Israel, Gaza, and The End of Taking Sides

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” ~ MLK

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.” ~ Isaiah

No one’s got Christ more wrong than Christians.” ~ Tom Petty

LOUD NOISES!!!

LOUD NOISES!!!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen more than one person post something recently that explains who is ACTUALLY to blame for the current conflict in Israel and Palestine. And as the violence escalates (as violence always does), people take to Facebook and Twitter with renewed fervor to share slick PR and one-sided propaganda. This will not be one of those posts. I have no interest in adding to the noise of that never-ending argument. I could spend 1500 words trying to convince you of the complexity of the situation, but if you can’t already see how both sides could truly believe that they are on the “right” side, nothing I write here is going to convince you.

You’ve probably already seen the videos attempting to explain the reasons behind the fighting: Both the “Pro-Palestine” video (that makes no mention of the very real threat of groups dedicated to the eradication of the Jews) and the “Pro-Israel” video (that attempts to simplify the issue down to “One side wants the other dead”–A ridiculously broad brush). And then, like me, you’ve probably watched as the conversations that followed disintegrated before your eyes, and any hope of understanding was abandoned. On a side note, I believe that if you really want to understand the history behind the conflict in the Holy Land, the video below by Nina Paley is probably your best place to start. In addition, you can go to her website for an explanation about each of the characters in the video.

Beyond the history of Palestine and the continued conflict in the region, this latest violence erupted after Palestinian extremists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli boys. The people who did this horrible act probably wanted Israel to respond with an attack…. and Israel gave them exactly what they wanted, priming the pump of violence that would swell into even more hatred and revenge and death. As I’m writing this, the U.N. reports that so far there have been 635 people killed in Gaza, 4,040 wounded–with 70-80% of those casualties being civilians. For Israel, 25 soldiers and two civilians have been killed.

More slick PR... Is it possible that things are more complex than this?

More slick PR… Is it possible that things are more complex than this?

The thing is, even something like mentioning those asymmetrical statistics is often perceived by many people as being “anti-Israel.” For people who possess such crystal-clear certainty on this issue, even suggesting the possibility of complexity is perceived as declaring an alliance with the other side. Even something as simple as expressing empathy for the people who are trapped in Gaza makes many people feel compelled to recount a litany of things that Israel has done right compared with all the many evils Hamas has perpetrated. But in all of the posts I have seen detailing the many horrors happening in Gaza over the past few weeks, I have seen exactly ZERO PEOPLE say they think that Hamas is doing the right thing. Zero. However, if someone posts a story of four Palestinian kids getting killed on a beach by Israeli shelling, within moments there are comments insisting this tragedy must only be viewed through the lens of Hamas’  inhuman tactics. If we point out the suffering in Gaza, it must be “appropriately” framed by pointing out how the Palestinians are to blame.

I guess it's kind of a chicken/egg thing....

I guess it’s kind of a chicken/egg thing….

I suppose it helps to try to think about what it would be like in their shoes, but really I can’t even imagine what it must be like to live in that area right now. What do I know? Nothing. I don’t have any idea what it is like to be a Jew living in Israel…. Imagine living in an area where weddings are interrupted by sirens because a group of people wants you dead and fires indiscriminate rockets your way. No country in the world would allow rockets to keep being fired on them–no matter how impoverished the people are in that area, no matter how oppressed they are, no matter how much of a minority of the population is responsible for the rockets–without responding with military action. I get it.

Things might be a little harder in Gaza....

The guy in Tel Aviv is dressed to go out out to dinner later, and the guy in Gaza is dressed like he is dismantling a bomb…. Things might be a little harder in Gaza right now.

And I don’t have any idea what it is like being a Palestinian living in Gaza…. Imagine living in an area where shelling and air attacks in civilian areas have filled up the morgues and hospitals beyond capacity. I try to think about what it would be like in the U.S. if things went down like they did in Palestine. I mean, can you imagine? There are some people in this country who are ready to start shooting people and threatening to secede from the union over being told they can’t carry assault rifles into a Taco Bell. Can you imagine what kind of hell they would raise if they were told they had to pack up their things and give their house and their land away…. TO THE JEWS!?!? There are people buying hundred-round clips and getting neck tattoos that say “Live free or die” over something as simple as a modest income tax…. Imagine if people were forced to move out of their home. They would be firing every rocket they could find, and claiming that God is on their side as they did it. I get it.

This might be a bit of an over-simplification as well. But still.

This might be a bit of an over-simplification as well.   But still….

But really this is neither here nor there…. I am not on the side of Gaza and I am not on the side of Israel. I am on the side of recognizing the image of God in all people. I am on the side of loving our enemies. I am on the side of forgiveness and mercy. I am on the side of alleviating suffering, regardless of who’s to blame or where it is on the map. I believe this is our best response as humans, but this has to be your response if you are walking around calling yourself a Christian. As followers of Jesus and as humans, our compassion for suffering people is not determined by borders or nationality. The world focuses on fault, on who started it, on who’s to blame…. But the kingdom of God is different. The focus is not on responsibility, but on reconciliation. Not on accountability, but on empathy. Not on culpability, but on on compassion. Not on fault, but on friendship. Not on liability, but on love.

That Einstein guy was pretty smart.

That Einstein guy was pretty smart.

And I get that using Jesus to solve a problem between Jews and Muslims smacks of a western superiority complex, but here’s the thing: If you want to leave Jesus out of it, feel free. Christianity does not have a patent on nonviolence. Gandhi did just fine without Jesus. How hard is it to see? The strategy of More Violence as a response to More Violence is not working! And I understand that nonviolence can be a hard sell if people are shooting rockets at you or if your family just got killed in an air strike, but most of the people I see doing the arguing are sitting on couches. We are far from the fighting, and yet so many of us cannot even bring ourselves to acknowledge the complexity of the situation. What hope is there for people who are living in the midst of all this fear and hatred and war if we–living safely on the other side of the world and sacrificing little or nothing–cannot even IMAGINE that love might be an effective response to hate? And instead of using our words to make a moral or pragmatic case for nonviolence, we use them to argue with each other–safe in our houses–over which side is LESS wrong. But both sides are wrong and both sides are right…. To what degree depends on what group you’re in.

The choice to not hit back can change the world.

The choice to not hit back can change the world.

Both sides claim that the laying down of arms would certainly result in in their people’s demise, but this both dehumanizes the the other side and it drastically underestimates the powerful witness of an active nonviolence rooted in love. And really, it belies the spirit of God in all of us that cries out for justice and immediate action when we see images of little girls tumbling down the streets at the end of fires hoses, and men with badges turning loose dogs on young men who are doing nothing but standing on a sidewalk. Our stomachs turn, and both our humanity and our divinity well up inside of us. It is a bleak view of humanity that cannot imagine way out of this other than more violence, but it is an even bleaker view of Jesus Christ. The voice of God cries out for us to love our neighbor, but any mention of “loving one’s enemies” is met with reason after reason why THIS particular enemy is not deserving of love.

There IS an alternative. And that alternative is love.

