Rainbow Lies

rainbow

I remember the first time I read about the possibility that the truth of the Matthew Sheppard case may not have been accurately depicted in the media. After reading an article reviewing author Stephen Jiminez’s book entitled “The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Sheppard” I decided to read the book because I was curious.  The narrative of the Sheppard story was a powerful one that affected gay and bisexual people on a personal level.  The issue was one of safety for us and in certain ways, freedom.  Were we free to love, to hold hands, to simply be ourselves, particularly in smaller or religious communities?  In 1998 I had been out of the closet for seven years and had witnessed brutality towards people perceived to be gay.  I saw the bruises on the face of a teenage friend who had been tied up in his parent’s basement, beaten, and thrown out by his dad.  The Matthew Sheppard case seemed easily plausible to many of us then because of the reality of violence toward us.  Why at the time would anyone who was or supported gay and bisexual people doubt the narrative?

After reading Jiminez’s compelling work I thought long and hard about what was represented to the public via the media. Any person who thinks about media enough will concede that it is often used to stir up emotions and even manipulate public thought and discourse.  But most of us think were discerning enough to see through anything nefarious.  In fact many of us would say we watch/read the “good” or “accurate” channel or newspaper.  Some say NPR or Democracy Now is the real deal whilst others say Fox or Breitbart is true.  But really almost all news is some way is owned by someone who has an agenda.  Maybe the agenda is only to make money, but what exactly is sacrificed to bring in more revenue (btw I’m in no way anti-capitalist)?  Is it possible that since all news sources ultimately wish to stay in business, that at some point they have to go with whatever the most compelling sound bite sized narrative is so people will keep paying attention to them?  Is it possible that in this dance of terror as a twisted form of entertainment, that accuracy sometimes goes out the window?

At the end of the day even facts can be subjective due to interpretations based on previous experiences and expectations. That being said, it’s always helpful for thinking people to have whatever facts are available and not purposely obscured.  Even better is to present information in a way that lets people decide for themselves what is or isn’t true when it comes to events, crimes, and situations.  William Randolph Hearst knew that neutrality didn’t sell papers nor did truth in its purer forms.  Before we vilify him though we must remember that he sold those papers filled with yellow journalism because people like you and me most likely bought them.  It’s likely even then people knew they weren’t being told of many of the facts but they just didn’t want to know that they knew.  Is media really any different today and are we any less (allowing of being) fooled, regardless of news source?

Hearst was also rather smart in his technique of expanding his readership by way of combining some facts or some truth with the narratives that were being disseminated. Few people are likely to bother reading/watching/listening to something that is perceived with assurance as false.  Some part of the story has to have a percentage of reality or potential for reality in order to peak interest.  A carrot must at least look like a carrot before we’re willing to take a bite and mass media is no different.  If a story comes out and we know the situation is possible because of previous experiences or narratives we’ve been exposed to, then we are more likely to take a proverbial bite.  As a lady who’s spent time in a boat with a rod and reel, I’ve learned they don’t call it fishing for nothing.

“The Book of Matt” presented new information about the potentially previously misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented narrative about Matthew Sheppard’s murder. Do I know for sure if he was killed for being gay or killed for methamphetamine dealing?  No.  None of us ever will except for those involved.  But now I have a different perspective that challenged me to discern what I was initially told.  If the tables had been turned and the story was represented with big flashing lights, tears, and drama about drugs, and a campaign had been launched that changed not only opinion but laws, and in reality his death was really more about him being gay, I’d feel the same way.  I’d feel like I would have liked to know more about the facts than the fiction of the event.

Today is June 23rd 2016 and the latest narrative about gay people has to do with a mass shooting at a gay themed nightclub in Florida.  Almost 20 years later we’re seeing the same flashing lights, tears, and drama.  Only this time we have not only TV, papers, and radio, we have social media that serves as the great distractor and constant reminder that whatever we’re being told by the media is “true”.  I don’t know about this Love is Love campaign but I can say tragedy is tragedy.  And if indeed a shooting occurred and people died, then this tragedy is no laughing matter regardless of the murder’s motives or who was involved.

Since we live in a time where people can and do sometimes question mass media in particular, stories have come out disputing the narrative around the whole event from whether it actually happened at all to if the killer’s motivation was hatred of gays. Most of us know by now it is easy to find people willing to lie so that they may get attention or money.  We also know attempts to shape opinion by how a story is told and what facts are or are not included is possible if not probable in a great deal of major stories (WMD’s for example).  We’re really no different from folks during Hearst’s journalistic reign.  If it seems to have the possibility of truth with enough attention grabbing technique, we’ll bite.  I’d like to think that nowadays we’d think a bit more before we chew and digest what is told to us.  And some do with websites and blogs featuring their version of truth and facts that differ greatly from the popular narratives.  Yet these sources I believe are no better or worse than those they seek to differentiate themselves from, especially if their information is also presented in a sensational way.

