Saturday, November 27, 2010

Whose Salvation is it?

photo courtesy of progressivepuppy.com


It’s that time of year again. From now until Christmas, every time you go to get groceries or that extra stick of butter for your Christmas cookies you’ll be assaulted by a bell ringer from the Salvation Army. And, unless you’re a heartless jerk, you’ll probably drop your spare change in their bucket. Why wouldn’t you? Your spare change will go on to help assist thousands of homeless, hungry people down on their luck during the holidays.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve always just dropped in your quarters without another thought. But I read a few things recently that made me start to wonder… and resulted in me thinking twice about where my quarters go. And while I’ll never dictate to others where they should and shouldn’t give, I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t at least get the word out about what I found.

There are so many wonderful charitable organizations in this country. And, admittedly, the Salvation Army is one of them. It was an actual moral debate for me, personally. I know it’s just spare change, but spare change adds up. Are a ridiculous view on humanity, factually inaccurate beliefs and discriminatory practices reason enough for me not to donate to all the wonderful things they do? And do I really want to deprive some homeless kid out of a potential warm bed to stand up for my beliefs? I mean, if I withhold my money because of my OWN narrow viewpoint, depriving them of funds they need to help millions, am I any better than they are for excluding certain groups? You can see my point.

 In the end I decided that, personally, I just can’t drop a single cent into that bucket knowing I’m supporting such an organization. And I wish I had known what I know now years ago. That’s the purpose behind this blog post. It’s not to change anyone’s mind, because I don’t appreciate people telling me “you should give here but not here” and it’s certainly not my place to do that. There are plenty of people who will think this church does much more good than harm. I just want to provide information and let others make their own decisions.

I have to add that I have no problem whatsoever with religious charitable organizations. I think they’re amazing and more in line with what Christianity is supposed to be about, not what these insane right wing hypocritical bigots have made it into. But I do have a problem with discriminating against whom you help. And any organization that’s going to turn anyone away for such a ridiculous reason isn’t getting any of my change until they see the light and change.

Now, that being said… what’s my problem, anyway? Well, it started a few days ago when I read this blog post.

Now I’m not an “all or nothing” person, nor was I about to buy into the “IF YOU SUPPORT THE SALVATION ARMY THAN YOU ARE EVIL AND SUPPORT BIGOTRY” statements. I mean, each and every one of us buys things every day that were made in China, probably by a toddler who gets paid with a grain of rice. Finding out where our dollars go opens up one hell of a rabbit hole I don’t intend to fall down at this point. If you read the comments on that post you’ll see that some people, gay or straight, have been helped by the Salvation Army and were quick to defend them. But it did implore me to check out their website. Here’s some actual text from the “What we believe” section of the site and, because I can, my thoughts:

The Salvation Army holds a positive view of human sexuality.

Um, really? I don’t agree! Read on:

 Where a man and a woman love each other, sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage.

Hey, totally. That’s the life I’m living. It’s awesome and yes, enjoyed, though not always frequently enough. Good for you, Salvation Army. But what of those who didn’t follow my path or haven’t found that special someone yet?


However, in the Christian view, sexual intimacy is not essential to a healthy, full, and rich life. Apart from marriage, the scriptural standard is celibacy.

My single friends are going to be pissed at you, Salvation Army.

Sexual attraction to the same sex is a matter of profound complexity.

I agree. And what a beautiful complexity it is. And why we have to govern it with laws and moral high ground is beyond me.

Whatever the causes may be, attempts to deny its reality or to marginalize those of a same-sex orientation have not been helpful.

That’s because doing either of those things is complete and utter bullshit. Bullshit tends not to be helpful.

The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself.

Oh, gee, what a relief!

Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching. Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.

Oh, I get it. So you admit that being gay isn’t a choice. So rather than risk offending the Creator who made someone a certain way, you’re asking them to just ignore their (God-given?) sexual urges and ignore their hearts when they fall in love and live like a nun or monk. Right…because that makes so much sense.

Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse.

