America’s Newest Hero

Like something out of a comic book....

Like something out of a comic book….

So just in case you missed it while you were celebrating the SCOTUS ruling on Marriage equality this weekend, there is one more reason to celebrate. The world gained one more hero over the weekend, and her name is Bree Newsome. This past Saturday morning, Newsome, a 30 year old filmmaker, musician, and activist scaled the pole in Columbia, South Carolina that flies the Confederate battle flag. Here is a short video of the event:

While she was up on the pole, holding that symbol in her hand, she declared, “You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence…. I come against you in the name of God. This Flag come down today!” And then, after she finished her act of civil disobedience and climbed down, she put her hands behind her back and got arrested. And yes, I realize what she did was illegal, but as @WillBrianna tweeted so perfectly:


Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 12.54.46 AM


Within hours, the hashtag #FreeBree was trending…. But don’t worry, there have been many people who have offered to pay her bond and court costs. Before Bree Newsome spent a couple days learning how to climb a pole, before she put on her black superhero clothes–fully expecting to get arrested–and took down that flag, she tweeted a few things worth reading:


Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 1.33.38 AM


Those are some tough questions…. Within hours of being taken down, that symbol of the “hatred and violence and oppression” that Bree Newsome spoke of was raised right back up that flagpole. You might wonder then…. What’s the point? Well, here’s your answer:


Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 12.55.19 AM


It’s still up right now. And even though we don’t have one less symbol of hatred and violence and oppression right now, we DO have ONE MORE symbol of bravery and sacrifice and love…. And that’s worth something. That’s worth a whole lot. What a time to be alive!

Drawing by @Niall_JayDub

Drawing by @Niall_JayDub

Take it down. And keep it down.

Posted in 2) Politics, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Marriage Equality–The Most American Thing We Could Have Done

The U.S. is definitely the world leader in number of heroes named "Hacksaw."

The U.S. is definitely the world leader in number of heroes named “Hacksaw.”

There’s this idea out there called “American Exceptionalism.” You may not have heard the phrase before, but you almost certainly encountered the ideology. It’s basically the idea that the U.S.A. is inherently different than all the rest of the countries…. And, for many people, it means that we are different in a way that is better. And this belief is so ingrained, so widely accepted, that to even question the doctrine of American Exceptionalism is almost a non-starter for presidential candidates. We have a long period of primaries and elections and debates ahead of us…. I dare you to try to find one candidate who doesn’t whole-heartedly profess that America is the greatest nation in the world. To suggest otherwise is to be labeled “unpatriotic” or even “traitorous,” and it is a political death sentence. The first scene from HBO’S “Newsroom” (that they don’t allow me to embed) touches on this taboo.

The world leader.... In production of giant foam fingers declaring our team to be the best.

The world leader…. In production of giant foam fingers declaring our team to be the best.

But the anger and offense at suggesting that the United States is NOT, in fact, the greatest country on the planet (and, indeed, in the cosmos) is not limited or reserved for those few folks running for office. If you criticize the U.S. online, you will be served to an all-you-can-eat buffet of “Love it or leave it!” It is scandalous to even suggest that we are not the best, but that makes sense…. We have been groomed to believe that “Our ______ is the best” since we were very young (fill in the blank with whichever of “Our” thing you want…. Family, School, Church, Sports Team, City, State, Country, etc…). But just like the kids in schools who stand on the bleachers cheering “We’re number one,” most of the people cheering have never actually spent any significant time in one of the schools to which they are professing to be superior. And though simple “school spirit” seems harmless enough, when that same “spirit” spills over into nationalism, things can get dangerous. The Germans have the word “Sonderweg” which refers to a “special path” that is set out for them, and the Japanese used the term “Yamato-damashii” to refer to a “Japanese Spirit” that is mostly understood in contrast to a Chinese way of thinking. But those ideologies almost seem quaint now…. Of course, they LOST the war.

And don’t get me wrong–I don’t think there’s anything wrong with believing that the U.S.A. is the greatest country in the world…. But I think there’s something REALLY WRONG with creating the kind of culture where dissent from that view is met with such alarm and accusation and anger. And it gets even more messed up when people bring God into it.

Sometimes it stinks being on a him because everybody can see you.

Sometimes it stinks being on a hill because everybody can see you.

But this way of seeing our country has been a long time coming. It started as early as the Puritan idea of “A city upon a hill” and the American Revolution, it has been going strong for centuries, and it got another kickstart during the Cold War. I mean, come on! We had “Manifest Destiny!” We had “The American Dream!” We were this new kind of country, this grand experiment, that finally got it right…. at least closer to “right” than anyone else had come. And there was proof–We had all kinds of cool stuff, our team was undefeated (for a while)–God must have been blessing us, right? Because (it was thought) nothing this big happens without God’s approval. God IS on our side. America IS that “City on a Hill” that the Puritans dreamed of.

And this is why I believe it is so hard for so many conservative Christians to process the Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality. Their nationalism has gotten so tangled (or managed, really) up in their religious beliefs that when something like the SCOTUS ruling happens, this cognitive dissonance sets in, and they believe there must have been some sort of coup d’etat that needs to be remedied. It’s like a whole part of the Church at a certain level of consciousness discovered the theodicy at once. It’s like, “Wait…. God is in control, and something bad just happened…. So that means either God ISN’T in control, or Marriage Equality being the law of the land was ordained by God…. Or maybe America isn’t God’s favorite?!?!” Unfortunately, the mental stress caused by the cognitive dissonance is too much for many conservative Christians, and they throw their hands up in the air and declare that it must be the “end times.” Jesus must be coming back soon, y’all.

God didn't mind the slaughter of the Native Americans or hundreds of years of slavery, but he's probably going to end the world over Marriage Equality....

God didn’t mind the slaughter of the Native Americans or hundreds of years of slavery, but he’s probably going to end the world over Marriage Equality….

But these beliefs–especially mixed with a lack of insight and a distain for intellectualism–can be so very dangerous. Imagine if Americans had the same sort of expectation of an assumed understanding of White Supremacy as they have with expecting that everyone here believes in American Exceptionalism. But really, there’s very little difference. Here’s the hard truth: If you look closely at its history, you find that there is a very fine line between “Americans are the best!” and “White people are the best!” America has a long history of declaring, “That’s not what America looks like!” And you multiply that times God’s Sovereignty and divide by a City on a Hill, and you got yourself an even more powerful (and dangerous), “That’s not what GOD SAYS America is supposed to look like!”

