Why #BlackLivesMatter to me

I’m not black. So, why would a parenting blog written by a 43 year old Stay At Home Dad of six kids write anything about race? In a word, compassion. I spent the better part of the last week and a half watching multiple tragedies unfold, often in real time. I saw videos of Alton Sterling’s death. I saw Philando Castile die while his girlfriend watched it happen and broadcast it live on Facebook. I saw almost a dozen police officers get shot (five fatally) in Dallas while protecting a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Through it all I wept. I watched those videos and what struck me was the humanity of each person. Each of those lives mattered. Those men were husbands, fathers, sons, boyfriends, best friends…and now they’re dead. I watched the 15 year old son of Alton Sterling bravely standing by the woman speaking, trying to comfort her, only to break down moments later and sob uncontrollably. I want Daddy. I want Daddy. I didn’t see color. I saw my own 11 year old son for a moment there. I wept again for that young man, now fatherless. I watched in shock last Thursday night as the police officers were gunned down in Dallas. I wept. I prayed for our country. I prayed for peace. I prayed for understanding. I prayed for compassion.

As a parent one of the most important things I’m trying to teach all of my kids is compassion. I will have failed as a parent if my children are not compassionate people when they leave home. But, I cannot teach that if I’m not compassionate myself. I believe that being compassionate is the ability to look at things from the perspective of others, to understand them better, so that I can help them accordingly. For example, on Sunday afternoon I was driving home from the mall with two of my kids and there was a woman standing by the side of the road trying to get across the five lanes with a heavy-looking large pull-cart behind her. I stopped my van and motioned for her to cross. After two cars whizzed past she had a chance to cross in front of me, but the oncoming traffic was approaching and she was slow. So, I turned to the left and blocked the two lanes to shield her, to ensure her safe passage. I was about to leave when she told me that she was trying to catch the bus which just blowing past the stop (because she was too slow to make it there). She asked for a ride to the bus terminal a mile away and I instead offered her a ride home. I introduced myself and made a new friend, Samantha. I had been less than two minutes from home, but drove this lady 15-20 minutes to her apartment building in downtown Tacoma (and then 15 -20 minutes back home). Samantha talked the entire way there, telling me about her mother (dying of cancer) and her husband (disabled with seizures after getting shot in the head) and her own injury (motorcycle accident at age 16 that nearly severed her foot) which caused her to limp even now at age 55. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that Samantha is black. Interestingly enough, though, the color of her skin wasn’t a factor in my ability to show her compassion when I saw her standing by the side of the road. All I saw was another human being who needed a little bit of help.

I guess this brings me back to the events of this last week. I am saddened by what seems to be a lack of compassion among many of my friends. The black lives matters movement began as a way to draw attention to the ongoing problem of black people being disproportionately targeted by some members of the law enforcement community and then unfairly treated by the legal system. I’ll admit that when I first saw the #blacklivesmatter hashtag a couple of years ago that I ignorantly responded with #alllivesmatter. I didn’t understand. I thought that it had to be one or the other. Thankfully, I have some pretty awesome friends who either wrote or shared articles that showed me the error of my thinking. Some of these friends are dad-bloggers (like me), who have teenage children (like me), but have black skin (unlike me). I learned that these men have been racially profiled all of their lives. They’ve been stopped by the police dozens of times simply because of the color of their skin. I think in my 43 years of life I’ve been pulled over exactly three times. Twice for speeding (deserved) and once for going through an intersection on a yellow light (undeserved, no ticket). Not once for having a broken taillight or a wide nose. Philando Castile, who was days shy of his 33rd birthday, had been stopped 31 times by police over the years. He’s 10 years younger than me. I seriously doubt that he’s that bad of a driver. My friends shared that they’ve had to have conversations with their kids about how to respond if when they have an interaction with police so that their kids will come home safely. For real. This is where I started to really begin to understand how much white privilege I have but I don’t even realize it. I can let my son ride his scooter a few blocks to a nearby Walgreens to buy some candy, even while wearing a hoodie, and not worry that he’s going to get shot by a neighborhood enforcer or a police officer. He’s even managed to sneak a Nerf gun in the waistband of his shorts into public and no one complained or called the cops on him. Moreover, I don’t get pulled over “randomly” when driving around town running errands because I might look like a suspect due the color of my skin or the width of my nose. The inherent privilege of being white in America was something that I had to make an effort to learn about, particularly about how minorities don’t share that privilege. I don’t have to be sorry for being white or ashamed of it. Yet, I believe that I do have a responsibility as a human being to treat others with compassion and to fight for justice wherever I see the need for it. Sometimes that means that I need to educate myself, to learn the stories of my brothers and sisters who don’t look like me, to mindfully build the bridges that lead to a true change of heart and compassion.

