Things That Could Get Me in Trouble

While America Laughed

The news broke today that actor and comedian Bill Cosby had been found guilty of sexual assault against ex-basketball player Andrea Constand. At 80 years of age, and after a long life in the spot-light, Bill Cosby’s final years will be spent behind bars.

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Andrea Constand surrounded by supporters following a guilty verdict in the Bill Cosby rape case. –Getty Images

Over 60 other women have come forward over the years to describe abuses that span over several decades, but due to statute of limitations, only one of those cases has been brought to trial. Several of these women were in the courtroom today. They openly wept and cheered when the verdict was read. They finally had justice.

This news has saddened me deeply. Not because Bill Cosby is “America’s Dad”, the man who made us laugh and cry on a weekly basis during the 80’s and early 90’s. But because while he was in front of the camera, accepting accolades and adoration from his millions of fans around the world, there were 60 different women living with the unbearable trauma of what he had done to them; the violation of their body and their will, and knowing that they may never convince a world that the man adored for selling Pudding Pops and Jello-O was actually a sexual predator. The cost of our entertainment was far too great, and I fear it is the very thing that blinded us.

I grew up with Bill Cosby. My father loved reading his books and listening to his comedy tapes. There are very few good memories of my childhood that aren’t linked to Bill Cosby.  He was a fantastic actor that played his part so well– he had the world fooled that his on-screen and on-stage persona was his true self–but the art is in his duplicity. The mark of a great thespian is the ability to become someone you aren’t, and the verdict this week proved that he gave an award winning performance his entire life. His trophy is now a 6×6 cell.  His final bow is a tragic end in a comedy of errors.

But then I contemplated about the impact of the verdict and why it was so significant. There is little question the entertainment industry has consumed pop culture. We define our lives around the television shows and movies we watch. The portrayers of the characters we adore are played by flawed men and women, and never has that been more apparent than this past year. Each new accusation brought to public attention has spawned further discussion about sexual misconduct and who to believe. Women who have previously been afraid to speak up or point fingers are finding camaraderie among the countless others who suffered just as they have. But as a public, we contribute to the stigma preventing women from coming forward. We resist believing these women because we are so attached to the body of work these men were a part of, and to admit their guilt tarnishes the craft they helped create. Will anyone be able to sit and watch The Cosby Show ever again without thinking of the allegations levied against its largest star? Its doubtful.

But the bravery of the women who have been stepping forward is remarkable. Even in the face of continual pushback when they try to speak their truth from people who refuse to believe their idols are capable of such horrendous crimes, they are making their voices heard. And the momentum is continually building. And it was necessary, especially after the outcry from women all across the world when the verdict for the Brock Turner case was announced. The victim impact statement was the plea for justice heard around the world, and it was the plea that was ignored and dismissed by a judge who only saw a young man’s talent.

If you don’t remember her statement, here is a reminder of what no one should ever forget:

You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.

A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person…When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing.

On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately.

One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article. In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize. This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me.

The rest can be heard here. (Her words still haunt me. She had a legal system that believed her, and still she received little justice for her ordeal.)

Brock Turner was sentenced to only 6 months in jail, and only served 3 of those 6 months. The woman he assaulted will have to spend the rest of her life trying to cope with the trauma he inflicted on her when she was unconscious and vulnerable. But because he was a young man with potential and talent, he was excused and his crime was minimized by a lighter sentence.

There is still a public outrage concerning that trial, and I suspect it is precisely one of the reasons why there is such a movement among women to take back the power and the dignity these men robbed from them. Talent and power and wealth is no longer a protector of the guilty against facing their accusers. Whether it be a loss of status, a loss of employment, a loss of respect or a loss of freedom. Some argue that the price of a tarnished reputation is too great, that simply the whisper of inappropriate behaviour is enough to sink a career for any of these men. Some have even said that the women were asking for it, they wanted it, what did they expect when they pursued a famous person in such a way. All of these statements are inherently wrong because it places a greater value on talent then it does on a person’s right to have autonomy over their own body.

