Finding Hope In The Midst of Mass Shootings

There is a disgusting little dance we do every time there is another mass shooting in America. Here is what it looks like:

  • News of yet another mass shooting comes out.
  • There are renewed calls for some kind of regulations that might help prevent such tragedies.
  • “Pro-Gun” folks accuse anyone speaking of changing laws or regulations as trying to “Politicize a tragedy.”
  • “Anti-Gun” folks start quoting statistics about gun violence. Like the fact that there have been at least 986 mass shootings in American since the Newtown massacre in December of 2012. Or that the Oregon shooting is the 45th school shooting already this year. Or that in America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are [shot dead] in the line of duty (27 in 2013).”
  • “Pro-Gun” people will say things like “More regulations are not the answer, because criminals don’t obey the laws anyway,”or things like “If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns,” and they will proclaim that the real problem is mental illness.
  • “Anti-Gun” people will say no one is trying to “outlaw all guns,” but maybe we could more strictly regulate the ones that make it really easy to kill a whole bunch of people at once. And they’ll admit the mental illness is part of the problem, but the fact that there are so many guns, and they are so easy to get, is a also a big problem.

    It doesn't make sense to me either.

    It doesn’t make sense to me either.

  • “Pro-Gun” people will say the problem is there aren’t ENOUGH guns…. That what we really need is MORE people with guns. So they can stop the bad guys.
  • Many on each side see the gulf between the two ideologies as too wide to even have something resembling a conversation, and they decide to not talk about it anymore.
  • Then, if the protests from the “Anti-Gun” side go on too long, the NRA says to its members, “Look, the liberals are trying to take away your guns!” and a ridiculous amount of them write angry letters and call their representatives to yell. And nothing changes. Every single thing stays the same…. Except that they might pass some legislation written by the NRA that makes it harder to keep track of gun violence.
  • More and more people sink into cynicism and despair about this whole disgusting dance. And they decide that there is nothing that can be done. And they lose hope.
  • Somewhere, in a very large house, a man lights a cigar with a $100 bill, and smiles….
We cling to the things that are most important to us.

We cling to the things that are most important to us.

I think that a part of my own soul died when nothing was done after the Newtown massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. After that, I was one of those people who thought, “What’s the point? Nothing’s going to ever change.” I admit that when thinking about writing this post, I thought, “What’s the point?” Like a lot of you, I figured if something like the murders of 20 first graders in an elementary school can’t inspire us to even take STEPS toward lowering gun violence, then what could? Most of the people currently making the laws in this country are in the pockets of the NRA, and the impasse between the two sides just seems too difficult to overcome. When a bunch of kids get shot, and one side has a starting place of “Less Guns!” and the other side has a starting place of “More Guns!” the chances of compromise seem pretty slim. And when there is very little hope, there is very little action. Please watch this speech by President Obama….

Our thoughts and prayers are NOT enough….

The past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about my first real job. And a ladder…. Before I moved to Nashville, I worked at a Camp. It was basically the coolest job ever. There were all kinds of groups that came out to Camp–Everything from schools councils, to church groups, to alternative learning classes, to corporate trainings, to professional athletic teams, to family reunions…. A whole lot of different kinds of groups. What I did there was called “Experiential Education.” We would basically have an experience as a group, we would talk about what happened, talk about what significance that experience had, and then talk about how we might be different as a result of the experience. There are all kinds of experiences that lend themselves to learning in groups, but one of the things I did was bring groups of people up onto a high ropes course.

Oh Ralphie.... When will you learn?

Oh Ralphie…. When will you learn?

The high ropes course was on the side of a hill, so the entrance to the course was a ladder that only went up about 15 feet…. But as you went out farther into the course, you ended up over 50 feet in the air. From the highest point in the course, you could take a zip line down to the ground. For a lot of people, the high ropes course caused a lot of stress. Turns out that the fear of heights is a very real thing for some people. People would take one look at those wires 50 feet above the ground attached to those oak trees, and they would say, “Not a chance in hell.” Those were my favorite sorts of people. And many of those “No-freaking-way” sorts of people would say it for a good reason, too. Many of them had multiple experiences with heights that made them CERTAIN that this course was going to be impossible for them to do. They would look at those wires, those trees, those heights, and they would think, “What’s the point? I’m just going to fail.” Their experiences had taught them to be sure that they couldn’t do it.

But here’s the thing: It wasn’t just one person out there looking at the high ropes course…. It was a group. And the cool thing about a group is that sometimes when you are certain something can’t be done, other people aren’t as sure. Instead of focusing on what CAN’T be done, we would ask the person what they thought they COULD do:

“Would you be comfortable putting on a harness and encouraging the rest of the group?”
“How about getting on belay…. Could you do that?”
“Would you be willing to challenge yourself to take one step up the ladder?”
“How about two steps?” 
“Do you think you might be able to touch the top rung of the ladder?

Some people saw the course and made a face similar to this.

Some people saw the course and made a face similar to this.

Sometimes people would make it up to the top of that 15 foot ladder, and they would come right back down. Sometimes they would make it to the top and figure out that they can do a lot more of the course than they thought they could do. Sometimes they would make it two rungs up the ladder, and I could see them shaking like a leaf on one of those giant oak trees. They would start sweating, they would hug the ladder like it was the only thing keeping them alive, and we would have to talk them down from three feet in the air. No matter the result, I can tell you that the celebrations we had at that ladder were way more meaningful than any of the celebrations for the people who looked at that high ropes course and thought, “I can totally do that,” and then did it. Because the real goal—the real growth–was not in making all the way through the course and jumping off the zip line…. The real growth happened when you started to question the things you thought you knew about yourself.

One rung at a time.

One rung at a time.

If you’re CERTAIN that something is impossible, it will be…. But that’s where the group comes in–That’s the value of us not being alone. When we’re focusing on what cant’s be done, the group steps in (the healthy group, at least) and asks “What CAN be done?” And uncertainty is the stuff of POSSIBILITY. Anything that can be done really easily is probably not worth doing. So when it seems like there is no hope of ever overcoming the enormous power and influence of the gun lobby, maybe just accept the challenge to put on your harness. When it seems like you are surrounded by ignorance and indifference, maybe just take one step up that ladder. And when it seems like the chasm between you and a person who is your ideological opposite is too great to even make an attempt at crossing, maybe start thinking, “If I can make it up two, maybe I can do three.” And before you know it, you’re at the top of the ladder, and you’re wondering what other things are possible…. 

We may not ever be able to stop the steady drumbeat of gun violence in this country…. At least maybe not in our lifetime. But if anything is ever going to happen, it’s going to take a bunch of people who at least believe it’s POSSIBLE to do something. So in the meantime, let’s try to be a healthy group. Let’s work on becoming the sort of group who isn’t sure what our limits are. And let’s focus on becoming the sort of people who encourage the ones who are certain it can’t be done. If there’s one thing we can learn from the NRA, it’s that our chances of making a difference are way better together than they are alone. Who knows what can be done….

But this is the truth: I’d rather be hopeful and wrong than cynical and right.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Kelsey. Not only was she one of the first people to support this blog (and me along with it) on my Patreon page, but she was one of the first campers I ever had the pleasure of watching let go of her fears. She has a thirst for adventure, and a fearlessness that inspires everyone around her. And she values what I am trying to do on this blog enough to support it. She is completely and totally kick ass. If you’re also interested in being a patron, you can check out the page RIGHT HERE. Thank you for reading!

