Sunday, December 9, 2018

Time of the Year: THE HOLIDAYS

The holidays: two words that invoke a large variety of emotions ... joy, frustration, anger, sadness, depression.  What is it about this time of year that brings out such a range of emotions?  Certainly, the holidays themselves during this time do not represent that variety.  Thanksgiving is a joyful occasion.  Both Christmas and Hanukkah have joy and wonder at their respective cores.  While Kwanzaa represents reflection and purpose, it is still a joyful celebration of African-American heritage.  Finally, New Year's Day is celebrating the start of a new year, something to be celebrated with the promise of what lies ahead.  So, from where does all that other stuff people feel come?

For many, the joy is there, ready to go, all one needs do is plug into it.  The frustration and anger clearly come from the hectic nature of all the stuff we have to do ... and, dammit, all those other people doing their stuff at the same time!  Certainly, the hyper-commercialized nature of the holidays contributes to the anger and frustration.  The soulless and anti-family force-feeding of the holiday shopping season to an earlier and earlier time each year extends that anger and frustration, further sullying the season.

All of the above items are external, easily seen, even if we wish they weren't so obvious, as with anger and frustration.  What about those things that are internal, those feelings that are far too often left unspoken or ignored?  While sadness and depression are not confined to one time of the year, the holidays provide fertile soil for the seeds of sadness and depression to bloom.

While sadness is something we all experience at various times and is normal, depression is an entirely different thing.  Sadness, at this time of year, may stem from the loss of a loved one or someone simply unable to make to a celebration, or oneself unable to make a celebration.  Many people who do not understand depression view it similarly to how migraines are often viewed as just a headache.  Interjections like Why can't you just get over it? and You just want attention are often the bug spray haphazardly spewed at those suffering from depression as though they are some sort of infestation.  Those suffering with depression don't often feel like joining in as it is, but shaming them only serves to make it worse.

Even though all of the holidays have joy inherent in them, it is that very thing that often makes those who suffer from depression feel even worse.  It is not a case where they want everyone else to be depressed, too, as the bug spray mentioned above often suggests.  They do not want anyone to be depressed, including themselves, but they often see their situation as unsolvable or requiring something that would be extremely difficult to attain ... or they simply see their situation in terms of It is what it is and there is nothing to be done.

While they may be surrounded by people who are regularly happy, or at least showing little to no discontent, the holidays, with the joy they bring and all they represent, can be a heavy (or heavier-than-usual) burden.  Again, it is not their wish that everyone has a terrible holiday season.  They simply want the burden to end.  This is not anyone's fault.  It is not an argument of banishing the holidays.  It is what they feel and if they could snap their fingers and make it go away, they would.

There is also a feeling of being alone and, as we usually see "alone" as merely the absence of others, being surrounded by people is only sometimes a curative and, many times, a short-term curative.  It is possible to have people around you (i.e. family, friends, co-workers, fellow students) and, while not actually all alone, still feel all alone.  The holidays, with their various abundances of others, and those same others who are more plugged into the season, combine for a difficult tine of the year.

What can we do?  Going around and asking everyone if they're depressed is not constructive, and will be seen as odd by most, and asking the same person(s) that same question over and over again will become more annoying than helpful.  This is not to say that believing each person needs to deal with their problems is mistaken.  Still, we need to be more compassionate.  Doing what you can to be as caring and inclusive as possible is the right approach.

Simply taking notice is a great first step, and one that most people miss.  It is so easy to let the joy and revelry of the season wash over you, and there is nothing wrong with that, just as it is so easy to let frustration overwhelm you.  Taking notice of someone who seems more down than usual, or that someone isn't coming out to as many parties or functions as they used you, is the first step.  Then, approach them.  Do your best to be conversational and open -- if you're friends already, this should come easily -- and talk about something, anything.  If you want to be more direct, eventually ask them if they're doing okay; don't just blurt out the question right away.  The person may want to keep what they're feeling secret, so the answer may be Yes.  Just let it be.  Remember, you are approaching, not confronting.  You cannot force someone out of depression -- it is not a case of boredom -- so do not try.

Let them know that you noticed they seem kind of down, or really down, or down more often lately or you've taken notice they're not around as much as they used to be.  This may make the person feel like they need to "circle the wagons" even more because they are already dealing with a broken spirit of their own ... or it may be the first crack of light that gets them to open up and confide in someone else.  Let them absorb what you say in the manner they will.  Offer a sympathetic ear because no one else may have done so yet.  Keep in mind that, when it comes to help, "offering" and "forcing" are two entirely different things which will bring about entirely different results.

