A Letter From a Backsliding, Prodigal Heretic, To My Christian Friends Still on the Inside

I don’t often reblog. But today John wrote exactly what has been in my heart and on my mind and happening in my life and I just had to share it with you.

john pavlovitz

hand-writing1To My Dear Christian Friends on the Inside,

I know that you love me.

I know that because you love me you’re worried about me right now.

I know that you feel that I’ve been led astray down the rebellious path of the prodigal, that I’ve somehow been deceived into darkness and you are gravely concerned for the eternal destination of my soul.

I know you believe that I am currently quite lost and you’re praying tirelessly for me to find my way back before it’s too late.

I know this because when I believed what you believe, I feared the same things about people like me.

I remember looking at those who stand where I now stand and feeling what I believed was a holy compassion for them. I remember well, wanting with great urgency to save them from the destruction they were choosing.

I realize now how arrogant it was for me to assume that…

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Please stop freaking out about the HPV vaccine.

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Okay, I can’t take it anymore. In the past week, I have seen the HPV vaccine scare stories going around again and now I just have to say something. As a person who had precancerous cells removed from her cervix because of HPV, I can’t imagine not giving my kids and their future partners protection from cancer if I can.

Both my kids have had two of the three shots so far and will have their third next week.

No, you are not encouraging your kids to have sex by giving them this shot.

You are helping to protect them from certain types of cancer.

Certain HPV types are classified as “high-risk” because they lead to abnormal cell changes and can cause genital cancers: cervical cancer as well as cancer of the vulva, anus, and penis. In fact, researchers say that virtually all cervical cancers — more than 99% — are caused by these high-risk HPV viruses.  –WebMd

More than 99%. Let that sink in. You have the power to help protect your children (and their future partners) from certain types of cancer.

For women who do develop cervical cancer, HPV is generally the root cause. In 2006, it is estimated that there will be 9,710 new cases of cervical cancer and 3,700 deaths attributed to it in the United States. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women; and it is estimated to cause over 470,000 new cases and 233,000 deaths per year.  –FDA

Abstinence is not protection.

As I mentioned earlier, I was diagnosed with HPV after having an abnormal PAP test. This lead to a biopsy and then cryotherapy to remove precancerous cells. Kent is my one and only sexual partner. I married him 2 days after my 18th birthday. Not that it is anyone’s business, but I want to dispel the myth that if your child just abstains from intercourse before they are married they won’t get HPV. On that note, I’d like to say according to the CDC and the National Center for Health Statistics:

…in the United States, 46 percent of all high school age students, and 62 percent of high school seniors, have had sexual intercourse; almost nine million teens have already had sex.1,2

Maybe your child will be in the 38% of kids who haven’t had sex by the time they graduate and maybe they won’t.

Additionally, HPV can be contracted through oral sex and/or genital contact (even with areas not covered by a condom).

But UCSF researchers have shown these viruses to be present on genital skin with no symptoms that might prompt diagnosis and treatment. That means HPV and HSV can be deposited on the condom’s outer surface from viral particles living on the scrotum, penile shaft not covered by the condom or vaginal/vulvar tissues.

No, HPV doesn’t mean anyone cheated. 

HPV can go undetected for years making it hard to know exactly when or how you contracted it. There is no HPV test for men, and women do not know they have it until they develop symptoms that show up in a cervical cancer screening, abnormal PAP test, genital warts or worst of all, cancer. According to everydayhealth.com:

“Some patients assume that their current sexual partner gave it to them,” says Robinson. “But that’s probably not the case. The women who develop cervical cancer at age 40 probably got infected shortly after [having sex] with their first sexual partner.” That’s because HPV can remain dormant for years before it starts causing damage to cells that can lead to cancer. HPV-triggered cancers can take years, or even decades, to develop.

HPV vaccines are not just for girls. According to the CDC:

Girls aren’t the only ones affected by HPV, also known as human papillomavirus.  HPV is common in both males and females. Every year, over 9,000 males are affected by cancers caused by HPV infections that don’t go away. HPV can cause cancers of the anus, mouth/throat (oropharynx), and penis in males.

Cases of anal cancer and cancers of the mouth/throat are on the rise. In fact, if current trends continue, the annual number of cancers of the mouth/throat attributed to HPV is expected to surpass the annual number of cervical cancers by 2020.1

Are HPV vaccines effective? YES.