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Too Much Stuff To Write About….

There is a whole lot of stuff happening in the world right now. Another mass shooting, a refugee crisis in Europe, “Church” “leaders” are rallying behind Donald Trump, the Pope is having private meetings with Kim Freaking Davis…. Our pets’ HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!!! These are all the sorts of things that are usually right up my ally….


You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve been away from blogging for a little while. These last few weeks have been a tumultuous time in my life…. Long story short, I no longer have a day job, and the next phase of my life is beginning. And this blog is going to continue being an important part of it. I can’t tell you how much I value all of the people who read my blog–the people who share it–the people who comment–the people who are involved in the conversations that take place on my Facebook Page…. You mean a whole lot to me.

I mean seriously.... What. The actual. HELL?!?

I mean seriously…. What. The actual. HELL?!?

I have been blogging here for a little over four years now. I never would have imagined the kind of response I have gotten to the things I write. During that time, I have never made any money with my blog. I have never run ads on my page or anything like that…. I think that I felt like this blog was a ministry for me, and I was worried that if you bring money into “ministry,” things might get cheapened. Or tainted. But that fear has broken off of me. And I have found a way for people who believe in what I’m doing, and want to support me doing it, to be able to do so. It is called Patreon. It’s really cool. It allows people to become patrons for artists and content-creators whom they value. Please this video below to see what it’s about. And then visit my Patreon Page. It’s funny.

I work at a restaurant. I rely on the generosity of strangers all the time. For the past nine years, I worked at a non-profit that relied on grants and donations foundations…. I’ve figured out that it is okay to ask people to support something that they believe in. If this blog is one of those things for you, I’m asking you to consider supporting it. I’m asking you to consider supporting ME. CLICK RIGHT HERE to see the page.

So there’s that…. I’l get back to writing about Jesus, Politics, & Bathroom Humor now.

Love you guys!

Posted in 4) All Of The Above, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mike Huckabee Should Be Ashamed Of Himself

His smile is saying,

His smile is saying, “This is totally going to get my face on the news.”

Some of you might have heard people saying things or seen people posting things about how Kim Davis was being unjustly jailed because the Supreme Court cannot make laws, and therefore–since no new law was made for her to break–she was not breaking a law and was being wrongly imprisoned. This idea was even given an air of credibility because former Governor and current presidential candidate Mike Huckabee echoed the same sentiment. And then, a bunch of people (who didn’t know any better, and instinctively trusted Mike Huckabee, a self-professed “man of God”) thought back to high school civics and government and thought, “I seem to remember something about how only the legislative branch of government can make laws–NOT the Supreme Court…. Yeah, that sounds about right! What’s that phrase everyone at Fox”News” is saying? Oh yeah…. Judicial Activism? JUDICIAL OVERREACH!!!!”

No! NO, Mike Huckabee.... NO!!!

No! NO, Mike Huckabee…. NO!!!

Well, I can forgive the public for not knowing any better, but one of two things is going on with Mike Huckabee…. Either 1) He honestly doesn’t know how our government works (which means he has absolutely NO BUSINESS running for President of the United States), or 2) He is intentionally spreading lies in an attempt to pander to a bunch of scared, angry, ignorant white people. And he spent 11 years as Governor of Arkansas, so I’d bet just about everything I have that it’s #2 (in more than one way). Believing a lie is one thing. Intentionally spreading lies–especially from a position of power–is something altogether different. And Mike Huckabee should be ashamed of himself. He is a bad dog, who made a mess on the carpet, and now he needs the American public to rub his nose in it, for the sake of all the other dogs who are watching.

Mildred & Richard Loving. Best last name ever for a court case like this:

Mildred & Richard Loving. Best last name ever for a court case like this: “Loving vs. Virginia”

Like most good lies, Mike Huckabee’s lie has a bit of truth to it. The SCOTUS does NOT, in fact, make laws. But what it DOES do is that when there is unclarity in a law (or in the highest law of the land–The Constitution), it makes decisions that help to clarify the laws. So, for example, there was a time not too long ago when some states had laws forbidding “whites” from marrying “colored” people. Virginia was one of those states (the Virginia law was called “The Racial Integrity Act of 1924”), and in 1959 Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were sentenced to a year in prison for marrying each other. Their sentence was suspended for 25 years on the condition that they would never return to Virginia. In 1964, the lovings sued the state of Virginia, and on July 12, 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Anti-Miscegenation laws (at the time, 16 states still had them–All of them in the South) were unconstitutional.

Something tells me this wasn't put out by the Huckabee Campaign...

Something tells me this wasn’t put out by the Huckabee Campaign…

When the Supreme Court did this, they did not make a new law…. They interpreted a law that was already on the books. You see, in 1868 the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. The 14th Amendment has some different parts. The first clause reaffirmed that people who were born here or naturalized had state and federal citizenship regardless of race. The second clause basically said states couldn’t abridge a citizen’s rights. The third clause guaranteed the “due process of law.” And the fourth clause said that no person could be denied “equal protection of the law,” and it is known as the “Equal Protection Clause.” In the case of “Loving vs. Virginia,” the SCOTUS ruled that Anti-Miscegenation laws violated both a person’s right to “due process” and “equal protection.” It didn’t make a new law…. It CLARIFIED an old one. In the opinion for the unanimous Court, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Here we see former Governor Huckabee showing the size of something... I can only assume it's his integrity.

Here we see former Governor Huckabee showing the size of something… I can only assume it’s his integrity.

This landmark decision was referred to multiple times by the SCOTUS when reaching their decision about the constitutionality of state laws forbidding same-sex marriage. The case was a bit different, because for the entirety of the United States’ existence, marriage had always been defined as being between a man and a woman…. But appeals to tradition are not legally valid–In other words, basically saying “But we’ve ALWAYS discriminated against the gays!” is not a good enough reason to keep on discriminating against them. But this has been what the Supreme Court–at its best–has always done: It has extended to discriminated groups the rights that are fundamental to them. The right to marry is considered a fundamental right. And just because your religion (or Kim Davis’ religion) doesn’t view the love and commitment of a gay couple as being legitimate, it doesn’t change their fundamental right to equal protection under the law. When democracy is used to withhold the rights of the minority, that’s EXACTLY when we need a Constitution. And a Supreme Court. And no, a County Clerk’s right to discriminate against a minority group–even if she claims to do so for religious reasons–is not a right that is protected by the Constitution.  People used their “religious beliefs” as the reasoning for wanting “Racial Integrity.” And they still do….

I thought about putting a picture of Rosa Parks or MLK here, but instead I'll just post this pic of Mike playing base with Ted Nugent. AKA,

I thought about putting a picture of Rosa Parks or MLK here, but instead I’ll just post this pic of Mike playing base with Ted Nugent. AKA, “The Nuge.” Because freedom.

So then, when Kim Davis–acting as an agent of the state–refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she was breaking a law that was just recently clarified…. Namely, that the Equal Protection Clause applies to gay folks as well. So Kim Davis is no “Freedom Fighter.” She is no Rosa Parks, and she is certainly no Martin Luther King, Jr. If she is any historical figure, she is the stubborn, bigoted person who sentenced Mildred and Richard Loving to prison for wanting to get married. And you know why we don’t know that person’s name? Because that person was on the wrong side of history. At worst that person is hatefully ignorant, and at best that person is a sad, misguided soul. And I believe that is who Kim Davis is: A sad, misguided soul. It’s no excuse, but she honestly probably doesn’t know any better.

