You Give Christ a Bad Name

There just might be a difference between being a follower of Jesus and a Christian.

There’s a Tik Tok trend I’ve seen recently that rings pretty true in my opinion. It portrays a group of people in a contemporary Christian praise/worship service, singing away, arms upheld to God. The caption says something like, “Christians in church after they’ve voted to cage children, suppress women’s rights, and worship a cheater, etc.” I’m paraphrasing, but you can look it up and check me.

I’m a Christian who, because of folks like this, is feeling more comfortable calling myself a follower of Christ rather than the name that associates me with people like that. And that sucks. Because with all the divisiveness in this nation of ours, faith should be one of those things that unite. And yet, even that has gotten messy.

In trying to figure out where I should stand on issues because I care about clarity and integrity on the stances I take, I look to my north star, which for me is Jesus. As someone who believes in Christ and His care for all of us, I need to know what He thinks. The more I’ve studied and reflected on His life and the way He lived when He walked among humans, the more convinced I am that Trump-supporting Christians who refuse to denounce his dishonesty, infidelity, racism, cruelty, lack of integrity, and disregard for humanity, have got it so completely wrong.

Remember this: The KKK uses the cross to terrorize people.

All the God-talk during the RNC made me want to throw a vase at my TV and then projective vomit all over the smoking ruins of my Samsung. But my TV needed to live another day, so I did some Bible study while watching. And that only proved that what I was seeing—what these Christians were supporting—was very different from what I was finding in the good book. Hypocrisy aplenty.

If you read about Jesus in the Bible, He was the opposite of what many Christians are currently standing for. Which is, in my opinion, a way of religious life more closely resembled Pharisees than anything. And you all know who lobbied real hard for Jesus to be crucified, right?

Christ hung out with “questionable” people, not the upper echelons of society. He didn’t do things the way the ruling class did, he called them out on it. He told rich people to give up their money and follow him. He welcomed the lowest of the low in society to eat with him talk to him. He told us to care for widows and orphans—as in feed and clothe them from our wealth—not expect them to claw their way out of the hovels of their poverty by themselves.

What did he think about rich people getting richer and twisting religion up in it? Check out the story of what happened when greedy fools took over the temple to line their pockets. Jesus let them have it, and in doing so made a very strong point about the sanctity of faith and what He thought about greed and greedy people. Was he going to stand by for such a hijacking? Nope. He didn’t, and neither should we (if you are a believer).

The modern-day irony of it all: the hijacking of a faith that came from a man who taught goodness, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness, by people who play by a different set of rules than that.

If you care about fakes as opposed to real deals, now is the time to set yourself apart. If you identify as a Christian and care about being true followers of Christ, your best examples aren’t going to be found in “Christians” whose actions fly in the face of the teachings of Jesus. The real deals might not be found in abundance in many churches for that matter, but they’re out there.

To riff a line from a campfire song that sounds like it was written in the 60s by a bunch of flower toting hippies, “You will know we are Christians by our love.”

So if you happen to be looking, that’s the thing to look for.

Compassion Against Condemnation

Pro-life, pro-birth, pro-choice. None of it is easy. All of it needs empathy.

Ahhh, the Facebook comments during this particularly insane season of American life.

I’m going to hone in today on a topic that defines the vote for a lot of citizens. In a post by a well-respected Christian lawyer and writer, he discussed all the reasons why a vote for Donald Trump flies in the face of what it means to be a follower of Jesus—with special regard to the emulation of His life and character. The post, well-articulated and factual, was hard to intelligently argue against. It was long too—7-8 paragraphs in the Facebook world—long.

After all that, readers weighed in on the matters discussed. And then of course were the “Nope, Trump 2020, end of story,” comments. I wondered if those commenters even bothered to read the post at all. If they didn’t, ok. Ignorance is bliss? But if they did read it, was their devotion to Trump that blinding?

But then there was this: “I would never vote democrat because democrats are all baby killers and wanting to perform abortions at 9 months and beyond!”

Say what, now?

I don’t normally wade into the fray with strangers, but this woman was begging for a rebuttal.

I wasn’t going to bother with her “abortions at 9 months and beyond,” ridiculous statement. Yes, Dems are running around killing full-term birthed babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Aaagh.

This type of “argument” Lord, help me, caused me to articulate a few things to her, though.

My response kinda went something like this: Democrats don’t enjoy abortion as a flippant past time. But there are many things to consider for a woman facing the tough decisions surrounding an unplanned pregnancy. What are her circumstances—financial, social, mental, spiritual, etc.? What if she has no support from family and friends and/or is very young? What if she was raped? What if she was in an abusive relationship and her “partner” threatened her life if she didn’t end the pregnancy? What if she was married with other children and she could not mentally, physically, financially support another child? The scenarios go on and on.

On the flip side, if a woman has the support she needs, resources, and funds—help in general—to raise a child with access to healthcare, education, and daycare? Well, then wonderful! What if she is a potential success story, where the unplanned pregnancy spurs an engagement that turns into a loving and healthy marriage, and all is well? That’s a dream ending we all wish for.

