Friday, October 30, 2015

Family Friday: Is there a life sentence for murdering plants?

According to the Daily Mail, I am a murderer.

Yes, dear, gentle, Tina Seward, wife, mother and Christian, stands accused, tried, and convicted of murder.

All because I am a plant eater.

This article in the Daily Mail online cites a study done by researchers at the University of Missouri that says that "plants can 'hear' themselves being eaten.

So, a carrot can hear the munch, munch of a rabbit using it for a midnight snack?

Well, not really.  At least, I don't think so.

The study discovered that plants can identify nearby sounds--such as the sounds of eating--and then react defensively.  

Specifically, the study followed the behavior of a plant called Arabidopsis, described as "a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard". The people doing the study placed caterpillars on Arabidopsis, then used a laser and a small piece of reflective material on the plant's leaf. Scientists could then measure the movement of the leaf in response to the caterpillar as the caterpillar chewed on the leaf.  (I assume that the caterpillars they picked had not yet had their lunch.)

The scientists then played back their recordings of "caterpillar 

feeding vibrations"
to one set of plants, but played back only silence to another set of plants. 

Later, at their next meal opportunity,

the caterpillars were allowed to eat on both sets of plants.
(Perhaps their caretakers realized that said caterpillars needed to gain some weight or be better nourished?)


during this meal, at least one set of caterpillars was disappointed and may have gone away with their appetite unsatisfied. 

Because the researchers discovered that the plants exposed to "feeding vibrations" produced what are called mustard oils, which is a chemical that caterpillars

do not like. 

However, plants exposed to other vibrations, such as wind or different insect sounds, didn't produce mustard oils. Conclusion: plants can "distinguish feeding vibrations from other common sources of environmental vibration."  In other words, the plants knew that they were about to be eaten and secreted the mustard oils in self-defense. 

Today, I made a smoothie with the following ingredients: one apple, one carrot, a handful of spinach, one banana, some yogurt, and milk. As I turned on the blender and listened to the sound of my smoothie being prepared, was what I heard the whirring of my blender as it grated and pureed the ingredients into a delicious drink made solely for my enjoyment?

Or was it, instead, the sounds of horrific screaming as the plants realized that they were spinning towards their inevitable doom?

None of the plants secreted mustard oils.  At least, not that I was aware of.  At least, I didn't taste anything that tasted like mustard oils.  So, it's possible that they were never aware of their ultimate fate. 

But does this mean that I will never be able to enjoy a smoothie again without feeling enormous guilt over the murder of defenseless, innocent plants that gave their lives so that I may be better nourished? 


Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Family Friday: Oh, rats!

After seeing this article in the Daily Mail about the burgoning rat population in New York City, I only have one thing to say:

The rat race is over.
The rats won.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Manic Monday: Liberal and conservative frustration . . .

I'm a conservative, which means I believe that Americans are smart enough to run their own lives without all that much help from the goverment.  Government is needed to protect the public safety and provide certain public services.

I disagree with those who "lean left" about the role of government in certain areas, like health insurance, Social Security, environmental protection, and others.  But I also admit to some frustrations with both sides of the aisle.

There are people who need health insurance and who will either go bankrupt from trying to pay for health care or die without it.  How do they get insurance if they're unemployed or can't afford to pay the premiums?  That was one of the points of the Affordable Care Act, to get insurance into the hands of those that needed it.  What I objected to was the way it was pushed through Congress.  Also, I think trying to address so many health care issues in one bill was biting off more than one could chew.  One thing I would have liked to have seen in the bill was the ability to buy health insurance across state lines, which may have made obtaining health insurance easier.

And there are people who are disabled and can't work, or who can only work in certain jobs.  I know families who deal with seriously disabled members--people with cerebral palsy, or severe autism, or severe mental illness, or Lou Gehrig's disease . . . I could make an endless list.  How do you get medical treatment for these people?  And how do you support the caregivers of these families?

The IRS, TSA, and EPA are probably the most hated governmental agencies in America.  There are legitimate concerns about all three of them--overreaching authority, audits that might not be necessary, patting down people that don't need to be patted down, and other concerns.  But there are people who cheat on their taxes, or who innocently have made mistakes and need help.  The environment does need to be cared for, because dirty air, dirty water, contaminated land--all of them are health hazards.  (And as a Christian, I am called to be a good steward of what has been entrusted to my care.)  And, as much as we might not like to think about it, there are terrorists out there who want to kill Americans, on American soil, and we do need to find them before they can do their job.