At this time of year, we often hear of "the Christmas spirit".  While the Christmas spirit may cause one to do certain things, buying something being one of those things, it is not tangible.  You cannot go to a store or to a website and buy the Christmas spirit.  (If I could, I would order it in bulk and have it shipped to everyone on Earth.)  Many find it difficult to get into the spirit -- and this may be as much being fed up with the craziness as it can be depression -- and there is nothing wrong with the simple wish for others to be in the spirit as well.

For some of us, it is harder to get into the Christmas spirit because our own spirit is broken or hurting.  Solely sharing in the joy is not the only means of living out the Christmas spirit, but showing compassion to those who are suffering more at this time of year is, too.

Terry

Monday, December 3, 2018

Word of the Day: VIOLATED

Days ago, a story came out of Minneapolis that is truly disturbing.  It occurred at Osseo Senior High School and involves a transgender female student.  The part of the story that is in dispute at this point is whether or not the student was banned from using the girls' bathroom.  The student says she was; the principal and school board says she wasn't.

A video recorded by the student was posted online.  The retweet of the video (shown below) was posted by someone other than the student.

On the school's website, a posting from the principal, Michael Lehan, addressed the situation.

        Principal's Message to Families Regarding Nov. 28 Incident
        
        Dear Osseo Senior High families:
        
        I am aware of social media posts that significantly misrepresent an incident that
        occurred at school on Nov. 28. It’s important for you to know that no students
        were barred or banned from using any bathroom at Osseo Senior High.

        
        I sincerely wish I could say more, but for data privacy reasons, I cannot provide
        details about a situation involving a specific student.

        
        What I hope you already know is that we work every day to create an inclusive
        school where students feel welcome and respected. Our staff regularly works
        with individual students and families who have varying needs, including needs
        related to identity.

        
        I also want to assure you that staff intervenes in the use of restrooms only in
        situations such as the following: 

     
        •  Concern about the safety of students, staff or community members
        •  Illness or health-related issues
        •  Suspected illegal activity
     
        Respectfully,
        Michael Lehan
        Principal
        Osseo Senior High


Principal Lehan is trying to address a serious situation, but his response, while not terrible, doesn't fully address the situation.  Let's look at what points Principal Lehan makes in his online message.

He mentions no students were banned from using any bathroom at the school.  As I've mentioned, the student herself disputes that.  He gives data privacy as his reason for not going into any further detail.  This may be due to either not divulging the identity of an underage student or, in light of the school board and school district making no other comment, to not divulge the names of the adults who entered the bathroom.  While understandable in the case of the student, why keep the adults' identities quiet if they were presumably acting properly?

Principal Lehan goes on to mention their work to make Osseo Senior High School inclusive, welcoming, and respectful, even working with those with needs, including identity.  It might be important to note here that Osseo School District is no stranger to controversy regarding LGBT issues.  Thirteen years ago, a student group, Straights and Gays for Equality (SAGE), was not allowed at the Maple Grove Senior School (a school in the same district as Osseo Senior High) to freely promote their events.  The group complained that other groups (i.e. synchronized swimming team, cheerleading squad, and Black Achievers group) could promote their events, but not them.

The school district initially said the other groups were allowed to promote their events, including announcements over the school's public address system, and allowed access to the school's facilities because those groups were viewed as curricular activities.  Lawyers for SAGE (including some parents) disagreed and argued those groups were not connected to, or stemmed from, any particular classes.  A lawsuit was filed by the ACLU in 2005 on behalf of SAGE, claiming the school violated the federal Equal Access Act.  The presiding district judge ruled in favor of SAGE and issued a temporary restraining order against the school the following year.

The Osseo School District filed appeals against the injunction, but were unsuccessful every time.  In the Fall of 2007, a permanent injunction was issued, giving SAGE the same rights of promoting and equal access as other groups throughout the entire school district.

While the SAGE fiasco more than a decade ago and the current issue of this transgender student may or may not be the only issues the district has had on its hands, how this student was treated is nothing short of disgraceful.  If Principal Lehan is correct, exactly how is what happened to this student showing inclusiveness?  I would hardly call this treatment welcoming, rather more along the lines of the antithesis of respectful.