HPV vaccines are highly effective in preventing infection with the types of HPV they target when given before initial exposure to the virus—which means before individuals begin to engage in sexual activity. In the trials that led to approval of Gardasil and Cervarix, these vaccines were found to provide nearly 100 percent protection against persistent cervical infections with HPV types 16 and 18 and the cervical cell changes that these persistent infections can cause. Gardasil 9 is as effective as Gardasil for the prevention of diseases caused by the four shared HPV types (6, 11, 16, and 18), based on similar antibody responses in participants in clinical studies. The trials that led to approval of Gardasil 9 found it to be 97 percent effective in preventing cervical, vulvar, and vaginal disease caused by the five additional HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52, and 58) that it targets (18).

Okay, but are they safe? YES!!

According to a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine:

RESULTS:

One hundred eighty-nine thousand six hundred twenty-nine females received at least 1 dose and 44 001 received 3 HPV4 doses. Fifty categories had significantly elevated ORs during at least 1 risk interval. Medical record review revealed that most diagnoses were present before vaccination or diagnostic workups were initiated at the vaccine visit. Only skin infections during days 1 to 14 (OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.3-2.4) and syncope on day of vaccination (OR, 6.0; 95% CI, 3.9-9.2) were noted by an independent Safety Review Committee as likely associations with HPV4.

CONCLUSIONS:

The quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine was associated with same-day syncope and skin infections in the 2 weeks after vaccination. This study did not detect evidence of new safety concerns among females 9 to 26 years of age secondary to vaccination with HPV4.

According to cancer.gov:

How safe are the HPV vaccines?

A recent safety review by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considered adverse side effects related to Gardasil immunization that have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System since the vaccine was licensed (29, 30). The rates of adverse side effects in the safety review were consistent with what was seen in safety studies carried out before the vaccine was approved and were similar to those seen with other vaccines. However, a higher proportion of syncope (fainting) and venous thrombolic events (blood clots) were seen with Gardasil than are usually seen with other vaccines.  The patients who developed blood clots had known risk factors for developing them, such as taking oral contraceptives. A safety review of Gardasil in Denmark and Sweden did not identify an increased risk of blood clots (30).

Falls after fainting may sometimes cause serious injuries, such as head injuries. These can largely be prevented by keeping the person seated for up to 15 minutes after vaccination. The FDA and CDC have reminded health care providers that, to prevent falls and injuries, all vaccine recipients should remain seated or lying down and be closely observed for 15 minutes after vaccination. More information is available from the CDC athttp://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Vaccines/HPV/Index.html.

[syn·co·pe   ˈsiNGkəpē/    noun     MEDICINE: temporary loss of consciousness caused by a fall in blood pressure.] I didn’t know either. Had to look it up. 

Debunking Gardasil myths.

Your one stop shop for real science and myth debunking about Gardasil

New Study Debunks Conservative Hysteria That HPV Vaccination Causes ‘Sexual Promiscuity’

Parents Are Increasingly Worried The HPV Vaccine Isn’t Safe, Despite All Evidence To The Contrary

On Gardasil- Snopes

Here Is How We Know Gardasil Has Not Killed 100 People

I will leave you with this final thought from Dr. Stanley Block:

“This is an incredibly well studied vaccine, with huge data sets and huge populations, and nothing has panned out as being significant as far as major adverse events,” said Dr. Stanley Block, a pediatrician in private practice in Bardstown, Kentucky, and a coauthor of the study recently published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. “We know the reality is that it protects against a tremendous number of deaths, cancers and chemotherapies for your daughters and your sons [and I would add your children’s future partners] somewhat too.

What does lying to kids have to do with the birth of Jesus?

Why do people feel that lying to their kids is central to celebrating the birth of Jesus?

Yes, I am that parent. If my first sentence bothers you, you should probably stop reading now.

Seriously, though? Christians love celebrating the birth of Jesus. And they are often very serious about how and why they and others celebrate. A few examples if you will…

Jesus is the reason for the season.
A baby changes everything.
Say Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays.
There is a “War on Christmas”.

