samedi, novembre 09, 2013

Almost 100 years after massacre in Armenia: is there a global war on Christians

The facts are indisputable.

Christians in many countries are suffering.  Many are dying.  If they can, many are leaving the lands of their births as these countries are torn by internal conflict or repression from external powers.

Beyond that, there's a lot up for grabs.

Are Christians in Muslim majority nations targeted because of a violent strain within Islam itself? Are Christians being imprisoned and killed simply because they are believers -- or because they are seen as part of the degenerate West?

Does the media and/or the government underestimate or underplay it when Christians are targeted because (implication is) they don't want to offend Muslim sensibilities?

This is a genuine hot potato in media circles, with respected journalists and analysts weighing in on both or many sides.

Read what they say -- and judge for yourself.

vendredi, novembre 08, 2013

All the single ladies (and guys)? We're not "the problem."

The past few Friday nights I've had meet-ups planned with friends.

But many Fridays, perhaps most Fridays, I'm at the gym, or at home reading a book.  The weekend (at least until Saturday evening, when Mr. C. comes home) often looms lonely.

It is then that the thoughts may start to creep into my mind, as I pick up an escapist novel. I bet my married friends, by and large, aren't feeling lonely.

They are having dinner with their spouses, out at a movie, sharing a nice night out with another couple.

Laughing at some joke only they think is amusing, staring lovingly into each other's eyes...well, you get the picture.

And it's not as though I have always been single (though the ranks of the NEVER-married 18 and above in the US far outweigh those of the divorced and widowed).

I'm one half of a failed marriage, a split family, a broken home.

People of my economic class and education just don't do what I've done -- or they don't do it as much as those who earn less money and have less education (that's what the numbers say).

But here's the reality, one which my married friends simply don't seem to want to hear -- my ex and I get along much better apart than we did together. We are better parents than we would have been if we'd remained in a household divided by such a cold, bitter truce.

In spite of some truly difficult times, we parent better together than we do apart. And we live far, far happier lives apart than we did together.

But it is also a fact that the largest percentage of unmarried and divorced parents don't have the resources that I do.   Here's some interesting data from the American Psychological Association on what may keep a couple together:

Ethnicity is a factor.

"Asian women and foreign-born Hispanic men, for example, have the highest chance of the demographic groups studied that their marriages will last 20 years (70 percent), while black women have the lowest rate of reaching the two-decade mark (37 percent). For white men and women as well as black men, the chances are just more than 50 percent, NCHS reports."
Education makes a difference.
"Women with at least a bachelor's degree have a 78 percent shot that their marriages will last 20 years, compared with a 41 percent chance among women with only a high school diploma, according to the NCHS data. Age at marriage is also a predictor of marital success: Couples who wed in their teens are more likely to divorce than those who wait to marry. In addition, a person whose first child is born after the wedding is more likely to stay married than one who enters a marriage already a parent."

And money? Money talks.

A 2009 report from the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, for example, showed that couples with no assets are 70 percent more likely to divorce within three years than couples with $10,000 in assets. That comes as no surprise to Terri Orbuch, PhD, of the University of Michigan and Oakland University, who says arguments over money — how to spend, save and split it — plague even well-off couples. In her work with the Early Years of Marriage Project, a longitudinal study of 373 couples who married in 1986 (funded by the National Institutes of Health), Orbuch has found that seven out of 10 pairs name finances a cause of relationship trouble. "Money is the No. 1 source of conflict or tension," she says.

Simply put -- if you have more assets, you have more choices. 

That's true whether you are single or married. But it's part of the reason why divorce can often lead to a lower standard of living -- pooled assets are now split up, and running two households can be very expensive.

While I'm by no means rich, I don't have to worry about buying food or putting gas in the tank. But if your husband walks out on you, and you are a woman working two jobs with three kids at home, your choices become much more difficult.

Saying "stay married" to someone in that situation is like telling someone who has put on ten pounds just to show more will-power. 

Sure, there are many people with unrealistic expectations of married life -- people who probably could have stayed together if they'd had someone to talk to and a supportive community.

But those aren't always available, particularly to the poor. In addition to psychological and spiritual help, they also need material support. I've seen tremendously capable and frankly, courageous women and men struggle mightily to keep their children clothed and fed in the face of tremendous adversity.  While I'm sure that there are those who take advantage of our social welfare safety net (I'm quite positive there are many of all races and ethnicities), there are also many who choose to apply for help as a last option.