Now, here’s where it gets a little bit tricky for some people. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” upsets a lot of people. They think it means that only black lives matter and that black lives matter more than anyone else. Nope. Nope. Nope. Black-Lives-Matter-quotesThey love to fire back with All Lives Matter, or Blue Lives Matter. Yes, they do. But, until we, as a country and as individuals can act like ALL lives matter then there will remain a need for movements like Black Lives Matter. For example, just last week I shared several things on my personal Facebook page about the deaths of Sterling and Castile. There weren’t many comments and my feed wasn’t filled with anyone posting stuff saying All Lives Matter in response to those two men dying. Yet, within a few moments of the shooting of the police officers in Dallas my feed was full of people sharing pictures of the badge of the Dallas Police Department and using the phrase Blue Lives Matter. People were showing compassion and concern for the victims and even their communities and families simply because the victims were police officers. I respect the men and women in blue as much as anyone and believe that they have incredibly difficult jobs that require them to be “on” 100% of the time. One momentary lapse could cost them their lives, so the national outpouring of compassion for their families is well deserved. But, why couldn’t that same compassion be shown or expressed for the victims just a few days before? Or for any of the countless victims of black on black crime that All Lives Matter folk love to derisively reference? If ALL lives matter then even the lives that some might deem “worthless” should matter. If ALL lives matter then no one will rest until there are ZERO incidents of police brutality. I believe that I can say Black Lives Matter at the same time that I say Blue Lives Matter because I value both groups. Why? Because we’re all human beings. Compassion doesn’t depend on color.

I don’t want to live in a country that thinks it’s okay to racially profile people based on their race or ethnicity or any other trait. I don’t want to live in a country where abusive or racist cops are tolerated and the good cops suffer the tragic consequences. I don’t want to live in a nation that points out the high rate of black on black crime as an excuse to say that the police can use excessive force or that exposes the record of victims in a not so subtle way of saying he got what he deserved. We’re better than that. We owe it to our kids to be compassionate for one another. Step out of your comfort zone and educate yourself. Talk to your kids about this topic. Help them to understand so that they can grow up without the racial tension that is so prevalent in our nation today. As a SAHD, I get to see my children interact with others in a lot of situations where there’s no adult hovering over and directing their every move. I’ve noticed the ease that my 6 and 3 year old daughters have in playing with boys and girls of any skin color in places like a children’s museum, a McDonald’s play place or the playground at a park. I’m thrilled that my 11 year old son’s best friend is witty, respectful, silly, smart, and loves to catch frogs just like my son. The fact that he and my son don’t share the same skin pigmentation is irrelevant to their friendship. Why do we, as adults, make such big deal about this? Why is it so hard to show compassion for one another?

I want to leave you with a quote from my friend Janice, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Her daughter and one of my daughters became friends early in grade school and were best friends until we moved to Washington state four years ago. Her twins, now 17, are black and were adopted by Janice and her husband as babies. As a white parent raising black children she offered a unique perspective on my Facebook page last week when I posted a (much shorter) version of this blog post calling for compassion.