Jasmin is Israeli, Osama is Palestinian. There IS an alternative. And that alternative is love. From #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies

Everyone’s taking sides…. Well, if following Jesus has anything to do with taking sides, it is about taking the side of love over hate, of mercy over judgment, of peace over war, of humility over certainty, and of hope over fear.  And just like Martin Luther King, Jr. said in the quote at the top, the rejection of revenge, aggression, and retaliation is the way out of this. But again, this nonviolence does not necessarily have to go hand in hand with the name of Jesus. Anyone can claim the name of Jesus…. The Nazis claimed that name. Given the choice between the name of Jesus and the spirit of Jesus, I’ll take the spirit every time. I feel like I have more in common with a Jew or a Muslim who is working toward reconciliation and understanding and an end to the violence than I have in common with a Christian making a case for why Gaza deserved to be attacked, or why the deaths of the 132 Palestinian CHILDREN who died over the past two weeks were actually Hamas’ fault. Just like in the parable, sometimes the Samaritan gets it better than the priest or the levite. Christianity is not going to solve this…. Love is going to solve this problem.

There is hope.

There is hope.

I want to leave you with a couple glimmers of hope courtesy of the good people of Israel and Palestine…. Please, please check them out: The first is the story of Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awaad. Robi’s son was killed by a Palestinian sniper, and Ali’s older brother was killed by an Israeli soldier. Their story of reconciliation and understanding in the face of tragedy is a story that has the power to break the cycle of violence. You can also read Robi’s powerful letter to the family of the sniper who killed her son David. And lastly, if you haven’t checked out the Twitter hashtag #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies yet, you really should. It’s inspiring and hopeful, and I think we can all use as much of that as possible right now. No matter your faith or lack thereof, let us continue to work at facilitating rational and loving discourse. And most of all, let us work together to alleviate suffering and end violence wherever we find it. Peace.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Before You Start Arguing About Hobby Lobby….

…. Please consider a few things.

Q: Know what happens when fewer women have access to birth control? A: The number of unwanted pregnancies goes up. And guess what happens when there are more unwanted pregnancies…. You guessed it–More abortions. So there’s something to think about….

"The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield." ~ Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.” ~ Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

You know what? The family who runs Hobby Lobby is probably really nice. I’ve never met them, but I’d be willing to bet that if my wife and I ate dinner at their house, at the end of the night we’d would walk out the giant front door, get our minivan from the valet, and while we were driving home we’d talk about what nice people they were (right after we’d gotten done talking about how ridiculously huge their house was). And you know what? The same is probably true for most of the people who are defending and celebrating today’s SCOTUS decision–If you ate at their house, you would probably like them…. As long as the conversation stayed away from politics, that is.

I have been to Hobby Lobby. The only thing in the store I have any interest in buying is the candy by the checkout lane. It is aisle after aisle of crap....

I have been to Hobby Lobby. The only thing in the store I had any interest in was the candy by the checkout lane. It is aisle after aisle of crap….

On that same note, David Green (Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO) gives away A LOT of money–Almost half of Hobby Lobby’s profits, by some estimations. He gave $10 million to Liberty University and $70 million to Oral Roberts University. You may not think too highly of these colleges and the message they are trying to spread in the world, but here’s the thing: A lot of people DO think highly of them. And even though these people have a drastically different idea than I do of what it means to be “Christian,” I believe they are crazy about Jesus. And they are doing the best with the information they have. Not only that, but Hobby Lobby pays their full time employees at least $14/hour (with benefits), and their part time people get a minimum of $9.50. It may not be enough to live on, but it IS above average. That’s a something, I guess….

Regardless of how well-meaning the Green family is, there really is a whole lot to be critical of in this situation. Hobby Lobby claimed that they brought this lawsuit because being forced to cover birth control–specifically PlanB (the “morning after pill”) and IUD’s–forces them to go against a deep religious conviction. However, their company-sponsored 401(k) invests in many companies that make a very good profit by making IUD’s and PlanB (you can read all about those HERE). This has all the integrity and sense of throwing a Beer-Fest as a fundraiser for Alcoholics Anonymous…. Not only that, but Hobby Lobby’s insurance covered PlanB for years, but they only took it off the plan after ObamaCare mandated its coverage. Leading one (this one, at least) to believe that this lawsuit was more about politics than it was about religious conviction.

"Aw man, today's prison activity is Arts & Crafts AGAIN?!? Are we EVER going to get to go swimming?"

“Aw man, today’s prison activity is Arts & Crafts AGAIN?!? Are we EVER going to get to go swimming?”

In addition to this glaring piece of hypocrisy, Hobby Lobby gets most of its dirt-cheap inventory from China. They won’t sell shot glasses at their stores (because drinking is bad), but they will sell crappy trinkets made by people who are paid next-to-nothing and forced into horrific workplace conditions. And doing business with China pumps money into a country that that actively fights AGAINST religious freedom while forcing many of its women to have abortions. Again, this has all the integrity and sense of throwing a gala to raise money to fight slavery while buying all the discount party decorations from a country whose economy relies on slave labor. The way that Hobby Lobby makes their profits really is gross, and if they are going to play the whole “We’re a Christian Company” card, the Church should be the first ones calling them on their BS.

I've decided that because of my religious convictions about war, I'm not going to need to pay that portion of my taxes anymore. What's that? It doesn't work that way? Hmm....

I’ve decided that because of my religious convictions about war, I won’t be paying that portion of my taxes anymore. What’s that? It doesn’t work that way? Oh….

But it’s not. Much of the Church is celebrating what it thinks is a win for “religious liberty.” Well, this isn’t a win for religious liberty. It’s a win for corporations. This is the same Supreme Court that ruled in favor of corporations giving as much money as they wanted to political candidates and SuperPACs because they called it “free speech.” Now, they are paving a legal path to allow for-profit corporations to deny healthcare coverage to it’s employees because of “religious convictions.” Maybe a company doesn’t think women should be having sex out of wedlock, and they don’t think they should have to cover the costs of a bastard pregnancy. Maybe the company owners are religiously opposed to vaccines. There are all kinds of scenarios where business owners with religions other than Christianity might be able to refuse paying for care of procedures it says go against the owner’s “religious convictions.”

Great, now my wife is going to have to shop at Michael's to buy all the crap we don't need or have room for.

Great, now my wife is going to have to shop at Michael’s for all the crap we don’t need or have room for.

If you’re like me, you probably see all of this happening and it makes you feel powerless. And now, everyone is fighting with each other on social media again, and more and more people just get more cynical and withdrawn, and our country has yet another reason to be even more divided…. But here’s what I think: This Supreme Court decision is not a defeat. It is a reminder. It is a reminder that our votes matter. All five of the republican-appointed justices voted in favor of this decision, and all of the democratic-appointed justices voted against it. There are all kinds of good reasons to be a republican, but this group of five conservative justices are so pro-business rights that they don’t seem to care that is hurting our HUMAN rights. If a for-profit company is religiously opposed to homosexuality, can they choose to not offer benefits to same-sex partners in states that have decided their marriages just as valid?

We cannot let disappointments like this one make us cynical. This Hobby Lobby decision is not about right vs. left. The fight is not between right and left or republican and democrat…. The fight has always been between the ones who are being oppressed and the ones who have their foot on our necks. Republicans and democrats alike should be alarmed at the possible scope of a decision like this one. Tea Party groups have figured out that if they mobilize a relatively small group of people during primaries, they can manage to get some of their candidates elected–folks with extreme ideologies–BUSINESS RIGHTS OVER HUMAN RIGHTS. But WE are the ones who make the rules of how things work. We can either keep making rules that allow the business owners to amass incredible wealth (while using that wealth to pass legislation making themselves even more wealthy), or we can make rules that focus on Workers Rights–Rules that don’t just enrich a few on the backs of the many.

