Going All Papa Bear

This post is a follow up to my previous post titled Going All Momma Bear.

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus), Alaska.To sum it up, my middle daughter Kate did a wonderfully superb, intensely researched project for the National History Day Project.  Her project was titled AIDS: A Catalyst for the Human Rights Movement.  While the board and her research included a heavy mention of the gay community and how they were unfairly treated (including stellar interviews of big guns during the time of the pandemic), it in no way reflected JUST the gay community.  It included all people affected by AIDS: those who suffered through the disease, those who were in control and effected the spread and treatment of the disease, straight people who contracted HIV and those who helped ease the suffering of those dying from the pandemic.

She won the school competition.  She did not, however, win at the district GT level.  In fact, she got a 24 out of 40 which was absolutely ridiculous.  I need to stress that it isn’t that she lost.

It is the blatant bias and unprofessional attitudes and review from the two judges (one a teacher in the district and the other an attorney).  I will continue to keep them unnamed, for important reasons.  They simply serve as an example of the uninformed and willfully ignorant people out there who continue to exacerbate the lack of help PLWHIV/AIDS receive and those who still see the disease as a “gay” disease.

They needed to be called out and called to account, which we did.  Kate’s school, teachers and administration have been supportive, and we chose to directly address the judges instead of passing it off to the staff at her school.

Thank you to all of you for giving so much encouragement to Kate.  She has been on cloud nine since we got the word out!ThankYouPostItsThe judge’s response, particularly the male judge, completely missed the point of all of our legitimate concerns, nor did he address them.  He expressed his utter surprise at our letter.  He decided to point out how hard he works during the day and still takes the time to volunteer at events as a gesture of goodness (which we fully acknowledged and thanked him for in our original email to him).  He denied being biased in anyway, and instead used his profession as a way to tout that he knows his stuff and how to be unbiased.

And that was it.  Seriously.

So, while we could have dropped it, his response was not satisfactory at all.  Not even a little.

I am going to post here the email that we sent today as a way to hopefully educate those who might happen across this blog who may need a clearer picture of AIDS, the LGBTQ community and how bias, prejudice and injustice still rules the roost today.  Devon, you did such a wonderful job writing this, and there’s a good reason you are an excellent father and attorney.  Much love to you.

You go, Papa Bear!

youveGotMail

           Dear Mr. and Mrs. xxxxx,
 
Thank you for taking the time to respond to the concerns raised by Emily Reese’s earlier email.  Emily and I both apologize for any confusion about Mrs. xxxxx’s direct involvement in judging the participants; however, I am not confident that the email you sent, including xxxxx’s statement, was responsive.  I write in order to clarify several points and to make certain that you both understand the importance of Kate’s advocacy and our own response to xxxxx’s comments.
 
Bias is a difficult and complex issue.  Rarely do those with bias acknowledge that such exists.  Bias is an issue that both affects and effects multiple facets of our individual world views and how we interact with one another as human beings.  xxxxx’s response fails to meaningfully address this point and instead attempts to justify his criticisms of Kate’s project by arguing that he works as a public defender and was volunteering after putting in a full day at work.  This is non-responsive and analogous to those who say, “I’m not a racist, I have black friends”.  This is silly.
 
Kate’s topic was “AIDS: A Catalyst in the Human Rights Movement.” The topic you wrote down was “Aids and Gay Rights.”  This was the starting point for your comments.  This statement alone proves your bias.  There is a difference between those two topic statements.  HIV/AIDS does not, and has never, discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.  HIV/AIDS is not a “Gay Rights” issue as you wrote.  HIV/AIDS is a human rights issue.  It is perhaps the most devastating health crisis in the past 30 years.  Kate’s board clearly stated the importance of this topic (recall that the NHD topic this year is “Rights and Responsibilities in History”) and its relevance to today:
 
“The AIDS epidemic is NOT over.  Today over 34 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS.  The same fight being fought in the 1980′s is still be waged today as many people lack adequate access to prevention, education, and medical treatment.  Worldwide efforts are lagging because their is still stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.  In spite of the decades of protests and medical advancements we are still looking for a cure.  Sometimes to win a battle you have to start a war.  ‘The condition is medical.  The solution is political.  AIDS is essentially a crisis of governance, of what governments do and do not do with their people.’”
 