Be very afraid of people who don't look like you.

Be very afraid of people who don’t look like you.

And every step away from “The Norm” has been a painful process. And that’s where things get really racist and sexist gross, because “The Norm” has always been white people. White men, to be exact. Who speak english. And are Christian. And straight. Native Americans? You’re either going to worship our God, or we’re going to kill you. Irish? That’s not what America sounds like. Asian? Mexican? I guess, but you better learn the greatest language in the world! What’s that, Ma’am? You say you want to VOTE?!? Don’t you have some dishes to wash? Negroes? Tell you what–You and four of your friends will get to count for three votes…. Deal? Muslims? You want to build a WHAT in my neighborhood?!? And now we have those stubborn Gays, daring to think that America looks like them too. And every time we allow a new group to become “What America looks like,” it is painful for the group who is “The Norm”…. even if that group was just welcomed in recently themselves. We tend to forget.

Look at how American that foot looks moving forward....

Look at how American that foot looks moving forward….

So here’s the way I see it: The reason that giant oak trees are so strong is not because of their rigidity…. It’s because when it starts getting windy, the tree is able to bend and sway. And this country is like that–at least it has the capability to be like that.  If there’s one thing that’s great about this country, it’s our ability to change. To learn from our mistakes. To progress. Even the Statue of Liberty is not standing there, rigid and unchanging…. She is taking a step forward. She is progressing. She is moving from the old way into something new. And I know new can be frightening, but it’ll be okay. In fact, I think that saying to the LGBT community, “You ARE what America looks like” might be just about the most American thing we could do. We have a long history of expanding the definition of what America looks like…. And I’ve got some news for you: If there’s anything about America that is even CLOSE to the actual Church that Jesus started, it’s that the understanding of who gets to be “part of the group” is constantly expanding.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Let’s Just Call it “Marriage” Now

You’ve undoubtedly heard the the Supreme Court ruled today to make marriage equality the law of the land. Anyone anywhere near a computer today probably felt a little like this:
1907492_1292974370732013_9189754401205793039_nI worked late last night and my wife let me sleep in. This morning, she woke me up and said, “I’m going to need you to look at Facebook.” I did, and most of the people in my virtual world were pretty jubilant. They were filled with hope. And they were celebrating with their friends who have been treated like second-class citizens for far too long. If you know anything about me, it probably comes as no surprise to you that this came as really good news to me. I don’t want to get all “hipstery” here, but I’ve been on board with this for a while now. This feeling of hope is such a stark contrast to last week…. A contrast that is summed up perfectly here:
11071304_10153455501654700_2585492975036252125_nBut even though there is room for celebration when a battle is won, the victory is far from over. The fight for equal rights for ALL PEOPLE continues and continues. And continues…
11141350_10153422968176880_3279347084887726016_nAnd even though it would be easy to focus people who are using this decision as a reason to stir up division and fear and hatred (like this person below)…. We can’t.
Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 12.37.17 PMA bunch of republican presidential candidates weighed in too–guys who welcomed the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision (defining corporate money as “free speech”) as the rightfully decided law of the land, but hail this SCOTUS decision as an affront to “state’s right” (that sounds familiar, right? This age old belief that states should have the right to discriminate against whoever they want to discriminate against–That if the majority of the people of a state want to keep certain groups of people with less rights than the majority, it should be their “right”), an affront to natural law, and indeed, an affront even to God’s law. Candidates like Rick Santorum, who actually compared today’s decision to the Dred Scott case:

“Today, five unelected justices decided to redefine the foundational unit that binds together our society without public debate or input. Now is the people’s opportunity respond because the future of the institution of marriage is too important to not have a public debate. The Court is one of three co-equal branches of government and, just as they have in cases from Dred Scott to Plessy, the Court has an imperfect track record. The stakes are too high and the issue too important to simply cede the will of the people to five unaccountable justices.”
~ Rick Santorum

He was not the only one to focus on the fact that these Justices were “unelected.”  Scott Walker also weighed in, referring to this decision as “judicial activism….”

“I believe this Supreme Court decision is a grave mistake. Five unelected judges have taken it upon themselves to redefine the institution of marriage, an institution that the author of this decision acknowledges “has been with us for millennia.” In 2006 I, like millions of Americans, voted to amend our state constitution to protect the institution of marriage from exactly this type of judicial activism. The states are the proper place for these decisions to be made, and as we have seen repeatedly over the last few days, we will need a conservative president who will appoint men and women to the Court who will faithfully interpret the Constitution and laws of our land without injecting their own political agendas.”
~ Scott Walker

Ahh yes, “state’s rights.” A familiar refrain when people are upset that our government makes it illegal to discriminate. Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal said,

“The Supreme Court decision today conveniently and not surprisingly follows public opinion polls, and tramples on states’ rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.”
~ Bobby Jindal

And then, we’ve got good old Mike Huckabee, making a comment that is filled to the brim with military language, while making allusions to the kind of “tyranny” that resulted in the American revolution. Hold your nose for this one….

“The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do–redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.

“This ruling is not about marriage equality, it’s about marriage redefinition. This irrational, unconstitutional rejection of the expressed will of the people in over 30 states will prove to be one of the court’s most disastrous decisions, and they have had many. The only outcome worse than this flawed, failed decision would be for the President and Congress, two co-equal branches of government, to surrender in the face of this out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny.”

“The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity. Under our Constitution, the court cannot write a law, even though some cowardly politicians will wave the white flag and accept it without realizing that they are failing their sworn duty to reject abuses from the court. If accepted by Congress and this President, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment.”
~ Mike Huckabee

So yeah, this is a reminder that your vote matters…. Especially when considering that one of these bozos could be appointing a new SCOTUS Justice or two over the next few years. But none of these presidential wannabes’ comments hold a candle to the comments of the ACTUAL president. President Obama spoke to the nation today about the ruling…. Here is one segment which I found particularly moving:

“We are people who believe that every single child is entitled to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There is so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to EVERY American, but today we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we made our union a little more perfect. 

That’s the consequence of a decision by the Supreme Court, but more importantly it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions by people across the decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents…. Parents who loved their children no matter what…. Folks who were willing to endure bullying, and taunts, and stay strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were…. And slowly made an entire country realize that LOVE IS LOVE.

What an extraordinary achievement, but what a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. What a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles been thrown into a still lake–“ripples of hope” that cascade outwards…. and change the world. Those countless–often anonymous heroes–they deserve our thanks. They should be very proud. America should be very proud.”