Women have worked tirelessly to break barriers for a hundred years in order to even the playing field in terms of rights, professions and status. Women were fed the lie by men in powerful positions that in order to get a head they had to put out and shut up, but therein lied the deception, because the men were never going to allow the women to get ahead. And so long as the men could control and manipulate with sex, they could keep the power. So now the men are having to pay their due. And sadly, the largest one to fall is the one who broke the most barriers within his career. But his success is not enough to keep him from facing the consequences of his crimes, not anymore.

The price of our entertainment should never be at the expense of someone else’s denied consent. Not anymore.

The tragic and the comic lie inseparably close, like light and shadow.

–Socrates

 

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Reflections To Help Me Be a Better Person

How I Learned to Have Boundaries Written by: David Sutcliffe

“I used to have a hard time saying no. And being direct about what I wanted.

I often found myself accommodating others, doing things I didn’t want to do. This would lead to lingering resentment, and if it persisted, an explosion of blame and victimization.

If I finally confronted someone the response was usually, “Well, why didn’t you say something?!”

It’s a good point. People are not mind readers, nor should we expect them to be.

Read More

Cancer Battle

Learning to Fly While Falling

Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.

Leonardo da Vinci

I had just come to the end of an exceptionally traumatic year. Circumstances beyond my control had thrown my world upside down and I was forced to work through the emotionally exhausting work of repairing my life. The feeling like I had absolutely no control over my life was both angering and frightening.

It was a beautiful day in late August. The journey was long, but the anticipation was more than a distraction. At first I thought our GPS had taken us down a wrong turn because it looked like we were in the middle of Nowhere, Ontario, but driving a little further down the dirt country road and we saw the sign that told us we had arrived. The air was still, the sun was warm and there were beautiful fluffy white clouds dotting the sky as far as the eye could see. We were early but I figured if I showed up early, maybe they would take me sooner. I had wanted to do this for a long time but indecision was my driving force behind complacency. It was only when my world had come crashing down that I was prompted to act.  And today was the day, I was finally going to jump out of an airplane.

If I was going to be put into a situation where I felt out-of-control I wanted to be the one who put myself in that position rather than what I had experienced over the past twelve months.

I walked into the trailer adjacent the airport hangar where I was greeted by a youthful young woman. She had me fill out the necessary paperwork, including the waiver releasing them from liability in the event that I died, and then I was instructed to wait.

We waited for three hours.

Others were ahead of me. Dozens of brave, crazy, and enigmatic people were all waiting to be take up into the sky just to free-fall back toward the earth. My excitement was palpable and I could feel the rush of adrenaline before I was even hooked into my harness.

My son, in an attempt to disarm me, had told me in the days before about a woman who had gone sky diving on her birthday, she was seventy or something, and she had fallen out of her harness while in free-fall. I looked up the video online and sure enough, that actually happened. She survived but note to self: don’t loosen harness. When the airport owner took us all aside to instruct us on the finer points of safety and what we needed to know I was immediately reassured. I would be strapped to a qualified and certified jumper who was going to do all of the hard work. All I had to do was keep my head back, feet held back between his legs, and jump when he says jump!

The ride in the little two prop plane was bumpy, and we were all packed in like happy sardines. The men and women who had jumped a thousand times before were raucous and care-free, I liked them all immediately. I wanted to be like them.

At an elevation of approximately 17, 000 feet the plane hatch was opened and it was time for us to go. Looking down all I could see was white. The jump out of the airplane was seamless; it looked like all we had done was leap into a layer of freshly fallen snow. I was damp, my hair was wind-whipped and my ears needed to be popped but the rush of falling at exceptionally fast speed—faster than any motor vehicle on land—was amazingly liberating.  Descending through the clouds and eventually seeing the ground come into view propelled my line of sight across a vast landscape of farmland and shoreline approaching at an alarmingly quick pace.