From your comments and from your attempts to justify your actions you have proven your thinly disguised bias and have missed the point of Kate’s presentation in its entirety.  On a positive note, you have directly proven to Kate the importance of her project and her advocacy.  As parents and as citizens it is our responsibility to challenge your obvious bias and to educate others about the harm that such bias inflicts.  I recognize that judges for academic competitions are sometimes scarce; however, I would prefer judges who are not intellectually dishonest about their own obvious bias.  Subtle and ignored bias is often the most insidious form of intolerance.
 
Next, you wrote, “to (sic) dependent on interviews, need more primary research”.  A few things are worth noting in response.  First, Kate used nearly 50 different primary sources.  Can you seriously posit that she needed more research?  I challenge you to produce a student who offered more compelling and diverse research than Kate performed.  A primary source is defined as a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:
  • ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records
  • CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art
  • RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings
Here, Kate explored books, magazines, medical journals, motion pictures, documentaries, music, internet based research and a number of other resources.  She did emphasize the three interviews she personally sought out, arranged, and recorded.  This is because the National History Day Project provides the following directive in regards to a thoughtful approach to the process:  “Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. This year’s theme is Rights and Responsibilities in History. The intentional selection of the theme for National History Day is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.”  Kate interviewed people because she knows that history is not “mere facts and dates”.  History is a living and breathing thing which requires more than a trip to the library in order to “drill down” and truly understand history.  As a fellow lawyer, I would have expected you to know the importance of interviews as a primary source and that you not rely on the “limited pre-event training” you received as your only means to evaluate the project participants.
 
In summary, I find your reply non-responsive and a further attempt to justify your obvious bias.  I do not expect or require a response.  I will discuss my concerns with the administrators and educators involved and leave it at that.  Our school, administrators, and teachers have been incredibly supportive and their efforts are to be applauded.
 
Sincerely,
Devon T. Reese, Esq.
We love you, Kate.  Momma and Papa Bear have your back!
KatesFinalBoard

Going All Momma Bear

Kate’s National History Day Project has become the catalyst behind a “strongly written letter” that I sent to her teacher to pass along to those who need to be corrected. Her teacher rocks. All of her teachers do. But the competition on the district level was completely unfair and biased for Kate.mommabear2

Should she have won? Maybe. The other board she was competing against was good, so I don’t want to take anything away from the winner. The fact that she didn’t win isn’t the issue. It was the blatant bias that was used to judge her board that caused Devon and I to stand up for our wonderful middle child.

Kate’s topic was how AIDS affected the Human Rights Movement. She interviewed three people. One was a gay man who was around during the pandemic in the early ’80s. He actually helped start ACT UP! as an advocacy group. The other gentleman was one of the original videographers of the actual Dallas Buyer’s Club that was recently made into a movie. The third person was my friend Kelly Frizzell, who saw first hand the death and discrimination as it unfolded. She helped those dying from AIDS through home hospice care. Kate sought after the Big Guns of the time. Very few students did that.

She also had a plethora of primary sources, besides her interviews. She addressed the theme of the competition and exceeded standards set forth for the project.

KateNHD

This was her project before it was totally finished. The stuff she added on top of what she already had was incredible!

And then the judging occurred last week at Mendive. I will not reveal the names of the two judges who scored her project. But I know them. So does Devon. They are what I would label as “fundamentalist Christians.” Also, as a related side note, their daughter was in the competition. I have NO problem with any of these things.

But I do now.