On the other hand, we have 18 trillion dollars in debt, and it's fast rising.  Social Security, Medicaid, and other government programs eventually will run out of money.  You can tax and tax all you want, but unless Congress gets out of the habit of spending more than they receive, none of the financial problems of the US will be solved.

Neither liberals nor conservatives seem willing to work with each other to solve the problems we're facing.  Nor do they seem to be willing to crawl into the other side's skin to try and see things from the other point of view, lest they be accused of "compromising".  Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill, while they disagreed with each other philosophically, had drinks together.  At least they were willing to work together.  When was the last time John Boehner and Barack Obama had drinks together?

I'm frustrated with both sides of the aisle, which is why I often think, "A plague on both your parties!"  Both sides of the aisle make decisions about which I can do nothing, yet I have to live with many of the consequences of those decisions.  As do the rest of us.

Is there just no way for both sides to work together without one side completely caving to the other, or one side being accused of "compromise" with the other side?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Family Friday: Birthday

I am 52 today, and I've spent the day enjoying myself.

Things are challenging . . . but I am still alive!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Little footprints

"In 900 years of time and space, I've never met anyone who wasn't important." -- The Doctor, "Doctor Who"

This month is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Today, specifically, is set aside to remember those who were a moment on this earth but forever in the hearts of those who loved them.

Some years ago, I "met" a woman on CafeMom, a social media site, who was grieving the loss of twins.  She lost one of the twins early in her pregnancy and then lost the other to a stillbirth.  Later, she became a Facebook friend and once told me, "No one ever remembers."

She's no longer on Facebook, but I've always remembered her saying that.  So I want someone to remember.

Here are those I remember:

Bobbie Lee
Hope C.
Hope K.
John William
Sarah Grace

I know there are many others whose names I have forgotten or I can't remember.  I remember them, too.

There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Worship Wednesday: "Proving" it

"Everyone believes they are right, and everyone can 'prove' it by Scripture."  This is one of my major complaints about modern Christianity.

Arguments about doctrine are nothing new.  They've been around since the 3,000 were baptized in Acts 2.  In Acts 15, we read about the Jerusalem Council, in which the question "should Gentiles be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses?" when they turned to God and accepted Jesus as the Messiah?

I'll take baptism as an example of "proving it".

The word "baptism" in the New Testament comes from the Greek "baptizo", meaning "dip, plunge, immerse".  My own church, the Church of Christ, practices baptism by immersion.  Baptists do, also; and I believe Pentecostals do.  I'm sure there are others of which I am not aware.  Churches of Christ use Acts 2:38-39I Peter 3:21Romans 6:3-7, and others to "prove" that baptism is necessary, and use the Greek to "prove" that is must be by immersion.

There are others who practice baptism by sprinkling (Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, and others).  Isaiah 52:15 is used to "prove" that sprinkling is okay; also, Ezekiel 36:25.  (I pulled these from this website, written by a Methodist minister.)

Some use pouring (which is probably also referred to as "sprinkling"); i.e., pouring water on top of the head.  The Amish, among others, do this.

If you look at the website by the Methodist minister, you can see that he uses Scripture to "prove" his points.  On the other hand, I have been in studies with Church of Christ people who have also used Scripture to "prove" their points.  And, anyone that wants to tell me that "the verses on sprinkling are from the Old Testament, and Christ fulfilled the Old Testament, and the church was founded on the New Testament--may I point out that, at least in the tradition of the Churches of Christ, the Old Testament is used to justify several practices?  (Nadab and Abihu, an Old Testament account, is often used to explain why Churches of Christ don't do certain things.)

I could probably use other examples:  instrumental music, women's roles in the church, speaking in tongues, divorce, homosexuality . . . but for me, they all boil down to one thing:  Everyone has a Scripture to "prove" that they are right.

So who is?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Manic Monday on Wednesday: Last night's debate . . .