And is this occurrence an example of working with this student to address her needs?  Hardly.  What this showed is that this student's needs, at least on this day, fell somewhere in the spectrum between irrelevant and non-existent.

Per the principal's online message, what threat did this transgender student pose by going to the bathroom?  An olfactory offense?  She did not appear to be sick or unhealthy in any way, so is her going to the bathroom going to make anyone else sick?  (Maybe if she had a cold and touched a lot of common areas, like handles and knobs, or coughed without covering her mouth.)  Also, what law did she break?

And what warranted having three adults enter the girls' bathroom, two of whom were male, and open the door to the stall she was in?  Seriously, what??!!!!

I realize that transgender public bathroom access is a huge national issue.  Transgender people are people and, as such, they have to go to the bathroom just like anyone else.  Overzealous arguments against equal access have an inherent presumption of a lower moral character on the part of the transgender individual.  If you looked, I'll bet that the vast majority of those who commit such acts are not transgender persons (called, as of late, cisgender).  Whenever I hear arguments about soliciting sex in bathrooms (public lewdness), my answer is always four words: Former Senator Larry Craig.

If you would like to let Principal Michael Lehan know your feelings on this, here is the contact information:
His E-mail address is lehanm@district279.org
The high school's phone number is 763-391-8500, and its fax number is 763-391-8511. 

If you would like to let The Osseo School District ISD 279 know your feelings on this, here is the contact information:
Its phone number is 763-391-7000
Its E-mail address is WeListen@district279.org

Terry

Monday, October 29, 2018

Term of the Day: HEALTHCARELESS

A very dear friend of mine died today.

I am both saddened and angered.  The grief and anger I feel at this loss run neck and neck for first place in my mind.

It is no secret that health care in the United States is a mess.  (That is being generous.)  Not only are things such as out-of-reach pricing of medications and the amount of red tape one has to sift through contributing to this epidemic -- use of the word "epidemic" here is not simply for irony -- but actual hands-on, person-to-person health care is shameful.  Lest anyone thinks my broad brush is standing at the ready, allow me to say that there are many health care professionals who do, indeed, function professionally.  An unfortunate side effect is those individuals tend to get overlooked.  It is not surprising, given the multitude of horror stories, but there are fine men and women who do understand that health care is not simply the banner under which their job lies.  Those professionals should be lifted up as exemplars.

As you have guessed, my focus today is on those whose jobs fall under the banner of health care, but their performance is clearly health careless ... even health couldn't-care-less.

My focus will be on one person, my friend who died.  His name is Ed, and he and his husband Bud have been dear friends of mine for twelve years.  Ed was a good man.  Those who would dismiss him as anything but, simply because he was gay, are missing the point.  He worked as an elementary school teacher for several years, and he was beloved.  People who he had taught decades earlier when they were children still had high praise for Ed all these years later.  He was heavily involved in local theatre for many years, working in front of the footlights and behind the scenes.  (He and I met that way.  He was working stage crew for a show I was in, and would direct me in a show the following year.)  He did everything most people do ... get dressed and go to work, pay bills, and argued and had wonderful times with his spouse, etc.  He and Bud had been together for nearly forty years.  They had a civil union several years ago and later got married when it was made legal here in New Jersey.  Ed died just three days shy of his and Bud's fifth wedding anniversary.  He was not evil or mean-spirited and was one of the kindest persons I have ever known. 

Ed's health had taken a huge turn for the worse in the past four months, but his problems began nine years ago.  How bad has his condition become?  It started with: you do have cancer, you don't have cancer, you do have cancer, you don't have cancer.  And that was the start of all this!  Add to that whether or not his prostate should be removed during all that back-and-forth.  (It was removed.)  Go from that to his primary care physician telling him, when he said he was experiencing chills quite frequently, to have a cup of tea.  Then, try a kidney infection that kept returning over the past nine years and has never, to my knowledge, been treated properly with medication (i.e. too low of a dosage, wrong kind of antibiotic).  And the different kinds of chemotherapy have been a real rollercoaster for Ed.  (More on that later.)

All of that has been the bulk of the past nine years.  Now, let us move on to the past four months.  I visited with Ed and Bud on a Thursday.  The next day, Ed was in the hospital.  We had gone to lunch at a very nice Chinese restaurant near them, so we joked about not eating Chinese food again.  It turned out it was a kidney infection yet again!  Then, they thought he had sepsis, which can be caused by a kidney infection, and were treating that.  Ed had become weak and needed to go to a rehab facility, since their home has (aside from the stairs to go upstairs) one or two steps between each room on the first floor.  The first facility Ed went to was terrible.  Ed was neglected by a staff mostly comprised of health couldn't-care-less individuals, including one example of an attendant coming in to take his dinner tray away.  Only, he had never been given one in the first place.