After finding out the questions they asked during the judging of the project with Kate, I knew she was not judged fairly, and this momma bear isn’t going to let it slide.

The first question one of the judges asked was: “Doesn’t this have more to do with a lifestyle than a human rights issue?”

Go ahead and guess my thoughts on this. “Lifestyle?” ONLY Christians use this term, which insinuates that being gay is a choice and a sin. They were unable to make the connection between AIDS and Human Rights because of their beliefs. Kate didn’t stand a chance.

The other two issues with the judging were simply icing on the cake. “Too many interviews… not enough variety of primary sources.” (Not true. Obviously they didn’t read her annotated bibliography nor looked at the board.) I’m sorry? First hand accounts through interviews are THE top primary source a person can use. She had others, but getting DOCKED for this? B.S. The last and final straw was when they asked: “What does this have to do with today?” Well, they didn’t read the board. (See the picture below.) She got docked on her evaluation because they DIDN’T read the board. Here’s what they wrote on the eval: “She could answer the questions – but information was not included on the board.”

She ended up getting a 24 out of 40. B. Friggin’. S.

Kate knew exactly where they were coming from. She is smart. And sensitive. She took a few of her anonymous peer evaluations in stride, knowing that their comments were coming from immature students who were likely spouting what their parents say at home (example: “Homos deserve to get AIDS!”). What is reprehensible is that two ADULTS showed Kate very clearly that her life, her family, her project, her caring about how AIDS affected the Human Rights Movement… was dismissed and unfairly judged. Kate knew that these two adults were biased from the git go, and that this topic affects her on a personal level.

These judges KNOW that Kate has two gay dads and me, her staunchest ally.

She gets to enter the state competition anyway. We have to pay an entry fee. No big deal. But I will NOT allow to have someone with such an obvious bias be a judge of her board. They can have their beliefs. But they need to check them at the door and be FAIR when judging. Period.

I want those two adults to apologize for marginalizing Kate’s topic. Kate is a great kid with a huge heart and knows injustice when she sees it. She KNEW why they gave her low marks.

I let things slide all the time. I pick my battles. This is one that I am willing to fight.

Love, Momma BearwhyitmatterstodayApril 6, 2014… Update regarding Kate’s project and how it was judged:

We finally received a reply to the email that we sent to the judges regarding their poor and biased judging.

I was wrong on ONE thing. The woman that judged the board. It was not the woman I remember. For that I humbly apologize. But the man who judged the board… I was correct about. However, the woman who DID judge the board was also a teacher and should have judged Kate’s board better… therefore, all of my core objections still stand.

The response was exactly what I thought they would say: “I judged fairly, non-biased and according to the rubric.” He puffed himself up with his professional qualifications and made it seem as though he was a gift to the community for volunteering his time.

Whatever.

As in, his question to Kate, the judges inability to read her friggin’ board and their inability to understand what a primary source is still stands.

I don’t know if we’re even going to respond back. I need to think about if it is worth it. Someone like that male judge will never think he was wrong. But the fact still stands that there is no way his bias didn’t come into play when the first question out of his mouth was: “Isn’t this more of a lifestyle issue than Human Rights issue?”

He shouldn’t have asked that question. Period.

This learning experience is a bunch of stuff. Here are the main things that I think are most important: 1) Don’t be afraid to call someone out when there is injustice and 2) Just because we call someone out does not mean they will change… and most of the time we simply have to accept it. 3) People can be mean and stupid and ignorant and so prideful that they can’t admit they are wrong or their whole world will crumble… which is just too difficult for them to face. We did what we needed to do and we’re letting it go. And it’s okay to do that sometimes.
Hopefully at the state level her NHD project will be judged fairly and thoroughly. If she is meant to win, she will. If not, Kate is going to look back on this time in her life and know that it played an important part in who she becomes… both professionally and personally.
Our lives do NOT suck.
Love, Momma Bear
Further UPDATE:  Read the latest post after this one titled Going All Papa Bear to see our response.  It needed to be done and now the Big Gun, Devon, confronts the judge because his reply was so insulting to Kate and all people who are affected by HIV/AIDS.  Go Papa Bear, go!