Thank you so much, Carl, for speaking truth and compassion. My son and daughter, who you know quite well, are deeply upset. When a 17 year old girl was treated with over the top brutality by Madison, WI, police my daughter became very upset and agitated. When I spoke to my son about the gentleman who was murdered by police officer in Minnesota, he said, “Mom, can we not talk about this now” as he turned his face and his eyes swelled up with tears. My twins have been experiencing this grief and fear on regular basis. They have been ignored, verbally called “n” word, followed in stores, gawked at, frowned at, not given food while waiting in line after ordering and more. The macro and micro agressions cause a human to be in a state of constant vigilance, increase anxiety, create emotional stress and more due to lack of safety and peace. Yes, they are humans with huge big hearts of compassion! They are giving, gentle, hard workers who do treat others with respect. However, when they walk out the door into “society”, they play a game with loaded dice. We need truth and reconciliation talks to really understand our history and the violence against black bodies. Perhaps readers of this thread would like to read, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Thank you again, Carl. It is very hard to turn toward this violence and actually see it for what it is. My 17 year old shared, “I think I will go to school here because I haven’t been shot yet.” The war against black bodies hasn’t ended. The slave codes allowed the beatings, rapes and murder. We as a society have much work to do. I’m open to suggestions as I’m blinded by grief.

So, I ask you, my dear readers, what are YOU going to do to help bring healing to our country? Are you willing to cultivate compassion in yourself and in your children? I know that I am and I hope that you are as well.

 

 

*****Here are some links to articles that I’ve found helpful in educating myself regarding Black Lives Matter and policing in the United States.*****

Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings

Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person

Solutions

The Problem with Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

See beyond “the police” for change…

The video of Alton Sterling’s son is the video you should watch

Adrian Perryman’s Video

http://www.blacklivesmatter.com

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-obama-memorialize-police-officers-killed-dallas-sniper/story?id=40488652

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Dining With A Homeless Man

If you’ve ever been to Seattle you’ve no doubt encountered one of the Emerald City’s biggest social challenges. Of course I’m referring to the homeless crisis. Recent data collected in late January estimates the current homeless population in King County to be well over 10,000, up 19% from last year

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(this graphic is from last year since the totals from the count on 1/29/16 were not released yet).

Like many major metropolitan areas in the United States, Seattle has tried to address this issue. In 2005 the city and county leaders annannounced a joint plan to eliminate homelessness in the area within 10 years. Unfortunately, the economy tanked and resources decreased while many people lost their jobs, driving up the need. (Check out these websites for much more information. 10 year plan and One Night Count) Anyone who visits Seattle has likely been approached by panhandlers or has at least seen people standing with signs asking for food, money or work. There are many tents visible underneath some of the overpasses and several homeless tent camps in the area. The most famous one is called the Jungle and was in the news last week because there was a shooting there that resulted in multiple homicides. Police believe that it was not a random attack and the investigation is ongoing. Sadly, the shooting took place while the Seattle mayor was making a speech about the homelessness problem facing the city.

My youngest three kids and I were in Seattle at that very time last week, having spent the afternoon at the Seattle Center, which is where the iconic Space Needle is located. We spent most of our time at either the Pacific Science Center or at the outdoor playground next to the EMP museum in the shadow of the Space Needle.

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Even though my kids, ages 11, 5 and 2, learned a lot of cool things in the science museum and had fun climbing at the playground, the most important lessons were learned when we stopped for lunch and dinner that afternoon. My kids had requested a lunch date at Pagliacci’s to get their amazing pizza. It’s pretty much become a tradition, if not an expectation, for us to eat there whenever we go to Seattle. It’s also located in an area that many homeless people frequent, hoping to cash in on the kindness of tourists. As we pulled in the parking lot near Pag’s I saw a man holding a sign indicating his need for help. As we walked past him I pulled my kids aside and asked them if they wanted to invite this homeless man to come inside the restaurant and share a pizza with us. They enthusiastically agreed and we turned around to extend our invitation. At first the man didn’t seem to understand our offer. But once he did, he eagerly picked up his small backpack to follow us up the block to the restaurant. I extended my hand to him and introduced myself and my three kids to him. Will (his name) smiled and walked along with us. I noticed people looking at us a little bit more than usual as we entered the restaurant and approached the cashier to order our food. As we sat down at our table Will started to sit at one next to ours. I invited him to sit with us as he was our guest. My ever talkative and outgoing 5 year old daughter took to him right away, trying to tell him about the fun she had playing Minecraft with her brother. She had taken to heart my admonition to treat him as just any other dinner guest. Over the next 30-45 minutes we chatted with Will and learned that he had been born in Norway, grew up in Texas and moved to Seattle to work on fishing boats, which had caused his knee injury that made him lose his job three years ago. He said he has a wife and four kids living in the San Diego area but didn’t really explain why he wasn’t living near them and I didn’t press the issue. He was polite, well mannered and soft spoken. As we parted ways after our meal ended I shook his hand again and wished him well.