I didn't watch last night's debate.  But I have heard news coverage and read social media, and while the news consensus seems to be that Clinton won, I've seen at least one poll where Sanders was declared the victor.

I heard about discussions regarding Obamacare, free college education, paid family leave, etc. etc. What I'm not finding, though, is a serious discussion of how it's all going to get paid for.  This is what I see to be a major problem with certain proposals:  where is the money going to come from to fund free community college, paid family leave, etc.?

You can "tax the rich" all you want, but you can only "tax the rich" so much; then you either have to stop funding for the programs you want, or redefine who is "rich" so that you get more money.

Sanders openly admits that he is a socialist.  While socialism is about "equality for all" and looks good on paper, take a look at the countries where socialism has been tried.

Like Russia and Eastern Europe.

How'd that work for them?

(And before you mention Scandanavia, check this article.)

What people fail to understand is that there is no such thing as "free".  I love having "freebies", I confess; and in the interest of full disclosure, my son did receive a so-called "freebie" through Medicaid.  He, as well as many others, received Medicaid coverage through the Katie Beckett waiver, a special waiver allowing medically fragile children to qualify for Medicaid when the parents don't otherwise qualify.  (Most parents use this as secondary, not primary, medical coverage.)

In writing about Medicaid, I feel the frustration:  I know there are those who desperately need medical insurance.  I know that there are those who will go bankrupt without medical insurance. (That was the main point of Obamacare--to get insurance into the hands that needed it.  I just think that the Affordable Care Act was the wrong way to do it.)  And there are others who will make valid arguments in favor of the very things Clinton, Sanders, and others want.

But I also know that someone has to pay for the freebies.  And I don't think people are thinking about that part of the issue.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My name is Tina, and I have OCD . . .

You may have heard someone say, "Oh, she's so OCD; she alphabetizes her spices."  

Or, "I'm so OCD, I must have the place totally clean before I can have anyone over."

Or, "He's so OCD, he has to have a neat desk all the time."

People smile and laugh at those statements.

Except, when you really have OCD, they aren't that funny.  

My name is Tina, and I have OCD.

OCD stands for "obsessive-compulsive disorder."  According to the website at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 2.2 million people suffer from OCD.  It's more than just a desire for an organized house, or a neat desk, or the desire to get something done by a deadline.  

The NIMH website goes on to describe people with OCD:  "[they] feel the need to check things repeatedly, or have certain thought or perform rituals over and over.  [Those] thoughts and rituals . . . cause distress and get in the way of daily life."

The difference between someone who just wants a neat house or a neat desk, and the person with OCD, is this: The "neat freak" will probably devote a Saturday to housecleaning, or an afternoon to organizing their desk. The OCD sufferer will scrub a floor over and over, yet it's never "clean enough". Or, they will straighten a desk, but it's never straight enough; and a box of paper clips placed on the wrong side of the desk causes anxiety. Or, they will imagine that if their desk isn't totally clean--or, if the paper clips are not arranged in piles of three and five (for example)--something horrible will happen to them as a punishment.   Obsessions--the thoughts of anxiety and fear, and other unwanted thoughts--and compulsions--the behaviors people use to relieve the compulsive thoughts--control people with OCD. The obsessions, and the compulsions, are often debilitating, and they end up interfering with daily life. (Any of you that have ever seen the series "Hoarders" have seen a manifestation of OCD in action.) The people who do these rituals don't like them. Rather, they're driven by the thought, "I have to do it. I must do it. Something awful will happen if I don't do it."

I don't, to my knowledge, engage in compulsions. My OCD is what is called "pure O"--the distressing thoughts without the accompanying compulsive behaviors. I won't go into all of the details of what I call "the thoughts". 

Part of the way my OCD manifests itself is in a disorder called scrupulosity. The dictionary definition of "scrupluous" is "diligent, thorough, and extremely attentive to details; very concerned to avoid doing wrong". Scrupulosity, the disorder, is described as "pathological guilt about moral or religious issues." This is not the same thing as the concern over getting things doctrinally correct. There are legitimate concerns about false doctrine addressed in the Bible, and I think it's important to line up what I believe with what the Bible says. Where scrupulosity comes in for me is the constant concern of, "But what if I'm wrong?" and nothing--no research, no sermon, nothing--will alleviate that fear. 