Let me stop and inject here that Ed had had lap gastric banding surgery (rubberband around the stomach) a few years ago because he was very overweight.  He would eat far, far less than he did prior.  He would be hungry, sometimes snacking between meals, but he could not eat the amount of food he could before the surgery.  He had lost a lot of weight, to where I would joke Hey, who's this guy?, and looked really good prior to all of this happening.  Sadly, and unexpectedly, that initial weight loss might have factored into the past few months.

Ed's second visit to the hospital turned up nothing of major consequence, but the staff was not giving him oxygen during physical therapy (which his paperwork stated he needed) and simply giving up when Ed said he was out of breath and getting lightheaded, which was not long after he stood up.  Since one of the side effects of chemotherapy is making the patient weak, Ed was taken off of his treatments in order to give his body a rest from it and the chance to have more energy to work on building up his strength.  (In fact, the last chemo treatment Ed was on was an "old version" of treatments that is very harsh ... and likely not used anymore due to its harshness.)  My fear, which I never told Ed or Bud, was, if Ed took too long to get his strength back and thus ended up being off the chemo for too long, it could allow the cancer to rear its ugly head again and cause even more problems.

Ed's second rehab facility, which he entered before his second hospital stay, appeared better for only a short while.  A tube in Ed for his urine bag had come out -- Ed said he never felt it and didn't know it had come out -- and the overnight nurse called Bud around 6:30 in the morning to ask him if he'd transport Ed from the facility to the hospital.  (Bud said her tone was very unpleasant when she had to resign herself to calling for a transport herself.)  That same nurse never notified a doctor to come in to see Ed at the facility for an evaluation.  Additionally, the social worker kept running things they would be doing by Bud, when Ed was fully alert and aware of everything going on around him.  Not that Bud should not have known, but sometimes she would tell Bud about things and not Ed.

A few more stays at the hospital revealed that Ed had contracted clostridium difficile colitis, or C. Diff, which can cause anything from diarrhea (which Ed had) to inflammation of the colon that can be life-threatening.  Ed was put on an antibiotic to treat it.

At his third rehab facility -- reminder: this is all in the span of just four months -- things improved only slightly, even with the facility being the best of the three as far as the level of care given.  If you remember, I mentioned about Ed's rubberband around the stomach surgery and his eating less.  All during the past three months, Ed's appetite had dropped off considerably.  He wavered among not being hungry to the "metallic" taste of food from the chemo to just not feeling like eating.  Clearly, depression was a huge factor most of this time.  As a result, he had withered down to just a shell of his healthier, thinner former self.

One mark against this third facility, however, was, at one point, saying they thought Ed might have pneumonia.  They put him on antibiotic for that ... while still taking the antibiotic for C. Diff.   Taking two antibiotics at the same time can be done, but it can be a tricky proposition, too.  They determined that he did not have pneumonia after all, without saying if it was a bad cold or the flu or whatever ... simply "not pneumonia".) 

On yet another trip to the hospital -- I'd lost track at this point, but I think it was his seventh visit -- they decided two antibiotics at once on an already weakened body was too much, so they took him off both.  By this time, they said that his C. Diff. had cleared up.  They also noticed a dark spot on his liver, which they thought was his cancer spreading.  I thought my fear of it coming back when the focus was on all of his other problems had come true.  Ed's primary care physician looked at the scans and said that his liver did not show cancer.  His physician was finally getting some major things in order, like he had said he would, and was arranging for Ed to be treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland.  Ed went back to the rehab facility to await that next step in his treatment.

Two days later, I spoke with Bud on the phone who said he was told that Ed was too far gone to recover and he was coming home that day with hospice.  Add to this, a home nursing company, Bayada Nurses, had Bud running around to different pharmacies to get some oral morphine for Ed, including suggesting he go to a pharmacy thirty miles away.  During a heated discussion about this running around, Bud was told, "Well, you should have just let him die." 

Less than forty-eight hours after coming home, Ed was gone.