But you’ll let them go hungry until they repent?


In keeping with these convictions, the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation.

Yes, you’re free to shop at Salvation Army stores and donate to them, gay people. But if you want to work for them, be a church member or receive help… you may be out of luck.

Here's another article of interest.

Again, this organization has the right to uphold beliefs. I may not agree, but I respect their right to think we should all be a bunch of heterosexual celibate monks and nuns until the joyous day when we marry. But I sure don’t have to support them. With all the charitable organizations out there that kick it into high gear during the holidays, my quarters will find their way to a less “evangelical” one. I’m going to feel like an asshole every single time I bypass that bucket and ringing bell, but not as much as I would if I dropped money into this mindset.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful

The holidays got here quickly this year. I realize that makes no sense whatsoever and makes me sound like a complete moron who doesn’t understand the way time works (I actually don’t fully understand time, to be honest, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t speed up when I stop paying attention). But really, it seems as if one day we were unpacking our van from the cross country road trip in hot July weather and the next day there was snow on the ground, sub-zero temperatures in the air and Christmas music on the radio.

It’s a scary, volatile time at my house. There’s a lot of change in the air without a lot of control. Change and loss of control are two things that make Mr. W and me very grumpy. We know it’s all for the best and that we’ll be much happier (and hopefully better off in every way) once it’s over. In the meantime, it sucks. And there’s nothing we can do about the sucking except wait it out and see how it goes.

Still, this is the time of year when we’re supposed to reflect on all the good and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving means even more to me this year since I’ve recently explored Plymouth and saw where it all began (for us white people who stole the land, anyway, not the lovely indigenous folks who were here already…sorry). And even though right now my life is scary and stressful, at best, I’m still thankful.

I’m thankful for all those things I normally take for granted like a car than runs, a house that stays warm when it’s -7 outside and the fact that I have access to clean water. It’s so easy to get caught up in wanting the best of everything that you forget that some people have none of those things. I’m thankful that even when money has gotten tight, we’ve always managed to come up with what we need when we need it.

I’m thankful that, even though things are stressful and uncertain right now, I finally have a clear direction I want my life to take. Things are clearer for both my husband and me now than they’ve been in a long time. It’s going to be s struggle, there are no guarantees and we’ve had to put some things on hold, but instead of resisting change, I’m going to embrace it and see what happens. The goals we have are intimidating and difficult and at times not fun. But I’m excited and will take the bad right along with the good and be grateful to be taking the chance.

I’m thankful that time really does seem to heal all things, even old hurts and grudges. I recently reconnected with an old friend and some might think I’m crazy for forgiving her for the past, but I just can’t perpetually punish people once my anger runs out, especially those I truly love. I hope one day it can be this way with everyone I’m estranged from. I am also thankful for that hope.

I’m extremely thankful for my health. It’s easy to complain about the little aches and pains, the minor injuries, the extra ten pounds that show up at the worst possible times, but overall, my health has been good and I’m so grateful just to be able to walk and to face my days without any major illness.

I’m thankful for my amazing support system… my husband and my best friends who, no matter what crazy ideas I throw at them, just shrug and have faith in me. I’m thankful for my family who even in all their faults are angels compared to some of the horror stories I hear. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made recently who feel as if they should’ve been in my life all along.

I’m thankful for where the roads took me in 2010 and where they’re taking me in 2011. Perhaps more than anything, I’m thankful for learning that it never is too late to change your entire life. You just have to leap. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why I'll never tire of Vegas




I walk a fine line between being insanely grateful for everything that happens to me to worrying over whether it’s too much… as if someone shouldn’t really get to experience as many amazing things as I have… or, worst of all, if somehow I’m going to start feeling entitled to having nothing but the best. I don’t ever want to be someone who feels entitled to something simply because I’m alive. So when I was recently offered another chance to party in Las Vegas, my home away from home and favorite place ever, it seemed too good to be true. Everyone deserves a crazy Vegas trip or two in their lives… but with as many as I’ve had, I found it hard to believe another one was presenting itself to me. And with three amazing women I adore, no less. Still, the fact is, all four of us needed it for different reasons. So I said yes, quit worrying about it and packed my heels.