Fred Phelps and The Sorry Buts

I have said some pretty harsh things about Fred Phelps in the last several years.

Some of those words may have been deserved.Westboro Baptist Church Case to be Heard by Supreme CourtWhile I can’t take them back, and I don’t really want to, because he represented to me the opposite of my own experience with Devon coming out of the closet and the injustice done in God’s name toward lovely LGBT people, I find myself thinking a little differently this morning.

My initial reaction to all of the reports about his impending death and possibly unconfirmed details spoken by one of the many estranged offspring he had, was understandably:  “Good Riddance!”  However a good night’s sleep before commenting on it has led me to feel that this is not what I know I should be thinking.  I have to choose to think differently… and maybe my heart will follow.

I used to think somewhat like him myself, though not quite as harsh.  But the slippery slope of his thinking was real.  I could have been just like him.  Seriously.

What I want to say is that my hope for him during this time is that he can find some peace.  Everyone deserves the chance to change hate to love.  I was given that chance in the most awkward of circumstances that changed my life forever, and I am profoundly grateful for it.beAtPeaceWithEveryoneWill he change?  I don’t know.  I have my doubts, but I know that God works through a humble and contrite heart.  Even if this change happens with his last breath, I will take it.  I will forgive.  And you know what?  I need to work at forgiving anyway, even if he does not change.  That is REALLY tough.  I know he cannot undo all that he has done, but none of us can.  We cannot change our mistakes.  We cannot make amends for everything.  We can try, but asking someone to forgive us puts our lives at the mercy of others.  It takes our choice of asking for forgiveness and places our very lives into the hands of another.  But we must do it anyway, even if they don’t forgive.  I am reminded of one of my favorite verses often when I find myself having to ask for someone’s forgiveness: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

It’s a beautiful verse.  I have shared this with others in conversation, but never in writing.  When Devon and I first had babies, I remember us deciding that we would use the words “Will you forgive me for _____” instead of the words “I’m sorry.”  The reason for this is because “sorry” is used so flippantly by many, and it really doesn’t help us to own the very thing that we did to wrong another person. I'mSorryWillYouForgiveMeSo, when my own kids were little, they learned quickly that saying “sorry” was not in our vocabulary.  We trained them early on to say:  “Will you forgive me for [being disrespectful, being deceitful, being... whatever the specific behavior was]?”  This helped us to not have the “I’m sorry, but…” which really doesn’t make us own our hurt toward another, but shows that we have some sort of excuse.  That’s not being sorry.  That’s not having a contrite and humble heart.

Every once in awhile, our kids would say the right words, but we knew their hearts weren’t humble.  It’s pretty easy to tell when your kids are sincere or not.  So, we would say, “I know you want to ask for forgiveness, but I can tell your heart isn’t in it.  Go ahead and come and find me when your heart is truly humble.”

It worked every time.

I chose to also do this with my students.  Let me tell you, the first few times they have me explain to them this concept, each of them felt VERY uncomfortable.  But as they bought into it, you could really see a change in their future behaviors.  I’m telling you, saying “Will you forgive me for ____” causes a person to own their stuff for REALS.

So, I’m hoping that my own heart will change toward Fred Phelps.  I was given the chance at being forgiven 70 times 7 times.  Even if he doesn’t say:  “Will you forgive me for all of the hurt and devastation I caused the LGBT community for the last several decades?” I still need to do my best at being at peace with everyone.  Fred must face his own demons.  I hope that he, with his last breath, will say the words that I had my children say.  I hope that he hears the verse “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

It’s a great verse to live by.  I am thankful that I had the opportunity to change.  I must afford Fred the same, even if my feelings don’t match my actions and desires.broken-heartI must forgive.  If I do not, I am simply carrying around bitterness that does me no good.  And it will spill onto others, like my own children and my students.

