A Quick Quiz To Find Out If You’re A Shitty Parent

Word of warning: If you do a Google search for

Word of warning: If you do a Google search for “Too hard on the Beav,” you’re going to get some disturbing results.

I know, I know…. We’re all a little bit neurotic when it comes to the job we’re doing as parents. We feel bad when we lose our tempers, we feel like we’re being neglectful when we sit them down in front of the TV for a movie that will give us a couple hours of sanity, we feel like we’re not giving them a full childhood when everyone else posts their Disney photos on Facebook. I’m no different. I worry about if I’m doing a good job as a dad. Do I yell too much? Am I being too hard on them? Am I not being hard enough? Am I giving them too much freedom, or not enough? Do they know that I enjoy them and I love them, even when they make me want to knock their sassy little heads together?

While I can’t tell you for sure whether or not you are a good parent, I have developed a short test to determine beyond any reasonable doubt whether or not you are a terrible parent. It just takes a moment to complete, but once you’re done you can finally know for sure whether you are just completely awful as a parent. Here’s the test:

  1. Do you buy your elementary-aged kids realistic, “Rated M for Mature” video games where people kill each other?  ☐ Yes   ☐No

There it was. Just one question! Ready to find out how you did? Here’s the answer key: If you answered “No,” there is at least a chance that you are a decent parent. However, if you answered “Yes,” you are a shitty, shitty parent. I’m not really into shaming people, but I think that in a case like this, shame is a perfectly appropriate thing for you to be feeling…. Just empirically, scientifically, objectively, and in all other ways—Shitty.

“Alright, Beav…. I want you to swing hard! Like as hard as you hit that hooker’s knees in Grand Theft Auto.”

This includes super realistic war games like “Call of Duty” and “Medal of Honor”–games where you get extra points and kill people quicker by shooting them through the head instead of in the chest. This includes popular games like “Grand Theft Auto,” “God of War,” “Dead Space,” etc…. Some might think that hyper-violent games like “Mortal Kombat” are okay because the violence is so over the top, but I can’t think of one reason why someone would want their third grader virtually shoving their hand into someone’s mouth and pulling out their spine. I realize some of you out there buy your kids games like “Halo” (and rationalize it because they are actually shooting aliens in the head instead of people), but these games are rated “M” for a reason. Behind the “M” rating it says, “17+ Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.” Yes, that says “Sexual Content.” Not that that should be the difference-maker…. How messed up is it that so many parents wouldn’t let their kids play a game containing virtual naked breasts, but they have no problem letting them pretend to blow people’s brains out? 

“Enough with the games and the sneaking around trying to kill people…. Isn’t there a game where we just try to make people fall asleep?”

In college I played a game called “Tenchu: Stealth Assassins.” It was basically a game where you were a ninja, and you had to quietly kill a whole bunch of people. In the game, this was accomplished by staying in the shadows until people had their back to you, and then sneaking up and cutting their throat with one of your swords. I played this game so much that I started seeing the game play in other places–Like I would see someone turn their back to me, and I would briefly think, “Now would be a perfect time to run up behind him and do a stealth kill.” After this started happening, I figured it might be time for a little break…. And let me be clear, I’m NOT saying that playing these games turns people into killers. But if you happen to have a child that gets a thrill from the feeling of killing someone in a virtual context, and you pump that kid’s brain full of reinforcement…. I don’t know. It’s probably a “Chicken & Egg” situation…. but I think you’re asking for trouble.

“Opie, I want you to find whoever gave you that shiner, I want you to take that whittling knife, and I want you to cut him, son. I want you to CUT HIM!”

I will say this: Recently I was at a school teaching third graders about child abuse, and a kid raised his hand and told me about show he remembered seeing where a mother “slaughtered her kids, and then cooked them and ate them.” I was like, “Yeah…. that’s not really child abuse. That’s just a crazy murderer.” He kept raising his hand, so after the show I checked to see if he had a question that didn’t get answered. He didn’t. He just wanted to tell me that “If anyone tried to do child abuse to me, I would murder them. I’m not kidding–I would MURDER them. That or I would break about 100 of their bones. And then–if they were still alive–THEN I would tell an adult.” His eyes darted around in excitement as he told me about a pipe he had in his basement…. I spoke to the School Counselor about our disturbing conversation, and she told me that most of this boy’s conversations center around the very violent video games that he plays every day.

“Richie, if you don’t stop smiling like that, I’m going to reach down your throat and pull your spine out your mouth.”

If you are taking a developing mind, and giving your parental approval to the addition to that elementary-aged mind of games where your kid practices killing other people, you are an awful guardian. Just awful. I don’t care if “It’s his older brother’s game” or “She knows it’s just pretend.” Bull shit. Quit being a shitty parent. There is no excuse…. Just stop. But the good news is this: You don’t have to keep letting your kids play those games. Take them away. Sell them, and buy games that will help them get a better score on the ACT. And if you’re a parent that buys their kid these sorts of games and then my kid ends up playing those games at your house, I have a request: Stop being such a shitty parent. You’re the sort of parent who buys high school kids booze because you want to be “The Cool Mom.” The kids at those parties always end up hurting someone else. If my kid went over to your house and you let him watch “Scarface,” I’d be pissed as hell. Stop letting little kids play games that are designed for adults! Be a parent, not a peer.

Posted in 3) Bathroom Humor, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Seven Things About You That Are Grosser Than My Beard

Yeah, those are gray hairs in my beard. What's it to ya? This beard is clean enough to eat off of.... In fact, I often do.

Yeah, those are gray hairs in my beard. What’s it to ya? This beard is clean enough to eat off of…. In fact, I often do.