The novelty of Las Vegas should’ve worn off for me years ago. It hasn't. I should be tired of it. I'm not. As soon as I step off the plane and hear the slot machines in the airport, I’m giddy. I eagerly anticipate my first viewing of the lights of the Strip. I take in the people watching and can never quite get used to seeing it all… the insanely beautiful women in their tiny dresses, the eager men in their suits and heavy cologne who turn their heads at every pair of breasts, the costumed entertainers, the older pot-bellied men re-living their youths, the couples, and the crazies. With each trip, I’m excited about something else… a show we’re seeing, a club we’re checking out or just experiencing the madness with the people I’ve brought along. This time I was thrilled to see the city I’ve come to know and love with three people who really hadn’t experienced it before. And for me, it meant a new way to experience Vegas as well… in a 1600 square foot two bedroom luxury suite. Go big or go home, I guess.

What do you do when you lose your father and stepmother suddenly and tragically right before the 30th birthday trip they were going to take you on? Or when you end a relationship of almost six years with a man you’ve been with since you were barely legal? Or when you’re stuck in limbo and so much depends on things that are out of your control, you find yourself snapping at those you love, having panic attacks and wake yourself up crying from stress at night? Or when you unexpectedly get your heart broken and can’t trust someone the way you thought you could? You pack up your smallest dresses, your make-up and any cash you can get your hands on and you get your ass to Vegas. At least, that’s exactly what we did. And it turned out to be better therapy than any of us could have imagined.

From the moment our limo driver met us at baggage claim at the airport, we were treated like rock stars. You get what you pay for in Vegas and if you’re willing to shell out the cash for a suite, you’re entitled to the amenities that come with it… a personal concierge, high class transportation, a lounge that always has plenty of treats available (“Omg, there are cookies in here!”), a sweet man to hail you a Taxi and tell you how beautiful you look each evening, and the most gorgeous surroundings you can possibly imagine. And it just got better from there. Each night, we were treated to a table and bottle service at some of the city’s most high end nightclubs that just kept getting better by the day. Each night we had some of the best meals of our lives which also seemed to keep getting better. Every evening when we’d emerge from our suite dressed up and strutting, we were catcalled and offered free drinks just so the men would have the honor of talking to us until our egos just couldn’t take it anymore. Throw in an incredible show, several hours lounging in the whirlpool tubs and steam rooms in a gorgeous spa, room service and two ridiculously hot bodied women dressed as “peas and carrots” and you’ve got yourself the best Vegas trip of all time.

I’m no fool. I know there’s a dark side to Las Vegas and there are a lot of things about it that aren’t so great. I know there’s the dirty, high crime, bad energy, ugly side of Vegas. I know one round of drinks there could feed a family of four for a week. I know it’s all about who you know, who you are and what traits you’re willing to compromise. It’s a hustle, all about the money. But I think it’s the fact that the city doesn’t even try to hide that side of it that makes me love it so much. They’re not pretending to be anything they’re not, even though 99% of the tourists do (Vegas alias, anyone? I’ve got one). Like anything else in life, Vegas is what you make of it. I’ve had plenty of bad experiences there, but they will never be able to tarnish, or compare to, all the good. With a city that has shown me so much love over the years and treated me so well, I have no choice but to love it back with all my heart.

So no, I don’t believe I will ever tire of Las Vegas. As the years go by and my life changes, I’m sure I’ll go there less and less. And there will come a day where I’ve had enough. But I’ll always look back on my trips during my twenties with a smile. And when my memories (those that survived all the free champagne) fade, I’ve got an entire folder of Vegas pictures on my computer that will never see the light of day but will always be there when I need a reminder that yes, it really happened, and yes, we all deserved it.

Yes, those are my pink panties. No, I don't have any shame. The pic is awesome.
 
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