You can watch the video of his whole extraordinary speech below.

So yeah, I am thankful. I am thankful for the millions of LGBT heroes who have endured so much pain and hatred and discrimination over the years…. And even though there is so much work to be done while we continue to love the people who don’t get it yet, I’m happy to celebrate with my LGBT brothers and sisters–as well as straight allies like myself–because today is something worth celebrating. And I am hopeful. I am hopeful that those “ripples of hope” continue to change people’s hearts…. And by doing that, changing the world. Like MLK said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” But maybe if we keep pulling on one end on that arc, it will bend a little faster. Keep bending, moral arc…. Keep bending!

My wife made this for me this morning. It makes a really nice cover photo for your Facebook page, just in case you're interested.

My wife made this for me this morning. It makes a really nice cover photo for your Facebook page, just in case you’re interested.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Some Thoughts On Guns In Church

Rod is upside down, reading a book.... This still makes me laugh.

Rod is upside down, reading a book…. This still makes me laugh.

There’s a joke in an old episode of The Simpsons…. It’s the one where a hurricane blows through town, and the only house that gets destroyed is Ned Flanders’ home. If you don’t already know, Ned Flanders is the town of Springfield’s s most devout Christian, and he’s a super kind guy–to an annoying degree. In that episode (it’s called “Hurricane Neddy”–Season 8, Episode 8), Ned loses his faith in God, has a nervous breakdown, and has to deal with some issues from his childhood. It’s a really good episode…. but there is one joke in that episode that is one of my favorite jokes The Simpsons ever made. After the house is destroyed, Ned finds his wife, Maude, safe in the rubble underneath their bathtub. When he finds her, she says, “Oh Neddy, it was terrifying! I thought I was headed for the eternal bliss of paradise.”

With one joke, the writers of The Simpsons hilariously highlighted one of the most glaring hypocrisies within modern Christianity. When I was trying to Google the line (to find out the exact wording of the line), many of the links were to Atheist web pages–THAT’s how perfectly targeted that joke was. Now, if you don’t see why that joke is awesome, I’m not going to murder the joke to dissect it for you…. But I’ve been thinking again about that joke these last few days since the massacre at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

“You point that end at the person you want to send to hell.”

Predictably and tragically, people have started calling for guns in church as a response to the nine people who lost their lives that day at the hands of a racist, domestic terrorist with a bad haircut. Within the first few hours after the shooting, there was talk of arming pastors and elders in the church in an attempt to protect the congregation from other attackers. This is a terrific idea–If your goal is to make the world think Christians are even more full of shit than they thought they were before…. If that’s possible. Here is the flawed logic that the world sees and understands, but for some reason, so many gun-toting people in the church are incapable of comprehending:

  1. Christians profess to believe that when they die, they are going to go to a place called Heaven–A paradise where there is no more pain, everyone is happy, and bacon is a health food.
  2. Christians profess to follow a man named Jesus, who commanded his followers to love their enemies instead of hating them, and said that “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” A man who, while he was being unjustly arrested in a plot to take his life, told his friends to put down their weapons…. Even–as the story goes–going so far as to heal the ear of one of the men who was arresting him. A man who died using his last agonizing breaths to forgive his murderers. THAT Jesus.
  3. Many We’ll say most of these Christians also believe that people who die NOT believing in Jesus will go to a place called Hell, where they will be tortured forever (I don’t believe this, by the way).
  4. Here’s where things stop making sense…. A very large portion of people calling themselves Christians are so terrified of going to the eternal paradise called Heaven that they have purchased portable, concealable, highly effective killing tools to keep from being sent there. And in order to avoid the bliss of Heaven, they are not only willing to do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the Jesus they claim to follow commands, but they are willing to send another person to Hell. To be tortured. Forever. All to avoid dying and going to paradise. Forever.
He's not winking.... He's looking down the sight.

He’s not winking…. He’s looking down the sight.

Now, if this doesn’t make any sense to you, you are not alone. It doesn’t make any sense to me either.  I mean, if you believe that the time we are alive for is all there is–That when you die, there is nothing else–I can at least see why it might make sense to carry a gun to kill someone who is trying to cut your life short. But if you believe that when you die, you will go to heaven–if you believe in the Jesus who called us to love our enemies, take up our crosses, and lay down our lives–then you have no business carrying around something designed to kill people…. Especially something that you believe is probably going to send them to Hell. GUNS IN CHURCH?!? Are you kidding me? This kind of stuff is MiracleGro for atheists. You want to see people start coming to Church again? Show the world more of the kinds of loving, merciful, forgiving reactions that the families of the slain showed the killer of their loved ones. If you want even more people running for the exit doors of the church, start calling for “pistol-packing-preachers” and more guns as a way of dealing with the problem of guns.

Alright…. It’s so late that it’s early, so I’ve got to wrap this up. I have written about this before, and I’m really proud of the things I wrote, so I’m going to post links to some of them here. If you have the time, I really hope you read them. If one of them speaks to you, maybe even give me a little Father’s Day gift and share it…. Love you guys.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Judge Reveals Real Victims In Charleston: Dylann Roof’s Family

This racism stuff is all in our heads. We have a black (biracial) president, MLK has a national holiday.... What else do you want?!?

This racism stuff is all in our heads. We have a black (biracial) president, MLK has a national holiday…. What else do you want?!?

Over the past day or so, I’ve been accused of being a “Leftist Race-baiter,” I’ve been accused of making things worse for focusing on the reality of racism instead of sweeping the problem under the rug (along with the very real experiences of people whose skin happens to be a different shade than mine), and I have been accused of “Fanning the race flames.” I feel like this is sort of like someone who points out the problem our country has with obesity being called a “fat-baiter” when he points out how many foods out there are killing people. I am trying very hard to stay positive though the last couple days, but I have to admit I’ve spent most of my time in despair. And in bed. I’m not going to lie to you: I don’t smell good. Not taking a shower is one of the forms my grief is taking. My wife is…. not thrilled.

Just a lone wolf. Not in any way a symptom of a larger problem.

Just a lone wolf. Not in any way a symptom of a larger problem.

Here’s something that I’ve noticed: People are confused by the difference between the concept of “a racist” and “Racism.” And when you point out Racism, what many people HEAR is you calling them “a racist.” And their definition of “a racist” is a person is a person who secretly (or overtly) hates people on the basis of the color of their skin. The news that has come out over the past 24 hours surrounding the murders of nine beautiful people at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has made it pretty clear that Dylann Roof was “a racist.” So when you point out “Racism,” people hear an accusation of being like the murderous 21 year-old with a “Confederate States of America” license plate and Apartheid-era South African and Rhodesian flags on his coat. And they get defensive. “That guy is an aberration! A mentally ill lone wolf!! I don’t know anyone like that!!!”