I will have none of the “Sorry Buts” floating around in my heart, mind and spirit.  Life is good, people.  While I understand the feelings toward Fred that are flying around out there, I must choose to look forward and forgive, and wait for my feelings to match my actions.

A contrite heart.  May we all experience it for ourselves and forgive those who ask for forgiveness with humility.

Love, Emily

SorryHurtInEyes

March: A Month of Awesomeness

marchmadnessMarch is quite a doozy of a month in my world.  Here’s the cool stuff that March entails:

1) It’s my birthday on March 12th and this year I turned 40.  The funny thing about birthdays is that I’m TERRIBLE at remembering other people’s birthdays.  I’ve been known to almost forget my kids’ birthdays, and have completely blown off my best friend’s birthday before.  However, when it comes to mine, I expect a month of celebrations.  Selfish?  Yep.  Shameless?  Absolutely.happybirthdaycupcakes2)  March is National Women’s History Month.  I love empowering women. WeCanDoItWonderwoman

3)  March Madness is in full swing.  Love me some basketball!basketball_hoop-9774) March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  Hey, I have Colon Cancer for a second time and I’m all about spreading awareness.  Get your bums checked, people!  The procedure is no big deal at all and early detection is the best way to prevent Colon Cancer.  Don’t wait ’til you’re 50.  That’s ridiculous.  Colon Cancer is on the rise and I got diagnosed at 37… With no real high risk of family history.Blue-ribbon25)  Sunday, March 23rd, is my big Wig Out! event.  It is an event that will help raise funds for my Three Little Birds and me during my time of being laid off from work due to chemo treatments.  It’s going to be a blast and I want all of my friends and family to attend.  The following website is a way for you to participate if you aren’t in the Reno area but would like to help out: Emily’s Gofundme Page.  On the site, you can catch up on my story and what our needs are.  Please spread the word.  To everyone.  Cancer does not discriminate and the disease can really cause hardship.  I am confident that my needs will be met, but I’m not afraid to ask for help.  The need is real and I intend, like I always do, to help others in the future.catinwigMarch rocks.  I love my life.  I hope you love yours, too.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily and My Three Little BirdsEMILY'S FLYER-1

Thankfulness for the Attitude of Transformation

Everyday, I write in my tab called “365 Days of Thankfulness” as a unique way to document my journey with Colon Cancer.  Below is today’s, March 11, 2014… one day before my actual birthday.  Great.  Chemo during my birthday.  It’s not so bad when I have great love, amazing support and friends all around me.  For that reason and many others, I am thankful for cancer.

Okay.  Here’s what I wrote today:

TheBeginningButterflyOne of the wedding gifts that Devon and I got so many years ago were a pair of mounted exotic and colorful butterflies encased in plexiglass. A gentleman runs a conservatory for butterflies and when they die, he sells them as art. They are so cool.

In fact, they are so cool that my amazing Kate declared that she wanted them willed to her when that time comes. She doesn’t want anything else.

(As an unrelated side note, both Kate and Maddie won the National History Day Projects for their categories. They get to go on to the next round. So proud of them. Their topics were AIDS and Its Affect on Human Civil Rights (Kate) and LGBT Human Civil Rights (Maddie). Okay, bragging over.)

Anyway, back to the butterflies.

I think one of the ways that people like me and people like you, who love live, live life and impact others, can make a seemingly bad scenario in our lives into a positive one, is that we see ourselves as caterpillars awaiting our transformation. What is happening in our lives is not the end of the world. It is a new beginning.

Cancer sucks. That’s certainly an aspect of it. No doubt.

But cancer is a path to an amazing transformation. I know that people die from cancer and there aren’t words to comfort people, ultimately. But I will be bold and say that even a death of someone with cancer is a chance for transformation. A new body/soul is made perfect in their transformation to the Other Side (if that is what you believe).

