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Being Authentic

A few years ago during one of my therapy sessions; yes, I had one of those heart to heart discussions, my therapist, me and what seemed to be insurmountable problems. As I began to relate some of my innermost fears, the therapist looked at me and without blinking an eye said, “Mike, be authentic.”  What?  I thought in the most defensible indignation, “I am authentic, what on earth do you mean by be authentic?”  She calmly smiled in a manner of acknowledging the pain I was obviously feeling and repeated, “Yes, be authentic, authentic to who you are and the life you want to live. Be authentic without excuses.”

As I stopped and considered what she meant, it occurred to me that most of my life was based wholly on what other people thought and how they would react if they knew the truth, the whole truth of who I am. In my family circle I was always the good son, the successful one, the smart one, the oldest of all my siblings, the example which others should follow along with a myriad of other isms that had come to define what others thought of me and yet, not for a minute was it ever authentically me.  She was right and not because I was wrong but because I had failed to acknowledge the beauty of who I really was.

I know there are a lot of teens, tweens, and adults alike facing difficult decisions based on telling someone you sincerely care about something they may not want to hear.  If there’s one thing you need to know more than anything else is that you’re not alone.  There are many of us out there that have faced the same dilemma time and time again.  It’s never easy as anything worthwhile is not without some element of risk. Stop for a moment, look in a mirror, and say to yourself – “I am a worthwhile person who deserves to be heard for who I am. The real me, the authentic me.”  As the final point of the video stresses REMEMBER – “You owe no apology for being yourself.” Don’t ever let anyone make you think otherwise, that’s their problem, not yours.

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Stoning Homos is Still a Law?

World Mission Church Sign

Stoning is still the law?

Yes, this little sign with the not so little statement was placed on the ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church in Harlem placard by one Dr. James David Manning.  You might remember seeing this photo a few days ago without any accompanying statement.  Due to some unforeseen circumstances I was unable to complete that article until now.  At the time of posting the picture. I felt it was more important to make people aware of it and not just letting it go.  So, here it is…

After doing a bit of research on the web with readily available information resources on Wikipedia, the pastor’s own website, and other biblical websites.  It seems the pastor has quite a colorful, albeit criminal background, one which he is more than willing to boast of and share with others.  Tell me pastor, are you proud that you did those things or are you prouder that you’ve found people gullible enough to accept your notion that antisocial behavior as religiously sanctioned?

You see, not everyone who looks at that “doctorate” degree you awarded yourself may be aware that the very act of snubbing societal norms, that of receiving a real accredited degree, is still a form of anti-social behavior. Sure you can do it, just like so many websites out their boasts – give them some money and you can be practically anything you wish.  In thought, maybe, but as any actual legitimate form of sheepskin that so many legitimate PhD holders have worked so hard to get, no.

Yeah, I got to thinking about it and when I did, it occurred to me, you’ve just found a whole new way of legitimizing your all too antisocial background. Now, instead of breaking the law directly, Jesus is there to help you do it through some not so carefully chosen bible verses.  That you lay claim to condoning one of the most outlandish antisocial behaviors ever – killing another person, is utterly reprehensible.  You see, killing someone in America is severely frowned upon, no matter what religion you claim to belong to.

It kind of struck me odd that you included the one verse in the bible where Jesus actually stops a mob from stoning a woman for supposed adultery.  And yet, you persist in laying claim that he would do the very thing he prevented.  Never did Jesus ever take part in or condone such actions – EVER!  Even further, you underscore your antisocial claim by saying, “Stoning is still the law.’  Pastor, in America, the land where you live and breathe – it is NOT the law.

That you have chosen once again to snub societal norms in favor of the way you see it, is still antisocial no matter how you cut it. It’s still all-the-more antisocial and inexcusable to incite others to do that very thing by announcing it on your church’s placard.  Shame on you James David Manning for even thinking to perpetuate such an appalling act.  Then again, shame IS a social norm.  Homosexuality may not be a “Christian” value, but hate speech for causing harm to another is even more so not a “Christian” value1.

1: Matthew 5:38-40
You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the evil man [who injures you]; but if anyone strikes you on the right jaw or cheek, turn to him the other one too. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your undershirt (tunic), let him have your coat also.

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Quick News Highlights 03/20/2014

Westboro Baptist Church Founder Fred Phelps Dead at 84

Yes, you heard it right, Fred Phelps has passed away.  Is it cause to celebrate?  The answer to that question is a little complicated and depending on your view of an afterlife, that in and of itself is another ball of wax [1].  In short, the quick answer would be no, it’s not cause to celebrate.  This man was obviously hugely conflicted by a war within that simply spilled out onto the landscape of human rights.  Unfortunately, a lot of that spillage came to represent a very heated idea that labeled both gay and straight people as the antichrist with little regard for the value of human life as unique and precious.

