I need to ask you not to call me brainless

Let me start by saying I’m not a very confrontational person. I’m not good at thinking on my feet, and don’t defend myself well verbally. If I do find myself in a position where I need to force an issue, I am extremely uncomfortable. So it makes me nervous to engage others in face to face political banter unless I know the person very well. Because I can’t get upset at work (I have a job to do) I tend to ignore the political talk I hear there.
I am not a supporter of Trump, but I work with a very vocal supporter of Trump. It is difficult to listen to at times, because I find myself wanting so badly to insert my thoughts. Usually I don’t, because the backlash from my coworker is so swift and at such a fevered pitch that a second response from me or even a clarification, is often impossible. Occasionally something so fully incorrect or insensitive is said that I feel I must say something. And tonight I felt I couldn’t let it lie. Speaking to another coworker about the election, my coworker who I’ll call Marc, said, “At this point, anyone who votes for Hilary has to be completely and utterly brainless.” Here is the conversation that followed five minutes later in the adjacent room.

“I need to ask you to not call me brainless.” I say.
“What- did I call you brainless?” He says.
“What you said to James? About people voting for Hillary.”
“I didn’t mean you!”
I give him a look.
“You shouldn’t take it personal. (Continues with me, walking into the room I’m also walking into) You should hear the stuff the other side says though.”
“I don’t say those things.” I say quietly.
“Ok, well. I apologize.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.”
And a few minutes later.
“You know about before, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. I just get so passionate about this stuff.”
“I know. Rhetoric seems to be getting out of hand everywhere.” I say.
“It’s the election. It’ll be over soon though, alright?”
This guy and I disagree pretty fundamentally on a very lot of things. But otherwise we get along. I don’t find him to be a person that knowingly harms people. I called him out on a personal insult and he stepped back and apologized. I feel angry enough sometimes at Trump voters to call names, but I don’t. I’d like to think that if I fell to personally denigrating others, I’d back off when someone called me out. It’s going to be really important this year to remember that the US is populated by other human beings. We are going to vote as human beings and accept the results as human beings and live together the next four years as human beings. I implore you to remember to treat others as human beings in your words and actions. By all means rail against injustice, despicable policies, or the words of the opposite candidate that you find thoroughly distasteful. Do not call the human beings in your life brainless, asshole, deplorables simply for the way they are voting. We are better than that.

Just a little update

Time for another update! A couple things happened simultaneously. First, I haven’t actually been to new church since the Quakers. Second my blog application quit working from my computer. So I would normally be keeping up with some other thoughtful posts on religion and Christianity, but I haven’t been able to easily. At the very least I plan a long book review soon. Hopefully I can get that posted up in the next week or so.

Request for a buddy

I am putting it out there that I’d like someone to accompany me to churches on a Sunday morning. My new church visit speed has hit a new low and I’d like to find a way of not stopping together. If anyone would like to come along to any church I haven’t yet visited please let me know and we will plan it. I am discarding the rule of ten miles as well as the need for any particular order. I am ok with a one time partner or longer term. I just find myself wanting some new motivation. I also decided some time ago to accept invites to someone’s home church. I prefer to drop in unannounced but I can be ok with a more solid plan. I’m just looking for idea to keep the project interesting.

Church #66, Friends Meeting in Albany (Quaker)

Date: 11/9/14

Church name/type: Friends Meeting in Albany, Quakers

Pastor: the unique style of the meeting doesn’t seem to require a pastor

Style of worship:
Well, they sit, mostly quietly for about an hour. No, for real. And it actually wasn’t too bad. It’s a time for listening to see if God is going to speak to us. If anyone has a message they consider good for sharing they share aloud.

These were the messages this week:
1) Someone spoke about feeling welcome and having been given coffee that was exactly the way she liked it. This really seemed to have made her happy.
2) Another person said some remarks the Pope made were along the lines of God having given up some of his power in creating us. Some of the power is in us.
I tried to look up these remarks for reference but was unable to find them. The Pope says a lot of things I guess.
3) A visiting Quaker Friend? Quaker?….anyway, a visitor felt led to make the effort to find a local Friends Meeting and things just seemed to fall into place allowing her to be here on time.
4) One person observed that it’s amazing we are in what’s called the ‘goldilocks zone’ where life is possible.

After approximately an hour we all greeted each other then there was sharing of announcements as well as the standard joys and concerns. I stayed a long time talking with members of the congregation about different things.

Impressions:
I guess I really liked it. I say I guess because I can’t figure out why I liked it so much. It’s difficult to sit mostly still and quiet for an hour. But then again, I often like things that are a little difficult. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something worthwhile. I’m drawn to the fact that Quakers don’t have much doctrine going on. They seem to believe that God speaks to (or potentially speaks to) everyone equally. This is nice. I’m going to have to learn more and probably write more.