My OCD began when I was around 14. I was sitting in church, and all of a sudden, I suddenly started thinking swear words.  I think one of the words may have been the one that takes the Lord's name in vain. I was horrified. I mean, "thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" is one of the Ten Commandments--and this was happening in church, of all places! So I said a quick prayer: "Dear Lord, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do this. Please forgive me and help me not to do it again. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen." 

What was the next thing I thought? The word. Again. So I prayed another prayer. But the prayers didn't make the thoughts go away. 

Part of my scrupulosity, I believe, came from a form of Christianity that emphasized the "don'ts"--no swearing, no sex before marriage, no exposing yourself to things that are "bad" or "unholy"--and if you even think about those things, you've committed a sin and you need to ask God for forgiveness. After all, there is such a thing as sinning in your thoughts. (Didn't Jesus say that anyone who merely lusted after someone had already committed adultery in their heart?)

It's not wrong to not swear (I don't like the language and I try not to use it), and abstaining from sex before marriage is something I strongly recommend. And there are some things, such as pornography, that I won't go looking for. But pure O is different. These are thoughts that drop into your head with no warning. 

In trying to control the thoughts, I attempted self-censorship. I tried not to read books that had swear words in them, and when sex scenes came on TV or in the movies, I wouldn't look. Same with scenes that were overly violent or bloody.  I can remember blanking out words in a book I was reading in an attempt to not read swear words (a form of Bowdlerization).  And when people swore in front of me, or in movies, I got very offended (probably self-righteously so.) 

When I became a Christian at age 18, it was only a matter of days before "the thoughts" returned. In fact, I remember going to a prayer night, or devotional, and making a list of things to pray about. The number one item on my list was, "My swearing--stop!" The prayers didn't help. The thoughts still remained; in fact, they got worse.  I confessed "the thoughts" as sin a couple of times.  I still struggled with them.  

For years and years, I thought that "the thoughts" were just simply sin; sins against God.  And I was embarrassed and ashamed.  Christians didn't think like I was thinking.  Christians weren't obsessed with swearing and other "bad thoughts".  Didn't Jesus take away sin?  Didn't he help with resisting temptation?  So, why wasn't He helping me?

I can't remember when it was that I did a Google search about "the thoughts" and discovered the term "pure O".  It sounded so much like what I was dealing with, and yet, I was reluctant to say, "I have OCD."  Didn't OCD sufferers wash their hands 20 times a day, or stuff like that?  I didn't do that.  I couldn't have OCD.

One book I discovered that was helpful to me was by Lee Baer, called The Imp Of the Mind:  Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts.  That was where I first learned that "thoughts" were just that--they were thoughts.  They were not good, nor were they bad.  The stuff that simply dropped into your head--they just were.  (Of course, if I were to pursue the thoughts, that would be another story . . .)

I've been in counseling for a number of years, with different counselors, about different issues, and I don't think I ever brought up the issue of "the thoughts".  So they could never be dealt with.  Finally, though, I swallowed, and during a counseling session with the person my husband and I see, told them both about "the thoughts", and told them that I thought I might have "pure O" in the form of scrupulosity.  The counselor said that I might be on to something.

I swallowed again, did some research, looked for a counselor that took my insurance, was pretty close to me, and specialized in OCD . . . and found one.  And since the counselor had email; I used that.  I mean, do you know how hard it is to pick up the phone, call an office, and say, "I think I suffer from reoccuring bad thoughts"?

The person I'm now seeing confirmed that "thoughts" were just that, "thoughts".  Thoughts that drop into your head don't make you a bad person.  Everyone has them.  Unfortunately, because of the way my brain is wired, and because of some things in my background, I end up obsessing over them; and trying to resist "the thoughts" only makes it worse.  That's not sin.  It's an illness.  (I worry that I am using OCD as an excuse to sin, which I don't want to do.  I think it would be a sin if I pursued some of the thoughts.)

Right now, we're working on reprogramming my brain.  I wish that "the thoughts" would leave me alone.  They have not.  But these days, I don't see "the thoughts" as threatening or sinful.  They just are. With some of "the thoughts", I take them to an extreme, to see just how ridiculous they are.  The more ridiculous I see "the thoughts" as being, the less power they have over me.   I believe this is the "help" that God provided and that God is using in my life.