His role has come to characterize a lot of those who’ve come to see themselves as the saviors of humanity.  Instead of offering an olive branch of understanding, which Jesus often did for sinners according to the bible, they took their limited knowledge to instill a rage that is anything but the Christian value of loving thy neighbor.  Until this last weekend, I knew very little about the founder of the WBC movement.  All I really ever recognized was a group of sadly misdirected people who set themselves up as the judge, jury and executioners of humanity.  As the founder of Chick-Fil-A has come to see, Christians are in dire conflict to Christian ideals when they arrogantly set themselves up to know better than a God that created us all.

As Mahatma Gandhi said so well, anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.  I would further add that, “to allow yourself to become angered in return for anger is to become the very thing you detest.” Furthermore I would ask, “If I celebrate my enemies’ demise without enlightenment, have I become like my enemy full of bitterness and betrayal without regard?” I for one celebrate Fred Phelps passing, not as a victory for any cause, but more so that he’s finally found peace from a terrible war that raged within.  Yes, the war wages on through the many he inspired by his internal struggle, each one a new manifestation of the same battle.

Man has waged wars through the centuries for one reason or another, but none quite as tragic as the war we wage on ourselves.  I’m in no way excusing their actions as humane, rather I’m suggesting that the real cause and the real harm is the product of all man’s greatest fear, the fear of the unknown – the dark alleys of our mind common to all of us without regard.  As Pope Francis said recently in rather colorful terms,
Sometimes negative news does come out, but it is often exaggerated and manipulated to spread scandal. Journalists sometimes risk becoming ill from coprophilia [2] and thus fomenting coprophagia: which is a sin that taints all men and women, that is, the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive aspects.
That said, maybe we should all take a lesson from this, the lesson that we’re all subject to – the lesson of being all too human.

Obama expands sanctions against Russia

In an effort to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Barrack Obama has issued further sanctions against Russian in an effort to achieve a more diplomatic outcome with regards to Crimea’s Russian takeover.

The U.S. list announced Thursday cut into a wider group of people, including those thought to have a hand on the Russian president’s own finances, and the “crony bank” where many of the inner circle, according to the administration, does business. read more…

Harlem preacher warns ‘white homos’ will steal black men

World Mission Church Sign

New detail puts year-old killings in new light

Rachel Maddow tells the story of a pair of bizarre killings, including that of the Colorado prisons chief, by a released prison gang member, and the discovery of a hit list that has raised questions about whether the killings were part of a bigger plan. more info

A very sad story indeed with a wonderful father and husband killed for no apparent reason and a Colorado Prison Chief found dead a short time afterwards.  The details connecting the two has finally emerged as a police officer was shot and wounded while trying to pull over a car and the subsequent shooting and death of the car’s occupant.

References:

[1]:  A term created by philosopher René Descartes  in order to analyze what properties are essential for bodies, show how uncertain our knowledge of the world is compared to our knowledge of our minds, and argue for rationalism.

[2]: coprophilia – An abnormal, often obsessive interest in excrement, especially the use of feces for sexual excitement. American Heritage Dictionary

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Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 ...

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 relative to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Depending on where you look, there seems to be a lot of varying opinions on climate change.  One thing rings loud and clear, whether you’re pro or con, the facts speak louder than words – there IS a palpable shift in the climate as we’ve known it.  Is that shift huge?  No and unfortunately it doesn’t take a whole lot to see major effects.

Just announced,

The White House has unveiled a new website-based app, the Climate Data Initiative, to help explain the science behind climate change and draw attention to the immediacy of the threat.

This comes at a critical time, say officials. They point to the fact that in 2012, extreme weather events in the U.S. caused more than $110 billion in damages and claimed more than 300 lives. [^1]

Data from NOAA, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Defense, and other Federal agencies will be featured on climate.data.gov, a new section within data.gov that opens for business today. The first batch of climate data being made available will focus on coastal flooding and sea level rise. NOAA and NASA will also be announcing an innovation challenge calling on researchers and developers to create data-driven simulations to help plan for the future and to educate the public about the vulnerability of their own communities to sea level rise and flood events. [^2]

Links of Interest on Climate Change

Environmental Protection Agency Climate Change Website

Climate Change on Wikipedia.com

NASA Global Climate Change – Vital Signs of the Planet

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The World Bank on Climate Change – yes, you read that right, it is The World Bank.  I haven’t carefully reviewed this site so if you see a problem or know of anything different, contact me.

