Michael Moore Loves Our Troops Way More Than You

This past week, Michael Moore made some comments about the movie “American Sniper” that got him in some trouble with many of the “American People.” He basically tweeted that he–coming from a family where his own uncle was killed by a Japanese sniper 70 years ago–grew up being told that snipers are cowards.

People basically lost their freaking minds. There was lots and lots of stuff like this: Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 9.15.51 PM Later Moore attempted to explain on his Facebook page (you can read the whole post HERE). Among other things, he wrote, “Most of us were taught the story of Jesse James and that the scoundrel wasn’t James (who was a criminal who killed people) but rather the sniper who shot him in the back. I think most Americans don’t think snipers are heroes. Hopefully not on this weekend when we remember that man in Memphis, Tennessee, who was killed by a sniper’s bullet.” Much of the sentiment was very similar to what I wrote on this post titled “MLK and the “American Sniper” — A Tale of Two Heroes.” In fact, the first sentence of my post was “There is a film about an American hero in the theaters this MLK weekend, but that film is not called American Sniper.”

I love this guy.

I love this guy.

BelowMichael Moore’s Facebook post there are almost 25,000 comments, and I’d say the vast majority of them are just dripping with hatred and anger at the notion that someone might speak up and question the hero-worship of a man who killed hundreds of people from very far away. Even within military circles, there is a lot of debate about the ethics/morality of killing someone from a distance, but when a liberal man like Michael Moore questions it, people get very, very angry. Now, I realize there are trolls out there who will say anything in an attempt to make people angry…. But I want you to see some of these comments. There is a lot of anger here, but sometimes it is hard to spot…. See it you can find it:

***WORDS OF WARNING***
There is some…. Let’s say “colorful” language in these posts. If you get really offended by strangers dropping F-Bombs, implying that overweight people are worthless, or calling for people’s death, you might want to find something else to read. You have been warned….

Sometimes the anger is hidden just below the surface: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.28.46 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-20 at 9.30.28 PM Sometimes the anger comes in what appears to be a stream of consciousness poem. Here is what appears to be a poem titled “Lazy Moron”: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.10.35 PM Sometimes the anger is directed at an elderly woman making a call for peace: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.18.25 PM Sometimes the anger is directed at a defender: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.37.37 PM Sometimes that defender happens to have a hispanic-sounding last name: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.27.04 PM Sometimes you can tell the angry person is really holding back: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.31.13 PM Sometimes the anger turns people into bad spellers: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.39.03 PM Sometimes the response to the anger is just perfect: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.56.48 PM Sometimes the anger is just plain scary: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.22.23 PM Sometimes the anger comes with some free advice: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 9.25.21 PM Sometimes anger is contagious for people on both sides of an issue: Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 9.05.35 PM In addition to Michael Moore, Seth Rogen caught some flack over this tweet:

(The movie Rogen is referring to is a Nazi propaganda film glorifying their deadliest sniper) There were even some celebrities who got in on the action. Kid Rock, the “American Bad Ass” himself wrote, “Fuck you Michael Moore, you’re a piece of shit and your uncle would be ashamed of you. Seth Rogen, your uncle probably molested you. I hope both of you catch a fist to the face soon. God bless you Chris Kyle, Thank you for your service.” To which Seth Rogen awesomely responded….

And you know you done messed up when Sarah Palin gets mad at you. Here is the–God help us–almost Vice President of The United States of America posing with some patriots. Notice the subtile crosshairs on the O’s of Michael Moore’s name….
PalinSign2

It can be so very, very sad watching people get swept up in anger and hatred. It can feel overwhelming and hopeless, but once again I just want to take a moment to encourage you to SPEAK UP! DO NOT let the only voices being heard be the crazy ones who are doing their best to spread their anger, hatred, and fear like seeds on the soil of our nation’s heart. When our eyes are blinded by all that anger and hatred and fear, it can be hard to see the irony of this whole situation: That a person is being called “UnAmerican” for using his constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech, and that the people eviscerating him with calls for violence are probably the same ones speaking out those crazy Muslims calling for violence against Charlie Hebdo. It is summed up perfectly by one of the comments on Michael Moore’s page:
Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.41.35 PM

In response to the cries of “Michael Moore hates the troops,” Michael Moore has written something titled “My 12 Years of Support for the Troops.” <– You should definitely click on this and read it. But just in case you don’t read it, you should know this: Michael Moore has done more to support the troops than you have–Whoever the “you” is who is reading this. A couple of highlights: He is a tireless advocate for hiring vets and patronizing establishments that employ vets. He owns some theaters in Michigan, and in addition to allowing veterans to use his theaters for discussing PTSD issues and hosting PTSD summits there, his admission policy (since the theaters have opened) has been “Admission to all movies at my theaters is FREE, 365 days of the year, for ALL active duty military and their families.” He has raised tens of thousands of dollars on his website for Wounded Warriors. And in addition he writes, “From the Dept. of Irony: I only hire Navy SEALS and ex-special forces for when I need security – such as this week, when so-called supporters of those SEALs want me harmed.” 

And even on a list of ways he has actively supported our troops, there are still going to be people posting more and more anger and hatred and fear….
Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 9.44.21 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-25 at 9.45.42 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-25 at 8.48.56 PM

Anyway, despite all the haters, there is a lot more that he has done to support the troops, but you’ll need to read the link…. HERE IT IS AGAIN.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from Michael Moore, who does way more for the troops than you or I ever will do:

“Because only “haters” of our brave young men and women would recklessly send them into harm’s way for something that had absolutely nothing to do with defending the United States of America…. In the end, the thing I’m most proud of for what I’ve done for the troops was sticking my neck out 12 years ago to become a leading opponent to Bush and the war. I tried to save more lives than a sniper ever could hope to — by preventing us from going to war in the first place. Well, I failed at that. But I’ve done everything else humanly possible to try and make it up to those troops when they return home — that is, the ones lucky enough to return home.”

Posted in 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

What Happened When My Church Decided To Start Marrying Gay People

Some see this as a cause for celebration, others see this as a cause for separation.

Some see this as a cause for celebration, others see this as a cause for separation.

A week ago, the Church that my family and I attend came out (so to speak) as completely open and affirming of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. This was a little bit of a shock to me…. Not because I didn’t want it to happen (I wrote some thoughts about Gay Marriage a couple of years ago. You can read them HERE), but because I thought our Church was ALREADY open and affirming. Turns out it wasn’t. It was welcoming. It was definitely never judgmental or condemning. But when they started a conversation about the Church’s response to LGBTQ people a couple years ago, they didn’t have a policy of full inclusion–LGBTQ people could be members and get baptized and take communion, but as far as taking positions of leadership, baby dedication, and marriage, those parts of church life were not extended…. Anyway, that all changed this last Sunday.