I'm trying not to be offended by swearing, although I still don't use the words, and I'd rather people not swear around me.  (There are times I understand the feelings behind the language.)  I still dislike swearing and graphic sex scenes in books, and in my own writing, I prefer not to use them.  On the other hand, I also think that my efforts to "shield" myself from "sinful" things seriously boomeranged where I was concerned.  Not cussing didn't make me not think about cussing.  Nor did attempting not to think about sex keep me from thinking about sex.  It's also occurred to me that even Jesus heard swearing, and he even saw some pretty nasty stuff while he lived on this earth.

(I think we're seeing this "boomerang effect" in the case of Josh Duggar.  The Duggar boys were taught to look away when a scantily clad woman walked by.  The girls were taught to dress "modestly".  Josh practiced courtship, instead of dating, with his wife Anna.  This was the "recipe" for a successful Christian life . . . and it didn't work.  Josh ended up molesting his sisters and cheating on his wife.  This effort to "wall off" the "sinful world" backfired in a serious way.)

What are the answers to OCD?  To scrupulosity?  How do you handle "the thoughts" and not fall into sin?  I don't know all the answers to those questions.  In my opinion, if you're a Christian, and a bad thought drops into your head, and you're horrified by it and didn't seek it out--the odds are very good that you won't act on it.

I'm on medication for depression, and one med is supposed to be helpful for OCD. My main form of therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a way of re-teaching the brain healthier ways of thinking.  I see a counselor weekly.  Other people with OCD may need more intensive therapy.  

This week is OCD Awareness Week.  I'd like to think that the stigma from mental health doesn't exist anymore; sadly, that's not true.  "Willpower" and "just getting over it" won't help mental illness. Telling people with OCD, "Just don't think about it," or "just don't do it", isn't going to help, either. People with a mental illness need help, not just words.

If you have OCD, even if it's "pure O", you don't need to suffer in silence and shame.  There is help. I used Psychology Today's website to find the person I'm seeing now.

If you're a Christian and dealing with OCD, you're not suffering from unconfessed sin.  You have an illness, and it can be treated.  There's no shame in getting treatment.  Getting treatment doesn't mean that you have failed God or that you have allowed yourself to fall into sin.

It just means that you are a person who has OCD.

Just like me.

My name is Tina, and I have OCD.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Family Friday: After 46 years, the invitation remains . . .

The song opens with two staccato chords from Robert Lamm's keyboard.

A trombone riff from James Pankow follows.

The motif is repeated three more times.  On the fourth repeat, Danny Seraphine joins in with the drums, and then they are off and running, accompanied by the throbbing of Peter Cetera's bass, with tambourine by Walter Paradizer in the background.

And then Terry Kath steps up to the microphone and roars:

Hey there everybody
Please don't romp or roam
We're a little nervous
We're so far from home
So this is what to do
Sit back and let it through
And let us work on you

That is the opening of the aptly named "Introduction", the first track on the album Chicago Transit Authority, and the album that introduced the rock group Chicago to the world.  The album hit the shelves on April 28, 1969.  Listen to it, and you'll find it captures the raw energy and excitement of seven men who wanted to create "a rock-and-roll band with horns", to quote trombonist James Pankow.

They succeeded. 

Originally known as Chicago Transit Authority, they dropped the Transit Authority part when the real Chicago Transit Authority threatened to sue.  Now known as simply Chicago, they followed up with Chicago II, III, IV, V . . . and on it goes.  Wikipedia lists thirty-six albums, along with several live albums and a list of compilations.  They began with seven men, and as of this year, four of the original seven are still with the band.

"Chicagophiles" range across at least three generations, maybe more.  Chicago boasts fans from the early days of the 1970's, to those who never heard of Chicago until recently. 

I became a Chicagophile in 1972.  I was eight years old and fell in love with "Saturday In the Park".  However, I didn't get my first Chicago album until 1976, when I was 13.  One of my Christmas presents that year was Chicago IX, the Greatest Hits album. The day after Christmas, while taking down the decorations, my mother suggested that "I play my new album". 

