Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Tag: religious differences

One reason I love life (but the point where my grace ends)

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One of the many reasons I love life is the unexpected synchronicity that happens all the time….

Driving traffic-clogged I-4 at 6:50 this morning to get to the YMCA prayer breakfast, I responded (okay, yelled) at the radio because a well-spoken but clearly wrong (by the discrimination yardstick) Baptist Minister explained to the radio host why his speech should be protected and isn’t discriminatory (e.g. denying a wedding cake or photography service to a same-sex couple about to get married is protected speech he argues, based on his Biblical beliefs. But, denying the same couple a hamburger, or accounting services etc he says is discriminatory).

Finally I arrived at the mega Orlando First United Baptist church for the YMCA prayer breakfast. I ran into the packed room, saw our Oviedo YMCA Exec Director at my table and I said loudly to him across the noise,

“I just drove like a bat out of HELL to get here!”

Just as I said this I turned around and seated right next to me at my table is a lovely young pastor with my town’s local New Covenant church. (But you know God has a stellar sense of humor, so goes the saying “Because God made (insert what/whoever you think is worthy of God’s sense of humor).”

I asked the Pastor about his church, told him I’ve heard good things about his pre-school. He shares a little about his church (Anglican). He asks me where I go (Unitarian Universalist). We both make polite conversation. Pastor asks me if my husband and daughter attend UUU (mostly no and I tell him why and why I left my Methodist church. Fond memories and deep gratitude for my daughter’s programs and our religious roots I explain, but I had increasing discomfort, and my new church resonates better with my views).

I tell Pastor a tiny bit more about my church all the while trying to be diplomatic and respectful, yet honest.

Oh yeah, hi there, Mr. President

Then our speaker gets up. Lucas Boyce (Dir of Business Development and Legislative Affairs for the NBA’s Magic). Lucas wrote “Living Proof: From Foster Care, to the White House and the NBA” and is clearly living proof for character and faith and belief in himself (and bold courage).

Lucas inspires us with several stories, each underpinned by his faith and that moving from a crack addict prostitute mother to foster care to life with a loving adopted mother who encouraged him informed his life’s trajectory. Lucas built the life he dreamed as a child (with thanks to God first he said) the moment he saw the White House (and after he saw the coolest airplane ever in the movie Air Force One).

Somehow on his pathway to become a lawyer he became a White House intern/page during President GW Bush’s term. One day President Bush did a quick photo-op on the south lawn with the pages. Twenty-two year old Lucas, not yet groomed on the basics of Presidential how do you do said something like “Hey yeah, how are you? but closed with, “I’m praying for you Mr. President. It’s a just cause (post 9/11 reference).”

The next day President Bush told a staff member he was impressed with “that young man” and to hire Lucas right away. From that moment Lucas’s life moved exactly where he wanted it to go.  

The crowd, all 1,000 of us, gave Lucas a deserved standing ovation.

Passionate. Inspired. Full of faith and conviction.

Believe. Pray. Worship. Inspire others. These are the fuels that feed our compassion and hope and propulsion forward.

BUT while you pray and inspire others, please know this:

The majority public opinion believes that religious beliefs should NOT allow legal rulings to protect speech that denies well-behaved (ruly), shirt-covered citizens service.

So clergy if you must deny officiating a same-sex marriage because it goes against your Biblical beliefs, you have the right as a religious institution.

(However,  I will never believe it feels truly righteous and holy and God-infused, authentic to one’s spiritual core to deny marriage to a loving couple).

Our nation’s individual views on God (and God’s will and use of our free will) is all over the place yet all of us in small moments of respect and grace at round tables can listen to the one another. I truly want to hear someone’s concerns over same-sex marriage however, when the legislative hammer comes down and denies service to our citizens due to sexual orientation, I immediately stop listening. 

Red Barber did his job, so can business owners against same-sex marriage

The radio interviewer then asked the Baptist Minister….. “I know this is a different issue but baseball announcer Red Barber nearly quit announcing for the Dodgers after desegregation and Jackie Robinson started playing. But Barber changed his mind. He knew he had a job to do. Can’t business owners against same-sex marriage simply serve someone and do their job?