I think I've got a solution: Go to Hobby Lobby, buy a bunch of yarn, and crochet your own condoms. As far as I know, a man has never gotten a woman pregnant while wearing a crocheted condom.... Then there'll be no need for birth control!

I think I’ve got a solution: Go to Hobby Lobby, buy a bunch of yarn, and crochet your own condoms. As far as I know, a man has never gotten a woman pregnant while wearing a crocheted condom…. Then there’ll be no need for birth control!

So here’s what you need to do: VOTE! Do not let this sort of awfulness convince you that nothing can be done. That is exactly the sort of thing the people with all the power WANT us to think. There is a midterm election coming up in just a few short months. If we let a bunch of crazy people get elected who are hell-bent on bringing any government process to a halt, it’s going to get harder and harder to fix this stuff. I believe that there is something spiritual and Godly about working together to end oppression in all its forms, and economic oppression is a very real thing. The government is NOT the answer to all our problems, but sometimes there are governmental systems that need to be changed in order to make justice possible. Before we can get back to working out the subtle differences between political right and left, we have to recognize and repair a system that led to the greatest economic inequality this nation has ever seen. Oh please vote…. Things are not hopeless!

Posted in 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 177 Comments

30 Euphemisms For Sex or Using the Bathroom

Sometimes, when I write, I can get into a funk. Hey, that’s a good one!

“Getting Into A Funk”

A genius in Portland changed a bunch of stop signs. And made the world a happier place.

A genius in Portland “vandalized” a bunch of stop signs…. And made the world a happier place.

You may have noticed that I haven’t written anything for about three weeks…. I’ve tried, but my heart wasn’t in it. I kept on writing about stuff like Gun Violence, Why People Think We Need Hell, and Being Afraid to Let My Kids Go For A Walk–Things that were on my heart, but NONE of which I actually felt like writing…. probably because they were making me sad. So instead I thought I’d try some long neglected Bathroom Humor in an attempt to “cleanse my palate,” so to speak…. Which, coincidentally, brings me to another euphemism (they’re everywhere):

“Cleansing Your Palate”

My wife is classier than this.

My wife is classier than this.

Before I continue, it should be noted that by publishing this, I am going against my wife’s better judgment (another good one!) Her exact words were: “I am not okay with this. And I won’t be sharing it.” And my blogs don’t do near as well when she doesn’t share them. So that means if this makes you laugh or smile or cringe, you should do three things: First of all, don’t hold it against my wife (!), because she is a classy, classy lady. Anyone who says that she came up with a few of these herself is a dirty liar. Secondly, if you have another euphemism that you would like to share in the comments section, please do. I’d like for this post to become the internet’s preeminent site for sex and bathroom-related euphemisms. Third, share it. The number of people reading this one is going to be way down with her boycotting the blog. Let’s get started. In no particular order….

It's impossible to talk to this man about purchasing his mule without giggling.

It’s impossible to talk to this man about purchasing his mule without giggling.

“Boycotting The Blog” 

“Working Off Some Carbs”

“Seeing A Man About A Mule”

“Getting It Out Of Your System”

“Having A Movement”

“Dropping The Kids Off At The Babysitter’s”

“Laying Some Pipe”

“Having Some Alone Time”

“Letting Off Some Steam”

I push this bottom as often as possible.

I push this bottom as often as possible.

“Releasing The Hounds”

“Fooling Around”

“Watching An Episode of Happy Days”

“Taking A Steve Doocy”

“Appealing To Congress”

“Hitting A Home Run”

Hes was asking for it.

Hes was asking for it.

“Punching Seth Rogan In The Face”

“Testing The Suspension”

“Doing The Nasty”

“Code Brown”

“Sitting Down On The Job”

“Getting A Briefing At The Oval Office”

“Making A Buckeye”

“Flying Coach”

“Deleting Ann Coulter’s Tweets”

She is not a horrible person--She's "Character Deficient."

She is not a horrible person–She’s “Character Deficient.”

“Getting It On”

“Plowing The Fields”

“Making A Baby”

And there you have it. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, so if you like to add one to the comments section, feel free. Remember that euphemisms are supposed to be milder, indirect versions of stuff that is too harsh or embarrassing…. So let’s keep it PG-13. Sometimes I just need to do stuff like this to stay sane. Also, if you’re offended by any of these I’m sorry. Let this be a lesson to you…. It’s probably going to happen again. CHEERS!

Posted in 3) Bathroom Humor | 10 Comments

What Christians Need To Know About Tipping

I am not LIFE.... If I hand you lemons, you do NOT make lemonade!

I am not LIFE…. If I hand you lemons, you do NOT make lemonade!

There are some people who you know are going to be bad tippers just by looking at them. I’ve had a job as a server for a long time now, and sometimes you can just tell. For example…. If you ask how much a soda costs, things do not look good. If you ask for a “bowl of lemons” for your water and then ask for some Splenda, I plan on being disappointed. If you say anything at all about “being a good tipper,” chances are you’re not. If you happen to be wearing camouflage or anything bearing the likeness of a person on Duck Dynasty, I will be pleasantly surprised if I get 10%. And sure, I can always be surprised by folks, but years of experience has conditioned me to lower my expectations as to how much money I’m going to make with certain folks. And one group that is very consistently cheap with their gratuity is people who pray before they eat.

Christians, before-meal-prayers, camouflage clothes.... It's the perfect storm.

Christians, before-meal-prayers, camouflage clothes…. It’s the perfect storm.

If I see someone praying before their meal, I immediately lower my expectations for their tip by about 5-10%. Now, it must be said that some of the most generous people I know are Christians. I’ve had Christians leave me amazingly generous tips before. I’ve watched Christians talk to someone who mentions needing a car, and they’ve said, “Here, have my car.” But for whatever reason, the folks who believe (for whatever reason) that Christians are supposed to pray and “bless the food” together before every meal–the ones who make the biggest spectacle out of their pre-meal prayer–they are notoriously terrible tippers. Ask any server, and they’ll tell you the same thing. And this is really frustrating to me, because I’M a Christian.

The only "fact" this shirt portrays is that I'm about to be disappointed....

The only “fact” is that I’m about to be disappointed.

