Biblical Interpretation Goes Mainstream

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the Bible is that a single verse can be translated in hundreds of ways. Indeed there are over 450 translations of the English Bible alone… that’s 450 ways to word the same phrase. Then your favorite pastor, preacher, bishop, priest, rabbi, etc. will come along and tell you what he or she feels it means. With this is mind, it can be said with utmost certainty that there is no absolute truth in religion, it’s just a matter of perspective. There isn’t a way to actually prove anything in a faith based practice since it’s exactly that… faith based. Some take it to the point of often stating “it says in the bible that you shouldn’t (insert potential sin here)” and that alone has to suffice for everyone in the room. A single sentence, plucked out of the middle of scripture without regard for context, carries enough weight to determine everyone else is absolutely wrong, and are subsequently doomed to hell. As it was once made clear to me… “the bible says the dead know nothing of the living..” when I wondered as a teenager if my relatives were proud of me in heaven. Indeed, Ecclesiastes 9:5 does seem to state that fact, however it was actually being used to describe a particular perspective and not to be taken in the literal sense. I didn’t offer a rebuttal… heaven help anyone who ever disagreed with a bible verse quoted by a Southern Baptist holding a glass of sweet tea, while sitting on a plastic covered sofa cushion. It’s just not done.

Modern Christians read the words of Christ, but they do not translate into action or behavior.

It’s come to my awareness as of late, that the religious practice of interpreting ancient scripture and discerning its meaning to believers, is bleeding into the mainstream with things that aren’t very biblical at all. Christian conservatives, whom are already quite excellent in finding what they need from scripture to conveniently justify everything from hatred to the slaughter of endangered species, have adapted this technique quite well for use in the 21st century. Quite literally, even the most direct and clearest worded of statements, both written and verbal, are being argued as a matter of perspective instead of a matter of fact. The same kind of argument you’d expect to see when a rabbi, priest and a nun walk into a bar is now occurring everywhere within our legal and political system, and it’s extremely dangerous. The truth we all once knew, words spoken out of a person’s mouth or on a written document, is now easily dismissed and argued as if debating events in the Book Of Revelation. Accountability has been thrown out the window, and perspective or intentional avoidance of fact is now the norm. Hey if Pastor Glenn can do it, why can’t we?

“…heaven help anyone who ever disagreed with a bible verse quoted by a Southern Baptist holding a glass of sweet tea, while sitting on a plastic covered sofa cushion. “

A legal document was released recently, and within it, the conclusions of a two year investigation were revealed for all to see. Of course I’m talking about the now infamous Mueller Report. I can say very confidently, that I’m very happy our President didn’t knowingly collude with Russians to change the outcome of the election. That would have been really bad for all of us. And if you’re going to investigate a former President for lying about a blowjob, then you should probably investigate one that raised some major flags. Yet the contents of this report are being debated even when information is presented in clear and easy to read language. I’ve started reading the report myself, and let me say it’s much easier than reading scripture… there is nothing to debate when words speak for themselves. While the President might not have colluded with the Russians, he did some pretty ugly things to try and stop the investigation from happening. He also didn’t have a problem in using illegally obtained information for his own purposes…not illegal, but seriously not ethical. I’ve watched on television where someone is defending the President and clearly misrepresenting the words of the report, as if they could be translated in any other way. I can’t help but comparing this to the same way conservatives reference Jesus in one sentence and pick up the first stone in the next. The unconditional love and acceptance of Christ is the least thing being demonstrated by modern Christians. They don’t seem to read with any degree of comprehension the very bible they use as a weapon… just like this very clearly worded report. The truth isn’t convenient for them, so they’ll just twist it like they do anything else in scripture.

I posted on FaceBook the other day that there’s a huge problem with fact, perspective and opinion because people don’t seem to know the difference anymore. Arguably Christian conservatives are raised from a young age to believe they’re right and everyone is else wrong. The Earth isn’t three billion years old because God created it in seven days almost three thousand years ago. Of course that makes science inherently evil because it disagrees with scripture. It must be the work of the devil, so that means so is climate change and anything else science dishes out…. unless advanced medical care is necessary. Then everyone believes in science but of course credit goes to Jesus when the person recovers. This kind of thinking is seriously corrupting the way people rationalize in the real world. Truth has become extinct, and turned into something completely relative… and something worse, adaptable for personal gain.

