on being a peace maker (or at least, trying)
April 13, 2014, 1:23 pm
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I still cheer for hockey fights. Maybe not audibly, but definitely on the inside. And sometimes audibly, when my kids aren’t around. My convictions of non-violence don’t match the intense energy that comes from watching people pound each other. I lean in close and my attention is singular when the gloves drop.

I’ve long considered myself a ghandi fan-boy. but in truth, the only similarity I have to ghandi is the fact that I’m a skinny East Indian man respected my millions worldwide. Wait a second…never mind. We have no similarities. He mastered the peaceful protest. Whether it was walking head first into a waiting army with clubs, not raising a hand in the process. Or refusing to eat as a form of pressure against his oppressors, he had the courage of his convictions. Meanwhile, I have more in common with a hobbit, anxious for third breakfast by 10am.

Jesus says to turn the other cheek and pray for our enemies. I love this in theory, but in reality… Think about it.

Turn the other cheek. If someone hits you, turn the other cheek and let them strike you again. How would that go over in hockey? Probably great in some ways, because the other guy would get a penalty. But Don Cherry would sure be disappointed in your manhood.

I get it. I understand it’s about rising above and being stronger and beating violence at its own game. I get that Jesus showed what this is all about by dying on a cross. I get that. What I don’t get is how I’m supposed to follow that example. Because on some days if takes everything in me to not resort to violence and hatred, and that’s just when the internet is slow.

I attended a pro-love rally yesterday. It was about as hippy-awesome as you’d imagine. Tie dye tshirts, signs that said “free hugs”, bad renditions of John Lennon songs. “All you need is love” sung in the key of 50-60 enthusiastic hippies. In other words, bad. But it was pretty awesome. The rally was a response to vile and disgusting ideas geared towards the LGBT community by the guest speaker at a conference. His response was to counter protest with pictures of aborted fetuses and signs claiming persecution. Meanwhile, parents covered their children’s eyes and had difficult conversations before they were ready because shock value was the counter argument to pro-love and singing. Apparently, the goal is to give children nightmares.

Some people were angry and frustrated, but our group held their ground in a loving stance. Attendees, and even organizers, of the conference crossed the street to talk and understand why we were bothered by the message. They knew, but wanted to hear from us. Some of them even joined in our disgust at his message, as it had little to do with what the conference was even about. Hugs were given and common bonds were shared, just not with the person who upset us all in the first place.

And it was good and Kum-ba-yah and all that. But the truth is, I wanted to cross the street and bash some heads, straight up Georges Laraque style. At least one persons head.

Violence feels more effective because it offers immediate satisfaction. If this person does something we hate, knock out their teeth and have their jaw wired shut so we don’t have to hear them. Bomb that country over there so we can control the puppet government put in place. Shoot first, ask questions later. Violence is all that our society knows. An eye for an eye and a counter protest sign for a protest sign. A liberal news channel for a conservative one. Yes, because the only way to defeat a blithering bunch of idiots is with a blithering bunch of idiots, BUT with opposing viewpoints.

But no matter how disillusioned I become with the state of our world, I still go back to Jesus on the cross; to Ghandi starving for change; to Nelson Mandela forgiving his captors and oppressors. No matter how unlike these examples of goodness I am on the inside, I’m still drawn to their beauty. There is a counter-revolution to the way of violence perpetuated by our society. And it’s gorgeous. No matter what my temptation is, I pray that I’m always drawn to non-violence. Ironically, it’s the only way to feel long term peace. Violence offers immediate satisfaction and long term turmoil. Non-violence offers immediate moral high ground and long term confidence that you rose above.

To make peace in this messed up world is the only thing that makes sense. While my primal manliness gets jacked when fists start flying, I know there’s a better way that I’m called to.

Jesus says to pick up our cross and follow him. Am I crazy enough to do this? What if more people did? Jesus carried his own cross to his crucifixion. To the non-believer, it seems stupid to do so if he had a choice to fight back, and they would even say he had no choice, as he was clearly a prisoner. But to me, he did so willingly when he had every choice in the world to bring down the hell-fire.

But he didn’t. And if I’m paying attention, that speaks to me. Because my temptation is to do the opposite. To raise my fists, weak as they might be. To do the opposite. Fighting against oppression is a good thing, but if we use the same methods the oppressors use, are we really offering anything different?

Non-violence doesn’t offer immediate satisfaction. But it offers something better. A chance to create something beautiful.


on free speech (or ways to disguise our disgust with those who are different)
April 8, 2014, 6:57 am
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Peter LaBarbera is coming. The outspoken, divisive and many would argue , hate-filled (at the very least mean-spirited) leader of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality. Sounds very official, I know. Just remember, anyone can build a website. The internets gave me one. Doesn’t make me legit.

I don’t know what to do about this guy. I hate that he’s coming. To a small town close to where I live, basically in my backyard. He compares gay people to pedophiles. He calls people who oppose him “homo-Marxist”…whatever that means. He believes in reparative therapy, which I believe to be damaging and destructive at best, and that’s being generous. A group is organizing a protest during the event and even started a petition trying to stop him from speaking. Free speech is a tricky thing. We all have a right to it until someone says something we don’t like. But I don’t blame them. I’ll even join them. After all, aren’t protests just a form of exercising free speech?Labarbera claims they are trying to eliminate his free speech. We are exercising ours by telling him we disagree with what he stands for.

To top it all off, he bases his beliefs on the same God I worship, and that bothers me. Or maybe he doesn’t , as our views of what God is like are very different, but we’re at least using the same title. I have a hard time seeing God the way he does.

To those who don’t believe in God, you might call us both ignorant. You’d even level the accusation that we are to blame for this fiasco, and that’s true and fair. I would agree that I’m pretty ignorant. I don’t know much, but what I do know is that God is love. And if that’s true, AFTAH and the Sask Pro-Life organization that invited them here are not being loving to the LGBT community.

Jesus defines love in John 15:13 as “laying down ones life for ones friends.” In Matthew 22, Jesus tells us the greatest command that covers all others is to love God and love our neighbour. In other words, lay down your life for God and for your friends. Sacrifice. I think Jesus of all people understands this concept. But who are our friends? One could argue Jesus isn’t talking about the gay community. After all, the church hasn’t been very friendly to them. Jesus tells us to love our enemies in Matthew 5, so I’m guessing that the boundary isn’t too exclusive. If we are to love our enemies, doesn’t that make our enemies into our friends?

Jesus speaks clearly on who we are to love and how we are to love in the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10. Our neighbour is the one we’d least expect, the one despised by the religious elite. Jews hated Samaritans and thought they had no place in their religion. Sound familiar?

Jesus even tells his stunned, Jewish audience at the end of the parable to go and live merciful lives, emulating the Samaritan, the person they so strongly think isn’t in line with their values and morals. Talk about a twist in the story.

Enough preaching. Get to the point.

So if the greatest command as a follower of Christ is to lay down our life for God and our friends, and our love is supposed to extend out to those who would even be our enemies (notice how just because the Samaritan is the enemy of the Jew does not make that person the enemy of God. Important point to remember in this discussion), those we would not want to associate with, then I fail to see the logic in AFTAH so called ‘biblical’ stance being anything but hate, or at the very least, ignorant disgust.

How are they loving gay people in their opposition? They might say it’s loving, that true love speaks the truth and brings about repentance. But Jesus doesn’t say “The greatest example of love is to tell everyone what you think is true and make sure they change their wrong actions and thinking.” Love sacrifices for those who we would consider enemies. How is calling gay people pedophiles loving? How is attacking those who would accept LGBT rights loving? Not to mention the fact it’s completely false and ignorant.

The right to free speech seems to be the go to argument here. People opposing gay marriage argue they have a right to say what they want. And that’s true.

(A side note here…not all Christians are bigots. I know many who think being gay is a sin, but they are not all bigots. I also know many Christians who support LGBT equality. They can’t all be lumped into the same category. Hence the difference between myself and Peter.)

You can have your right to free speech, but don’t use it as an excuse to be a jackass in the process. Because if you do, don’t be surprised when people get upset and try to get you to shut up. That’s why I oppose Peter LaBarbera. Not because I’m against free speech. Rather, it’s because I think he’s spreading terrible, destructive lies, and I want to say that not all Christians are like that. He can say what he wants, but I can also say what I want. The hard part is to do that with love for the other, for both of us.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Peter LaBarbera might need to do a better job of truly loving gay people, but how am I doing a better job of loving Peter LaBarbera? Because the God I believe in doesn’t discriminate. He loves all us punks equally.

I don’t care what you believe, just don’t be a jerk. That goes for me, too, and I don’t always follow my own rule. So hold me accountable. It’s pretty simple, really. I support LGBT equality in society and the church, and I will stand for that. That doesn’t mean I cut off communication with anyone who disagrees. And I hope it doesn’t mean you will cut me off.

So what should I do about Peter LaBarbera? I’ll go to a peaceful protest and add my voice to the many who disagree with him. I’ll do that respectfully, and I hope others will too. I know some hate this guy. I don’t hate him. I just feel sad for all the damage these culture wars have left in their wake, and I wish he wasn’t a part of that. I’ll go to a protest and I’ll write this blog, and I’ll keep speaking out where I see LGBT people being treated as less than human.

Welcome to Saskatchewan, Peter. I hope some good comes from this, if in no other way than by forcing people from opposite ends of the spectrum to talk and be heard. And I hope the protest doesn’t stifle your free speech, but I do hope it makes people realize our society doesn’t stand silently when hurtful ideology is being spread. I just truly hope it can be peaceful, and pray that we’ll all listen and love the other.

Remember…the enemy of us is not the enemy of God.