Now, I’m the sort of guy who thinks EVERYONE should tip their servers well (I wrote a bit about that HERE), but if you are the sort of person who feels the need to pray before every meal, here’s what I need you to do: Take a good, hard look at yourself. If you are a cheap person, do the rest of us a favor and skip the prayer before the meal when you are eating out. Or, just don’t eat out anymore. I’d rather you stay home and pray over your Kraft Mac n’ Cheese than go out and make all Christians look bad. You might be asking yourself, “What does he mean by cheap?” Let me define “cheap.” You are cheap if…

  • If you have ever started a credit card tip with a decimal point. Maybe you planned on a $4 beer and instead it was $4.25 and you only have a $5 bill…. fine. Whatever. But if you are paying with a card, do it right. I don’t care if you split a pizza 6 ways and your tab is only $3.25…. If you leave .ANYTHING as a tip on a credit card, you are cheap.
  • If you pull out a calculator when trying to figure out what to leave. A lot of you will say that you are trying to make sure you leave enough. No. You’re not. You’re trying to make sure you don’t leave too MUCH. The only people who do this are bad tippers. Good tippers estimate, and then they err on the side of generosity. Sorry–You’re cheap.
  • If you think of 15% as a “good tip.” 15% is not a good tip. It’s a bad tip. If you saw your server pick his nose and eat his booger, then he got your order completely wrong, and because of his incompetence you missed the movie that you were planning on going to–THAT’s a 15% tip experience. $7.50 on a $50 tab is a slap in the face. What does the birdie say? (The birdie says “cheep.”)
  • If somewhere in your brain you feel like your being extra complimentary will make up for your impending shitty tip. You saying “Thank you SO much” three times (and writing it once next to the tip line) is not–I repeat NOT a tip. These are called “verbal tips,” and they are not going to help anyone pay their bills. Welcome to Cheapville…. Population YOU. And speaking of this, if you leave a crap tip and write “God Bless” or anything thereabouts that identifies you as a Christian, you are an awful, awful person. I’ve got news for you: If God is going to bless someone, it’s going to be through the people who love him. Writing “God Bless” next to a crap tip is like having a sandwich and praying for a homeless person to get some food… and then taking your sandwich home with you so you can eat it for lunch tomorrow.
  • If you feel the need to hide your receipt. Or fold it in half. Or strategically place the pen over the tip line. People who leave good tips don’t feel ashamed of letting other people see what they left. You, my friend, are cheap… but I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know. There are more ways to detect your own cheapness, but I’ll stop here…. For an AMAZING article on tipping, please click HERE. It’s awesome.
This fascinating "Tipping Spectrum" was featured on waitbutwhy.com's article on tipping. They sampled 1000 servers to compile this information. Click the link above the picture to read the article.

This fascinating “Tipping Spectrum” was featured on waitbutwhy.com’s article on tipping. They sampled 1000 servers to compile this information. Click the link above the picture to read the article.

Listen, when Jesus sat down for a meal with his disciples before he died, he took some bread and broke it and he took some wine and drank it, and he said, “When you do this, remember me.” I don’t believe he simply meant for that act only to be a remembrance in Church with little wafers and tiny cups of grape juice. When we sit down and eat with each other, those are holy times. If you’re going to pray before your meal, instead of recycling all of the same old things you always say when you pray before your meals, try this new prayer instead:

“God, help us to be examples of your extravagant love to a cynical world…. A world whose biggest barrier to loving Jesus seem to be the folks who claim to follow him and call themselves “Christians.” Where we are afraid of not having enough, God, please remind us of how much we have, how little we need, and how much you love us. Show me how–two weeks from now–an extra $5 on a tip will make absolutely no difference in my life, but it might be the sort of small act that encourages a stranger to give the faith they abandoned just one more chance. Help us to love people–Not just with our words, but with the things we do and the resources we’ve been given. AMEN!”

"Hey, Lama. How about a little something, you know... for the effort."

“Hey, Lama. How about a little something, you know… for the effort.”

Where I grew up, people didn’t go out to eat on Sundays because then it would force other people to WORK on Sundays (instead of “honoring it and keeping it holy”). If you’re not going to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy by NOT going out to eat, you had damn well better honor it and keep it holy by leaving your server a decent tip. This coming weekend, so many of you are going to go out to eat after Church. Guess what…. The servers who are bringing you your food? Many of them talk quite a bit about “wanting to start going to Church again,” but instead, they have to work Sunday lunches bringing you your stupid food. For so many people, this is a shift that is dreaded because of the notorious reputation of the after-Church crowd as tippers. This has got to change. Christians should be so generous that servers should be FIGHTING over those Sunday shifts!

So if you are one of those parties who holds hands, squeezes your eyelids together so tight, and prays loudly about “we just” this and “blessing” that and “Jesus’ name” this, you had better be ready to drop some extra cash on the table. Christians are not cheap. Christians are generous. Start acting like a Christian.

***For a really inspiring tipping story, you should read THIS***

Posted in 1) Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Puberty, Personal Responsibility, and Getting What We Deserve

Puberty does strange things to a child.

Puberty does strange things to a child.

“I went through puberty.” This was the big secret a fourth grader in one of my classes felt the need to tell me (I do programing at three inner city schools that uses experiential education to focus on empathy-building, self-control, and alternatives to violence, in case you didn’t know). He whispered it, but I winced because the whisper was way louder than it should have been with that sort of sentence. I’m not sure what going “through puberty” meant to him, and I sure wasn’t going to ask, so I said something nondescript and conversation-ending to the effect of, “Okay! Well, there you go!” Maybe he got a new hair somewhere, or his voice squeaked…. Who knows. But the way he strutted as he walked away made me think he was very proud of himself. It was a very cute moment from a kid who acted out a lot. He was a kid whose behavior often warranted discipline from his teacher–The sort of kid who spoke up in opposition when I suggested that hitting someone who hit you might not be the best way to handle the situation–The sort of kid who drew guns on everything.

I had forgotten his name (I am the worst with names), so I walked over to his desk to see if there was something there with his name on it. There was a letter he had written that started with the words “Dear Dad.” I thought he might have signed his name at the bottom, so I moved some papers that were on top of the letter. The letter said something like, “I love you so much. I think about you all the time. I can’t wait to see you again. You’ll always be my dad.” He saw me read it, and he said, “It’s a letter I wrote to my Dad.” I told him that it was a really nice letter while calling him “Bud,” or something thereabouts (he hadn’t signed the letter). He said, “Yeah…. I’m going to drop it off at his grave.” Shit.

It's especially hard to repair an adult who is not you.

It’s especially hard to repair an adult who is not you.

I’ve worked with kids for a very long time now–About 20 years (Oh my God). There have been so many times in the past when I looked at a kid and made the decision (maybe subconsciously–never out loud) that he or she was just a bad kid. There was usually some action the kid had done to confirmed my suspicions. “You should know better! NO EXCUSE! YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS!!!” Then I had kids of my own…. Sometimes it’s easier to forgive other people’s kids for being little turds than it is to forgive your own. It makes sense that OTHER people’s kids are little morons, but with your own, you actually BELIEVE the whole “You should know better” thing.

They should know better.... File this under reasons to not hyphenate your names.

They should know better…. File this under “Reasons to not hyphenate your names.”

Today, my son slammed my daughter’s arm in a door. He had locked the chain lock, and my daughter reached her arm in the space and he tried to shove it closed while her arm was in it. She cried out in genuine pain, and immediately I’m pissed (You should know this about me: I am at my most out of control when my kids hurt each other. I’m working on it). I go over to see if my daughter is alright, and she is. My focus turns toward the boy. I try to go inside, but the chain on the door is locked…. I see red and briefly consider kicking the door down (I teach kids about self-control). I have warned him before about the dangers of pushing doors shut while people are trying to get in…. HE SHOULD KNOW BETTER! In the time it takes me to walk around the house to the other door, I try to remember to breathe. When I reach him, I am slightly calmer–“How many times have I told you” and “Why in the world would you” and all of that…. He starts crying and says that they were telling secrets and wouldn’t tell him. And just as quickly, I’m not angry….