If you’re a man with a beard, chances are pretty good that yesterday or today, someone showed you a study that was released recently about finding poo particles in beards. Some bozo in Albuquerque, New Mexico buys a box of Q-tips and a microscope, and now everyone with a beard is getting tagged in these articles… Now, I’m not disputing that they found fecal particles in more than one person’s beard–I just think it’s ridiculous that they are picking on beards. Here are some other things to consider before you start pointing your finger at my (or anyone else’s) beard:

  1. If you look closely enough, you’ll find that everything is covered with poo. Literally everything. Your steering wheel? There’s poo on it. That organic seven-grain snack bar you just ate? There was poo all over it. That phone you’re holding? Welcome to poo town, population you. If you take a cotton swab to any part of anybody, and then put it under a microscope, you are going to be very grossed out at what you find. Even the mites that live on your eyelids and eyelashes know that. Did you just blink? The eyelash mites probably felt it.
  2. Our mouths contain way more bacteria than our anuses. That’s right… So when someone tells you that you have a potty mouth, they are actually giving you an upgrade in cleanliness. Do you know the practical ramifications of this? It means that if you have a cut on your hand and you are given a choice between someone kissing it and someone placing their anus on it, choose the anus.
  3. And that’s saying a lot, because our anuses are NOT clean. If you drop a deuce, wipe, and walk away feeling any sort of satisfied with your ass’s cleanliness, you are living in a dream world. We clean the poo off ourselves with dry toilet paper. DRY TOILET PAPER?!?! There is hair down their, people. Imagine someone pooping on top of your head, and then your response being, “I need to clean this up…. Would you hand me a few plies of DRY TOILET PAPER? I’m just going to wipe this out of my hair….” Never. You would run–not walk–to the nearest bathroom, jump in the shower, and scrub your head with soap and scalding hot water until you emptied the hot water heater. Then you would curl up on the ground in your towel, rocking slowly back and forth, waiting for the water to heat up again…. and then do it all over again.
  4. Every time you will ever or have ever smelled a fart, or a dirty bathroom, or a steaming pile of dog crap next to a sidewalk, here is what is happening: You are breathing in little tiny poo particles into your mouth and nose that were recently inside someone else’s colon. Swab the inside of your nose, and you’re going to find someone else’s poop. And the average person farts about 14 times a day.
  5. Chances are really good that the water you’re drinking today–that exact same water–was previously flushed down some stranger’s toilet. Then it got sent away, cleaned up a bit, and sent back to your water bottle. Refreshing!
  6. The dust on your keyboard is mostly old skin and the little mites that like to eat it. Humans shed about 40 pounds of skin during the course of their lives…. Take a deep breath.
  7. And one more for the road: Each day, you swallow about a quart of snot. Let that ruminate for a little while….

So seriously…. Leave my beard alone! Like the Bible says, “Before you point out the speck of grossness in your neighbor’s beard, worry about the plank full of disgustingness in your own nasty-ass head of hair.” And also, “Let he (or she) who is without a pillowcase full of microscopic animals that are feeding off the residue of countless strangers’ urine and fecal particles cast the first stone.”

P.S. You’re welcome for not including pictures with each thing I mentioned.

Posted in 3) Bathroom Humor | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Self-Centered Pictorial Tour Of New York City

It was my first trip to “The City That Never Sleeps”, and it was every bit as impressive as I had imagined. The skyline, the history…. the references from all those Simon & Garfunkel songs that finally made sense. It really is a beautiful city—And a lot cleaner than I had expected. There was only one time I had to direct my wife to avoid a pile of (what I can only assume was human) excrement while we were getting off of the subway. Unfortunately, the guy behind us had his head in his cell phone. But don’t feel too bad…. His shoes weren’t that great to start with.

photo copy

A building of unknown name and address made famous by Liz Lemon and the show “30 Rock.”

We flew into LaGuardia International Airport. Words to the wise: If you’re flying into LaGuardia, sit on the left-hand side of the plane (the driver’s side) if you want to have a better view of the city—as well as the Statue of Liberty (photo to come). My sister-in-law says that LaGuardia is the Walmart of airports. I disagree. It is the Dollar General of Airports. Within minutes of landing, we had our first contact with a real, live New Yorker! She was a spunky young lady with a great deal of face tattoos, who spat a giant loogie (I believe in New York they call them “Lou Gehrigs”) within inches of my wife’s shoes…. Followed by a very polite, “My bad.”

The city is filled to the brim with memorable landmarks, and over the course of our 4-day weekend, we got pictures of them all. I know that there are some other folks out there (like my wife and I before this adventure) who have never taken a trip to The Big Apple before, so I decided to let you all live vicariously through me. And because I know you all love seeing other peoples’ vacation pictures, I’ve decided to share them with you here. This photo tour of the greatest city on earth begins on the bus leaving the airport….

Here is a picture of me recognizing what I figured was probably a famous bridge and wondering, “Which bridge is that?” Turns out it was the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Just gorgeous! photo copy 2

After we got off the bus, we went for a walk in beautiful Central Park. One thing’s for sure: You definitely don’t encounter scenery like this in Nashville.IMG_0759

We took a trip to The Cloisters. It is a beautiful old monastery that was converted to a museum and is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is me looking at a 500 year old tapestry that is about 15’ tall and 30’ wide. So intricately designed…. Breathtaking. IMG_0773

The Cloisters were at the north end of the island, but a brief subway trip to the southern end of the island brings you to the magnificent newly built World Trade Center—A towering and inspiring monument to the freedom that makes this country so great. IMG_0777

Speaking of Freedom and Liberty and ‘Merica, I finally got to see the Statue of Liberty…. The icon that has welcomed so many immigrants to the U.S.A. for so many years was right there in front of me. IMG_0792