Once we pulled our chute we were jerked immediately into a slow descent and my tandem jumper estimated we were then at an elevation of approximately 5,000 feet. The lack of sound at that height was mesmerizing. I could hear the sound of my own heartbeat as we gracefully floated down toward the waiting earth below. It was the first time I had experienced peace since my world had been torn apart and my urge to sob in gratuitous response surged through my body. This is what it must feel like to fly. I didn’t want my feet to find solid ground.

But we did land. I didn’t die. And life moved forward. My emotions began to heal and my anger ebbed away.

I couldn’t control the circumstances that turned my world upside down, but it didn’t kill me. If I can survive jumping from an airplane then I could survive anything.

A year later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My world again had been ripped from beneath my feet, but it hasn’t killed me yet. And I am still here, still living and breathing and still remembering what it was like to fly.

Cancer Battle

If You Read This After I’m Gone

It was just supposed to be a mammogram. A few weeks earlier I had gone to my doctor to inquire about an unusual hardness behind my left nipple. I thought, in part, that I was a tad irrational. My doctor validated my fears during my first appointment and sent  me for a scan. I wasn’t crazy. But it was only supposed to be a mammogram.

I arrived at the hospital where the Breast Assessment Clinic is located and I was late because I had never been there before. The woman operating the machine was irritated. I was apologetic but it seemed to fall on deaf ears.

She smashed my breasts between the flat plexiglass that comprised the tortuous experience of having a mammogram, and within only a few seconds her attitude with me completely changed. I was no longer just having a mammogram, I was being sent for an ultrasound as well.

I tried not to cry. I tried to contain my emotion. I felt silly crying. I didn’t have a diagnosis yet. This was all still conjecture, a possibility, a potential reality—this wasn’t something that was confirmed yet. But an ultrasound turned into a biopsy. Within the span of two hours my life completely, and irrevocably changed. It was also my son’s eighteenth birthday. How was I supposed to remain calm and still celebrate my son’s milestone birthday with a looming dark cloud hanging over my head and my life?

It only took four days for the results to come back. Four days is nothing. Four days is insignificant in the context of a lifetime. But these four days felt like forever.

It was confirmed on a Monday. I had been diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

I remember sitting in the grey examination room of my doctor’s office while medical professionals conveyed the gravity of my diagnosis. My whole body shook with raw nerve. I was completely undone.

In the four days between biopsy and diagnosis I tried in vain to stay off the internet. I “Googled” survivor stories. Did you know there are none? There are statistics. A LOT of statistics. They are grim.

But I had found a blog by a woman from 2009. She was faith filled, positive and so determined that she was going to survive. In the early days she posted a lot about her treatment, her recovery and her hopes for the future. She was honest about her struggles and about her fears, which was hard to read but I appreciated her honesty. I loved her declaration that she was going to beat this, she was going to defy the odds and survive. It was empowering to read about her defiance of this disease. But then I read the last post. It was by a family friend. They informed the readers that she had lost her battle, and she was dead.

Dead.

I threw my tablet half way across the room. I cried. No, I sobbed. I sobbed an angry, bitter, sorrowful cry that echoed through my home. This was just the beginning.

I have since survived 8 rounds of chemo therapy, a left radical mastectomy, 25 rounds of radiation, and I am now in recovery. I, like the woman I wrote about above, am optimistic, defiant and determined that I will beat this disease. When they removed the breast tissue from my body, they reported that I had no evidence of the cancer in my body. They have told me that is the best possible outcome they could have hoped for. That gives me hope.

But if you are reading this after I am gone, I don’t want you to despair. This disease is aggressive, but there are aggressive oncologists who are tirelessly researching new and improved methods for fighting this disease. This disease will knock you down and cause you to feel all kinds of emotions ranging from despair to anger, but when you encounter a new victory it will give you renewed strength and hope to continue to the next phase.

And there are others. There are others all over the world who are living with this diagnosis. Some have passed away. But others are bravely facing each day and surviving. Some have two years, five years, seven years, twenty-eight years—they are surviving. It is possible. Do not lose yourself to despair.

