Well, That Was Unexpected

Real life is stranger than fiction...depending on which authors you read, of course.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Muslims, the Christians, the Gays, and the Guns--Orlando

Oh Orlando, how I long for the days when you were a city I could mockingly hold up as an example of the kind of cultureless place where I never wanted to go. (though, inexplicably, some of my most delightful relatives live there.)

I've been sort of horrified and confused from so many angles, I'm going to try to explicate and extricate my yarnball of thoughts as best I can just in case anyone else finds it helpful. God knows I find ranting helpful. I hope you will all rant freely.

1. Islam
News outlets tell me that people ("people") are blaming Islam for the hate+terror attack that occurred in Orlando. I think it's possible that those people have never met an actual Muslim person. Everything in the abstract is so much easier to fear and hate and blame. My Muslim friends are some of the most inspiring people I know--selfless, generous, kind, and joyful. Our country would suck way worse if they weren't here. One of my friends, a doctor who works for far less than market price so that she can give high quality care to the poorest and most desperate people in her community, told me something interesting about her perspective on ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh...whatever those assholes are called. She said something to the effect of, "The Muslims I know don't even think to  decry ISIS because...it is just so obvious that they have nothing to do with actual Islam. And the vast majority of the people they are killing are Muslims...why would Muslims have to denounce a group that is killing Muslims?" 

It did strike me as rather obvious.

 I've been trying to find a Christian equivalent. Like if the leaders of the Inquisition represented Christianity. Or Westboro Baptist. Or if people said, "those creepy child-molesting polygamous communities on the Nevada/Utah border call themselves members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints...Jesus Christ is right there in the name, so clearly the Christians need to denounce them and monitor them and turn in any of them that they see acting shady." 

2. "Christians" and LGBT persons
I don't know if the Christians (especially the ones who freakishly align themselves with Republicanism more fervently than they align themselves with, say, Jesus) have any legs to stand on in this discussion--or, in Christianese, "remove log from own eye first." People who identify as Christians have been continuously attacking the LGBT community more viciously than any other group. "Christian" communities pass discriminatory laws, refuse to grant LGBT persons benefits, and generally make anyone who is part of the LGBT community feel as unwelcome, foreign, and isolated as possible. Republican Christian behavior towards the LGBT community is the opposite of Christlike. The guy who killed those 49 people might as well have been a Christian--The amount of LGBT blood on our hands vastly outweighs the amount on his. (p.s. Was that Indiana dude who got caught with guns in L.A. a "christian?" I'd put money on it.) (p.p.s. the only faith group that gave me the time of day when I was trying to get my innocent transgender client out of jail--super biblical--were the Unitarians. so...)

Sigh. I'm soooooo disappointed in The Church. I so want us to be the most amazing, generous, helpful, selfless people. As someone who loves Jesus and, yes, identifies as a Christian (or is it "Christ-follower" or some other term to help try to differentiate Christians who can read the New Testament from the batshit crazies?) this all horrifies me on so many levels. 

A. On the Dickensian level. Hypocrisy. Jesus' first missionary was a lady who had been married five times and was living unmarried with a dude when she scandalously gave him a drink of well water. Jesus got all up close and personal with lepers, dead bodies, prostitutes, tax collectors. He loved them. He hung out with them. It was shockingly loving, welcoming, and feminist! He didn't give the disciples instructions that they could refuse to serve bread and fish to anyone. Why is this Dickensian? Because the hypocrisy reminds me of this quote I think of vexingly often from Dickens' A Christmas Carol:  

"There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us." (p.s. this sentiment is a courtesy we need to extend to others) 

B. On the legal level. So, in statutory interpretation there exists a rule of lenity. This means that if someone is on trial and there is an argument about how to interpret the language of a law, and after examining the language of the law using other tools the court still finds that the meaning is ambiguous, then the rule of lenity resolves the ambiguity in favor of the defendant. i.e. a case could be made for sending a person to jail for 20 years and an equally compelling case could be made for setting a person free? the person will be set free. It's a little act of grace. There are a number of biblical texts that can be construed this way and the verses that address same-sex relationships are some of them (the ones oppressing women and denying them leadership roles are too). If we can have grace, why don't we? Why wouldn't we resolve these interpretations in favor of inclusion, love, and acceptance? And if a person strongly feels that the interpretation falls the other way, why wouldn't they have the humility to think that God will be the final judge and let grace reign in the meantime or at the very least be civil and not vindictively try to ruin people?

I'm going to give my home church a shoutout and say that after the PCUSA changed its stance towards gay marriage, our church was really in turmoil. And, in my opinion, the church leaders handled it really beautifully--they held community discussions so that people could hear from each other and humanize each other. You can listen to the four week series here.