Christians also love the Bible. They love to have Nativity plays this time of year. Big, elaborate ones in many cases costing thousands of dollars to produce. They love reading the Bible passages on Christmas Eve about the census and Mary and Joseph traveling to be taxed. They love to tell about the baby Jesus, born in a Manger. Born to die as the songs say to take away our sins. A baby changes everything.

All year long these same people teach their children about being honest. They even punish their children for lying. They may go easier on them when they are in trouble if they tell the truth. They use verses like:

Lev 19:11 Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.

Prov 12:22 The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

Col 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.

Eph 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Heck, it is even in the 10 commandments.

Exodus 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

With me so far?

You know where I am going.

Santa & The Elf on the Shelf

Lies. Blatant falsehoods. They are both lies told to children over and over and over by the people who teach them about Jesus and honesty and loving your neighbor. The people who are supposed to love them the most.

Killjoy.
No, not at all. These are both traditions that you can have without lying to your kids. Our kids always knew the truth and we still had gifts from “Santa”. Still put out cookies. Still watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

At this point, I want to implore you. Stop lying to your kids. Tell them the truth. Ask their forgiveness for deliberately deceiving them. They might be mad. They probably should be. How would you feel if the people you trusted most in the world had constructed an intricate web of lies that they convinced you were true for 10 years of your life? I am guessing a little like Belle. In case you haven’t seen the story Belle is 10 and found out this year that her parents had been lying to her about Santa. She sent them the letter you see below. Then, you know what they did? They apologized. Wait, no. They laughed at her and put the note on the internet.

santa note

And, then this morning I saw this story about a 7-year-old girl who was, according to her mom, “hysterical crying, she was panicking” when she called 911 because she accidentally knocked over her elf on the shelf while her mom was napping.

You see kids, they get that this is serious. And yet some of you are so mad at me right now you want to throw your computers. You want to go on with the lie because it makes Christmas more magical. Isn’t the birth of Jesus magical enough without Santa and The Elf?

Many people actually use the “naughty and nice lists” and the elf’s job of reporting back to Santa as a way to manipulate their kids into good behavior. Do we not see the irony here. You are using a made up story (a lie) to teach your children not to lie (or do other naughty things). Last story… I overheard two mom’s talking the other day. The one mom was telling the story of how her son had dropped the F-bomb in carpool. When he got home, she confronted him about it and he lied because he didn’t realize she already knew about it. As his punishment, she had him write letters of apology to the other kids in the car as well as the mom who was driving. While he did this, she wrote her own letter. When her son asked who she was writing to, she said, Santa. This is the gist of her letter. Dear Santa, I am writing to you because Jimmy (not his name) said the f-word and then lied to me about it. I hope he will be able to straighten out in time to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

No. I am not kidding. A letter to Santa (lie), using him and Jesus to shame her son and teach him not to lie.

I am just saying, wouldn’t it be better to just teach our children empathy? Wouldn’t it be better not to deliberately deceive them? Doesn’t teaching not to lie by lying seem just a little wrong? Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourself. Are our children not included in this? These lies we tell ourselves (this makes Christmas more magical/it isn’t really lying) and the lies we tell our children (the elf watches you all day and comes alive at night etc.) are just that, lies.

 

President or Queen Bey?

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(Photo Credit: AP)

Unless you have been living under a rock you know that next year we will be electing our next President. There are many qualified and intelligent people running for the job. In case you really did just join us, one of those candidates is Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday in Iowa, at a town hall meeting, Secretary Clinton was asked a hard hitting question by a young woman in the audience. This young woman had an opportunity few of us get. Just imagine it, you are at a campaign event, you have an opportunity to ask one question to help you and others decide if the woman before you should be the next leader of the free world. Your turn at the mic comes up. You clear your throat and you fire away.

Would you rather be the President or Beyonce?

Go back and read it again. I’ll wait.

And I know what you are thinking, and yes, THIS WAS REAL.

This woman actually stood up and asked Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, Senator from New York, Yale Law grad, former attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund, co-founder of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, First Lady of both Arkansas and the United States if she would rather do what she had spent her whole adult life working toward or trade it all in to be Queen Bey.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love me some Beyonce. She is a smart, talented, a savvy business woman and as fierce as all get out. But why in the world would Hillary want to be anyone but herself?

And now, my question, why is it only female politicians who get asked crap like this? How come no one asks Trump if he would rather be Brad Pitt? Or Cruz if he would rather be George Clooney? Who knows maybe Ben Carson would rather be Justin Timberlake? Seriously?

