A Different Boston Marathon Story

As everyone memorialized and remembered the story of the Boston Marathon bombing, I was reminded again today of a story that is pregnant with hope. And redemption. And love. It is the story of the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon: Kathrine Switzer If you haven’t heard the story (or even if you have), please take a couple minutes to watch this her tell the story in her own words:

For those of you who can’t watch the video right now, the short version is this: Kathrine Switzer entered the 1967 Boston Marathon, a race that had been open only to men for 70 years, by using her initials. She ran with her coach and her boyfriend, and soon word spread that a woman was running in the race. A race official named Jock Semple (no kidding, his name was “Jock”) ran up to her and grabbed her, saying, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.” She was initially protected by her coach, but a moment later her boyfriend (a football player named Tom Miller) sent Jock Semple flying with a humungous block. A Jock Block, if you will….

When I heard this story again this year, as inspired as I was by Ms. Switzer’s athleticism (I could never run a whole marathon) and bravery, I focused on a couple different things. And, as is often the case, the things I focus on are the things I want everyone else to focus on too. So if you would, please take a look at this picture (posted today on an awesome Facebook page called “A Mighty Girl.” You should “like” them if you haven’t already):

Before this moment, "Jock Itch" was actually known simply as Crotch Itch. The name was changed in honor of this event.

Before this moment, “Jock Itch” was actually known simply as Crotch Itch. The name was changed in honor of this event. P.S. Look at the goofball smiling in the foreground….

As I look at this picture, what I can’t help think about is the importance of The Ally. There are always times in life when a group is discriminated against. And when this group realizes its own strength, and organizes, and rises up on its own to demand equal rights, THAT is the coolest. But there is nothing wrong with getting some help. And many times that help comes from someone who is already part of the group with the power. It makes me think of a kid in “the cool kids” group who has the courage to speak out against the bullying that leaves so many feeling constantly left out. It makes me think of whites and blacks marching side by side in Alabama. It makes me think of Christians who dare to question and challenge and stand up to an official policy of exclusion toward our LGBT brothers and sisters. If not for this coach, this story might not have had the sort of ending that inspired thousands of women to challenge the status quo in athletics. Not to mention this guy:

Some Allies stand between the oppressor and the oppressed, and some Allies throw a giant, running Jock Block.

Some Allies stand between the oppressor and the oppressed, and some Allies throw a giant, running Jock Block.

Kathrine goes on to finish the race–her numbers still intact–but the story doesn’t end there. She was instrumental in lobbying the IOC to have the woman’s marathon included in the 1984 Olympics. She inducted into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame a few years ago. And in 1974, she went on to win the Boston Marathon, two years after women were officially allowed to participate. And here’s the second thing I’d like for you to focus on:

Sometimes redemption turns up in the most unlikely places....

Sometimes redemption turns up in the most unlikely places….

This is a picture of Kathrine and Jock before the start of the 1973 Boston Marathon. And here’s what this picture speaks to my soul: When I think of the person who bullies, when I think of the bigot, when I think of the homophobic Christian…. THIS is the destination. Part of the destination is getting oppressed people the rights they deserve–OF COURSE! But another part of this whole process of loving our enemies is the hope of someday turning our enemies into our friends. May we all find the strength to be an ally to somebody who really needs one. And when we encounter misguided ignorance, like some old dude named Jock Semple trying to tear the numbers off a runner’s chest, we look forward to the day when he sees the error of his ways, and we put our arms around each other, and we smile for the camera. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Posted in 1) Jesus, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Gun Control, Knife Control, and My Own Hypocrisy

Or, it might be because you can't chop up celery with a handgun...

Or, it might be because you can’t chop up celery with a handgun…

I might be completely full of shit…. So that’s concerning. Today, when I heard the news about the mass stabbing at a Western Pennsylvania High School, my first thoughts were not of the kids who got stabbed. My first thoughts were, “Oh great, now I’ve got to deal with a bunch of anti-gun control people saying things like ‘I guess now we need Knife Control, right?’ and ‘See? It’s not guns that kill people–It’s people that kill people! What, are we going to outlaw knives?’” And then, when I found out that no one died in the attack, my thoughts were not with the families of the victims and the relief they felt finding out their child was going to live. My thoughts were about using this as another example of how much MORE deadly this attack would have been if this crazed child had had access to a gun. I took the bad news of this tragedy, as well as the good news of the lack of fatalities, and I filed them away in my head to be used some day in the future in an argument. When I realized this fact, I kind of grossed myself out. I hate when I do that….

Gun lessonThis week is barely half-way over, and already it is packed full of a theme for me. I work in schools, and on Monday morning I walked into a school and was greeted by an officer with a handgun on his hip. I’ve talked before about this, but seeing someone with a gun does not make me feel any safer–It makes me feel like my chances of getting shot just went up. I don’t think that there are a whole lot of people trying to get into schools to kill a bunch of kids (if it weren’t for those pesky armed guards). I think that there are just some people out there who something snaps and they lose it–like what happened again last week at Fort Hood–and when I see someone carrying a gun, I just think “I hope that person is not the one who snaps today.” Anyway, I thought that school officer was coming out to say hello to us, but he was actually on his way to his car to bring his assault rifle into the school. And I thought about all those kids who, without actually saying it, are being taught that the only way to stay safe is to be protected by a high-powered killing device. It was a rough start.

Armed only with copious amounts of hand sanitizer....

Armed only with copious amounts of hand sanitizer….

Then on Tuesday, I went to a meeting at my kids’ school for a thing called Watch DOGS (the “DOGS” stands for Dads Of Great Students), and things got a bit more encouraging. The program basically is about getting dads engaged in what is happening at their kid’s school. We volunteer to spend a whole day at the school, help out however we can, interact with the students, and just be seen. It turns out that having dads walking around a school and high-fiving kids has the effect of making kids feel safer. It’s basically the exact opposite plan of paying a heavily-armed officer to patrol the hallways. When the founder of the Watch DOGS program was asked why it was so successful, he said, “That’s easy–It’s the right thing to do.” Over 120 dads came out to our school to hear about the program, so that was really cool. Of course, there was pizza served, so that might have had something to do with it. And most of us were there because our wives told us to go…. Still–So encouraging.