It is not just ridiculously long wait times at doctors' offices and hospital emergency rooms.  It is not just the greed from charging exorbitantly high prices for medications and procedures.  It is not just the unnecessary tug-of-war in Congress over healthcare in America.  All of those things are not footnotes, and they certainly contribute enormously to the sad state of healthcare in this country.  Not to mention for every time I have heard someone complain, I've also heard someone say, "Well, that's just the way it is."  A huge shift for the better is sorely overdue.

This, however, is where the toughest change needs to occur:  When you have a culture that views old(er) people as disposable, unimportant, and even a waste of time and resources, and from among those numbers, people enter into the healthcare profession -- not everyone, as I have stated, holds that view, but that is still the overall culture they're drawing from --  you are going to run into people who will act accordingly.  Where you come from affects where you are.  No one should ever be treated (or should I say "treated") in the manner Ed was.  I mentioned too many times to Ed and Bud and many of my friends that Ed needed at least a majority of people who were working to get him home healthy, at least healthier, but he did not have that majority on his side.  Ed did come home, but not the way he should have.

A very dear friend of mine died today.

He did not have to.

Terry

Friday, October 26, 2018

Phrase of the Day: YOU ARE SAFE NOW

Today, a young man who was killed simply for being gay was laid to rest today.  His name is known around the world ... Matthew Shepard.  He was murdered on October 12, 1998, in Colorado, left to die, tied to a fence. 

You may ask why it has been two decades since his murder that his remains are finally being laid to rest.  Quite simply, his parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, were unable to find a final resting place that was safe enough or suitable enough. 

He was laid to rest today at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Below, is a video of the entire interment service held earlier today.  The sermon is delivered by The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, who is the retired bishop of the state of New Hampshire.  He was also the first openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church.



Terry

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Phrase of the Day: FULLY HUMAN, FULLY DIVINE [REVISITING 'THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST' ON THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF ITS RELEASE]


Today, I am revisiting a major motion picture that was originally released thirty years ago today.  It is a film that was not only deeply moving to watch, but also was a profound religious experience.  It is also a film that had many critics, too.  The film is Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, The Last Temptation of Christ, based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, which was first published in 1955 and later in English in 1960.


The film opens with Willem Dafoe, in the title character of Jesus, sleeping on the ground.  We hear him in a voice over:
        "The feeling begins.  Very tender.  Very loving.  Then the pain starts.  Claws slip
        underneath the skin and tear their way up.  Just before they reach my eyes, they
        dig in.  Then I remember."
 


He gets up.  The scene shifts, with Jesus now involved in making something out of wood, and his voice over continues:
        "First I fasted for three nights.  I even whipped myself before I went to sleep.  At
        first it worked.  Then the pain came back.  And the voices  They call me by name.
        Jesus."


At first we do not know what this Jesus is making.  It is only when he places the piece of wood he was working on, horizontally on two pegs roughly chest level and leans up against it that we realize what it is ... the cross piece for a crucifixion cross.

Wait ... he's making what?!  He's making what?!

It is when Judas suddenly enters where Jesus is working and strongly criticizes what Jesus is doing that Jesus, pleadingly, says that he is struggling.  When Judas wants Jesus to join him to rise up against the Romans, Jesus tells him that is not the way the Messiah will come.  When Judas asks him how will he pay for his sins -- "a Jew killing Jews" -- Jesus simply answers, "With my life.  That's all I have."  And so, the stage is set.  Not exactly the stuff of the Gospels.

That is part of Kazantzakis' point.  As noted in the opening scroll in the film...
The struggle between spirit and flesh (or between mortal human and immortality) is a very real one, examined by many over millennia, and Kazantzakis employs the ultimate subject in his novel, Jesus.  What many did not get is that this was merely a fictional rendering of Jesus' passion story, and not one to replace the Gospels.  Kazantzakis teases this out further in the first sentence of the prologue of his book:
        "The dual substance of Christ -- the yearning, so human, so superhuman, of man
        to attain to God or, more exactly, to return to God and identify himself with him
        -- has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me."

The other point is that Jesus' nature, in Christian teachings, was both fully human and fully divine.  Not fully human only.  Not fully divine only.  Not either nature with a majority.  Kazantzakis' novel and Scorsese's film simply give more emphasis -- not sole emphasis, simply more emphasis -- on Jesus' human nature.

Most depictions of Jesus in film do not give as much attention to Jesus' human nature.  Here, with more emphasis on Jesus' human side, we can see the struggle the man, the human being had with what he was being called to do.  At no point in the film does Dafoe's Jesus say God isn't real or God isn't his father.  Rather, it shows someone who believes in God -- even posing the question "You can't cast out God, can you?" -- being called to do something frightening and seemingly insurmountable.

