Who Am I?

The Hole In Our Gospel

Posted: May 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Book Reviews, Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Hole In Our GospelI stumbled across The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision, because it was offered this month (May, 2010)  as the free audiobook download at christianaudio.com. I hadn’t heard of the book before and the description sounded interesting, so I decided to download it and check it out.

I’m glad I did.

This book weaves autobiographical stories from the author’s life with compelling stories of other individuals, statistics, and scripture to expose the gaping hole in the American Christian gospel. He graphically exposes the way we have reduced Christianity to the point that it is about little more than what happens to me when I die. We’ve made it into something useless and largely meaningless — no earthly good at all.

I include myself in that indictment. Perhaps I have some sense — some awareness — that Christianity should be more. But I don’t think I do any better than other people and I’m probably worse than many. As the richest Christians who have ever lived (half the global wealth of Christianity lies in the US), we have the financial ability to tackle some of the world’s worst problems. We have the knowledge and technology available to turn our unprecedented wealth into real solutions. And yet we largely choose to do little to nothing. As long as it isn’t our children who are suffering and dying by the tens of thousands every single day, what is it to us?

Poverty is a deep and complex problem. There are no simple solutions. Richard Stearns outlines some of those problems and explores some of the complexity. He doesn’t pretend that there is some quick fix that will make it all better. However, the fact that it is complex does not relieve of us our responsibility to act in love. Cain was better than us. He at least acknowledged Abel as his brother, even as he murdered him and then denied responsibility. It doesn’t seem that we even want to acknowledge our kinship with the world, much less love them.

Stearns exposes the lies embedded in our excuses. I’ve never believed many of them. In particular, I’ve never blamed the poor for being poor — something that is all too common in conservative American Christian circles. I have been poor by US standards. And though that does not compare to the worst poverty in the world, I also don’t minimize poverty here. Even in the US, poverty hurts and strives to strip you of hope and of your humanity.

I am not poor now. And though my abilities and strengths have played a part in my relative success, I’ve never shared the delusion that many have that I did it all on the basis of my own strength. A great deal of any success I’ve achieved has simply been luck. At most, I had the foresight and ability to grasp an opportunity. But I can’t really take any credit for the opportunity. Even here, I can easily see how people can become trapped in poverty. I could have been.

I happen to have a sharp mind, unusual memory, and strong will. (I call it that. Others might use words like stubborn or pig-headed.) And while those have served me well, I’ve also had a family rich with academic credentials and accomplishments — if not necessarily rich in other ways. I never had boundaries placed on my hope, on what was considered at least possible. But I’ve seen others in situations that deprived them of such hope. And if you lose hope then, even in this country, you’re trapped.

However, none of my innate abilities would have done me any good at all if I had, for example, been born in Sudan, or Somalia, or any of the countless places in the world where people must devote all their energies to simple survival. No, any success I have achieved is as much an accident of the latitude of my birth as anything else. I know that deep in my bones.

Stearns describes many of the problems of poverty and all his descriptions and examples are worth reading or hearing.  However, I do want to highlight one — the problem of water. An enormous proportion of the world’s population does not have access to clean and safe water. I’ve been poor enough at different points in my life to have done without many things Americans tend to take for granted. I know from experience that, if you can afford no other utility and little else, water is the most important utility to have. I lived through a few periods without running water and I don’t recommend the experience. And that’s in the US. Magnify that problem by moving the nearest water source two miles away or more and make it full of parasites and bacteria. That’s the situation billions of people are in. Life is consumed by the struggle to get water. And the water they do get is making them sick.

That’s also one problem we could solve — almost completely — with just a fraction of our wealth. We know how. We simply don’t care enough collectively to actually do it. Instead, we choose to use our money in other ways.

I recommend this book for anyone, but especially for Christians. Especially now, when for a couple more weeks you can get the audiobook for free, there’s no reason not to check it out.

Four Hundred Texts on Love 21

Posted: May 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

73.  Listen to the words of those who have been granted perfect love: ‘What can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written, “For Thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we are regarded as sheep for slaughtering (Ps. 44:22). But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8:35-39). Those who speak and act thus with regard to divine love are all saints.

Many of our clearest witnesses to the perfect love of Christian faith are those who have suffered exile, torture, and even death for Christ, even as they refused to revile or curse their tormentors. Like their Lord, they loved those tormenting them. Once upon a time, ‘martyr’ merely meant any sort of witness. Christians gave it a different connotation with their lives.