It's not as simple as this.... Not quite.

It’s not as simple as this…. Not quite.

Then came today. This morning I drove in to work and listened to a story about how Tennessee’s State Senate has passed a bill that would allow people to openly carry guns without any sort of permit. Including in cars. (You can click HERE to find your State Senator so you can call him or her to let them know what a bad idea this is).  I just don’t even have the strength to get into all the reasons why this is stupid. I just can’t…. And the kicker is, if you’re stupid enough to think that this is a good idea, you are easily stupid enough to dismiss any safeguards to gun ownership/carrying as some sort of attack on liberty and freedom and the constitution. It was while I was cynically pondering the 25 to 2 Senate vote passing this garbage bill that I heard the news about the stabbings. So forgive me if I put issues before people. Also, sorry for calling you stupid a few sentences earlier…. I’m still upset.

She seems very, very happy....

She seems very, very happy….

Just a few quick thoughts about these stabbings: 1) I found myself being disgusted at those pro-gun-at-all-cost people, who were surely disappointed that no people died in this attack so that they could use it as an example of the soundness of their ideology…. All while I did pretty much the exact same thing as I dehumanized those who were injured, as well as those who loved them. 2) I really am glad that no one died. I’m glad that this wasn’t another school shooting that left half the people dead. I’m glad the kid who stabbed all those people didn’t get killed. I’m glad the Vice Principal was brave enough to tackle the kid. I don’t want to be the sort of person who uses tragedy to win points in an argument. 3) That being said, I’d rather my kids feel safer in school because of some dads in T shirts reading books and eating lunch in the lunch room than them feeling safer because there is a guy with a gun there.

It’s not an issue of “Guns are good” or “Guns are bad,” and if it was, that issue wouldn’t get solved today. It’s an issue of better versus worse. Dads and uncles and grandpas taking a day off from work to help out at a school is BETTER than placing armed guards at every door. One says, “This is a safe place,” and the other says, “This place wouldn’t be safe if it weren’t for me and my guns.”  And one of those things is better than the other.

Posted in 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

5 New Ways World Vision Is Following “Biblical Principles”

"Hello, World Vision? I'd like to give, but is it possible for me to insure that none of my financial support goes toward feeding GAY kids?"

“Hello, World Vision? I’d like to give, but is it possible for me to insure that none of my financial support goes toward feeding GAY kids?”

In a surprise move, World Vision has made yet another change to its hiring practices. As many of you know, World Vision shocked the evangelical community when three days ago they announced they would begin hiring openly gay Christians, while holding them to the same standards they held their straight employees: Stay celibate if you’re single; stay faithful if you’re married. This from an organization that, as recently as a few years ago, successfully defended their right (to the Supreme Court, who let a lower court ruling stand) to NOT hire and/or fire people based on a person’s slightly differing interpretation of Christianity…. They made the decision to hire gay Christians based on the fact that their organization is about helping vulnerable people, and they decided to leave the decision about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of same-sex unions and marriages up to the individual Church denominations and congregations. President of World Vision Richard Stearns explained it this way: “We are an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.” Makes sense to me….

Franklin Graham, demonstrating the knuckle sandwich he'd like to give all those gays. And those Muslims, while we're at it....

Franklin Graham, demonstrating the knuckle sandwich he’d like to give all those gays. And those Muslims, while we’re at it….

Though many were encouraged by this apparent step toward equal rights and acceptance of LGBT people (who also happened to love Jesus and want to help feed hungry kids), the announcement did not come as good news to many within the evangelical community. Noted homophobe and Vladimir Putin fan Franklin Graham called the decision “ungodly,” while some guy named Russell Moore called it “devilish.” Thousands of people called World Vision and cut their funding to their child sponsorship as a response to World Vision’s idea that maybe gay people who love Jesus and want to help the poor might be good workers too. Because of the threat of losing a large portion of their funding, two days ago World Vision’s board reversed the decision to hire gay Christians. They said that their reversal was based on “Biblical principles.”

Now, in an attempt to more rightly align the organization’s business practices with Biblical principles, World Vision has made some more surprising changes in employment policy. Here are a few of those changes:

Call it a "Conscious Uncoupling" if you want.... you'd better not apply at World Vision!

Call it a “Conscious Uncoupling” if you want…. you’d better not apply at World Vision!

1) NO MORE DIVORCED PEOPLE
The Bible is very clear about how much God hates divorce. Jesus himself had some pretty stern words about divorce (though he never recorded as saying ANYTHING about homosexuality), and said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.” (Mark 10:12) Adultery! Yikes…. That’s one of the Ten Big Ones! So from now on, if a woman divorces her husband (who happens to be beating the crap out of her and her kids), she better not hope to start a new life working for World Vision. Because they’re not hiring.

If Mother Teresa can keep her head covered, so can you.

If Mother Teresa can keep her head covered, so can you.

2)WOMEN WILL COVER THEIR HEADS WHILE ON THE JOB
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul says to “pray continually,” and in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is very clear that it is improper for a woman to pray with her head uncovered, and that doing so “dishonors her head.” The flip side of this change in World Vision’s policy is that men will no longer be allowed to wear hats while they are out there trying to get food to hungry kids. They will also be enforcing Paul’s mandate to the Church at Corinth that men have to keep their hair short, and a women’s hair must remain uncut. Paul writes, “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). Men will, however, be allowed to cut their sideburns–Adhering to that rule would just be crazy. So no more pixie cuts if you plan on working for World Vision, unless you’re a man, that is. On second thought, not if you’re a man either. It sounds a little too…. Gay.

Your bodies seem very.... Christian.

Your bodies seem very…. Christian.