Personally I question the gay hate narrative from this Florida event and so does my wife and a number of other people. But I don’t have to seek out mainstream or alternative internet sources or any other narratives.  All I have to do is go with experiences from the past which helps me to employ a healthy dose of skepticism to anything I see or hear from a screen.  In addition because we don’t pay attention to the news and don’t participate in social media (other than this blog) my wife and I are able to sometimes see a bigger picture that is not obscured by the “bread & circus” of it all.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21) Our treasure is where we spend our time and where our money goes.  If my attention is spent getting emotional by purposely exposing myself to half-truths presented sensationally then that says a lot about my values or what I treasure.  Satan is the father of lies.  It’s important to remember that, which is why I pray for the Lord’s protection from the snares of evil in all things.

One more thing I want to say is that those going around saying “love is love is love is love” don’t represent me or my wife. The only reason I even found out about this Florida story is because an older and very emotional woman came up to us in the parking lot of our local organic grocer and started crying and touching us and telling us how we needed to “watch out for each other.”  Though I love my neighbor, I don’t appreciate being targeted by anyone, regardless of how well meaning they are, because I’m in a same-sex relationship.  We don’t like being used to further some possible agenda that we don’t belong to even if we appear to.  I’ve been contacted by old friends concerned for us and a currently married to a man ex. girlfriend told me she put a 20+ year old photo of us on her facebook profile page as what I assume was a sign of support for the victims in the Florida case.  Even family has sent photos with rainbows as a show of solidarity.  Typically when a major news story happens I can look away but this time it became personal, and my sense is all the hype has many people upset who care about gay and bisexual people.

But what happened in that bar has nothing to do with my family. Love is not dancing in a nightclub, getting inebriated, cruising for sex, or loud music.  That all may be fun for a lot of people regardless of romantic orientation but it is not love.  Perhaps the saying should be “fun is fun is fun” because people don’t generally go to bars and clubs for love but for fun.  And fun is fine.  This is a free country and since it’s legal to drink, dance, and cruise, then by golly people can do that.  But those activities don’t represent a shred of our lives as a couple now or when we got together.  We have no “gay lifestyle.”  A lifestyle is the way you live by way of who you spend time with, where you go, what you do, and what you pay attention to.  I don’t appreciate anyone assuming to know, regardless of intentions or alliances, what our so-called style of living is.  Yes I’m married to a woman but that is not who I am or how I live and I certainly don’t define real love by being in a crowded bar regardless of who is there.  Bias goes both ways in terms of liberal and conservative.  It’s ugly regardless.  Bias may sell papers and make people cry, but it doesn’t mean whatever media represents the event as, is or was, true.

No one speaks for our sake. Not gay movements, nor those trying to ban guns, nor those who say their looking out for “people like us.”   My wife and I are not interested in any rainbow lies (whether or not they are for supposedly our sake).  If it could happen to Matthew Sheppard, then it could be happening now. Don’t believe the hype indeed.

Advertisements

Forbidden Trees

city tree

What are the forbidden trees in your life? This week I looked at the deception Eve experienced in Genesis 3.  Thanks to a study a godly friend lent me entitled “To Stand and Not be Moved” by Fran Sciacca, my understanding of what happened to Eve and how it affects my life has been of great impact.  Some Christians don’t talk much about Satan and this I believe is a real disservice to the church.  Some preachers say the Adversary is behind everything bad and other preachers say He & His evil doesn’t even exist.  I suspect Satan is more cunning than we give Him credit for, more pervasive than we realize, and yet His power over us can be fought.

In Eden Eve was distracted from seeing the bounty of beautiful edible trees that surrounded her because the Adversary got her to simply change her focus. His first communication to her was a subtle yet pointed question: “…Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden? (Genesis 3:1)”  Talk about a loaded question!  This is literally the original loaded question.  At this point Satan didn’t have to make a promise, do a song and dance, or make the fruit more pretty.  He asked a leading question that she decided to respond to.  Her sin began not when she ate the fruit.  Nor did it begin when she believed His lies about becoming immortal and being a god that knows good from evil.  Her sin didn’t even really begin when she was distracted.  It began when she lost her gratefulness for God’s bounty.

