I’m a Christian who believes that members of the LGBTQ+ community should have the same rights, freedoms and security as the rest of us. Because Jesus said so.

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I have to start this post by admitting that the concerns of the LGBTQ+ community have never been a high priority of mine. I don’t have many gay friends, and the ones I’ve got seem to be living happy lives. Here in Ottawa, openly gay people go around being openly gay – and, as far as I can tell, no one gives them a second glance. People in Canada can marry anyone they want, as long as the person is neither related to them nor married already – and they can start a family, too. My home town in rural Newfoundland was pretty redneck, and I know a handful of people who hid their sexual orientation until leaving there for fear of being rejected by their family and bullied by their peers. But I’ve reached the point where I’ve been away from Robert’s Arm for as long as I lived there – the social mores of that town don’t cast as long a shadow over my thoughts as they used to.

Then came the terrible incident at Pulse in Orlando. 49 people dead, over fifty injured, after a gunman sprayed the crowd with two guns. He claimed allegiance to ISIL, the troublesome terrorists responsible for a number of awful deeds around the world. He did it because the club is known to be a queer favourite, and he hated gay people. For millions of people, myself included, this was unfathomable. He disagreed so strongly with LGBTQ+ lifestyles that he hated anyone involved. He hated them so much that he took their lives. Unimaginable. Optimistically, I thought this guy had to be rare – maybe even a one-off. Then I watched this video of people reading aloud some of the hate mail received by Pride Toronto. It’s filled with disturbing statements and nasty language. Apparently, Omar Mateen wasn’t alone in thinking that gay people are dirty animals who should make the world a better place by dying. Some people are blaming the massacre at Pulse on the people who were targeted, saying that they brought the violence on themselves by associating with the LGBTQ+ community. Sadly, many of these people who claim to despise gay people also try to lay claim to something else: that they are Christians.

I am a Christian – that is to say, a Christ-follower. The knowledge that fellow Christians are so hateful toward a group of people simply based on who they love is painful. In the Christian community, we are living by faith in the grace of God. The whole premise of Christianity is the notion that we are members of a fallen race who needed the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our salvation and example and daily strength. “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)  We celebrate this at Christmas and Easter – and every time we pray. Unless, apparently, we’re talking about gay people. Then, we take the Old Testament law that we are supposedly no longer subject to, and use it to beat down those who identify as something other than straight. The New Testament (the new code of living that the advent of Jesus Christ introduced) says very little about homosexuality. Depending on your translation or interpretation, it says nothing at all. The real umbrage against homosexuality in the Bible is actually in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is also home to a number of other rules and prejudices we no longer bother with. Perhaps we should bring them all back, for consistency’s sake. Know anyone who’s cheated on their spouse? Get out the rocks and start lobbing! Get rid of your blended clothing (which, these days, is – oh, everything we wear). When your slave gets all clingy and refuses to leave you, you have a choice – you can pierce his ear with a modern tool like the guns they use at Claire’s, or you can stick with tradition and use an awl. The menstrual tent on the outskirts of town needs better signage – none of us ladies want to pollute the community with our blood! The smoke from the sacrificial fire is breaking air pollution by-laws, and I’m running out of goats to burn.

Someone once asked Jesus the following question: out of all the laws in the Torah, which is the most important? (Matthew 22:36). Jesus quoted two laws from the Old Testament: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Love God. Love each other. Just love.

A few facts from around the world ….

Being gay will lead to the death penalty in Sudan, Mauritania and much of the Middle East. Gay people can spend anywhere from 14 years to life in prison in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia, India and Guyana. In wide swaths of Africa, as well as pockets of the Middle East, Asia and South America, it’s a slightly kinder penalty. Just 14 years! In the rest of Africa (with a nod to South Africa which seems to grant full rights), Asia and Russia, Eastern Europe and parts of South America, they’ll put up with you being gay as long as you keep it on the down-low.

And in Orlando, one year ago today, being gay – or even just being friends with gay people – meant being executed in cold blood by a madman who hated people because they didn’t live exactly as he did. Many are remembering the horrifying events, and mourning the beautiful souls taken too soon. As Christians, we should be standing side-by-side with the grieving and the defenders of human rights. We should be welcoming and celebrating love wherever we find it. We should not downgrade the tragedy of human lives destroyed because of some Old Testament drivel from which we have been freed by our saviour.

We have enough clanging symbols and noisy gongs in this world. Anyone can be that. If we want to be salt and light, we have to rise above that – to be more than that. Real love, now, for everyone – with no strings or judgements attached. Because Jesus said so.

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I wish it would look alot more like Christmas.

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Readers, forgive me, for I have sinned – it’s been nearly three weeks since my last post. It’s Christmas. I love Christmas – love it, love it, love it. So why don’t I do what I always do when I get excited about something – blabber relentlessly about it until people either succumb or go away? As usual, the reasons for my writer’s block are not entirely clear. I’ve been ridiculously busy lately. To the point of bloodshed. I’m usually busy anyway – in fact, I’m not sure there’s been any point over the past ten years (coincidentally, the amount of time for which I’ve been a parent) that I could say I wasn’t busy. Add the whirlwind of decorating, baking, buying, posting, hosting and partying that Christmas brings with it, and I’ve got a great excuse for not writing. However, last year, I wrote pages about Christmas – during Christmas. So having lots going on can’t be the only answer.

I think it’s more likely that many of my reasons for e-silence are all in my head. My mind is even busier than my body. I’ve been feeling dragged down and snowed under by what’s going on. (Thank you, Marvin Gaye, for that smooth groove ….)  Bullying that persists until children feel they have no choice but to put an end to themselves. Horrific cases of abuse surfacing, presented in all the lurid detail the press is so good at applying. Mass shootings. Natural disasters. Russia running roughshod over eastern Ukraine. Terrorism curling its tendrils into every country. Evil people finding each other and forging allegiances. ISIL destroying human lives and ancient cities and everyone’s faith in humanity. The crush of Syrian refugees risking everything for freedom, and meeting rejection instead of open arms – and little Alan Kurdi facedown in the sand on a Turkish beach. Hatred flowing from keyboards onto the internet and screaming at me. Grey-sky days and buckets of rain on the lifeless ground where there’s usually a blanket of white by now. Donald Trump, for the love of orange faux fur. Come to think of it, maybe 4 Non Blondes are a better choice for all this than Marvin Gaye.

I’m usually a fairly optimistic person, and I’ve been preparing for Christmas – and treasuring the preparations – like I do every year. But I feel like every time I try to write there’s s0me fresh hell to contemplate, thanks to our troubled world and the inescapable hisses and shrieks of social media – and a lump in my throat. On the other hand, as I said earlier, I wrote oodles of Christmas content last year. And it’s all still true this year – and maybe worth sharing again. So I’m going to add another sin to my writer’s rap sheet: reusing content. I’m going to re-post what I said last Christmas, and maybe I’ll cheer myself up rereading it.

Here’s the first Christmassy post I created last year, on December 1:

“Have a holly, jolly Christmas! No, really, you can …. here’s how.”