Monthly Archives: July 2014

Another Crazy Idea

I have an idea, but I’m not sure how to go about making it happen. Off and on for the past 3 years or so, I’ve been vaguely interested in starting a small church or at least a worship group. The idea has come to the forefront of my mind again because of what has recently been going on around Gordon College (my school). I’m a senior at Gordon, and for the most part, I have enjoyed my experience there. I tend to be more liberal than many of the other students and faculty, but it has never caused any animosity, and everyone up until this point has been understanding.

Recently, however, the president of the school, along with prominent leaders of other Christian organizations, signed a petition asking President Obama to exempt them from an anti-discrimination law so that they could lawfully exclude LGBT peeps from their hiring process. Understandably, there has been a lot of backlash from alumni and current students, though admittedly, I don’t know much about the reactions of many faculty members. They seem to be staying quiet on the issue.

I read a blog post yesterday or the day before from an alumni who graduated in the early 80’s. She mentioned that many alums have decided to return their diplomas in protest of the president’s actions. She decided not to do so, and instead, wrote about how alums and current students should work toward change with positive action rather than simply making a statement of discontentment. She didn’t exactly say how this should be done, but she did talk about how alums in particular can control what their donations to the school go to specifically.

Her article gave me an idea. She talked about how the church she currently attended was very accepting of former criminals and addicts, but when she came out as a lesbian, they stopped allowing her to take leadership roles in the church, and ultimately kicked her out. Reading this made me want to right the wrong. I initially wanted to start a whole new church that would be completely open to members of the LGBT community, ex convicts, etc, but after some thinking, this seemed to be too big a task for me. I’ve decided that I do want to start a small worship/study group, but I don’t know where, and I don’t know how. I don’t currently have anyone to start it with, and I’m not sure exactly how to inform people that I’m doing this. I’m also not sure that my parents or my Christian friends would approve. I know I shouldn’t care, but I might need their help later.

Two of my biggest problems are that I don’t know exactly what the format of our meetings would be, and since I want to be inviting to everyone, I was thinking we might explore worship through different religions, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I know that if I had friends who were spiritual in different ways than myself and they asked me to worship with them I would, so I don’t know why this would make me feel uncomfortable.

I’ve started doing a bit of research, and I might get in touch with the local Unitarian Universalist church to see if anyone is interested, and the local library to see if we could use their building once a week for our meetings. Honestly, though; what I’m most worried about with this plan is that I won’t have the ambition or the resources to make it happen–which ever happens first. That’s actually something I’ve been fighting with (again): lack of ambition. I know it’s partly just because I’ve been on vacation since June and I’m just getting bored, but it’s starting to get on my nerves. I need school to start up again.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Open Letter To World Leaders

This is the letter I just wrote to President Obama, President Putin and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

 Dear President Obama, Ambassador Power and President Putin,

My name is Katie Curtis. I am a United States citizen, and more importantly, a concerned member of our human family. I have recently become aware of the situation in Ukraine and the hostilities between that country and Russia. Today, July 17, 2014, I saw in the news that a Russian missile was found in a downed passenger plane over Ukraine. By no means do I intend to cause trouble or point blame. Rather, I implore you all, as leaders of the world to take a look at our situation and see if you cannot come to a peaceful solution. Our world is so muddled with wars, hostilities and violence as it is, and I can stand no more. I was very young when the United States went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan, and I have grown up in a time of war, though I have seen almost none of the violence except for what is shown on television. Throughout my high school and college career I have studied the World Wars and the devastation they caused. I learned about the United States Civil War, and the Revolutionary War. I learned about the French Revolution, and the conquest of Napoleon. War is something that can be traced back to the beginning of time, and yet most of the time it seems so needless. I don’t have a concrete solution to any of the world’s current problems, and I have my own ideologies the same as anyone else. I know it is difficult to make peace with people you fundamentally disagree with about so many things. I wish I could speak for everyone; however, I am writing this letter as a Christian, and I am basing my requests on my beliefs. Jesus Christ, the person and God I follow, said that the two most important commandments from God were to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. He also said that we should go beyond loving our friends and love our enemies. I don’t know what this looks like on a large, global scale; however, I do know that it means going out of our way to create peace, even if it means putting the needs and desires of our enemies first. I think it is often pride and fear that do not allow us to do that. Having power is an enormous responsibility. It is the duty of those with power to care for the ones without. So often power is misinterpreted as the right to impose ideologies, false standards and our own prideful desires on others. If world leaders truly used their power properly, there would be no revolutions; if the rich used their power properly there would be no poverty; if the educated used their power properly, no one would be uneducated. This is what I truly believe. I know it is difficult to put aside centuries of developed ideologies and built up grudges on such a large scale, but it is your responsibility as world leaders and defenders of your people to come to a solution that upholds human dignity and preserves innocent lives.