Today, of course, Christianity is often presented as a way of ‘blessing’ and material gain here and now. Janis Joplin captured the flavor of American Christianity in her classic song. I’ll close with it.


Four Hundred Texts on Love 20

Posted: May 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

71.  Perfect love does not split up the single human nature, common to all, according to the diverse characteristics of individuals; but, fixing attention always on this single nature, it loves all men equally. It loves the good as friends and the bad as enemies, helping them, exercising forbearance, patiently accepting whatever they do, not taking the evil into account at all but even suffering on their behalf if the opportunity offers, so that, if possible, they too become friends. If it cannot achieve this, it does not change its own attitude; it continues to show the fruits of love to all men alike. It was on account of this that our Lord and God Jesus Christ, showing His love for us, suffered for the whole of mankind and gave to all men an equal hope of resurrection, although each man determines his own fitness for glory or punishment.

My mind often runs in slightly odd directions. As I meditated on the text above, a line from the season five finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer kept running through my mind. Buffy tells her sister, “Dawn, the hardest thing in this world… is to live in it.”

An infant is born naturally capable of perfect love. And then life happens. It could come crashing down on the helpless child as fetal alcohol syndrome, crack addiction, or similar unwanted chemical bath from the mother rewires the infant’s brain. Sometimes that love is crushed in the first few months or years through acts of abuse or neglect.

But even absent such extremes, life still happens. A child learns that people can and will fail them. Every child learns that others will try to take from them. Children learn that life is fraught with danger and risk. Love becomes a commodity in a zero sum game.

Jesus restored all humanity to life. But in order to live we have to love.

Four Hundred Texts on Love 19

Posted: May 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

70. You have not yet acquired perfect love if your regard for people is still swayed by their characters – for example, if, for some particular reason, you love one person and hate another, or if for the same reason you sometimes love and sometimes hate the same person.

We can always find a reason to hate. In fact, hatred is probably the easiest place for us to rest our heart. It’s sad that Christians in the US today are generally better known for who they hate than for who they love. It doesn’t really matter what justification we use — and we have little difficulty justifying hatred — when we hate instead of love, we are not ‘Christian‘ in any discernible way.

There is nothing ‘Christian’ about loving those who are like us or who do good to us and hating our enemies and those unlike us. We are only ‘Christian’ when we love our enemies, when we do good to those who want to hurt us, when we care for the least of these, and when we pray for those who wrong us.

Four Hundred Texts on Love 18

Posted: May 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

62.  ‘But I say to you, do not resist evil; but if someone hits you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek as well. And if anyone sues you in the courts, and takes away your coat, let him have your cloak also. And if anyone forces you to go a mile, go with him for two miles’ (Matt. 5:39-41). Why did He say this? Both to keep you free from anger and irritation, and to correct the other person by means of your forbearance, so that like a good Father He might bring the two of you under the yoke of love.

Before I read this text, I had never considered the ‘why’ of that part of the Sermon on the Mount in quite that way. But of course it has to be that the God who is ‘not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9)’ is working to bring all under the yoke of love. Often, when we read these passages, we categorize the other as ‘evil’ and ourselves as ‘good’. But the Father sees us all as ‘human’ and ‘beloved’.


Posted: May 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

When I heard that Jennifer Knapp was releasing a new CD, I placed an order for it. As part of my order, I got a copy of her EP Evolving. I’ve been enjoying it for several days now. I’ve particularly enjoyed the song Fallen and, as music often does for me, it spurred the reflections that led to this post. I don’t tend to dwell too much on what a particular song or poem might have meant to the artist who wrote it. As a rule, unless they choose to explain it, I tend to assume that most of the guesses I might make are wrong. So when art evokes a reaction from me, I don’t project my response onto the artist. The song itself is hauntingly beautiful. Take a few moments to listen to it. I’ll continue with my thoughts following the song.

I was captivated immediately by the haunting opening (and repeated) chorus of the song.

Even though they say we have fallen
Doesn’t mean that I won’t do it twice
Given every second chance
I’d choose again to be with you tonight

The last line was the first to echo in my mind. I thought of my wife. Perhaps it’s because our 20th anniversary is fast approaching, but I thought of our early passionate intertwining — almost a physical force pushing and pulling us together, even if we seemed at the time to outside eyes the most unlikely of couples. And it has been a tumultuous twenty years with perhaps more challenges than some married couples face. But without hesitation, I would choose every bit of it again. I feel the enduring intensity of the line: I’d choose again to be with you tonight. There is no night where I would ever choose otherwise.

