I've found that if that happens, even after looking for inspiration in a reference material such as The Element Encyclopedia of 1000 Spells, it's not meant to be, at least not yet. When I need a spell the most, the words seem to come naturally. And it's been those times that they have worked the best. I do wonder sometimes though if my current lack of use is not only because I haven't needed it, but also because I've become spiritually unfocused over the last month and a half since school resumed. I am finding myself slowly coming back to spirituality, one step at a time. I'm now going to church consistently, even attending Religious Education - my church's version of "Sunday School". And I'm starting to get back into my daily spiritual readings. Maybe that's been the problem with my spiritual practice - maybe I've been trying to force myself to do too much too quick, instead of easing back into it gradually. I didn't exactly learn spiritual discipline growing up. My family went to church and was very involved superficially, but there was no real depth. That kind of mindset and habit doesn't go away completely, I believe. It takes hard work, and maybe gradually resuming more practices is the best thing for me.

Not to mention needing to work on time management skills in general.