There is more to us than the decisions we make.

There is way more to us than the decisions we make.

I think back to being a dorky little kid. I remember the sting of being left out. I remember feeling like I didn’t have any friends. I remember how something as simple as a person not wanting to play with me could make me truly believe that NO ONE liked me. I remember my own selfish and hurtful reactions as a child. When we forget our own failings, we are at our most unforgiving.  And I consider that maybe what pisses me off the most about my kids hurting each other might be the shame of my own deficient DNA coursing through their sweet little brains. Besides, what does it say about my own brain that I would think to ask a question like “Why would you do that?” to a person who once shoved his used, poopy toilet paper into the bathroom floor vent so he wouldn’t hear his sisters in the next room?

But it’s not just kids…. We think we know why people are the way they are. We think we know why people do what they do. Most of the time, we have no idea. We are these little balls of chemistry and hormones walking around preaching to each other about “Personal Responsibility.” Maybe that kid has been acting out because of the allergy medicine he has been taking has a side effect of making people aggressive (this turned out to be the case with us). Maybe hints of adolescence are throwing everything off balance. Maybe the argument has more to do with the chemistry in our bodies than actual facts. Maybe that guy selling drugs has NO OTHER OPTION for making enough money to care for their family. Maybe person in the car next to you flipping you off  because of a simple mistake you made is on her way to drop off a letter at a grave.

I'm not sure if this has to do with what I've written. Maybe....

I’m not sure if this has to do with what I’ve written. Maybe….

There are a lot of people out there who are very concerned with other people’s personal responsibility–People who seem very passionate about everyone getting what they deserve. These are people who attempt to break down everything into something as simple as choice–That way, every success and failure is warranted. It makes it easier to look at homeless people and think they got that way because they didn’t work hard enough…. But sometimes we talk about bootstraps to people who don’t have boots. Imagine the bleakness of the prayer “May we all get what we deserve.” Here is a different prayer I am praying tonight: “May any concerns I might have about ‘personal responsibility’ be of my own.” How much of my reactions and my insecurities are hardwired into me? What trauma am I feeling the effects of without even knowing about it? What do I need to let go of? Who do I need to forgive? Which things can I control? Which things can I change? I spend a lot less time being offended when I’m focused on those sorts of questions. This is not to say that we don’t try to convince other folks why it’s not okay to shove dirty toilet paper down floor vents…. It just makes it easier to love them while they still don’t get it.

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I’m Not Sad That Maya Angelou Died

A great tree has fallen....

A great tree has fallen….

Sure, I have tears in my eyes, but I wouldn’t really describe them as sad tears. I think these are tears of pride. I’m so proud of humanity for having a voice like hers. What a life! What a soul! What a woman!!! Please read this poem of hers….

When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

"Nothing will work unless you do."

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

I remember being “forced” to read “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” in school, and then coming out the other end of that book a changed person. Somehow better. And wiser. And more loving. I am astonished by the truth in the things she writes. I am filled with hope and courage by the witness of the love and strength that was born out of such pain and hurt. Her story and her words and her life scream out “GOD IS WITH US!!!” We had that for 86 years, and her story and her words and her life are still with us, and they live on.

Here are a few of her words for you to consider:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”

“My hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically. But nothing consistently without courage.”

So I’m not sad that Maya Angelou died…. I happy that she lived! In a world filled with so much garbage, Maya Angelou’s life is a reminder of the beauty of humanity. Where so many use their words to hurt, Maya Angelou’s words are a beacon of hope for a cynical world. We all mourn as great trees fall, but my happiness at the world’s good fortune for having such a great tree…. That happiness overwhelms any sadness. Oh Maya Angelou, thank you for your life! Oh world, be inspired by that life! GOD IS WITH US!!!

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A Different Kind Of Memorial Day Story

I still sing the Star Spangled Banner, but it's more about the harmonies....

I still sing the Star Spangled Banner, but it’s more about the harmonies….

Memorial Day is weird for me. I’ve never been accused of being a patriot. I guess I love this country? I don’t know…. It could be a whole lot worse. I think I love the idea of this country–That the people have the power to change things. But that power is only worth something if the people are educated and informed, and that is not currently the case. I don’t even say The Pledge of Allegiance…. I believe we only have one allegiance to give, and it’s not to a flag nor a republic for which it stands. For Christians especially, if we are putting our hand over our hearts and pledging our allegiance to something, it’s not going to be a country–no matter how nice a place it is to live. Memorial Day is weird for me….

Did war break this man?

Did war break this man?

Please know that I’m not trying to be disrespectful…. My issue certainly not with fallen soldiers–It is with the country they fell for. And even then, my issue is not so much with America (nor any of its enemies) as it is with a whole way of thinking that is embraced and celebrated on days like today. My problem is with the Myth of Redemptive Violence. It is the idea that violence needs to be met and dealt with by more violence, and for many, it is the real religion of this land. It is the sort of deeply troubling logic that Shane Claiborne speaks of (while speaking of Gulf War Veteran Timothy McVeigh) when he wrote, He comes back from war, mentally deranged, and continues to kill. And then the government that trained him to kill, kills him, to show the rest of us that it is wrong to kill.” It doesn’t make any sense.

On Memorial Day we remember those who gave their lives for this country, and we tell their stories. But the powerful stories of heroism in war–the ones that inspire me and stir my soul–are the stories of people laying down their life for a friend. There is nothing uplifting to me about “killing them before they kill you.” I find nothing inspiring about young men and women dying for something as empty as “patriotism”–Patriotism for a country that asks those same young men and women to sacrifice the part of themselves that knows that killing people is wrong. A country that asks its poorest kids to be willing to kill strangers so that a few rich, powerful men can stay rich and powerful–All in the name of something as empty as “patriotism.” And as veterans are killing themselves at unprecedented rates (as many as 22 per day), the country who always finds the money to go to war can’t seem to find the money to spend on fixing these sons and daughters that it has broken. And then we take a day off from work, we put up flags in our yard, and we go shopping because TODAY, SOFAS ARE 40% OFF!!!

We can honor their bravery without legitimizing and perpetuating the means by which they attempted to achieve peace. Our soldiers were told a story, and we continue to be told the same story today. We are told a story that says “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Well that story is a lie. It’s a story that responds to school shootings by passing laws to give teachers guns and putting armed officers in every school. It is a story that says, “We need to bring back the electric chair, just in case we run out of the drugs necessary to kill the criminals on death row” (as Governor Haslem has just done here in Tennessee). It’s a story that says, “Sure, that ‘Love your enemy’ stuff might work in personal relationships, but if you think that stuff would work in the real world, you’re naive or crazy or worse.”

His name is Robert Paulson

His name is Robert Paulson

We can honor our fallen soldiers without passing along that same old story to our children. People have believed these false stories, and what someone believes to be true becomes true for them. We keep telling this same story over and over, and all it leads to is more death and war and violence. I believe the best way we can honor the memory of those who died fighting in America’s wars is to work to dispel the myth of redemptive violence. Very few of us–even those of us who follow the Jesus who commanded us to love our enemies–can even IMAGINE another story. But we HAVE been given another story.