Moreover, that’s not a relative or a hierarchical choice. It’s an all-encompassing, absolute choice. If God demanded that I choose between my wife and him, my choice is clear; I would choose my wife.

However, it seems to me that people frame questions like that poorly. The problem is not fundamentally in how you answer the question even if it does seem to me that any other answer  would be morally questionable.  The deeper problem is that a God who would demand such a choice is simply not worth worshiping. I ask different questions than it seems a lot of modern Christians ask. For instance, here the obvious question to me is more direct; why would anyone choose to worship a God like that?

Sometimes people point to Abraham and Isaac, but if they are trying to prove the above, they miss the whole point of that story. Abraham knew God and knew that he wouldn’t take Isaac. He was so convinced that God was good and faithful that he even believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead if that’s where everything led. Abraham knew and trusted God more and better than I do. And in that trust, we see one of the great foreshadowings of the Resurrection.

We worship a God who loved all human beings to the uttermost, even to death on a cross. It’s other human beings who demand that we choose one love over another, never God. Love is non-hierarchical. I say that because I have heard Christians attempt to teach a hierarchy of love. Love God first. Love your wife second. Love your kids third. And then other loves in various lower hierarchies. Such systems may be many things, but they are not love. People even interpret Jesus’ modified Shema Yisrael as though it was his version of the First and Second Law of Robotics. (If you’re not an Asimov fan and miss the reference, I’m sorry. I’ll pray for you.) No, when Jesus amends the Shema, he is saying this is how you love God. You love your neighbor as yourself. That is what the Incarnation means.

I love my wife with all that I am. I totally love every one of my children — without limit. And I at least desire to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. (I’m less convinced that I actually do love God, because I know how poorly I love other human beings. But I long to love him.) Those statements are not contradictory. Love is at least transfinite if not absolutely infinite. Love doesn’t run out. It’s not a finite resource. In fact, according to 1 John 4:3, love is the essence of the uncreated who fills and sustains all creation. We will find the end of love when we find the end of God.

My take on the questions that seem to plague others thus becomes relatively simple. I am not willing to try to foist on others a God I would never worship myself. For me that’s really the end of the discussion. I will read and study perspectives and interpretations and context simply because I enjoy such intellectual pursuits.  But that’s all they are to me. I’m never confused about that.

But then the middle two lines began bubbling in that sea I call a mind as I started to reflect on the relational experiences and choices of my whole life.

Doesn’t mean that I won’t do it twice
Given every second chance

I have experienced much in my life and I have made many choices. I have experienced pain and trauma both at the hands of others and as a result of my own actions and decisions. I began to reflect on what “every second chance” might mean in the context and setting of my life.

I have many flaws and broken places and I have been prone to making poor choices and decisions over the course of my life. Even so, it’s not hard to pinpoint the single “worst” (whatever that might mean) decision of my life. The particular dark synergy of everything between us in my relationship with my second wife nearly destroyed me. At least, it came closer than anything else I’ve ever experienced — and that’s saying quite a bit. I owe my father, a close friend, and my partner and love for the past twenty-two years all that I am today. I wasn’t easy on any of them, but they still loved me enough to put the shattered pieces back together again.

So, at first glance, that choice and that relationship seems to be one that, given every second chance, I wouldn’t in fact do twice.  But things are never that simple. Without my choice to enter that relationship, I would not have my older son, my other son (in all but blood) who is the same age, my daughter-in-law, or my granddaughter. But the thread runs deeper than that. It’s unlikely, absent that relationship, that I would have moved to Austin or ever started working for my current employer. And not only does that mean I would not have my present career, but more importantly I would not have met the woman who has been my wife, partner, and friend for more than two decades now. And thus I also would not have my younger son, my younger daughter, or the particular friends I have made here over the years.

And that is far too steep a price to pay simply in order to avoid pain, however intense or shattering the suffering might have been.

Our choices and experiences, good and bad, cannot be disentangled. We are not islands. We live in a complex web of relationships and lives. There is no point in our lives where we can separate our experience then from the person we are now. Change the experience and you inevitably change the person. Moreover, you change the entire network of relationships surrounding the person.

