Watch President Obama Absolutely CRUSH This Sermon

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

When dealing with people who hate President Obama, I am constantly amazed at how fast they can take the opposite side of LITERALLY WHATEVER ISSUE he is talking about. It doesn’t matter what the issue is… Obama could say, “Cancer is bad,” and the folks who hate him would be like, “Obama is trying to put Oncologists out of a job.” He could say, “I love puppies,” and haters would be accusing him of discriminating against cats. He could use an executive order to give everyone in America an assault rifle, and conservatives would be talking about him abusing his power, and calling him a “Flip-Flopper.” So when President Obama got up to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast, it was no different. But really, he didn’t “speak.” He PREACHED. He read the verse I quoted above, and then he preached. And even after giving the most theologically sound speech I’ve ever heard a president give, people–both on the left and the right–are dismissing it without even listening to what he said…

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Seriously though, how can you not just love this guy. I want to grab him by his big ears, and tell him that I love him.

And the main reason I’m writing this post right now is that I really–honestly–want EVERY SINGLE PERSON to listen to the things that Barack Obama had to say at this Prayer Breakfast. For my friends on the left, forget for a moment that this National Prayer Breakfast is put on by “The Family” in Washington D.C.–A horribly anti-gay “Christian” group that has ties to the American church leaders behind the new laws in Uganda making homosexuality punishable by death… And forget all the times that people have used religion to justify every kind of hatred and bigotry… And just listen to his words. For my friends on the right, forget for a moment all of those eMail forwards you got making a case for how Obama was secretly a Muslim… Forget the blame you regularly put on his shoulders… Forget about how you believe that he couldn’t possibly be a follower of Jesus because of his position on a woman’s right to choose… Forget how much you hate this guy, put away your “NOBAMA” stickers, and PLEASE JUST LISTEN to what he says in this video:

Now, here’s the thing: I can TELL how many people actually clicked on the video and watched it, and it’s never anywhere CLOSE to the number of people who read the posts. So I’m begging you–You don’t have to watch the whole thing… Just listen to it. Listen to it on your phone as you’re driving. Listen to it on ear buds as you’re working at your desk. Listen to it as you’re going to bed. You will not regret it.

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Seriously though, how can you not just love this guy. I want to grab him by his big ears, and tell him that I love him.

And for those of you that need more priming than just my insistent begging, I’m going to quote part of the speech. I say “speech,” but it was definitely a sermon, and it was unimpeachably, unapologetically Christian. It was emotional and true. And it exemplified the power, the love, and the sound mind Paul talked about in his letter to Timothy. Here are the two stories he ended with, as well as his conclusion. If you’d like, you can view the ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT HERE. Please read… The highlights are mine.

A week ago, I spoke at a ceremony held at the Israeli Embassy for the first time, honoring the courage of people who saved Jews during the Holocaust. And one of the recipients was the grandson — or the son of an American soldier who had been captured by the Nazis. So a group of American soldiers are captured, and their captors ordered Jewish POWs to identify themselves. And one sergeant, a Christian named Roddie Edmonds, from Tennessee, ordered all American troops to report alongside them. They lined up in formation, approximately 200 of them, and the Nazi colonel said, “I asked only for the Jewish POWs,” and said, “These can’t all be Jewish.” And Master Sergeant Edmonds stood there and said, “We are all Jews.” And the colonel took out his pistol and held it to the Master Sergeant’s head and said, “Tell me who the Jews are.” And he repeated, “We are all Jews.” And faced with the choice of shooting all those soldiers, the Nazis relented. And so, through his moral clarity, through an act of faith, Sergeant Edmonds saved the lives of his Jewish brothers-in-arms.

A second story. Just yesterday, some of you may be aware I visited a mosque in Baltimore to let our Muslim-American brothers and sisters know that they, too, are Americans and welcome here. And there I met a Muslim-American named Rami Nashashibi, who runs a nonprofit working for social change in Chicago. And he forms coalitions with churches and Latino groups and African Americans in this poor neighborhood in Chicago. And he told me how the day after the tragedy in San Bernardino happened, he took his three young children to a playground in the Marquette Park neighborhood, and while they were out, the time came for one of the five daily prayers that are essential to the Muslim tradition. And on any other day, he told me, he would have immediately put his rug out on the grass right there and prayed.

But that day, he paused. He feared any unwelcome attention he might attract to himself and his children. And his seven year-old daughter asked him, “What are you doing, Dad? Isn’t it time to pray?” And he thought of all the times he had told her the story of the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rabbi Robert Marx, and 700 other people marched to that very same park, enduring hatred and bigotry, dodging rocks and bottles, and hateful words, in order to challenge Chicago housing segregation, and to ask America to live up to our highest ideals. And so, at that moment, drawing from the courage of men of different religions, of a different time, Rami refused to teach his children to be afraid. Instead, he taught them to be a part of that legacy of faith and good conscience. “I want them to understand that sometimes faith will be tested,” he told me, “and that we will be asked to show immense courage, like others have before us, to make our city, our country, AND OUR WORLD a better reflection of all our ideals.” And he put down his rug and he prayed.