The story of original sin demonstrates some clear points on the road of sin. This is my interpretation & I always encourage you the reader to have a Berean mindset about anything I say.  So with that in mind:

Points on the road to sin

  • Not being thankful to God for His many blessings
  • Distraction, usually by subtle means
  • Doubt in our Lord
  • Attempting to usurp God (ie. There is no God, God is in me, we are all Gods, etc.)
  • Pride in ourselves
  • Becoming less happy
  • Becoming fooled and lacking good judgment
  • Attempting to self sooth with sin after sinning or feeling shame

This is not exact and varies in a given situation but overall some or all the points happen. For example Eve became distracted by Satan and changed her focus to the forbidden tree because she was susceptible to it. She was vulnerable to this ploy because her heart at that moment wasn’t thankful for God’s enormous bounty. From there all it took was the most subtle of distractions which was Satan getting her to change her focus from bounty to what was forbidden and what she didn’t/couldn’t have (what appeared to be missing in her life).

Her doubt wasn’t articulated but was demonstrated when she believed the serpent, rather than obeying God’s commandment to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was at that point she chose to doubt what God told her and believe some-one or some-thing else. When the Adversary told Eve she could be a god and she believed Him, she was trying to usurp God and His authority. Her pride came from the desire to gain wisdom from the forbidden fruit that she was deceived about. She wanted to be smart, immortal, and a god for what purpose? Because she thought it would make her, as we say in the West Coast, totally awesome. Without gratefulness for God’s abundance, without knowing one’s proper place in life, without believing all she needed was or would be provided for, she was ultimately unhappy with her circumstances, though she was in God’s bountiful garden.

In unhappiness, pride, doubt, and deception, it becomes much easier to be fooled and make foolish choices that harm. Eve took that fruit because her judgement was poor. John 7:24 tells us to judge righteous judgement rather than go off appearances. Jeremiah 17:5-12 demonstrates that when man trusts in man (or serpent) above God his heart will be departed from the Lord & he will “inhabit the parched places in the wilderness.” Those that trust God shall not be moved like a tree planted near water that always bears fruit. Eve was not strong like that an unmovable tree because she was weakened first by ingratitude and eventually by a wicked unhappy heart. Eve became a fool, fooled Adam, and experienced the pain that comes from separation from the Lord.

Now I’m sure you dear reader have never experienced what Eve went through so I’ll use myself as an example of what that road to sin has looked like. Now keep in mind this happened rather quickly & quite frankly I had forgotten it until I prayed in repentance for something unrelated. Anyway I was at Trader Joe’s with the wife and checking out with the cashier. As the young man started to scan our items, I saw one item go past the scanner but didn’t hear it make a beep sound as it went by. I looked at that bottle, then looked to see if the price of it showed up on the display, didn’t see it, and thought “I’m not saying anything.” Now keep in mind I pray several times a day and thought that was enough. But in Trader Joe’s I was distracted by all the goodies and at that given moment I was very distracted because I thinking about the conversation I had just listened to between the previous customer and the cashier.

On another post I’ll talk about why I don’t pay much attention to politics and especially this particular presidential election, but for now I’ll just say I was disturbed by what I heard and well, annoyed that I had to overhear the conversation. My heart wasn’t grateful for being able to buy food at such low prices or for the car that brought us to the store or for my wife being there so I didn’t have to push the cart or most importantly, that the Almighty had blessed us with so much at that moment. My distraction was not sought out yet I was tempted by thinking about how different I wished modern day politics would be. I forgot about the Lord and instead of having faith in His plan, in my pride thought of how things should be, according to…well me.

In that moment I made myself into a god and became all the unhappier for it (even if it was momentary). Though I don’t believe I consciously said to myself “hey getting this product for free with make things better” I fooled myself into thinking doing something that is against my morals & values (stealing) was ok because it wasn’t direct. It was subtle and of poor judgement. Ironically when I looked at the receipt a day later it turned out we did in fact pay for the product. But I had already committed theft in my heart and it all started because I didn’t look to “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2).

Am I saying “the Devil made me do it?” Not necessarily but I’m still working out theologically what such a saying might mean for me. If indeed Satan is more pervasive & subtle than I understood then maybe a Trader Joe’s visit is indeed a lesson on what vulnerability to Satan looks like. Perhaps this is the most boring “confession” you’ve ever read but I don’t care. When I repented this sin my heart became less foolish, unhappy, prideful, and ungrateful (Romans 1:21-22). Yet the good news is that I am more free thanks to confessing to Jesus and so very thankful that he saved not only my soul, but gave us His holy Word to live our lives by.

What is the forbidden fruit in your life? Where does your lack of thankfulness bring unhappiness? What is in the rest of your garden? What has God Almighty given you? For me it is clear being in the world means there will be both times of need and times of abundance and usually they occur at once. I take much comfort in Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he says:

I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound:to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.