Now, some of you probably just got upset when you read that first paragraph…. Probably for different reasons. Some of you got upset that a Church (in your head, you might have put air quotes around the word “Church”) would be “preaching” the false gospel that God loves gay people every bit as much as he loves the rest of us, and that someone could be so completely theologically deceived as to think God might bless the union of a same-sex couple. Others of you might have gotten upset at the fact that a Church that claims to follow Jesus could have operated for so long with such a clearly discriminatory policy toward the LGBTQ community, essentially giving gay members of the Church three fifths of a vote when it comes to being part of the Body of Christ. I understand both of those points of view.

If the words of this book are so stinking clear, then why are there almost 40,000 different Christian denominations in the world?

If the words of this book are so stinking clear, then why are there almost 40,000 different Christian denominations in the world?

Some of you out there may have experience with this sort of process. It’s nothing new in the life of the Church. When I was a kid, the denomination I grew up in started questioning whether or not women could be in positions of leadership. Women were allowed to work in the nursery and teach the kids, but the Bible their interpretation of the Bible seemed to prohibit female leaders. While the Church wrestled with this issue, there were some congregations who started letting women be Deacons, and others even had female Elders (!!!). There was talk (in my very sheltered world) of some congregations that even had women Pastors–as oxymoronic as those words felt together…. And as congregations moved toward inclusion, people were alienated on both sides of the issue. And people left. Some left because they felt the Church they loved had abandoned “the clear teachings of scripture,” and others left because they felt the Church they loved had abandoned them, and the clear calling they felt on their life. Others stayed….

People who live in black & white worlds don't always understand spectrums....

People who live in black & white worlds don’t always understand spectrums….

Some of us have a very clear view of what is right and what is wrong. Then there are some who are in the middle…. the “undecideds.” If one side says “RED” and the other side says “BLUE,” there are always plenty of people who say/ask “PURPLE?” Some Reds can have grace for Purples, and some Blues can have grace for Purples, but it’s often very hard for Reds and Blues to have grace for each other. Some people are so hardcore certain about RED or hardcore certain about BLUE that to even hint that PURPLE might be a possibility is seen as a betrayal. And don’t even THINK of trying to explain that the colors between Red and Blue are might actually be Green, Yellow, and Orange…. Or that there are actually all different kinds of light outside of the visible spectrum that we can’t even see. The Church is like this.

Even Papa Frank disagrees with me on this. That's alright.... I still love him.

Even Papa Frank disagrees with me on this. That’s alright…. I still love him.

There are Churches out there who are Blue on the issue of full inclusion for people who LGBTQ. There are some who are Red and will never be anything else. And there are a growing number of Churches who are increasingly Purple. It’s important to remember that some of these issues are complicated–even when they no longer feel complicated to you. And the measure of the grace in our own hearts is how we respond to people who have landed at a different place than you did. The hard part is being able to love even the people who have come to a different conclusion than you. For some people (people like me), it is easy to love the one who is way outside the group…. But I have a lot less grace for people in my own group. I feel like they should know better.

It’s not easy for Church leadership to take a stand on something that they know is going to cause division. Some might try to simplify it into just “doing the right thing.” But when doing what you believe is right cause people you love–people with whom you are in community–to feel like they must leave, it’s never as simple as people make it out to be. I mean, when it got out that World Vision decided to hire gay Christians, there were so many people who pulled sponsorships that it threatened their mission. Then again, sometimes staying in the middle can cause people on either on both sides of the issue to feel the need to find another Church home. If an issue that divides people were simple, it probably wouldn’t be an issue that divides people.

The Bible tells that the rainbow was a sign of the covenant between God and ALL THE CREATURES OF THE EARTH.

The Bible tells that the rainbow was a sign of the covenant between God and ALL THE CREATURES OF THE EARTH.

When our pastor made the announcement that our Church would no longer discriminate against people who are LGBTQ and even extend the Sacrament of Marriage to gay couples, he conceded that some might feel the need to leave. When talking about those possibly differing journeys, he said, “May we commit to those journeys knowing that the greatest guide is the guide of love.” Many stood and cheered. Some stayed in their seats. All of us were loved by God. I felt bad for the folks who stayed in their seats–it must have been hard for them, and I know it wasn’t out of a place of hatred…. But as hard as it was to see those people who–for whatever reason–were unable to stand, it made it easier for me when I looked around and saw a bunch of face of folks who are gay, standing side-by-side with allies who are committed to following Jesus with all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. There are many safe places for people to land who believe that the Church should be in the business of condemning people in committed, same-sex relationships…. There are not that many safe places for people to land who are gay and somehow manage to really love Jesus at the same time.

I am so proud of my Church.

And I can think of no better time to write about the civil rights of our gay brothers and sisters than on the national holiday set aside to remember and celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many people don’t know this, but right up until she died, his wife Coretta Scott King, worked very hard for the cause of equal rights for people who are LGBTQ. I’ll leave you with her words, still ringing like freedom….

“I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people, and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.” ~ Coretta Scott King

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

MLK and the “American Sniper” — A Tale of Two Heroes

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Chris Kyle, Husband and father of two....

Chris Kyle, Husband and father of two….

There is a film about an American hero in the theaters this MLK weekend, but that film is not called American Sniper Premiering this weekend, the movie American Sniper is based off of the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. You’ve probably seen ads for it–It’s the one that was directed by Clint Eastwood and has Bradley Cooper as Kyle…. the one where the guy is talking to his wife on the phone about finding out the gender of their baby when the the convoy is suddenly hit by at IED (This movie will almost certainly do very well at the box office, as I’m betting that there are quite a few people out there right now who wouldn’t mind going to the theater and watching some Muslims get shot….). Chris Kyle is known as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, having 160 confirmed kills (kills that someone else witnessed) out of a reported 255 kills.

Eddie Ray Routh, the man with PTSD who killed Chris Kyle and took his truck. Afterward, he told his sister, "I traded my soul for a new truck."

Eddie Ray Routh, the man with PTSD who killed Chris Kyle and took his truck. Afterward, he told his sister, “I traded my soul for a new truck.”

Now before I go any further, I have to admit that as a Christian who believes that Jesus has called his followers to non-violence, the glorification of this sort of killing is something that is wholly foreign to me. And really, if I’m being honest, pretty disgusting. I just don’t get it. I’ve tried. I’ve watched some videos of interviews of Chris Kyle talking about his kills…. and I guess I understand a mentality that says, “It’s either them or us” (I keep writing “kills,” but really it’s “PEOPLE who were killed.” I suppose “Kills” is an easier way to say it than “hearts stopped” or “people whose lives were taken by a soldier in an invading army from a country that started a war with your country under false pretenses”). I’m not writing this to say that Chris Kyle is a bad person–After his tours, he worked to help military families and tried to help people who were dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He and a friend were killed in 2013 on a shooting range by a friend who they brought to the range in a misguided attempt to help him with his PTSD. There are many people in this country who consider him a hero…. I am just not one of them.