3) NO MORE FAT PEOPLE
Effective immediately, all World Vision employees who are more than 20 pounds over their ideal body weight are fired. When you’re operating an organization that is running on Biblical principles, you can’t forget that the Bible is definitely against the clear sin of gluttony. “Our bodies are our temples,” “I will not be enslaved by anything,” etc. etc…. Any way you look at it, scripture is clear about gluttony, and there is no longer any room for you at World Vision…. Literally. Feel free to reapply after you lose some weight, fatty.

4) NO MORE WOMEN IN CHARGE
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12). World Vision has apologized to the Evangelical community for ignoring this clear Biblical principle in its organizational practices, and they have decided to give demotions to female employees until they are no longer in a position of authority over another man. This will certainly come as major disappointment to the female members of the World Vision leadership team, but, on the bright side, it will give them a lot more time to devote to running a brush through their ass-length hair.

"Hi, my name's Dr. Phillips. So you're thinking about getting married? Well, let's just take a quick peek down there to find out whether or not you'll be getting stoned to death.... And I don't mean the fun way."

“Hi, my name’s Dr. Phillips. So you’re thinking about getting married? Well, let’s just take a quick peek down there to find out whether or not you’ll be getting stoned to death…. And I don’t mean the fun way.”

5) ENFORCING OLD TESTAMENT LAWS ABOUT VIRGINITY
If you find out that the woman you are marrying is not, in fact, a virgin (or even if it looks like she’s not a virgin), you are allowed to stone her to death. Now, I know that here in the USA that kind of thing will get you thrown in prison, but fortunately World Vision goes into a whole lot of underdeveloped countries where this kind of thing stays under the radar. The Bible is clear, and this stuff is about Biblical principles. World Vision has also started enforcing the policy of cutting off a woman’s hand is she grabs a mans testicles (“If two Israelite men get into a fight and the wife of one tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the testicles of the other man, you must cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” ~Deuteronomy 25:11-12), as well as enforcing the policy of stoning a woman who gets raped inside the city because she should have yelled louder (“If a man meets a young virgin lady engaged to be married in the city and has sexual relations with her, then the two must be brought to the city gate and there they must be stoned to death—the girl because she was in a city but did not cry out for help, and the man who abused a woman who was engaged to another man.” ~Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

Don’t worry, though. Even though some of these new policies may seem a little extreme, it’s really all about feeding hungry kids and helping people who can’t help themselves…. 

***UPDATE***
I didn’t think I’d need to mention it, but these 5 new employment policies are obviously satire. Also, just for the record, I don’t blame World Vision for making the decision they made. It’s really easy to sit back and criticize an organization for compromising, but a huge number of their large funders threatened to part ways, as well as thousands of people who called and cancelled their sponsorships. This could have been devastating to their mission–A noble and good mission to help people worldwide who really need help. So yeah…. This isn’t meant to be critical of World Vision and its decisions. It’s meant to be critical of the antiquated, intellectually dishonest, “Law over Love” mentality much of the Church still has about homosexuality that forced World Vision to either change their policy of hiring gay Christians (which, by the way, has been the policy since October of last year) or risk endangering their mission. But yeah, these 5 policies are made up. Everything I read about this event was either really angry or really sad–and for good reason. It is tragic and dumb–so I wanted to add a little funny to the conversation. Let us all work toward the day when the Church is known for actually loving people with whom they disagree, instead of being know for pushing those people to the margins and restricting their civil rights.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics, 3) Bathroom Humor, 4) All Of The Above | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

A Love Letter To Fred Phelps….

Dear Mr. Phelps,

You don’t know me, but I’ve heard of you.  Last year when I went to the Final Four, I heard that some Westboro Baptist folks would be protesting there, and I thought about making a sign that said, “THESE PEOPLE DO NOT REPRESENT JESUS.” I’m so glad I didn’t waste my time on a sign. When I finally saw the protestors and heard their silly songs, it all just seemed comically sad. There is no way any thinking person could mistake that spectacle for anything that had to do with Jesus. I’m way more worried about the people calling themselves Christians who are trying to keep their hatred a secret….  At least your hatred was overt enough that everyone knew you were full of shit.

They say "Live your life in such a way that the Westboro Baptist Church will want to picket your funeral." Man.... How cool would that be?

It’s hard to see them back there because you’re probably focusing on that amazing mustache, but those are some WBCers in the background. That’s actually not a sign above my head–I just happened to be wearing my “Fag Lover Obama” hat that day….

Since I heard the news a few days ago that you are close to death, I have been thinking a lot about you. It probably comes as no surprise to you that you have quite a few enemies out there. All over the internet, people are celebrating. The patriarch of the Westboro Baptist Church–The one that gained notoriety by picketing funerals and other big events with their famous “God Hates Fags” signs, as well as the lesser known “Pray For More Dead Soldiers,” “Thank God For AIDS,” “Thank God For 9/11,” and (just in case people couldn’t figure it out from the other signs) “God Hates You”–is apparently on his death bed! Well, I will not be one of the people celebrating your passing or dancing on your grave. Since I heard the news, all I have been able to think about lately is Jonah.

There's no way a fish swallowed this dude.

There’s no way a fish swallowed this dude.

The story of Jonah is NOT (as some have made it out to be) a story that is meant to stir up debate as to whether a fish could actually swallow a man whole, or whether that man could actually survive for three days in that fish’s belly, or whether every word of the Bible is meant to be taken literally…. It is the story of a man who was told by God to tell a city (Nineveh, capital of Assyria, sworn enemy of Israel) that God loves them and wants them to change their hearts. You might try to use this story as some sort of proof that God is the sort of God who will destroy nations if they don’t repent, but I believe that the point of this story is for people to ask themselves, “Where am I in this story?” When have I, like Jonah, felt God urging me to go to my enemy and be a messenger of God’s mercy, but instead ran the other way? When have I been furious about God’s forgiveness? When have I been more concerned with my shade from a dying plant than with a dying person?