I can go farther back in time. My choices and actions that initially led to me becoming a young teen father and husband were certainly less than ideal. (I have to specify ‘young teen’ since I was still a teenager for my second child and marriage.) I certainly made my own later life more painful and more difficult with those choices. Yet, I can’t say I truly regret those choices and actions. If I had been ‘wiser’, not only would my oldest daughter not have been conceived, but I would have likely taken a scholarship to a college somewhere and missed every subsequent relationship in my life.

But I can go farther back into things I experienced growing up, but largely did not choose. I suppose I had an interesting childhood in the same sense as the ancient Chinese curse. But remove those experiences and I would not have become the teen who made the choices that I made. It’s an intricate, yet delicate web of growth, experience, and relationship. And there’s nothing that, even given every second chance, I can honestly say I would remove or change. I regret the places where I hurt people, and there are too many of those. But I don’t really want to go back and change anything. I just want to do better going forward.

I’ve never been a very good fit in the American evangelical culture not just because I’m twice divorced, but because I’ve simply refused to adopt the stereotypical, expected ‘repentant‘ attitude. I may recognize that I’ve made poor choices more than once (not that I needed Christianity to reveal that fact to me), but I’m not ‘sorry‘ about my kids or life and I never will be. I know that a lot of people don’t know how to deal with me because I don’t fit any of their easy boxes. They have various categories for people and I don’t even superficially conform to those categories. Some can drop their neat little divisions and simply accept me for who I am. Others keep their distance instead because I make them uncomfortable. My wife sometimes thinks I don’t see the various reactions. And it is true that I’m less socially aware than many people are. But I’m more aware than I tend to show.

When I read the places in the gospels where Jesus most directly addresses marriage, I always want to note that he is mostly speaking against the way the various Pharisaical camps had used divorce as a weapon to punish and hurt the weak or benefit the powerful. Even so, within that context I don’t disagree that Jesus strongly implies the existence of an ideal against which he is contrasting and judging their abuse. I don’t really argue with that point on which so many seem to focus an inordinate amount of attention. (I will point out that it’s actually a multiplicity of ideals. Jesus and Paul both say, after all, that it’s a higher calling of some to remain unmarried and childless in devotion and service to God. That statement was at least as shocking in their ancient context as it would be to conservative evangelicals today.)

But Jesus embodied a God who has never shied away from the reality of human relationships in favor of some ideal. Even in the foreshadowing of the Old Testament, we see a good God who loves mankind. We see a God who again and again shows up saying, “Well, that’s not what I had in mind for you, but since that’s where you’ve gotten yourself, here’s where we’ll go from here.” The human relationships we form are an inextricable part of our reality. And I don’t think God judges them as incidental, secondary, or occupying some lower rung on a hierarchical ladder of love. I think he honors them for what they are in the midst of all their messiness.

In truth, if we believe Jesus, then love and worship of God cannot be separated from love of other human beings. That is, after all, what Jesus taught when he had the audacity to amend the Shema Yisrael. When I think of God, I always see Jesus sitting at the well with the Samaritan woman telling her, without judgment or condemnation, “You’ve told the truth. You have no husband. You’ve had five husbands and the man you are with now is not your husband.” It’s as if he’s telling her, I see where you are, I’m willing to join you where you are, and we’ll go from there.

Perhaps that story is so poignant to me because it illustrates the point at which I began to truly see the reality of Jesus instead of a caricature. That time came when my wife and I were planning our wedding. For a wide variety of reasons — none having to do with faith — we decided to see if we could get married in a beautiful, nearby Lutheran church. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect and I’m not sure my wife did either. Neither of us had any connection to any Lutheran church nor were we practicing Christians of any sort. My wife was more or less a lapsed Roman Catholic and I was more anti-Christian than not. (There are a lot of reasons for both and neither are particularly relevant here.)

While I’m not sure what either of us expected, what we encountered was love. I don’t think for a moment that the Lutheran pastor had any illusions about our degree of Christian faith, though he never pressed us on it. And especially given that I had my older five year old son, we were in the middle of a custody case, and my son had already bonded to my then fiance as the mother he had deserved to have, I don’t believe the pastor had any illusions about the platonic nature of our relationship either.