When we ask our soldiers to sacrifice that part of themselves that knows it is wrong to kill, it has devastating effects.

When we ask our soldiers to sacrifice that part of themselves that knows it is wrong to kill, it has devastating effects.

Chris Kyle’s story is not a heroic story….  It is a tragic story. I take no joy in questioning the legacy of an American Soldier who is no longer alive, but I think it’s an important conversation to have. Do we really want to be the sort of nation whose heroes are the ones who have killed the most people? Can we aspire to more than that? A lot of people think it’s crazy that groups like ISIS claim to kill in the name of God. But in order to glorify a man who killed somewhere between 160 and 255 people, you have to believe that that man was doing God’s work. You may not realize you are looking at it that way, but if you believe in God and you support this sort of thing, you probably believe that God is behind it. Sure, the country is the one giving the orders (and giving the deaths legitimacy), but somewhere in your theology, you probably believe that the country has the authority to take those lives because God has given that authority to them….

His friends also call him Legend.

His friends also call him Legend.

Please follow me here: Imagine someone from the Crips goes out and kills 20 Bloods…. that person is probably going to be a Legend among the Crips. But to the rest of us, it just looks like gang crime, right? And if an assassin from AT&T goes out and kills 160 people from Verizon who were trying to take over their turf, we all would look on in horror…. That is, of course, unless you consider your primary loyalty or allegiance is to AT&T. In that case, you might think those killings are completely warranted. Then again, if your allegiance is to Verizon, those killings look like murders and terrorism. How you view the taking of another human life depends on which kingdom you have given your allegiance to. For example, while Chris Kyle was in Iraq, some of his fellow soldiers referred to him as “Legend,” but the Iraqi people called him “Shaitan Ar-Ramadi” (The Devil of Ramadi). And when John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo did their sniping in and around the D.C. area, we called them murderous terrorists, but some people in other parts of the world might call them something completely different.

Is this how we settle things?

Is this how we settle things?

So if you look at the killing of Iraqi people as legitimate, where does that legitimacy come from? Many would start quoting Romans 13 and say that God has given the government the authority to swing their swords…. The trouble is this: There are a whole lot of governments out there. If it’s one government versus another government, how do we figure out who has the authority? Do we fight it out–winner takes all–and then figure that the victor had God’s blessing? Do we really believe that “might makes right,” and settle our governmental differences with some sort of deadly arm wrestling match between city states? Or, more rightly, a chess match where the pawns are the poor souls (usually figuratively AND literally poor) who the king has managed to convince that to die and kill for him is ordained by God himself? It’s just strange to me.

"And to the reception for which it stands. One service under U-Verse, with internet and WIFI for all...."

“And to the reception for which it stands. One service under U-Verse, with internet and WIFI for all….”

So from the vantage point of citizens of the United States of America (with our hand over our hearts, pledging our allegiance), an assassin from AT&T killing 160 people from Verizon just seems like some bizarre and tragic turf war…. But here’s the thing: A Christian’s allegiance belongs to a different Kingdom. And if your allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, then that’s what all these wars start seeming like–some bizarre and tragic turf war where the people involved think their killings have legitimacy. But really it’s just like some dude from AT&T killing someone because his CEO told him it was okay. And the crazy thing is that in reality, AT&T is bigger and richer and more powerful than some sovereign countries in the world.

"Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."

“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

This morning, the Academy Award nominees for best picture were announced. Among the list of nominees were two films about American Heroes–American Sniper and Selma. One of those heroes was taught by our military to use a rifle to take the lives of men he didn’t know. The other hero had his life taken from him by the rifle of a man he didn’t know–a man who was taught to kill by that same military. One man looked down the scope of a gun and killed somewhere between 160 and 255 people who he had identified as enemies. The other looked out at a crowd of people and told them, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” One man died at a firing range in Texas, bringing a friend there whose mind was shattered by the horrors of war in the hopes that firing some more guns would help his PTSD. The other died on a balcony in Memphis, standing with striking sanitation workers in the hopes that he could help bring some attention to a group of garbage men looking for a living wage.

If there is a hope for this world, it is not in putting a bullet through our enemies. As Dr. King said in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” The heroes are not the ones dispensing bullets; they are the ones dispensing love. I’ll leave you with one more heroic quote:

“The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.” MLK, from “Pilgrimage to Non-Violence”

Posted in 1) Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Public Service Message About Fat Babies

Babies are like eating at Logan's.... The more rolls, the better.

Babies are like eating at Logan’s…. The more rolls, the better.

I learned something recently. I learned that not everybody in the world likes it when you comment on how fat their baby is. Who knew? And here I’ve been, walking around all this time, congratulating people on their chubby little babies. I’ve been walking up to strangers like, “Excuse me ma’am…. You probably already know this, but your child has roughly three extra folds in the skin of his forearm. I just wanted to say, ‘Well done.'” It turns out some folks don’t like it when people point things like this out to them.

I mean, I guess it makes sense. At some point in every kid’s life, you’re not allowed anymore to comment on how fat they are…. I just thought that we were allowed to compliment a baby’s chunkiness AT LEAST until the kid starts talking. No one’s telling parents what a cute little butterball their middle school daughter is. But BABIES?!? Actually, I have always felt bad about pointing out how skinny a baby was. If I noticed a skinny baby, I kept it to myself…. I didn’t want to say something and offend someone. I could never get the words to come out without them sounding disappointed. I would say, “Oh, he’s so skinny” the way one might say, “Oh, you’ve got some ketchup on your shirt.”

I like babies to look lie they have multiple rubber bands around their arms....

I like babies to look lie they have multiple rubber bands around their arms….

All it took was one person cautioning me about the mother of a chubby kid being sensitive, and now I am second-guessing myself around ALL fat babies. For example, the other day at the restaurant, a couple sat down in my section with a remarkably fat baby. His head was at least one-and-a-half times wider than it was tall. The weight of his chipmunky little cheeks and jowls seemed to have caused his neck to disappear, and he had dimples where no dimples belonged. His arms were out to his sides like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story, but he was wearing a short-sleaved shirt. He was as cute as babies get, and everything in me wanted to squish his fat little oversized head. And, for whatever reason, I wanted to discuss his excess cheeks with his parents, but now I’m all worried about making people feel bad (It should be pointed out that his parents were both thin people. Of course, I would never have a conversation with overweight people about how plump their kids is. Everybody knows that…. That’s Fat Baby Etiquette 101).