In my head, I have judged you as a man who will die hating his enemies…. And for whatever reason, you never understood that the one you claimed to follow died LOVING his enemies. I am sorry. In reality, I know nothing about you. I’ve heard a rumor that you got excommunicated from the WBC because you called for a kinder approach. I suppose that would be pretty cool. I have no idea how God has been working on your heart over these last few years or months or days.

Wait.... I should pray.... to my enemy? That seems weird.

Wait…. I should pray…. to my enemy? That seems weird.

I believe the only right and rational response to a man who spends his whole life carrying around signs (literal or figurative) that say “God Hates You” is to proclaim to the world, with our words and our life, that “God Loves You!” God loves you, Fred Phelps. He loves you like a teacher loves a student, even when that student kept getting the answers wrong over and over and over again. He loves you like a father who runs to meet his son–a son who demanded his inheritance, blew all of his money living wildly, wound up so poor he envied what the pigs were eating, and then crawled back home begging just to live as a slave in his father’s house. He runs to meet us, Fred Phelps. Members of your church carry around a sign that says “God Is Your Enemy,” and I’m sure there have been plenty of times in my life where that was true–Where I have acted like an enemy of God. I’m certain that there are many times where God looks at my actions and wishes I’d keep the whole “I’m a Christian” thing to myself. But lucky for both of us, God has always been the sort of God who loves his enemy. And he wants his people to be that way too.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

No relation....

No relation….

As people who call ourselves Christians, we believe that the best picture we have of God is this person named Jesus. The Jesus who, the story tells us, KNEW that Judas was about to betray him, but he got down and washed his dirty, smelly feet anyway. The Jesus who, while he was hanging there in agony, looking at his killers mocking him as he died, somehow managed to find the strength to ask God to forgive them. The same Jesus who looked at the crowd and said, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Jesus seems to think that loving one’s enemies is being like God…. Wow. That actually sounds like good news!

You are my enemy, Fred Phelps. As your life ends, I want you to know that God is running to meet you. And if what I believe is true, I’m excited for you to find out just how wrong you’ve been about how good God really is. I’m excited for you to spend some time apologizing to all those gay people in Heaven who have already forgiven you. I’m excited for you to learn from the best teacher about what it really means to love your enemy. And I’m excited for you to discover how much God really loves us. Even you. Even me.

Love you man,

The Boeskool

Posted in 1) Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , | 102 Comments

We’re Having Car Trouble. Meanwhile, In Syria….

It’s my birthday today. I’m dangerously close to 40, and it’s starting to stress me out a little. Yesterday, the power went out for about five hours, the temp in our house got down into the high 50′s, and we had to wear robes over our clothes. One of my kids woke me up a little too early this morning to tell me about something he had accomplished on Lego Star Wars, so that was frustrating. Our minivan had to get towed into the shop this morning, and our other car is driving like a diesel. It’s not a diesel. If the van doesn’t get fixed in time, the kids will have to ride the bus to school, and that makes them a little crazier when they get home. Hopefully we’ll get our tax returns back soon so we don’t have to put the repairs on our credit card. Meanwhile, in Syria….

UNRWA Humanitarian Distributions in Yarmouk

UNRWA Humanitarian Distributions in Yarmouk

Please spend some time looking at this picture…. What you are seeing here are people from a Palestinian camp called Yarmouk that has been besieged in Syria for almost a year. There is no food. They are lining up to receive food supplies from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Also, it pissed me off when John Travolta mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name the other day on The Oscars.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

What To Do When It Snows In The South

Really, the only reason I'm watching The Oscars is to hear Adina Menzel sing "Let It Go."

Really, the only reason I’m watching The Oscars is to hear Idina Menzel sing “Let It Go.” Then Travolta’s toupee attacks his brain and he introduces her as Adele Dazeem….

I grew up in Michigan, but I’ve lived in Tennessee for about fourteen years. As I sit here right now, I’m doing three things: I’m watching bits and pieces of The Oscars, I’m trying to write this blog, and I’m checking now and then to see if my kids’ school is going to be closed tomorrow. It’s just raining right now, but the temperature is supposed to drop below freezing at some point this evening, turning the rain to ice and snow. In all likelihood, by the time I finish writing this post, school will be canceled.

You call that snow?

You call that snow?

A few different times this winter, snowfall in the south has made national news. Almost a month ago, all of Atlanta (and many other cities in the south–not Nashville for some reason, but everywhere around it) was brought to its knees by an amount of snow and ice that probably looked to most people–especially those who live in states where snow is common–like just a little bit. And just about every time the forecast calls for snow in the south (and sends everyone running to the stores to clear the shelves of all their bread, milk and toilet paper), the same response comes from the snowier states: “Oh give me a break….” 

When I was a kid, they didn't cancel school for ANYTHING. This was learning weather, right here....

When I was a kid, they didn’t cancel school for ANYTHING. This was learnin’ weather, right here….

When I moved here, I thought the same thing. One of the first winters I spent here in Nashville, a light snow started falling a little after nine in the morning. I left my apartment at about 9:30, pulled out onto a relatively residential street, and I was met by a long, stationary line of what I immediately decided were stupid southern drivers, and I thought to myself, “Oh give me a break….” In Michigan, there were days that I had to drive to school in snow that was so deep ON THE HIGHWAY that I could feel it hitting the bottom of my car as I drove. I just tried to stay in the tire tracks and follow the red lights in front of me…. There was maybe half an inch of snow on the roads that day. These people obviously just didn’t know how drive in the snow (by the way, school just got canceled for tomorrow).

Honestly, I think I imagined this guy driving each of those cars.

Honestly, I think I imagined this guy driving each of those cars.

