Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Coexist IX - My Changing World Views

In the mere process of living my world views have changed. There has not been one person, book or event, but all the experiences in my life that have led me to move past the thinking of my youth. Even though in America we have a law dividing church and state, in our hearts I do not think we can separate our spiritual beliefs from our politics. Both have changed for me in some ways. I am a Christian and yet I do not align myself with conservative Christian right-wing politics. It does not make sense to me any longer.
My blogging friend Ruth, (check it out) often bravely and honestly writes about questions of faith. This week she wrote eloqently about the fact that over the years she has adopted a more liberal viewpoint. She has struggled with some of the contradictions of the Bible and in the Christian faith, (as we all have) but she cannot let go of the divinity of Jesus - and neither do I. Ruth gave me the impetus to finally put my thoughts in writing on this blog.
When I was a young mother I had some friends that were into the Gospel according to James Dobson and Pat Robertson. I found myself on that road until one October when I almost became convinced that Halloween was the work of the Devil and I should not allow my children to participate. I had so many wonderful Halloween memories and I woke up to how I was being influenced. Some "Christians" appear to spread more hatred than love and can take the joy out of living. I wanted to raise my children as Christians, but not a Christianity that was about all the things we cannot do and the people we should not associate with. I wanted them to live in the real word, with faith.
I named this blog COEXIST because that word is the answer to all the problems in the world. There are hundreds of races, nationalities, religions and languages. Human beings look different, have different cultures, sexual orientation and religions - and yet we still want everyone to be the same, think the same, believe the same, have the same skin color, the same kind of family life we have. We still think, in fact, that there is one right way. There is no right way, no right political party or candidate.
I work in a multicultural city and school district. I have had to learn to coexist with children and parents who have lives I cannot relate to, nor do they understand mine. We do not communicate in the same way and we do not have the same values, but we must work together for the children.
I have come to know and admire some gay men. A defining moment for me was when my friend looked me in the eye and said, "No one would choose to be gay. It's a miracle I survived high school." There have always been gay people and there always will be. So if a political platform does not allow my friends the same human rights as the rest of us , I cannot go along with that. (I'll save the rest of that argument for another time).
I do not personally believe in abortion, but I do believe that decision is between a woman and her God. If some people want to worry about the value of human life maybe they should worry about the young men and women dying in Iraq or the black children dying on our city streets from gunfire. Are their lives less valuable?
As an educator I have suffered, along with all the American students and teachers, the punishing requirements of No Child Left Behind. The intent may have been honorable, but when dedicated teachers and administrators country-wide began shouting out the law's faults we should have been listened to. And no, school vouchers and school choice is not the answer. All NCLB has done is taken money and resources away from the public schools, instead of funding them say, like we fund the war in Iraq. If we had a fraction of that money we could turn out kids as smart as the Chinese and all our kids would have the same opportunities. Again, NCLB was written on the basis that ALL kids learn at the same rate and have the same abilities and opportunities. That, my friends, will never be. This is America - when will a President come along that actually assures equal education for all American children?
Christianity should not be in the business of exclusion, but inclusion as Jesus demonstrated over and over. Christians should not be in the business of being God, but of worshipping God. A lot of my views now come from the belief that God is the only judge, not me, not a political party, not a Presidential candidate. This releases me from the burden of judgment and anger at others whose lives are unlike mine or who make decisions I would not make. While we are down here fighting over land and how others should live, God is still in His heaven. He is still the only judge. His opinion is the only one that matters. I can rest in that.
I read Obama's book and I listened to his speech and I agreed with just about everything he said, but I'm not too excited. He is one person. Neither he or McCain can make all the changes that this country needs. Neither one will keep all their promises. The only thing I can do besides vote is be the kind of person that makes a positive impact on my tiny little place in this world. I can sit around bemoaning the fact that others don't agree with me, aren't voting for the same candidate as me, don't believe in the things that I do - but then I'd just be wasting away my own life wouldn't I?


Trish said...

Wow...so wonderfully put. You have been on a great journey ....and you are beginning to see some markers along the way. I am only beginning a journey.hmmm....lets just say that I have been on a meandering journey and am trying to define it more. I agree with what you say. Being a preacher's daughter (and then straying :)...as if that is truly possible...to leave God - He does not let go)....I was and am still always careful what I say but my heart believes so differently. I am currently grieving my mother who passed away only five weeks ago. My extremely 'religious' family hae organized their grief is such a definitive way...how sad. Their God does not allow them to believe differently than a dogmatic approach...but then...see? I get caught up in the judge not lest ye be judged thing...oh my. Grin...you are a thought provoking poster.

Okay, I meandered here through Ruth's blog....come and visit sometime although I am a private blogger and my current postings are very trite...I am wordless (if you believe it) still grappling with grief, a teenage trying son and a demanding job...email me if you lie at myamadeus@hotmail.com

Loved your post...did I say that?

Choralgirl said...

Friend, this is lovely. My partner is a speech pathologist in the local public school system, and your comments about NCLB are right on. Also, thanks for the insight "no one right way." I heartily agree. ;-)

Peace to you--

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This is a beautiful post, Diane (and NOT because it mentions me--LOL).

The part that really moved me was this:

"Christians should not be in the business of being God, but of worshipping God. A lot of my views now come from the belief that God is the only judge, not me, not a political party, not a Presidential candidate. This releases me from the burden of judgment and anger at others whose lives are unlike mine or who make decisions I would not make. While we are down here fighting over land and how others should live, God is still in His heaven. He is still the only judge. His opinion is the only one that matters. I can rest in that."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing part of your journey. We all gain strength from seeing and listening to failures and stumblings of others. We are all making mistakes and learning. We are all, hopefully growing. And in truth, some are not growing and there comes a time when we must leave them behind for God's call is insistent.