While one could criticize Chicago for "going commercial" in the 1970's, and for losing their "edge", you could not deny their success.  If you listened to AM radio, as I did during those years, you heard "Just You 'N' Me", "Call On Me", "I've Been Searchin' So Long," "Old Days," "If You Leave Me Now," and others as they rose and fell on the Top 40. 

Tragedy struck on January 23, 1978, when Terry Kath accidentally shot and killed himself.  I've seen this event referred to as "the night Chicago died," and I tend to agree.  They were never the same after Terry died. 

But where others may have given up and disbanded, Chicago did not.  They came roaring back with a new guitarist and a new album, "Hot Streets", one of the very few Chicago albums not to contain a Roman numeral.

Over the years, Chicago has seen its share of changes:  personnel changes, changes in the music industry, changes in musical style.  They have dealt with the death of Terry Kath and the contentious departures of original members Peter Cetera and Danny Seraphine.  They have suffered the attacks of "noted" music critics.  I'm sure there have been times when they've been considered down, out, and gone. 

And yet, they remain. 

They still play, they still tour, they still release music.  Recent concerts have seen them pair up with '70's icons Earth, Wind, and Fire and the Doobie Brothers.  Their fans, both old and new, still turn out, still support them, still love them. 

This week, after 22 years of being snubbed, Chicago has finally been nominated for the first time for induction in Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  At the moment, they are number one in the fan voting. 

James William Guercio's original liner notes from the Chicago Transit Authority album end this way:  " . . . if you must call them something, speak of the city where all save one where born, where all of them were schooled and bred, and where all of this incredible music went down barely noticed; call them Chicago."

Through triumph and tragedy, through vinyl, eight-track, reel-to-reel, cassette, CD, MP3, and streaming audio, through praise and criticism, through changing times and changing music, Chicago still goes on, playing the songs, entertaining the fans, making their statement with their music. 

Because, after 46 years, the invitation remains: 

So this is what to do
Sit back and let it through
And let us work on you.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Worship Wednesday: Teaching Islam or about Islam?

In Walton County, Georgia (the Atlanta metro area), a group of parents is up in arms about the teaching of Islam in the public schools.  One parent is quoted as saying that he has a problem with the God of Jews, Christians, and Muslims being the "same God".

An erumor that has made the rounds allegedly details that, in a California schools, students "can't say the name of Jesus", but that they can pray to Allah.  Some parents are also bothered by the fact that the "radical" side of Islam, the teaching that encourages some towards terrorism, is--according to them--not covered.

My son, since he is in special education, has not been exposed to the same lessons that the public school students in these articles have been exposed to.  So I can't speak to the particular curriculum that these parents are referring to.  I can only offer my opinion about teaching religion in the public schools.

I think it's important to teach about the major religions of the world:  Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism (and any other major religion I have left out.)  If you're going to understand something--or oppose something--you need to know what it is you are trying to understand or oppose. 

But what I don't completely know is, how do you teach about religion without teaching that religion? 

Teaching belief in a particular religion should, in my opinion, be the province of family, church, or whatever religious institution you belong to.  And if you don't belong to a religious group, or choose to be an atheist, I still think you should know the major tenets of each religion, if only to tell people why you choose not to subscribe to any of them. 

I do believe it's possible to teach facts about a particular religion without teaching belief in that religion.  Perhaps I'm na├»ve, and perhaps I don't understand what today's teachers face.  I'm the daughter of a teacher, but my father--who was that teacher--died in 1993, and curricula has changed much since then. 

I believe you can say, "Here is what Christians believe," and lay out the major beliefs of Christianity:  belief in one God, belief that Jesus is His son, belief that Jesus rose from the dead, and that He died for our sins as an atonement for them.  It's acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice and repentance--turning away from--our sins that makes one a Christian.  And it's the help of the Holy Spirit that allows Christians to live the life that God wants us to live--to love God first, to love our neighbor as we do ourselves, to do good, to shun evil.  (That's the gospel according to Tina. :-) ) 

Specific to Islam, I do think it's important to know what the five pillars of Islam are.  I think it's important to know about Muhammad, that he was the founder of Islam and that Muslims consider him to be the prophet of Allah.  Just as I would consider it important for people to learn about Jesus, or Buddha, or Hinduism, or Judaism.  (Yes, these are links to Wikipedia articles.  Wikipedia does source most of their material, so I consider it a good starting point for research, although I would not rely on it as my sole source.) 