I'm not kidding: Dangerous.

I’m not kidding: Dangerous.

But you know who DOES know better? Mike Frigging Huckabee. He is riding the wave of white anger and fear, and he is not only pandering to those angry, fearful people, but he is doing it by spreading information about the Supreme Court that he KNOWS is false. Mike Huckabee knows how the Supreme Court works, but he has people all worked up and afraid that the Supreme Court is going to put them in jail for their religious beliefs. He is a liar, and a charlatan. He is using the whole “I’m a Christian Candidate” thing to try to attain a position of power within a government whose fundamental principles he genuinely seems to hate. His words and actions these last few years have been despicable. He is a theocrat of the worst kind–One that is dishonest. I didn’t think this was possible, but I think he might be a more dangerous candidate than Donald Trump. I would vote for a Donald Trump/Sean Hannity ticket before I’d vote for Mike Huckabee for president, and that it SAYING A LOT.

Man! Mike Huckabee got me all worked up…. Now, I honestly hope this is the last time I write about this garbage. There is some important stuff to talk about right now regarding the Church’s response to Immigrants and Refugees, as well as a Christianity’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Maybe I can even find some time for some Bathroom Humor. If you see someone posting something about the Supreme Court not being able to make laws, about “Judicial Overreach,” or about fear of the SCOTUS making it illegal to be a Christian, feel free to leave this post as a comment on Facebook. Or as a reply on Twitter. Thank again for reading!

Posted in 2) Politics, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Fun With People Who Think I’m Going To Hell

Well, a few days ago I wrote a post about this whole Kim Davis fiasco, and I learned a few things. Here’s the main one: There are a lot of crazy people out there. And this Kim Davis issue is like a perfect storm to pull the crazies out of the woodwork–It combines all the controversy of same-sex marriage, all the fear of Biblical Literalists who are watching the world rapidly change around them, and all the anger over a perceived Christian persecution.  And the anonymity the internet provides only seems to amplify the crazy.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.52.49 AMI don’t want to submit you to the near torture of having to plow through the almost 400 comments on my PREVIOUS POST, so I’ve taken some pictures of some of my favorites. There were many folks who seemed very interested in telling me I’m not a “real Christian.”
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.59.32 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.57.25 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.25.21 AMSome folks seemed to place the blame of my errant theology on my pastor, though SOMETHING TELLS ME this isn’t going to be the thing that causes my pastor to resign….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.55.22 AMSome folks were angrier than other…. Like “Will Be Done,” for example. (Note to self: Build a time machine, go back to the late 1980’s, then start a career as a Christian rapper named “Will B. Done”)
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 10.00.18 AMAs my wife pointed out, “Will Be Done” was indeed correct…. I am NOT, in fact, a “godly woman.” It seemed like most of the folks who wanted me to “read the Bible” were more than a little interested in making sure that I was reading the King James Version….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.52.03 AMI tried to reply to some of the comments. Many times I kept thing very “matter-of-fact.”
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.13.59 AMBut this just seemed to make people even angrier….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.39.16 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.22.49 AMI tried to keep my replies kind….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.45.10 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.54.19 AM
But I am only human, and my inner Snark inevitably starts to rear its ugly head….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.57.59 AMI *tried* to be as helpful as possible, but sometimes the snark has a mind of its  own….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.16.50 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.17.33 AM
Some people did not appreciate my particular brand of snark….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 11.07.44 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 11.08.23 AMBut that didn’t keep me from trying to have some fun….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.44.36 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.34.56 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.46.18 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.15.50 AMYeah. In the interest of comedy, I can tend to skew a bit immature. Sue me. Anyway, another thing that I’ve learned through all of this is that there seems to be a positive correlation between belligerent fundamentalists and the inability to know the difference between “YOUR” and “YOU’RE.”
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.18.54 AMAnd it seems I’m not the only person to notice this fact. I did have a few sane visitors stop by and leave some comments as well….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.51.31 AMSometimes their comments were way funnier than mine….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.47.08 AMIf you’re not careful, you can let a comments section overwhelm you and injure your faith in humanity….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.41.52 AMBut we have to remember that this is not an accurate sampling of the sanity of humanity. These are the crazy people…. Most of the sane ones know to stay away from this kind of garbage.
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.20.56 AMStill, seeing glimpses of reason in a sea of craziness feels pretty good sometimes….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.56.29 AMSo I don’t mind it. Even when the comments seem overwhelmingly insane, it still means that there are some people out there who are reading my stuff who really need to read it. Maybe a little bit might even sink in….
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.36.15 AM10yvf8m

Posted in 1) Jesus, 3) Bathroom Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Four Reasons–From A Christian Perspective–Why Kim Davis Is 100% Wrong

“Please…. Your freedom of the press is against my freedom of religion.”

By now, you have probably heard about a County Clerk in a little corner of Kentucky called Rowan County, who has been refusing to issue marriage licences ever since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Her name is Kim Davis. In a statement about her refusal, she writes, “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision.” She goes on to declare that she will not be stepping down…. “I was elected by the people to serve as the County Clerk. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.” HERE IS WHY SHE IS EMPIRICALLY, COMPLETELY, OBJECTIVELY, AND, IN ALL OTHER WAYS, 100% WRONG.

  1. This is the face Kim Davis makes when people use their fancy

    This is the face Kim Davis makes when people use their fancy “logic.”

    LOGIC–Imagine you worked at a restaurant, and you believed that God thought drinking alcohol was a sin. Now imagine that the restaurant’s owners decided to start selling alcohol…. As an employee, you are NOT being forced to drink alcohol in violation of your religious liberty. And if you decide that having a job where you sell alcohol to others goes against your moral code, you are free to find another job, right? What you DON’T do is you don’t go into work and refuse to sell people alcohol–claiming “religious freedom”–and expect to keep your job. The same is true if your job is issuing people marriage licenses….

  2. He really does....

    He really does….

    HYPOCRISY–Refusing to issue a marriage license to a couple because you believe the Bible condemns their union is a difficult position for a County Clerk to take without turning into a giant hypocrite. The Bible actually says nothing whatsoever about same-sex marriage. It does say quite a bit about the issue of divorce. It seems to say that if a person gets a divorce for a reason other than infidelity and then remarries, that person is guilty of adultery (that’s one of the big 10!). I wonder how many divorced people Kim Davis has issued marriage licenses to…. Of  course, the Bible has some really interesting things to say to the Church about obeying the rules of their government. But then again, the Bible also says that women shouldn’t be in positions of authority. Yikes!

  3. Rowan County

    Rowan County “Christians” should know better….

    CONFUSION–Kim Davis and her supporters are arguing that forcing her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples amounts to “Religious Persecution.” These people could not be more confused. It is not religious persecution to tell a person she is not allowed to persecute whole groups of people just because she (mistakenly or otherwise) believes that her religion calls for that persecution. This is the same mentality of the people who are opposing anti-bullying legislation on the grounds that they believe they should be allowed to bully gay kids as a part of the Christian expression of their beliefs. Just because you belong to some freaky “religion” that views forced sex with strangers as an act of worship, it doesn’t give you the right to go around raping people.