“What water? I don’t see any water….”

But pointing out Racism is different than pointing out a racist. Racism is an unseen SYSTEM–a way of doing things, upheld by our social institutions–that effectively uses discrimination and injustice to separate and diminish people of color…. And by so doing, keep those of us with white skin the ones who have the power. I’ve talked about it before, but I have been pulled over SO MANY TIMES without getting a ticket. When the officer sees me, I can almost feel him or her assuming the best about me…. and that’s an advantage. Racism is the force that makes me more nervous when a black man walks up to my car than I would be if the man walking up to my car had skin that looks like mine. It is the system that has 50% less call backs on resumes with “black-sounding” names than on the same exact resume with a white-sounding name. And so, SO much more. In a fish bowl, a fish might be a racist, but Racism is the water.

And I think that might be where communication is partially breaking down. It someone points out racism, people think of burning crosses and white hoods, and that defensiveness rears its head, and they are like, “Not me–I love black people!” But behind that, they are unconsciously thinking things like, “If black people would just play the rules (our rules), they wouldn’t be getting into trouble.” But those rules might just be designed to keep people in a permanent second-class status. But if I’m being honest, I’m not in a place right now where I can deal with people who just don’t get it. A familiar sarcasm is coming back to me, and I’ve got this horrible hybrid of anger/sadness/cynicism that I can’t sleep off.

Consider this: At today’s bond hearing for Dylann Roof, the judge decided it was important to some time to make a personal statement. Here is the video of his remarks:

Just in case you you can’t (or won’t) watch the video, here is what he said:

“Charleston is a very strong community. We have big hearts. We are a very loving community. And we are going to reach out to everyone–all victims–and we will touch them. We have victims…. Nine of them. But we also have victims on the other side. There are victims on this young man’s side of the family. Nobody would have ever thrown them into the worldwind [sic] of events that they have been thrown into. We must find it in our heart, at some point in time, not only to help those that are victims, but to also help his family as well…. When it’s all done and said, Scarlet Wilson as Solicitor, and Ashley Pennington will have done the best job that they can do. They are some of the finest. Our law enforcement are the finest in this state, and they will do their job honorably. I trust they will.”

Seriously, South Carolina--Take down that damn flag! What the hell is your problem?!?

Seriously, South Carolina–Take down that damn flag! What the hell is your problem?!?

So let’s recap…. The judge presiding over this case thought it was important to remind everyone of the unseen victims in all this: Dylann Roof’s family. He took roughly 5 seconds commenting on how there were 9 victims…. and then he spent about 30 seconds calling for caring and empathy for the family of Dylann Roof. The same family who bought a young man (who dropped out of high school in 10th grade and had trouble with the law and trouble with substance abuse) a .45 caliber handgun for his 21st birthday. And–I don’t know this for sure, but I’d be willing to bet any and all of you $100 that it’s true–probably the same family who bought young Dylann Roof some really cool Rated-M first-person shooter video games where he had fun practicing his kill shots. There was no mention of the families of the nine black folks who just lost their mothers/fathers/brothers/sisters/sons/daughters/grandparents by Judge James Gosnell. But then, these comments were made by a man who once used the word N-word in his courtroom. He is quoted as saying, “There are four kinds of people in this world—black people, white people, red necks, and niggers” as he advised a black defendant during a bond reduction hearing. That’s right…. This judge said that. From the bench.

Yes, THAT Walter Scott.

Yes, THAT Walter Scott.

There WAS, however, mention of the prosecuting attorney and the public defender assigned to Dylann’s defense. Solicitor Scarlet Wilson and Public Defender Ashley Pennington received high praise and a vote of confidence from Judge Gosnell…. Possibly because of allegations of misconduct between those same two attorneys on another murder case. Scarlet Wilson happens to be the same prosecutor who brought murder charges against officer Michael Slager after video evidence came forward showing officer Slager firing eight times at Walter Scott, the unarmed black man who was shot in the back and killed. Officer Slager claimed that Scott had taken his taser, and he was afraid for his life. Luckily, someone happened to be filming the incident, and video evidence showed his claims to be false. So yeah, same town, same attorney…. Small world, right? 

And then, the cherry on the poop sundae that was today turned out to be reading about how a man named Charles Cotton (perfect) who is a board member of the NRA, posted in a pro-gun forum and said that Senator Pinckney’s death (and the death’s of those eight other men and women) were his own fault. His comment has since been taken down, but he wrote that Pinckney “voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.” You can see a screen capture of his comment below….
Cotton-630As predictable as this sort of stuff is, it still kills something inside of me to hear people say it. Just like it kills something inside of me when normally rational people call for “More Guns” (or “More Tigers”) and “Guns In Church” as a remedy for gun violence. Just like it kills something inside of me when a white judge praises his white attorneys and reminds us that there are some white people hurting too. Just like it kills something inside of me when people go on the attack when you mention Racism. A part of me has died today. Maybe I can find something to be hopeful about tomorrow…. Maybe not. It might be a while.

Posted in 2) Politics, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

What Twitter Taught Me About The Charleston Shootings

Last night, nine people died while worshiping in church. The church was Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest black congregations in the country. An unknown man, described as a white man in his early 20’s wearing a hoodie, went into their Wednesday night prayer service, prayed with them for a bit, and then stood up and started shooting people. There are multiple reports that one of the people who was murdered–or assassinated–was South Carolina Senator Clementa C. Pinckney. Senator Pinckney was also the pastor of the church. It is a church was an amazing history. This is his picture:
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 2.05.09 AMThis post is from Twitter from a news anchor named Preston Phillips. People have known this for a while now, but it turns out that if you want to really know about a current news story, Twitter is where you go. Especially if that news story is about and act of terrorism committed against people of color.
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 2.14.05 AMScreen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.31.17 AMI can’t imagine Fox”News” pulling away from coverage if it had been a 9 while folks that had gotten murdered by a person who looked Middle Eastern…. A frustrating sentiment that was echoed often on Twitter with pictures like this one:
B9o2PXxIcAAa5b2Or a slightly more simplified version:
B9mtPQTIgAAfeUZ.jpg-largeThe terminology that people use matters. Without knowing anything about the killer, there were references to him being “disturbed” and “mentally ill.” But as Broderick Greer points out:
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.25.31 AM