But how do you do it without showing partiality to one religion or another?  And how do you do it without offending practitioners of that particular religion?

Public school teachers today walk a fine line, as mentioned in one piece I have found about Islam in the public schools.  They are required to teach a particular curriculum, have high test scores, prepare students for college or work--and at the same time, they have to deal with demanding parents and the expectations of principals and boards of education. 

Teachers today also have to deal with what I call the "entitlement" of students.  A Facebook friend of mine, who is a community college professor, has talked about the inability or refusal of his students to follow clear directions in his class.  I've also read about parents who hover over their children even in college, demanding to know why a particular professor gave a specific grade to their child.  College students today are also demanding that they not be exposed to anything that might "trigger" them.  (I understand the importance of guarding your mental health, as in cases of PTSD, but in some cases, it's getting to the point where some students don't want to be exposed to anything that's the least bit "upsetting".) 

So where does this leave the teaching of religion--particularly Islam--in the public schools? 

I think parents have the right and the duty to see their child's curriculum, to know what a child is being taught.  Should they have the right to "opt out" of certain units, as some parents have decided to do with the unit on Islam?  Right now, I believe that if a parent feels very strongly about a particular unit, and has reviewed the lesson and discussed it with the teacher, and still feels the need to opt their student out, then they should have the right to do so. 

What about the "radical" part of Islam?  Well, perhaps an overview of Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations is in order.  And, perhaps an overview of the Crusades should be added in order to provide balance.  But, to be honest, I don't know how to cover those subjects without running the risk of offending Muslims or Christians. 

Ultimately, I believe it's up to the parents to instill a belief in a particular religion, while also encouraging their children to think and reason, so that their faith will be their own.  If parents do that, I don't think they need to fear that a public school will "indoctrinate" their children into a particular religion. 

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Manic Monday (a day late, again, due to illness): Going into hiding

On Saturday, October 10th, I may go into hiding for the day.

Or out of town.

Donald Trump is coming to Atlanta, and he will be speaking at a location that, according to Google Maps, is seven minutes from where I live.  The traffic in the area will be nightmarish. 

Do I plan to go?  No, I do not. 

Why?  Because I don't plan to vote for Trump.  The more I see him in the news, and the more I hear about him, the more I am turned off by him.  He may know "the art of the deal", and he may have business expertise, but that doesn't necessarily qualify you to run the United States of America.  He seems to think that all he has to do is run his mouth and people will fall in line.  That isn't going to work when you are facing down Vladimir Putin or the Ayatollah Khameni of Iran.  He may make a good advisor to the Secretary of Commerce, but not President. 

I feel the same way about Ben Carson.  I admire the man, and he'd make a good Surgeon General, but I don't think his medical expertise necessarily makes him qualified to be President.

Right now, I'm not sure who I am going to back for President. I know who I won't back, but not yet who I will back.

For now, though, Donald Trump is not on my short list.  And that's why, on Saturday, I will be nowhere near where he is speaking.  Even if I have to go into hiding.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Family Friday: #yesiamachristian . .. but do I need to hashtag it?

This post will combine all three of my major blog topics:  politics, religion, and personal reflection. :-)

Yesterday, no more than five minutes after I got home, I got a news alert on my iPad reporting a school shooting in Oregon.  I thought, "Here we go again," with a mental yawn, thinking that this might be another false alarm.

Within minutes, after going on Twitter, I learned that this was not the case.  One tweet said, "Early reports say it's bad."  And then I saw CNN:  ten dead, 20 wounded.

I followed reports throughout the day with this sense of, "Again.  Again?  How many more?"  I fear I am becoming desensitized to reports of mass shootings, and I don't like it.  This is something that should never be "normal" for any society.  I don't care if you live in Roseburg, Oregon, Norcross, Georgia, or Haifa, Israel.

When the news announced that President Obama would be speaking about this shooting, I decided not to watch.  I had a feeling of what he would say, and I was right--a call for more gun control.  I did agree with him when he said "we've become numb to this".  He was angry.  And I didn't blame him.