In Battery Park, I got to enjoy an inspiring piece of art dedicated to all those new Americans.IMG_0791

Later that night, we stumbled by the home of Fox”News.” I decided to say hello.IMG_0823

I’ve seen it so many times on those New Year’s Eve specials, but Times Square is way more impressive in person. An occasion like this calls for a freeze frame….IMG_0824

While in Times Square, we had our first taste of actual New York Pizza.IMG_1032

If there’s one thing NYC is known for, it is its world famous cuisine. Not far from the place we stayed was a shop that is widely regarded as the finest bagel place in all of New York. We weren’t the only ones who knew about it….IMG_0805

No trip to New York is complete without seeing the majestic Empire State Building.IMG_0807

Here is Washington Square Park with its stately Washington Arch, made famous by that one scene from When Harry Met Sally. You’d recognize it if you saw it….IMG_0813

Later that day, we made a trip to the New York Public Library. My wife follows them on Instagram and says they do a really good job—You should probably follow them too. Here I am riding one of the beautifully sculpted, iconic lions that guard the front entrance.IMG_0825

We also visited the humongous Grand Central Station. It was an awe-inspiring view…. IMG_0827

None of this trip would have been possible without the kindness of our generous hosts. Such gracious and giving people—friends we had never met in person, but met through Facebook—who let us stay with them at their apartment in Manhattan. Such amazing and beautiful people…. Two awesome people who are as good-looking as they are kind (as you can tell). Truly grateful.IMG_0819

And finally, here is the city as we left it. Keep the lights on, New York. We’ll be back someday!IMG_0821

Welp, that does it…. I hope this pictorial tour of New York City helps you to feel like you were there with us. I definitely recommend it…. My only regret is that I didn’t eat more street food.

It is important to mention that the whole idea for this self-centered pictorial tour was my wife’s. She is hella funny.

Posted in 3) Bathroom Humor, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Talking To Your Kids About Their Front-Bottoms

It was just like this, only slightly less sexy....

It was just like this, only slightly less sexy….

I can clearly remember humping the banister by the stairs of the house I grew up in. Come to think of it, as a kid I also had an occasional romantic relationship with an area of sunlit carpeting  near our bay window. It was warm, and soft, and never said no. What a strange thing to think about now…. There was no one to explain any of the quasi-sexual urges and changes that seemed to be overflowing naturally out of me, and I had to kind of navigate that stuff on my own: Waiting a few extra minutes before getting out of bed on some mornings, finding the magazines under my dad’s bed, exploring the way those images made me feel, processing the shame of being caught…. It’s a lot for a kid to work through on his own. As a kid, you think you’re the only one.

Not this kind of morning wood....

Not this kind of morning wood….

I wish I could talk to that little, pre-adolescent version of myself. I’d tell him that it’s natural. And he’s (relatively) normal. And that he’s not the only one. Here—on this side of parenthood—it is so clear that all kids are a bunch of little freaks. They are a bunch of little walking balls of hormones and urges and ego…. Any parent of a boy could probably tell you a story of the first time they hugged their son and had the “rude awakening” of being greeted with his morning wood. Most parents could probably tell you about finding a daughter sleeping in the morning with her hands down her pants. It is humanity. It is perfectly natural. If you put something nipple-sized into a baby’s mouth, it will start sucking on it. And if a banister grazes against a boy’s crotch in just the right way, that boy is going to hump that banister. Especially if that boy was me….

Let's talk about all the good thing and the bad things....

Let’s talk about all the good thing and the bad things….

And still, for whatever reason, I find it difficult to talk to my kids about sexuality. I don’t know what it is…. It’s like echoes of shame from a far away, long ago place—like voices whispering “You shouldn’t be talking about this sort of stuff.” But I’m here to tell you: THOSE VOICES ARE LIARS. The fear of speaking frankly, honestly, and openly to our kids is one of the main engines that enables the cycle of sexual abuse. So many of us are prudes with our children, and it is at their own peril. We are afraid to say “penis.” We are afraid to say “vagina.” We do our children a disservice when we listen to the voices of our youth, telling us to be ashamed…. And we do this at a time when 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys (or 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys, depending on who you ask) will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday.

Never EVER a kid's fault.

Never EVER a kid’s fault.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. One of the things I do when I’m not blogging is I educate kids about child abuse. There are still schools that shy away from our Child Abuse Prevention program–because the topic makes them a little too uncomfortable. And a big reason for this hesitancy is the fear that the parents will be angry if people talk to their kids about the “taboo” subject of sexual abuse. But if you could only see the things I have seen with some of these elementary-aged kids, you would be DEMANDING that programs like ours are coming to schools. We talk to them about what child abuse is, and about what child abuse isn’t. We teach them about the concept of an unsafe secret. We let them know that if someone tries to do something to them and gives them an uncomfortable, “uh-oh” feeling, that they can say “NO!” And before we leave, we always remind them of two very important things: 1) Child abuse is never, EVER a kid’s fault. And 2) This stuff is okay to talk about.

Everyone does it....

Everyone does it….

And that message is one that grownups need to hear as well. THIS STUFF IS OKAY TO TALK ABOUT. I know it’s not easy to talk about, but it’s okay to talk about. And beyond being “okay” to talk about, it’s desperately important to talk about. As parents, we can’t trust that our kids’ schools are going to do a sufficient job of educating our most precious people about this. You can’t leave something this important up to the hope that a program like mine will be coming to your child’s school. This topic is only as shameful as you let it be. Every kid poops. Every kid discovers their own sex organs. And every kid needs to learn about appropriate and inappropriate touching…. Without any shame involved. Maybe one of the best things we can do for our kids is to help them understand they don’t need to be ashamed.