Many cannot do what you have done. Safety resides in the supposed security of surrounding oneself with "like minded" individuals. To step out and off the precipice because your heart tells you that God is "this" way and not that way, is courageous indeed. Bravo to you!

There will continue to be struggles and wrong turns, but I think we are always somehow working our way up the mountain. Glad to have met you on the way!

I'll drop by more often for sure.

Joan said...

Great post and I agree with your words. No, Obama or McCain cannot save us...ultimately I think we get the President that REPRESENTS who we are at the moment. It starts with EACH of us to heal the world, with Peace within and without.

I also have faith that we are exactly where we are supposed to be and learning exactly what we are supposed to learn.

Lots of good stuff going on in this world and THAT is what we want to multiply...just as Jesus's Love in the world has multiplied.

Kelly Jene said...

Great post. It takes strength to put your convictions out there.

I know when you referred to abortion, you probably meant the zealous people who picket and bomb abortion clinics and such, but I had to respond. I am anti-abortion. Completely. I also worry about the men and women dying in Iraq, the children dying in the streets, the girls being raped in Africa, the children working in sweat houses. I do what I can, and if part of what I can do is share my feelings on abortion, then that's what I will do to help preserve life, because all of life is precious.

And like Ruth, I completely agree and love what you wrote about not being God, but worshiping Him and loving Him. It's HIS opinion that matters, nothing else.

God bless you, sister, I love you!

Diane said...

Thank you Diane, for sharing so much about your journay and where you are right now. I agree with you about Christianity being more inclusive than exclusive and about politics -- I like some of the things Obama says - but it can't be about one person. It has to about what everyone can do.

Amen. Keep on!

SandyCarlson said...

I love this post. I share your views. Each of us has plenty to offer the rest of us; to live with this thought in mind is to be humble and open and wise--and richly blessed.

Thank you for this today.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

This is a very profound post, Diane. Though I am not a Christian I believe in what Jesus stood for. I believe in God. I may not agree with everyone about everything but I believe in a woman's right to choose. For whatever it is worth, McCain does not believe in that and his VP Choice doesn't believe in Abortion even when someone has been Raped.
I feel I am a Humanist and that that is a God position, if you know what I mean. I believe that everyone should have the same rights and privelages. ALL people should be able to marry whomever they want. I believe in no discrimination of any kind. To me, this is more of a Humanist God like position.

If there is a sin, it is this: The money that has been spent on this war and that will continue to be spent could have fixed so very many of the problems we have in this country, it is shocking to consider. I think this war is wrong and that we are invaders...If there is such a thing as Sin, THIS, is a sin.

I very much admire your journey and your incredible honesty about it Diane. You have come a long long way from thinking that the Devil might have been resposible for Halloween. Bless You. And Bless all those you love.

FranIAm said...

Diane - I have seen you in the comments at other blogs. Finally I am here to visit.

This post is nothing short of extraordinary.

First of all- it is so intimate, yet so very generous, thank you for that.

Faith is a journey, isn't it? We stop at many places, or hopefully we do anyway.

I think if we are clear about how we live our faith, especially as Christians, we focus on Jesus first and formost.

That actually opens a lot of doors, osme of which may be scary, but necessary to look through or enter.

However, if we are steadfast in our faith and if we listen with our heart, we can seemingly find many amazing places.

As you have shown us here - and so very beautifully.

Thank you and God bless you.

The Real Mother Hen said...

This is an excellent post. Excellent. Period.

I have never ever doubted that Jesus is my savor. But that doesn't make me a Pro-Life, nor insisting Intelligent Design should be taught in Science class.

Sometimes, as I read the scary news of Muslim fundamentalism, I get all anxious, but I see the same craziness in the Christian fundamentalism here too. Both are from the same coin.

Many churches here have constantly reminded us our every right, from abortion to gun to whatever, but they have not taught us our Basic Responsibility. Nor has the society as a whole taught us that.

I am not excited about Obama either. In fact I found his first book confusing. But I sincerely hope that he wins and be given a chance to fulfill his promises.

Sandy's Notes said...

"This releases me from the burden of judgment and anger at others whose lives are unlike mine or who make decisions I would not make".

Beautifully put! My insides were jumping with joy when I read through this post. You are one special person! All the children and people you teach will feel a little of this wonderful openess; it's people like you that will help make the world a better place.

Great post!

Under there... said...

Wow! What a wonderfully thoughtful and courageous expression of faith Diane! I just want you know that you are not alone in the journey you have been on and in the conclusions at which you have arrived. The Gospel is always subversive and it is refrshing to see someone who grasps just what following Jesus is all about *standing ovation for you*

Klaus said...

Thank you! This is an extraordinary post - because it spells out truths, that are seldom heard from Christians. It saddens me to see what "hardcore" Christians have become. Bitter, hateful and far removed from the message of tolerance, humanity and most of all the common sense that Jesus stands for. Things like bashing gays but standing in line when it comes to death penalty, war, divisiveness, when it comes to the own believes, exclusiveness to who is the "rightful" believer and intolerance for each and everything, that does not fall in line with their own believes. That's what I see as a widespread "infection" of many churches in American religious circles.
It is also exactly what made me withdraw from all religious institutions for good. However it does not make me withdraw from my trust in the core principles of Christianity.
Thanks for speaking out!

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