Cody Sexton: “Heathen”

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Heathen

By Cody Sexton

 

Here’s my problem. I want to believe in God and religion. I do. I want the certainty that comes along with it. I also want the comfort in knowing that when I die, I could be reunited with the ones I love. But I can’t. I’ve tried. I have prayed to God for years to help make me believe. But all I’ve ever received back is silence. Which can mean only one of two things, so far as I can tell. That I am either damned and have been from birth, or, and more likely, that God doesn’t exist.

I tried to be a religious person. The impulse lasted approximately one year before it one day vanished. I went to sleep one night and when I awoke the next morning the capacity to believe was gone. It simply wasn’t there anymore.

The way I look at it is that I didn’t have the talent to believe. I’ve always had a hard time getting past the obvious fiction of the whole thing. Having grown up in relative poverty, religion held complete irrelevance to my life. I had no time for it and the religious leaders had nothing to say about it either and if they did it was only to say that suffering, on the whole, was a good thing. Which only infuriated me. Which is probably one of the reasons I was so angry as a young man. To a large extent I still am. As a result I lost all respect for any type of authority. Which has both served me as well as handicapped me in life.

Religion proved to me that authority was impotent when faced with real problems. So my eventual atheism had as much to do with human reason, as it did with a rejection of authority itself. But, digging deeper, I realize now, that my eventual atheism, had just as much to do with a rejection of family itself. Continue reading “Cody Sexton: “Heathen””

Okla Elliott: “The Social and Spiritual Possibilities of Lent”

The Social and Spiritual Possibilities of Lent

by Okla Elliott

Editor’s Note: Our late Managing Editor, Okla Elliott, originally posted this article three years ago. It was his final post before he passed away. We are republishing this article in his memory. In the final year of his life, Okla took a deep interest in exploring spirituality, theology, and Catholic teachings. This article is a prime example of his great ability to investigate new ideas and understand their capacity for better expressing and illuminating his core values and principles.

.We do not generally conceive of Lent as a political or social matter. Its central purpose is a personal and spiritual one, but as the well-worn phrase instructs us, the personal is political. I therefore want to invite us all to think of how we might combine the personal and spiritual aspects of Lent with potential social gains.

According to a 2016 article in The Independent, the three most common things given up for Lent are chocolate, social media, and alcohol—in that order. And a 2015 TIME article offers similar findings. These are all personal sacrifices that do not have much of a social or political dimension. Giving up certain popular items such as meat does have a notable social impact. The environmental gains of giving up meat are significant, since the factory-farming livestock industry has several negative impacts on the environment, from inefficiency of food production to detrimental waste products.

I offer here a list of five options for what we might give up for Lent that can merge spiritual growth and social betterment.

1) I would strongly suggest the aforementioned meat option, since it has such a prominent place in tradition and can have such a positive social impact.

2) If possible, give up driving and use public transit instead. This will have a positive environmental impact, obviously, but it will also allow you to see the people of your city whom you might otherwise never encounter. Of course, this is perhaps an option only for those who live in certain areas, but you might be surprised how elaborate your city’s public transit is if you’ve never looked into it.

3) Give up eating out. At first this might not seem social at all, or even the opposite of a social option, but if you conceive of Lent as not only a negative notion of giving up, but also a positive notion of doing something good with what you gain by giving up things, then you will see that the several hundred dollars you save by not eating out can be used in myriad ways for social good. I would suggest donating to non-profits or your church’s efforts to help the poor. You could also use the money saved to do nice things for friends and family, which will strengthen your social community at the closest level.

4) Give up the convenience of plastic bags. Make the extra effort to bring a canvas bag with you when you shop, or if you’ve only purchased one or two items, don’t ask for a plastic bag. With an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic entering our oceans every year, to say nothing of the millions of tons in our landfills, reducing unnecessary use of plastic is of paramount importance.

5) Give up self-reinforcing thought. This one is a bit more abstract, but it is no less important. What I mean here is that if you’re a staunch Democrat, make yourself read several issues of a conservative magazine not with an eye for criticism but rather an urge to understand and empathize. And do the same if you’re a diehard Republican. Read some classics of liberal thought and really try to hear the concerns mentioned. The point is to bridge divides and to prevent hatreds between humans. If we can force ourselves to develop the habits of mind that reduce prejudice and living in our echo chambers, we have a much better chance of curing the ills of the world.

What makes the above choices good ideas is that the social impact in no way reduces the spiritual impact. Giving up driving to work in favor of taking the bus, for example, is a personal sacrifice just as much as giving up social media would be, yet it helps society more broadly in addition to the spiritual gains associated with the sacrifice.