Once we had returned to our car I asked my kids if they wanted to do that again on our next visit to Seattle and they all agreed that a repeat was in order. In fact, while we had been eating my 5 year old had tried to tell our new friend that he should come live with us because we have a nice home and “my daddy will make you whatever you want to eat”. I love her compassionate heart and generous spirit.

A few hours later it was time for dinner, and my kids wanted to grab burgers from another Seattle tradition, Dick’s Drive In. It’s located a block from Pagliacci’s and there are usually several people panhandling just outside the doors. In the past I have ordered extra food for them and this time was no exception. Just before I reached the door a man called out to me, asking if he could have my change on my way out. I asked if, instead, he would like anything to eat or drink. So, on my way back out to my car I gave him a hot chocolate and a handshake, during which I found out that his name is Greg. He and his buddy were together there in front of Dick’s, and while my kids and I ate in our van we watched the two men share whatever food they were given with one another.

While our actions will not solve the problem of homelessness in Seattle I would like to think that my children learned that homeless people are people, not just some problem or statistic that needs to be solved or moved somewhere else. Also, I want them to know that being kind to others doesn’t require a great deal of time or money. I think that it was also good for them (and me!) to hear that these people have families and hopes and dreams just like anyone else. I loved that this experience was so positive for them, particularly after they witnessed a scam artist in the parking lot when we were out shopping just a couple of weeks ago. Of the many values I hope to cultivate in my children, kindness and compassion for others are right near the top of my list.

Can You Help Me, Sir?

“Why did that crying lady talk to you, Daddy?”

Oh, the precious innocence of childhood. My five year old was sincere in her question after I had been approached in the parking lot after completing our purchases at Petsmart.

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(Photo found via Google search)

As my son (age 11), two daughters (5 and 2) and I neared our van a woman rushed up to me and through well-rehearsed gasps, sobs and tears, explained that she had just been released from jail and was desperately trying to get back home to Everett (a city north of Seattle, about an hour from where I was in Tacoma), but her car needed gas and she didn’t have any money. “Could you please help me out? That man over there (she gestured at someone) gave me $5. The police gave me a quarter (she opened her palm to show me the shiny coin). But I don’t want to get arrested for panhandling and go back to jail. Please, sir, anything would help.”

Thanks to my son’s maturity and good sense, my little kids had gotten into their car seats while this charade played out in the parking lot beside my van. I told the woman (truthfully) that I didn’t have any cash on me and before I could say anything more she walked off in the direction of some other people in the parking lot.

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Brazenly approaching her next target.

My kids have observed me helping out some of the plethora of people who panhandle in our area. They’re frequently standing at a busy intersection at the exit from that very shopping area (there’s also a Target, Hobby Lobby and a dozen other stores there) and at the end of exit ramps. On more than one occasion we have brought hot food and coffee to them. We’ve prepared bag lunches and had them in the van to give out during our excursions. Last year my oldest daughter wrote a song describing some memories she had of us helping homeless people and I blogged about it (read it here). Some might say I’m a sucker for trying to help those who appear to be in a rough spot. I’m guilty of giving a dollar or two to people at times because I choose to believe that people can actually be good and that it’s okay to try to be kind to others. I try to model compassion and kindness for others so my children will grow up with similar values and a willingness to help out others.