I won’t sugar coat this: IBC sucks. There are seemingly no good reports online, NOW. But hopefully, in the future, YOU will be that good report. Hopefully because woman like me have gone before you and endured the pain and the tragedy, oncologists will have more data to compile that will provide answers for women like you. And I hope beyond hope that because of other women who have died before me, that because of their sacrifice I too can survive, and this article is obsolete. I hope that I can continue to provide anniversary updates that announce that I am still alive. I hope beyond hope that 20 years later I can say, you have hope because I am still here.

But if I am not, I will tell you this: I fought and endured so that you could have answers and so that you WILL survive.

 

**If you have found your way here because you have just been diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, then I encourage you to reach out to the IBC Network Foundation, it is important that you find others who have gone through what you are about to go through. There is an entire network of support. They will help guide you.

Things That Could Get Me in Trouble

Love People, Whether They are Sinners or Not.

“Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

Jesus never said this.

It’s from St. Augustine. His Letter 211 (c. 424) contains the phrase Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” The phrase has become more famous as “love the sinner but hate the sin” or “hate the sin and not the sinner” (the latter form appearing in Mohandas Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography). 1

I read online just today about a high profile evangelical worship leader from the UK who recently admitted publicly that had been struggling her entire life with a conflicting idea about who she was. In short: she is attracted to women. She’s gay.

The response from Christians has been to boycott her music, preach to her, rebuke her, judge her, tell her how she is an abomination, how she is wrong, how she has twisted theology, or “comparing my gay orientation to someone “committing adultery, murder, rape, pedophilia or zoophilia“.”

This broke my heart. Let’s for one minute take the discussion of whether homosexuality is a sin or not off the table. She openly and courageously spoke about something that she has struggled with since grade school, and the public response from the body of Christ has been to silence her or shame her?

I hate the phrase mentioned above, because it is used as a means to cast dispersions against a people group that don’t think or act in a manner befitting an evangelical theology. The phrase has been so over-used that it is inherently unloving in it’s application. To begin with, by labelling a person a sinner, as if they were somehow in a class unto themselves because they are gay for example, is unloving.

So it begs the question, what does it really mean to love? The church is missing a huge opportunity to grow in love and they are missing it. Where the church has wrongly believed that the struggle of the LGBTQ person is because of their sin, it is more likely they have struggled against cultural norms that have kept them locked away in a prison of their own mind and body. Furthermore, focusing on the right and wrong aspect of what constitutes morality takes away from the crux of what Jesus was doing on earth.

I listened to this woman’s music. I had never heard of her prior to her public announcement so I sought out some of her previous recordings. Her worship is absolutely beautiful. I was in awe of the simplicity and the purity behind her voice and her heart. And I was reminded of the woman who came to anoint Jesus and wash his feet with her tears. The Pharisees all stood around and said, “This Man, if He were a prophet would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39  The passage doesn’t describe what her sin was, it has always just been assumed. I remember growing up and hearing pastors inform the masses that she was an adulterer, or a harlot, because those were likely the most egregious sins of the day.

But this was Jesus’ response, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head…Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little. ” Luke 7:44-47  Jesus sends her on her way by saying to her, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” v. 50.

The magnitude of that passage speaks volumes to me, but perhaps that is because I have lived a life where I have been forgiven of much. The verse in Romans that reminds us that we are all sinners is used often but in equal measure forgotten.  So why, as evangelicals, does the church single-out the LGBTQ community? Why is it so important that they be wrong and the church be right? Does their sexual orientation diminish the truth of the cross? Does their sexuality diminish the truth of God and his great love for us? And if the church truly loved them, why does the church spend inordinate amounts of energy trying to silence them or shame them? (or condemn them?)

So the question I leave the church with is this: What does it truly mean to love? If our theology is more concerned with upholding a law or a rule, rather than the concern and compassion for people then our theology is wrong. When the emphasis is so much on proving that a people group is wrong, then how is that showing the love of Christ to the world?