Sincerely,

Katie Curtis

Gordon, I Love You, But Sometimes…

Last night I saw a story on the news about Gordon College–my college. It was not flattering. The mayor of Salem Massachusetts has broken ties with Gordon; they will no longer be involved with the management of the Old Town Hall. This is because the president of Gordon, D. Michael Lindsey wrote a letter President Obama, along with several other religious organizations, asking to be exempt from a national law that clearly states, no business or organization can discriminate against anyone in the hiring process.

Gordon, along with the others were seeking exemption for religious reasons. Specifically, they were seeking the right to exclude members of the LGBT community from their hiring process. While this is the wish of the president, it is certainly not the desire of many of the students. Christian morality is important, but who defines it? It is both a communal and deeply personal faith, and thus, both aspects must be taken into consideration.

I read an article by Rev. Chuck Currie arguing that it is precisely these types of requests and actions that are in fact opposed to what Jesus taught. By openly requesting that they be allowed to exclude certain types of people, Christian organizations are showing the world that they are unwelcoming and judgmental. Perhaps they are not overtly so, and perhaps on an individual level the people at the head of these organizations are very nice to people of different sexual orientations. However, Currie cites the countless examples in history where religion has been used to oppress a specific group, whether it was women, African Americans or other groups. Now the target group happens to be anyone who isn’t straight.

I personally have a hard time with the issue of sexual orientation. Many of my close friends and family believe that it is inherently sinful because of specific Bible passages. However, these verses refer more to one’s conduct and fidelity than what type of person they are attracted to, in my opinion. Honestly, it just doesn’t seem to me that God would make people of different sexual orientations if they weren’t meant to be. Why would he allow them to happen otherwise? It used to be believed that disabled people were disabled because they were being punished either for their own sins or for the sins of their parents. I don’t know why I’m disabled, but I do know that God wouldn’t have made me if I wasn’t meant to be. God loves me, and he loves my gay friends too.

Many conservative Christians are afraid to give up their traditions. That’s fine. Tradition is great. However, one must be able to reconcile tradition and contemporary culture. Culture shapes religion; or at least it ought to. There are certain standards and beliefs of Christianity that shouldn’t and won’t change based on loyalty, selflessness, kindness and love. if one lives by these virtues, the rest can and should adapt. People tend not to like change. We all get comfortable in our own little worlds with our own ideas about what is right and wrong. The truth is there is only one Right and Wrong, and we’re only capable of knowing a little bit of that Truth. We are told not to judge so that we may not be judged. Obviously there are times when we know something is clearly wrong, but what about when it comes to gay Christians or philanthropic, upstanding atheists? It simply gets too muddled, in my opinion; at which point, I think it’s our job to be friendly and love our classmates, friends, coworkers, and whoever else we are in contact with in our lives.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Independence, Counter-Culture And Christianity

Today is July 4th. Today we celebrate the day that we as Americans declared our independence from the British so many years ago. It’s an important thing to remember for so many reasons as this holiday has morphed and changed and become something new over the centuries. It’s a day to gather with family and eat junk food and weather permitting, watch the fireworks. It’s a day to wear red, white and blue and celebrate what we deem to be truly American. Maybe it’s a day to let loose and behave badly, and maybe it’s a day to remember those we have lost in the various wars we’ve been involved in as a country. Whether it’s fun or silly or patriotic or what have you, today is an important day.

Many people simply refer to this particular day as The 4th of July and forget that it is our Independence Day. Perhaps this is because we have forgotten who or what we are independent of. As Americans, we have been an independent nation for over 200 years. As human beings we are free thinkers, inventors and artists. While it’s true that there is some degree of censorship in the United States, it’s also true that to a very large degree, we have freedom of speech, expression, freedom to organize, and freedom to disagree. The freedom to disagree, particularly with what the government says and does is a very precious freedom. It is a freedom worth protecting and cherishing.

I took a four-week theology class in June. We covered a lot of material in a very short time and it was a lot to process. However, something I remember distinctly is our discussion of Church and State. How dependent are they upon each other, and where should our loyalties lie? I am conflicted on this issue. On the one hand, I feel that they should not be separate at all because the Church offers a stable morality that I think is neglected in our leadership. However, while I firmly believe that Christianity is the only proper way to form a relationship with God, I do not believe that it should be imposed on anyone else. Freedom of religion is very important to me. Freedom of religion is directly related to freedom of choice. If it were up to me, I would not have the United States government be a theocracy, but I would have the Church directly involved somehow. I suppose that in some ways it is.