A disturbing reality for so many people, that leads to questions like these:
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 2.14.17 AM

But then….
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.49.17 AMAnd then, after this horrific act of terrorism, some leaders and people in the media started voicing concern about the possibility of violence coming from the African American community…. It seemed like there was more concern about quelling any impending rioting than there was about finding the man who killed all those people.
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.42.13 AM

Especially when considering South Carolina’s history of bigotry and racism….
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 2.02.05 AMThe only thing that should be accepted is to call this act what it is:
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 2.14.58 AM
Next, we can certainly expect the ever-present NRA to speak up in defense of the guns.
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.33.37 AMScreen Shot 2015-06-18 at 2.04.22 AMBut if 20 first graders getting murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School weren’t enough to stir people’s consciousnesses into action, I doubt 9 black folks at a church will do it….
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.57.14 AMThere was anger and outrage and sadness and fear on Twitter as I spent hours reading people’s response, but what really stood out to me was the weariness that people were feeling…. Just a tiredness. Story after story…. Then these four words from Questlove Gomez made me just lose it:
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.53.42 AM“God Protect Us. Please.” The picture that he shared was this one:
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.54.03 AMI had never heard of Denmark Vesey before. You can learn more about him HERE. Last night’s act of domestic terrorism took place 193 years and one day after Vesey’s plan for “The Rising” was discovered and stomped out. You may have noticed that I used a lot of Shaun King’s tweets in this. That’s because he’s awesome. You should FOLLOW HIM. Here is another of his about tweets about Denmark Vesey:
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 3.31.16 AMAnd one more for good measure…. This one is not from last night, but it is every bit as true and important as when he wrote it. God help us. I’ll leave you with this:
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 2.19.35 AM

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Fighting For Michigan’s Soul

Is this what you've become?

Is this what you’ve become?

Michigan…. Oh, my sweet home state. What has happened to you? Where is the heart that I remember loving as a child growing up on your beautiful shoreline? Where is your kindness and your sensibility? What has become of you? Who is this Rick Snyder you’ve chosen to lead you? Where are the competent and compassionate representatives who care about the little guy? You were once a progressive place, but now you just seem so…. I don’t know. Scared? I know there is certainly fear that comes with so much unemployment and uncertainty, and it’s hard to worry about the rights of the vulnerable when you’re worried about getting food on the table, but PLEASE! Your very humanity should be so offended by what is going on right now.

o-WHOLE-FAMILY-570

I, like a lot of people, grew up with just one parent raising me. Just imagine if I had had TWO moms who loved me that much….

Above, you see a picture of a family. It probably looks different than your family or my family looks, but it is still a family. April DeBoer (left) and Jayne Rowse (right) are part of the lawsuit that the Supreme Court is deciding right now. Michigan is one of three states in the nation (along with Mississippi and Louisiana–Yikes!) that prohibit joint adoptions by unmarried couples–Effectively making it illegal for same-sex couples who have adopted children to protect those kids if something should happen to one of their parents. April has adopted the two girls, and Jayne has adopted the two boys. April and Jayne are both pediatric emergency room nurses, and all the kids they have adopted have special needs. They love their kids as much as any other parents love their kids, but if one of these two amazing women dies, the other one has no legal claim to her partner’s legally adopted children. As gross as this glaring injustice is, I believe that part of the problem will be sorted out soon (via the SCOTUS). At least I hope it will….

Michigan--You are better than this!!

Michigan–You are better than this!!

But just a couple days ago, Republican governor Rick Snyder signed into law three new anti-gay bills making it legal for adoption agencies to turn away LGBT men and women who want to adopt…. if those agencies are doing it because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” So this means that good people like April and Jayne, whose giant hearts compel them to love and care for kids with special needs–some of whom weren’t even expected to live–can be legally refused, simply because those same hearts also compel them to love and care for each other. This is at the level of some kind of comic book villain sort of injustice.

These guys might start an adoption agency.... It doesn't mean they get state and federal funding.

These guys might start an adoption agency…. It doesn’t mean they get state and federal funding.

Now, I get it…. Some of you are thinking “Religious Freedom! We can’t be forcing pastors into performing gay marriages if they don’t believe it’s right, just like we can’t be forcing adoption agencies that are run by churches (some of them very anti-gay in their theology) to put their babies in homes of gays and Muslims and other “hell-bound” parents–No matter HOW loving they are.” And this may surprise you, but I agree. We SHOULDN’T be forcing people to run their church-sponsored adoption agencies a way that conflicts with their deeply-held beliefs…. That is, of course, unless those adoption agencies are accepting state and federal funding to run those agencies! Which they are. Right now, those adoption agencies are raking in about $10 million annually in state and federal funding. And what THAT means is that we CAN tell them who they can and can’t discriminate against. If the First Congregational Church of Skinheads wants to start an adoption agency that only places kids in loving Nazi families, they have the freedom to run that church-agency the way that they see fit…. But not if they’re getting state and federal funding.

Governor Rick Perry, Governor Rick Scott, Governor Rick Snyder.... Why do we keep electing all these Dicks?

Governor Rick Perry, Governor Rick Scott, Governor Rick Snyder…. Why do we keep electing all these Dicks?

That is one of the most messed up things I have ever heard, people. In Michigan, there are about 14,000 kids in foster care on any given day. And because of the actions of YOUR elected representatives and YOUR governor, those kids are going to have a harder time finding loving families…. Like the family Jacob, Nolan, Ryanne, and Rylee found in April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse. This legislation has somehow managed to be both unChristian AND unAmerican. If you call yourself a Christian and support this legislation, you are thoroughly confused as to what Jesus meant when he said, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” These kids in the foster care system are “The Least of These” And if you’re keeping these kids from loving families just because same-sex couples are “icky” to you, I’ve got news for you: You are doing that to Jesus–The same Jesus all the religious people got so angry about when he hung out with the “icky” people. COME TO YOUR SENSES, MICHIGAN!!!

So here’s the deal. Some of you might be hearing about this for the first time, and some of you might have heard about this and thought “What can I do about it?” If you’re looking for ways to help, or work together with other folks to be a more effective voice for change, one agency doing some good things is Equality Michigan. Or, if you’re just pissed and you want to call and express your anger at this black eye on Michigan’s Soul, you can call governor Snyder’s office at (517) 373-3400, or (517) 335-7858 (for constituents), or you can find other ways to contact him HERE. You can also call your state representative and let them know you how utterly gross this law is, and that if they won’t work to change it, YOU will work to make sure they never get elected to any sort of office again. You can find your representative HERE. And you can share this post…. Even if you don’t live in Michigan.