So I passed them. I passed them in a non-passing zone and drove past about 50 cars to get to my turning lane up ahead. Stupid idiots. No one was coming from the opposite direction anyway. My tire slid just a bit, but really…. Give me a break–I had new tires. I started to suspect that there might be more to the situation than I had thought when I turned left and saw three or four cars in the ditch. But I reassured myself, “Nah. They’re just stupid southern people who don’t know how to drive in the snow.” The traffic was stopped up ahead of me, so I decided I would take a shortcut up a small hill. It wasn’t very steep at all, but I noticed I had started moving a little slower. Then even slower. And slower. I was barely moving, so I applied the brake and came to a stop. I finally started moving again. Backward. The thick snow had covered my back window so I couldn’t see what was behind me, but with my foot on the brake, I started sliding backwards down the hill. It even felt like I was picking up a little speed. And I thought to myself again, “Oh give me a break….” but this time in a different way. My car spun to the side and slid about 30 yards, and the only I came to a stop was because I ended up in someone’s yard, and their grass wasn’t as slippery as the road.

These are just some of the cars that had been ABANDONED. People do not leave their cars in the middle of the road for nothing.

These are just some of the cars that had been ABANDONED in Atlanta. People do not leave their cars in the middle of the road for nothing.

I write this because tomorrow, someone somewhere is going to post a picture of the snow on Facebook or Instagram or somewhere, and some jackass is going to say something about how “they don’t even know what snow is,” or some crap like that (On a side note, as I wrote that last sentence, a siren went by). Inevitably, some know-it-all blowhard will say, “You closed school for THAT?!? Oh, give me a break…” People think it’s a joke, but it’s not. When that snow fell in Atlanta, people left their jobs at 4:00 and didn’t make it home until the next morning. Kids were stranded overnight at their schools. Parents were worried sick. The south does not have the infrastructure to deal with weather like this. People abandoned cars on the highway, slept in gas stations, walked for miles in freezing weather…. People died. That’s not funny. It is not a joke.

Seriously.

Seriously.

So to the Me of 14 years ago and any other know-it-all’s out there, here’s what I want you to do–Tomorrow (or it’s probably today when you’re reading this) if you see a friend who lives in the south post a picture of the snow, or post a status about how bad the roads are, or say something about how school is canceled because of an inch of snow, before you say “Oh give me a break….” or make some snide, patronizing comment, try this instead: Get a piece of paper. Make a list and write down all of the smart, condescending things you can think of along the lines of “Oh give me a break” or “Stupid southerners don’t know how to drive in the snow.” Then, what I want you to do is take that piece of paper, roll it up as tight as you can, and then cram it. You have absolutely no idea what the hell you are talking about. Do everyone a favor and shut up.

Thanks in advance,

The Boeskool

Posted in 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Killing of the Black Teen in Florida

So you’ve probably already heard: Another unarmed black teenager was shot to death in Florida, and the man who shot and killed him once again went unconvicted of the murder. And once again, just like in Trayvon Martin’s murder that went unpunished by a Florida jury almost two years ago now, a law called “Stand Your Ground” comes into play. This law basically makes it legal to shoot someone if you happen to feel threatened. For example, if you are carrying a gun, and you chase after a kid who is armed with an iced tea and a bag of Skittles, and then that scared kid hits you to get you to stop chasing him, you are legally allowed to shoot that kid in the chest and end his life. Or, if an unarmed kid is in a car playing music too loud at a gas station, you ask him to stop, and he refuses, you are allowed to say you thought he had a gun or a lead pipe, felt like your life was threatened, and shoot him through his car door (as well as his liver and aorta) and end his life.

Truth from Pulitzer Prize winning Cartoonist Jim Morin of the Miami Herald

Truth from Pulitzer Prize winning Cartoonist Jim Morin of the Miami Herald

All justice is not gone from the world, however, as Michael Dunn (the 47 year old white man who pulled his handgun out of the glove box of his car and fired it at four black teenagers listening to some loud rap music) was convicted of four other felonies, including attempted murder of the three friends. Luckily, it is not yet legal in Florida to fire four more shots at an SUV whose occupants are fleeing for their lives as it drives away…. YET.

Here are some things that you probably don’t know about this case:

His name is Jordan Davis, and he deserves better.

His name is Jordan Davis, and he deserves better.

1) THE KID’S NAME. His name is Jordan Davis. His middle name in Russell. For some reason, all of the headlines of the stories about this tragedy all seem to refer to him as “black teen.” When Trayvon Martin was murdered, EVERYONE knew his name. Maybe it’s because there was no confusing someone with the name “Trayvon” with a white kid. Maybe Jordan Davis sounds too…. “normal?” I don’t know. But when I sat down to write about this, I’m sad to say I couldn’t remember his name. I had to Google “black teen shot in Florida” to remember it. But he has a name, and it is Jordan Davis. He was someone’s child. His mom’s name is Lucia McBath, and his dad’s name is Ron Davis, and they loved him just like I love my kids. Their boy’s name is not “black teen.” His name is Jordan Davis, and this past Sunday would have been Jordan’s 19th birthday.

Michael Dunn, demonstrating how a person "stands his ground" against an unarmed teenager.

Michael Dunn, demonstrating how a person “stands his ground” against an unarmed teen.

2) JUST HOW MUCH RACE PLAYED A ROLE IN THIS MURDER. Micheal Dunn is a sad, scared, racist man. Before he peppered the boys’ car with bullets and ended the life of Jordan Davis for playing his music too loud, Dunn said to his girlfriend, “I hate that thug music.” Now, just in case you didn’t know, “thug” is just the new code for the word “nigger.” If you use the word “thug” to refer to a person with brown skin, you’re not hiding your racism from anyone. We can all see it. And it’s really, really gross. If you hear someone use the word “thug” to describe another person, ask them what they mean when they say that…. And then watch them squirm with appropriate shame.

If this is a thug, I pray my son might someday be such a thug.

2nd in his high school class, graduated with honors from Stanford with a Master’s degree…. If this is a thug, I pray my son might someday grow up to be such a thug.