The Baptist minister said for him no because it violates his speech.  At that moment the minister said no and denied service to a SS couple, is the moment I don’t believe he worships the same God — I do.

Okay, disagree with same-sex marriage if you must, but your job as an American heterosexual citizen afforded rights is not to deny to others, the same services/benefits YOU enjoy.

We are not, any of us, born chosen or special because we are heterosexual any more than we are born chosen or special because our eyes are blue or brown or hazel.

(To help illustrate the real life wrong in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Let’s use our heart rather than our head. Picture your adult child, deeply in love with her long time same-sex partner. One day both giddily head to the only bakery in their tiny town to order their dreamed-about wedding cake, budget tight but they’ve got just the cake picked out in their head. Lo, the baker-owner Frank who has known these ladies since they were little and used to give them free sugar cookies every Sunday says sorry ladies, I love you both but I can’t bake your wedding cake, my beliefs don’t allow it).

That’s love? 

Postscript:

“The man who broadcast Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Dodgers recalled that, as a boy in **SANFORD, Florida,  (Red Barber): “I saw black men tarred and feathered by the Ku Klux Klan and forced to walk the streets. I had grown up in a completely segregated world.” Red Barber confessed that when he learned the Dodgers would field a black player, his first reaction was to quit his job.” (Society for American Baseball Research).

When we don’t know any better we don’t do better. Once we know better, we must do better.

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Jesus and Jello. Why I liked my religious buffet growing up.

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Image credit: Wikipedia  

Excerpted from my essay “Jesus and Jello”

I was raised with a la carte religion, a buffet line of a little bit here, a little bit there, mostly Methodist with a dash of Presbyterian. From time to time my mother brought my sister and I to our local church’s Sunday school or services while my father read the Sunday Times and kindly shrugged off our efforts at faith (At least as far as I knew, they could have been quietly dueling Kids Need God vs. Why Bother?).

I don’t remember feeling pressure from my mother or the church that I’d rot in any version of Hell or from my agnostic father that belief was pure nonsense. The most I remember of my father’s view about God was benign indifference with a hint of “Hey if that’s your thing, have at it.” What I perceived of God was my own mish mash of “That nice guy Jesus might have a point,” thinking I was something special to play an angel in our Christmas play, watching sweaty evangelists on TV who looked more feverish and angry than settled and divine, and my own supernatural superstition.

When I was about eight or nine I prayed in bed every night. Eyes closed I chanted silently words that warned me that at any moment darkness could turn to death even for the little ones, a sort of self-propelled ghost tale of comfort and discomfort, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray my Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.”

I prayed to ward off worry that God might be extra busy or angry that night and forget to handle with grand decency, the dead girl at 6 Prospect Street who forgot to pray at 9:06 on April 4th, 1974. Around the same time I avoided cracked mirrors, ladders, black cats and without thinking I lifted my feet as our car passed over railroad tracks and then I made a wish. God for me was about performing lucky charm OCD rituals and if I forgot any of them, He’d lower the boom.

As a sprouting seeker, back then God needed to be tangible in my hands and as far as I could tell the Catholics had a better deal than the Protestants, fancier robes and a flair for dramatic church decor. One of my closest friends Kathleen had the coveted saddle shoes which I had too, but hers were permanently new to match her tartan uniform and starched white shirt (that I didn’t want to wear).  If God ranked dress code I had to figure the Catholics’ won first place.

Kathleen’s school I recall, opened with impressive iron gates, a looming presence in our small preppy town in New Jersey where anything bigger than a General Store or Pappagallo was monolithic. A religious school on Main meant the people behind the gates must be extra protected and special, and even though the nuns were humorless finger-wackers (from what I’d heard), to me they seemed to float over the school grounds inside their habits, wings from God elevating them an inch.

And while Kathleen took weekly CCD classes (a huge drag) she was paid back with a spectacular white dress that I envied, a party full of “atta girls” and mounds of cash and presents, all of which I thought weren’t bad trades off for daily damnation jitters…

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