We began to get to know him in pre-marital counseling and though I did not yet know that particular gospel story, I found myself in the place of the Samaritan woman. The pastor didn’t use those words, but it’s as if he said to me, “Yes, you’ve had two wives and the woman you’re with now is not your wife. That’s where you are. Let’s move on from there.” And he didn’t stop with proforma marriage counseling and a wedding. He remained genuinely interested in our lives and struggles. He gave my wife a part-time job at one point that was also flexible enough to meet the demands the custody case placed on us. He needed a secretary and she was available and skilled, but that practical act always meant a lot to me. There had to have been at least some people more devoted to his church to whom he could have given the job.

We were never exactly regular attendees at that church, but we did go more often than we had originally intended. (That’s not saying much since I’m not sure we really intended to attend at all once the wedding was over.) And when our son was born, we had him baptized by that pastor. That Lutheran pastor never really did anything dramatic or showy. But he did live the sort of love we see in the gospels. He chose acceptance over rejection. He chose love over any particular set of rules. And by doing that, he led me to question whether or not I might have been wrong in my judgment of Christians and Christianity. I doubt he had or has any idea of the impact his actions had on me. But the truth is that I’m not sure I see how I would have moved from where I was to anything like Christian faith without his small, but consistent acts of love.

The theological point I take from all of this is that it’s not my job to somehow ‘fix‘ the web of human relationships surrounding and supporting another person. My wife and I have and may again in the future find ourselves in a place where we need to do what we can to help someone who is being abused. So I’m not at all saying that we should stay aloof or apart from others. That’s not love. However, it’s up to God, not us, to ultimately sort things out. Our role is to acknowledge where people are and not turn away from it. Lies flow from darkness, not from the light. We should never pretend that things are other than what they are. But having done so, we are to love. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

I’m not sure that you can err by loving too much or too freely. But if you can, I would rather err on that side than by not loving enough. I don’t think I’m very good at love, at least not the sort of love that Jesus commands. But if there’s one thing I want to do better, that’s probably it.

Four Hundred Texts on Love 17

Posted: May 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

61.  ‘But I say to you,’ says the Lord, ‘love your enemies … do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you’ (Matt. 5:44). Why did He command this? To free you from hatred, irritation, anger and rancor, and to make you worthy of the supreme gift of perfect love. And you cannot attain such love if you do not imitate God and love all men equally. For God loves all men equally and wishes them ‘to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4).

I’ve come to realize over the years that not all Christians really believe that God loves all men equally and is ‘not willing that any should perish.’ I don’t mean they would necessarily come out and say that God doesn’t love everyone equally (though possibly some of them would). But when, for example, something like two-thirds of evangelical Christians in America believe that torture is sometimes justified, that says as much about the particular God they proclaim as it does about them.

I’m not claiming that I manage to love my enemies or those who hurt me. Most days I’ve done well if I can avoid actively wishing them harm. I’m certainly not free from irritation, anger and rancor. But I’m deeply aware that’s because I’ve not yet attained the love that Jesus showed us. I do try to find a way to pray for those who might have hurt me at least a little each day. I strive not to respond in anger. I strive to love. And I pray for mercy.

Four Hundred Texts on Love 16

Posted: May 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | 1 Comment »

60.  Silence the man who utters slander in your hearing. Otherwise you sin twice over: first, you accustom yourself to this deadly passion and, second you fail to prevent him from gossiping against his neighbor.

There is no such thing as being able to stand passively aloof from gossip and slander. When we tell ourselves that as long as we don’t participate in spreading gossip we stand above those who do, we are lying to ourselves. We have to be actively engaged in an effort to stop gossip. We have to silence those speaking to us as soon as we begin to recognize what they are doing.

As this text reminds us, if don’t we are guilty twice over. We make ourselves ever more comfortable in gossip and slander, which James reminds us is absolutely deadly and destructive. And we allow our brother or sister to engage in sin. God’s unspoken, but implicit answer to Cain’s question, Am I my brother’s keeper?, is his answer to us all. Yes, we are our brother’s keeper. We do not exist isolated and responsible for only ourselves. Even the monk alone in the remotest cell is responsible and prays for the whole world.

I am often guilty of holding myself aloof and distant. In part it’s a learned defense mechanism. It’s a little harder for people to hurt you that way. But if you are going to love, you have to drop your defenses and risk being hurt. That’s a very scary, even terrifying thing to do — at least for me. I’m afraid I’m still not very good at love.