I'm not ashamed to say that I want to eat this baby's cheeks. I want to eat them.

I’m not ashamed to say that I want to eat this baby’s cheeks. I want to eat them.

This whole thing has me very confused and a little saddened. Is there really no point in a person’s life anymore when you can vocally appreciate how fat they are without offending someone? Everyone knows that fat babies are objectively cuter than skinny babies. And many of those skinny babies are going to grow up to be a skinny adults (with all the advantages that brings)…. We’ve got the rest of people’s lives to congratulate them on how skinny they are. Can’t there just be a short period of time where we celebrate and acknowledge that a kid is chubby, and that chubbiness makes everyone around her happier?

This is one of my own little chunky babies. Notice the ample ham hocks....

This is one of my own little chunky babies. Notice the ample ham hocks….

For some people, having a fat baby makes them feel good because it’s obvious that their kids are getting enough to eat. I know that it was this way for us when my wife was breastfeeding our kids. All three of my kids had ham hocks that would test the tensile strength of their tights. The waistbands of their clothes would make noises like stressed metal. And I wore their pudginess like a medal, showing it to anyone who pay attention. If you are a parent who gets offended by people who point out how portly your kids is, please don’t. And if  you’re a person like me who thought that you were complimenting parents when you commented on their pudgy little person, be aware…. Sadly, some people don’t like it.

 

In closing, please look at this fat baby’s face:

The way that this baby feels about having to wear this hat is the way that I feel about finding out I'm not allowed to complement people's fat babies anymore.

The way that this baby feels about having to wear this hat is the way that I feel about finding out I’m not allowed to complement people’s fat babies anymore.

Can we all just agree that fat babies are awesome?

 

Posted in 3) Bathroom Humor, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Stop Saying “Islamic Terrorist”

Something tells me I can't know everything I need to know about this person because of this one blinding display of ignorance....

Something tells me I can’t know everything I need to know about this person because of this one blinding display of ignorance….

About a month ago, some co-workers and I went to the Islamic Center of Nashville. We met with a man who was part of the leadership at the Mosque, and he spoke to us about some of the issues Muslim kids in public schools have to face. He was very kind, and sort of endearingly nerdy. During his powerpoint he showed some pictures of some of the discrimination that Muslims have to deal with in their lives and on social media…. Pictures of burned down Mosques (local Mosques), hate-filled graffiti, and inflammatory Islamophobic pictures that people shared on Facebook and Twitter (like the one that I wrote about HERE detailing “How To Wink At A Muslim”). As he showed all these hurtful images, he didn’t seem upset or angry. He seemed more resigned to those sorts of images as a fact of life. It was more like, “So yeah…. that’s just a part of what we have to deal with.” He was just calmly stating a sad reality.

The only time I saw him even get a TINY bit worked up was when he spoke about the term “Islamic Terrorist” (Thinking back on it now, he probably doesn’t feel much freedom to show a lot of passion about the daily prejudices that Muslims face because he doesn’t want to come off as “angry,” even when there is plenty to be rightfully angry about…. But I’m speculating). Anyway, he showed just a bit of emotion as he talked about “these maniacs” (his words) who murder and terrorize being described as “Islamic Terrorists.” In the face of all those examples of ignorance and prejudice, the only thing that brought his frustration to the surface was the fact that every time another one of these crazy people killed somebody, it was equated to Islam. And again and again, a religion of peace was being associated with the worst sorts of violence.

This is the most powerful image I've seen about this tragedy.

This is the most powerful image I’ve seen about this tragedy.

And as sat there in that Mosque and I listened to him talk, I knew how he felt: That frustration of watching a misguided group effectively hijack a term you care deeply about. I think about it every time I hesitate before identifying myself as a Christian. A lot of what I do here is attempting to defend Christianity from the people out there who are trying to make it seem like following Jesus is all about fighting against gay marriage, tax cuts for the wealthy, and arming yourself to the teeth. So as I watch the horrors unfold as the news covers the tragic murders at France’s Charlie Hebdo, I think again of sitting there with my shoes off while listening to this kind man trying to contain his frustration with the term “Islamic Terrorist” when the term “Terrorist” would suffice.

That makes it easier to understand....

That makes it easier to understand….

When crazy people freak out and start killing people and credit their Christianity, you know what we DON’T call them? Christian Terrorists. At the end of last year, a crazy person named Larry McQuilliams fired more than 100 rounds in downtown Austin on his way to try to burn down the Mexican Consulate. He credited Christianity as the inspiration for his extremism, and in his van was a book called “Vigilantes of Christendom” and a note calling himself a “priest in the fight against anti-God people.” The Norwegian nut-job who killed 77 people (mostly kids) in 2011 described himself as a Christian. Timothy McVeigh was hugely influenced by the “Christian Identity” movement in forming the sort of belief system that would blow up a building. Just about every white supremacist credits Christianity for their hatred, and acts of violence and terrorism against gays in this country is overwhelmingly done by people identifying themselves as “Christians.”

No one in the Christian community feels the need to distinguish themselves from these lunatics, because they are so clearly opposite to everything that Jesus was about. When I saw a Muslim friend of mine for the first time after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, even though he is very aware of my understanding of this issue, he still felt the need to say, “This is not us.” Maybe we shouldn’t expect every member of the Muslim community to distance themselves any time some deranged person credits Allah for their murderous intent (Though, if you want to hear some of the reactions from Muslim leaders to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, HERE IS AN AMAZING LIST.)

The face of a hero.

The face of a hero.

Maybe instead of making the face of Islam those murderous masked men, we can focus on a different face…. The face of Ahmed Merabet. Ahmed was a policeman assigned to protect a woman who worked at Charlie Hebdo who had received death threats because of insulting comics the magazine put out about Islam and Mohammed. He was a French man, living in the birthplace of liberty, and he was a Muslim. He died, gunned down in the street by deranged killers–killers whose professed “Islam” was as foreign to him as the Westboro Baptist’s religion is foreign to me. And he died defending the rights of a magazine to insult and ridicule his faith. This is the face of a hero, it is the face of freedom, and it is the face of Islam.

I don't.

I don’t.

So what can we do? We can remind people that allowing these lunatics to inform your understanding of Islam is itself lunacy. This sort of stuff is the very definition of prejudice, and it is the beating heart of the sort of discrimination that leads to even more tragedies like what happened at Charlie Hebdo. We can tell the story of Ahmed Merabet. We can remind people that Christianity has been used every bit as effectively in the past as a justification for killing people who are different. We can post rational and loving comments on threads that are filled with hatred and fear. We can remind people (or inform them if they don’t already know) that most of the people fighting against this sort of murderous religious extremism are, in fact, MUSLIMS.