It’s a story that starts out with “You have heard it was said…,” but it is followed up by a very important “But I tell you….” “But I tell you: Do not resist an evil person… Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… Be like your father in heaven… Do not repay evil for evil… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!” But I tell you we can let go of this paradoxical idea that the only way to achieve peace is through war. But I tell you we can let go of this twisted idea that the way to deal with people who kill people is to kill them. But I tell you that you can let go of this incongruous idea that a sane response to school shootings is to have more guns in schools.

I think a better way to honor the dead is to work to make the world a place where we don’t have to play by the same rules that we have been playing by for so long now. Not to turn the brave men and women, sons and daughters into heroes for dying, but to acknowledge the illogical tragedy of a way of thinking that cannot imagine an option other than meeting violence with violence–What a memorial THAT would be.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

How To Keep Your Kids From Turning Gay

This is what your "religious freedom" looks like.

This is what your “religious freedom” looks like.

There are basically two sorts of people who are upset about Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend on ESPN after being drafted into the NFL. First, there are the sort who feels like his or her religious freedom is being infringed upon when they don’t feel the freedom to publicly proclaim their disgust and objection to homosexual displays of affection. These folks are upset, because they believe it’s unfair that they are called bigots when they say something bigoted…. because they claim that their bigotry is a “religious belief.” Many of these folks are the same ones who want businesses to have the right to refuse service (gay wedding cakes and all that) to people who don’t share their same beliefs (Incidentally, this is a point of view that could very easily result in store with signs that say, “No Jews Allowed”). I don’t have time to go into all the reasons why their argument is without merit.

On a side note, it’s hilarious to me that these people think that the only thing keeping straight people straight is the knowledge that being gay is wrong.

On a side note, it’s hilarious to me that these people think that the only thing keeping straight people straight is the knowledge that being gay is wrong.

Then, there are the sort who are very concerned about all this gayness being “shoved in our faces” (you can’t say “down our throats” on this particular issue)–These are the folks who are worried that if their kids discuss homosexuality or see same-sex couples showing each other affection on TV, it might turn them gay. Behind this very real concern is the belief that our sexual orientation is not based on who we are, but instead is based on what we see, what we do, or something as simple as a choice. The insistence that being gay is a choice is an important point for anti-gay people, because if it’s NOT a choice, it becomes very hard to tell the LGBT community they are doing something horribly wrong. The worry is that if their kids see a man kiss another man on TV, it might give their child the dangerous idea that being gay is normal and nothing to be ashamed of…. And we can’t have that.

I’m not sure when in my life it became so important to make sure everyone knew I wasn’t gay. I can remember being in about the fifth grade, and sitting on the bleachers watching the girls play basketball, and trying to decide how I was going to sit so that I would look the coolest/manliest/straightest (those things all kind of went together). There were cool ways to sit, and there were uncool ways to sit. I have always, for my whole life, been most comfortable sitting with my legs crossed (“Criss Cross Applesauce” if you work in elementary schools, “Indian Style” if you’re politically incorrect), but this was not an acceptable way to sit on the bleachers. If you sat with your legs crossed (one leg over the other in a “womanly” way), you were skewing a little gay. Legs spread, leaning over, elbows on your knees…. THAT’S how all the cool kids were doing it. I guess that in order for no one to mistake a middle-schooler for being gay, you needed to sit like you were on an imaginary toilet.

Siddhārtha was definitely NOT cool in middle school.

Siddhārtha was definitely NOT cool in middle school.

There were more of these little gay litmus tests around that time. When I played basketball, sometimes, as I got tired, my hand would hang limply at my wrist. As soon as I noticed I was doing it, I would make a fist and straighten my wrist–so no one would get the wrong impression. But really, there was more to it than just showing other people that I was straight–I felt like I needed to be vigilant with my young masculinity for the sake of my own straightness. And in my self-conscious little adolescent mind, something like a tired, limp wrist while playing basketball–left unaddressed–could be the the first domino in a line that could end up turning me gay. There was always that worry: That if any seemingly unmasculine mannerism wasn’t dealt with, I might end up wearing assless chaps in some parade. Never once did I think to ask myself the simple question: Who are you attracted to?” I had always loved girls, fantasized about them, lusted after them…. But that simple fact wasn’t enough to put my mind at ease. The stakes were too high. I had to keep proving to myself and others that I was a man. And in that world (and in many young men’s worlds), being a man was defined as liking women, while ironically hating any action that might be construed as feminine.

Imagine, for a moment, if the expectation of growing into a young man was based on things like being a person of integrity, things like telling the truth when it wasn’t easy, things like being unselfish and putting other people first…. Imagine the trouble I might have avoided. Imagine the sort of man I might be today if, during adolescence, I had put the same amount of energy into growing my character as I put into letting the world know that I was into girls and not guys. All this energy spent on “throwing like boy” or NOT “throwing like a girl.” It’s interesting how much of the concept of “being a man” was based on hating things about women–Their emotions, their tears, their perceived weakness…. “Look at how I’m sitting! This is how a MAN sits, baby!!”

"Are you a broth or a sista?" Well, I'm an only child....

“Are you a brotha or a sista?” Well, I’m an only child….

Through the following years, enlightenment came very slowly (as it often does), and it was usually accompanied by experience. In college, I questioned how some people’s physical bodies could be born with gender confusion, but we (Christians) insisted that homosexuality was a gay person’s choice. Then, add to that the life-altering experience of actually getting to know people who are gay. For a long while after that, I tried to separate a person’s homosexuality from (what I considered to be) the sin of ACTING on that homosexuality–You know, the whole “Love the sinner, hate the sin” thing. Finally SOMETHING CHANGED, and there I was, relinquishing my right to pass judgment on whether God actually condemns physical shows of affection between same-sex couples, and accepting and affirming a same-sex couple’s right to every bond the state OR THE CHURCH affords me and my wife.

Then last year, an editor from the Huffington Post contacts me to ask if they can share a blog post I had written about the whole Duck Dynasty brouhaha. I told him I would be honored. A few hours later, something I had written was up on the Huffington Post…. On their Gay Voices page! I admit, it was a little strange to see my post there. My wife asked me, “Do you think we should tell him that you’re not gay?” And from somewhere–I’m not sure where. I guess it was my mouth–I heard the words, “I don’t think it matters.” As I said those words, it felt like a Level Up in a video game. An Enlightenment Level Up. Uttering that one little sentence–and knowing that I actually meant it–felt like letting go of a fear I had been carrying around since before I could even put it into words. Part of a fear, at least….

It's unfortunate that much of my understanding about homosexuality came from Mr. Roper on Three's Company....

It’s unfortunate that much of my understanding about homosexuality came from Mr. Roper on Three’s Company….

It’s a fear that I carried with me even into fatherhood. A fear that discouraged letting my son put on one of his sisters’ dresses. A fear that made me play differently with my son than with my daughters. A fear that brought with it different expectations, and with those different expectations, different disappointments. If one of my daughters did something uncoordinated while playing sports, it was easily laughed off. But if my boy completely missed the ball while playing soccer, his lack of coordination was somehow perceived by me as an indictment of his masculinity…. and really, also an indictment of mine. Some of those old middle school lessons are still in there, and those ancient, errant beliefs still surface from time to time. And tragically, I’m tempted to treat my son like a tired wrist that needs to be straightened….

More athletes flaunting their sexuality....