Over the next several hours, a report surfaced that the gunman had lined people up, asked them if they were a Christian, and shot them if they said yes.  Now, a trending hashtag is #YesIAmAChristian.

I'm bothered by these reports.  First of all, they remind me of the Columbine shooting and Cassie Bernall.  She was the young woman who reportedly said "yes" when asked if she believed in God, and was shot for it.  It turned out that she wasn't the one who said "yes", it was another young woman, Valeen Schurr.  Due to the confusion of the day, I can understand why that remark could have been attributed to someone who didn't say it.  I don't want this narrative of "he shot people who said they were Christians" to be shared if it's not true.  Although, an article in the Washington Post did have the headline of "Oregon shooter said to have singled out Christians for killing in 'horrific act of cowardice'".  That's frightening, if true.

But second:  Do I really need to hashtag #YesIAmAChristian in order to prove that I am a Christian? 

I've heard criticism of "hashtag diplomacy".  When #bringbackourgirls was a trending hashtag, I heard comments such as, "How is a hashtag going to help bring them back?"  While Twitter and other social media sites are helpful in spreading news and spreading awareness, if that's all you're going to do, what's a hashtag worth? 

Could #YesIAmAChristian be a form of "hashtag evangelism"?

Several months after the Columbine murders, Family Christian Bookstores began selling T-Shirts, key chains, and other items with the slogan, "Yes I Believe In God".  That was the moment when I started being turned off by Christian merchandising.  To me, that was a shameless, crass attempt to cash in on a family's grief and a horrific tragedy. 

This campaign, #YesIAmAChristian, reminds me of the Facebook memes that say, "Repost if you're not ashamed of Jesus."  So, if I choose not to hit "share", does this mean I'm ashamed of Jesus and that he will be ashamed of me when he comes back? 

If I decide not to tweet #YesIAmAChristian, does this somehow mean I'm not one?  Or that I'm ashamed to say so? 

For the record, yes, I am a Christian.  I would hope that, if someone ever pointed a weapon at me and demanded an answer to that question, I would say, "Yes," and not worry about the consequences.  I would also hope that if I were forced to choose between confessing God or having my family killed . . . I'd confess God.  It would rip my heart out to do it, and I hope I'd never, ever have to make that choice. 

But anyone can hashtag "yes, I am a Christian".  I can sit here at my keyboard and type #YesIAmAChristian as much as I want to--I could tweet it on Twitter, post it on Facebook, over and over and over again--and it wouldn't make me one. 

What makes me a Christian, first of all, is that God loved first.  "We love because he first loved us."  Next, what makes me a Christian is my (albeit imperfect) acceptance and response to that love.  And I carry out my response in how I live, which includes how I treat others. 

Perhaps the shooter really did target Christians in his rampage.  He will have to answer to Christ for his actions. 

Perhaps there were those who did say, "Yes, I am a Christian," and who were murdered for it.  I admire their courage, and I believe God will give them a special welcome. 

And I'm sure that many who are hashtagging #YesIAmAChristian are very, very sincere, and they want to stand by those who were murdered yesterday.  They want to share their faith.  They want to
announce their faith because they don't want to be ashamed of God, ashamed of Jesus. 

But do I really need to hashtag that I am a Christian?

I don't think so.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Worship Wednesday (one day late, again): The original court reporter?

Right now, my ladies' group is doing a study on Beth Moore's "When Godly People Do Ungodly Things".  In one of the lessons, she made the comment that Satan is methodical when he launches his attacks on believers.  She said that he keeps meticulous notes.

If that's true, I wondered, does that make Satan the original court reporter?

Court reporters are committed to making an accurate record of court proceedings.  In that respect, they have to be meticulous and detailed.

But the more I've thought about it, the more I wonder how accurate I am being in using that analogy. You see, while Satan is meticulous, he's also very selective in the "facts" he uses in his meticulous notes.  He may have very methodical and meticulous notes on our sins and weaknesses, and all the mistakes we've made, but he leaves out stuff like God's forgiveness, love and grace.

If it's true that our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west (see Psalm 103:12), then I wonder if God is the one that "strikes from the record" the sins He has removed from us.

After all, isn't He more meticulous than Satan?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.