References:

[^1]:  National Geographic article:  White House Launches Website App to Visualize Climate Change

[^2]:  Information provided by the WhiteHouse.gov website through an article titled – Climate Data Initiative Launches with Strong Public and Private Sector Commitments

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Quick News Highlights

Chick-Fil-A: Enlightenment or the Bottom Dollar?

Chick-fil-A Austin-TX

Chick-fil-A Austin-TX (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chick-fil-A CEO backs off of his rather stark view of marriage to encompass a more equitable approach of Christian tolerance.  Well, at least that was the jest of his statement although he never quite comes out and admits to any wrong except to say…

“I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.” -Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy

Personally, I would hope that it’s enlightenment but after reading his statement I’m more inclined to admit it leaves a little leeway from an interpretation standpoint.  Was it a mindful statement or something more in line with protecting the bottom dollar.  Only time will tell.  Also, while we’re at it, just think about all those high caloric saturated fats, carbohydrates, and sodium we may be missing out on. To find out some of the pros and cons to consider when making that trip to Chick-Fil-A, click on the following link provided by About.com calorie counter. The sodium content alone is an eye-popper.  Be Smart, Stay Sharp and Buy for the Heart!

PunditFact: PuditFact Madness Tournament

PunditFact, a division of PolitiFact.com, is hosting a new PunditFact Madness Tournament in a head to head run-off based on viewer votes on SurveyMonkey.com.  According to the site’s intro to the bracket-style runoff, “We’re pitting 16 Sunday show pundits against each other. Voting for the first round closes 10 a.m. March 26.”  If you’re interested in participating, run on over to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VQLP83N

#1 BTW: A Little Side Finding

Making the Ideal Vacation Home

Talk about a home make-over, this guy did it from the ground up and came up with one of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever seen.  Truly a marvel to look at and read about.  Follow the link to Higher Perspective’s website and take a look.  I’m sure you’ll be highly impressed.

#2 BTW: A Millionaire Worth Every Bit

Harris Rosen, millionaire philanthropist

Although this story goes back to April of 2013, this human interest story is well worth repeating.  Harris Rosen, a self-made millionaire who grew up in a rough New York City neighborhood, decided to invest in the hopes of a rough Orlando, Florida neighborhood of Tangelo Park.  Go over to the Today.com website and take a look at what this one man has done to make life a little more meaningful with a little bit of hope and the money to back it.  I only wish millionaires and billionaires ALL over would take this man’s example to heart and learn that people, not politics matter most when exercising real power and authority.  Koch brothers, I mean you too especially.  Link to the full article:  click here

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Ben Carson: Gays ‘don’t get extra rights, they don’t get to redefine marriage’

BRIAN TASHMAN | Right Wing Watch

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Last year, Ben Carson grouped gay people with the likes of the pro-pedophilia group NAMBLA and “bestiality supporters” as nefarious forces trying “to change the definition [of marriage].”

Carson, a conservative columnist and retired neurosurgeon, later apologized for the remarks, but Saturday at CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in Washington), the potential presidential candidate sang a different tune, saying that he will “continue to defy the PC police who have tried in many cases to shut me up.”

“I still believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Carson said to applause, and denied that he ever compared homosexuality to bestiality. “Of course they’re not the same thing. Anybody who believes that is a dummy, but anybody who believes somebody who says that somebody said that is a dummy, that’s the problem.”

“Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else,” Carson continued. “But they don’t get extra rights, they don’t get to redefine marriage.”

Question:

Are LGBT people trying to vie for “more rights” or are they simply asking for the same recognition given to any other human being, or is this argument simply a guise to mask the real issue of narrow minded bigotry – are they in fact  the very ones attempting to demand the “special rights” above and beyond all others?

Commentary:

No, gay people are not trying to gain “extra rights”, but to the contrary, we are attempting to receive the same rights, recognition and benefits that any other “straight” or “human” counterpart is given in our society.  These bigoted comments made by so called “normal” people accusing us of claiming the need for preferential treatment is nothing more than an act put on at the expense of the LGBT community to gain “extra” notoriety from “like-minded” individuals.  After all, as the old saying goes, “there is safety in numbers” and the numbers here are thankfully dwindling in favor of a much more equitable and deeper approach.