But it’s a gamble, isn’t it? Trying to see into the future to know if something is going to turn out great in the end or if it’s going to be the beginning of something far, far worse.

It’s tough to type those words. I’m a mother. My first child was not planned. We were newlyweds and our lives were far from ready for parenthood. I was terrified. But I did have a loving, supportive husband, a job, health insurance, and our circumstances and support system were such that our first baby was just an amazing surprise. Not every woman is so lucky.

And it’s because of that I can’t tell another woman what to do.

But in following the example of the Christ I love, my response to any woman in that tough and scary situation is to love her and offer support and compassion no matter what her decision is. She is not responsible to me, or the to government, or even to her church. Her life and her choices are only between her and her God—if she believes. Because I do believe, I know that whatever guilt and grief, or relief and elation—are hers and God’s to process. And the Lord I know, has a compassionate and understanding heart, even when we go down paths that don’t yield the best results.

I feel strongly that while my choice might be different from someone else, I support another woman’s God-given gift of free agency to choose and not have to harm herself in that choice. My calling is to respond with compassion and not condemnation—again, regardless of the path chosen. Our job is not to judge, but to love.

While thinking this topic through over many days before deciding to say something, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, a lot of documentary watching. Life, when abortion was illegal, took many women down dangerous, heartbreaking paths. Women died. Women had their fertility permanently affected—denying them the chance at future parenthood for a time that would have given their offspring a much better chance in life.

People will not stop having sex outside of marriage. Unplanned pregnancies will still occur. And every culture on the planet has “ways” to herbal or otherwise, halt a pregnancy. But what would it look like if those who spend time condemning, judging, and making decisions for others, actually channeled that energy into creating programs that offered hope and a way forward if an unplanned pregnancy continued? What if more access to affordable birth control and thorough, honest sex education changed the conversation, and eventually outcomes? What if more parents talked honestly and openly about sex to their children? What if people scandalized less, and loved more, thus removing stigmas that some women just cannot live with?

In the end, is the goal to punish women who don’t do as they’re told? Women who don’t fit the mold someone else created for them, a mold they had no voice in?

If the conversation is really about pro-life and not pro-birth, why aren’t its proponents advocating for everything possible to give a child, of any race or socio-economic background, all the opportunities that child and its mother deserve? You want to make a woman give birth, but then deny her every help afterward to ensure she and her child move through life in an upward trajectory?

Think about that.

Van Halen Storytime

It was the summer of 1993. I was fresh out of high school, newly turned 18, wondering where life was going to take me when college started in the fall. The last few months before school took friends in separate directions were spent hanging out—doing as much as we could before it was time to say goodbye.

We’d spent our senior year listening to Guns N Roses dual album: was it Use Your Illusion 1 and 2? The summer before on a concert band tour of Scandinavia, the boys around us made us listen to Metallica. A lot of Metallica. I knew the words to November Rain, was kind of fascinated by Enter Sandman (while also just slightly worried that our Christian brains were going to be forever corrupted by metal), and gave an ear to Snoop Dogg and Tupac on the side. But I really was a child of the 80s whose first love was Duran Duran. They had released The Wedding Album that year and I was dying to see them in concert. So I was by no means a metalhead, but it was that weird transition period from 80s metal to 90s grunge (I did love me some Pearl Jam over Nirvana, actually).

One night, hanging out with one of my best friends and her boyfriend, he excitedly talked about Van Halen playing the Pacific Coast Amphitheater in Orange County the next night. He didn’t have tickets, but was hellbent on scalping some outside  (did we know we might possibly get in trouble for this? Of course not). My gal pal had a family thing she couldn’t get out of and the boyfriend really, really wanted to go, but not by himself. So, she asked me if I would I go to keep him company? As he was a friend of mine as well, I was down.

What did I know about Van Halen? Well, David Lee Roth had an impressive selection of leggings, his California Girls cover of the Beach Boys classic was played on loop on MTV, and I knew the band was named for the two brothers who started it, one of whom was married to Valerie Bertinelli. My choir teacher also claimed she took either piano or voice lessons from the same instructor that taught the Van Halen brothers. There was no fact-checking back then. She said it, we believed.

So that Saturday night, I dressed in my most 90210 outfit (the original, yo)—something as close to a Kelly Taylor fit as one could get. Straight leg Levi 501s with the knees torn, a black meshy bodysuit (with undergarments thank you very much), and a brown leather vest (very Young Guns). I accessorized with a brown beaded necklace and black sling back platforms. 1993, remember?

We got to the concert, parked, and proceeded to hang around outside looking for what we thought were people that had tickets to sell. We could hear the music from outside—the opening act, Vince Neil when he went solo from Motley Crue. He did Motley Crue songs mostly, so I guess he had the rights to them and the band didn’t? In no time a scalper came by, my friend looked at the seats, didn’t like the price, and waved him off. This happened a couple more times. He started to get antsy that we wouldn’t get in to see the show. I was rolling with it. This was oddly exciting. We were two Asian kids from conservative families who just graduated from a Christian high school. We were going to bust out now—sort of.