3) I’M NOT KIDDING. MICHAEL DUNN IS REALLY, REALLY RACIST. Some of you might be thinking, “Calling someone a thug does not mean you’re racist.” First of all, yes, it does. Secondly, here are some more Micheal Dunn quotes: In letters and phone calls from jail, he said (in reference to African Americans), “The more time I am exposed to these people, the more prejudiced against them I become.” On a phone call he spoke about being in a cell by himself, and said, “But I guess it would be better than being in a room with them animals.” And in a letter to his daughter, he wrote, “This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs…. This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these fucking idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” Add to that a letter to his grandmother that said, “I’m not really prejudiced against race, but I have no use for certain cultures. This gangster-rap, ghetto talking thug ‘culture’ that certain segments of society flock to is intolerable.”

Imagine having a child who looks like Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis. How safe would you feel?

Imagine having a child who looks like Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis. How safe would you feel?

As an aside, I cannot explain to you just how prevalent this sort of thinking still is among white people: This idea of “I’ve got nothing against black people. It’s thugs (read: niggers) that I hate.” And the thinking behind that idea is that “I’m fine with people whose skin is a different color, as long as they dress, speak, sound, and act just like me. And as long as they know their place….” I hear this sentiment all the time. It’s the sort of thing that white people only say to other white people, so it’s up to white people to call them on it. This sort of thinking is the stubborn root of a weed of demented, rationalized racism that gets passed along one generation to the next, and IT IS NOT OKAY. It needs to come out root and all, or it will pop up again later.

4) THE KILLER COMPARED HIMSELF TO A RAPE VICTIM. This should give you all the insight into this dude’s mind that you need. In a call to his girlfriend, he said, “[I]t made me think of like the old TV shows and movies where like how the police used to think when a chick got raped going, “Oh, it’s her fault because of the way she dressed.” I’m like, “So it’s my fault (as he laughs) because I asked them to turn their music down. I got attacked and I fought back because I didn’t want to be a victim and now I’m in trouble. I refused to be a victim and now I’m incarcerated.” Later on he said, “I was the one who was victimized … I’m the victor, but I was the victim too.” And you know what? I have no doubt that Michael Dunn actually believes this.

More good cartoon truth, this time from Andy Winters

More good cartoon truth, this time from Andy Winters.

And 5) UNDER THE “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY LEGAL FOR JORDAN DAVIS TO SHOOT MICHAEL DUNN. This “Stand Your Ground” law is a steaming pile of crap. Of course Michael Dunn felt threatened by the young black teenagers in that SUV playing loud rap music! I’d bet he believes that sort of behavior is about as threatening to his way of life as things get. He probably had just those sorts of people in mind when he purchased that handgun. But here’s the lunacy of the law (that, by the way, is also law in 23 other states): If Jordan Davis was armed and would have seen Michael Dunn pull out that handgun from his glove box (for feeling threatened), he should have legally been able to put a bullet through Michael Dunn’s liver and aorta. This law essentially makes it legal to kill people. If the NRA lobbyists who wrote this law have their way and everyone is walking around packing heat, people might start feeling “threatened” all over the place…. Though, I doubt that the NRA is lobbying very hard to get guns in the hands of anymore “thugs.”

Posted in 4) All Of The Above | Tagged , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

The Mountain Mama Smells Like Black Licorice

“Our botched and embarrassing and incompetent and confusing and unserious national response to this disaster is AS SCARY as the spill itself.” ~ Rachel Maddow

A month after the chemical spill that left 300,000 people in West Virginia with dangerously contaminated water, it seems that little has been sorted out, and people are still left wondering if their water is safe to drink or bathe and clean with. It’s very possible that you haven’t heard about what happened in Charleston, WV, so if you don’t know about it, here is a Well-Written Explanation. My short version is this: Some rich guys started a chemical storage company (and called it Freedom Industries) that made all kinds of money by taking advantage of system that called for almost no oversight and demanded no accountability for the safety of their facilities, they spilled a whole lot of a dangerous chemical into the Elk River and the water intake, the town’s water started smelling like black licorice and people started getting sick, and then seven days later the company filed for bankruptcy to protect their considerable wealth.

This is either the oily, toxic coating on your hands when you pull them from the Dan River, or the hands of someone in West Virginia who is afraid to wash their hands in licorice water.

This is either the oily, toxic coating on your hands when you pull them from the Dan River, or the perpetually dirty hands of a West Virginian who is afraid to wash in that licorice water.

If this sounds gross to you, it’s because it is. And now, a few days ago a Duke Energy facility spilled about 82000 tons of coal ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water that poured into the Dan River in North Carolina, once again threatening the drinking water for the people in the area, as well as all the people downstream who also depend on that river. In 2008 here in Tennessee, a solid waste containment facility failed and spilled over a billion gallons of coal ash slurry and sludge. The next year, when the EPA was considering regulations that would require companies like Duke Energy to clean up their coal ash messes (that contain arsenic, mercury and many other cancer-causing heavy metals), Duke Energy and other companies successfully lobbied to prevent regulations that could have prevented this recent disaster (You can read more about it HERE). Not only that, but a something called the “American Coal Ash Association” (a group with strong ties to Duke energy and other utilities) basically wrote the EPA’s publications about coal ash for them (You can read more about that HERE).

If you ever tried bathing with a bottle of Dasani before, you know that you can only really pick one part of your body to wash. I choose my arm pits....

If you ever tried bathing with a bottle of Dasani before, you know that you can only really pick one part of your body to wash. I choose my arm pits….

This stuff is so messed up. In the West Virginia chemical spill, there had not been an inspection of the site by state or federal regulators since 1991 (!!!) when the facility was owned by Pennzoil. When companies complain about the huge burden that they are under because of all the regulations with which they have to comply, please think about the fact that when this disaster took place, this chemical storage facility hadn’t been inspected in 23 YEARS!! Big companies will claim that safety regulations make it impossible to make a profit, and they’ll threaten that more regulations will just cost people their jobs and “hurt the economy.” But those profits are not going toward creating more and better paying jobs—Those profits are going three places: They are going toward insuring high returns for their wealthy investors, they are going toward paying lobbyists and political action groups and politicians to keep things highly unregulated (or deregulate industry even further), and they are going right into the pockets of the people who own the companies.