  4. I'm usually a pretty compassionate guy, but I'm sorry: Boo-Freaking-Hoo. Do your job.

    I’m usually a pretty compassionate guy, but I’m sorry: Boo-Freaking-Hoo. Do your job.

    INTEGRITY–I once heard Rob Bell say, “Christian is a fantastic noun, and a terrible adjective.” And while that is true, this should still be said: Staying on in a position for which you are refusing to perform the duties you were hired to perform–all while continuing to take a salary–is far from a “Christian” thing to do. It doesn’t matter is you were hired or elected, you agreed to take a position and perform the duties of that position. If–through a change in your own conscience, or a change in the laws of the country–you find yourself unable, in good conscience, to perform the duties your job entails, you DON’T keep taking money while refusing to work. You step down. Let’s say you accepted a position as One Direction’s publicist…. Then God changes your heart to see that their music is just awful and you decide you can’t (in good conscience) talk them up anymore, YOU DON’T refuse to step down but insist on still getting paid for a job you won’t do. That’s not “Christian.” That’s extortion. Do your job.

Some of the things I wrote here are ideas that I worked out on The Boeskool’s Facebook Page. If you haven’t “LIKED” my page yet, you probably should. It’s fun. CLICK HERE! Also, if you want to follow this blog, you can do that just to the right of the title. Or, you can follow me on Twitter RIGHT HERE!!

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 416 Comments

“The Test For An Unfaithful Wife,” or “How To Perform A Biblical Abortion.”

I couldn’t really decide on a title, so you can pick whichever one you find less offensive. Or whichever one you find more offensive. I really don’t care…. Whichever one actually gets you to read this.

Biblical Literalism taken to its comical extreme.

Biblical Literalism taken to its comical extreme.

There are a whole lot of people out there who believe that the Bible was meant to be read more like an accounting ledger than a book of poetry. They firmly believe in the idea of Biblical Literalism & Inerrancy–Interestingly enough, two claims which the Bible does not make about itself anywhere in the text. So when people embrace this concept of strict Biblical inerrancy, if a verse says, “God told the Israelites to ______,” then they believe that God LITERALLY TOLD the Israelites to ______, and that we are to read the text with that understanding. So if the text reads that the Lord said to “go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys (I Samuel 15:3 NIV),” then God actually said that. God told them to kill all the women, children, and babies. God told them to do that. God did. God.

These are the sorts of folks who quote Bible verses about God’s command to kill gay people….

“If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.”
(Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

…. But mysteriously say very little about God’s command to kill disobedient children….

“Suppose a man has a stubborn, rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother, even though they discipline him. In such cases, the father and mother must take the son before the leaders of the town. They must declare: ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious and refuses to obey. He is a worthless drunkard.’ Then all the men of the town must stone him to death. In this way, you will cleanse this evil from among you, and all Israel will hear about it and be afraid.”
(Deuteronomy 21:18-21 NLT)

“Please don’t make me read Bible verses…”

Now listen, I know when the Bible verses start coming out, people’s eyes glaze over. So here’s the deal: I’m going to put a big quote here in just a little bit…. But don’t freak out. If you don’t feel like reading it, you can just skip past it, and I’m going to write a short summary of what is said. And then, after you skip the text and read my short summary, you will probably think to yourself, “NO FREAKING WAY IT SAYS THAT,” and you will go back and read the text, scratching your head in disbelief that this stuff is actually in the Bible. So anyway, here it is–The “Test for an Unfaithful Wife.” Behold, Numbers 5:11-31….

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

“ ‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

“’The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

“‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’ ”

“I hate to tell you this, but I’m going to need you to take a big drink of ‘the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering.’ It’s actually tastes a bit like lemon Gatorade….”

So, for those of you who skipped ahead, here is what that just said–If you suspect your woman has been unfaithful (but have no proof), you can bring your woman before the priest, he will concoct a bitter drink (made of holy water, tabernacle dust, and washed-off curses that were written on a scroll) that he forces your woman to drink. Here’s how it works: If the woman has been faithful, she will be able to have the child and be “cleared of guilt.” But if she is a cheating tramp, the Lord will cause her abdomen to swell, and she will miscarry the baby and have what doctors refer to as a “Spontaneous Abortion.” One more time, just to sum up a little bit more, the Bible says that God will abort the babies of wives who have been unfaithful.

I used to think that the Bible said nothing about abortion, but it turns out it does. It says that if you are feeling jealous of your wife, you can force her to drink an abortion-causing holy elixir that will cause her baby to die as a consequence for her infidelity. So when these Bible-thumping politicians use the Bible as the reason they are against abortions–even in the cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in danger–they must not actually be reading their Bible. There are plenty of Biblical examples of God being into killing babies. He said in Hosea that the Samarian kids will be “dashed to death against the ground, their pregnant women ripped open by swords.” The Psalmist writes, “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” Anyway, science has shown that somewhere between 30-50% of all conceptions end in miscarriage…. If God is in control of everything, that’s a whole lot of abortions he is responsible for.

The Naked Pastor dropping truth bombs.... Like he does.

The Naked Pastor dropping truth bombs…. Like he does.

Listen, I’m not trying to be blasphemous here. I obviously don’t think that God is into killing babies. Just like God didn’t tell the Israelites to commit genocide against the Amalekites. Just like God didn’t give Moses a Salem-Witch-Trial-Esque, “If she drowns, she’s innocent/If she floats, she’s a witch” sort-of method of figuring out which women cheated on their husbands. The point is this: You can have Biblical Literalism & Inerrancy, or you can have the belief that God is against abortion in all cases, but you can’t have both. The text clearly portrays God as being the driving force behind abortions for unfaithful wives (Let’s also not forget that Leviticus 20:10 commands adulterers to be but to death). If you’re reading your Bible in a literal way–One that has a 6000 year old planet, an Ark that fit two of every animal in it, and a God that commands his people to commit genocide–you need a new way to read your Bible. And if you find yourself in a church community that reads the Bible this way, you need to find a new church community. This brand of fundamentalism is not only intellectually inconsistent, it is downright dangerous.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

“Boys Will Be Boys,” and Other Bullshit

Maybe you'll call me Chris.... Now? #Smolder

Maybe you’ll call me Chris…. Now? #Smolder

When I was growing up, all the girls called me “Chris,” but all the guys called me “Bosko” (My last name distilled down to its base ingredients). Then came college, and as I met all those new people, some of the girls I met started calling me “Bosko” as well…. Apparently, they didn’t know the rule. So I would inform them–“You can call me Chris.” But some were persistent with calling by my shortened last name…. Defiant even. You see, in my head, every female I encountered was a possible romantic encounter, and a hook-up seemed less likely with a girl who was calling me “Bosko.” You know what? (and I am not at all proud of this) It wasn’t just in my head–I would say it out loud. I would actually explain to a girl I had just met that the reason she was supposed to call me “Chris” was so that it wouldn’t be awkward if we ended up dating later. And most of them would not even say anything (to my face, at least) about how much of an ass I was being. Some girls–the stronger ones–would be like, “I think I’ll stick with just calling you ‘Bosko.'”