C. On the praying level. As a person who prays, I totally get why people are OVER the offering of prayers after tragedies when those prayers are not followed by action. They just ring so false. I'd rather have people say nothing. just go ahead and pray in secret--ain't nobody gonna be hurt if you keep that to yourself and your prayers are just as valuable in silence.  But societally, Christians have used their prayers to disapprove of people for years; have you ever heard a Southerner say, "i'm gonna pray for him?" That is a mouthful of sass. We have to give blood and donate money or resources or shoulders to cry on. But when, for yeeeeaaaaaars, Christians have tried to "pray the gay away," anyone with sense would understand why no one wants those prayers--ESPECIALLY when they are grieving the loss of their child or sibling or spouse. Now, if you go to a vigil for victims and afterwards say, "I'm going to keep you all in my prayers..." maybe THAT would get a pass. We need to earn the right for our prayers to mean anything. 

3. Guns
Um, I was in France when Newtown happened. all those babies. baby babies. There is a very strong part of me that feels that America's choice not to pass any gun restrictions after Newtown meant that the majority of our country was completely depraved. and that same part of me cynically just wants to stand back and watch everyone kill each other, while spitefully thinking, "THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE ALL DESERVE."  you looked at the pictures of all those chubby babies and said guns were more important? The central brain from iRobot that killed the professor may now take over as our sovereign. 

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Chocolate cake is for rich people. May I interest you in a kale cake?

A bit before Thanksgiving last year my mom decided to become vegan. Mostly for health reasons, though she has discovered in her journey that there are all sorts of compassionate stewardship reasons that veganism fits with her Christian values. I bring this up because her birthday is coming up and she has requested that my grandmother make her a kale and beetroot cake. To me this sounds like the least cakelike cake that has ever been caked in cake thought. (hold this thought)

I volunteer at a homeless ticket clinic in Venice once a month. Homeless people basically get ticketed for being unsightly on the Venice landscape and get tickets for doing what nonhomeless people would never get cited for in a million years, like sharing food or erecting an awning that can effectively shield them from the sun, or sitting down for too long. So our clinic provides attorneys to help defend them in front of judges. If you think it's weird that communities fine homeless people, who OBVIOUSLY CANNOT PAY ANYTHING, for harmless infractions, it is in fact a growing trend to try and annoy homeless people into moving into other communities. (hold this thought)

I am obsessed with the Great British Baking show (in Britain it is called the Great British Bakeoff) and have been completely hypnotized by it despite the fact that I don't really cook anything. I mainly subsist on a cold food diet. cereal, salads with cheese and lunchmeat, luna bars, etc. (hold this thought)

A bunch of my law school classmates have recently graduated or moved out of their campus housing. And because I am a late sort of person, I tend to visit them when there is a frantic rush to purge their kitchens. This has yielded me many delightful pantry items, but this year the items have spilled over such that I cannot actually fit them all in my cupboards. And then, fatefully, like the Ring of Power calling out to Smeagol, Jason gave me a bag full of sugar and cocoa powder and Kind bars. I got home to find that the cocoa had unleashed itself on all the other bag inhabitants. And then my public-interest minded cheapness could no longer be suppressed and was like "Dear God, we must save the cocoa powder!" Which led me to bake a chocolate cake, the first item I have ever baked for no particular occasion. Damn you, Mary Berry, you British national treasure!

Anyway, it was actually DELICIOUS. so so good. I mean, I know how opening the oven too soon can make the cake fall...it was a harrowing 40 minutes of oven wizardry that resulted in an awesomely moist, rich cake. (secret ingredient was a hot cup of coffee added to the batter...I brewed it, but I couldve just opened a vein and let my coffee-rich blood do the job).

So I am feeling like...TRIUMPHANT. I have saved the cocoa. I have wasted not. I have used the abundant ingredients of my pantry. I haveth bakethed. I cut the top off for me and my roommate--(still poor students, yo), frosted the sucker, and decided, wouldn't it be so fun if I took this delicious, made from scratch, cake to my homeless clinic clients? I mean, how precious am I? I am like...the BEST person ever. Will they not love and so appreciate this cake that I have made which might cost many dollars per slice at a Susie Cakes?

And so I presented my Gateau de Triomphe to the office. A few attorneys took slices and gave me the praise I, let's be real, EXPECTED because it was so yummy. SO I start offering it to clients who politely decline because they have: Diabetes. Gout. celiac disease, seizures, high cholesterol, etc etc.

Yeah, I totally forgot that my clients only have ER access to healthcare. And they don't actually want to go to there.

This leads me to the moral of this story: Donate a vegetable and fruit plate to your homeless clients or learn how to make a damn gluten-free kale cake. For the love of God, only rich people have the requisite gym memberships and cadillac healthcare to afford them the luxury of a piece of a conventional chocolate cake.

P.s. Please Please Please consider donating to get my innocent immigration client out of detention!