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13 Things White People Do When You Point Out Racism

Just by chance, this sign was made by the

Just by chance, this sign was made by the “Lonestar Restaurant Assn. Dallas, TX”

A few interesting things happen when someone suggests that racism might have played a role in someone’s actions (say, for example, an overly aggressive police officer’s actions). A couple of days ago I published THIS POST talking about how important is is to watch uncomfortable videos (like the one of the girl getting her face shoved into the ground at that pool party), along with a video about systemic racism, and one about videotaping police interactions. This is not the first time I have written posts that point out racial bias and discrimination–I actually write about it quite often–And I’ve noticed that the response to posts like this (at least in my white bread world) follow a fairly predictable pattern. In no particular order, here is what seems to follow any accusation of racism:

  • Blame the media for trying to make it a “race thing.” People genuinely don’t want to believe that race had anything to do with it, so they blame the media for attempting to “turn it into something it’s not.” This is an especially powerful scapegoat if you suggest that they are only trying to make money.
  • Suggest that the fault lies in the moral failings of the person getting hurt. It is a sentiment that says, “They should have obeyed, and they wouldn’t have gotten hurt/shot/killed.” This was most clearly seen when Walter Scott got shot in the back as he ran from an officer, and many people’s response was, “Why did he run?” It is also easily observable with people like Fox”News” anchor Megyn Kelly suggesting that the 14 year old girl was “no saint either.” Or pointing out that slain teenager Trayvon Martin had smoked marijuana during his short life. That list goes on and on. People don’t want to believe that the world is the sort of place where an innocent person gets harmed like that, so when they find out moral shortcomings, it comes as a relief.
  • Blame the parents. You probably can’t get three comments into a thread about racism without someone blaming the parents. “WHERE WERE THEIR PARENTS??” If the person being victimized is too young to take responsibility for his or her actions, the moral failing must lie with the parents, because SYSTEMIC RACISM DOESN’T EXIST!!! This comes out when the question “What if that was your kid being harmed?” is answered with a response like, “That wouldn’t happen to MY kid, because MY kids have been taught to be respectful.” Which leads to the next one….
  • Make calls for more corporal punishment. This is a very common solution for people at the stage of consciousness which refuses to see systemic racism–“They need to get their little behinds whooped.” It is either that, or this sort of person will chalk up their own respectfulness to getting THEIR asses whooped while growing up.
  • Call you a racist for noticing racism. Saying things like “The people who see it all as racism are usually the people with the biggest problem with race” is basically the “Whoever smelt it, dealt it” of racism….
  • Look for a black person who says it WASN’T about race. Oh my god, there is nothing sweeter for a person insisting that race had nothing to do with it that finding a person with dark skin who says they don’t think it was about race. They cling to those testimonies almost as tightly as they cling to the 3 out of 1000 scientists who claim that the proof of man’s effects on climate change is still unclear.
  • Blame it on “thugs.” This makes it easier to differentiate between the “good” black people and the “bad” black people. It is the sort of thing that leads people to say things like, “I don’t have a problem with black people…. I just have a problem with THOSE KINDS of black people.”
  • Dismiss the concept of White Privilege. There are few things more upsetting to us white people than someone suggesting we didn’t EARN everything we have. For example, a person on my Blogs’s Facebook page actually wrote the words, “I am white, and the priviliges I have are because I obey and respect the law.” I mean… I just can’t.
  • Make yet another “One Bad Apple” defense. If the evidence seems overwhelming that race played a role in a person’s actions, an appeal will often be made that this was an isolated incident…. But how many “isolated incidents” does it take before something become a pattern?
  • Say things like “Racism goes both ways.” This is basically saying, “Sure, it looks like there is some racism involved here, but there are plenty of black people who are racist against white people too.” Yes, I’m sure you feel the effects of that racism every day…. Try sending in a resumé with a black sounding name, and see how many times you get called back.
  • Post “the other side of the story.” Just because you found an article  from some ultra-conservative website that claims to tell “the other side of the story,” doesn’t mean you should repost it. Many people posted this article while trying to defend the actions of the officer Eric Casebolt in the pool party video. Read some of the comments…. Do they seem like the sort of thing you might hear at a KKK rally? Do you want to align yourself with that sort of thing? These are the people whose ideological company you keep.
  • Follow political lines to a frightening degree. I’m being honest here…. I bet you that I could tell you–with about 95% accuracy–who a person voted for in the last presidential election just by reading a comment that person makes on a racially charged story like the McKinney pool party. And that is some scary stuff when you think about it. And what is even weirder is that the party of “less government intervention and more freedom” seems to be taking the side of side of the government in cases like these, but if the police were filmed violently throwing just the white kids onto the ground, people grab their trip-fold hats out of the closet.
  • Stick your head in the sand. Even when presented with seemingly insurmountable evidence that race played a role, people’s cognitive dissonance kicks in, and they simply refuse to accept facts that don’t line up with their accepted world view.

Compare how the police treated participants of a shootout in Texas between white bikers (which left 9 people dead) to Officer Casebolt’s reaction to kids jumping the fence of a neighborhood pool. You might not be aware that the police officer in this case was sued in 2008 for racial bias and abuse (the case was dismissed, as the man who brought the suit said “he struggled to track down evidence while incarcerated”). In addition to this, officer Casebolt has a YouTube playlist titled “Police Training” that contains videos with titled like, “Man Attacks Baltimore Police Officer,” “Man Sucker-Punches Cop Gets Kicked in the Face,” and “Chief tells the TRUTH that Black People don’t want to hear.” He has since set the playlist to private, but below is a screen-capture of the contents before he changed the settings on his account:
decaseyoutubeIt’s not super easy to see in this setting, but notice that he added the video “COPS CRASH POOL PARTY” (the video of him manhandling the girl in the bikini) to the list of “Police Training” videos…. These videos on this list are videos of violent altercations with police officers. All of the videos on this list happen to be altercations with black men.