And there is no need to limit yourself to the five options I offer here. Get creative and make your own list that suits your personal and social concerns. There are many ways to improve ourselves and the world around us, and doing one does not preclude doing the other.

[This piece originally appeared at PennLive.com and was syndicated to several other venues in 2017.]

 

About the Author: Okla Elliott was the co-founder and Managing Editor of As It Ought To Be from its inception until his passing in 2017. For more about his life and work, visit our memorial page. 

 

Image Credit: “Ash Wednesday” Julian Falat (1881)

The Jaroslavl Fresco

Wallpainting of a pillar in the Church of St. John Chrysostom

The Jaroslavl Fresco

By David Chorlton

 

The Jaroslavl Fresco

A likeness of God stares through the plaster.
At twilight he turns into a wolf.
His eyes are close together
and the pupils float on luminous globes.
Hair covers all
but the cheekbones

pushing against a patch of sallow skin.
It grows thicker by the century,
wild from its roots

to the frost on the tips
when he runs in moonlight
through the silent forest

with a star of blood
shining from prey in his teeth.

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About the Author: David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and often reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. A recent collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and The Bitter Oleander Press published Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant. A new book, Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird, is out from Hoot ‘n Waddle, based in Phoenix.

Relics

Federico Barocci “St Jerome” (1598)
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Relics

By David Chorlton

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Relics

The empty habit of a priest
appears between Heaven and Earth
with the cross on a string of beads
still flowering on the breast.

His sandals, alight with needles,
rest on the incline
where he stepped out of his body,
and red blossoms have grown
at the nine tips of his whip
that put down roots since last
it stung his back.

The shadow of his horizontal arms
is burned into the pale stones
where he was nailed
to the heat

and the bones he left behind
withered into straws
which were taken for a nest
by the immortal Phainopepla.

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About the Author: David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and often reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. A recent collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and The Bitter Oleander Press published Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant. A new book, Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird, is out from Hoot ‘n Waddle, based in Phoenix.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SARA BIGGS CHANEY

BiggsChaneyauthor

ST. EUGENIA DECLARES HER ALLEGIANCES
By Sara Biggs Chaney

The girl said: I am not skin,
but sackcloth.

She said: I am not spoke,
but symphony.

My rib bones, how they burn
for the Son.

For Him, I will suffer
this harmonic ache–

I will pin my maiden head,
a moth wing,

I will bear the shames
of a thousand men,

I will wear the hands
of a healer.


Today’s poem was originally published in Thrush and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Sara Biggs Chaney received her Ph.D. in English in 2008 and currently teaches first-year and upper-level writing in Dartmouth’s Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. Her most recent chapbook, Ann Coulter’s Letter to the Young Poets, was released from dancing girl press in November, 2014. Sara’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in RHINO, Sugar House Review, [PANK], Juked, and elsewhere. You can catch up with Sara at sarabiggschaney.com.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem, like the famous Walt Whitman quote, contains multitudes. Relaying an epic history in a few swift couplets, the interplay between referentiality and alliteration is as precise as it appears effortless. Discreet moments—brilliant vignettes—are carefully pieced together to reveal the story of a life: “The girl said: I am not skin, / but sackcloth;” “I will bear the shames / of a thousand men, // I will wear the hands / of a healer.” As readers, we are as transported by the world of the poem as we are transformed.

Want more from Sara Biggs Chaney?
“St. Barbara, Locked Away” in Atticus Review
“St. Theodora in the Brothel” in Tinderbox Poetry

Hell Yes, I’m Intolerant

 

 

Hell Yes, I’m Intolerant

By Joanna Schroeder

 

The other day on Facebook a friend of mine shared his thoughts on the Coca Cola ad set to the song “America the Beautiful.” My friend’s status said, “If this bothered you… I don’t even know what to say to you. Get a brain.”

This seems like an obvious sentiment. If you’re bothered by “America the Beautiful” being sung in other languages or by images of happy people doing fun things while being unapologetically whatever race or religion they are, then you do need a brain.

I don’t think anyone was surprised by the fact that some people hated the ad. Racism is alive and well, and it’s something people of color experience all the time, in all sorts of ways. Hating “America the Beautiful” because it portrayed America the Diverse is par for the course in a nation peppered with intolerant bigots.

But what did surprise me were the people who commented on my friend’s status by saying (paraphrased), “I don’t agree with the people who were angry about the ad. But it doesn’t bother me that they hated it. Why should I care?”

I had to stop and do a double-take at this.

Really? It doesn’t bother you that people are being racist? Not at all?

It was hard for me to resist typing, “You are a moron and I hope you fall in a deep, deep hole.” Instead, I said, “Of course it doesn’t bother you that people are racist. You are white. Why would it bother you that people don’t like non-white people?”

The response that I got was fascinating (again, paraphrasing).

“No,” said one racist-who-thinks-she’s-not, “I, unlike you, am not intolerant of other people’s opinions.”

This forced me to consider whether I was, in fact, being intolerant.

I am most certainly sometimes stupid, and quite often blind to the realities that people of color (or other marginalized groups) face on a day-to-day basis, primarily because no matter how hard I try, my privileges can make it hard for me to see outside of my own experience. I work hard to simply keep my mouth shut and listen so as to avoid being stupid and perpetuating more stupid… But I don’t think of myself as “intolerant”.

But then I thought about the actual meaning of that word and I realized that, YES, I am intolerant.

From Merriam-Webster:

in·tol·er·ant

adjective -rənt

: not willing to allow or accept something

: not willing to allow some people to have equality, freedom, or other social rights

See what she did there? She took a word that is contextually understood to mean one thing (essentially, bigoted or racist) and twisted it around so that she could sound righteous by exploiting the fact that it also means, basically, “not putting up with your stupid shit.”

I suspected that this must have a Fox News origin, and so I went digging. I Googled “leftist intolerance” and found a lot of really amazingly terrible clips wherein Fox News pundits call liberals hypocrites because we, the liberals, are the ones who are intolerant of them and their racism and anti-gay agendas.

Here’s one really painful example, though I have to warn you before you click through that it is a clip of five (not one, not two, but FIVE) white people talking about the NAACP and US Senator Tim Scott (who is Black), and how generally terrible they think the NAACP is to Black people. I’m not embedding it for obvious reasons.

After all of that, I realized that yes, I am intolerant and I’m proud of it!

I’m intolerant of white people being assholes about “America the Beautiful” being sung in non-English languages. I’m intolerant of people who say that people of color or non-Christian folks don’t represent our nation.

I’m intolerant of people who say that our LGBTQ+ brethren don’t deserve equal treatment under a Constitution and Bill of Rights that affords all people the same rights.

I’m intolerant of people referring to young Black men as thugs when they, themselves, are the ones who think gunning down unarmed boys, girls, women, and men who aren’t committing any crimes (or even trying to commit crimes) is an okay and legal thing to do. I’m intolerant of your racist thuggery, racist white people.

I’m intolerant of a lot, really. I’m intolerant of people who abuse children, of people who commit rape, and of people who deny the reality of how often rape and sexual violence happens in this nation to men, women, boys, girls and everyone else.

I’m intolerant of people who think that being transgender is something we can just tell people to stop being and that it will magically work. I’m intolerant of those who choose to mis-gender someone who very clearly has told you that she is a woman.

I’m intolerant of the parents and teachers who think it’s okay to let kids say “f*g” or “pussy” or “queer” to kids like the boy who likes My Little Pony and is now on life support after trying to take his own life. I’m intolerant of the adults who modeled that hate to their children. Yes, shaming kids who don’t conform to the strictest gender binary is hate. Pure and simple. And it is killing kids.

I’m intolerant of the people who tell my friend’s daughter that her gorgeous natural hair is a problem for them. I’m intolerant of the toy companies that don’t offer enough dolls that look like all the kids in the world, so that each child can have a baby doll that represents an image she or he can relate to (I’m looking at you, American Girl).

I’m intolerant of people who perpetuate myths about the nature of Islam, and I’m intolerant of the people who scrawled racist graffiti across the gorgeous GAP ad featuring Sikh-American Waris Ahluwahlia, implying he and anyone else in a turban is a terrorist.

I’m intolerant of people who refuse to see the pain and disrespect brought to Native Americans by the unauthorized use of Native mascots, names and iconography. I’m intolerant of the white folks who think they have some right to Wahoo the Indian or the name “Redsk*ns“.

I’m intolerant of this nation of bullies that gets off on thinking that the only real way to be American is to be white, non-poor, Christian, educated, able-bodied, cis-gendered, un-scarred by emotional or physical abuse, and straight. And I’m intolerant of all of you who think that it’s okay to say absolutely nothing to the people in your life who are harming others through any sort of racism, abuse or bigotry.

Hell yes, I’m intolerant of your willingness to tolerate others’ hate.

This article originally appeared at The Good Men Project and is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

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Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane, hlntv.com, and The Huffington Post. Schroeder loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.