“But, Daddy, why didn’t you help her? Why didn’t you give her any money?” My sweet girl just wanted to help that woman. Unfortunately, I had to gently tell her the harsh reality that not all people are honest or trustworthy. In this particular case, this very same woman had approached me as I had returned to my car after shopping at Target with my 14 year old daughter and our exchange student. She told me the exact same story, only this most recent time had been more polished with emotion and tears and that shiny quarter. That previous time I had chosen to give her a couple of bucks (I told you I’m a sucker sometimes), even though red flags were there. I remember that I told her “God bless you”, wished her well and shook her hand. She seemed to be sincerely grateful and warmly returned my hand shake while I gave her the small amount of cash. I remember saying a quick prayer for her as I climbed into my van. After that exchange my 14 year old daughter and I talked about the issue of panhandlers and how there were multiple reports of people scamming and earning crazy amounts of money by playing off preying on the generosity, goodwill and kindness of strangers. Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me. I thought about confronting this scam artist and getting all up in her business. Maybe I would have if I hadn’t been in a time pinch to get my van from the repair shop before it closed in 20 minutes. It’s probably better that I just left it alone. I’m sure it wouldn’t have mattered to her or been the epiphany that turned her life around. I likely would’ve come off as just another sanctimonious white guy. In reality, I wasn’t really angry. Rather, I was filled with sadness for this woman who was essentially stealing from others. I don’t understand the mindset that one must have to choose this type of behavior, but, ultimately, I feel sorry for her. Still, the next time someone asks me for some help I’ll think about it. I’m less likely to reach into my pocket for any cash because of these kinds of experiences although I’m still willing to look for a meaningful way to help others. I wish there was some sort of happy ending to this story, a way that I could neatly wrap it in a bow that makes us all feel better. But that’s not the reality of this situation. Instead, I’m left with a heavy heart that I had to explain to my five year old that not all people tell the truth and that they are willing to lie to others to get some money. But, I’m glad that she could begin to learn that lesson in a safe environment with me to help her process it.

As we pulled away from our parking spot I noticed the woman walking across the parking lot toward her next Target. Literally and figuratively.

Whatyadoing, Dad?

Whatyadoing, Dad?

It was a simple and polite question from my 14 year old daughter that both broke the silence of the room and announced her arrival. My youngest daughters had been asleep for a while already and the older kids were in their rooms and I had the sofa, a laptop, and a quiet house at the same time, which meant that I might, finally, get to write a blog post that had been stirring around in my brain and my heart for a few weeks. Yet, here was my daughter, sitting on the sofa next to me, asking me what I was doing. IMG_3066So, I told her that I was (finally) going to write this blog post that would explain my disgust with the conservative governors, U.S. Presidential candidates and the House of Representatives about their response to Syrian refugees. I would neatly correlate that to how so many of them (conservatives) were the same people who responded with #AllLivesMatter whenever they saw #BlackLivesMatter, yet, here they were not acting like ALL lives mattered when given the opportunity to help out those in need. There was a definite NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) tenor to their nationalistic responses and calls for tighter border controls in the face of such an “imminent terrorist threat”. I had all sorts of links saved from articles that I’ve read over the last month or so. I was so ready for this blog.

I was really on a roll as I shared my thoughts with my daughter. This blog post was going to be really amazing if her reaction was any indication. She actually seemed interested in what I was saying and a pretty lively discussion ensued.

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Suspected Terrorist in Planned Parenthood shooting

We talked about the awful and tragic events in Colorado with the Planned Parenthood shooting and how, once again, the conservative Presidential candidates had trouble showing compassion for the situation and the people involved. We talked about America’s obsession with guns and the Second Amendment and how neither of us could imagine that the Founding Fathers could have possibly envisioned protecting the rights of average citizens to have high capacity automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons so that they could engage in terrorism against one another. Then our conversation came back to the Syrian refugees and the notion that ISIS or DAESCH (or whatever they’re called now) would be sneaking operatives into the United States among the refugees.

IMG_3065I mentioned that we should be far more afraid of angry white men going on shooting rampages in public places (schools, malls, hospitals/clinics) than terrorists. I also mentioned, again, how disappointed and disgusted I was at the number of people that I know personally who call themselves Christians yet are unwilling to extend a helping hand to these foreigners in their greatest times of need because they might be terrorists. I may or may not have gone on a small rant about the hypocrisy involved in that line of thinking.

 

As the conversation paused for a moment I noticed that we had been talking for about 45 minutes at that point. Then my daughter said something that was completely unexpected yet filled me with such immense joy. I’ll have to paraphrase it as I don’t recall her exact words.