There’s a point in our child abuse presentation where one of the puppets asks, “Do you still feel weird talking talking about stuff like this…. You know, kind of embarrassed?” And the girl who has experienced sexual abuse answers, “Not anymore, because I learned what happened to me is NOT MY FAULT.” And you know what? It’s not your fault either. It’s not your fault that you grew up being told that it was shameful to talk about sexuality. It’s not your fault that this kind of stuff is hard to talk about…. But if someday, someone is able to hurt your kid because you were too afraid to talk about this sensitive topic, you might bear some responsibility for that. Talk. To. Your. Kids. Let them know what child abuse is. Let them know that they are allowed to say, “NO!” Let them see that you’re not ashamed, and let them know they don’t need to be either.

Not this kind of front-bottom.

Not this kind of front-bottom.

And by the way, when you talk to them, use anatomically correct language. When my kids were littler (they’re still little), they developed the term “front-bottom.” I’m pretty sure it was entirely on their own. They had their “front-bottom” and their “back-bottom.” But those sorts of euphemisms are born out of a place of shame, and there should be no shame in using the right terminology. Referring to a private part as a “hoo-ha” or “thingy” or “flower’ or “noodle” is made of the same stuff that suggests to a kid that it’s too shameful to tell anyone about what happened. Every professional agrees that using anatomically correct language is best, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.  You can do this! Repeat after me…. “Penis.” “Vagina.”

Last thing: If you just have no idea what to say when talking to your kids about child abuse, there are resources available. You can Google the words “How to talk to your kids about child abuse,” but beyond that, there are some great, kid-friendly books. Here are a few, with links to their Amazon page:
“It’s MY Body: A Book to Teach Young Children How to Resist Uncomfortable Touch”
“I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private”
“Your Body Belongs to You”
“Amazing You!: Getting Smart About Your Private Parts”

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Saving A Murderer’s Life: Who Would Jesus Execute?

An example of the sorts of fun little pictures you get to see if you like my Facebook page....

An example of the sorts of fun little pictures you get to see if you like my Facebook page….

Today is the second Boston Marathon since the bombings in 2013. Tomorrow begins the penalty phase of the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Dzhokhar is pronounced “Joe-Car,” but most of the people he knows call him Jahar). Jahar was found guilty of all 30 charges brought against him…. Many of which carry with them the possibility of the death penalty. The trial is happening in Boston, but because Massachusetts has outlawed the death penalty over 30 years ago, Tsarnaev has been charged under Federal law in order to insure the death penalty as a possible punishment.

Great hair is wasted on mass murderers....

Great hair is wasted on mass murderers….

There are a lot of reasons why people might want to see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev put to death. It’s clear to anyone who has seen pictures from the streets of Boston after those two bombs went off two years ago that this young man and his older brother did something horrible that day. They spread misery and fear, killing three people and wounding over 100 more—some losing limbs. It was a heinous act that deserves punishment…. But the question I’m asking is this: What possible good comes out of taking another life because of this tragedy? What sense does it make to kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong. The answer is this: It doesn’t make any sense.

There are all kinds of practical, non-religious reasons to be against the death penalty. Here are a few:

  1. China, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia…. These are the names of the other countries in the world’s top five in numbers of executions. Is this really the sort of company we want to keep with human rights practices?
  2. There is well-documented racism involved in who receives the death penalty. Black folks make up 13% of the U.S. population, but they account for 34% of the executions. In addition, even though since 1977 about half of all homicides have been black folks getting killed, 77% of the times the death penalty was handed down it was for killing a white person. Also, 82% of all the executions that have taken place since 1976 have occurred in the South.
  3. We’re sentencing innocent people to death. In the past 42 years, 140 people have been released from death row due to evidence coming forward of their wrongful conviction. During that same period of time, the United States has executed over 1200 people. Innocent people are being killed in order for us to quench some sort of ancient thirst for “eye-for-an-eye” style justice.
  4. It costs way more to kill people. In Tennessee (where I live) death penalty trials cost 44% more than ones seeking life in prison. In California, having the death penalty as an option costs them about $125 million extra every year.
  5. It doesn’t work. States without the death penalty have consistently lower levels of violent crime than those with the death penalty. Here is what that looks like on a graph: Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 5.47.04 PM

Beyond the pragmatic reasons for ending the barbaric practice of killing people for killing people, in Jahar Tsarnaev’s trial the defense is making the case that Jahar was pressured by his older brother Tamerlan into helping carry out this crime. Many times in capital punishment cases, they give the accused the option to plead guilty in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table. In this trial, that was not offered, so there was no reason for him to plead guilty (allowing for a more lengthy appeals process if they decide to sentence him to death). They knew the evidence was overwhelming, and his attorney is just trying to save his life. Doing that will depend on the jury believing a narrative in which Jahar was pushed down a dark path by his brother. But how could we ever know this for sure? A man is either going to live or die based on whether or not his defense can show his dead brother’s influence more clearly than the prosecution can portray his autonomy. I just can’t wrap my head around this….

This is so awesome it makes me consider buying a Fusion.

This is so awesome it almost makes me consider buying a Fusion. Almost.

And I am aware I am in the minority in this country because of my stance on the inherent immorality of the death penalty. People in the United States LOVE their death penalty. When Hospira (the maker of the sodium thiopental that is a crucial part of the three drug cocktail used in lethal injection) decided to stop producing the drug, a nationwide shortage began. The maker of the drug decided to stop making it because they didn’t want a drug they developed to help people being used to kill people…. Go figure. Now people are writhing in pain while they are being put to death when they are trying to use a substitute, and courts are halting some lethal injections because it might be “cruel and unusual.” But that is just a small setback in our quest for death as a punishment. Here in Tennessee, they passed legislation making the electric chair legal again. In Utah, they are bringing back the firing squad.