If any of us were asked to do what Jesus did, would we all simply charge ahead, never questioning, never doubting ourselves (or even God)?  For those who theologically are not able to accept a Jesus who doubts and questions God, Jesus' exhortation on the cross -- "Father, why have you forsaken me?" -- shows, even at the end, his human nature remained intact.

There are points throughout the film that many religious individuals will be unable to accept.  My point, as one voice regarding the film, is not to criticize you and neither is it the point of the film or the novel.  While controversial, the film's idea is that the journey is just as important as the destination.  You may not want to "go there", but I would offer that religious teachings about Jesus aren't only about his crucifixion, either.

There are many things about which Christians have complained about in the film (and no doubt there will be more), so I will start right off looking at them.  Please keep in mind, this is not a complete list of what Christians have complained about in the film.

At one point, Jesus says -- and no, this is not in the Gospels -- "God loves me.  I know he does.  I want him to stop."  He says this because the physical pain he feels is too much for him, not because he is a non-believer or a prodigy of Satan.  He simply wants his pain to end.

A possible relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is suggested early in the film.  When Jesus visits her at her place of business and speaks with her, Mary condemns both Jesus and God, saying, "He took you away from me."  Jesus tells her to blame him, not God.  Jesus having any kind of romantic involvement with anyone, let alone a prostitute, has been rejected countless times.  For me, Jesus having any romantic relationship is irrelevant, for what does his being in a relationship do to his message?  My answer remains to this day: nothing.

During his journey out into the desert, he tells a villager he has sins.  The villager replies everyone does.   Even though Jesus says he doesn't fight, steal, or kill, he does say that he is a liar and a hypocrite.  This is another huge sticking point because, in Christian teachings, Jesus was without sin.  How can this be so?  He says it with a straight face, but is he saying that to convince the villager or to convince himself? 

He further tells the villager that his God is fear.  This is insight into the man.  He won't do certain things out of fear of God.  Many people behave certain ways out of fear.  (And yes, we still do many things out of fear, not just of God, but of many things.  Fear remains a great motivator.)   

Lastly, he tells the villager that Lucifer is inside of him, telling him he's the son of God.  Here, Jesus shows his unwillingness to accept his destiny.  And yet, it is this villager who is the first person in the film to recognize that Jesus is chosen by God.

The film slowly unfolds the ministry of Jesus and just before it, going from rebelling to simple confusion to acceptance.  A visual parallel is a montage showing Jesus walking with his followers, with the number of people with him growing and growing.  That unfolding represents what any human being would go through to fulfill such a destiny. 

We see Jesus in the desert being tempted three times, and at the end of the third temptation, the devil says they will meet again, and they do ... and it's a whopper.

The final act begins when Jesus, nailed the cross, in great pain, cries out, "Father, why have you forsaken me?"  (A key point to remember here is that this is the exact moment, when Jesus feels that God has abandoned him, that the devil -- who Jesus does not recognize as the devil -- puts his grandest scheme into effect.)

Suddenly, there is no sound.  Jesus sees a young girl looking up at him.  She tells him she is an angel and that he is not the Messiah after all.  She takes him down from the cross and shows him a new path.  Jesus gets married to Mary Magdalene (further suggesting they were involved once).  Magdalene dies and the angel tells Jesus that God killed her.  The angel focuses Jesus' attention to Lazarus' sister, Mary, and they start a family together.    

In what might seem like a science fiction sequence about alternate or parallel timelines, we see an older Jesus walking home with his family when he hears someone preaching.  The one preaching is Paul (formerly Saul).  He preaches the story of Jesus as how it would be recorded in the Gospels.  Jesus confronts him and calls him a liar, saying he didn't die on the cross.  Paul reiterates that the Jesus about whom he is preaching did die on the cross. 

We then see Jesus, now much, much older.  He is startled by people screaming that Jerusalem is on fire, just as he predicted, and the Romans are killing everyone.  The scene switches to Jesus lying on his death bed.  He is visited by a few of his disciples, including Judas, who is extremely upset with him since he and the disciples did what they were supposed to do, but Jesus did not.  Once Jesus realizes what has happened, without hesitating, he crawls outside, looks up, begs for forgiveness from God.  However, time is of the essence, since dying as a mere man simply from old age would deny God's salvation.  He pleads with God and is returned to the cross. 