You know what? That’s a good name for it: “MURDEROUS RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM.”  It is NOT Islamic Terrorism…. It is not a matter of Christianity versus Islam. It is a difference of ideology. I am an ally in the struggle (the word “jihad” actually means “struggle”) against a radical fundamentalism that seems to be spreading…. Against a black & white, “us & them” way of thinking…. Against a dangerous certainty. I feel much more closely connected to a Muslim looking for peace in the midst of all of this violence than I do to a “Christian” who is using this tragedy as a rationale for even more killing. If you are using your religion as a justification for killing people, you are part of the problem…. Regardless of your religion. Beloved, let us love one another.

***Three things: 1) Don’t use the comments section to make your case for all the reasons Islam is not a religion of peace…. Christianity’s track record with killing people who disagree with them is every bit as disturbing. 2) I am trying to write a book. I’m sorry to make you wait longer between posts. You’ll get over it…. And 3) Don’t let the pushback from all the crazies out there make you afraid to share this post. Be brave and loving and rational. Also, thanks for reading.***

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Congratulations Kim Jong Un…. You Just Made Everyone In The World Want To See A Crappy Seth Rogen Movie

I never thought I'd see a Seth Rogen movie that was more culturally important than "Pineapple Express."

I never thought I’d see a Seth Rogen movie that was more culturally important than “Pineapple Express.”

In case you didn’t know, yesterday Sony Pictures cancelled its release of the movie “The Interview” staring Seth Rogen and James Franco. The movie (as far as I can tell) is a comedy about two regular guys who somehow are granted an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and then the CIA enlists them to help them assassinate him. Sony’s decision to not release “The Interview” came after the five biggest theater chains in the country declined to show the film in their theaters…. A decision that came after North Korean hackers threatened to blow up any movie theaters that dared to show the film…. A decision that came after the theater chains realized that America is filled to the brim with people who are so perpetually fear-filled that even a completely uncredible and implausible threat from an inept country on the other side of the world would probably keep a whole lot of people out of the theaters on one of their busiest weekends of the year.

Are we really going to be afraid of someone with THAT haircut?!?

Are we really going to be afraid of someone with THAT haircut?!?

Now, some of you are probably thinking, “I can understand that. No one wants to get blown up at a theater” And I get it–I don’t want to pay $15 to sit in seats that are stained with a mixture of fake butter, semen, and Junior Mints either–Especially while wondering if there might be a bomb…. In addition to the movie, I mean. But please take a moment to consider what just happened: A chubby little dictator and notorious human rights abuser just managed to get a movie pulled because he didn’t like that it poked fun at him. And he did this in “The Home of the Brave” what is supposed to be the strongest country in the world. This sets a really messed up precedent where any anonymous threat can get a movie pulled. Here are some reactions from around Hollywood:

 

A lot of people were understandably angry.

A lot of people were understandably angry.

Some were just really disappointed....

Some were just really disappointed….

Some used the language they are most fluent in: Comedy.

Some used the language they are most fluent in: Comedy.

And more comedy....

And more comedy….

But really, it's not all that funny....

But really, it’s not all that funny….

But I think this says it best....

But I think this says it best….

“Fear eats the soul.” How true is that…. He knows what he’s talking about. Incidentally,  Steve Carell was set to star in a thriller set in North Korea, but on Wednesday New Regency cancelled plans for that movie. Even Newt Gingrich understood what a messed up thing just happened:

Newt, demonstrating the "broken clock" theory....

Newt, demonstrating the “broken clock” theory….

So really, this is about precedent. If we (the people) react in anger to the pulling of this film (which before all this hubbub I had about a zero percent chance of going to see, but now would go pay to see out of principle), the next time something like this happens, maybe things might work out differently. Some people are pointing their finger at Sony and calling them cowards, but before Sony there were the theaters, and the theaters’ decision was really just a business decision that is a reflection of our own cowardice. If they thought all this hype would actually put butts in the seats, they would have wallpapered the walls with “The Interview” advertisements….

Oh, I hate fear so much. I hate my own fears, and I hate everyone else’s fears–both rational and irrational. We are about a million times more likely to die in a car accident than die in a bombed theater because of an anonymous North Korean threat. There hasn’t been a new case of ebola in the US in months, but I’m still filling out questionnaires about travels to West Africa when I go to the doctor’s office. We are a fearful, fearful people, and human beings are at their worst when they are afraid. If you’re reading this, do me a favor: Don’t be afraid. We’re all going to die someday…. and anyway, there are worse things that can happen than dying. The goal of life is not to live as long as possible. 

Seriously, Patton Oswalt.... Seriously.

Seriously, Patton Oswalt…. Seriously.

And the stupidest part is that now I’m definitely going to see that movie. It might not end up in the theaters, but I will see it one way or another. Kim Jong Un has successfully turned what would have probably been a critical and financial failure of a movie into an important film. Congratulations, dip shit. And in honor of that achievement, here is the scene (while it’s up, at least. It will probably get taken down very soon) from “The Interview” when the fake, movie-version of Kim Jong Un gets killed by a missile…. Merry Christmas!

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The Best Christmas Party Game You’ll Ever Play

Feliz Navidad!

Feliz Navidad!

I know, I know–There are more important things to be writing about right now…. But it’s Christmastime, and–believe it or not–not everybody who reads this blog comes here to read about my take on the latest example of systemic racism or torture reports. Some people actually read this stuff expecting to laugh…. And a lot of those people have probably been a little disappointed lately. So instead of writing about stuff that is weighing heavily on my heart (there seems to be a lot of it lately), I’m going to tell you about the greatest Christmas Party activity the world has ever known: We’ll call it The Nativity Game.

Well, it’s not really a game, I guess. Most games have losers, and in this “game” everyone wins. It’s really more of an activity. And it doesn’t really have a name. Nativity Roulette? That sounds too dangerous. Nactivity? Nope. That’s dumb. Quasi-Sacriligious Dress-Up? Nah, then you’ll lose a bunch of the more conservative members of your family, and that’s no fun…. Let’s just stay with “The Nativity Game.” Here is how it works:

OBJECT: To have as much fun as possible, while leaving the members of your Christmas party with a treasured keepsake that will make them smile for years to come. The goal is for that treasured keepsake to be a picture of all the people at your Christmas party dressed as characters in a nativity scene….