Dad, I want to do something to help the refugees. I read that there’s an organization that is helping out kids and families that are fleeing Syria. I want to donate to them. Could you please take some of the money out of my savings account and do that?

Yes. So much YES! Here’s my 14 year old daughter, who had saved her hard-earned babysitting and allowance money, asking me to donate to help out others. As a parent, this is how I hope all of my kids will respond to the plight of others: compassion, love and action.

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Terrified child refugee

As we finished our conversation I realized that my long-winded blog post was going to have a much different ending than I had imagined in my brain 45 minutes earlier. So, here’s my new ending. Would you consider joining my amazing daughter by making a donation to help the Syrian refugees? If that doesn’t do it for you, then how about making a donation to a charity that helps veterans or homeless people right here in the United States? Please, just make sure that you actually do something. Make a difference.

Here’s a link to donate to the United Nations Refugee Agency efforts.

A Look In The Mirror

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Student/Blogger Felicia Czochanski

I was talking on the phone with my 20 year old daughter this morning and asked her what she thought about an idea I had for an upcoming blog. I told her about Felicia Czochanski, 20 year old, a junior at Fordham University in New York City who recently wrote an article for Cosmo magazine entitled “People Judge Me Because I’m Pretty“. Her main point was that she wants to be appreciated for more than just her looks and to be respected as a person for who she is and what she’s accomplished. I read the article and, like many of the commenters, thought that even though she had a decent message, she came across as pretty self-absobed and bratty. As you might expect, there has also been a very significant and unfortunate nasty backlash against this young woman, with far too many commenters crossing way over the line and attacking her in very inappropriate ways. When I read her article I thought that it would be pretty funny to write a parody of her post, calling attention to either my height or career choice as a Stay At Home Dad. I even got about half way through a draft. Here’s the first paragraph I had drafted.

I’m a Dadly Dad. I’m 6-foot-8 with blonde no hair, blue eyes, a Dad Bod, and six kids. You can typically find me in sandals and shorts and t-shirt. You can also find me glaring at cashiers and old ladies at the grocery store who feel compelled to call me “Mr. Mom” or that it’s clever to say, “Does Mom have the day off today?”. Cut to me dumping the rest of an icy cold Mountain Dew down my throat and putting on my biggest smiley face until I reach my destination.

So, I asked my daughter what she thought of my idea. Should I write about being judged for being tall or for being a SAHD? She paused for a few moments. “Dad, can I be honest with you? I don’t think that you should write it at all. You don’t understand what it’s like to constantly get stared at and catcalled because you’re pretty. I don’t think you should write it even if you’re not bashing her. She’s getting enough harsh responses already. Even if what you write is funny, would it be kind and uplifting to her if she were to read it?”.

I love the fact that my daughter had both the conviction and courage to be honest with me at that moment. That was a perspective that I really hadn’t considered in response to this young woman’s story. It made me sad to think that I was so close to possibly contributing to the public backlash against this lady without even knowing it. But, it also made me proud that my daughter would call me out on it in such a loving and respectful manner. (She must have some amazing parents!) Seriously, though, it makes me really consider what I think, say and do. Immediately a favorite verse (Philippians 4:8) came to mind:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

I’m going to try to use this brief look in the mirror as motivation to refocus my energies and efforts on lifting others up and encouraging them. Life is hard enough and I’m sure we would all benefit from the unexpected kindness of others, even when we don’t deserve or expect it. If I want my own children to be compassionate, kind and considerate human beings then I need to make sure that they see and hear that being modeled consistently at home. I’m pretty sure that my daughter knew that truth when she shared with me her honest opinion on the phone earlier today. I hope that I can continue to be the positive change that I want to see in the world. As for me, I’m going to reach out to Miss Czochanski and try to encourage her to ignore the nasty people and embrace her inner beauty.

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I’m a Christian and I love gay people.