I assert no one asks men questions like this because everyone assumes that if they’re running, of course they want to be President. And honestly, what woman in her right mind would want to be President? I mean, President is a hard job. Women aren’t really suited to run the world. Unless of course you ask Beyonce. I’m pretty sure she thinks girls can run the world.

 

Since when does duct tape and bondage bring peace to anyone?

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I was thinking all day about writing a response to this photo, but then my amazing husband wrote this on Facebook:

When?

When did we decide it was ok to joke about our wives and daughters being gagged and bound?

When did we decide peace on Earth would come from silencing half of the world’s population?

When did we decide that Christmas (or for that matter anytime) was a good time to mock those we love?

When did we decide that “lighten up” or “it’s just a joke” were appropriate responses to those who were shocked by such a message of violence and forced submission?

When?

Is it possible that it was all decided long ago?

Is it possible that these types of acts are manifestations of what has been simmering just below the surface all along?

Is it possible that our world still believes that it is all Eve’s fault?

All of it?

All the pain?

All the sorrow?

All the fighting?

All the disention?

All the frustration?

Is it possible that the world has passed this on to us?

And we believe it?

Is it possible?

Do we all really believe that?

And if we don’t, why do we keep hearing and seeing – and tolerating – messages that bound and gag our wives and daughters?

Exceptional? We could be, but we aren’t.

 

When I was young I was taught we were better than this.
I was taught that the color of your skin didn’t matter, but the content of your character did.
I was taught that my worth as a girl was equal to the worth of any and every boy.
I was taught that we loved everyone whether they shared our beliefs or not.
I was told we had learned our lesson during WWII about racism and xenophobia.
I was told we had learned our lesson about excluding people during the civil rights movement.
I was told we had learned our lesson about equality between the sexes during the fight for women’s suffrage.
I thought we were supposed to have learned that rounding up citizens and putting them in internment camps is wrong.
Torture is wrong.
Racism is wrong.
Sexism is wrong.
Armed citizen vigilantes, suspicious and with their itchy fingers on a trigger patrolling the streets is wrong.
Make no mistake, what we have now IS. NOT. FREEDOM. It is bondage.

Somewhere along the line, I was sold a bill of goods that America was exceptional. We aren’t. We could be, but we aren’t. We do have the potential to be exceptional. To be exceptional, every human would have to be truly equal regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexuality or national origin. Exceptional would be universal healthcare with mental health care valued and available to all, racism would be decried and actively fought and spoken out against, homophobia would be non-existent, #blacklivesmatter wouldn’t need to be a hashtag because it would be obvious and we wouldn’t be entertaining closing our borders to people based on their religion alone. Exceptional nations don’t allow a school in a poor neighborhood to crumble and go without textbooks while the school in the wealthy neighborhood a few blocks away has a laptop for every student and state of the art classrooms. Exceptional nations don’t have the highest levels of incarceration and for-profit prisons. Exceptionalism would demand peace be our default and war a last and reluctant resort. To be truly exceptional we would not even be considering (and certainly not seriously considering) candidates who are against most, if not all, of the things I just mentioned.

Freedom isn’t free, lovelies. The cost, in this case, is giving up our paranoia, our hatred, our phobias, and our fears. But the benefits? Oh, the benefits! They far outweigh the costs.

The video at the top of this link is a cover of the Patti Smith song, The People Have the Power as performed by U2 and The Eagles of Death Metal in Paris this week. Here are the lyrics:

I was dreamin’ in my dreamin’
Of an aspect bright and fair
And my sleepin’ it was broken
But my dream it lingered near

In the form of shinin’ valleys
Where the pure air recognized
Oh, and my senses newly opened
And I awakened to the cry

And the people have the power
To redeem the work of fools
From the meek the graces shower
It’s decreed the people rule

People have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

Vengeful aspects became suspect
And bending low as if to hear
Well, and the armies ceased advancin’
Because the people had their ear

And the shepherds and the soldiers
And they laid among the stars
Exchanging visions, layin’ arms
To waste in the dust

In the form of shinin’ valleys
Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
And I awakened to the cry

People have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

Where there were deserts, I saw fountains
Like cream the waters rise
And we strolled there together
With none to laugh or criticize

The leopard and the lamb
And lay together truly bound
Well I was hopin’ in my hopin’
To recall what I had found

Well I was dreamin’ in my dreamin’
God knows a pure view
As I lay down into my sleepin’
And I commit my dream with you

People have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

The power to dream, to rule
To wrestle the earth from fools
But it’s decreed the people rule
But it’s decreed the people rule

Listen, I believe everythin’ we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution

We have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

The power to dream, to rule
To wrestle the earth from fools
But it’s decreed the people rule
But it’s decreed the people rule

We have the power
We have the power
People have the power
We have the power

So say well all, Patti. So say we all.