And the craziest part of this whole issue–to me, at least–is how many people who identify themselves as Christians argue for state-sponsored killing. You’d think that people who follow a man who was brutally and unjustly killed by a state-sponsored execution would be at least a little bit suspicious of the death penalty. We follow a man who died forgiving his murderers. We worship a God who has–multiple times–chosen to use murderers as his representatives and mouthpieces and leaders here on earth….

People like Moses.

People like David.

People like Paul.

I wish this weren't so true.

I wish this weren’t so true.

And the saddest part about this “Pro-Death” stance by so many Christians is how utterly hopeless it is. It doesn’t believe that God is powerful enough–that love is strong enough–to redeem the lives of murderers (certain murderers, that is. The death penalty is applied very arbitrarily. “Of the 15,000 to 17,000 homicides committed every year in the United States, approximately 120 people are sentenced to death, less than 1%”). Imagine if Paul had been “brought to justice” and put to death for the crimes he committed as Saul before the road to Damascus. Paul presided over a group whose JOB it was to persecuted and kill Christians. People look at the horrors being committed against Christians by ISIS right now, and they cry out for swift and brutal justice against the people doing the killing…. But do you know who those people are? They’re Saul. They’re Saul before he was Paul. They’re Saul BEFORE he met Jesus.

That or it turns the whole world into pirates.... Either way, it's bad.

That or it turns the whole world into pirates…. Either way, it’s bad.

Very recently, I have sat down and talked with murderers. They are living with the consequences of their actions, but they are living. And they are being redeemed. They are still worthy of love, whether they believe it or not. This death penalty stuff should make no sense for any of us, but it should be ESPECIALLY foreign to those of us who claim to follow the one who said, “You have heard it said…. But I tell you.” We leave behind “an eye for an eye.” We are the people who even love the ones who hate us. That’s what makes us different. And we do it because we believe in a God who loves his enemies as well. You might be able to rationalize wanting to send Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to hell as soon as possible, but if this is you, I’ve got some news for you–You’re not following Jesus. If I know anything at all about Jesus, it’s that….

Shane Claiborne wrote about speaking with a death row inmate. Here is what he said:

“He confessed to having done something terrible, which he will regret for the rest of his life. But then it got even more interesting. He told me the story of his trial. During the course of his sentencing, the victim’s family argued that his life should be spared, that he should not be sentenced to death. “They were Christians… so they talked a lot about mercy,” he told me matter-of-factly, as if every Christian was against the death penalty. He went on, “They believed that Jesus came not for the healthy but for the sick. And they argued that God may not be done with me yet. So I was spared the death penalty because of the victim’s family.” Finally he said, “I wasn’t a Christian then. But you better believe that I am one now.”

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

10 New Ideas For Laws Now That They’ve Voted The Bible As Tennessee’s Official State Book

This decision was less than inspired.

This decision was less than inspired.

If you haven’t already heard, the Tennessee House just voted to make the Bible the official state book of Tennessee. If you hear this and think “that is so freaking asinine,” congratulations–You passed the test! It’s a test that I like to call the “Dip Shit Test.” I really think that the Tennessee legislature does this sort of stuff to send a message to liberals to let them know that they are not welcome here. Here are a few more pieces of legislation that they’re working on to let non-Christians know that they need to look for another place to live….

1.  From now on all intersections will be known as “cross-sections” as a reminder of the cross that Jesus died on.

2.  Easter eggs will now only be referred to as “Resurrection Eggs.”

3.  When people get sworn in in a court of law, they will be required to say, “So help me Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

4.  The flat tire repair aerosol at people carry in their cars with them will now be known as “Crucifix-A-Flat.”

5.  Any street address that is currently 666 will have to find a new number, as that is obviously Satan’s address. Actually, you know what? You’re getting rid of all sixes. Sounds too much like sex….

6.  Police badges will be replaced by pins in the shape of Jesus fish.

7.  No more working on Sundays. It’s the Sabbath, y’all…. Businesses whose hours of operation differ from those of Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby are just asking for trouble.

8.  The official state drink will now be Communion Wine (Welches Grape Juice).

9.  Moving Citations will be accompanied by requiring five Hail Mary’s and an Our Father.

10. Levitical purity laws will be checked and enforced on all new marriages. Women who are found to not be virgins on their wedding nights will be stoned to death. Also, the missionary position is the only legitimate way to have sex. People caught having any other kind of sex will be issued a Moving Citation (see #9).


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Living Generously, Even When God Isn’t Angry Anymore

Homer Simpson's contribution to the offering plate.... "We can spare it, Marge.... We've been blessed!"

Homer Simpson’s contribution to the offering plate…. “We can spare it, Marge…. We’ve been blessed!”

Earlier this year, the Church my family and I attend made an official statement of inclusion for the LGBT community. You can read about it in a post I wrote titled “What Happened When My Church Decided To Start Marrying Gay People.” Though many people were relieved and even overjoyed at this announcement, many were not…. And many of those people decided to find a new place to worship. Along with them, about half of our church’s board left. But this was something that was not unexpected–Taking a stand on a divisive issue like this comes at a price. Beyond the difficult process of saying goodbye to people you love and have been in community with, it turns out that many of the people who felt led to move away from an affirming Church are also the ones who pay most of the bills.