"Dear Dad, that red mark on the page is not from the crayon. I just had another bloody nose."

“Dear Dad, that red mark on the page is not from the crayon. I just had another bloody nose.”

These companies legally segment their businesses to protect their money in the event something like this happens. Then, when yet another river is polluted and 300,000 families (and God only knows how much wildlife was affected) have to go two weeks without water (followed by two weeks of being told that the water is safe to drink, just to find out that it probably isn’t), the company declares bankruptcy and the executives go on living in their gated communities—All while thousands of poor kids write letters to their dads (many who are probably in prison for selling some pot that they grew in their basement) to complain that their eyes still hurt when they take a shower. And a year or two later, they open up another company under a different name, and nothing changes….

Some people are scared of what the government might do to us, but I believe there’s way more danger in what big business is going to do to us WITHOUT government. This kind of tragedy is exactly why we need government. History has shown that many companies, left to themselves, will poison and pollute whatever happens to get in the way of increasing their profits and power. But the people with enough money to buy the ads are selling a story. They are spreading an idea…. This whole idea that regulation is bad. Well, they are right. Regulation IS bad. It’s bad for companies who put profits above people. It’s bad for industries who put the salaries of their CEOs above the safety of the people who live near their factories. But regulation is NOT bad for the rest of us. I realize that fire escapes and sprinkler systems are expensive when you’re putting up a building, but so are funerals for burn victims.

We kept this chicken on the counter, but I'm sure it's fine....

We kept this chicken on the counter last night, but I’m sure it’s just fine….

I work at a restaurant a couple nights a week. Restaurants have to stay diligent with their food safety standards, not just because they want to provide a good product, but also because at any point there could be a health inspection. And as inconvenient as it might sometimes be to have to check the temperature of the foods we have, it’s way better than having a bunch of people get E Coli because the regulations aren’t in place. Sure, you could set things up so that if people get sick and sue the restaurant, your personal assets are safe, and the company can just declare bankruptcy, but what about all those sick people? Sorry…. Here’s a To Go bag?

Then, after sealing all the windows and doors, calmly put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.

Then, after sealing all the windows and doors, calmly put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.

My wife grew up in West Virginia. Her family has countless stories of friends, family members and acquaintances, young and old, from that area that have all battled (or died from) cancer and many other health problems. Older folks used to have bomb drills in school, and people in some parts of the country have earthquake drills, but when my wife was in elementary school, they used to have “Shelter In Place” drills where they would duct tape the doors and windows in the event of a chemical leak or spill. This chemical spill in Charleston (as well as the giant coal ash spill on the Dan River) is a direct result of “business-friendly” deregulation. And “business-friendly” is just code for “business-owner-friendly,” but the people who live and work in the towns are getting screwed from every possible angle. Two weeks into the “all clear,” and they’re closing five schools along the river and still sending all kinds of people to the hospital with exposure symptoms when they heat up their water?!? We have no idea how exposure to/ingestion of this chemical is going to affect future childbirths or health issues….  If this sort of thing was happening in many other parts of the country, there would be non-stop press coverage and national outrage!

The first time I visited West Virginia, it was for a white water rafting trip. It is an amazingly beautiful state. I will never forget the feeling of awe I had while looking down at the New River Gorge…. Or the feeling of smallness as we rafted down that river. There is so much beauty in West Virginia. It truly is Wild and Wonderful. It is shameful the way this disaster is being handled. Shameful. We need to start making some noise! Not just the people in West Virginia, but the rest of us too. This is not okay…. Please, help me make some noise.

Here are a couple of quotes to consider: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” ~ Edward Abbey

“Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last river poisoned and the last animal has died will we realize we cannot eat or drink money.”
~
Cree Prophecy

Wild and Wonderful....

Wild and Wonderful! Take me home….

Posted in 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Losing The Creation Debate By Asking The Wrong Questions

I was more of a Mr. Wizzard sort of kid.

I was more of a Mr. Wizard sort of kid….

I don’t care who won the “Creation Debate” between Bill Nye (The Science Guy) and Ken Ham (The head of Kentucky’s $29 Million “Creation Museum,” but also famous for having an incredibly un-kosher name) that took place last night. Normally, I am all about this sort of thing–this interesting intersection of faith and science–but I really couldn’t care less about the “winner” of this whole spectacle. Trying to decide on a winner between faith and science is like trying to decide which a child REALLY needs–Does she need food and water, or does she need love…. I reject the question.

Anyone who wears that tie can't be THAT smart....

Anyone who wears that tie can’t be THAT smart….

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t buy into the idea that the numbers in the Bible were somehow meant to give modern people a perfectly factual account of how many people there were, exactly how long they lived, and precisely how old the earth is. But even though I believe this way of looking at the Bible (demanding rigid inerrancy, which I wrote a bit about HERE) is as harmful for the Church as it is ignorant, it doesn’t mean that a “creationist” view like the one held by Ken Ham is impossible. It’s very possible. If we’re dealing with the possibility of a God who has the power to create something out of nothing, then it stands to reason that this same God could possibly create a world with dinosaur bones already in it to test our faith. He could create a tree with rings in its trunk. There are billions of stars that are billions of light-years away that seem to be revealing their age, but it’s possible that he created the universe 6000 or so years ago with that light already hitting our eyes…. To try to trick us. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s possible.

Wait.... Raptor? I thought it was RAPTURE!?!

Wait…. Raptor? I thought it was RAPTURE!!