"It is accomplished."

Let me reiterate my belief that a married Jesus with a family takes nothing away from his message.  The key factor here is that, when offered a life without the struggle he had with God, Jesus accepted, but when shown that the life as merely a man has been a lie, he immediately embraces what was his destiny all along.  That is a powerful message.

Seeing a more human Jesus in this film, as opposed to other celluloid depictions of him, made him more real for me.  Instead of his humanity being portrayed as a coincidence -- no denial of his walking, talking, preaching, and dying intended -- his humanity being portrayed as equally important makes his death on the cross even sadder and more relatable.  If the Son of God lived as a man among us and felt things as we do, such as fear, anger, confusion -- none of which are sins, thus keeping his lived-without-sin existence intact -- then the depiction of Jesus in this film enriches the nature of Jesus as both fully human and fully divine.

There are those who will never see the film because of their religious beliefs.  Those who have, or will, see it may not like it either as a film or on religious grounds.  I respect both opinions and my goal is not to label you as "wrong".  My point is also not to have the film and/or the novel replace the Bible.  (I doubt that was the intention of Martin Scorsese or Nikos Kazantzakis, either.)  My point is that this film is, or perhaps can be, a deeply moving experience, and, although controversial, does not thumb its nose at the biblical texts.  It is, as Kazantzakis states, a "fictional exploration of the eternal spiritual conflict". 

I'm sure that any questions about whether or not I would recommend seeing it have been answered.  'The Last Temptation of Christ' is a film that you will not just remember, but one that will remain with you long after you see it ... maybe even thirty years afterward.

Terry

Monday, August 6, 2018

Phrase of the Day: HUGS OF SUPPORT

It is no secret that those in the LGBTQ community, even with the huge strides made here in the U.S., still take a lot of criticism, ridicule, and shaming.  Less than half of all U.S. states have laws on the books that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  (Some of those states provide these protections for public employees only or for sexual orientation only, with two states -- Arkansas and Tennessee -- that prohibit any such laws from being passed.)  Changing laws is, after all, far different than changing minds and hearts.

On an even more personal level, many times they face negativity from friends and family, often being ridiculed or shunned by those who are supposed to be closest to them.  There is a non-profit organization made up of a growing group of parents who are trying to bridge that gap and to provide healing and support to those who can be hurt the most through no fault of their own.  This group is made up of parents of who have LGBTQ children of their own and are sharing the love with other LGBTQ children   The organization is called Free Mom Hugs.

It was started by Sara Cunningham, whose son is gay, and whose eyes were opened up to the gay community through him.  She saw how religion can, at times, come between LGBTQ individuals and their parents.  After attending a pride parade in Oklahoma City four years ago with her son and husband, Cunningham started an online support group for mothers of gay children and wrote a book titled How We Sleep At Night: A Mother's Memoir.  She attended the same pride parade the following year, donning a button that read "Free Mom Hugs" ... and that's exactly what she offered to anyone who wanted one!  That experience led her to starting Free Mom Hugs.  (She is nicknamed "Mama Bear" and refers to herself as a "professional hugger".)

Free Mom Hugs goes around to different parts of the country, attending pride events and other events, giving ... you guessed it, free hugs.  It is a way of showing support in a motherly way to those in the LGBTQ community who, sadly, do not have that support from their own parents.  The group also offers education and information intended to bridge the gap between parent and child and between religion and families with LGBTQ children.  They also support information for parents, as well as businesses, schools, and hospitals.

The organization has been around for a few years, but Cunningham and her organization garnered a lot of attention after she posted the following on her Facebook page just a couple of weeks ago...
The caption underneath reads: "PSA.  If you need a mom to attend your same sex wedding because your biological mom won't.  Call me.  I'm there.  I'll be your biggest fan.  I'll even bring the bubbles."

Clearly, Sara Cunningham is a mom with an abundance of love to give, and who does so freely, as do all those involved in her organization.

Last year, the organization began its annual Free Mom Hugs Tour.  Last year's tour visited ten cities across six states, and this year's tour visited twelve cities across eight states.  (Both were in the month of May.)

Bridging the gap of misunderstanding is a good thing, a very good thing, and Sara Cunningham's organization is a very good one, doing wonderful work.  You can visit Free Mom Hugs' website to find out more or to donate to their work.  You can also check out their Facebook page, their Twitter page, or their Instagram page

Terry