Social media only enforces and strengthens this behavior, giving anyone with any kind of idea instant access to thousands of others that believe your idea and agree with it…regardless of actual fact or truth. Someone literally told me the other day I had to respect the views of flat Earthers because it was their belief. Okay so that’s dangerous folks, when facts and beliefs are being tossed around as if they are interchangeable. They are not. Facts are real and people are wrong when they disagree with a fact. Plain and simple. And this is really important because facts are connected to our view of what’s right and wrong… when society allows us to twist that around so easily, there’s no point in having any sort of legal system. Then there’s those that admit error in baseless claims, but point at someone else that did the same thing because somehow that makes it okay. Didn’t we get past that in… I don’t know like the third grade? What part of growing up and experiencing “but susy did it too!’ did people not understand?

If we can’t get our shit together as a nation, we’re in some deep trouble. If people can’t separate the kind of thinking you do at church versus the kind of thinking it takes to participate in a global community and run a country, we’re seriously fucked. Fact, perspective and opinion are completely different components within our awareness of real events. Lack of critical thinking… especially when completely intentional, has never led a country to greatness.

We were supposed to learn that in school too.

Going Solo With Spirituality

There’s a wonderful phrase in the Neopagan / Wiccan text The Charge of The Goddess, that states “If that which you seek, you do not find within yourself, you will never find it without. For I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of all desire.” Most recently I have come to identify with this sentiment more and more, and it caused me to put much thought into my spiritual path and where I am headed with it. Earlier this month, my partner Eric and I cruised to the ABC Islands in the Southern Caribbean, and it was in Bonaire, where we visited a desert and explored caves, that I realized I needed to go completely solo on my spiritual journey. Being surrounded by such natural beauty, feeling this deep connection to nature, made me feel that I was spending too much time seeking the unseen, when there was lots around me that I could already see, hear, taste and touch. And it just felt right that after all this time seeking advice from others, in a wide range of different faiths and practices, that I have a go at it…. alone. This meant saying goodbye to an online spiritual community lead by amazing individuals, with equally amazing members, whom I had come to love and enjoy. So a difficult decision was made.

I’ve learned many things since I was a young child and started making my own spiritual choices. My mother and father weren’t big on organized religion, and although they were Greek Orthodox and Catholic respectively, the furthest they pushed their views on us was in the form of saying the Lord’s prayer and a Hail Mary before bed. I think this had lots to do with my Serbian Grandfather, who died a year before I was born, that witnessed so much devastation due to religious conflict between Muslims and Christians. He never went to Church, as he said it was full of hypocrites and that Church was indeed inside his own heart. He followed his faith, basically on a solo path as well, something I’m just now realizing I have in common with him. This didn’t fly very well with a local priest that refused to say his name at mass unless my grandmother paid him off. Thus my mom felt very comfortable in letting me make my own choices, even when it involved a group of Mormons visiting me when I was 10. I wasn’t baptized until I was 14 and the choice to accept Christ and become a Southern Baptist was entirely my own.

Petroglyphs written by the natives in Bonaire are found throughout the system of caves .

I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the almost 40 years of choices I’ve made, is that your spiritual path is unique and relative to your existence. Which in very simple terms means it’s perfect for you and no one else. I think that’s largely where so much of the conflict arises with religion, as you want to share the amazing experience you’ve had with others which most definitely has to feel better than their own. Sometimes this is actually true, but mostly it’s not and it leaves both parties feeling angry and hurt. Many times the teachings of an entire faith seek to be dismissed, no matter how accurate or helpful they may be. As you can tell by my opening reference within this post, this is not the way I live my life. Of course, fear and religion are often mixed together in order to control the masses, and sadly this happens even to this day. But the part of a spiritual path being so specific to a single individual is all too often overlooked. Even in the most liberal of communities and belief systems, there will always be someone present that will attempt to invalidate your experience because they are an expert, through no fault of their own. And that’s when I have a huge problem accepting and fitting in.

“…a spiritual journey requires… staying humble and not being afraid to admit you don’t know all the answers.”

Spiritual guidance is of course extremely important to many, and I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from seeking as it were, to try and find a group of loving people that share your beliefs. However, I think it’s immensely important to always remember who you are in these communities, and not to take anything as fact just because someone says it. Take what resonates and walk away from everything else. Spirituality should be a lot like a good therapist… it should guide you to find your own answers, not spoon feed them to you. This point continues to be made clear to me by a statement made by his Holiness, The Dalai Lama, whom I’m had the honor of seeing speak at Florida International University in 1999. In his opening statement he said with much laughter from the audience, “I don’t know what the meaning of life is… if you do, please let me know because I’m still searching for it.” Indeed an enlightened individual stating the obvious… no one is an expert when it comes to such things. These words seem to pop into my head whenever I feel utterly confused about anything, and I’m extremely grateful for it. Perhaps his response is the greatest indicator of what a spiritual journey requires… staying humble and not being afraid to admit you don’t know all the answers.