Not long ago, I wrote a post titled If It Wasn’t About Race Before, It Is Now.It chronicled some of the hugely racist comments that followed the protests to the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. And as much as I know we’re not supposed to read the comments, if we’re going to have a realistic view of the problem of racism, I think we have to from time to time. The anonymity the internet provides allows people to show their true colors, and just like men anonymously burning crosses in people’s yards 70 years ago–The internet is today’s new pointy white hood. And sure, there are always going to be freaky, ultra-racist people there, but the overwhelming number of people who “Like” these horrible comments shows that the “freaky, ultra-racist people” are not alone in their sad way of seeing the world. Here is just a sampling of some of the comments from that viral “Other side of the story” post:
Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.37.33 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.38.02 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.47.02 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.47.57 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.50.53 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.54.07 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.54.35 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.55.01 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.56.36 PMAnd then we even have some pride in people from the younger generation sharing the fair & balanced “other side of the story” from the CTH (ConservativeTreeHouse)….
Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.37.04 PM

There are hundreds of them…. And they are everywhere. Imagine being a black family in this neighborhood and reading so many of these hate-filled, racist comments. Look at just about any of the comments on the videos Eric Casebolt had on his playlist, and you will see stuff that is way worse. So bad that I don’t even want to repost them. But it’s not just YouTube comments and conservative blogs where you’ll find them. Here is one posted on story about the history of segregated pools from NPR:
Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.18.12 PMTo which came what is either an awesomely sarcastic reply, or an awesomely tragic reply:
Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.19.44 PMThese are dark times, but don’t be discouraged–In the dark, the light shines even brighter. Sometimes it seems like ignorance and hatred are everywhere, but truth and love are so much stronger. We cannot let cynicism take root in our hearts. We must watch the videos, we must (occasionally) read the comments, and we must let the reality and gravity of the situation become fuel for us to love people even better than we do. ALL people–The ones making the hateful comments, the ones being degraded and diminished by those comments, and the ones having those 13 reactions that I listed above who refuse to see racism for what it is–Everyone and everyone…. Until the light of our love illuminates the darkness of people’s hearts.

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The Best Thing About The Police Busting Up That Pool Party

If you have even glanced at social media over the past couple days, you have almost certainly seen people posting a video of the police response to a bunch of African American kids at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. A resident of the predominantly white neighborhood wasn’t very happy about how dark the pool was getting, so she called the police and placed a complaint. In the video, we see an officer grabbing a 14 year old girl in a bikini, roughly and humiliatingly tossing her around a couple times, and then–as she cried for her mother–catching his breath while resting on top of the girl with his knee in her back. You can watch the entire video below….

If you’re anything like me, you probably watched a couple minutes and then stopped–Either because of ADD or probably because I just didn’t feel like I could stomach it. But please, go back and watch the entire video. I’ve watched it twice now, and as uncomfortable as it is, it is important to watch. Please watch it until the end.

YOU! Watch these videos. That's right. I'm talking to YOU!

YOU! Watch these videos. That’s right. I’m talking to YOU!

You might be a person who watches this video and thinks, “Those kids got what they deserved. It’s their fault. Where were their parents?” <–These sorts of things. But if you look at the video, you’ll notice that there were all kinds of kids–of many colors–walking around in that neighborhood. And the only ones who were demanded to sit down and submit were the ones with dark skin. And I heard those kids being very respectful…. They were afraid and confused, but they were very respectful–ESPECIALLY for adolescents. Then, as a grown man assaulted a 14 year old girl for not moving fast enough, people naturally came to her defense. And the officer drew his gun. It is very fortunate that no one got shot as a result of this pool party…. So there’s one good thing. One thing’s for sure, though: If that officer had shot and killed someone who came to that girl’s defense AND THERE WASN’T VIDEO BEING TAKEN, he would have never been convicted. Even WITH video, he probably wouldn’t get convicted.

And I know, I know…. We have a black president, so racism is over, right? If you are a person who believes that racism isn’t really an issue anymore, PLEASE watch this….

So what’s the good news? The good news is this. Just about every person walking around right now has a really good video camera on them at all times. I’m annoyed by people staring at their phones instead of looking at each other just as much as the next guy, but there are good things about everyone having a cell phone, and the video of that cop tossing around that little girl is one of them. A little over 60 years ago, video cameras showed the world the brutality and injustice that many black folks were dealing with every day in Alabama, and those images of people getting bit by dogs and kids tumbling down the streets at the end of firehoses helped change the consciousness of the the country. Something deep inside of us cried out, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT!” And I believe that all these videos of police brutality and injustice–utilizing the normally colossal time-wasters of the internet and omnipresent smart phones–are having the same effect. Here is another amazing about why it’s so important to film police officers. I’m begging you to watch it….

And it is a shameful thing that it is taking so many of these sorts of videos to have people feel like they need to speak up. That is why it is so important to watch these videos when they surface. It is uncomfortable to watch, but we owe it to the people who are being abused and humiliated in even killed in these videos to sit through them. We owe it to our own souls! Let these videos make you angry, especially if that’s what it takes to make you act. Don’t just cynically pass over them. WATCH THEM! Let them break your heart…. Over and over again, if that’s what is takes. Watch them until your heart breaks for that little girl just like your heart would break for your own daughter as she lied there on the ground with that officer’s knee in her back. Watch them until you love a stranger’s child the same way you love your own.

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God Loves Caitlyn Jenner Every Bit As Much As God Loved Bruce Jenner

I remember eating Wheaties and actually feeling myself getting stronger. It might have been all the sugar that made them palatable....

I clearly remember eating Wheaties and actually FEELING myself getting stronger. Though it might have been all the sugar I put on them to make them nearly palatable….

I’ve never really thought of myself as handsome–Certainly never as handsome as Bruce Jenner, with his muscles, and his Wheaties box covers, and his great head of hair…. You know what, I suppose there was a window in time where I was like, “Okay…. I’m alright.” But that window was brief. Very brief. I spent almost all of my youth feeling way too skinny, and just when I started to be okay with my body, God (that old prankster) took away my hair. I used to joke that God made me go bald because it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else if I was smart, funny, talented, AND good-looking. It was a decent deflection (though it was before I realized God had nothing to do with those sorts of things). Then I blinked…. and now I’m 40, I have three kids, and the other day I caught myself looking at my belly sideways in the mirror.

But like all of us who carry around insecurities about what we look like, I grew up believing that old saying that proclaimed “It’s who you are on the INSIDE that counts.” Ahh, yes…. “You can’t judge a book by its cover”–The great consolation for all of us walking around with crappy covers. I recently shaved my beard for the first time in a while. It’s funny to hear people’s reactions. People look at my shorn face with a kind of tentative concentration, and then they’ll say something like “I kind of like it” or “It’s alright!” all with their voices filled with something between surprise and uncertainty. And I’m always thinking to myself, “Well, I suppose that works out great, because it’s MY FACE, YOU JACKASS!!!” Most people don’t realize that they just gave the flesh that covers my skull the equivalent of a verbal “So-so.”