Yes, sometimes I wear a shirt and tie to bed.... Kindly get me a sandwich.

Yes, sometimes I wear a shirt and tie to bed…. Kindly get me a sandwich.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes people use lack of eye-contact as a defense mechanism? It happens in a lot of situations. Maybe you’ve tried to get a bartender’s attention before, and you might’ve noticed how they seem to be intentionally not looking at you while they are doing other things (you’d be right, by the way–it IS intentional). Most of us have done it ourselves. Like me, you’ve probably walked through a mall before–just trying to find The Apple Store… Alright, fine, it was Hot Topic… and you can just FEEL a person at one of those kiosks trying to make eye contact with you so they can say “May I talk to you for a moment?” and then squirt some freaking lotion in your hand, try to sell you some $.50 hair thing for $10, or peddle their crappy cell phone cases. If you have ever been lassoed into one of these awkward kiosk conversations before, chances are good you probably know what it’s like to try very hard to avoid eye-contact with someone as a way of protecting yourself. It’s annoying as hell trying to navigate your way through the mall without catching the eye of one of those kiosk people every 15 feet….

Now imagine having that same sort of annoyance every time you step outside of your home.

Just in case you're a guy who doesn't notice the writing, it says,

Just in case you’re a guy who doesn’t notice the writing, it says, “STILL NOT ASKING FOR IT.”

The other day a girl was walking toward me–I say “girl” because she seemed about college-aged, but I guess “young woman?” Anyway, I was being my normal, smiley self–I’m usually a pretty friendly dude when I’m out in public. When I’m walking around, I’ll generally smile at people, look them in the eye, maybe say “Hello” or “How’s it going?” But this day (as sometimes happens) I could feel this girl going out of her way to NOT make eye-contact with me. And for the past couple days, I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon–Girls avoiding eye-contact with guys they don’t know with the same fervency that I avoid eye-contact with a kiosk workers. Imagine walking around feeling like every guy you saw was going to possibly try to hard-sell you a cheap watch if you looked him in the eye.

Now, I’m not sure it this is happening everywhere, or if I’m just looking creepier and creepier these days (doesn’t have to be an either/or situation–very possibly both), but this is something really disturbing that I honestly haven’t spent too much time thinking about before now. When this young woman avoided my eyes–like some busy bartender–part of me felt a little offended. I wanted to assure her that I wasn’t a threat to her. I’ve felt a lot LESS threatening since I’ve been married (In a “Good news, ladies! I don’t care if you call me ‘Bosko’ anymore” sort of way–Groan). I wanted to show her my wedding ring… or remind her that I’m old enough to be her dad… or say something that conveyed, “Don’t worry–I’m not trying to have sex with you,” but not in those exact words. Unfortunately, “Married” or “Old enough to be her dad” does NOT necessarily equal “Not trying to have sex with you.”

Banners at Old Dominion.... Translation:

Banners at Old Dominion…. Translation: “Ladies–Your purpose is strictly sexual in nature.”

So why am I writing this? I guess I’m just coming to more of a realization of how lame it can be for women to be around all these men. I don’t consider myself particularly pig-headed when compared to other guys, but there was a significant time in my life where I actually tried to make women address me in a way that kept open the possibility that we might one day hook up. I wonder how many other guys are walking around, not looking at women as fellow human beings–with ideas and goals and lives of their own that are worthy of respect–but instead diminishing them to just another possible sexual partner. And I wonder how many young women, after years and years of encountering males who look at them in this way, feel like it’s just easier to keep their heads down.

She should smile more.

She should smile more…

Because a lot of the time, making eye-contact with a man leaves a woman in a no-win situation. Once eye-contact is made, the woman has to decide whether she is going to smile and be friendly (which is interpreted as “She’s totally into me and giving me permission to talk to her”) or whether she is going to keep an uninterested stone-face (which is interpreted as “She’s a snob who thinks she’s better than me. What a bitch!”). We already make women try to walk this impossibly narrow, sometimes imaginary line between Professional & Playful, Youthful & Experienced, Sexy & Slutty…. They’re supposed to be athletic but not too muscular, attractive but not out of reach, assertive but not “bossy,” ethnic but not TOO ethnic, skinny but not TOO skinny, successful but not so much that she doesn’t NEED me, and on and on…. Add to all this some stranger looking at you, and being faced with the choice of coming off as being “into him” or being a bitch. Given all that, it makes perfect sense to keep your eyes down and avoid the whole situation. It’s part of the reason celebrities wear dark sunglasses….

Rape Culture is a real thing. And it doesn't get solved by teaching our girls how to not get raped--It starts with teaching our sons to not objectify our daughters.

Rape Culture is a real thing. And it doesn’t get solved by teaching our girls how to not get raped–It starts with teaching our sons to not objectify our daughters.

And I know this isn’t a problem that all women face… Not to the same degree, at least. Some women are okay being like, “Yeah, I could give exactly zero shits whether you think I’m a bitch or not. Deal with it.” Some enjoy the confidence it takes to walk up, tell a girl she’s beautiful, and ask her out. None of this stuff is simple–I can tell you this was a hard thing to navigate as a single guy. And I’m not trying to turn men into overly-sensitive, tentative little waifs who never take risks…. But there are many girls out there who are shell-shocked by the constant barrage of men in the world who are looking at them like a kiosk worker looks at a lady with a credit card. I have two beautiful daughters, but their beauty has WAY more to do with WHO THEY ARE than it has to do with their looks. I’d rather not have my girls walking around in a world that teaches them it’s easier to keep their eyes on the ground than it is to risk guys like me in college (and beyond) reminding them at every moment that their worth is tied up in how attractive and desirable their bodies are judged to be. Maybe it’s time men started keeping their own eyes down.

Or E--A glass of wine with Bill Cosby.

Or E… A glass of wine with Bill Cosby.

Because really, this isn’t a female problem–It’s a human problem. For most of human history, if boys are focusing too much on a girl’s body, we have been telling girls they need to change their clothes. We use bullshit phrases like “Boys will be boys,” and we ask bullshit questions like “What was she wearing?” We tell all these cultural fables about masculinity that are a stone’s throw from the stories they tell in some cultures that end up forcing women to wear burkas.  And this is not political correctness run amok–It is simply treating people with respect, regardless of whether they have a penis or a vagina. We are sexual creatures, but we don’t have to lead with that. It’s okay to be attracted to someone…. It’s not okay to interact in a way that sexualizes an entire gender. Our sexuality is a part of us, but it is not the most important part. We need to do a better job of teaching our boys that they are not controlled by their desires.

So here are some things we should be teaching our daughters to insist on, and teaching our sons to live out. Guys, please remember….

“The world is full of ‘guys.” Be a man. Don’t be a guy.”

  • Making eye-contact with someone does NOT give you permission to start talking to that person. Learn to pick up on social cues.
  • Sexist jokes are NOT more socially acceptable than racist jokes.
  • Women don’t owe you anything. Nothing.
  • Virginity is NOT “taken” by guys and “given” by girls. It is a mutual decision.
  • Women have every bit as much of a right to be “Just looking for fun” in a relationship as men do. And they can do this without being shamed in any way.
  • Women are under NO OBLIGATION to be bubbly and effervescent when you are near. Women, just like men, don’t need to explain why they are not smiling.
  • The fact that you think a woman is beautiful does NOT entitle you to tell her such.
  • T.V. shows that link sex and violence are societal poison. They are gross. Don’t watch them.
  • Boys are every bit as capable (or incapable) of controlling their desires as girls are.
  • If you are looking at women the same way you look at a steak dinner, you are a creepy, creepy dude. And everybody knows it.
  • Respect SHOULD be sexier than confidence. Any girl who doesn’t believe this is probably not worth being in a relationship with. The world already has plenty of confident ass holes.
  • Misogyny, Patriarchy, and Gender Inequality are real things…. Understand that, and act like it.
Got this from Buzzfeed. My daughters are going to know that don't owe anyone a smile.

Got this from Buzzfeed. My daughters are going to know that they don’t owe anyone a smile.

So there you have it…. I probably missed a lot, and I probably got a lot of stuff wrong, but that’s my take on it right now. If you have some more good things for guys to remember, please write them in the comments.

Posted in 3) Bathroom Humor, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Being A Progressive Christian, and Other Things That’ll Get You Sent Straight To Hell….

“When we were children, we thought and reasoned as children do. But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways.”
~ Paul, from his letter to the Church in Corinth (CEV)

“I have much more to say to you, but right now it would be more than you could understand.”
~ Jesus, from The Gospel of John (CEV) 

Ironically, we use Farmer's Insurance.... Even though farmers are usually less progressive. Okay, that confused me.

Ironically, we use Farmer’s Insurance…. Even though farmers are usually less progressive. Okay, that confused me.

I am a progressive Christian. That’s what I am. I haven’t always been aware that there was a word for what I am, but I’m pretty sure that’s the word–“Progressive.” And if you are a Christian who can stomach any of the stuff I write (without feeling compelled to burst into fervent prayer for my hell-bound soul), chances are good you’re at least a little bit progressive as well. Now, I should start by pointing out that there is a difference between being theologically progressive and politically progressive. A person can be theologically progressive and very conservative politically… or vice versa. I tend to skew a little bit politically progressive as well, but one does not necessitate the other. For the sake of what I’m trying to talk about today, let’s only talk about being progressive in the theological sense…. But all this begs the question, “What does it mean to be progressive?”

The dictionary gives these two main definitions:

1. happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.
“a progressive decline in popularity” synonyms: continuing, continuous, increasing, growing, developing, ongoing, accelerating, escalating;
2. (of a group, person, or idea) favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.
“a relatively progressive governor”

Cookie's too big for the glass of milk? Thanks

Cookie’s too big for the glass of milk? Thanks “Obama.”

Wikipedia defines Progressive Christianity as “a form of Christianity which is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the Earth.” Which (to me, at least) sounds awesome…. but there are a lot of people out there who are very threatened when people start talking about “Progressive Christianity.” To those folks, suggesting that we might not have all the answers right now–or worse, that some of the answers we’ve had in the past don’t really work anymore–is a very scary proposal. There are many religious communities who might use air quotes when they say the word “progressive.” Or, they might put some stank it when they utter that word, and say it like they might say the word “Universalist.” Or “Muslim.” Or “Pedophile.” Or “Obama.”

The thing about clinched fists is that they hurt people a lot easier.

The thing about clinched fists is that they hurt people a lot easier.

There is no hard, fast definition for what makes a Progressive Christian, but here is how I would describe it for myself: I believe that God is STILL SPEAKING to us…. That everything didn’t get magically settled when the canon was closed. I believe that there is much more power and life in asking the right QUESTIONS than there is in having the right answers. I feel way more comfortable in communities that focus less on our differences and more on our UNITY in Christ (and I know that really “churchy,” but bear with me). I believe that the Church, just like the message of Jesus, is meant to be INCLUSIVE instead of exclusive. I believe that it’s important to acknowledge that I think differently than I did ten years ago, and chances are good that I’ll think differently ten years from now…. And that acknowledgment should birth HUMILITY in us. There is an OPEN-HANDEDNESS to Progressive Christianity that might look to some like lack of faith, but I think it’s really more a matter of INTELLECTUAL HONESTY. Progressive Christians are comfortable using words like Evolving, Expanding, Growing, and UNFOLDING. And as a help to you, I have created this handy, dandy visual aid:

I swear it was in focus when my daughter filmed it on my phone, but something got lost in the translation…. Anyway, you get the idea: You can look at that first little square and say, “This is the truth,” and be right, but as you go along, the truth unfolds… And it expands… And it gets bigger… And at some point, you might look back at that first little square–before things started unfolding–and see it as such a small piece of the truth that you can’t remember how you ever saw it as the whole truth.

Let me give you another picture of this: Let’s say a mother says to her son, “Don’t touch that stove!” Then fast-forward 15 years, and maybe that same mother says to that same son, now older, “Would you please go to the stove and make me some tea?” Did the parent ever lie to the child? Of course not–It was always the truth, but she was just speaking to him some where he was at. The stove stayed the same…. The mother was always truthful and loving…. But as the son changed and matured, the mother’s directions evolved to match the expanding consciousness of the son.

Some might portray “Progressive Christianity” in opposition to “Traditional Christianity,” but I’d argue that traditional Christianity has ALWAYS been progressive. People say things like, “God never changes, and neither does the ‘Word of God!’ What about the BIBLE?!?” Well, I’m glad you asked….

First of all, the "Word of God" was never a book. It was always Jesus. Always has been, always will be.

First of all, the “Word of God” was never a book. It was always Jesus. Always has been, always will be.

When you read about people in the Bible referring to “scripture,” they weren’t talking about the same book you find next to your hotel bed. Their “scripture” was a collection of stories and books and poems–some which made it into our Bible, and some which didn’t. And one thing that their scriptures were VERY clear about was dietary laws. In an attempt to stay “clean,” the people of that time had specific rules about what they could eat and who they could touch. This is one of the reasons the religious leaders got so upset about Jesus hanging out with “sinners.” The scripture was clear–There was some stuff that was unclean, and if you touched it or ate it, YOU became unclean. And (they thought, at least) if you were unclean, God couldn’t be close to you. But in Jesus, we are told that we have the best picture of what God is like…. And there was God, eating with the people who everyone referred to as “unclean.”

Thank God for Acts 11.

Thank God for Acts 11.

Anyway, fast-forward again to the story in Acts 11 where Peter (the one whom Jesus told he was going to build his Church upon) fell asleep and had a vision of a sheet filled with unclean food. In the dream, God said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” And Peter says, “No way. Not me. I’m a good Jew–I’ve never eaten anything that’s unclean.” But God says to him, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” And of course, this was hard for him to hear. Because the conservative in him said “God never changes.” But here’s the thing: They didn’t go back to the scriptures and figure out they were reading things wrong–It was Peter’s experience that God changed his tune on the kosher laws. So maybe God DOESN’T change–Who knows? But what we DO know is we have all kinds of examples–in scripture and beyond–of God revealing and unfolding more and more truth about himself as we are more and more ready to hear it. A progressive truth.

To simplify, Progressive = Change Good. Conservative = CHANGE BAD!!!

To simplify, Progressive = Change Good. Conservative = CHANGE BAD!!!

