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Sunday, September 21, 2014

God's Political Party

When I lived in the Midwest I had an aesthetician who frequently baited me into political discussions. Over the course of our professional relationship she learned that I was a Christian so she automatically assumed that I must, of course, be a Republican. One day she brought up the environment or abortion or some such controversial topic and thought that I would approve of her opinions. Naturally, I could not. I am a card carrying Democrat to the core and I do not pretend to be bipartisan. However, our interactions made me think, why is it that we associate one particular party with Christianity? In fact, why do we assume that God has (or even needs) a political party?

When we examine the parties we see that the Republican Party more closely aligns itself with Evangelical Christianity, which is not a problem, unless you happen to believe in separation of church and state (which I do).  In fact, overall the Republican Party is a pretty homogeneous group, made almost entirely of whites, males, rural dwellers, older people, people with higher incomes, and less formally educated people. In fact, minorities in general are extremely unlikely to associate themselves with the conservative party.

The Democrat Party on the other hand is made up of every one else! Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, Asians, educated people, lower income people, Christians, Atheists, Jews, gays--a much more diverse group of people. So it is faulty thinking to assume that "Christian" automatically equals Republican. My faith informs my vote just as a conservative's faith informs his. My faith is no less authentic, no less meaningful. My belief that God created the world, for example, informs my belief that we should take care of the planet we live on. My belief in equality (see Galations 3:28), colors my views on social justice for all people, regardless of gender, race, social economic status, or sexual orientation. (Recall that Christ's message is for everyone Rev. 14: 6. and that Christ himself ministered to the very poor, the tax collectors, women with bad reputations etc.) These views, which I believe are biblically supported, lead me to desire health care reform, make me less inclined to support the death penalty, and make me long for a government that promotes the betterment of its citizens in whatever ways it can. Lastly, my biblically-based belief in the freedom of choice ( recall "choose ye this day who you will serve") discourages me from foisting my religious views on other people, so I wholeheartedly defend separation of church and state.

 The issue I have with my conservative friends is that they often view their party as THE Christian party! Subsequently, their party is most likely associated with "values", to the point where we hear phrases like "the religious right". But remember from history that white slave owners were also religious. In fact they were so religious that they used the Bible to justify the abominable institution of slavery! Just because a party or group is affiliated with Christianity, does not mean that said party is Christian or that the so-called "values" espoused are in keeping with God's word. Some people act as if God himself ordained the Republican Party; as if to distance oneself from conservative ideology is tantamount to apostasy!

So does that mean that God, by default, endorses the Democrat Party?

To be honest, I do not believe that God has a political party! I can point to instances in both parties where I know He would be displeased. I can list examples of several politicians from both camps who have openly violated at least one of the 10 commandments. And though I argue passionately about my beliefs, I realize that my political party is far from ideal and the the present administration didn't exactly usher in a new Utopian America.

Daniel 2:21 describes God as having the power to remove kings and set up kings. This verse means that God has the ultimate authority. He is more powerful than any political entity we have down here. In the same chapter the prophet writes that God's kingdom obliterates the kingdoms of this world and only his kingdom is forever. That's not to say that God is indifferent to our sociopolitical plight down here, but it does mean that His authority is bigger and wider and certainly more permanent than anything we dream up in this world.

Of course I have my opinions about which political party more closely mirrors the principles of the Bible, but that's a whole other can of worms. For now, I would like people to stop using God as some kind of political chess piece and to disabuse themselves of the idea that God loves/supports/endorses one political group over the other. After all, Christianity existed long before the Republican Party and it will continue to exist long after it.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Lessons From Julius

On August 23, 2014, just 5 days after I decided to have Max euthanized, I adopted a kitten from a local shelter. His name is Julius. Julius is smart, adaptable, funny, adorable, and one of the worse mistakes I made this year! People tend to love kittens because, well...
because they are super cute. Often people adopt a kitten without knowing exactly what they are getting into. However, as someone who has had animals all her life, I knew. I cannot claim ignorance. I also know myself and I LOVE adult cats because there are no surprises. You know their personalities and can predict their behavior. Like us, they tend to be calmer and more settled as they get older.

But grief over Max, and a little prodding from a loved one convinced me, a young professional who is at work 9 hours a day, and who adores solitude and leisure, that I could be a good parent to a rambunctious, highly energetic, go-getter kitten. Can we say big mistake! The first week I had Julius he did not allow me to sleep. Sleep deprived and exhausted I changed his sleeping environment--I tossed kitty out of my room and slammed the door. Meanwhile kitty and I battled over what to feed him. Several foods caused him to vomit, and one food gave him a 3 day bout of explosive diarrhea. Then came the unlimited energy. An hour of play time and literally running through the halls together was not enough for the spirited Julius. When I could not entertain him he...well less just say he found less productive ways to entertain himself. But the behavior that made me want to pull my braids out from the roots one by one had to be the suckling. Julius was the most determined nurser on earth! He tried to nurse my blankets, my comforter, towels, clothing, bath robes, ME! Nothing could deter the behavior. 

I finally couldn't take it any more. The shelter I adopted him from has a provision that allows a family to return the pet within 30 days. Not a light decision for me. I am a huge cat advocate. I have rescued and re-homed strays, volunteered at my local animal shelter, and I have taken care of cats all my life. Had Julius been an older cat or a cat with health problems I would have kept him, because I know his chances at being adopted by a kind family are slight.  Let's be clear, I do NOT advocate returning a pet to a shelter unless you are under a provisional period like I was, or unless you are in dire straits and you have exhausted ALL other viable options (e.g. you suddenly find yourself homeless).  But beautiful Julius is a highly desirable pet. In fact, I am confident that he will have a new home by next week. 

Adopting a cat is a 20 year commitment. Cat's are people too, in that they have the same needs and desires that we have. That said, the decision to adopt a pet is a serious one! Probably up there with deciding to purchase a house. Once you purchase it, the house is your for years and years to come. I made a bad decision. I know myself well. I know my lifestyle and energy level. I work a stressed-filled job that leaves me depleted at the end of the day. I should have taken all those factors into consideration. I didn't. And now I'm paying for it. Surrendering Julius was a tough decision. I miss him and love him, but we were ultimately a poor match. 

I kept trying to make something work that just wasn't working. We do that in our people relationships. We try all sorts of things to keep certain people in our lives. We compromise, struggle, and fight, but as the old adage goes, "if it don't fit, don't force it."

Though I am sad to lose Julius, on so many levels I feel relieved. I know I made the best decision for both of us: now Julius can find a good family that can care for him in ways I would never be able to (as a small kitten he is highly adoptable). And now I can find an adult cat better suited to my personality, who will lounge with me, and snuggle, and enjoy gentle play. I had regrets about keeping Julius, but I have no regrets about letting him go so that he can find someone who will love him entirely, suckling and all. We can learn a lot of lessons from our pets. I have learned a lot from my ill-matched kitty friend. Perhaps the biggest lesson is that if you love something, let it go. 

Julius never got tired of playing. 

Looking for a pet? The Purposeful Blog advocates purchasing a pet from a reputable shelter. To find pets near you please visit www.petfinder.com or http://www.petango.com/.

Update September 13, 2014: Julius was adopted by a kind family on September 8th, just two days after I returned him to the shelter and on the same day he was put back up for adoption. I wish Julius all the happines in the world.