I've heard the "there but for the grace of God go I" lines from some of my wedded friends slip out when I've shared my search for friends and now and then loneliness.

I don't really blame you. There's joy in companionship. I don't begrudge you that.

And I'm pretty strong. Where I once might have let the opinions of others define me, I'm not as quick to do so today.

But I do ask for your respect, and understanding that my experience has been different than yours.

And I beg you not to use the sword of marriage as a stick to beat the poor without doing something concrete to support them. Marriage may be part of the answer, but it isn't the universal cure.

And until we admit that we are still struggling, as a society, with how to help those who don't have security, safety and faith that they live in a world in which opportunity is possible -- wedlock is going to be more of a taunt than a blessing. 

mercredi, novembre 06, 2013

God doesn't love pretty people

I usually enjoy Sunday worship.  But as good as it was this past week, I have to admit, I let my mind wander.

Speaking in the broadest terms, I realized that I was surrounded, SURROUNDED, by folk with some pretty down-deep ugliness: pornographers, addicts, the self-righteous, adulterers, and men and women with anger management problems. 

Not to mention, Have a few hours, or a day?

I'm not pretty inside and out, either. And these aren't minor sins.  There's nothing "lovable" about my foibles. 

Or about yours. 

Remember that old bumper sticker : "I'm not perfect, just forgiven"? 
Though it's a cliché, there's a grain of authenticity.
Only if we admit to our true ugliness can we truly hang on to the love of a merciful God.

Only if we stop justifying our compromises, shady dealings, and inability to do what God wants of us can we seek forgiveness.

As I've noted before, part of what I like about our particular church is how imperfect it is.

We're not slick. We're not always synchronized. We don't have sermons that promise us better relationships in five weeks.

When it comes to politics, or even the finer points of Biblical interpretation, we don't always agree with each other.

But I'm not just talking about the flaws of the people in the congregation where my son and I worship.

I'm pondering the communion of the freakin' saints here on earth.

We are seriously screwed-up.

And it's when we try to pretend we aren't that we get into the biggest trouble. 

Jesus didn't die for a bunch of genteel sinners.  He died for us.

Today I heard about another church-themed scandal.  Frankly, it sounded heart-breaking.

And as much as I hated to see us exposed again, I wondered what it would be like if we could own up to our poor choices and hurtful, often brutal ways. 

I wonder what it would be like if we could apologize for taking people down with us.

I wonder what those who think Christians are hugely hypocritical and or/self-righteous would think if we could seek reconciliation with each other -- even after the dreadful deeds were done.

God doesn't love "pretty" people.

But I'm hoping, really hoping, that God loves ugly ol' me.

And you too, by the way. 

dimanche, novembre 03, 2013

Life among the Victorians (lady botanists)

Gotta say that though I thoroughly enjoyed "Eat, Pray, Love," it was with a tince of Jewish guilt.

Having now read Cheryl Strayed's "Wild," I can say that Elizabeth Gilbert's tale of self-discovery, while charming and engaging, had the neatness of a journey neatly edited to exorcise that which didn't fit the writer's desired narrative.

To be just,  I don't know how you can stay totally authentic while describing experiences that are years in the past. Even a journal requires a certain kind of artifice -- unless it is the journal of a madwoman.

In fact, that's one of the great things about writing, particularly writing about grief or confusion -- it gives your rambling mind a frame in which to exercise itself, like a nervous stallion, until it is exhausted and more docile.

I can't really blame Elizabeth Gilbert for delineating  'spiritual, not religious' to a T -- it's not her job to be a member of the paid religious class, a professor or priest.

But I did wish that she would use that fine mind to delve deeper into some of life's big questions.

In "The Signature of All Things" she has, indeed, tackled some of the biggest questions Victorian intellectuals had about biology, spirituality, sex, love and the meaning of life.  Part of the reasons the 19th century still seems so close and yet so far away is because we are still asking many of these questions today.

Be prepared to be satisfied and frustrated, confused and enlightened, exhausted and awed.

Just like Alma, the novel's heroine.

And possibly, very possibly, just like Ms. Gilbert herself, a woman of apparently boundless curiosity.