That we’re even having this discussion in this day and age simply means one thing,  the old dragon is desperately gasping for its final breath.  It’s an old dragon created out of the fear that somehow or in someway the human race, as it is known, would suddenly vanish from the face of the earth because of sin or transgression.  The truth of the matter is that the old dragon isn’t giving up without a fight, and it’s at this time that it becomes all the more violent and malevolent.  The dragon in this case is a Christian dogma that says that the only acceptable form of marriage is their ideal of marriage as sanctioned between a man and a woman. This isn’t to say that all Christians share the same belief but rather a small but very vocal body of fundamentalists.

As much as they may choose to deny it, we are all humans made from the same fabric of creation with all the same substance of spirit, mind, and body.  Some would even have you believe that a benevolent God would never have created such a monstrosity and that we deserve to be treated as scum because they are, after all, the better species deserving nothing less than very special treatment. Failing to justify their arguments on a rational level, they have sought to engage a rather large stronghold of human emotions, namely Christianity, to protect what precarious stances they’ve chosen to defend.

After having been raised as a Roman Catholic who subsequently took to experimenting around with other Christian beliefs,  I can say one thing for sure; it is a highly charged, emotion driven human enterprise. Yes, believing in an unseen God requires a huge leap of faith, a leap not geared towards rational thought but on an emotional surrender to the idea of a higher being.  As much as someone may try to give it a sense of logic, that reasoning is largely based on an assumption, an assumption largely derived from an emotional need to belong.  The fact of the matter is that we all have that need no matter how we choose to slice it.

In a very compelling argument presented by leading Christian writer, John Shor in his book UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, he states:
If there is no clearly stated directive in the Bible to marginalize and ostracize gay people, then it is morally indefensible for Christians to continue to do so.

If there is one thing that I took away from reading the new testament of Christianity it is that we were all put here on earth to learn to love one another, not to devise bigger and better arguments on how we shouldn’t or to assume one person is more worthy than another.  The fact is that we are all created beings, with all the same intellect and emotions with the same needs.  The need for love is something we should all share, equally and without regard or prejudice.

After all, the “good book” says:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8 ESV

and…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV

– Thank You

Mississippi Advances Bill on Religious Practice

Embed from Getty Images

According to an AP article by Emily Wagster Pettus, a Mississippi house panel is seeking to advance a bill that in essence says state and local government cannot put a substantial burden on religious practices. (substantial burden?)

“Senate Bill 2681 is called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

It passed the House Judiciary B Committee on Tuesday and goes the full House for debate in the next few days.

In its original form, the bill was similar to a measure that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed last week.

The Mississippi bill would add the motto “In God We Trust” to the state seal.”

Question:

Is it appropriate for a religious organization to seek to impose their religious beliefs and practices upon another group of people through laws seeking to establish preferential treatment, such laws to be implemented  by a governing body, i.e.  the Mississippi House (a representative body composed of elected public officials)?

Commentary:

In short, the answer should not only be no but unmistakably no – period.  These so called religious zealots aren’t concerned about their own personal rights and freedoms, but rather are more interested in  restricting the rights and freedoms of others, namely people who are LGBT.

The fact of the matter is that no one has nor is in the process of impeding anyone’s rights in any form except for the religious zealots themselves.  What they are doing is attempting to justify a deep seated hatred of other men and women whose lifestyle just doesn’t happen to agree with their own concept of reality.  A reality largely based on picking and choosing what is or is not “proper”, a convenient truth at liberty to their own whims and desires.

It’s as if another person’s existence defies  who they are and what they stand for when in reality it does nothing of the kind.  Being LGBT imposes nothing on these Christians aside from what they have manufactured in their own minds as if it were somehow a disease that would infect their very state being.

Truth of the matter is that you’re either LGBT or your not LGBT and if you’re worried about yourself or someone close to you becoming LGBT; congratulations, you or they may most likely be LGBT.  Either that or extremely confused and/or repressed, in which case you’re more of a danger to other people than anyone else could ever possibly be to you.

The LGBT people aren’t asking for more rights than those already guaranteed or allowed to everyone else.   On the contrary, they want to be able to find love, get married, and perhaps have a family who will maybe love them in return, just as any other person would expect.  Of course, just as their straight counterparts, none of that is a given, one has to work to achieve it. The primary motivation of the LGBT isn’t to convert anyone, rather it is to have the same rights to live life with all the chances for success or failure granted to everyone else.  What LGBT people desire earnestly is the right to at least be allowed the chance to fail or achieve.

Being a fundamentalist conservative christian doesn’t automatically qualify one person to exist more over another person, nor does it make that person more licensed to make such assumptions.  Rather, we all share an existence, a state of being that extends out to envelop an identity as a product of creation.  Whether that creation is of a supernatural source or a product of random selection, it is all one in the same with regards to a sentient awareness.

To quote William Shakespeare,

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that”

 

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