I truly hope those of you who have lost loved ones to cancer don’t feel as though I’m minimizing the reality of it.

But it is also a chance for an amazing life. Cancer can change your perspective about the importance of relationships and learning to be aware of the little things that we take for granted. It causes a person to live life to the fullest and to be able to be along side someone who is experiencing a medical crisis. This can happen both for the person experiencing cancer and the people who love them.

I feel like I’ve turned into a butterfly several times over. And I’m looking forward to my next butterfly birth when this bout with cancer is finished.

Thank you, all of you, for seeing me through this transformation. I love you. And, yes, Kate… the butterfly art is all yours. Right now. Because the life you are living and preparing for is going to make you a beautiful rainbow colored specimen.

Love, Emily the Transformer

Fighting Cancer, Which I am Thankful For!

EmilyWithCoolWigToday is the day that I released my own Gofundme page.

I am currently in my second battle with Colon Cancer.  The battle is already won, because the tumors are gone, but I must endure another 6 months of chemo.

Some people might think that this totally sucks.  But…

Cancer has been a blessing.

My life is wonderful, and I’m feeling the love.  Be sure to keep up with my daily thankfulness posts, located under the “365 Days of Thankfulness.”  It’s my unique way of documenting my journey through this round of cancer.  Click here to begin reading: January

If you would like to contribute to my three little birds and me, we need help getting through the next 6 months.  Any little thing helps as I was laid off from my job due to not being able to fulfill my teaching duties full time in my awesome charter school, which serves an at-risk population of teenagers.  I am not bitter, because I know that my school cannot afford to pay my salary plus a full time sub.  I will return to work in the Fall, but until then, I need to replace my lost income.

Click here to go to my Gofundme page and you can get the full scoop.  Emily’s Wig Out!

Thanks to all of you who have been sending me encouraging words.  My love tank spills over, and I am blessed.

Love,

Emily Reese and My Three Little Birds

ThreeLittleBirds

God Loves You. (Naw. Just Kidding.)

Fred Phelps can kiss my big white butt.

Fred Phelps can kiss my big white butt.

It’s been far too long since I’ve contributed to our blog.  TONS of stuff, some cool and not so cool, have happened since my last post about marriage based on the awesome movie The Princess Bride (I am fighting cancer again and winning and Devon and Felipe finally tied the knot in New York with our kids as witnesses).  But that is not what this post is about.

I’m writing this post from a place of pissed-off-ed-ness today.  Which I rarely do, so you know you’re in for a REAL treat.  The only other one I wrote was the one titled Kiss My Big White Butt and it felt really good.  Hold on to your shorts.

Here’s the muse that sparked my rant today, based on a Facebook post from an amazing guy that I have had the pleasure of meeting through the interwebs, Michael Booth.

One year ago today I was in an extremely dark place. I was literally stuck in a creepy closet of a room down in Woodstock, GA begging to call home for someone to come and rescue me. I was told that if I made any attempts of calling anyone I would be kicked out on the street with no vehicle, no phone, and no money 400 miles from home. Any kind of hope I had in my sexual orientation changing had been crushed by those in a $14,000 program claiming change was possible during the recruiting process. In the months following my return home I lost some very important relationships. Most of 2013 was very dark for me, but here I am now in a GREAT place with real, genuine friends who love me and my boyfriend for who we are, nothing more or nothing less. It’s AMAZING to me what God can do in such a short period of time. I’m completely humbled that He loves me so much despite all my mistakes and poor decisions. So not worthy!

First of all, Michael, you are worthy.  I mean, we all have fallen short of the glory of God, right?  But God sees us as worthy of love because of Jesus.  End of story.  So stop that stinkin’ thinkin’. (See Romans 5:6-8)

Secondly, this entire thing reminds me of the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  People, including myself at one time in my life, adhere to this phrase as though it were an actual verse.