While the mysteries of the “unseen” are still waiting to be solved, I’m spending more time with what is already here and staying present.

So that’s about it. I’ve packed up most of my angel cards and I’ve tucked them away in a safe place. I’m spending more time with the physical beauty that surrounds us all, and noticing it where it was previously overlooked. I still enjoy the connection of reading for myself, but only because it puts me in touch with my inner being and who I am. I don’t have to worry about the advice I give because it’s my own. My answers, my questions, my situations, my life… my journey. I’m still exploring the Universe, although with a very open mind and even a deeper connection to what some call God, Source or (insert your deity here). I’m still asking questions, seeking and sharing… and the experience is completely perfect in every way.

Just for me.

Don’t Tell Me I’m Wrong

Astrology is the practice of observing the movements and positions of celestial bodies and making predictions based on this information.   For example, a new king will be born and a new era will begin when this star appears in the East.   Sound familiar?  Heaven forbid you actually practice the very art form that foretold the coming of Christ.   They just needed astrologers for the story and then they were all stoned to death I’m sure.

The level of hypocrisy I’m seeing with organized religion is astounding and it’s only getting worse.  Common decency and morals are thrown out the window when convenient, sexual predators are adored with a cult like following and serious crimes are dealt with internally and not referred to law enforcement.

Within its own construct, religion itself can’t even come to a conclusion.  There are over 800 versions of the Christian bible in English alone!  Does anyone remember the violence and discrimination in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants?  Seriously?   Their small differences in beliefs, although for the same God, were enough to justify murder.  Once again, all morals go out the window when it’s convenient.

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You Either Have Freedom, Or You Don’t.

Last weekend I made myself a really nice grass fed steak dinner and then sat down with a bottle of wine to watch a movie.   I would normally do this with my partner Eric, but since he was working on Saturday I resorted back to a ritual coined in HBO’s Sex and The City as “secret single behavior.”    This is a practice you perform over and over again when no one is around, and cooking myself a really nice dinner is one of those things I love doing… even when alone.    I was really in the mood for the something British, as I often am, and while scrolling through NetFlix I discovered a film called “The Duchess.”   Starring Keira Knightly, this movie chronicles the marriage of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, to her husband William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire.   Early in the film, the Duchess states during a dinner party “One is either free or one is not, the concept of freedom is an absolute.”  This in response to a statement made by one of the Duke’s guests.  It got me thinking… and it’s still working its magic on me days later. 

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The Lesson iPhones Teach Us

If you find yourself with nothing to do one day, take a little fiber optic field to trip over to ebay and do a search for Commodore 64 computers.   Some of you might not even know what a Commodore is, because by the time you were able to suck your thumb, they were stashed away in your family’s garage or attic, like some heirloom, sharing space with wedding dresses and photo albums.    It’s also quite possible that your parents don’t even know what a Commodore 64 is, since it’s been 35 years when they first appeared on store shelves, being one of the first affordable home computers of their time at around $600.    The 64 doesn’t stand for bit or gigs by the way,  it stands for kilobyte.   To put that in perspective for all the Glee kids out there, it would take over 120 of them to have enough RAM to store an average song from iTunes, or 256,000 of them to have the same memory as a pathetic 16GB iPhone.   Like OMG WTF?  Like, who buys a 16GB iPhone anymore, like whatever.     Yet the most interesting fact about these 35 year old machines with lots of moving buttons and springs on their keyboards, is they still work as good as the day your family brought one home.     Which is why you can still buy one and they’re pretty popular as collectibles.

photo credit – gabtavian1, ebay user

Around the end of the millennia (holy fuck I’m old), I was attending a training class in Melbourne, a racist part of Florida otherwise known as the Space Coast, for a new content management solution we were deploying at work.   During my initial visit I learned that many people there were connected with the aerospace industry in some way or another, which made perfect sense considering their proximity to Kennedy Space Center.    After all, that’s where most of the Space Shuttle missions were launched.   I also learned that Taco Bell in Melbourne closed at 9 PM on a Saturday night and that yes, I do look Latino, so much so that the very smiley and very nice lady at the Deli counter in Winn-Dixie stopped being so nice when she turned and looked at me, angrily asking “can I help you?”   When I took my purchases prepared by racist white lady to the young cashier, I was told in a creepy horror movie sort of way “you’re not from around here are you?”  Okay so I’m losing myself here… where was I before this took a Stephen King turn… oh yes… I also learned that NASA was buying old IBM PC computers on our friend ebay, because they needed the chips for the fleet of aging Space Shuttles.  Yup, they needed spare parts and turns out, computer chips last a pretty darn long time.  

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We Are More Than A Party

When I first realized I was gay I was 17 years old and terrified.   Although I was sexually attracted to other men, I was frightened to become a part of the stereotype I saw on television and magazines.    Of course times were different and what you saw on television was exactly that, a stereotype.    As I began to meet other gay people I realized we were a diverse crowd of Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics and any other ethnic category you could find on a college application.   We celebrated our diversity because we needed to, our sites were set on fighting the AIDS epidemic, acceptance and equal rights.    I quickly realized the scary images I saw in my youth were no where near the Gays and Lesbians I had come to know.

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Wake Up – Your Thumbs Won’t Save The Planet

It’s a rainy day and you’re sitting comfortably on your couch, wrapped up in a snugly blanket you bought from an ad on your Facebook feed… a nice cup of chai tea latte is right by your side.   All is well in your world.   Suddenly and without warning, your eyes magnetically focus and zoom in on the horrible video displaying on your screen, your heart begins to palpitate as you rush to un-follow or block the person that posted this gruesome message regarding animal abuse in a land far far away.    They have succeeded in not only invading your cozy little space and destroying your perfect zen moment, but they have also damaged you temporarily as you struggle to get these images out of your head.    Their reasoning?    You should sign on an online petition and stop what you just witnessed!  Yes!  How dare you take one more sip of that chai tea latte, while animals suffer needlessly, before your thumbs do all the work of filling out that digital roll call of those with moral and just values.    Jumping into action might also help erase what you just saw, and you can return to your kindle, tea, and life of ignorance…yes this thought actually crosses your mind.  But did you ever realize what’s actually occurring behind the scenes of these online petitions?    Do you think someone actually manages servers and technical infrastructure for free?  Of course not. Hang onto your chai tea latte because online petitions are actually a multi-million dollar business and those ugly videos are helping people to make some serious money.

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Taking A FaceBook Vacation

Sunset in the Florida Everglades

When’s the last time you had a vacation?  Before you start describing your most recent trip to a far off place dotted with palm trees or ancient buildings, let me be more specific… when’s the last time you vacationed from FaceBook?  You know, that wonderful destination you hold in your hand that you escape to while on the train, laying on the couch or even dare I say in the bathroom?  When’s the last time you dared to disconnect from all the noise, the pictures of friends enjoying dinner without you, the cat videos, the ads for things you’ll never use, the secret data miners collecting analytics designed as clever surveys, and the people you didn’t realize were Trump supporters?   Have you ever even thought of it?

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The Piscean Prison

Being a Pisces can be a bitch.   Plain and simple.    As I get older it seems it just gets harder and harder to deal with the outside world and all of the horrors available to us through social media and news outlets.   Pisces are idealistic lovers, we quite literally love love.    We love everything about love and everything about being in love.    We love people we don’t even know and we can smother those we do with so much love that they run away.   And it doesn’t stop there.    Since we love to spread love so much we become paranoid when we may have not spread the love inadvertently.    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost sleep thinking I said or did something to someone that hurt their feelings or pissed them off.     The idea of intentionally hurting someone, or stepping outside of the “love” zone really turns our world upside down.

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Experiencing Homophobia Overseas

Living in the United States can and will make you pretty spoiled.    You become accustomed to life as you know it, and take everyday occurrences completely for granted.    Many of us here in Miami are reminded of our abundance as a nation when we share the experience of someone that recently immigrated from Cuba, and see their reactions to to a well stocked produce section at the local grocery store.     It’s an all out emotional meltdown at times, something neither person is prepared for.    While economic prosperity is something that’s relatively easy to appreciate and witness, individual freedoms are not.    Most people vacation in areas of the world where they are welcomed with open arms, but even in the most beautiful and serene locations, the gay tourist has to be mindful of their destination in a different capacity… their personal safety.  There are many parts of the world where being homosexual is against the law, and I’m not referring to some distant land on the other side of the planet, I’m talking about enjoying the beauty and splendor of the Caribbean.   It was there that my partner Eric and I became very appreciative of the security and liberties we now enjoy in the United States.

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