In the Bible, Jesus told many stories. One time, when a Jewish man asked him “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus said, “A man was walking down this road to Jericho…. He got robbed and beat up and left for dead. A priest (a good Jew) passed without helping, a Levite (another good Jew) passed by as well, but a Samaritan (whom the Jews hated) was moved with compassion and helped him. Which one was a neighbor to him?” ~ Luke 10:30-36 ABV (the Abridged Boeskool Version) Now listen–If you read this story and then go out looking for archeological evidence of this specific robbery on the road to Jericho, you are missing the damn point! The point of a story like this is to let it change you. The point is to let its truth become a part of you. To ask yourself “Where is God in this story?” And, maybe more importantly, “Where am I in this story?” “What happened? Why does it matter? How am I different?”

Is it a circle or a square? Yes. Yes it is....

Is it a circle or a square? Yes. Yes it is….

But here we are, discussing who “won” a silly creation debate that took place in a building that has been rightly described as “a monument to scientific illiteracy.” And when we focus on trying to find a winner, we all lose. Once again, the world has given us a choice between faith and science–Between reason and religion, as if we have to choose one or the other. But this false choice just reinforces the narrative that in order to follow Jesus, we must check our brains at the door. If the answer is either faith or science, once again–I reject the question. Both podiums in this debate were looking for the truth, but they both defined “the truth” in terms of numbers and math…. When the life-changing, WORLD-changing truth that the Bible reveals has always been the sort of truth that asks the question, “Where am I in this story?”

I’ve been married now for almost 12 years. It didn’t take me long after I’d met my wife for me to figure out that I loved her. She has taught me so many things since I have known her. She shows me how to be more considerate. She reminds me to let other people talk. She taught me to wash my hands. She teaches me every day how to be more patient and loving to our kids. But I think most importantly, she’s CONVINCED me that she loves me–despite the sometimes painful realizations that I still have a whole lot of crap to work on. Now, let’s say that she writes down some directions, and it’s really 12 miles to the intersection instead of 10 miles (like she wrote). Let’s say she told me that she dated that guy in high school for a year, but it was really closer to two. Let’s say she claimed her great grandmother immigrated to the US, but it was really her great GREAT grandmother. Imagine what a fool I’d have to be to let some small things like this make me question whether she ever truly loved me in the first place…. Where are you in this story?

***The absolute best thing I have ever read regarding this whole issue of Biblical Inerrancy and understanding what the Bible actually IS, is a Tumblr by Rob Bell called “What Is The Bible?”  It is accessible and plain and funny and true. Start at the first one, and read it all the way to the end. It’s fantastic.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Protesters, Police, and A Third Way

This is what the Church should look like.

This is what the Church should look like.

There are more than a few different things pulling the tears from my eyes tonight…. More than just watching Macklemore and Ryan Lewis sing “Same Love” tonight on the Grammys while 33 couples got married by Queen Latifah (I know how it sounds, but it was actually really cool). More than some other stuff that is weighing on my heart that I don’t really feel free to share about. This morning at Church, I listened to an amazing man challenge a mostly white congregation in a mostly white county to open our eyes to the continuing reality of injustice concerning issues of race and prejudice, and his message still has me reeling. But it’s more than that too. I have felt like I have spent this entire day fighting back the tears. And then I looked at the picture above (you can see more pictures HERE), and I stopped trying to not cry. It was a mess….

I don’t have a whole lot to say. I really just want you, whoever you are, to spend a little while looking at this picture. I don’t know all that much about what is going on in Ukraine that has led to these violent protests and this civil uprising, but I want you to look at this picture. And SEE it…. See the grays of the wall. See the shell of the bus that has been set on fire and burned down to the metal. See the guns and shields of the militarized riot police. See the rocks in the hands of the protestors. See the two sides–Both of them so sure that they are the side who has got it right.

And then see the man standing in-between them. See him clutching a cross in his hand. See the look on his face. See the swath of color on the stole in the middle of all that darkness. See the prayer on his lips. And see his other hand raised in the air–I’m not sure whether he is extending his hand in prayer or using it to call for calm and an end to the violence, and I don’t really care. Because when I see this man standing between these opposing sides–In the middle of the fight–I see Jesus. I see The Kingdom of God. I see a picture of what the Church has been called to be in the world. I see a third way. I see a different way of doing things, and I can barely see the picture through the tears.

And this third way does not “stay out of it.” The third way is in the middle of the fight, but it stands up tall, and cries out for peace. It calls for an end to the fighting, to the bullets, and to the war of words on the issues that continue to divide the world and this country and this city and even our families into “us” and “them.” And so, when the world splits into left and right, democrat and republican, liberal and conservative–both sides so sure that THEY are the ones who have got it right…. We stand bravely in the middle of that fight, clutching a cross, and we declare to the world that there is a third way.

But it’s not that the third way doesn’t take sides–It’s just that it always takes the side of LOVE. And it follows the example of Jesus, who, when given the choice between siding with the law and siding with love, ALWAYS CHOSE LOVE. It naturally roots for the underdog and works for the rights of the powerless and the vulnerable, but NOT by demonizing the opposition. And not through more hatred or violence either, but through the powerful weapon of loving even those who hate you. The third way stands with the powerless and the vulnerable because it recognizes the truth that we are here to take care of each other. And it understands that the folks who don’t get this yet just need a little more help.

So when the internet blows up with people throwing stones of hate and shooting bullets of self-righteousness over an issue like same-sex marriage, the third way stands up and calls for peace and an end to the fighting, and then it stands with the vulnerable and declares love to the broken. When someone in your family has been hurt, and a fight starts over who’s right and who’s wrong, the third way asks for forgiveness and loves mercy. And when the world finds new synonyms for the word “nigger” and starts calling people “thugs,” the third way speaks the truth and doesn’t run from dialog. It takes no joy in more segregation, but rejoices in reconciliation–All while meeting ignorance with compassion, and hatred with love. Oh Church, let us be brave enough to stand in the middle of the fighting, clutching the cross, calling for peace, working towards justice, declaring hope and love and reconciliation to a world that desperately needs a third way!

Posted in 1) Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments