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Liberal I Am, Sam I Am, and Christian Too, Why Aren’t You?

Lori Gallagher Witt                                                                                  Lynn Coffinberry                                                                                                Eileen Norman

This was started by a woman named Lori Gallagher Witt, the brilliance is hers, the rest has been edited to best express similar, though not identical, opinions of those passing the main ideas on.

An open letter to friends and family who are shocked to discover I’m a liberal… I’ve always been a liberal, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you seem to think it does.
Let’s break it down, shall we? Spoiler alert: Not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know think along roughly these same lines:
1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
3. I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.
4. I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share  would go a long way toward alleviating this.  Believing that  does not make me a communist.
5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. I’m retired and on a fixed income, but I still pay taxes. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as paying fast food workers enough to buy a Mercedes.  What it means is enough for them to have at least transportation to a job and that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multi-billion dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
7. I am not anti-Christian. In fact I am a born again Christian who believes Jesus died to save us from our inborn human selfishness.  I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians in whatever way they see that playing out in their own lives.    (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; *compulsory* prayer in school is. Besides, no one can keep anyone from praying, which is just conversation with God.) All I ask is that my Christian brothers and sisters recognize *everyone’s* right to live according to *their* beliefs.  I believe in “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I don’t want anyone trying to force me or anyone else to live by their particular religion’s rules. Besides, you cannot force Christianity on anyone. It doesn’t work that way. To be real it has to be a free choice.

8. I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than anyone else. I just believe they should have the *same* rights as everyone else.

9. I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I’m not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc).  And since it became illegal to hire non-citizens, many industries are having to shut down some of their production lines because of labor shortages.  It seems Americans don’t want the jobs the illegal immigrants were taking from them.
10. I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything — I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies make their bottom line the deciding factor on what is in the public interest and what is harmful.
11. I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I can’t get over an election, but because I’ve spent too many years reading and learning about the Third Reich to miss the similarities. Not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past.
12. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege — white, straight, male, affluent, etc. — need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized.
13. I am not interested in coming after your guns, nor is anyone serving in government. What I am interested in is sensible policies, including background checks, that just MIGHT save one person’s, perhaps a toddler’s, life by the hand of someone who should not have a gun.
14. I believe in so-called political correctness. I prefer to think it’s social politeness. If I call you Chuck and you say you prefer to be called Charles, I’ll call you Charles. It’s the polite thing to do. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person?
15. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.
16. I believe that women should not be treated as a separate class of human. They should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men and should be free from abuse. Why on earth shouldn’t they be?
I think that about covers it. Bottom line is that I’m a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome for the sake of profit or corporate savings.
So, I’m a liberal.
(I didn’t write the above from scratch but edited and added to a similar post to reflect my personal beliefs. Please feel free to do the same with this post).

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Never Wanted to Go to Heaven

I never really wanted to go to heaven; just wanted to make sure I avoided going to hell, if there was one.  The problem was that my personality likes diversity and change.  I just couldn’t imagine any kind of heaven I would enjoy for eternity.  (Eternity sounds like a very very long time.)

After a conversion from agnosticism complete with an experience of the unlimited, no conditions love expressed in Jesus, I felt pretty sure there was a heaven that would work for everyone, even me.  But I still couldn’t imagine it.

Some years into my spiritual journey I had an experience of such intense and enormous joy, that from then on I was much more excited about going to heaven and not so concerned with the details.

My brother and I were traveling together and the experience was so overwhelming that we each simultaneously asked God to stop it for fear we would actually explode.  I won’t go into much detail, because I think these experiences come about differently for everyone.  We both experienced a moment of great clarity in which we felt, saw, heard  and were a part of a crowd around Jesus singing praise in the presence of God.  After sharing with one another, we decided that what we had each experienced was very similar, but also realized that there was no way to measure or compare.  We both experienced as much joy as we were each able to bear at that point in our lives. So, whether it was an ocean of joy or a cup of joy simply didn’t matter.

Over the forty plus years since then, I have come to believe that the capacity for experiencing joy and the capacity for accepting suffering are linked. I don’t know if there is a cause and effect relationship or just some sort of spiritual law of balance.  My instinct says that joy is the grace that gives us the freedom to accept heart break without dulling the pain through anger or depression or an addiction (even one to doing good or working constantly.)  But my experience also has been that in accepting the painful darkness of sorrow, I find the peace that passes understanding. And that peace is quiet joy.