If you have an extra minute please go read the brilliant response Brian McLaren has in the Huffington Post today.

An Open Letter to Jerry Falwell Jr, Students and Faculty of Liberty University

 

Is Jesus really the only reason for the season?

JesusChristmas

A Facebook friend just posted this while I was in the middle of writing a really in-depth post about abortion. Naturally I had to stop and make a comment. I considered just sharing the post and my comment on the page but then I thought it would be better as a quick post.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of Jesus. I am also a huge fan of Christmas. I love the whole scene. The lights, the tree, the presents, the music, the food, and the parties! And believe me, I totally get that for some of you, Jesus is the ONLY reason you do any of it. Or at least that is what you tell yourself.

But let’s get real for a minute.

We celebrate on December 25th because of Constantine. He wanted to convert the pagans and he thought that by adopting some of the Winter Solstice traditions from ancient pagan Roman midwinter festivals called ‘Saturnalia’ and ‘Dies Natalis Solis Invicti’ he could horn in on the action.

We send Christmas Cards because of Sir Henry Cole and John Horsley. Sir Henry wanted to figure out a way to get ordinary Brits to use the public post office and Mr. Horsely saw a chance to design the cards and make a quick shilling or two.

We kiss under the mistletoe because of the Druids and the Norse.  The Druids believed it possessed mystical powers which brought good luck to the household and warded off evil spirits. In Norse mythology, it is a sign of love and friendship which is where the custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from.

We decorate a Christmas tree because of the Romans, the pagans, the Queen of England and Martin Luther. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. According to historytoday.com:

Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, is usually credited with having introduced the Christmas tree into England in 1840. However, the honour of establishing this tradition in the United Kingdom rightfully belongs to ‘good Queen Charlotte’, the German wife of George III, who set up the first known English tree at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor, in December, 1800.

Legend has it that Queen Charlotte’s compatriot, Martin Luther, the religious reformer, invented the Christmas tree. One winter’s night in 1536, so the story goes, Luther was walking through a pine forest near his home in Wittenberg when he suddenly looked up and saw thousands of stars glinting jewel-like among the branches of the trees. This wondrous sight inspired him to set up a candle-lit fir tree in his house that Christmas to remind his children of the starry heavens from whence their Saviour came.

We do give gifts and hang stockings because of the Magi and St. Nicholas, oh, and the pagans (again). The giving of gifts does have it’s origins (at least partially) in Christianity. We give gifts at Christmas because the Magi brought gifts to Jesus (however not when he was a baby but more likely when he was a toddler). We also give gifts in the form of hanging stockings because of St Nicholas who would wrap the gold he tossed in through the windows in a stocking or would toss it into stockings drying on the mantle. However, this also seems to at least be partly a holdover from Saturnalia as well. The Bibliotheca Sacra, a publication of the Dallas Theological Seminary states,

The interchange of presents between friends is a like characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows (Vol. 12, pp. 153-155).

Besides all this (and if you want to know more just ask the Google about the origins of Christmas traditions), there is the fact that atheists and members of a bunch of other religions celebrate Christmas because they love the idea of it. They love the spirit of the holiday. People love the idea of setting aside a time for celebrating generosity, kindness and love with their fellow humans.

So you see, if we are being honest, Jesus (as big a fan as I am) is, at best, one reason for the season and that’s okay. This season is big enough for all of us. For me, Jesus embodies the spirit of the season wherever it is found, be it in the kindness of an atheist working the soup kitchen, in the love of an agnostic person buying gifts for a child from the angel tree, in the selflessness of a Buddist shovelling snow for a widow or the joy of a devout Christian singing carols at the local nursing home. Where the gifts of the Christmas spirit can be found we should all rejoice.