It’s not.  Never was.  Never will be.

I did a little cursory research today.  It didn’t take me long to find the origins of the phrase and the original meaning.  One of the most helpful sources came from a sermon by a pastor of a United Methodist Church in North Carolina. It was beautifully expressed.  Pastor A.J. Thomas has my vote for Cool Pastor of the Year. (I even did a cursory search about him personally and I didn’t see any scandalous stuff on him.  Kudos to you, Pastor Thomas.)

You can find a transcript of this at That’s Not In The Bible:  Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner. I will quote him in some places and rephrase his words in others.  (I didn’t ask your permission first, Pastor Thomas.  I hope you don’t mind.  Contact me if you do and I will change things if need be.)

To paraphrase Pastor Thomas for the sake of space and long-windedness (which is my specialty), the phrase ultimately came from St. Augustine, and Gandhi was the one who translated it as “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  Gandhi.  Hey, Christians who use it all the time, please note that Gandhi was not a Christian.

Bam!

The original phrase written by St. Augustine was “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which roughly translates as ‘With love for mankind and hatred of sins’” (Pastor Thomas).

And if we look at the context of St. Augustine’s original purpose behind the phrase, it has to do with the REAL meaning of sin, and actually only his OWN sin.  Here comes another long quote from Pastor Thomas:

Context is vital to our understanding. Part of the problem for Christians is that we seem to have lost the Biblical meaning of the word “sin.” Sin doesn’t mean “bad” or “bad things.” In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is chatta’t and it means, “separation.” In the New Testament, the Greek word hamartia, is translated “sin.” It’s a term from archery that literally means “to miss the mark.” It’s when you let the arrow go and it fails to hit the target. So sin is both a condition – one of separation from God, and a missing of the mark – aiming our lives away from God.  This Biblical understanding of sin helps us understand St. Augustine’s use of the phase.

Party on, St. Augustine.

Party on, St. Augustine.

Prior to his Christian conversion, Augustine had lived a pretty sensuous life – lots of women, lots of drinking and partying and all sorts of self-indulgent behavior. During that phase of his life, he didn’t hate his sins at all – he was actually enjoying them! And so, when Augustine writes, “with love for mankind and hatred of sins,” he calls to rid ourselves of anything that separates us from God and neighbor. He is actually reframing Jesus’ command to “love God and love neighbor.” And here’s the really fascinating thing: he is referring here to hating our own sin, yet when the phrase is used today, most commonly it is used to refer to the sin of others.

The sins of others.  Did you catch that?  Let me repeat what was stated above:

“And here’s the really fascinating thing: he is referring here to hating our own sin, yet when the phrase is used today, most commonly it is used to refer to the sin of others.”

This is what has gotten me pissed off today.  I can honestly say that I should be pissed off at myself, because (like I stated above) I was the Poster Child of using this phrase while growing up and as an adult married to Devon while we loved Christ’s Church and served faithfully in it.  Then, you know the rest of the story.  He came out of the closet, yada yada yada.  Devon was an Elder and Lay Youth Pastor for Pete’s sake!

(Who is Pete, anyway?)

And trust me when I say this:  That phrase is targeted almost exclusively at the LGBT community.  I’ve never heard it used otherwise toward anyone else or any other group.  Have you?

And let’s talk about judgment.  Just so you are well aware, if you aren’t already, Christ never called us to judge.  Never.  Only love.  EVERYONE.  No matter what.  Period.

And because I cannot possibly reword with any sort of eloquence the words that Pastor Thomas wrote about this, I will simply quote him again.  It’s beautiful.