THINGS NEEDED TO PLAY: All you really need is a camera with a timer. However, there are a few other things that can add to the enjoyment of the activity–Not the least of which is Good ol’ Fashioned Holiday Cheer. And by “Good ol’ Fashioned Holiday Cheer,” of course I mean alcohol. In addition to alcohol, you could also use some ACTUAL Holiday Cheer. “Good ol’ Fashioned Holiday Cheer” and “ACTUAL Holiday Cheer” work very well together, but either one of them will work just fine by itself in a pinch.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: I’d say for best results you should have at least 6 players, but you can do it with less. There really is no maximum amount of players, but anything more than about 20 is going to require a house way bigger than mine. Let’s say 6-20 Players. Kids are a great addition to The Nativity Game, so this can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

DIRECTIONS: Count how many guests you have at your Christmas party, and write that same number of nativity scene characters on a piece of paper. You then cut out those individual characters, place the pieces of paper into a hat, and have each guest choose one character from the hat. The character you choose is the character you will be in The Nativity Game picture. Each person then has 15 minutes to find stuff in the house that can be used as a costume for their particular character. The following is a completely non-exhaustive list of possible nativity characters:

  • Baby Jesus (required)
  • Mary (required)
  • Joseph (required)
  • Angel (suggested) (more than one character if needed)
  • Wise Man (suggested) (more than one character if needed…. traditionally three, but whatever. It’s your party)
  • Shepherd (suggested) (more than one character if needed)
  • The Star
  • Various Middle-Eastern & Non Middle-Eastern Farm Animals (and Non-Farm Animals, really–Anything from camels & sheep to alligators & bumble-bees…. Again, your party. You could have cards that read “Choose Your Own Animal.” Two-person animals like “Front Half of Cow” & “Back Half of Cow” can be fun, but it is a lot more fun if you can see everyone’s face in the picture, and it’s never easy to see “Back Half of Cow’s” face.)
  • Optional Characters, like The Innkeeper (sending them packing) or The Manger (hope for a small Baby Jesus) are always a possibility as well…. Do not feel limited to the traditional nativity scene characters. If you feel like having a “Cousin Eddie” or  a “Buddy The Elf” show up at your nativity, you go on with your bad self…. Third time I’m going to say this: Your party.
This game is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year....

This game is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year….

VARIATIONS ON THE GAME: There’s some real wiggle room in this area of the game…. If you want to allow for trading of nativity characters in your version, that is fine. Another option is you can spice things up by adding pieces of paper that say “Choose Someone Else’s Character” or “Switch Any Two Characters” into the mix. Just make sure that there is one character for each person at your party. If you wanted, you could even have the drawing before the party, and have each person come to the party dressed as their character.

HOW TO WIN: You win the game when you have a picture in which you can see each character at the party, and you post that picture on Facebook and tag all those people in the picture in order to spread the Christmas Cheer to all their friends (ACTUAL Holiday Cheer, not the Good ol’ Fashioned variety). When it’s done right, you’ll end up with something like this:

NATIVITY-2

Everybody wins! Our characters were Mary, Joseph, Shepherd, Wise Man, Angel, Star, Sheep, and a sweet little bearded Baby Jesus. Just for the record, that’s ACTUAL Holiday Cheer you see in our eyes….

This game was created and developed with the help of our good friends. When we played, we used classic rules (The character you choose is the character you ARE. No switching). The two grown men in this photo were the last two people to draw their character from the hat. The two that were left were Mary and Baby Jesus. My friend drew before me. I said a quick prayer that he would choose Baby Jesus and leave me with the role of Mary, but as you can see, the REAL Baby Jesus did not seem to be listening to my prayer. I know my “swaddling clothes” look more like a loincloth, but you know what? It’s my party. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Planet Earth…. This is my Christmas present to you.

Dear Lord Baby Jesus, Thank you for the people who read my blog and share it. Please use your Baby Jesus powers to heal their horrible leg....

Dear Lord Baby Jesus, Thank you for the people who read my blog and share it. Please use your Baby Jesus powers to heal their horrible leg….

LAST THING: If you do this activity at a Christmas party and take a picture of it, send it to me on my Facebook page (THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE ALREADY LIKED!!). You can go directly to that page by clicking RIGHT HERE. Let’s keep ‘em clean, people…. Still, even keeping them clean, there might be a few people who might get offended, but I believe Jesus has a sense of humor. He’s the kind of guy who might wear a tuxedo T-shirt…. Anyway, it’s your party.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 3) Bathroom Humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

If It Wasn’t About Race Before, It Is Now

Are they arresting a demonstrator? Or are the arresting a thug.... I guess that depends on who's doing the describing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/GETTY IMAGES)

Are they arresting a demonstrator? Or are the arresting a thug…. I guess that depends on who’s doing the describing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/GETTY IMAGES)

Wow. Yesterday was rough. Monday night, after the Grand Jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson was announced, we watched as a couple of police cars and some stores burned, and we saw footage of looting…. though not surprisingly, there was almost no coverage of the members of the community and the protesters who stood guard outside of businesses in an attempt to protect them from looters and arsonists after it became clear the police were not going to. But the “News” channels are selling a product, and peaceful protesters and folks calling for calm and non-violence do not sell nearly as well as video of the same cop car on fire. Any way you look at what happened in Ferguson on Monday night, it was tragic. The news coverage was hard to watch, especially if you are looking for any signs of hope in all this mess….

The kind of crap that makes me want to just quit trying.

The kind of crap that makes me want to just quit trying.

But as tragic as the images of destruction were Monday night (even though only a very small minority actually reacted with violence), I think the real tragedy has been how so many have responded to the stories and articles that followed. Now, I know that everyone (including me) says you shouldn’t read the comments, but at times like these, it’s nearly impossible to avoid them. And really, I don’t think we SHOULD avoid them right now. These comments give us insight into what we are up against (the “we” in that sentence refers to those of us who actually acknowledge that racism is alive and well in the world, and those of us whose hearts break at the hatred and ignorance that was on full display in the conversations that followed stories about Michael Brown and the man who shot and killed him).

