More on Current Events

With everything going on in the past couple of years (ok, more like the past 200 years), there has been a lot of talk about race and the implications of it. Especially with the latest reports of police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and the rising popularity of a certain presidential candidate (hint: it ain’t Hillary), accusations of racism (and defenses against said accusations) have been flying around willy nilly in a very disorienting manner.

It seems that the nation is split up three different ways: 50% accusing people of being racist; 45% being accused of racism and denying it, and 5% being accused of racism and agreeing.

The problem is that racism, or at least the manifestation of it, is so subjective that we spend more time arguing over what is or isn’t racist than we spend fighting the actual thing.

Why waste time arguing over whether the latest thing Trump said was or wasn’t racist? It’s safe to assume that it was, but that’s not the point. “Because it’s fun,” you say. Yes, but – ok, yeah, you right, you right.

We cannot base our actions and opinions on something that is constantly changing. Rather, our actions and opinions should be based on what is underneath the thing we are actually fighting.

Instead of asking “Is it racist?,” why don’t we ask,

“Is it kind?”

“Is it respectful?”

“Is it true?”

The problem is, of course, that those things are subjective too. And before people start getting all uppity about the last one: no, truth may not be subjective, but our interpretation of it certainly is.

However, this can be a more solid base than “What is considered racist today?” It seems that most of us have forgotten one of the first things they teach you in logic and debate classes: Define your terms.

Because what most of us want is not just the absence of one injustice, but for it to be replenished with kindness, respect, and truth. To be fighting some abstract and ambiguous thing is like having a fist fight with thin air. We must not only fight against one thing, but fight for something greater.

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Some Thoughts on Racism

Growing up, I don’t think I believed that racism still existed. Because I didn’t view black people as any different than myself, I assumed no one else did either.

Now, it seems that there are two main attitudes towards racism:

1. Denying that it exists
2. Acknowledging that it exists, but only blaming one side or the other.

Well, I got a job as a server.

In the service industry, there is a certain stereotype. To be blunt, it is that black people don’t tip. And with many stereotypes, it is a stereotype for a reason. Because of this, you can imagine how that affected my attitude. Over time, I came to expect a crappy tip before certain individuals even sat down.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that this is true of all black people. But there is a cultural difference, in general – at least in the south. A difference in opinion of how things should be.

I bring this up not to justify my thoughts and actions, but to make a point: Sometimes, there is reason to be frustrated with the other side. Before you assume that I am saying that there is a good reason for racism, let me direct you to my next point.

There is a misconception that all racism is pure hate, that there is no reason behind it. But I think it’s usually more subtle than that. Sometimes, both sides have a reason to be frustrated with the other. Just like in a relationship, problems are rarely just one person’s fault. If we are to get past racism, it will take both sides putting aside their pride, even when we could be justified in being angry.

In the wake of controversies such as possible racially driven police violence and the blatantly racist Charleston shooting, I have realized that there have been times where I have been discriminatory and hurtful without even realizing it, or without caring.

People can argue about racism all day. (They bring it on themselves. They think we owe something to them. It’s not my fault their ancestors were slaves).

The fact is, there are trashy people of all colors. I have waited on many people including Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and everything in between who were rude and ignorant.

I have also known and waited on Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and everything in between who were kind, smart, generous, and thoughtful.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45).

This convicts me because I know that too often, I am only kind when I expect something in return. I secretly trash the characters of people I don’t even know – people who are made wonderfully in the image of God. People who have stories and backgrounds, and are made up of more than how well or poorly they tip.

I have heard people claim that racism doesn’t exist anymore. I disagree not just because I see it in other people, but because I see it in myself. I have been guilty of stereotyping people based on the color of their skin. My thoughts and actions are no one’s fault but my own.

There must be a way to take responsibility without justifying another’s faults. There is nothing wrong with admitting cultural differences. I will be frustrated when I get tipped three dollars on a two hundred dollar tab. At that point cultural differences become personal. It would be false to deny that these things happen, because they do.

I think change will not come from denying or excusing away problems, but from acknowledging problems, and still considering our own faults worse. We must realize that most hatred stems from misunderstanding. Then, we choose to look past that misunderstanding. We get frustrated at people who are different from us and don’t fulfill our expectations or meet our own personal standards.

Of the two perceptions of racism – denying or blaming only one side – I think that neither is fully helpful or true. We have to sacrifice our comfort and pride sometimes for the sake of others. Just like in a relationship, the cycle cannot end until we each truly own our own faults first, and actively choose to forgive and overlook the other’s.