Many of the seats that were left empty are being filled by new people–Folks who are encouraged and inspired by the stand that GracePointe has taken. But it’s only natural that people who are just visiting and learning about our community are probably not going to be giving at the same level as the folks who considered this their church home. A lot of times it takes a while to have that sort of buy in…. So now I watch as our home Church struggles with finances as they go through this transition. And I have watched this all against the backdrop of a fight in Indiana over whether people should have the “religious freedom” to discriminate against gay people. You’ve probably already heard that a GoFundMe campaign raised $842,000 in two days to support the Indiana pizza parlor who said it wouldn’t cater the numerous same-sex couples who are lined up to find just the right pizza shop to cater their gay weddings.

It's MEMORIES Pizza?!? All this time I've been thinking it was Mammaries Pizza. I haven't been this embarrassed since I messed up that Richard Marx song, "Hold On To The Night."

It’s MEMORIES Pizza?!? All this time I’ve been thinking it was Mammaries Pizza. I haven’t been this embarrassed since I messed up that Richard Marx song, “Hold On To The Night.”

But this isn’t the first time tens of thousands of dollars have been raised in support of people who taking a stand for discrimination. People lined up around the block to show their support for Chick-Fil-A’s stance against “the gays” (I wrote about that HERE. The parallels are frightening). And they also raised a bunch for this florist in Washington who believes she is called by God to refuse service to people she views as sinners:

Something tells me she will still take money from people  who are getting married for the second time. Or drunkards. Or gluttons....

Something tells me she will still take money from people who are getting married for the second time. Or from drunkards. Or from gluttons….

What an amazing contrast. On one side, a Church struggling to make ends meet for saying everyone is welcome…. On the other side, businesses bringing in more money than ever for saying the exact opposite. And when you consider that most of the people giving money to these crowdsourcing funds were doing so because of what they believe they are called to do as Christians, it starts to read like an O’Henry story. With this kind of grand display of support for discrimination made by Christians, it starts to feel like everyone and everything that has to do with the church is full of shit. I’m sorry, there’s really no other way to say it.

For people who talk about how the Church should be taking care of those in need instead of the government, all you need to do is compare this GoFundMe page with the other. $6475 raised in four months for a struggling mom of a kid with cancer, and $842,442 in two days for a pizza parlor refusing to cater gay weddings.

For people who talk about how the Church should be the one taking care of those in need instead of the government, all you need to do is compare this GoFundMe page with the others. $6475 raised in four months for a struggling mom of a kid with cancer, and $842,442 in two days for a pizza parlor refusing to cater gay weddings.

This is not okay. We are better than this!

Is this what God is like?

Is this what God is like?

But fear is a fantastic motivator–Fear of hell, fear of punishment, fear of an angry God…. And when people paint a picture of an angry God with an itchy trigger finger, it’s easy to raise money. There are many, many people out there are still worshiping the volcano god, who requires a virgin be thrown in every so often to appease its fiery fury. It’s a very old story….. In Biblical times, when they told each other the story of Abraham hearing God’s voice telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac, the people would have been very familiar with that sort of occurrence. Human sacrifice was a common thing back then. God was angry, and in order to appease his anger, we had to sacrifice the things we held dear…. And there is nothing dearer to us than our kids. Everybody knew about the god that requires the life of your child. But what people don’t get is that even back then, the story of Abraham and Isaac is the story of God telling us, That’s not who I am. I am different.

Seriously, you guys.... Seriously? Seriously. #facepalm

Seriously, you guys…. Seriously? Seriously. #facepalm

The Bible tells another story of church leaders becoming uncomfortable with the sorts of folks Jesus was hanging out with. They started grumbling to the disciples about how much their teacher was eating with the tax collectors and sinners (By the way, “disciple” is just a word that means “learner.” Jesus was the teacher, and the disciples were the learners…. A fact that might change the way you think about the verse where Jesus tells us to “Go and make disciples of all nations….”). Anyway, as Jesus was explaining why it makes complete sense that he would be hanging out with “sinners,” he says to them, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'” It’s interesting that he would pick this one little verse from Hosea to quote to them–I desire mercy, not sacrifice. They’re complaining about him hanging out with sinners, and he says to them, “It’s not about sacrifice. It’s about compassion.” Sacrifice was based on fear, but compassion is based on love. I believe this is what was behind Jesus’ continued frustration with the Pharisees: The fact that they were so concerned about keeping every detail and letter of the law that they were missing the heart of the law. And still today, much of the Church is so concerned with the letter of the the law that they are missing the heart of the law. And that heart is love. But the voice of Jesus still speaks to us today: “Go and learn what this means….

"Love me, or else" is not the  way that a loving God functions.

“Love me, or else” is not the posture of a loving God.

We are not a people who love each other out of a fear of punishment, but unfortunately a large part of the Church still functions that way. And when we, as a community of believers, proclaim that people are loved–not because of what they have done, but because they are a child of God–we take away a big motivator.  “Do the right thing OR ELSE!” responds to fear, whereas “Do the right thing because you are loved, because you are made in the image of a generous God, and because it’s the right thing to do…. and you are being transformed into the sort of person who does the right thing even when it’s hard” speaks to a totally different audience. The second one only works on folks whose level of consciousness is at a place of leaving fear behind, but there are a lot fewer of those sorts of people walking around right now. But “perfect love casts out fear,” and the good news is that God is a God who loves us perfectly–with a love that casts out fear…. Now if we can just get people to start seeing him that way.

So if you are a person who feels inspired by a Church who takes a stand to fully include our LGBT brothers and sisters in the good news that we are the beloved children of God, maybe you’d be inspired to HELP SUPPORT IT. If you go to another Church, and your community is a long ways away from taking that step toward becoming inclusive, but you just feel like you want to help…. YOU CAN. If you feel let down by the Church and think you don’t want to have anything to do with it ever again (believe me I KNOW THAT FEELING), I want you to know that this community has healed many hearts like mine that have been broken by the disfunction of Church, and you can REINFORCE THAT SORT OF PLACE. Maybe you believe all this “God” business is just a bunch of BS, but you can still feel deep inside of you that something horrible was released into the universe when almost 30,000 people raised $842,442 in TWO FREAKING DAYS to support a pizza shop that said it wouldn’t cater a gay wedding, and now you want to dole out SOME SORT OF KARMIC WEDGIE to counteract that colossal act of communal hatred that was funded almost entirely by people who claim to follow Jesus.