Just when my friend started talking about giving up the mission and cutting our losses, a couple walked up to us saying they had an emergency and needed to leave and did we want to buy their tickets. The seats and price checked out, we made the exchange and headed in. I have to add that to this day, I have no recollection of cops anywhere. I guess it was Orange County in the early 90s.

As I said, I wasn’t a Van Halen fan but that changed once I actually saw them live. At this point in time, David Lee Roth had quit and Sammy Hagar was their frontman. I soon realized I recognized a lot of their stuff and whatever I didn’t know was made up for by the energy of the crowd. We got offered a joint by the older couple sitting in front of us. We declined. But thanked them for their willingness to share.

If you put the theatrics and singing chops of both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar aside, what was the real magic of the band? Without a doubt, Eddie Van Halen. He absolutely was a guitar virtuoso. When he played, sweat pouring from his famous mullet-winged hair, he was in a trance. It was him and his guitar and the two of them were alone in the world. He’d play his solo riffs and the crowd went wild. Widely regarded as one of the most talented rock guitarists ever, it was an exceptional treat to see him play live—even if I didn’t fully realize it at the moment.

When the show was over, my pal and I drove home—he actually had a bit of a curfew to beat, so even though we were both parched from screaming, we tore down the 91 freeway eastbound, eschewing all the Del Tacos on the way to get home in time. Asian Christian kids, you know?

And that was my first rock concert ever—one I’ve never forgotten.

Today, Eddie Van Halen died after a long battle with throat cancer. He was only 65. Nice to have seen you live, guitar hero.

And now, we must protect Jon Bon Jovi at all costs!

Trump Caught The COVID!

This has been a week.

Last weekend, Franklin Graham and several thousands of the faithful, convened on Washington, D.C, for a peaceful prayer march. It wasn’t a political rally in support of the president (out loud), nor was it to pray for the destruction of the Democratic party and all its minions (out loud). Instead, the capital was flooded with prayers for the health of our nation.

Now, honestly, as a resident of the DMV, we didn’t hear much about it. I don’t even know that local networks gave it more than a mention. So that was good—in that nothing untoward went down worthy of news coverage. Prayers were prayed and everyone went their ways. But by Tuesday the worst debate in the history of American politics took place, Proud Boys were recognized and put on alert, and then—hold on to your hats, toupees, wigs, weaves, whatever—Donald and Melania Trump tested positive for COVID!

So, I had to wonder. Is God trying to say something?

I won’t attempt to weigh in on what God has in mind. That’s way, way, way, above my mental capacity. But it is just a little bit interesting, right? I mean, I’m not trying to connect dots or anything. I’ll leave that to conspiracy theorists far more skilled than I am.

But let’s talk about the president and first lady down for the count with coronavirus. First, I need to go on record as saying I don’t wish death and destruction upon the Trumps. I just want them to go away. So, I’m not laughing at him, shrieking “I told you so!” or reveling in the utter confusion that must have taken over Trump supporters who say the pandemic is a hoax.

But the irony, right?

So here’s why I think this might be a good thing. Could it be that Trump getting sick might be a turning point for the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States? The president and his lack of mask-wearing, poo-pooing the advice and counsel of scientists and the blessed Dr. Fauci, downplaying the seriousness of the infection, putting the economy and a false image of a well and powerful America ahead of the lives of actual Americans (over 200,000 of whom are no longer with us), has caused the type of division and dangerous behavior that has not helped us beat this mess.

His faithful followers, many of whom live in rural areas where they have not come face to face with Covid-19, have declared this whole thing a made-up story. It’s sort of like a kid covering their eyes and thinking because they don’t see you, you can’t see them. “Trump doesn’t wear a mask and has no problem with getting up close and personal with people. Well hey! That’s good enough for us!

Except now, COVID is having the last laugh. Donald Trump is sick (physically in this context) and his age puts him in a high-risk area. People his age have contracted this and went down, very, very quickly. And that’s not a made-up story, now is it?

With Dear Leader positive for COVID, perhaps the following might happen:

  1. We get country-wide participation in wearing masks in public. Because the hoax theory has been blown.
  2. People finally get that social distancing is important.
  3. Hand-washing and better hygiene is more of a priority
  4. The fake news that Covid-19 is nothing more than a cold is finally put to bed.

If the president comes through this with a mild form of it, good for him. But he will experience side effects such as extra fatigue and the possibility of the lingering inability to taste and smell McDonald’s’ food. The horror!

I’m sure his team of doctors is dosing him with all the remedies (that aren’t drinking bleach and hydroxychloroquine alone), to make a miraculous recovery and push the story that his bout with Covid-19 was no big deal.

But the truth is out there and you can’t take it back: Trump has COVID. It is real. He didn’t follow the protocols and now he’s sick.

Let’s hope this results in a lesson learned for the doubters among us so that maybe, just maybe, we can all come together and beat this thing. Because death doesn’t care if you are Republican or Democrat.

Also, wear your freaking masks!