The Problem With Sheltering

It’s the natural inclination for parents to be protective – sometimes overprotective. Homeschooling parents especially often have this tendency. I think this overprotectiveness is usually a reaction to the extreme situations of messed up kids that sometimes come out of the school systems. Some parents take one extreme and head as far in the opposite direction as they can go. They’re terrified of letting their kids be exposed to the “filth” of the world, as if anything but Adventures in Odyssey tapes (ok, you probably just download them from iTunes now) will turn their kid into a pot smoking, tattooed atheist – the three worst things any Christian homeschooling parent could imagine.

I know I’m a nineteen year old college student with no kids, so maybe I have no business talking about this. But I was homeschooled, and grew up around homeschoolers, and this is simply what I have observed.

Anyway, so some parents don’t let their kids watch, listen to, or hang out with anyone remotely unchaste. But when parents do this, consciously or unconsciously, they’re painting their kids as having pure souls, not to be tainted by anything from the outside world.

But we don’t need the outside world to have a problem. Our own sinful hearts are the problem.

So much of real life is theoretical when it comes to homeschooling, evangelical Christians. It’s drilled into us from an early age that the world is a sinful place, and that we have to constantly be on the lookout for sin. We’re taught how to deal with people who challenge our faith, and in general taught how to deal with the world. But none of that compares to actual, invaluable, practice. Hanging out all the time with your siblings is great, but it’s not enough. It’s just not.

If you’ve ever homeschooled or been homeschooled, you have heard the question, “don’t you worry about socialization?” Most of us scoff at this question. Of course we’re socialized. We have friends from church, or sports, or co-ops. But when we really think about it, do we really know that many people who aren’t like us? Do we really know how to relate to people who are different?

When it comes to other people, I think keeping kids from becoming friends with other kids – whoever it may be – can be damaging. It keeps kids from learning how to understand and love people who are different. To keep your child from being friends with another kid because he or she doesn’t believe the same things is to deny the precious, God-given value of that person. It is to paint your child as the victim. It is to say, “your kid’s a worse sinner than mine.”

To be honest, I really didn’t spend a whole lot of time with people who weren’t exactly like me until I got a job in high school. And while it didn’t really change my personality or beliefs, learning to have relationships with different people was a big adjustment. It kind of threw me off. I remember being so afraid that I would become a “bad kid” by being friends with people who held different beliefs, and didn’t have the same moral code as me.  But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to shift my thinking from fearing the influence of others, to realizing that my own heart is the problem, not anyone else.

This isn’t a knock on homeschooling. Homeschooling can be great. Looking back, I realize now that I had a mostly awesome homeschooling experience, and I’m really grateful for that. It’s not just about being socially awkward. I’ve met awkward people from all walks of life. Awkward is okay.

The real, underlying problem is that over-sheltering is based on fear, and it produces fear. I think Christian parents feel responsible for their childrens’ souls – and in a way, they are.

But the hard truth is, you can’t save your kid. You can’t be Christ for them. Only Christ can be Christ for them. They’re going to have to make their own choices at some point, so you may as well let them get some practice now.

Afraid of Boredom

I remember going on family vacations as a little kid. We would all pile into our fifteen passenger van (or suburban, depending on which decade we’re talking about). The energy bouncing around in that tiny space was probably enough to power a small village. I remember thinking about all the fun we would have, impatiently counting down the hours and minutes as they crept by. The anticipation was almost as fun as the actual vacation.

 

This is kind of how college feels to me. I’m at a place in life where there is a lot of anticipation. I’m working towards something bigger. It’s like I’m heading for the top of a mountain. I can enjoy the scenery, but I’m not at my final destination yet.

 

But behind all the excitement there is a fear. There are a lot of things to worry about in college. Did I pick the right major? Am I studying enough? Who will I hang out with? Will the decisions I made last night affect the rest of my life? Is the fruit in this poptart nutritious? And then there is the fear of nothing. The fear of boredom.

 

The future is scary. Right now it’s okay, because I’m not there yet. But what if, when I’ve finally arrived, my life is unsatisfying? What if after all this waiting, life is simply – boring? It’s literally a fear of nothingness.

 

Everyone is afraid sometimes, some more than others. Some people let fear run their lives. There is a plethora of things to be afraid of, if you think about it. Corruption, disease, heartbreak, failure, pain. But a fear of nothing is different. It’s a fear of an anticlimactic life. Maybe it’s not just boredom I’m afraid of. Maybe behind the boredom there is a fear of unfulfillment, or mediocrity, or repetition, or loneliness.

 

Trust is hard. I’m the kind of person who questions everything. I always have. I can’t help it. It’s hard to be content when there is so much to be unsure of. But behind the fear, I know that there is beauty and truth and excitement in the world. I can see it around me, and sometimes I can feel it. God made me to be fulfilled in Him, not terrified of how my life will turn out.

 

At some point I realize that now is the time to be satisfied. Now is the time to be thankful. There is comfort in not knowing, in a way. My life is not my own. As hard as it is to accept it, God knows what will make me happy far better than I do.


Everything will be okay.

Thoughts on College from a Previous Homeschooler

          Well, I’ve been in college for almost a semester now, and I must say, I’m sort of underwhelmed by the amount of evil here so far. The way the Christian adults in my life at home made it sound, the weather most days would be sunny with a chance of fire and brimstone. After multiple warnings about the “evils of college,” I’ve come to the conclusion that sure, there is temptation everywhere, but that’s life. Real life. No one should run from that.

You well-churched previous homeschoolers know what I’m talking about. When people in the church hear that you’re going off to college (especially a non-Christian university), it’s not uncommon to be met with stern warnings about the temptations that college has to offer. There will be drinking (gasp!). There will be drugs (no!). There will be people who don’t believe the same things as you (you’re kidding!).  There will be sex (what’s that?).

If you’re like me, as these admonishments accumulate, they become just plain discouraging. Let’s pretend that every warning is a cinder block that I’m holding (and those things are freaking heavy). Every person that gives a warning, lecture, or finger wag is placing another cinder block on my stack. The stack could also include “Do This and This, Don’t Do That or That” cinder blocks. I mean, isn’t that what they’re saying, anyway?

I know people mean well, and it’s not that there isn’t a place for that. It would be foolish to ignore their wise advice. My point is this: it would have been nice for someone to say, “no matter what you do, there’s forgiveness in Christ,” rather than just, “you have to remember to stay away from temptation. There will be people doing bad things.” No kidding. I worked at a bar, for crying out loud. It’s not like I’m learning anything new. It’s almost like people are afraid to talk about mercy and forgiveness, because that allows the option of sin. It’s like the “Christ loves you” part is secondary to the “whatever you do, don’t sin” part.

So many Christian parents – or adults period – are so worried about kids losing their faith once they get to college. If they have reason to be concerned about their kid’s future spiritual status, they have no reason to think it will be any worse than their kid’s spiritual life right now.

People are so worried about the influence of other worldviews on their kids’ views and faith. Maybe, just maybe, these are things that they need to face at some point. If they stay at home or go to a Christian college, they may have “faith” simply because they’ve never been challenged. They never really had to think too deeply about it. If they end up falling away, that’s an indication that something wasn’t right in the first place. It’s not as new of a development as it may seem.

Is it really better for your kid to put on a great show of piety and fervor while secretly or unknowingly being totally spiritually screwed up? You might be surprised at how many are. But too often, in the church, people don’t realize it. A lot of kids won’t talk to anyone about their spiritual life, especially when they need someone to care the most. Trust me, I know.

Here’s the thing. Maybe Christian teenagers don’t just need to be cautioned in preparation for college. We know what sin is. A lot of times we’re broken, more aware of our sin than you could guess. Maybe what we’re really unsure of is God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. More than once people have lectured me about all the things I need to avoid when all I really needed to hear was that God loved me.

The fact is, whether I’m in college or not, I’m going to screw up. Maybe in big ways, maybe in small ways. I am going to sin. And when I do, it’s probably not because too few old people have warned me about the dangers of college. Chances are, I will feel the guilt before you can tell me that I need to feel guilty.

The “evils” people talk about are really made up of individuals. Are we not supposed to love that atheist professor? Are we supposed to shun the couple having loud sex in the next room? Are we supposed to act like we’re on a higher level than them? I’m not talking about “loving” in a condescending way. I mean truly caring.

It’s not just about protecting ourselves. It’s about other people.

Parents, pay attention to your kids’ spiritual needs now. Trust me, we know when something’s not right inside of us. Maybe you don’t only need to warn your kid of sin. Maybe you need to remind your kid that there is grace in Christ. Why put more emphasis on sin than on mercy?

When you obsess over your kid’s spiritual life at college, who are you giving the power to – God, or sin?

A Hairy Tale

     One day an older man came into the burger restaurant where I used to work sporting the worst comb-over I have ever seen.

    “That is the worst comb-over I have ever seen,” I thought, impressed. His white hair cascaded unapologetically over his bald dome as he shuffled in. It was late afternoon and the restaurant was completely empty, except for him and two or three of us bored employees.

    I don’t remember most of what he talked about, but I do remember that he was old, very happy, and very odd.

    At this restaurant, there was a bar beside the cash register where you could sit down and eat. I leaned on the bar while he sat on the other side, enthusiastically talking to the waitress beside me.

    Eventually we made eye contact, and I was trapped. He slid over to me and started talking. Like I said, I don’t remember much of what he said. I probably blocked it out.

