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They Just Wanted to Dance

They just wanted to dance.

I’m running out of words to convey how tired I am of reading about hate-fueled violence.

My mind becomes mush as I try to comprehend how one person can hold so much hate and carry out out such a horrific act. I search to the deepest, darkest places in my mind, wondering if I could ever hate anyone that much, and I come up empty every time.

I look around at the people I love, could any one them be next? Could they be on either end of the next gun that makes us collectively pause for a moment? The next headline, the next crying emoticon over a shared news story… only to be forgetten when a TMZ darling does something we deem more deserving of our collective attention?

When I walk into new places, I make note of the exits. Not because I want to leave early but because when seconds matter I want to be prepared if I am the next target.

I prefer to sit on the aisle in theaters, fewer people to get through. I don’t like being near the entrance, I hope I’ll get more warning if something happens this way. Definitely not in the upper part, it’d be like a carnival game to the wrong person. I eyeball each person who enters, watching those who are too quiet, who stay too close to the edges, and find myself trying to see their eyes. Are they filled with rage? Hate? Adrenaline? Pain? Fear? Could I even identify these feelings in a stranger’s eyes if I wanted to?

Why do we send thoughts and prayers and positive vibes while ignoring the common denominators these shootings have:

Access to guns
Mental health crisis

Childhood trama

Easy access to radicalization and hate

Desire for fame and access to “how to’s” provided by previous shootings

Courtesy of The Violence Project

Why do we accept this is how life in American should be? No other country lives this way. Why do we? How can we live like hunted animals while simultaneously claiming to be greatest nation on Earth?

We teach kids how to respond to shooters, but not how to prevent them. In fact, teaching kids how not to hate, how not to bully, and how to respect others’ lives is “too much” for many. Attempts to broaden our kids minds beyond their bubbles are met with fierce opposition from adults content with the current status quo. Too many of us fail to recognize we cannot solve this problem by doing things as we always have

What will it take for us to finally have enough and demand changes?

When we’re killed for wanting to worship?
When we’re killed for wanting to learn?
When we’re killed for wanting to shop?When we’re killed for wanting to listen to music?
When we’re killed for wanting to dance?

When we’re killed for wanting to live?

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Why are People Leaving Church?

I read a lot and last week someone shared a wonderful post by John Pavlovitz that I feel everyone needs to read titled “Dear Church, Here’s why People are Leaving”.

After I read it, the words kept rattling around in my head. After reading and re-reading it a few times, I came to one simple conclusion:

He nailed it.

People are leaving the church because the church is leaving them.

Instead of being a welcoming place for all kinds of sinners to gather and learn about forgiveness and love, many churches are focusing on telling people who can or cannot worship with them. Instead of loving everyone they limit who can only partially participate in services and who cannot participate at all.

The “you can’t sit with us” attitude of the modern church has created a theological Mean Girls sequel many people do not want to be a part of. Pastor Regina George, anyone?

When people are openly told they are not welcome, of course they’re not going to stick around. are the people who love them. We are told countless times in the Bible to love and welcome all – not just those who are like us. This seems even more obvious since we are all sinners. Who are we to decide who is better or worse? We are in no position to decide who is worthy of God’s love and who is not.

People aren’t just leaving because they don’t love God or find religion outdated. They are leaving because so many in religion are literally telling them they do not belong. Church leaders can act confused and continue scratching their heads in wonder all they want. They can blame it on Satan and host all the emergency meetings they want to try and fight this evil away, but until more churches start looking inward at their actions it’s not going to get any better.

When you side with oppression, promote omission, and continue to shame anyone different than you, you will end up losing every time.

Jesus didn’t ask us to judge and exclude. He asked us to follow him, then led us straight to the most marginalized people and embraced them. He told us to love them too.

We cannot hold others to our flawed human expectations and continue to wonder why people are leaving churches.

It’s not because of a lack of faith, it’s because of a lack of decency.