I still like to believe that Molly Ringwald came to her senses and went with the Duckman.

I still like to believe that Molly Ringwald came to her senses after the credits and went with the Duckman.

But for me, being unsure about my outside encouraged me to focus on the inside…. since that was the part that mattered, right? I would be the diamond in the rough. I would be the one the girls didn’t know they wanted until they actually got to know me. I would be the guys from Weird Science. I would be the Ducky. I would be the Lloyd Dobler. And I suppose being insecure has its advantages–if you can’t rely on your looks, you’ve got to find something else to rely on. So I learned to be funny. I learned to be deep. I learned to be clever…. And if I’m being honest, it came pretty naturally to me. I was able to observe which awkward things I did made people feel uncomfortable, and I took mental notes to not do those things anymore. And before long, I became confident about my insides. Which was awesome, because if what everyone was saying was true, THAT was the part that really mattered.

Another good quote from Andy Warhol--

Another good quote from Andy Warhol–“I think everybody should like everybody.”

But after a while, a funny thing happened: My “Part that really mattered” started feeling like it was better than most other people’s “Part that really mattered.” My insides started looking down on other people’s insides. That way, if some girl I was attracted to (who, by the way, was probably not receiving my affection because of her “part that really mattered”) liked a guy who was better-looking than me, and I’d explain it away with words like “Superficial.” Which really, if we’re being honest, was just another way of saying, “On the outside you may be beautiful, but on the inside (where it REALLY counts) you are worthless…. At least you are worth less than I am.” And here’s the thing: I AM funny. I AM deep. I AM clever. But how much of my intelligence am I really responsible for? Am I any more in control of my cleverness than some dude is in control of his symmetrical face?

On Wednesdays, we wear pink.

On Wednesdays, we wear pink.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a group of really hot Mean Girls making fun of someone’s clothes, or some really smart tech guys making fun of everyone who doesn’t know how to program a computer, or me looking down on someone who doesn’t get the joke–It is that dark thing behind it. That gross thing underneath it. It is that sick part of our humanity that labels something “Not Like Us,” and works to diminish it. And calls it worthless…. Or at least worth less. And it might even work for a bit to feel better about ourselves by making others feel worse…. Right up until we encounter someone who is way better looking, or way smarter, or way funnier. And then we feel inferior and worthless ourselves. I follow a writer whose prose routinely makes me feel dull and uncreative, and I follow another writer whose insight routinely makes me feel lacking and shallow…. We spend most of our days in a dysfunctional balance between feeling better than most and not as good as others.

Life is about learning the lesson of who you are and who the people around you are…. But ultimately how you answer those questions depends on who you believe God to be. If you believe God to be the Great Judger, that has an effect on how you treat other people. And yourself. But when you start to see God as the Great Lover, the world changes. He loves the ugly, and he loves the symmetrical. He loves the smart, and he loves the ignorant. He loves the clever, and he loves the ones who never get the joke. He loves the disabled, and he loves the ones who set world records in the Decathlon. He loves the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Jews, and the Christians. He loves the straight, the gay, the queer, the transgendered, and everything in between. He loved Bruce Jenner, and he loves Caitlyn Jenner. GOD LOVES. That’s what he does, and that is who he IS. He is the Great Lover of “Not Like Us.” He is the Great Lover of people with imperfections. That’s what Jesus was like, and I believe Jesus is the best picture we have of God. And if you call yourself a Christian, you are called to be like Jesus.

Even If I'm wrong, it's a better way to live.

Even If I’m wrong, it’s a better way to live.

And part of our responsibility in that calling is–if we are able–to stand up FOR the people whom the world tells the lie that they are not worthy of being loved, and we tell them the truth that they are the Beloved of God. Also, I believe the other part of that responsibility involves standing up TO the people spreading the lie that Different=Bad. But letting them know that they are getting it wrong does not have to look like a giant argument or calling someone hateful–It can just be speaking the truth to the ones who are being told they are unworthy. I don’t want to demonize people whose reaction to Caitlyn Jenner is one of laughter and bullying and cruelty…. Sometimes I think that is truly the only reaction available to some people. But for those of us who are capable of loving people who are different–even drastically different–I believe it is our responsibility to stand up and proclaim to people who are being hurtful, “You are better than that. I am better than that. WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT!

This is a picture of a human being, with feelings that can be hurt, just like the rest of us.

This is a picture of a human being.

I am not loved because of the how funny I am, or how smart I am, or the clothes I wear, or how much I make, or the name I call myself, or even because of my intact male genitalia. And it is not what Caitlyn Jenner looks like on the outside that makes her worthy of being loved either. It is not how smart or clever she is. It’s not how high she can jump, or how far she can throw the discus. It’s not which pronoun we use when referring to her. She is loved, not because of who SHE is, but because of who GOD is. She is loved because God is the Great Lover. And as we realize that truth, and embody that truth, we become more like Jesus. And as more and more of us become more like Jesus, it starts to look like “The Kingdom of God.” And the movement of the Kingdom of God is a movement toward letting go of comparison and judgment, widening the area of peace that comes with knowing we are the Beloved, and living out of that place of contentment in a way that lets everyone around us know that they are every bit as loved as we are.

So if you are posting mean things about Caitlyn Jenner, please stop. She is a human being, and what you are doing is bullying. And it’s hurtful. The consciousness of the world is expanding, whether you like it or not. It’s not moving as fast as many of us would like, but it’s moving nonetheless. And I know, I know…. It’s frustrating when you want to make racist or homophobic jokes, but you feel like you can’t because it’s not appropriate anymore. And even though it feels making fun of people who are transexual isn’t off limits yet, it is. And even though you probably blame this changing tide (and even this post) on “Political Correctness,” it’s actually not. It’s the world seeing your “jokes” and exclusion and discrimination for what they are, and calling it what it is: Plain old cruelty.

In closing, please take a few minutes and watch this amazing and insightful video from Russell Brand. If you call yourself a Christian, and Russell Brand is sounding more like Jesus than you are, that SHOULD raise some important questions. You might not be able to hear it or see it yet…. You might just hear “Blah blah liberal, blah liberal blah,” but the world sees it. It stinks of hypocrisy, and it is the reason the Church is shrinking.

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