Hating the sin while claiming to love the sinner gives us an opportunity to place more emphasis on the shortcomings of others rather than ourselves. In Matthew 7, Jesus told us to judge not, lest we should be judged. Concerning sin, he told us not to fuss about the speck of sawdust in our brother or sister’s eye when we’re blinded by a 2×4 plank in our own eye. Or, in John 8, a group of people point out to Jesus a woman who had been caught in adultery and remind him that the law teaches she should be stoned to death, and they want his response, and he says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

In other words, it is quite inappropriate for us to go around pointing out the faults, shortcomings, failures, and weaknesses of others when we still have so many of our own. “Hate the sin; love the sinner” fails to meet this test because it focuses not on our own sin, but on that of someone else. The Scriptures clearly teach that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:32), but the caution for Christians is to remember that this applies to us on the inside as well as those we perceive to be on the outside, and perhaps we who live in stained-glass houses should think twice before we start throwing stones.

So, you see, the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” a) was NEVER in the Bible, b) was coined by St. Augustine to refer to his OWN sin, and c) used by Christians to justify judgment in the name of God, which He NEVER has called us to do.  Ever.

And let’s talk about Gandhi for a second.  He was not St. Gandhi.  But he is an icon for many reasons.  Let’s just place here the entire sentence from which he used the phrase “Hate the sin, love the sinner” with what Pastor Thomas said about it.

Then, understanding this phrase in context, we come back to the phrase which appears in Gandhi’s autobiography; many people assume it’s a worldview he embraced. Not so. Just read the whole sentence he actually wrote: “Hate the sin and not the sinner is a precept which though easy enough to understand is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.”

No kidding.  When you use the phrase flippantly, like so many do, you are spreading hatred!  Like… oh, I don’t know… what Michael Booth experienced, maybe?  I guarantee the people and circles he ran with quoted the non-Christian Gandhi all the time.  And look where he ended up last year.  In a dark closet.  Wanting to change but being unable to.

Lynda-Carter-Wonder-WomanThese thoughts are difficult to wrap up, especially when I’m writing from such a place of emotion.  But let’s just say this:  If I had superpowers, besides my general Wonder Woman attributes, I would wipe this phrase completely from the face of the earth.  And if people were dying to say something else to replace it, I’d give them the phrase:

God loves the sinner, I hate my sin. Therefore God loves me.  And I will love others and not judge them.

The Maker loves you.  You have NO room to judge anyone else in any way, shape or form. And maybe, just maybe, if humans would stop using the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” people in Churches wouldn’t feel persecuted and attacked by the “gay agenda,” the LGBT community wouldn’t feel hated and judged, and people can have their beliefs without making enemies of people who deserve to feel worthy of God’s love.

So I am going to challenge you.  If you have used this phrase (and if you are in any kind of a Christian church, you probably have), stop and think about the slippery slope this kind of thinking can lead to.  It’s okay to hate sin… our own.  And honestly, we do make judgments everyday.  We are human.

But think about what that phrase says to someone who is gay.  They cannot change.  They just can’t.  Believe it if you want to, but be sure to look at the TRUE stats and the reasonings behind ex-gay therapy.  It is ugly.  So when a gay person hears the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” they cannot possibly believe that you love them or that God can love them.  All of our sexual identities are a part of who we are, whether you are heterosexual or homosexual.  So saying you love them, then saying you hate their sexual identity is the same as saying “I hate you.”

I’m telling you, that’s what they hear.  And as an extension, they are hearing “God hates you, too.”

So just knock it off.  Concentrate on your own sin. And when you say that non-Biblical phrase, you are quoting Gandhi.  Which is hysterical to me now.

Michael Booth and ALL of the LGBT community, whether you believe in God or not, you are loved.  Period.  And you are WORTHY of God’s love.  And you are worthy of everyone’s love.

You are quoting Ghandi!  So take that!

You are quoting Gandhi! So take that!

Love,

Emily:  The Sinner.  Who Loves.  And is Loved.

P.S. If you would like to read a really great piece that Michael Booth wrote, you can find it here.  I think when you read it you will see why I love him so much.  It’s creepy how much we have in common:  The Barbie and Ken Meltdown