    A side note: For a few years now, I’ve had some type of eczema on my right elbow, and back then it was pretty bad. It looked like I had taken steel wool and just rubbed the crap out of it. Kind of gross, but it’s important to the story – trust me.

    Anyway, my new best friend Comb-over Guy suddenly interrupted his commentary to latch onto my arm and rub it sympathetically.

    “What happened here?” He asked, looking very concerned.

    “Oh, it’s just eczema,” I said, a little embarrassed.

    “What?” he said, leaning his ancient head down so he could hear.

    “It’s just dry,” I said louder.

    I don’t think he heard me. He was too entranced by my arm. He stared at it as he continued to stroke it. It was actually kind of soothing. But mostly creepy.

    And here is the kicker, folks. The one thing he said that I remember far too well.

     “Oh!” He exclaimed. “You have the most beautiful hair!”

       What would you say if someone complimented your luscious mane of arm hair? I mean, this guy was clearly an expert on great hair, so I had no choice but to be incredibly honored.

     “Thank you,” I said, placing that gem somewhere very safe in my mind.

     When I told my family about it at dinner, I was laughing so hard that it literally took me ten minutes to finish. It made my ribs ache with joy.

     I think we can learn an important lesson from this. It doesn’t matter who you are – your age, your income, your skin color, your gender. We can all say something really weird to freak out a stranger and give him or her a good story to tell later.

    I never saw Comb-over Guy again. But whenever I feel insecure, as we all do at times, I comfort myself with the knowledge that if nothing else, I have beautiful arm hair.

Mushroom Is The New Mustard

        I got my first job when I was sixteen. Although I was proud that I had a job, I simultaneously felt pangs of shame due to the fact that it was a tiny, questionably run, fairly gross burger joint about ten minutes from my house. Although the money sucked, I enjoyed the experience and the people I worked with. I figured out that as long as I didn’t take myself or anyone else too seriously, I could find something to laugh about almost every day. Usually behind peoples’ backs, but hey, sometimes you just gotta laugh.

When I first started working at Andy’s, I was pretty much the same as I am now: quiet in public and secretly hilarious (Right guys? Right? Okay whatever, nevermind). If you know me in person, you might know that I tend to be on the shyer, awkwarder side of the social spectrum. Now imagine those character traits, but like, on steroids. I wasn’t on steroids, in case you got the wrong idea, just my, ya know…you get the picture.

Anyway, so I was pretty timid at sixteen, at least at work. One of my first shifts, we got unexpectedly busy over the dinner hour. I was sweaty and stressed out, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I remember an older couple sitting in the middle of the restaurant while I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I told them I’d be right with them to get their drinks, and let’s just say it took a while. I could tell they were getting frustrated. Finally I returned to grab their food order.

“I’d like to get a cheeseburger with ketchup and mushrooms,” the man said.

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” I asked. Mushrooms didn’t usually come on our burgers, so I wanted to make sure I got it right.

“I’d like to get a cheeseburger with ketchup and mushrooms,” he said again. I finally decided that it must be a thing, and that it actually sounded pretty good.

When their food went out, I came over to check on them. The guy was sitting there holding up the top part of his bun like he’d just opened a can of worms or something. He looked at me incredulously and said, “this burger has mushrooms on it.”

“Isn’t that you wanted?” I asked, starting to blush profusely.

“I said mustard,” he said, practically yelling.

“Oh,” I replied, startled and no doubt turning a lovely but unhealthy shade of magenta.

I had the burger fixed, and that, y’all, is how I learned to repeat orders back. I mean, I can hardly blame the guy for getting a little upset. He was probably thinking, “this girl is sweaty and stressed out, and doesn’t really know what she’s doing.” Which, as we have discussed, was the case.

In my defense, I’m pretty sure he just talked weird. The next two times he came back I just decided that when he said “mushrooms” he was actually saying “mustard.” I comforted myself with the knowledge that he just didn’t know how to say words.

A few weeks ago I ran some food out for another server’s table at the sports bar where I was working. The man at the table looked familiar, so I walked past a few more times.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” I said. “Did you used to go to the Andy’s in Louisburg?”

“Yeah, I did!” – I could tell he was trying to remember who I was. I told him that I used to work there, and we exchanged pleasant chit chat. He chitted, I chatted, he chatted, I chitted – we took turns. I asked him if he remembered how I thought he wanted mushrooms instead of mustard. He did remember. We laughed heartily about it, and then we parted ways the best of buds. Turns out he was a pretty cool dude, even if he was a little upset that his burger came out with mushrooms.

I mean, I’d probably be a little upset too if I had a speech impediment.