Cancer Battle

It’s Not Over, I Just Pretend All the Time

The rest of the world is more comfortable when they hear stories of rosy optimism and conquering disease. I figured that out early. I could post glowing optimistic stories of each new victory I over came and I would receive endless praise. It was great, it fed my ego, but it wasn’t always honest.

When I was first diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC), the cancer machine whirred into action and I was surrounded by well-meaning and compassionate people who offered to do almost anything. For someone like me, who is very self sufficient and independent, it was difficult for me to accept the help. But I did accept the help, I needed the help, and I am forever grateful for it.

Now that I am through the hard parts, most of the people have disappeared. (I say most because I do still have an incredible support system and I do not want to minimize their contribution to my recovery) They are more comfortable knowing that I am healing and recovering. They don’t want to hear about the days that I can barely get out of bed because I am so tired from over-exerting myself. They don’t want to hear about the difficulty I have reaching things on high shelves because my arm no longer has the range of motion it once had because of the missing lymph nodes. They don’t want to hear about the struggle for breath when I am walking a block or two. They don’t want to hear about the depression, or the anger, or the loneliness that inevitably creates a barrier between me and the rest of the world. They don’t want to hear about the insomnia or the drug addiction that develops because of the long drug use. And they really don’t want to hear about the chance of reoccurrence or worse.

When the bell has been rung, it signals the end of chemotherapy or radiation. It doesn’t signal the end. That distinction needs to be made because in the minds of loved ones, it can sometimes signal relief for them. When a cancer diagnosis is given it feels like a death sentence, and so the sound of the bell can sometimes feel like reprieve. It’s not. For the cancer patient, the sound of the bell is merely a beginning of a new battle. It signals the beginning of reclaiming everything that was lost when cancer ripped the ground out from beneath them. It signals the beginning of fear—the fear when the other shoe will drop, when or where the next lesion or tumour would appear, the fear of having to go through all of this again, the fear of everyone disappearing just when the next phase of the battle is beginning. These fears are realistic and highly probable.

Through my own experience there are 9 things I have discovered that are the most effective way of continually showing love and support for those recovering from cancer or any other major illness:

1) Endure the loneliness and depression.

Cancer survivor stories are not always depicted honestly. The positive ones that depict overcoming great odds skip over the hard parts of struggle, frustration, isolation and depression, and focus on the triumphant end result.  The most loving thing a person can do is endure the rough stuff with the ones going through it. It is a long road back.

2) Talk about what could happen in the event of death

To the cancer patient, this is a possible reality. Even after a successful treatment, there is a possibility of reoccurrence or metastasis. If the cancer patient wants or needs to talk about their final days—their wants and desires in the event of a poor prognosis, their expectations and blessings for those left behind after they do die, or their funeral—let them.

3) Don’t just say, “I’m praying for you.”

This is no way is meant to minimize the power of faith, or to imply that prayer is not warranted. But often times, this statement can be used as a means of offering comfort. But to even the most devout, this statement can mean very little in terms of comfort or substance. If you feel compelled to pray, then just pray. But as a means of offering comfort, more practical ways would be reaching out and asking how you can help.

4) Offer physical support or time. They still need to know you care.

Cancer, as with many other major illness, is incredibly isolating. The most effective means of offering support can be to spend time with the person. Even just sitting in the same room saying nothing is more powerful than all the flowery words in the world. Watching a movie together, or rubbing their feet, or bringing tea and mindless conversation is more powerful and meaningful to someone suffering the after affects.

And keep inviting them to things. There will be times when they say “no”, and it might feel like they say “no” more times than they say “yes”. But keep inviting them. Just knowing that they are wanted or needed can be unbelievably comforting.

5) Don’t focus on the disease, but don’t gloss over it either.

This one might seem like a paradox but it’s not. Cancer robs so much from the lives of those it infects, it shouldn’t rob a person of their identity either. Where someone used to be a prolific writer, or musician, or cook, or [insert interest here]—they are still that person. But to try to forget that a person’s life was irrevocably changed by such a powerful disease is to minimize their struggle.

6) Don’t expect there to be a time limit to their grief.