My name is Carl. I am a Christian. And I love gay people.

gay-marriage-imageIt’s been almost 48 hours since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. Unless you live under a rock you’ve heard the news and have been able to read all about it. If you’re like me you have many friends who changed their profile pictures on Facebook to show that they’re celebrating this victory. I also have friends who are angry and upset by this ruling. This post isn’t about trying to convince anyone about gay marriage or the constitutionality of it in the United States. If you’re looking to pick a fight about either of those topics it’s not going to happen here. (I will delete offensive comments should anyone leave one here.) 1425699888986This post is a reaction and response to the many articles that I’ve read over the last couple of days which were authored by people who identify themselves as Christians and are against gay marriage. As a Stay At Home Dad I’ve been able to have some great conversations with my two teenage daughters about this topic as they’ve matured and begun to understand the complexity of this issue.

First of all, let me state that I am a Christian. I don’t hide that fact. I’ve been a follower of Christ since I was able to make that decision for myself as a 5 or 6 year old child. It’s an integral part of who I am. I am not ashamed of it nor do I blast it in others’ faces. I am not the “Christian right” or the 700 Club/Pat Robertson or Duck Dynasty or the Duggars. I am me. There are many times that I have been saddened by the actions of people who identify themselves as Christians because it seems as though their actions are not very Christ-like. While I cannot know their hearts I can see what kind of an impact their actions are having on their witnesses. As a father, I am acutely aware of how my actions must match my words when I’m interacting with my children as my actions speak so much louder than my words. This holds true for all of us, whether we identify as a Christian or not. My word or my reputation is only good if my actions back it up. If I claim to be a Christ follower then I should speak and act like one, right?

This is where I have a huge issue with the “Christian” responses to the SCOTUS decision that I’ve read the last few days. There seems to be a lot of energy and effort being put into fighting for the sanctity of marriage as one man and one woman. I’m reading about how the Bible condemns all gays because of this verse or that verse in the Old and New Testaments. Gay marriage is an abomination. Gays are going to hell. I’m in tears reading this judgemental garbage and hatespeak disguised as speaking the truth in love. Seriously. The Christian right LOVES to tell others just how right they are while missing a pretty big point. Their message is being lost because the very people they’re judging don’t care about what the Bible says. Moreover, the tone of the message is not one of compassion or love. It’s one of condemnation, judgement and condescension. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually like being on either end of such conversations. I feel like we as Christians have a great opportunity to show love to others here instead of hate and judgement. Christians love to throw around Bible verses to prove their points about the evils of homosexuality but seem to overlook the numerous verses that instruct us to not judge others and to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice…be kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians 4:29-32)

WHOA! What? Where is the instruction to judge and tell others that they’re going to hell because of their sexual orientation? As a dad, husband, and man, I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that as a Christ follower, the person that I follow and try to be like, in both my words and my actions, is Jesus, my role model. When the religious rulers of his time tried to trick him by asking him what was the greatest commandment, his response was twofold. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40) It’s worth noting that there was nothing in his response about judging others. It was about loving God and loving others. In fact, Jesus had already spoken at length with his followers about NOT judging others because we are all guilty of sin and it’s hypocritical to point out the sin in others when we’re full of it ourselves.

That’s my second big beef with the “Christian” response to the SCOTUS ruling. Why or how does this ruling really affect the sin that is rampant within the church today? While Christians are busy judging others they’re overlooking the fact that there is a lot of sin happening that they’re not protesting. I could list all of the sins that the Bible talks about but that’s not the point. If Christians put just a fraction of the energy and efforts being expended now into an inward look they would see that there is a huge problem within the church community in areas like gossip, divorce, pornography, adultery, vulgarity, gluttony, lying, cheating, stealing and so on. The fact is that we’re all sinners. God doesn’t look at sins on a weighted scale. Sin is sin is sin. But we Christians love to look down our noses at others and smugly think to ourselves “I’m not as bad as him. I didn’t cheat on my wife.” Yet, how guilty would we be if our internet history or Netflix queues were made public? I have a hard time trying to tell others that they’re terrible people just because their sin is different than mine. We’re all sinners. And, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for all of us. We need to get over ourselves and thank God for his grace and mercy instead of judging others.