For me, one person writing something hateful or racist is not enough to make me feel truly discouraged–There are always going to be people in the world who get off on saying things that are purely designed to hurt. What DOES make me feel really discouraged is when a bunch of people cheer these sorts of people on. For example, a local news channel posts a video of people looting a Dollar Tree, and a person writes a comment that gets over 4500 “likes.” Here is that comment:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.12.47 AMFollowed by this:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.13.04 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.13.45 AMThen, when someone speaks up and calls this filth what it is….Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.16.48 AM.… Here is what happens:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.15.15 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.17.39 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.20.11 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.20.46 AMThen, just to give more evidence about how none of this is about race….Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.21.14 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.21.51 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.22.26 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.25.47 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.26.04 AM

Protesters on I-24 near LP Field

Protesters on I-24 near LP Field

Tonight in Nashville, about 450 people marched through the downtown streets in a show of solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. During their peaceful protest, they laid down in the middle of the interstate for 4 1/2 minutes, representing the number of hours that Michael Brown’s body laid in the street after he was killed. After the protest, some of Nashville’s police officers offered the protesters hot chocolate (which I think is absolutely awesome and an actual example of “peacekeeping”). When WKRN posted a picture on their Facebook page of the people lying on Interstate 24, here are some of the highlights of the comments that followed:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.50.23 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.51.00 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.52.17 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.52.40 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.53.58 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.54.44 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 3.03.49 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 3.01.56 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.58.36 AM

When I heard about this protest, I was so proud that people actually cared enough about something to take to the streets. The people who saw this story were not nearly as impressed. You should really go look at the overwhelmingly negative comments in response to this show of support. It’s startling. Though, I don’t want to make it seem like there weren’t people who were leaving comments that were critical of all the offensive comments. There were…. It’s just that they were so few and far between, and the moment someone spoke up, they were accosted by ignorance:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.49.03 AMAnd what’s really amazing to me is how many of the people writing these death wishes and outlandishly racist comments on a public Facebook page had, right next to their name and picture, a link to the Facebook page of their place of employment. Maybe, as you’re reading some of the hate-filled comments that people write on Facebook, you should take a screen capture of the comments and post that picture on their employer’s Facebook page…. Just to make sure that the people who sign their paychecks know how they really feel. If you’re using a Mac, you can do this by pushing Shift-Comamand-4…. Just in case.

Please know I’m not putting these comments here for you to become cynical–I’m putting them here so you can how much work there still is to do. This stuff is sickening, but these are real people writing this crap. Racism is real, and it’s thriving. The people spreading the lie that we are somehow in a post-racial world because of our black president are the ones who like things just like they are. I was so discouraged and hurt by so many of the things I read yesterday… I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I was a person of color and those comments were directed at me. One string of comments really struck me. Here it is:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.47.22 AMIt was the question “Where are the Christians?” That’s a really good question…. Unfortunately, the answer is that many of the ones filling up the internet with hateful comments are the same ones who like to tell everyone that they are Christians. But really, if you’re on the side of hate, you are not on the side of Jesus. I have some bad news for you–The flood of hate-filled comments that has saturated social media over the past 24 hours has NOT been written by atheists and Muslims…. It’s been written by people who call themselves “Christians.” And that is really a shame. Everyone sees it, everyone smells it, and it smells like shit. And it hurts the reputation of Jesus.

So after the decision not to indict Officer Wilson, everyone expected violence to break out, and a small minority gave people what they were expecting…. and everyone looked on, and said, “I knew it….” How wonderful would it be, in these few short days before we all forget about Ferguson, Missouri and move on to the next argument, if the world didn’t get a chance to look at the reactions of people calling themselves Christians and say, “I knew it….” Jesus was very clear about God being on the side of the Hungry, the Thirsty, the Stranger, the Naked, the Sick, and the Prisoner. Jesus was very clear that his disciples would be known by how we love. Now, more than ever, let us be known by our love… A love that we bravely proclaim, even in the face of the storm of ignorance and hatred that we face in the wake of tragedy and injustice.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post titled “Starting An Argument On Christmas For All The Right Reasons.” If you haven’t ever read it before (or even if you have), I think it’s an important thing to read right now. This is no time to be silent–Now is such an important time for people who would dare call themselves followers of Jesus to react to ignorance and hatred and violence with love.

 

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

When Cynicism Makes Way Too Much Sense

You probably didn’t notice–maybe a few of you did–but I’ve been away for a while. It’s been almost a month since I’ve written anything here, and I feel like my lack of writing has been a little bit dishonest. I’ve been in a bit of a dark place for a couple weeks, and I think I’ve been avoiding writing anything. I try to be hopeful on this blog, but sometimes it’s harder than others. Nobody is hopeful all the time. So I just decided not to write…. Well, I guess that was part of it. Another part was me looking at ideas and beginnings of posts, and then literally sighing the words, “Ahh, fuck it.” If I’m being honest….

Both things are very scary.

Both things are very scary.

I was going to write a post titled “Getting Ebola For All The Right Reasons” about all the people putting themselves in harms way in order to try to care for the sick, or even going into highly infectious areas in the hopes of telling the stories (through writing and pictures and video) of the people whose lives and families and communities have been devastated by this disease. And how celebrating those people and that best part of our humanity is such a better use of our energy than being fearful about contracting a disease that has infected less people in this country than there are people who have gotten dumped by Taylor Swift. There are so many stories of hope and humanity selflessness in the midst of this outbreak, it is such a shame to focus on fear. But while trying to write those stories, I felt myself thinking, “What’s the point?” I don’t know…. I still might write about it.

Scott DesJarlais, pro-life republican representative for the great state of Tennessee.

Scott DesJarlais, pro-life republican representative for the great state of Tennessee.

And then the mid-term elections happened, and it got me down. I know it shouldn’t, but it did. Something about this election just made me feel very cynical. I live in a state where they just reelected a man who is running as a “pro-life” candidate, but who encouraged his wife (at the time) to get two abortions, while also having affairs WITH WOMEN WHO WERE PATIENTS OF HIS and then pressuring at least one of them to have an abortion after he got her pregnant. And I’m not saying that he or anyone else is beyond redemption, but can we really find no one else to represent us who doesn’t have this colossal level of a well-documented moral and ethical failure?!? He was elected because he has an “R” next to his name. And things seem very dark….

The truth just sounds different.

The truth just sounds different.

In addition to this, the abortion amendment to Tennessee’s State Constitution–the one that I wrote about before this post–passed. I thought about writing about this as well…. About how the way that Tennessee’s amendment process works is that in order for a constitutional amendment to get ratified, it needs to be on the ballot in a year that people are voting for Governor, and if 50% + 1 of the number of people who voted for the Governor vote “Yes,” it passes. Well, in this election the Governor’s race was not even close. There was never a doubt that the republican incumbent was going to win a second term. I had not even seen one advertisement for the democratic candidate…. I’d be willing to bet that 95% of the people in the state could not have even told you the democratic candidate’s name. So with that race already in hand, many MANY voters who identify as “pro-life” decided to leave the ballot blank in the Governor’s race, essentially making their “Yes” vote for the abortion amendment count as one and a half votes. All for what will amount to regulations that will made it next to impossible for poor women to have access to safe, affordable abortions when they actually need them, while keeping them very available to the mistresses of rich doctors-turned-politicians. This amendment takes the right of a woman to make her own reproductive decisions and puts those rights and decisions in the hands of people like Scott DesJarlais. And again there I was, just wading along, waist-deep in “What’s the fucking point….”