Add to this the fact that Jesus, in the book of John, says, “I’ve got so much more I want to tell you about, but you can’t even handle it right now.” and I don’t know how you could see the story as anything other than progressive. This has ALWAYS been the story. It’s the story of humanity waking up–little by little–to the reality of how much God loves us. It’s the story of the gradual letting go of shame. It’s the story of the discovery that we don’t have to earn God’s love…. But as we realize that we have always been the beloved of God, we discover the appropriate response is to love the people around us (and ourselves). It’s the story of an expanding and progressing idea of who my neighbor is…. The story of an expanding and progressing understanding of inclusion–of who gets invited to the party. The story of the Bible has always been a story of a progressive movement–From a people who thought that their worth was wrapped up in how “clean” they could keep themselves…. All the way to a God who says to us “Don’t you dare call something unclean that I have called clean.” And you know what? He’s still saying this to us today.

Last thing: If you are in the Nashville/Franklin area of Tennessee, you’re looking for a Church home, and you feel like a progressive Church might be a good fit–You should come visit GracePointe Church in Franklin. I can’t say enough good stuff about it.

Posted in 1) Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Josh Duggar, and When It’s Okay To Shame People

Ashley Madison's original motto, was "Life is short. Affair hard." But some folks at Reebok wasn't having it.

Ashley Madison’s original motto, was “Life is short. Affair hard.” But Reebok wasn’t having it.

It’s all over my Facebook feed, and it’s already trending on Twitter…. Josh Duggar is one of the first names to come out of the Ashley Madison hack that stole personal information–over 10 gigabytes worth–from about 33 million users. For those of you who don’t know, Ashley Madison (whose motto is “Life is short. Have an affair.”) is kind of like a dating website, but it’s for people who are married and want to cheat on their spouse–People who pay money to have the website set them up with other people who want to cheat. By just about any sensible standard, this site is really, REALLY disgusting, right? Well, a group calling themselves “Impact Team” thought so too, so they hacked into Ashley Madison’s records, and threatened to post the personal information of all the people who have used their services if they didn’t take down the site…. A threat they made good on yesterday, when they posted the names, email addresses, home addresses, and last four digits of the credit cards of all Ashley Madison users. And now everyone is freaking out, because apparently it turns out Josh Duggar had two accounts.

Chris Hansen probably wasn't invited to too many dinner parties there for a while.... That's the LAST face you want to see when you walk into someone's home.

Chris Hansen probably wasn’t invited to too many dinner parties there for a while…. That’s the LAST face you want to see when you walk into someone’s home.

I’ve been thinking about this for a bit now. I’m not sure if this show is still on or not, but about eight or nine years ago, I used to like watching a show called “Cheaters.” In the show, people who suspected unfaithfulness in their relationship would hire a “Cheaters” private investigator to find out if their significant other was cheating (spoiler alert: If they made it on the show, their partner WAS cheating), they would film the person being told, and then they would film that person confronting the cheater. As you can imagine, it was high drama. Around the same time, the “To Catch A Predator” shows were on NBC, where they would set up stings for people attempting to meet up with underage kids. The people would walk into a house expecting to have some sort of sexual encounter, they would be confronted by Chris Hansen, and then they would be arrested. And people like me tuned in by the millions to watch along at home.

Seeing someone "get what's coming to them" is not enjoyable.... Maybe that's why she's wearing the blindfold.

Seeing someone “get what’s coming to them” is not enjoyable…. Maybe that’s why she’s wearing the blindfold.

I used to enjoy watching these shows because it used to make me feel good to watch people “Getting what they had coming to them.” I think I liked the idea of Justice–These people chose their path, and now they were “getting what they deserve.” And if I was able to watch that person receive their Karmic Wedgie, all the better…. Then something changed. I started getting grossed out while watching those shows–Not so much at the acts of the people who were getting “exposed,” but more at my own voyeuristic enjoyment of their humiliation. I started seeing them as people–People whose brokenness was being put on display. And what kind of human being enjoys watching another person being destroyed? Wanting to see someone’s life come crashing down all around them says a lot more about the state of my soul than it does about the state of theirs.

So now people are putting Josh Duggar’s brokenness on display as well (for the second time in about 6 months). And though the story may seem even tastier because of the hypocrisy involved with him working for the Family Research Council (an anti-gay, “family-values” political organization) while he was looking for an affair, he is still a person. I don’t believe his hypocrisy makes him “fair game” for name-calling and tearing down. We can expose hypocrisy without demonizing and destroying the person who is being exposed as a hypocrite. I have been a hypocrite many times in my life. I have known people who have had affairs. They are not all awful people…. They are mostly hurting, broken people. But it’s a lot easier to celebrate the downfall of this guy…


…. than it is to celebrate the downfall of THIS guy:


For me it is, at least…. The second picture reminds me that it’s not only Josh Duggar who is affected by all this. There are other people involved. His wife is involved. The kids in this picture don’t know about human frailty, brokenness, and hypocrisy–They don’t know about how those things can bring so many marriages to an end…. They just love their dad. The news of Josh Duggar’s infidelity is NOT something to be celebrated.

Something tells me Romney didn't okay the use of his image in this advertisement.

Something tells me Romney didn’t okay the use of his image in this advertisement.

And you should probably also remember this number: 33 MILLION!! 33 million users is a whole lot of people…. Chances are, many of us know other people who are on that list. It is being reported that about 10,000 of the names on that list could be government officials. Imagine your dad or your mom being on that list, because–again–chances are very good that for some of my readers, this will be a reality. I don’t know Josh. I don’t know his wife. But if it came out that one of my friends was on that list, I certainly wouldn’t be posting articles celebrating his hypocrisy. I’d be trying to help him. I would see if there was some way that I could help her. You know why? Because I love my friends…. and that’s what people do for the people in their lives who they love. “Mercy triumphs over judgment,” even when you feel like the judgment is well-deserved.

Joining in on the evisceration of someone whose brokenness is being put on display is completely antithetical to the way of Jesus Christ. And I don’t want to get all “Jesus Jukey” on you here, but if you call yourself a Christian, you have no business piling on to the celebration of the exposure of Josh Duggar’s hypocrisy. We are in the redemption business. We are in the restoration business. We are in the business of LOVE…. Even loving our enemies. Actually, ESPECIALLY loving our enemies. I hope this difficult time will be short for the Duggars, and I hope they will come out of this stronger than they ever were. And in the meantime, I hope the folks who are calling themselves “Christians” will show the world how much more powerful MERCY is than judgment.

Posted in 1) Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

A Preemptive Eulogy

This scene gets less and less funny the older you get....

This scene gets less and less funny the older you get….

Yesterday morning I woke up, stumbled out of bed, and shuffled over to the bathroom…. And just like I do every morning, I peed for an “Austin-Powers-getting-cryogenically-unfrozen” length of time while gargling some Listerine (sure, there are other mouthwashes that don’t inflict actual pain, but I figure if it’s not making your entire mouth numb, it’s probably not working). I guess when I spit out the mouthwash, some got hung up on my beard and dribbled onto my chest, and when I looked down to wipe it off, I saw it: A grey chest hair. Well, more silver than grey, if we’re being honest. There is was…. mocking me and my aches and pains…. Trying to be as conspicuous as possible, sticking straight out, in that last little hairy rigor mortis that hairs do as they go through the death throes before turning grey–The same way many of my beard hairs have done in the past. But for some reason, this hair stuck out like a little monument to my own mortality. Within hours of noticing this stupid little hair, I had thrown my back out on a soccer field while pretending I was still in high school….