Finally, I love gay people. I love gay people because I believe that God made all people in His image and therefore they deserve my love. I’m no better than anyone else. I might be different and I might sin differently, but that’s not the point. I don’t have to agree with someone’s politics or beliefs to be kind and compassionate to that person. In fact, showing kindness and compassion to people who are unlike me is a way to put my faith into action. What good is my faith in God if it doesn’t influence how I behave 24/7/365? It’s not just a thing I do on Sunday morning from 10:00-11:15 am. My wife has an aunt who is gay. I’ve been married to my wife for over 22 years now and I can say that Aunt Eileen is one of the kindest and most compassionate people that I know.

Promise Keepers "Stand In The Gap" Rally, 10/4/1997

Promise Keepers “Stand In The Gap” Rally, 10/4/1997

She is generous with her time and money and love. When she lived near Washington, D.C., she allowed me (and 3-4 friends) to crash at her place in Maryland before and after we attended an evangelical rally on the Capitol Mall in October of 1997. Even though our beliefs were not exactly the same she and her partner chose to open their home to us, feed us and even bought Metro tickets for us before we arrived to make our travels easier the next day. I wonder how many Christians would lovingly open their houses up for a relative (and guests) who wanted to attend a GAY PRIDE event in a nearby city? Oh, she even socialized with us after we returned from the event, grilled some steaks for dinner and made sure we could watch ESPN. Yet, somehow, she managed to not lecture us about how our beliefs were wrong because they were different than hers. It’s really not that hard to treat other people with love and kindness and compassion.

In conclusion, as I’ve discussed this with my daughters and written about here, I’m disgusted with the very un-Christlike judgement and hate being spewed by people who call themselves Christians upon hearing of the SCOTUS decision about gay marriage. I’m sure that the enemy (Satan, not supporters of gay marriage) loves to see such divisive and angry comments being posted in social media sites all over the web. I don’t see how this ruling affects my calling to love God and love others in any way. My faith isn’t in the United States government or its ability to decide about gay marriage. My faith is, and always has been, in God. His grace and forgiveness grant my salvation and it’s more than enough for me. I know that I’m not perfect and yet I hope that others will know me as a man, husband, father and follower of Christ for the person that I am by my “fruits” of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. (Galations 5:22-23)

****I would love to hear your thoughts about what I’ve written here. This is certainly a departure from my “normal” blog posts but it’s something that has been weighing heavily on my heart for a while, even before the SCOTUS ruling. Please keep your comments positive and constructive. If you liked this please share it with others. Thanks, Carl****

Five Photos, Five Stories. Day Five: Prom

I was recently nominated by my fellow Stay At Home Dad and Dad Blogger friend R.C., who writes at Going Dad, to participate in a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories, in which I post a photo and story (fiction or non-fiction) daily for five consecutive days. (Note: I had good intentions to do a post on five consecutive days but I chose time with my kids and sleep over blogging. And I’m okay with that.) It sounded like something that would be a fun to share with my loyal readers here on my blog.

Day Five: Prom

I really enjoy seeing when my kids show true kindness and compassion simply because they know it’s the right thing to do. My daughter E, whose water polo exploits were documented on my blog first in March and then a few days ago, put this into action a couple of weeks ago when she went to prom.

Ready to dance

Ready to dance

But this isn’t some romantic story of first love; nope, not at all. This is a story of friendship and being there for a friend in a moment of need. E, a sophomore, and her friend, C, a senior, bonded over their shared love of water polo. While they didn’t really hang out in real life outside of water polo they managed to become pretty good friends thanks to the long practices and social media. C had been planning to attend prom with a few other girls but her plans fell through just days before the event. E told me about her friend’s disappointment after water polo practice that day and she wanted to know if it would be okay to offer to be C’s “date” for the event so that she wouldn’t have to be alone for her prom. Of course I supported E and I told her how pleased I was that she would do that for her friend. It would’ve been easy for her to blow it off without trying to actually do anything to help out her friend. Instead, she stepped up and put her words into actions. Even though the two of them looked beautiful on the outside, I was more taken with their inner beauty; that which comes from the kindness and compassion within one’s soul.

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”
Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

I enjoy catching my kids doing something good and recognizing them both privately and publicly for it. Even more, I love seeing them grow into people who do not need to be told to do the next right thing…they just do it.