I need somebody.

I don’t advertise on this blog, and I have never asked you guys to support me financially…. I might someday. I don’t know. But I do know that this church is too good of a place for them to be struggling with finances because of a decision to vocally extend the radical love of God (as well as all the sacraments) to folks who are LGBT. I give finically, but I wish I could do more to help…. At this point in my life I don’t have a whole lot of dollars to give. But we all help in different ways. If you are in a position where you are able to help, I’m asking you to consider it. You can GIVE ONLINE (There are a whole lot of ways to give, including PayPal). And if you’re not in a place right now where you can give, maybe just consider sharing this post and passing it along to a friend. Either way, thanks for reading.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

10 Encouraging Things To Come Out Of This Indiana Garbage

If you’re anything like me, you have probably gotten more than a little discouraged by the news coming out of Indiana over the last few days. I wrote a bit about it HERE, if you feel like reading it. It is understandable to be discouraged–It’s a really discouraging situation. You might even be tempted to despair…. But take heart! It is not all bad news. There are actually some really good things to come out of all of this crap…. Here are a few:

To begin with, there are a bunch of people vocally lending their voices and support to the cause of embracing diversity and equal rights for the LGBT community. Like Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts….

Wilco cancelled an upcoming concert trying to take a stand against discrimination….

And even Seth MacFarlane got into the act….

I see where he’s coming from–It does seem to many folks like this law is taking a giant step into the past….

Except for Indianapolis, because they don't play along with the whole Daylight Savings thing....

Except for Indianapolis, because they don’t play along with the Daylight Savings thing….

Even when someone does something really gross–like a pizzeria trying to get some free press by declaring that they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding (as if)–good stuff still comes from this sad action. That good thing? The Yelp Reviews are freaking hilarious. You have to weed through some really hateful ones (from both sides), but the funny ones are worth it. There are also some funny pictures….

This pizza is miraculous....

This pizza is miraculous….

Another cool thing is this front page editorial from the Indianapolis Star. An even cooler this was this amazing letter the paper received from a man named Nick Crews who was encouraged by the stand the paper had taken:

“With the papers under my arm, I walked to Plainfield’s Maple Hill Cemetery, and found my brother’s grave. My brother, who had been a troubled Vietnam War vet, was gay at a time when being gay was a very difficult thing to be. When he died of AIDS in 1985 in a far-off city, his refuge from his closed-minded native state, some in our family were sufficiently ashamed that his cause of death was not discussed.

At the grave I opened the Star. I said, “Well, Charlie, times have changed, thank God. It turns out you were on the right side of history after all.” Then I read aloud as much of the paper’s editorial as tears would let me get through.

And today I’m doing what I never thought I’d do. I’m renewing my subscription to the Star. I’m doing this because, if for no other reason, I believe we must all support those who stand against discrimination and for inclusiveness. I do it too as thanks to the Star whose courage and right-mindedness on this issue made this moment of personal closure possible for me.”

After your eyes dry out, you can read his entire letter HERE.

And then, take a few minutes to laugh with Conan at the absurdity of it all….

Even Honey Maid graham crackers got into the mix….

Political Graham Cracker sounds like a pejorative term for a South Carolina Senator.

Political Graham Cracker sounds like a pejorative term for a South Carolina Senator.

Still, I think this one is my favorite. It’s by Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer….

I love Jesus.

I love Jesus.

This one gets to the heart of it. I know that it’s easy to get down when people keep representing Jesus in a way that everyone but them can see is shameful…. But things ARE getting better. A while ago (after another discouraging setback involving gay Boy Scouts), I wrote THIS POST. I just reread it, and think it still holds up (I have a healthy self-image). Sometimes losing a battle hurts, but the war has already been decided, and LOVE WINS! Human consciousness is progressing. The moral arc of the universe is long, but it’s bending toward justice. There is reason to celebrate. There is reason to laugh. There is reason to be hopeful.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics, 3) Bathroom Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Protecting Our Freedom To Not Sell Flowers To Gay People

We have to serve you if you're black, but if you're black and gay, you're going to need to find another soda shop.

We have to serve you if you’re black, but if you’re black and gay, you’re going to need to find another soda shop.

In the past week there has been an “AVALANCHE of intolerance” that has taken place. Now, you might think I’m referring to Indiana’s new law (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) making it legal for businesses to discriminate against people who are LGBT, but according to Indiana Governor Mike Pence, it turns out that that actual intolerance is coming from the folks who REFUSE to tolerate Indiana’s intolerance. I mean, you’d THINK that people who are so sensitive to intolerance would be able to recognize their own narrow-mindedness, right?!? This wave of intolerance has come not only from individuals…

but also from companies like Apple….

and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff who tweeted….

Even the NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis, is reconsidering how this decision will affect its relationship with Indiana. Angie’s List has also cancelled an expansion in Indiana over the RFRA, but I think that the idiocy of this position is best summed up by America’s Best Christian, Mrs. Betty Bowers (a woman “so close to Jesus He uses my birthday when He plays Lotto”), who tweeted…

I love it. I love it so much....

I love it. I love it so much….

