Be Different

be differentA month or so ago the girls and I were visiting a church in our quest to find a new church home for them. We moved last summer, and the girls have missed having a church family and driving 45 minutes back to our former church wasn’t happening.  Aside from the fact that I have become disillusioned with organized religion, I wanted to help find a community that both my daughters felt comfortable in (i.e. had upbeat music and wasn’t “boring”), yet still embodied my core values of love, inclusivity and belonging. No small feat in this day and age.

After the up-beat service, my daughters asked if I liked the church. I said I thought the pastor had a good message. I even admitted to them that I’d been inspired. On this particular Sunday, the message was around the idea of “being different.”  The pastor reminded us that our goal in life is not to to get people to “like us” or to “make ourselves happy” in every moment.  He used examples, such as, not having to buy the most expensive cars, saving intimacy for marriage, staying away from vices such as drugs and pornography, and praying more.

However, another interpretation of how to “be different” is to speak up when you see injustice, to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and to act to help right those wronged.  This is how I am inspired to “be different.” I left feeling even more called to activism, knowing that means some people might not “like” me.  I explained to the girls how this could look for them. If someone is being bullied at school via social media, report it. If a musician or artist uses racist language, stop buying and listening to their music. If a friend is being harassed, speak up for them. For mean it means, if a bill is proposed that takes away rights of citizens or harms others, I speak out against it, I go to marches, I sign petitions and register new voters. It means when something isn’t right, I don’t ignore it or keep silent, I say something.

“Mom! That is NOT what the pastor meant by being different!”  Both daughters immediately concurred after I finished my explanation of how I felt we should be called to be different. I later relayed the story to my father, and he agreed with my daughters. And I concur they may be correct in that the pastor’s idea of being different focused on the inward way of being godly and pure. However, I would argue that Christ’s teachings also align with my outward view of being godly by focusing on others – loving others even if they don’ t look like us or pray like us, welcoming strangers, feeding the hungry and poor. Jesus spent his time and ministry with the outsiders, not with the righteous or the organized church leaders (rule makers) and politicians of his day.  He called us to love others, not judge them.

I’ve always believed in two things without fail. 1) God called us to love our neighbors as ourselves. 2) Democracy meant that everyone’s vote counts. Both these principals have been called into question these past few years and even more so these past few months. The narrative that our country was founded under Christian values is false. Our founding fathers might mention “God” in their writings, but no where do they write “Christian God.” Many religions believe in God and should have the freedom to practice their religion as they choose. Our founders were fleeing religious persecution. It was important to them to protect others from similar persecution. The irony of people now wanting to call the United States a Christian country is not lost on me. This is especially true when many of the people who claim to be Christian have strayed so far from teaching number 1 (note: it does not say only if your neighbors are also Christian or want to become Christian). 

The vote is a powerful too. Every vote counts, even if the person doesn’t vote they way you want them too. Therefore the minority is doing everything they can so that every vote does not count. In 2015 the voters of Ohio passed an amendment for fair districts by 71% of the vote. Yet, even after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the new maps were unconstitutional, Ohio still has gerrymandered (unfair) maps.  What does this mean? It means, our state lawmakers do not represent that majority of Ohioans. We are not being governed by the people anymore.  This gives us dangerous bills that are on the docket like these:

  • HB 616 (In committee): This prevents teaching “divisive concepts in schools” which includes talking about sexuality, racism and topics that would make students uncomfortable.  (My question is, would it make students uncomfortable or their parents?)
  • SB 134 (passed the house, in the senate): This would allow anyone (parents include) to question a girl’s gender and prevent her from playing sports until she had an internal exam proving she was female.

And unpopular laws like these:

  • Allowing the arming of teachers and school staff with only 24 hours of training instead of 700 hours
  • Banning abortions after fetal heartbeats in cases of incest and rape; with vague language on when it is allowable if the mother’s life is in danger (requiring the doctor to go to court, delaying treatment)
  • Reduced voting hours/drop box locations

I believe voting is more important than ever. Encouraging our youth to vote is essential. Who you vote for makes a difference. I challenge you to look beyond your wallet, the gas pumps, inflation and pollical parties and instead look into the voting records and activities of the candidates of the ballots. Do you really want your daughters and granddaughter to be humiliated because the opposing coach things she doesn’t look feminine enough (this is going to happen)? Do you want your gay friends’ kindergartner to be upset when their drawing of their family with two moms is the only one not hanging on the wall?

It’s time to stop letting those in power in Ohio scare us into keeping them there. Vote them out.