I also know that the Church as an organization is capable of corruption and atrocities. It is made up of people, and people are flawed. Jesus is the exception, and it was his teaching and example upon which the Church was originally based. Jesus was counter-cultural. He taught forgiveness and love where the standard was justice. He promised life where the expectation was death. By extension, Christianity has often been thought of as counter-cultural, especially in the postmodern era.

When I was a child I developed a thick skin. I was never one of the popular kids, and I was never picked on, but I was usually ignored. Because of this I thought I had to be tough to survive. I had to learn to fend for myself and to be indifferent to what the other kids thought. It worked for a while, but then I developed an overwhelming sense of loneliness. This was partly due to the fact that one of my friends went to a different high school, and many of my other friends became interested in different things than I.

Loving is hard. It’s a lot easier to see people as enemies, but it’s a lot more rewarding to see them as brothers and sisters. It takes humility to look at the people on the other side of the planet who hate you and to pray for them. Many of them want to kill you. They see you as enemies of God who deserve death. It’s easy to say that the Nazis were evil and deserve to go to Hell. It’s even easier, for me anyway, to look at the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world and condemn their persecutors.

I don’t like to be angry. It’s easier to condemn people, but it feels better to forgive them, and if I can’t, at least to pray for them. So what does this have to do with Independence Day? I guess it’s a declaration of independence from cultural norms. You don’t have to get the message from Christ. Plenty of philosophies and religions say the same thing: live a good life and love your neighbors; whether you like them or not. They all say this because it’s something worth striving for. Love is freedom. It’s freedom from loneliness, anger, distrust and fear. Love is the catalyst for everything good. We do and feel everything good because we love something, whether that is a person or simply life itself.

Happy Independence Day! Enjoy the fireworks (if it’s not raining where you are).

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Stop Telling Us We’re Inspirational!

I remember reading a post by a mother a while ago, talking about her disabled child. Basically her post was saying that it annoys her when people say her child is “amazing” because they can do interesting, “normal” things despite their disability. At the time I think I agreed with it because it was well written, etc, but I didn’t really think much about it.

Last night I read a poem by a 16 year old girl who was paralyzed from the chest down. The person who posted it explained how she got paralyzed, etc, and then said how amazing it was that she managed to live a happy, fairly normal life despite her disability.

I have decided that this kind of thinking irks me. I don’t often think about it too much, but I do sometimes get comments about how inspirational I am for doing seemingly standard things. In fact, my dad sometimes gives me the “you’re amazing” talk. Don’t get me wrong, I do think I’m amazing and wonderful, but it’s certainly not because I can manage to be happy. I just like myself.

I have probably mentioned this before, but I’ve been disabled since I was born. I have Muscular Dystrophy, which makes my muscles week, and for some reason I can’t extend my arms or legs all the way. I also have epilepsy, which is mostly taken care of by my medication, but I still get symptoms occasionally. I have pretty terrible eyesight, too. Quite frankly, none of this has ever bothered me too much. I mean, it’s inconvenient in some respects, but I have far more important things to worry about.

I’m not special because I can write coherently or read stories, or critically analyze movies. I’m not special because I’m good at racing games. I’m not special because I’ll get up and sing in front of people. I’m not special because I learned to play guitar upside-down. I’m not special because I’m going to college. I’m certainly not special because I can manage to be happy. I choose to be happy. There’s nothing particularly different or amazing about that. It’s not that hard. Anyone can choose to be happy. It just makes life easier.

Saying that “people like me” are special because we can manage to be happy and functional is actually a bit insulting. It implies that we should pity ourselves and let the world run our lives for us because we have the right to. I have no interest in doing that. I sometimes pity myself. It’s true, but it’s certainly not because I can’t walk. Sometimes I wonder why I haven’t ever been able to get a date and why it’s so difficult to get gigs as a newbie musician. Then I stop worrying about it and move on because worrying solves nothing. And yes, I do complain about some of that stuff on this blog. This is where I do my worrying about it.

We’re just people. Maybe we look a little different and our bodies or our minds work differently, but at our core we’re no different than anyone else. I met a man this past semester who had no arms and no legs. He seemed very nice and I didn’t get to talk to him very much, and it only occurred to me after our conversation had ended that he was somehow driving his wheelchair with no arms or legs. I asked his sister about it because she is a classmate of mine, and she said because he lost his limbs when he was young, he was able to develop muscles in his elbows that most of us don’t use. I thought it was cool because I learned something new. It’s a testament to how adaptable humans in general are. This man was not inspirational to me, however, because he wasn’t trying to be. I liked him because he was friendly and interesting. He was just a normal person to me because I expected him to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad some people can find “people like me” inspirational. They would be wrong, but it doesn’t cause them too much harm. What I would ask is that they keep it to themselves. Be our friends. ask us about what we’re interested in. Argue with us about philosophy. Treat us like you would treat anyone else. Just stop telling us how amazing it is that we’re happy.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!