If I had know THIS is what these goof balls looked like, the song probably would have felt quite as profound.

If I had know THIS is what these goof balls looked like, the song probably wouldn’t have felt quite as profound.

So my own mortality and that little hair weren’t really the things that inspired me to write this post–I’ve actually been thinking about this for a while now. I remember my father–before he died–sitting me down while I was just hitting adolescence, and making me listen to the words of Mike & The Mechanics’ “In The Living Years.” He walked me through the song, and I remember him tearing up at the part that said, “I wasn’t there that morning when my Father passed away. I didn’t get to tell him all the things I had to say. I think I caught his spirit later that same year. I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s new born tears–I just wish I could have told him in the living years.” I felt like he was lamenting his own father’s passing, and not necessarily saying to his son, “If you’ve got something to say to me, say it while I’m still alive.” But there have been many times that I’ve thought about that moment–that song–over the years…. Times when I wish my Dad was still alive, times when I wish he could have met my beautiful children, times when I wish I would have told him all the things I had to say while it was still “the living years.”

It's okay that I never knew him.... I can still miss him.

It’s okay that I never knew him…. I can still love him.

The longer we live, the more people we know who have died. That’s just the way life works…. And everyone likes to believe that people who have died can still hear us. Me? I’m not so sure. Maybe…? I don’t know. I know the thought is very comforting, but everything we believe about what happens after people die is speculation at best. Since I have been writing this blog, I have written a few times about people who have died who have meant something to me. I wrote about my Dad. I wrote about the passing of Maya Angelou and the tragic death of Robin Williams. Recently I wrote about the death of an acquaintance/sort-of-friend named Bob. As the patriarch of the Westboro Baptist Church laid on his death bed, I wrote a Love Letter to Fred Phelps. And I also wrote about a sort-of-friend named Brent. Brent died while I was writing that post, and as I wrote there, “He was a giant of my childhood, and he probably never knew it.” There are no guarantees that dead people can hear our attempts at kindness after they are gone.

So here is what I am doing: In honor of a broken Father who sat down with his son in front of a stereo and cried… In honor of a great tree who fell… In honor of an actor whose gift of making people laugh was never enough to silence the voices telling him he was never enough… In honor of an acquaintance who made a big impression… In honor of an aging enemy who God loved every bit as much as he loves me… and in honor of a childhood friend who was always the coolest person in the room… I have decided to try something. I want to get everyone within the sound of this blog post to write a Preemptive Eulogy.

Feel free to use this picture if you write your own Preemptive Eulogy.

Feel free to use this picture if you write your own Preemptive Eulogy.

Telling someone how amazing they are, how much we love them, how they touched our hearts and changed the course of our lives–The time for saying all these things is NOT when a person is lying in a casket. So here’s what I want you to do: I want you to write SOMETHING to tell a person how special they are to you, and I want you to do it publicly. It can be a Tweet, it can be a Facebook status, it can be on Instagram, it can be a blog post, if you have a blog…. Whatever. And then hashtag #PreemptiveEulogy so people can find them all in one spot. Of course you can tell the person to their face as well, but there is something special about standing up and saying, “This person is fantastic and inspiring and amazing, and I want to make sure everyone knows it.” Enough waiting for people to die to say how we feel….

And, just to be clear, this is NOT something that is meant just for those of us who are getting older and closer to death and finding grey chest hairs. No one knows when you or someone else won’t be around to say the things you want to say. This can be for the young, or it can be for the old. It can be for someone you know well, or it can be for someone you have never met–I mean, I cried like a baby when Phil Hartman died, and I never met him once. He never did one thing for me…. Other than that one giant thing of making me laugh over and over and over again. And you know what? That is worth something. And it’s worth saying something about. So…. Just to recap, here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Write about a living person who has touched your life in some way. Tell the world why you care.
  2. Post what you wrote–long or short–where other people can read it.
  3. Make an attempt to get the person you wrote about to read what you wrote. And if you read something about a person, and you “know someone who knows someone,” pass it along to that person.
  4. Include the hashtag #PreemptiveEulogy.

I’ll start.

I took a trip to New York City recently. It was my first time there (HERE is a self-centered, somewhat humorous pictorial tour of the city, in case you are interested), and as I walked through that city, I heard echoes of music the entire time. It was the music of Paul Simon. I whistled the tune to “Feeling Groovy” (The 59th Street Bridge Song) while walking though Washington Square Park. I kept a lookout for the words of the prophets. I looked up at those buildings, I thought about “The Only Living Boy In New York,” and sang the words, “Here I am.” With every step I took, his lyrics floated around me. And I thought, “Hey, I’ve got nothing to do today but smile….”

They *might* have been a little bit high here.... And that's okay.

They *might* have been a little bit high here…. And that’s okay.

My first car was a baby blue Toyota. About its only amenity was its tape player, and one day the eject button broke…. The tape that was in it at the time was Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. Luckily, it would switch to the other side when it reached the end of the tape. For about three years, everyone who rode with me knew that they were listening to S & G or nothing. I might have been able to jimmy it out, but I really didn’t want to. I listened to those songs so many times that when when one song ended, I knew the exact starting note of the song that was coming next. I left behind the melodies and Art’s harmonies, and I sang the third parts of those chords…. imagining a day when chance would bring our paths together, and Paul would hear my subtle third part harmonies, and he would invite me to join the “Poet and a one-man band.”

“You want to be a writer–Don’t know how or when? Find a quiet place. Use a humble pen.” ~ One of My Heroes

And I know, Paul (can I call you Paul?), you look back at a lot of those early songs as something inferior to your later work (and you’re certainly right in many ways), but they were the soundtrack to my childhood. They were tunes that taught me harmony. As a child, I thought it was all about Art, but when I found those stories, those tunes, those songs came from your mind, I marveled at the talent that created them. And then, to discover all the stuff you had been creating on your own…. The music just got deeper and deeper as my expanding consciousness was able to receive it. Really, your songs made me marvel at God in new ways as well. The first time I listened to the Graceland album, I thought to myself, “This is as good as it gets.” And it still is. But the breadth and depth of your work…. It’s staggering.

Here's Paul during a brief period of time where he also smashed watermelons with a giant hammer....

Here’s Paul during a brief period of time where he also smashed watermelons with a giant hammer….

So I can’t thank you enough for all the moments–all the hours I’ve had driving with your songs, discovering something new and amazing. Thank you for the way you spelled out the words “ANIMAL BEHAVIOR.” Thank you for the way you rolled your eyes with your voice when Art didn’t pause long enough on the beginning of “The Boxer” in the concert in Central Park. Thank you for the trains in the distance, thank you for the hearts and bones that won’t come undone, thank you for “The Penguins, The Moonglows, The Orioles, and The Five Satins.” Thank you for the complete work of art that is the album “You’re The One.” THANK YOU! And it’s not because you’re in your 70’s now, and it’s not because you’re getting old (“God is old, and I’m not old). It’s because your music has made my life richer. Your songs have pulled me toward compassion and understanding in ways that are hard to express. I don’t know you, and we’ll probably never meet, but your work has touched my soul. And I wanted to tell you.

Now…. If anyone can pass this along to Paul Simon, that would be swell.

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