Telling a cancer patient to just stay positive, or to have faith, or to focus on being grateful is only meant to make the rest of the world comfortable. If the patient is angry, let them feel that anger. The stages of grief don’t have a formulaic time frame and it is unfair to expect that from anyone. Cancer robs so much, not just time. Though the obvious struggle might be over, the loss can sometimes have a rippling effect. A limb or a body part might have been removed, chemotherapy might have caused infertility or put a woman into early menopause, there could be a loss of cognitive functioning as a result of “chemo brain”, there could be significant weight loss or gain, there could be a loss of muscle function, there could be a loss of sexual intimacy or function, and there could be a loss of identity. These things continue to cause no end of anger, depression or sadness. It could cause the breakdown of a marriage due to stress and conflict. It could mean the loss of dreams and expectations for the future. Cancer patients find that sometimes they lose friends because of cancer. The most loving thing someone can do is allow the cancer patient to feel those things.

7) Continue to offer help

Cancer patients can often take up to a year or longer to recover after their final treatment. Fatigue is a huge symptom that is hard to overcome. Fatigue is more than just feeling tired. It is an absolute feeling of moving through quick sand. It is mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Cutting the lawn, doing a load of laundry, shovelling a driveway, going grocery shopping, or cooking dinner can sometimes take every ounce of energy from a recovering cancer patient. There are good days, and that feels like a huge victory to them, but they are often short-lived. More times than not, a recovering cancer patient will skip over these basic chores that normal people would take for granted in favour of sleeping on the sofa watching re-runs of Friends.

8) Don’t minimize or ignore their fears.

No one wants to admit that a loved one could face this disease again, but those fears are realistic. It would be more productive to re-direct those fears. Help them face those fears.  Let them know that you will be with them every step of the way, and help them develop a contingency plan in the event that the cancer does return. Knowing that they have someone to face this disease with should it return is instrumental in moving beyond it and living for today.

9) Don’t disappear.

This is often the most hurtful aspect of dealing with cancer. Life does continue to move on even though the cancer patient feels like they are living in limbo. Making a conscious effort to remain present can be the single most important thing a loved one does. The cancer patient does eventually feel like they have been a drain on the ones around them. They are not oblivious to the extra effort that has been put forth by those around them to help support them during the chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. There will come a point where they will stop asking out of guilt or a feeling of becoming a burden. But they absolutely do still need their friends and family around them.

Someone fighting a life threatening illness will almost never make their loved ones feel guilty for not being there, not intentionally anyway. They already feel like they have taken too much, or that they have become a burden. This is the harsh truth of their recovery after the bell has been rung.

Things That Could Get Me in Trouble

Be Brave

The Western world has become so polarized in their political thinking that it has created a dialogue of ugly hatred. This has been especially evident in the world of Christianity*.

We live in a world where the issues are pushed so aggressively that it causes conversations to become more about the issue rather than the person or people group directly affected by it. When we only see the issues and fail to remember that every policy, every law is directly affecting someone else, we make it our mission to simply have our way and we lose our humanity.

No policy, no law should cause us to forget our humanity.

The solution to our current world condition does NOT lie within the hands of a single politician. A solitary person has the ability to affect GREAT change if they are willing enough to step up and speak bravely, without hate or malice.

The conversation I would like to see is one directed by compassion rather than agenda.

John F. Kennedy was a President who cheated on his wife multiple times, was hooked on pain medication, and yet he was instrumental in bringing about change in the racially divided South. Can a corrupt or morally questionable man or woman still influence an entire culture for change? 

We cannot be so agenda driven that we forget that the things we are fighting so passionately about have the ability to bring help or harm to our society. And in order to know the difference we have to be willing to listen to one another, learn and grow, possibly admit where we have been wrong, and have a willingness to change.

*I am a Christian, and I firmly believe that when we look at the character and life of Jesus we would see that He was a man who saw our humanity first. THAT was why He came to earth and THAT was why He came to save. He wasn’t interested in a political agenda, He was interested in US.