Four Hundred Texts on Love 15

Posted: May 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

54.  St Paul says that, if we have all the gifts of the Spirit but do not have love, we are no further forward (cf. 1 Cor. 13:2). How assiduous, then, we ought to be in our efforts to acquire this love.

55. If ‘love prevents us from harming our neighbor’ (Rom. 13:10), he who is jealous of his brother or irritated by his reputation, and damages his good name with cheap jibes or in any way spitefully plots against him, is surely alienating himself from love and is guilty in the face of eternal judgment.

56. If love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom. 13:10), he who is full of rancor towards his neighbor and lays traps for him and curses him, exulting in his fall, must surely be a transgressor deserving eternal punishment.

57. If ‘he who speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law’ (Jas. 4:11), and the law of Christ is love, surely he who speaks evil of Christ’s love falls away from it and is the cause of his own perdition.

The four texts above seem to me to be tied together by a single thread of thought. How do we acquire love? That also seems to me to be a trickier question than we often credit. We seek many gifts, but we do not often seek love, for love always means sacrifice.

We turn from love in small actions usually, not in large, dramatic ways. We think evil of another human being. Perhaps we share our thoughts with another. We might then act to ‘humble’ the other person, even though it is not our place to humble anyone. We set traps to trip each other up.

This approach to life often does not seem any less prevalent to me in Christian communities. Sometimes it seems to be more common there than among communities of friends who are not necessarily (or at all) Christian. Gossip and negative speech seems to rip through the church like wildfire. I’m more out of that loop (by choice as much as by circumstance) than most, but even I catch some of it.

And that brings us to the last text above. When we do such things, we are negatively judging Christ’s love. We turn our backs on that love. We decide that’s not how we want reality to be. And when we do that, we are saying that we don’t want God. On that scale, it doesn’t matter much what we intellectually believe (or think that we believe, anyway). When we refuse to love, we are rejecting God, who is love. We are making ourselves into creatures like the dwarves in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Last Battle. Even in the glory of God revealed as all in all, we will have convinced ourselves that we live in a dark, dirty, and smelly stable. Truly, we are the cause of our own perdition.

I’m as guilty of doing that as anyone I know. In some ways, perhaps I’m worse than most. But I do know that I don’t want to stay in the stable of my delusion.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy.

May Is Celiac Disease Awareness Month

Posted: May 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

May is designated Celiac Disease Awareness Month. As I’ve gradually healed and continue to heal since my diagnosis roughly a year ago, I’ve begun to understand how important it is to raise overall awareness of this disease. While celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects roughly the same percentage of the population as type 1 diabetes, it has had a much lower level of recognition. In large part, that’s because it tends to have a more gradual onset presenting with over 300 possible symptoms. While some people are impacted so severely by celiac disease that they experience major distress, like kidney failure, in a fairly short period of time, most of us experience the slow development over time of a bewildering array of seemingly unconnected symptoms. In fact, I didn’t even recognize some of my symptoms as symptoms until they began to fade when I eliminated gluten from my diet after my diagnosis.

Study after study tells us that the vast majority of people suffering from active celiac disease remain undiagnosed. In that sense, I’m one of the fortunate few. My family doctor was alert enough to tie unusual blood work with several other seemingly unrelated things and referred me to a gastroenterologist even though I was not specifically complaining about any digestive tract symptoms. (I did and do have a number of such symptoms, but they developed so slowly that I didn’t notice the onset and were not severe enough to trigger any awareness that something was seriously wrong.)

The blood tests for celiac disease have now been improved to the point that, given its prevalence and difficulty of diagnosis, it should become one of the things for which we routinely screen. We know that 95% or more of those with active celiac are undiagnosed. We know that they have a 500% higher risk of developing certain cancers, are at a greater risk of developing other autoimmune diseases, and are at risk for a host of other long-term health problems. Further we know the disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose correctly from symptoms alone. Since we have pretty accurate blood tests now (which was not true as recently as 10 years ago), why would we not screen for it?

The Celiac Nurse has posted a great article for Celiac Disease Awareness Month that, among other things, provides the links to her year-long, in-depth articles on the categories of symptoms associated with celiac disease. I strongly recommend taking the time to read her post and the linked series. It’s very likely that somebody reading this post has celiac disease and doesn’t know it.