Maybe “hopeful” is a synonym for “naive.” Maybe cynicism is just wisdom and time.

And then there’s family stuff and sickness and stress and money worries…. And then there’s pipelines and immigration and beheadings and every other story on NPR.

I’m not out of this funk yet….

But I turned off the news for a couple of weeks and just tried to listen to funny podcasts. This seemed to help a little. And then, while driving around with my kids, I listened to a perfect pop song called “Shut Up And Dance” by Walk The Moon. And after it finished, I said, “I think we’re going to listen to that again.” And we did. And it was awesome. You should probably listen to it as well…. Here it is:

But my thoughts kept coming back to how next-to-freaking-impossible it is to have any effect whatsoever on another human being, even when the things you are saying and believing are as rational and true as anything you know in the world. It’s hard enough to change myself…. I don’t know why I would be so deluded as to think I can change others. Too many John Hughes movies, I suppose…. And I started saying the Serenity Prayer to myself….

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

There's no such thing as too many John Hughes movies.

There’s no such thing as too many John Hughes movies.

And a strange thing happened. I started to remember what serenity felt like. And I started to feel more courageous. And a little more wise. And I thought about how we don’t speak the truth to change people’s minds…. We speak the truth because it’s the truth. We don’t love our enemies because they’re going to magically become loving as well…. We love them because they are the image of God, and they are worth loving. And we don’t stop fighting the battle when it looks there’s no hope of winning…. We keep fighting because there are kids watching. And they are learning how to live. And they may someday be able to win the battles that we couldn’t.

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I’m A Christian, And I’m Voting NO On Tennessee’s Abortion Amendment.

Roe v. Wade was never about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of abortion…. It was always a case about privacy. A woman named Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe, for privacy) went to a doctor in Texas (a state where abortions were illegal, but allowed for in the case of rape or incest) and asked for an abortion claiming she had been raped. And you know what they said? “Prove it.” Well, the Supreme Court didn’t think she should have to prove it. They decided, in a 7-2 decision, that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to privacy, including a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. And that same Due Process Clause makes laws criminalizing abortions (in all cases other than life-saving procedures) without taking into consideration the stage of pregnancy and other interests (like rape or incest) unconstitutional as well.

Maybe if we stop yelling and start talking both of these can happen....

What if both of these could happen….

This decision came in 1973, and it forced many states that had strict laws governing when and if a woman could have an abortion to change their laws. Tennessee was one of those states. After Roe v. Wade, many anti-abortion activists attempted to pass regulations that would make getting abortions as difficult as possible (this is what is being attempted in Texas and other states right now, by regulating that clinics must be partnered with a hospital–knowing full well that for a hospital in Texas to “partner” with an abortion clinic would mean financial death for that hospital). In 1992, the Tennessee Supreme Court also found that these regulations to be unconstitutional, because “they decided the Tennessee constitution contains a fundamental right to privacy, which includes a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.”  The dissenting Justice said that the only way to change this would be an amendment to the State Constitution…. And that is what brings us to the Amendment 1 vote on the ballots this November. This NPR story explains the history behind this better than I ever could.

I realize there are all kinds of valid, moral arguments for why a person could be against abortions. A little while ago I wrote about the very difficult process of finding middle ground on this very divisive issue right HERE. The moral question of abortion is not simple…. Not on either side. If you think it is, you’re probably not paying close enough attention. But this Amendment is not the answer. Here is what the amendment says:

“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

This seems like a really good amendment....

This seems like a really good amendment….

So basically, this amendment takes the fundamental right to privacy that the Tennessee State Constitution guarantees (and always has guaranteed) its citizens, and then changes it to say “except for things that have to do with a woman’s right to privacy about abortion.” If this Constitutional Amendment passes, it will give legislators broad power to regulate abortions to make them very, very difficult for women to obtain. Now, to some, this might sound like terrific news… and I get that, but regulating mandatory waiting periods, regulating hospital partnerships (ones that don’t have a chance of happening), and taking away the privacy rights of the women of Tennessee is NOT the way to fight this fight. It puts a woman who has been raped in the position of being forced to PROVE she’s been raped, and that is just not right. If you think that ALL abortions should be illegal, even in the case of rape or incest, you should vote yes on 1. But most people don’t believe that…. And ironically, the people who are usually the most pro-privacy and anti-regulation seem to have changed their tune on this particular issue.

“The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control.” ~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Imagine a young woman goes to a clinic for an abortion, and then the doctor looks at her and says, “How did you get pregnant?” A perfectly legitimate response to that question would be, “That’s none of your damn business,” but let’s just say that her answer is, “I was raped.” And then she is told, “Show me the police report.” Well, maybe this young woman doesn’t want to press charges. Maybe she doesn’t want to relive the whole horrible ordeal in a courtroom. Maybe she can’t press charges because she doesn’t know who the man was. Maybe her uncle raped her, and she doesn’t want her family to know. Maybe she just wants to forget about it and try to move on with her life. How dare we force a woman in this situation to attempt to “prove she wasn’t asking for it.” People can be morally outraged by a throwaway culture that frivolously uses abortion as birth control without setting up a system that looks at a girl who has been raped and says, “Prove it.”

If, God forbid someday in the future, one of my daughters got pregnant as a result of rape, and then came to me and said, “Daddy, I’m going to keep this baby and love it with everything I have,” I would say, “Sweetie, I love you. I am proud of you. That is your decision.” If she came to me and said, “Daddy, I’m going to carry this baby, but I’m going to give it up for adoption,” I would say, “Sweetie, I love you. I am proud of you. That is your decision.” And if she came to me and said, “Daddy, I can’t do this. Every day part of the monster that did this to me grows inside me, and I keep reliving the most horrible thing that ever happened to me. I need to end this pregnancy,” here is what I can only hope I would say: “Sweetie, I love you. I am proud of you. That is your decision.” And you know what else? She might not come to me at all…. She might think it is none of my damn business. And that’s her decision too.

That's none of my business.

That’s none of my business.

So I’m against this amendment…. Not because I am “for” abortion, but because I am for the right to privacy. If a woman decides not to have an abortion after she is raped and impregnated, I think that’s lovely…. But I’m sure not going to try to force a woman to prove to anyone that she has been raped. Even forcing her to SAY that she’s been raped is a violation of her fundamental right to privacy. And that is a right that is guaranteed to us–men AND women–not only as Americans, and also as Tennesseans. I’m a Christian, I’m a father to two beautiful daughters and a beautiful son, and I’m voting NO on Tennessee’s Amendment 1. And I think you should too.

 

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