Church #65, Albany Second Branch, Latter Day Saints

Date: 10/19/14

Church name/type: This is a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Called Mormons by some. (Not to be confused with fundamentalist Mormons who allow multiple wives to one husband) This church is called the Albany Second Branch.

Pastor: There is no pastor. They call that job Branch President. I did not write down his name.

Style of worship:
Very unusual. The Sunday morning gathering can be called a service, but seems to be more commonly called a sacrament meeting. It had the usual components: songs, announcements, scripture, prayer. The communion (if that’s what they call it) was different in that it featured bread and water (vs. wine or juice). The sacrament meeting itself was odd to me because it was dead silent for the bread and water, but sort of full of noisy chit-chat during the scriptural talk time. Different people from the church are asked to prepare these little talks and it felt like no one was really listening.

Impressions:
I had some trouble with this one. I expended a lot of energy trying to absorb new information, be polite in my reactions, and not let how different it was get to me. And in some ways, it was strikingly different.

There were three separate hour-long portions. First the sacrement meeting, then a doctrinal lesson, last a male/female segregated session. The middle hour made me feel the most uncomfortable. It was a class of women and a couple of older men, but it was taught by 18year-old-looking guys who were referred to by everyone as ‘elders’. It is hard to describe how weird that felt. I don’t have a problem with male teachers or young teachers. But usually teachers have professional training. This felt like kids telling me what to think and how to think it by virtue of the fact that they were male and raised LDS. The lesson was mostly something I’m going to call ‘prescriptive spirituality’. There seem to be a lot of parts to LDS that are prescriptive regarding metaphysical things. (Do this and this happens. Say these words at this time in this place and this will happen in the afterlife.) The entire lesson was regarding the ‘sealing’ of families in a temple so they would remain intact into the afterlife. One can also seal families posthumously if the need is discovered. This is why genealogies are important, or so we were told. I know my own faith tradition is weird, but I’m struggling with how weird I felt hearing this stuff.

Then the last hour, the women only group, was actually not very weird at all. It felt like any gathering at all the progressive protestant churches I’ve been to. We all tried to share ways to reach out and be good to others; to gain understanding and offer support. Everyone from their different lives offered different perspectives. It felt really normal. I hate the fact that I had to describe it as normal just there because the rest felt so strange. The young woman I talked to at this church was sweet and earnest. She’s a missionary from California and apparently that means she’s a greeter for newcomers to the church. She wants everyone to join the church. I’ve never quite felt like I fit anywhere, and I could never fit with this group either. I hurt sometimes and I don’t know what my life is doing. I shared something of this sentiment with my new friend. I think I hurt her. I left her without an answer for me. Sometimes I wonder if my project is becoming my journey to sadden others.

Church #64, First Presbyterian Church in Albany

Date: 10/12/14

Church name/type: First Presbyterian in Albany, PCUSA

Pastors: Pastor Miriam Lawrence Leupold and Pastor Glenn Leupold

Style of worship: fairly straightforward format with follow-along bulletin, with choral pieces punctuating occasionally

Impressions: The bulletin and welcome literature list more than a couple programs the church is involved with along the lines of social justice. I like that. I’m also impressed with an interior window of stained glass depicting a scientist teacher named Joseph Henry. It’s actually really cool for a church to embrace science. I personally love science and think it’s great that God gave us the ability to wonder and discover. In some cases Christian groups seem to actually have a strong dislike for science (or certain of its theories) so it’s encouraging that this church had a portrait of science build right into the wall.

The church building is pretty and looks kept-up. I note a decent mix of ethnicities. There was a person behind me making some noise who most likely had a disability. I mention this because I think it speaks well of the kind of welcome a church offers if they are cool with unintentional disruptions. Coffee hour after service was also a really nice time. A fair number of people came up to me and initiated conversation. So it’s an outgoing congregation.

I wasn’t sure what to take from the sermon. We got to hear the story of the golden calf Moses’ people worshiped while he was on the mountain talking with God. I was immediately struck by the fact that these people literally decided to worship gold. Maybe this should make us realize that chasing after money is a problem. The pastor giving the sermon likens this worship to our own obsessions today. We were asked to consider the ‘golden calf’ we might be worshipping. This would present itself as the thing we make our ultimate thing. It all came back to a refrain I’ve heard before: anything you focus on that is not God, is the wrong focus. I wonder what to make of this message in light of the fact I have no clear idea of who God is. Mixed messages come in constantly from all my church visits, from people I’ve met, from the bible itself. So this sermon’s takeaway point fell a bit flat for me. I guess I can agree with the idea that if one’s life revolves around something and that something fails or falls apart, one is devastated. I see this could be a huge problem…but I think I’m not wrong in saying that making God your ultimate focus could also result in this same problem. So again I’m left unsure what to do with this sermon.