So listen, I know this type of story is the sort of thing people have come to expect me to write about, but I have been trying to stay out of it. It’s just such a tired, sad, obvious wrong that I figure if you don’t already see that, chances are nothing I’m going to write is going to change that. Also, so many other people have done such a good job of pointing out the ridiculousness of this whole situation that I didn’t really feel like I had a lot to add. One of the best I’ve read is THIS ONE by Gene Robinson…. Here is a quote from that article:

Taken to their logical and extreme conclusion, such laws could allow someone to ask to be exempted from meeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, if that person’s religion believed (as in much of the Old Testament) that physical infirmities were the result of the afflicted person’s sin (or that of his parents), and “my religion condemns sin rather than cooperating with it.”

I mean, the idiocy of this law…. It is like an anti-axiom. But when I saw this morning’s interview with Governor Pence on ABC News’ “The Week,” I had to pass it along. Everyone needs to see this, and if my writing this gets the few people who frequent this blog to watch this extraordinary interview, it’ll be worth it. Warning: If you don’t enjoy watching politicians squirm, you probably won’t enjoy this: http://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=29987447

If you're wondering who that guy standing behind Gov. Pence at the signing of the RFRA, his name is Eric Miller. He is the head of the state's latest anti-LGBT organization called "Advance America." They must have used their religious liberty to keep all the black folks out of the room....

If you’re wondering who that guy standing behind Gov. Pence at the signing of the RFRA is, his name is Eric Miller–the head of the state’s latest anti-LGBT organization called “Advance America.” They must have used their religious liberty to keep all the black folks out of the room….

Now just in case you don’t actually watch the video (I can see how many of you actually click on the links–It’s a pretty small percentage of how many people read the posts…. You should all be ashamed of yourselves), Indiana Governor Mike Pence went on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos to do some damage control after Indiana started getting loads of bad publicity for the bill that the signed into law. He plays the victim by blaming the left for being intolerant of his state’s attempts to make it legal to discriminate against people who are LGBT. He actually says the words, “Is tolerance a two way street, or not?” The interview ends with Governor Pence being asked, “Do you think it should be legal in the state of Indiana to discriminate against gays and lesbians?” After being asked multiple times, the governor could not seem to bring himself to give a simple, “No, I don’t think it should be legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians.” One can only guess at the reasoning behind his refusal to say yes or a no….

That’s about all I’ve got in me. Sorry. It’s just so freaking discouraging…. Anyway, I am reminded of probably the best article about understanding religious liberty that I have ever read. It was written by Rev. Emily C. Heath, and it is titled “How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions.” Even if you’ve read it before, you should read it again. She ends her article (and I’ll end mine) with these wise words:

The only way to ensure your own religious liberty remains strong is by advocating for the religious liberty of all, including those with whom you may passionately disagree. Because they deserve the same rights as you. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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Top 10 Things a Pastor Can Do With His New Gulfstream Jet

All things are possible with God. And one of those possible things is a pastor driving around in a Bentley.

All things are possible with God. And one of those possible things is a pastor driving around in a Bentley.

Being a mega-church pastor is a very demanding job. With all those fundraisers, and book tours, and real estate deals…. Sometimes it seems like it’s almost impossible to find time to get on TV to ask people for money, let us know about their new book, and start a new capital campaign. These guys have so much to worry about! The LAST thing these men of God need to be worrying about is getting to the airport early and trying to find a seat on a commercial flight with the rest of those reprobates in first class…. Or–God forbid–even trying to wedge yourself in between a couple of runny-nosed schlubs in COACH. Lord knows the only “Coach” in the life of a mega-church pastor is his wife’s handbag….

This is a picture of the Gulfstream G650. I happened to get this particular photo off Pastor Bill Johnson's Facebook Page.... But whatever.

This is a picture of the Gulfstream G650. I happened to get this particular photo off Pastor Bill Johnson’s Facebook Page…. But whatever.

Some of you may have already heard about Creflo Dollar, the pastor of Atlanta’s giant World Changers Church International, asking for financial help to “achieve our goal to purchase the Gulfstream G650 airplane.” The G650 goes for a cool $65 million, but don’t worry–If a Church buys it, they don’t have to pay any tax on it. The G650 happens to be the same model of luxury private jet that Bill Johnson, pastor of Redding California’s Bethel Church, was “believing God for.” It’s a nice jet–WAY better than those crappy $18 million Learjets that are barely fit for those Scientologist hobos Travolta and Cruise to fly. God’s men deserve only the very best. And after 200,000 people commit to “sow” $300 or more, Pastor Dollar will finally be flying in the style he–and Jesus–deserves.

Here are some ways that a $65 million jet can be used by a pastor to further the Kingdom of God: 

  1. He can finally have a straight flight to bring medical supplies to Africa without having to lay over in Tampa.
  2. It doubles as a nice, quiet place to read the Bible.
  3. He and his wife can finally enter the Mile-High-Club on a king-sized mattress as God intended, and not some cramped, stinky bathroom. #MissionaryPosition
  4. Two words: FULL BAR! And the cool thing is that the wine in the airplane bar can be used in a pinch for Communion….
  5. The seats have really nice night lights, so you can do devotions at night.
  6. The prisoners he visits will be hella impressed.
  7. Ample cargo space can be filled with food for the homeless folks who might live near the airport. And the money they saved on the religious tax exemption can be used to start a soup kitchen to feed the poor.
  8. Able to have fun buzzing the tower with his associate pastor, Goose (Negative, Holy Ghost Rider, the pattern is full).
  9. His $5000 suits won’t come out of all wrinkly, like they do when you have to check your luggage like the commoners.
  10. Can finally prove, once and for all, that God blesses the faithful with great riches.

He works in mysterious ways, you guys…. If you have more good ideas for things that belong on this list, please post them in the comments.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments