Maybe, All You Really Need Is Love

Maybe, All You Really Need Is Love

An article in which I discuss the topic of faith and organized religion and just how strange it is.

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Faith is so weird.

I am incapable of speaking for everyone but being raised in the Bible Belt, spending my elementary education in a Catholic school, growing up in a religious home, and spending every summer since third grade at a church camp, I can say that it's hard to think sometimes. My parents are very respectful of other religions, and I know they will read this so know that this is not a complaint, but it was just naturally assumed that I would be Episcopalian too. It was never forced down my throat or shoved into my life, it's just the way the world works. Obviously, there are reasons not to believe and reasons to believe and I really don't know the answer or if God is real but I know that love is real. The idea of organized religion has always bothered me. Everyone is given a set of instructions to follow and it is expected of them to follow. Go to church on Sunday. Go to the Synagogue on Saturday. Do not eat food that was not given to you. Suffering exists, to get rid of if you must get rid of attachment. There are stories upon stories, teachings and scriptures that people take too seriously in my opinion. I've never read the Bible from start to finish. I plan on it, one day, but I don't think it holds any sort of answer. It was a book written by a bunch of men back 2000 years ago. The book has been used to explain why we should have slaves, why we shouldn't allow gays, and where a woman's place should be. So no, I don't believe we should follow the Bible. Especially the Torah. I mean G-d was actually pretty brutal. G-d will make a flood one day to kill off most of the earth then help Abraham and Sarah have a kid only to tell Abraham to go kill Isaac. Not to mention the series of plagues G-d inflicted on the Egyptians for enslaving the Jewish people.

There's a line in one of Madeleine L'Engle's books, "A House Like a Lotus", where the character Max is philosophizing the world with the narrator, Polly O'Keefe. Max goes off into a monologue in which she states, "If we kept God and got rid of religion, the world would be a much better place." To me, this makes sense. In my comparative religions class, my professor started off the semester with the statement, "Humans are inherently religious" then let the class discuss. The thing is, religion has gained a negative condonation, and rightfully so. People aren't inherently religious. While we do strive for structure and meaning, everybody is different. You can't file humanity between only two titles, we're too broad for that. Madeleine L'Engle was a big-time Episcopalian, and it wasn't until I started collecting her books did I find more meaning into the thought of religion. Her thought of keeping God, to me, is keeping love. It isn't the set plans or rules that we need to follow, it's what you are supposed to learn, and that's just love.

I call myself Episcopalian, mostly because of my environment. My involvement with the Episcopal diocese is without a doubt the best thing to have ever happened to me. It's not because I had gone to some church camp where I found God and read the bible ten times a day, though I definitely still do go to church camp. It's because of the people I met through it. I consider myself religious by association because I spend weekends and summers at these Episcopal events and because I find beauty in Compline and the songs we sing. Maybe that's all we need. Maybe all we need in life is to spend weekends with friends, spend summers serving a bunch of elementary school kids and friends with diverse-abilities. There is a beauty of the collection of voices with nothing but the strumming of a guitar at night, when everything is silent but full. Maybe, all you really need is love to succeed in the world.

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To Everyone Who Hasn't Had Sex Yet, Wait For Marriage, It's The Right Move

If you have not had sex yet, wait.

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Premarital sex is not a new concept, no matter how much people like to pretend it is. You can trace scripture and historical texts back thousands of year to see that lust and fornication have been a problem since… well, since we humans have been problems.

They tell you in sex ed that sex causes you to form a bond with someone. They throw some big chemical names at you that are apparently in your body and cause that emotional attachment to happen, then you move on (or back to) how important condoms are and why STDs are so scary.

As a middle schooler or teenager, you can't understand what it means to become permanently connected to someone as a result of a quick, physical act.

If you haven't even had your first kiss, you really can't imagine what it's like to develop such a complex and intimate connection with someone because you have yet to feel the butterflies in your stomach from a kiss. So you really don't know what it's like to have a whole different type of feeling in your stomach.

You never forget your first love. It's one of the most cliche things you consistently hear, but it's true. Ask anyone. I guarantee your parents can still spurt out their first love's name in a few seconds. And most people never forget their first time. I know all my friends can recount that often awkward and slightly terrifying moment as if it happened an hour ago. When you mix those two, especially if you are in your teens, oh boy.

You never forget that. No matter how hard you try.

Everything you hear about sex is true: it's amazing, fantastic, life-changing, etc. There's a reason people have done it as frequently as they do, for as long as they have. But every time you sleep with someone, you leave a piece of yourself with them. Every time you choose to take that final physical step with someone, you cannot go back and collect that piece of your dignity and soul that you left with someone.

So, imagine what happens when you break up with someone you've slept with. Or that you just hooked up with. You have given someone a little slice of yourself forever. And you can never get it back. And imagine what happens when you do that multiple times. You give a piece of yourself to five, 10, 15, 20 or more people. Then you meet the person that you want to spend forever with. And you no longer have that whole part of you. You've given pieces away, and you can no longer give those to the love of your life.

So, save those pieces for your future spouse.

If you have not had sex yet, wait. If you have, consider not giving more pieces of yourself away to people who are not your spouse. Sex was created to be between two spouses, nobody else. So we need to try to maintain its integrity.

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8 Misconceptions About Hanukkah

It is so much more than "Jewish Christmas."

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Happy Hanukkah! A lot of people don't seem to understand what the holiday entails, resulting in some pretty interesting misconceptions. I am here to debunk them.

1. The Myth: Hanukkah is just like Christmas, but Jewish!

The truth: Hanukkah is nothing like Christmas. It wouldn't make sense for Jewish people to celebrate anything similar to Christmas. Jewish people do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, so no need to celebrate his birth. The only thing the holidays have in common is the fact that they take place in the winter, that there's some form of lighting involved, and there are special prayers and food.

With that in mind, wouldn't a number of holidays be "a lot like Christmas?"

Hanukkah is a commemoration of when the Holy Land was ruled by Greeks over 2,000 years ago, who tried to force Jewish people to accept their culture and abandon their own. Despite that, the Jewish people drove the Greeks away from the land and sought to light a menorah, only to find one tiny bit of olive oil. It was only supposed to last one day, but instead lasted for eight days!

Note that Hanukkah is by no means an anti-Greek holiday; it's about celebrating Jewish victory. Tons of Greek Jews exist and they happily celebrate Hanukkah.

2. The Myth: Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday.

The truth: Not really. Yom Kippur, Passover, and Rosh Hashanah are much more important. That being said, Hanukkah is still an important day. It just is by no means a major holiday like Christmas or Easter is for Christians.

3. The Myth: Jewish children get large amounts of gifts every single night! It's like eight Christmas mornings in a row!

The truth: Nope. Jewish children typically tend to get gelt (chocolate coins and/or real money) and dreidels, but that's it. It isn't a gift-giving holiday, and that's okay! That being said, in Christian-centric countries, the amount of presents given at Hanukkah has increased due to December being Christmastime and a gift-giving season. This is NOT A SIGN of Jewish people "conforming to Christian norms;" it's to prevent kids from feeling left out this time of year.

Even if gift-giving was a commonplace Hanukkah tradition, it still wouldn't be "eight Christmas mornings in a row," unless maybe the Jewish family in question was made up of multimillionaires. Think of how much money and time goes into buying gifts for just ONE Christmas Day! Hanukkah would probably be more like giving out one large amount of gifts spaced over a period of eight days, rather than eight back-to-back days of large amounts of gifts.

4. The Myth: Hanukkah is connected to Christmas.

The truth: Nope, not at all, as I explained in point one. People tend to think the two holidays are connected because they take place around the same time. This begs the question, do you think that New Year's Day and Martin Luther King Day are connected? They both take place in January!

What about Easter and Memorial Day? Sometimes, they're only a bit over a month apart! Thanksgiving Day and Veterans Day both happen in November, so they must have a big connection, right? Wrong!

5. The Myth: Anyone can celebrate Hanukkah!

The truth: Hanukkah is a strictly Jewish holiday and it doesn't make sense for gentiles to celebrate it. Now, don't get me wrong; if you're Christian, or Muslim, or Buddhist or something else, and your Jewish friends invite you to partake in their celebrations, that's great and I encourage it!

If you're looking to convert to Judaism and want to celebrate before conversion, even better! What I mean is that there is no point to someone celebrating if they have no connection whatsoever to Judaism. Refer back to my first point, where I explained what Hanukkah celebrates. It's about Jewish people celebrating a holiday for themselves and overcoming assimilation.

There's just no need to celebrate if you're not Jewish, and this is in no way intended to be a rude statement. I mean, have you ever seen people who aren't African-American celebrate Kwanzaa? Have you ever seen a non-Muslim fast for Ramadan?

This misconception comes from the fact that a lot of non-Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter. Christmas and Easter, at least in the U.S., have become cultural holidays so that secular people may want to celebrate them. However, this isn't the case for Hanukkah. Jewish people aren't being mean by saying it's a holiday only for them; it's just facts.

However, if you want to give us latkes despite not being Jewish, I'm sure we wouldn't refuse.

6. The Myth: Dreidel games were invented for Hanukkah only.

The truth: In the 19th century, the Torah had been outlawed. A rabbi decided that Jewish people could play with a dreidel to fool people if someone tried to catch them reading it. They could act as if they were merely gambling rather than practicing their religion.

7. The Myth: There's only one correct way to spell the holiday.

The truth: There's Hanukkah, Hanukah, Chanukah, and Chanukkah. Technically, the correct way is חנוכה, but that may be a struggle for those who don't know Hebrew.

8. The Myth: Hanukkah starts on the same day every year.

The truth: It doesn't, at least not if you're looking at a Gregorian calendar. On the Hebrew calendar, it DOES start on the same day: the 25th of Kislev. Months on the Hebrew calendar are based on the moon, and due to the ever-changing moon cycle, it'll be on a different Gregorian day every year! Speaking of, Hanukkah always starts at sundown.

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