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Friday, December 25, 2015

A Challenge

A Challenge
I keep getting told I need to write, so I did. Will you read it?

This is long and most people won't read it. And those who do, it will be like preaching to the choir, because they already know these things. And of course, there will be those of all religions who might read and say, "I don't do that".... I am speaking generally here, based on what I'm seeing both online and in real life as well as from experience and personal study.

I also know because it's long, and we are now in what I call the Twitter Mentality.. meaning no one reads anything longer than 140 characters and nothing with more than two syllables; which is why the word vacation is now "vaca" and even TV commercials use the word "doc" to mean doctors.

I realize the attention span of most humans these days is dwindling fast. It's why people read Memes on Facebook but not articles.

So take this as a challenge. Will you and can you read this? I keep getting told I need to write, so I did. Will you read it?


On this day of celebrating what many people consider to be the birth of Jesus, I'm struck about how many Christians are just all talk and don't actually understand or practice any of the teachings of Christ. They basically talk the talk, but don't walk the walk.

They post things like Jesus in the Reason for the Season or Put Christ back in Christmas without knowing if any of this is true. But if anyone complains about these things, they cry War on Christmas and about their Christian privilege being infringed upon. Even though, especially in this country, the entire nation stops what they are doing to celebrate Christmas; most people have the day off of work and school (what holidays for other religions does this happen?); there are Christmas decorations and Christmas music everywhere and everyone is encouraged to give Christmas gifts. How is this a War on Christmas? What it is, is forcing your beliefs onto others, judging, criticizing and condemning other beliefs simply because "they are not Christian" and that other religions are just not holy enough.


Let me ask you a few things.....

How often do you pray?

Not the bedtime prayers where you list off "God bless...." like you are reciting a grocery list. The kind when you get down on your knees, put your hands together, close your eyes, bow your head and spend time talking to God. And I don't mean asking for things like he is Santa Claus. I mean speaking and actually listening to the answers.

It might surprise you to learn that many Pagans (especially Wiccans, Heathenists (like Asatru), Druids, and even Witches, yes, I know, gasp!!) pray to their gods daily. Jews pray three times a day, and Muslims pray five times a day!

How often do you go to church?

Once a week and call it good just by entering the building? Or you do really listen to the sermon. Do you treat others the way you wish to be treated, or do you sit in the pew and criticize the way people are dressed and gossip about them in between singing the hymns?

It might surprise you to know that Pagans feel their church is anywhere they are, especially nature and they treat their environment and the people in it with reverence. They have altars set up in their homes and use them for daily prayer, rituals and devotions. Many Jews go to synagogue twice a day, some three times a day. And Muslims try to go to Mosque five times a day to pray, if possible, and if not, they do so at home, although sometimes they pray where ever they are.

How often do you read the Bible?

Do you read it everyday? Have you read the entire Bible from beginning to end? Have you studied the history behind it and your own religion (not to mention the history of Christmas)? It's been both my experience and observation, that most Christians don't do any of these. During church services I would be following the sermon in my own Bible because I truly wanted to learn. I noticed that most of the congregation was looking around or zoning off and some were actually asleep. Others were busy talking to one another and not even listening to what the pastor, minister or priest was saying.

It might surprise you to know that all though Pagans don't have a central holy book, they have many sacred texts that many read daily. Jews typically read from the Torah three times a week. Muslims are encouraged to not only read the Quran daily, but to memorize it as well. Of course, not all Pagans, Jews and Muslims are able to do this, but the hope is that they will.

What is also interesting is that most Pagans, Jews, Muslims as well as Atheists, not only read their own holy books, but those of others too, including the Bible and without the need to criticize it. I have been quite saddened to see a meme go around Facebook that indicates that some Christians are "offended" by the Quran, when they obviously have never read it and know nothing about it. I'm guessing they haven't read their own holy book either, but it's still acceptable to judge others. I wonder if they know that the first five books of the Old Testament comes from the Jewish Torah? I'm quite sure they have never even heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh or the Egyptian Book of the Dead, much less read them either, although both influenced the Christian bible.

And lastly, how often do you actually live by the example of Jesus Christ? Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than going to a gas station makes you a car.

Do you applaud Jimmy Carter for his tireless devotion to Habitat for Humanity, but never once consider lifting a hammer to help?

Do you criticize the homeless for being lazy or do you collect blankets and clothing to help keep them warm during these cold winter months?

Do you donate food to food banks or help serve food at a soup kitchen (and not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas), or do you just sit in your warm home and give thanks for the food you are about to eat?

Do you take care of the environment around you so future generations have fresh water, clean air and good food? Or do you deny that global warming is true... even if it wasn't, would it really hurt to take precautions just in case it is?

Do you help children learn at school or do you vote no on school levies because "it's not my kids, not my problem"... forgetting that these kids are the future doctors, lawyers, building and road designers and yes, one day it will be your problem.

It might surprise you to know that for most Pagans, the environment is their foremost concern because of their connection to nature. It's usually a part of their belief system. Giving to the poor is an obligation in Judaism. And for Muslims it's expected. During Ramadan after breaking the fast, many people provide food for anyone who wants and needs it. Sharing is a big part of all of these religions. It actually is suppose to be for Christians too, but many don't or only extend this to other Christians.

In this country, the only time you hear anything about Pagans, Jews, Muslims and Atheists is when it's something negative. The media rarely, if ever, shares stories about these other religions doing something good, like helping others or doing charity work or the positives of their religion. But man, one person feels like someone is taking Jesus out of Christmas and it's all over the news. Hardly seems fair.

For the record, no one is telling anyone they can't say "Merry Christmas". All they are asking is to please acknowledge and respect their beliefs as well. Is that really too much to ask? Instead of demanding that everyone respect Christianity, would it really hurt to see things from someone else's perspective?

Yes, I know... you will say, "but I have a right to my feelings and my opinion", and yes you do. But your opinion only applies to you. When you shove it down other people's throats, it's no longer an opinion, but a judgment. I don't think Christians realize that when you say things like "Jesus is the Reason" and "CHRISTmas" you are not bringing people to the Lord. You are being judgmental and selfish and actually causing people to distance themselves from you and Christianity. I wonder if that's why more and more people are leaving the church all the time.

I also wonder how what I believe and practice helps your faith in any way? It's like the people who were angry and adamant about gay marriage not becoming legal.. one couple announced that if the law that made gay marriage legal passed, they were going to get a divorce. Oh my God... a divorce!! How awful! We just can't let that happen. Guess what, it didn't. Just how does what two people you don't even know do together have any impact on your own marriage? If it does, then your marriage must be pretty shaking to begin with. And it's the same thing about not respecting other people's religions. If your faith lies solely one what other people do, think and believe, then maybe it's time to question just how much faith you really have. And are you truly a follower of Jesus or just a CHRISTian... in name only.

It's these attitudes and ignorance why a lot of people are fed up with Christmas, Christianity and the so called Christian privilege and the feeling that some Christians think that they are being persecuted because of their beliefs. Are people coming to town meetings protesting the building of a new church? Not likely. But Muslims face this in every town. Are you called names and spit on because you are able to freely exercise your right to your beliefs? Not likely. But it happens to Pagans and Atheists every day. Do people have a fit because a new store or shop or restaurant opens up that is Christian-friendly? Of course not, but when one opens for Halal or Kosher, people are livid because it's "proof" of Sharia law over taking the United States. And most Christians are clueless about what Sharia, Halal and Kosher even mean. But they hate it anyway.

Before you judge others, perhaps you should take some time to first learn about your own religion, read the Bible, and the history behind both. Learn the history behind Christmas.. the whole history, not just the Fundamentalist approach to it. Read the US Constitution and the history of our country before you insist that the United States is a Christian country. This country has no state religion and the First Amendment of the Constitution that assures the right to religious freedom to all religions, not just Christian religions and it says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This means that Congress will not establish a state religion of ANY kind, and allows for all religions or none, to exist peacefully in this country. You notice that the word "Christian" does not appear anywhere in this law (and for the record, the word Christmas doesn't appear in the Bible, either). And it might surprise people to know that the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance is a fairly new addition, it wasn't added until 1954. The original version said this:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

It's these principals why the Pilgrims left England and came to the new world in the first place. Because they were not allowed to worship as they wished, they were not allowed the freedom to share with others who had the same beliefs, were not allowed to judge the prevailing governing body of the country and were not allowed to print their own study materials. It's from these desires where our civil liberties come from.... Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Assemble, Freedom of the Press. While the Pilgrims made some mistakes when they arrived, I truly believe their hearts were in the right place.

After you have learned about your own religion, history and what it means in this country, now learn about other religions, about what they believe, practice and the history about their beliefs too. You might be surprised about how wrong and unfair you are being.

But I know from experience, that most people will say things like "I don't have time for that" or "I have no interest in that". No, but you sure have the time and interest in being hateful, selfish and judgmental. Strange and sad priorities. And not at all what Jesus would do.

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