More athletes flaunting their sexuality….

But luckily, parents are not the reason for a child’s homosexuality (which should be a good reason for people to relax about adoptions for same-sex couples). I’m not sure exactly how I would react if one of my kids came out to me, but knowing that I am not the reason behind my children’s sexual orientation is a very freeing thing. And it feels very peaceful knowing that if any of our kids came out to us, my wife and I would love and accept them without condition, and we would be filled with pride to be on the front row at that kid’s wedding. So if you’re worried about how to keep your kid from turning gay, don’t. You’ve got about as much control over it as you had over your own orientation–None. Adolescence is hard enough without the burden of being told (either with words or unspoken communication) that a person’s orientation is based on choices or actions he or she might make. Take that time that you would have spent trying to insure your child’s straightness, and teach your kid this lesson: Figure out who you are, and then go be the best possible version of you. It’s a way better use of your time.

Posted in 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Dear Matt Walsh….

Worse than this? I don't know.... It's close.

Worse than this? I don’t know…. It’s close.

You probably don’t know me, but I’m a blogger too. I just spent some time writing a post that was titled “5 Reasons Why The Matt Walsh Blog Is The Absolute Worst,” but I scrapped it. You know, there are a lot of reasons NOT to write a post with this title–One reason is that most people would probably be like, “Who the crap is Matt Walsh?” You’ve got a lot more readers than I do, but you’re far from a household name. An even better reason is that if I were to get in a “No YOU’RE the one who is stupid!” sort-of-argument with you, I’d probably lose. But then, in a fight between “I’m certain that I’m right!” and “I could be wrong,” “I’m certain that I’m right!” almost always wins. The best reason I had for scrapping what I had is this: When I told my wife the title, she said, “Oh no, Sweetie.” And her instincts are way better than mine. Anyway, that sort of post is really not what I’m about. And if it IS what I’m sometimes about, it’s not what I WANT to be about.

This is what the Bizarro you looks like next to a kangaroo.

This is what the Bizarro you looks like next to a kangaroo.

The first thing of yours that I read was a post about stay-at-home moms. Someone sent it to me because they thought I would like it. I did! It was a little on the pissed off side, but it was well-written. And man, I get it–I get pissed off a lot too. But when I read some of your other posts, it became very clear that, ideologically, we have landed at very different places. I don’t know what you believe about everything, but from the 15 or so posts that I’ve read, I’d say it’s safe for me to predict where you stand on an issue by choosing the exact opposite of what I believe. And that’s frustrating for me, because you seem like a smart guy. How can a guy who is clearly intelligent get things so consistently wrong? But it’s also strange because you and I both call ourselves Christians. And that’s where I feel the need to speak up.

For those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, I believe there’s plenty of room for everyone on the ideological spectrum–conservatives and liberals and fundamentalists and progressives and all the other labels that divide us. As is usually the case, you probably don’t agree. I just clicked on your your most recent post, you say, The enemy — the self-worshipping death cult known as modern liberalism — has become increasingly vile, violent, and deceitful.” Not a whole lot of room for common ground there….

Sarah Palin, seen here identifying the one who told her to make the comment about baptizing terrorists by water boarding.

Sarah Palin, seen here identifying the one who told her to make the comment about baptizing terrorists by water boarding.

But really, the kind of stuff you pump out is everywhere. If I were to spend every waking moment from here on out trying to respond to all the conservative bloggers who see the world in stark, black & white terms and credit The Almighty as being the reason for their ideological certainty, I’d never have the time be able to reply to them all. So why respond to your posts? It’s partially because people have sent me some of your posts wanting me to respond. It’s also because you’re good at what you do. When Sarah Palin says, “Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists,” almost all Christians can see the twisted nature of what was said. But the places where you get it wrong aren’t always as apparent, and it’s easier for people to come away from the things you write thinking, “I guess that makes sense….” But the main reason I’m writing is not because I think you’re wrong–There are a lot of people I think are wrong. The main reason I’m writing is because I have hope. I have hope that you might recognize some shades of gray in your black & white world, and I have hope that someday you’ll be the sort of person whose words are recognized by their love and not by their anger.

Worse than THIS?!? Let's not get carried away....

Worse than THIS?!? Let’s not get carried away….

I honestly don’t see a lot of hope in your writing. Or love, for that matter (Though, there seems to be quite a lot of faith. And 1 out of 3 ain’t bad. If we’re playing baseball, that’ll get you into the Hall of Fame). There’s a whole lot of anger. If you’re out there saying, “Hey, look at me. I’m a Christian blogger!” and everything you write is full of anger, what do you think that tells the world about Christians? Your posts also seem to be very colored by a certainty that this world is going to hell in a hand basket. But this world is being redeemed. Believe me when I say that I know there are a lot of things to be discouraged about, but there is beauty and truth and love out there too. It’s easy to see, especially when you’re looking for it. And I believe followers of Jesus are called to look for it. We are at our best when we are looking for it.

Liberals are to blame for me being attacked by this octopus.

Liberals are to blame for me being attacked by this octopus.

The Gospel is NOT a message of Personal Responsibility. There’s a time to preach personal responsibility, but if you believe it’s going to solve everything, you’re either being ignorant or you’re being dishonest. I hope that, for you, it’s the former. Many of your posts give the appearance of logic, but it’s logic that’s free from compassion. We are not called to use our words to be talented snipers…. We are called to use our words to love. And encourage. And inspire. And yes, challenge, but not in a way that says “Everyone who doesn’t think like me is an idiot.” And I realize that what I’m writing right now is being critical, so it might seem like I’m being hypocritical. Maybe…. I don’t think so. I believe that when people hate and over-simplify in the name of Jesus, the Church has a responsibility to stand up and say, “This isn’t right.”What you’re doing isn’t right, Matt.

Now I can read about abortion while also learning that there are many buxom women in my area looking for men over 50.... Maybe even some on ChristianMingle.com

Now I can read about abortion while also learning that there are many buxom women in my area looking for men over 50…. Some of them might even be on ChristianMingle.com

I don’t think your posts are as bad as Breitbart and FoxNews and the sort…. I think they’re worse. Because your brand of anger mixed with a message of religious certainty is the sort of mixture that can end up strapping a bomb to its chest. I see you’ve got some shiny new ads on your blog, and that you’ve partnered with ultra-conservative Liberty Alliance (having articles with titles like “Obama the Jihadist) and Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller, so that should mean some more money coming your way…. But please, dude–There are enough voices in the world providing overly simplistic answers to very complex questions and crediting it all to “Christianity.” I have learned (and am still learning) that asking the right question is way more powerful than having the right answer. Acknowledging complexity might not bring in the same amount of veiws for your blog, but I guarantee it will bring in more people to the arms of Jesus.

I have hope.

I have hope.

So here’s my challange to you (and anyone else who happens to read this): Read some of Rachel Held Evans‘ stuff. Or, if that is too theologically radical for you, read some Jen Hatmaker–She’s probably a bit closer to you on the Liberal/Conservative spectrum. Listen to the way they inspire and challenge and reform, all while keeping LOVE at the forefront of their words. There is a humility there that I haven’t yet encountered in your writings. You are pumping out stuff on a daily basis to a wide audience, and it’s all filled to the brim with anger and division and hatred, and you’re proclaiming “This is what Christianity looks like.” There is a fire in your writing, but Christianity does not look like a fire of anger and division and hatred…. It looks like the fire of Peace and Reconciliation and Love. Find THAT fire, and use your considerable talents to fan that flame.

