Sinners and Saints

I am a sinner living amongst saints. That is not to say I am an evil person. In fact, if asked to describe myself, I would offer up descriptors such as empathetic, loyal, pleasant, loving, and caring. But none of these characteristics override the fact that there are moments in my life where I have failed to live up to these ideals so monumentally that forgiveness is not an option.

It’s often said we all have skeletons in our closets. My closet has living, breathing bodies of accusation and condemnation. They stand daily in judgment of my past and trip me up constantly in any hope I might have of a future. They know things my closest friends don’t, and if they did, they wouldn’t be my closest friends or any friends at all, for that matter. There is simply such an evil pale cast over my past that I am incapable of fully living in the present.

By now you are certainly wondering exactly what it is that I could have done that is evil writ so large as to paralyze me so. Does it really matter that you know? If it does, I am sorry to disappoint you. But much like the urban myth that chanting, “Candyman” three times in a mirror will unleash unspeakable evil upon an individual, so might uttering my sins even once unleash an equal tragedy. I can’t risk it. But for the sake of making my point, feel free to imagine the one thing you could never forgive, and go ahead and imagine that to be the case. It’s a lot less painful for both of us.

I have no hope for the future, at least not any hope of being anything more than the mediocre person my sins condemn me to. I cannot become rich or famous as either would find me out. I cannot love too deeply because once someone gets too close, I have to move on. It is a miserable plain of existence that I live upon, and at times I have felt greatly like calling it a proverbial day. But no, I carry on, seeking only to experience isolated moments of happiness and joy. Though my most grievous sins are thirty years past, they are as close as a look over my shoulder, and they make breathing freely hard.

When I say I am living among saints, that is not to imply that others are without their own evil. I mean that by comparison to my own crimes, they are above reproach. I live amongst these saints, and if an outsider looking in were to observe, I’d blend right in and look saintly as well. But from me, the insider looking out, I know the monumental difference. And that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

My Problem with Social Media Evangelicals

 I get a lot of emails and Facebook postings about prayer. Most are re-posts and unoriginal, but the message is always the same: God is great, Jesus is our Lord, have you found God? Have you found Jesus? (This later one amuses me as any Christian worth his salt knows: God and Jesus are one and the same…if you found one, you’ve found the other!) They are all evangelical by nature, and I understand; if you believe the indoctrination of Christian crusade camps the world over, your only job is to carry the message forward. And it’s this messaging that prompts me to write today.
I was born, baptized, and raised in a Catholic household. I was even an altar boy for eight years (and no, I was not “touched” by God, although, with the cash settlements going out these days, a little touch and tickle might have paid for my retirement). No, even with my religious background, I am not, by way of full disclosure, a religious person. But neither am I agnostic. I believe in God…I just happen to believe that my relationship with Him is very intimate and personal. I also believe that if God wanted people to return to his flock, he wouldn’t need an army of over-zealous, pious, acne-pocked faced teenagers to do his dirty work. I sort of imagine if he wanted you, he would know how to get your attention real quick, unequivocally, and in a hurry.
As I mentioned, I believe my relationship with Him is personal. And this is where I take issue with evangelicals. Where they spend countless hours during their day “preaching the word”, those are hours that might be better spent actually going out into the world and doing “Christian” acts; I don’t know, like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, feeding the poor…you know, that kind of thing. Instead, they don’t have much time left at the end of a recruiting day for anything more than a quick re-grouping to compare notes and plan for tomorrow’s orgy of recruitment. And I also find it repugnant to use social media to sound off about how much of a Christian you are and how much I am not.

Additionally, how conveniently they skip over passages within their own bibles that speak to their ultimate rewards in Heaven; why then are they seeking to publish their every holy thought and action here on earth so that others might know how “Christ-like” they are and how much I am not?. Nothing would, in my opinion, be less Christian. Can you see Jesus going around saying, “Hey Peter, did you see how I changed that water into wine? Pretty cool, huh. Bet you can’t do that!”
Mother Teresa once said she almost never had time to stop and pray…she had too much work to do. Her work was, in essence, her prayers.  C.S. Lewis, a major Christian apologist, also said, “My relationship with God is an intensely personal one.) Yet there is nothing intensely, or even remotely, personal about 10,000 people filling up Fulton County Stadium and singing hymns all day while just outside, on the streets of Atlanta, thousands of homeless men, women, and children fight just to survive another cold night.
I guess what I’m trying to say is enough already with the emails and postings. Get off your collective cultish asses and actually do something Christ-like. Forget about me and go take care of one of God’s children. Your message is better understood in action.

What a Man Isn’t

What does it mean to be a man? Perhaps we should begin with what a man is not. The list is a bit shorter.

Let’s examine a few of the bothersome attributes we tend to escape into when we want to feel “manly” and feel the need to be someone we are not.

First on the list is machismo. The puffery and boisterous displays of testosterone run amok reveals an underlying insecurity in one’s masculinity. Whether sexual in nature (trying to impress a member of the opposite sex) or to intimidate another male (also when competing for female attention) , machismo is a falsehood. Men who are secure within themselves project that security and have no need for reducing themselves to the level of peacocks in mating season.
The second falsehood of masculinity is the need to dominate. Rather than based on insecurity, which plays a small role in this melodrama, the need to dominate another is fear based. It is anti-masculine and reveals a perverted need to fill a desperate vacuum in one’s masculinity. Domination reflects a need to overcome an inner sense of smallness and the vacuum is a feeling of detachment from one’s true sense of self. It is a desperate attempt to re-define that cowardice into power, and it diminishes everything it touches.
So what then does it mean to be a man?

Above all else, a real man, a man who has authenticated his masculinity and is secure within his role with others, embraces his masculinity with humility.

He does not seek to exert a strength based personae upon others, be they male or female

He is generous with what he knows, and quick to admit that which he doesn’t.

He moves in a posture of benevolence,

He is affectionate, though he is guarded with love, understanding the precious nature of this deeply personal state.

His masculinity reflects what is best in him; it is quick to confront and address what is the worst in him.
These are my thoughts. You may have additional comments on this topic, and I welcome them. This was written based on my shortcomings, and achievements, in my relationships with others. It is an evolving thing.