As the psalm says, “But then comes the morning, yesterdays sorrows behind.”

Equally Offensive to All Religions by a Born Again, Baptized in the Spirit, Catholic Mystic, Liberal Presbyterian, Humanitarian Heretic, Loved – though Imperfect – Child of God

Wake up religions! This is not about you. This is about God being in imperfect human lives, all human lives.

No religion has a monopoly on God and no religious institution controls grace.

It’s not about spiritual country clubs, spiritual insurance policies or power.

It’s about human grace filled spiritual encounters with a living God incarnate in every moment, every place, every relationship, every stranger, every struggle, every person.

The church is called to awaken us to them, to pray for us and others to experience them, to encourage and support us in our spiritual journey and to celebrate our encounters of grace with us. But that is all.

Religions are actually obscuring God under their religious baskets by claiming the power to limit and control the human experience of grace. And religions are wasting their gifts by crying out against others instead of shouting out the good news of grace.

Institutions can: tell the world they believe in God; be a witness to the reality of a personal relationship with God through their own love of ALL the children of God; share, nourish, and celebrate others’ relationships with God and one another.

But institutions cannot create, control, deny, or teaspoon grace out according to their own current interpretations of any particular holy writings. That is Hubris, with a capital H.

Religions: Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, etc. etc. etc., YOU ARE NOT GOD. Get over yourselves.

God is bigger than your bread boxes, bigger than your temples, cathedrals, mosques, holy mountains or holy places, bigger than any nation, bigger than any person’s or group’s limited human understanding of any holy writings or rules.

ALL see through the glass darkly. Religions are like the three blind men who each pictured the whole elephant by the small part they personally encountered. None of us has the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because we are NOT God. We are not even close approximations. We do the best we can and seek the grace to do better, but the more we listen to one another, the better our chance of actually recognizing God among us.

The Sacraments are the grace incarnated in our daily lives and our relationships.
The institutional church is there to call us: to recognize, experience and respond to the grace in our lives; to share it with each other; to celebrate it together.
The church celebrations are not the sacraments. God is the sacrament and God just IS. That’s why God’s name is I AM.

God is:
IN our tiny imperfect daily lives,
IN our tiny imperfect selves,
IN our relationships,
IN our natural world,
IN the universes and beyond.
IN people and communities witnessing to faith in a God of love/forgiveness through both declaring it and living it (declaring faith and living it are inseparable),
IN individuals, families and communities recognizing the presence of God IN the sharing of our daily bread with others,
IN our responding to the gift of faith by seeking to be pruned and filled by God’s Spirit within us,
IN an ongoing circle of experiencing God’s forgiveness and forgiving others,
IN our acknowledgement of most humans’ need for the grace found in the intimacy of marriage (in the challenge of learning to love another imperfect human being “up close and personal” in a relationship of commitment).
IN witnessing to our faith in the power of God to heal through acknowledging our own need for spiritual and physical healing by both asking others for prayer and by praying for others and being willing to be healed.

Our daily personal encounters with grace are acknowledged in our communal Sacraments: God incarnate in both our personal and communal lives, in our ongoing human need to be forgiven and to forgive, and in our relationships with one another and our world.

To sum up, the heart of the spiritual life is a personal journey of recognizing our human weakness, learning we are loved unconditionally and responding by growing ever more loving of others in the same way. And the heart of unconditional love is forgiveness. No one is perfect. Everyone needs forgiveness and new beginnings all their lives. Truly accepting forgiveness and forgiving others are inseparable. Forgiveness and love are interdependent. You don’t get or give one without the other.

True religion begins with spirituality, which is a personal relationship with God of experiencing being forgiven and loved, so we too can learn to forgive and love. Then and only then does it become communal. If our faith communities are not made up of people with a humble personal relationship with God based on our ongoing needing and receiving forgiveness, our faith communities will become legalistic, judgmental, unforgiving, worldly, about pride and power, and then conflict ridden.

Each day we are called to open our hearts and minds to God, to find God’s grace in : a first cup of coffee, morning birdsong and sunlight, star filled skies, storms, fear, beauty, a tearful child, a faithful pet, sharing our daily bread, our own and others’ brokenness, sorrow, joy, forgiving, laughter, loss, love, in every moment, every human experience, every human relationship, in every human being.