XOXO,

The Boeskool

And as for the rest of you, if you come accross a Matt Walsh Blog post someone shared, and you’re not sure how to verbalize why it makes you feel so discouraged, feel free to put up this blog post as a response. Or, even better, find something that Rachel Held Evans or Jen Hatmaker has written on the subject, and post that as a response. They’re a lot better at this than I am. If you’re interested, you can follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TheBoeskool, or you can Like My Facebook Page for some other fun stuff. Peace.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics, 4) All Of The Above | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

How To Walk Through Walls

Please follow me down this rabbit hole….

Picture our solar system. We’ve got these planets spinning around this giant ball of fire–Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and (in our hearts) Pluto. As a kid, I went to a Planetarium, and I fell in love with the VASTNESS of the universe. I left that Planetarium visit with a small book of facts about our solar system that I treasured (I’d sometimes quiz people about obscure planet facts to show how smart I was. “What? You DON’T know the diameter of Jupiter at the equator?!? Duh, it’s 88,000 miles….”). I knew about the bigness of the Sun, but I never was really properly impressed with the bigness of the empty space in between the planets.

All of a sudden, I have a craving for one of those big, candy store suckers....

All of a sudden, I have a craving for one of those big, candy store suckers….

If you were like me, you might have had visual aids like the model in this picture. And though it might help us to remember the names, most everyone knows that scale-wise it is terribly inaccurate. It’s understandable, though, because a model that was actually to scale would be hard to fit into a classroom. Picture this: If the sun was the size of a basketball, the Earth would be the size of a BB…. A BB that is 107 feet away from the basketball! If you go all the way out from that same basketball to what’s now called a “dwarf planet,” Pluto is a large grain of sand about 4248 feet away. So…. in a circle over a mile-and-a-half wide, there is a basketball, a couple of golf balls (one that’s a little smaller and has some rings), a couple of marbles, four BBs, some pieces of sand (there are seven moons in our solar system bigger than pluto), and a little bit of dust. Now imagine one more thing: Imagine that instead of a mile-and-a-half-wide flat circle, those miniature planets and asteroids are contained in a mile-and-a-half diameter sphere, with that basketball, those golf balls, marbles, BBs, sand, and dust coming to rest at its bottom. Everything else in that sphere is just SPACE.

Every so often, I tip a 40 on the curb for poor, pitiful Pluto. You will be missed.

Every so often, I tip a 40 on the curb for poor, pitiful Pluto. You will be missed.

Now consider this: The atoms that make up our bodies–as well as the atoms that make up the very world we stand on (a world, by the way, that is spinning at just over 1000 m.p.h., while flying around the sun at 67,000 m.p.h., while that same sun rotates around the center of our galaxy at a little over 500,000 m.p.h.)–Those atoms contain roughly the same ratio of space to matter as our solar system. That means that if you take all of the “stuff” of an atom (Protons, Neutrons, Electrons, Up and Down Quarks and a bunch of other really small stuff) and put it into a scale model sphere, it would look a lot like the sphere we talked about above. And this seems to be the way things are set up–both at the macro level, as well as the micro level: A little bit of stuff, with a WHOLE LOT of space in between it. 

Yo, It's about that time to break forth the rhythm and the rhyme.... FEEL IT, FEEL IT!

Yo, It’s about that time to break forth the rhythm and the rhyme…. FEEL IT, FEEL IT!

And this is what we are as well. We are mostly space, with a very little bit of actual “stuff,” but with a whole lot of forces and fields and vibrations and attractions between that stuff. When one of my hands claps against the other, there is actually WAY more space in my flesh than there is matter, but what keeps one hand from passing right through the other hand are those forces at work. It’s not really stuff hitting stuff. It’s more like trying to push the two negatively charged parts of a strong magnet together. If you look closely enough, there is very little actual matter in us. We are mostly made up of the relationships BETWEEN that matter. We are vibrations. If you take a hammer to an anvil, it feels like solid stuff, but if you were able to look closely enough at it, it’s really just a bunch of mile-and-a-half-wide spheres with a few golf balls and marbles….

Now why does this matter? I was watching a video the other day of a drop of liquid mercury being affected by sound vibrations played at different frequencies. The sound created resonance in the mercury, and it seemed to dance as the sound waves made the liquid fight between pulling itself apart and pulling itself back together. It’s hypnotic. Here it is:

When I watched this I thought, “No wonder I am so affected by music–The vibrations of the sound waves could be making the matter that is ME move and gyrate and dance just like this mercury.” And if that’s happening, maybe our words have the power to actually affect the things around us in strange ways as well. I mean, it makes sense. We see sound being used in medicine. Doctors will break up kidney stones while they are still inside someone’s body by sending sound waves into them at just the the right frequency. And then I asked myself the question, “Are our thoughts ‘things?’” When we think a thought, is that thought something real (like the sound waves sent into the kidney stones), or is it something else? Because, if our thoughts are real things, then it stands to reason that those real things might be able to somehow affect OTHER real things.

All work and no blogging makes The Boeskool a dull boy.

All work and no blogging makes The Boeskool a dull boy.

I’m not making a case for some sort of “mind over matter” way of thinking. I know that what we believe can affect our bodies, but this isn’t like the urban myth of the guy who froze to death in what he thought was a refrigerated train car. When I was growing up, I made a bunch of Mac n’ Cheese. I would always get the butter and milk (as well as that sweet, sweet powdered cheese) ready to add to the noodles when they were done. One time, while the water was boiling, I dropped a spoon, and in the chaos of trying to catch it, some boiling hot water splashed onto my arm. At least I thought it was boiling hot water. When I pulled my hand away from my burned arm, it was milk that had splashed. Beneath the milk, my skin was already red and raised up from the “burn.” But it’s not this sort of “brains tricking our bodies” situation that I’m talking about.

Every wine glass, like every one of us, is full. The question is: "Full of what?"

Every wine glass, like every one of us, is full. The question is: “Full of what?”

I’m just wondering if our thoughts, if they are indeed “things” or “stuff” or matter, might be more powerful than we think. Microwaves heat up food by sending invisible waves that make water vibrate so much that the friction heats up the food. What if the love that we feel for people can be felt all around us. What if the simple act of truly forgiving someone is capable of making their cells dance like that droplet of mercury. C.S. Lewis explains the story of Jesus walking through the wall of the locked room the disciples were hiding in, not as him being some etherial, ghostly body, but as Jesus being SO REAL at that point that it made the wall seem etherial. The notes of our voices can affect a wine glass and shatter it…. Maybe our thoughts, real as any voice, can affect the things around us as well. And if our thoughts, maybe our prayers as well….

Are thoughts matter? Our thoughts matter? I don’t know –I’m just “What-If-ing” over here.  The last few days, I’ve been looking at people and trying to remember that they are mostly space. Still, every time I kicked someone, they seem very, very solid. They say that trees are 90% air, but if you’ve ever tried to his a golf ball through one, experience tells you that percentage is a little high. I don’t know…. Something to think about. Thanks for chasing a rabbit with me for a bit. Carry on.

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