Now, those two stories, they give me courage and they give me hope. And they instruct me in my own Christian faith. I can’t imagine a moment in which that young American sergeant expressed his Christianity more profoundly than when, confronted by his own death, he said “We are all Jews.” I can’t imagine a clearer expression of Jesus’s teachings. I can’t imagine a better expression of the peaceful spirit of Islam than when a Muslim father, filled with fear, drew from the example of a Baptist preacher and a Jewish rabbi to teach his children what God demands.For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mindI pray that by His grace, we all find the courage to set such examples in our own lives — not just during this wonderful gathering and fellowship, not just in the public piety that we profess, but in those smaller moments when it’s difficult, when we’re challenged, when we’re angry, when we’re confronted with someone who doesn’t agree with us, when no one is watching. I pray, as Roma so beautifully said, that our differences ultimately are bridged; that the God that is in each of us comes together, and we don’t divide.

Seriously… Say that again, Obama. “That our differences ultimately are bridged; that the God that is in each of us comes together, and we don’t divide.” I honestly don’t know if I could have kept myself from yelling out “Amen” if I had been there. And here’s how he ended it… I’m going to bold just about the whole paragraph, because every word is SO. STINKING. GOOD.

I pray that our leaders will always act with humility and generosity. I pray that my failings are forgiven.I pray that we will uphold our obligation to be good stewards of God’s creation — this beautiful planet. I pray that we will see every single child as our own, each worthy of our love and of our compassion. And I pray we answer Scripture’s call to lift up the vulnerable, and to stand up for justice, and ensure that every human being lives in dignity.

That’s my prayer for this breakfast, and for this country, in the years to come.

May God bless you, and may He continue to bless this country that we love.

Left or right, republican of democrat, Christian or Muslim of Jew or Hindu or Atheist of Agnostic… If these words resonate with you… If this is your prayer… Pass it along. Encourage someone else to listen to the good words of a good man. And even more than listening to these inspiring words, let us LIVE THEM OUT!!

If you want to join others in helping support this blog–and me–you can do that by Becoming a Patron. If enough people donate a couple bucks a month, I could someday call this my job. Rhonda Scofield donated, and it’s folks like her help keep me convinced that the world actually IS filled with generous, cool people. Otherwise, if you’re hella poor like some of us are, you can help support it by just sharing it somewhere on the interwebs. Thanks again!

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You Don’t Deserve To Go To Hell

I love people-watching at the grocery store. Yesterday, an elderly couple—riding two abreast on a pair of motorized scooters—were coming straight for me. I found myself tap dancing back and forth… Not sure which way to go. The lady seemed annoyed by my indecision. She looked at me and sighed, and just before putting me into a position where I needed to leap to safety, the woman said, “Alright… I’m fixin’ to head over to the cheese department,” and then she broke formation, made a hard left, and sped off in search of cheese. That’s the kind of entertainment that you can’t get by ordering stuff on Amazon.

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I don’t remember exactly what the pair of mobility scooters looked like, as they were moving at a high rate of speed… I can only assume they were suped-up somehow.

The other day I had an interesting experience in a checkout line. Most of the time I chat with whomever is working the checkout line—usually about the odd assortment of things I’m purchasing. Whenever I go to the grocery store, I never seem to walk out of there with “normal” groceries. It’s never just milk, bread, cheese, apples, eggs, orange juice, and oatmeal.” It’s always some desperately random combination of things—random to the point of being embarrassing—that make me look like I’m some sort of deviant… Or planning some sort terrorist attack… Or both. It’s always like, “Hi, I’d like to purchase these tampons, this tube of goat cheese, these size D batteries, this family sized bag of gummy bears, this can of WD-40, and $38 worth of Boar’s Head oven gold turkey breast.

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I’m not going to tell you which one of these defects I have…

So, the other day—after just paying for a needle-nosed pliers, an industrial sized vat of Listerine, and a slim Jim—the person behind me in line asked the woman working the checkout, “How you doing today?” And she gave the answer that frustrates me more than any other answer to that question: “Better than I deserve.” You may have heard this answer before… I have heard it hundreds of times since moving to the South years ago. A lot of people associate “Better than I deserve” with Christian financial guru, Dave Ramsey, but that phrase (as well as the theology behind it) have a long history. Other people connect that phrase to a pastor named C.J. Mahaney… But really it goes back all the way to John Calvin and beyond. Many people who use that answer to the question “How are you doing?” will tell you that they are doing it to remind themselves to be thankful… But really–at the heart of it—is a daily reminder of what so many Christians believe we all REALLY deserve… HELL.

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“The moment God is figured out with nice, neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.” ~ Rob Bell

Maybe this is the version of Christianity that you grew up with… The version that reminds us every chance it gets that each of us is so depraved—even from our birth—that the just and right consequence for our depravity is an eternity of conscious torment. For many people using the moniker “Christian,” this belief in Hell as an actual place where unbelievers receive “eternal conscious torment with no hope of redemption” is such an integral part of their faith, that for someone to even suggest the possibility of another interpretation is to be branded a heretic (see Rob Bell, and a host of others). But really—at this point in my life—it makes a lot more sense that people like myself WOULD be seen as heretical… We believe very different things. I mean, imagine walking around each day, and with every greeting, reminding yourself (as well as the one saying hello) that we are all such total and complete piles of garbage that we deserve to be tortured–not just for 100 years, or 1000 years, or even a million years—but for ETERNITY. Our understandings of the nature of God are so starkly different, it seems difficult to imagine we could both be under the same umbrella called “Christianity.”

And here’s my problem with the concept of a conscious, eternal, tortuous Hell: It’s completely incompatible with the idea of a loving God. If we can know anything about the concept of “loving,” then we can know that sending a sentient being to get tortured (or creating a system where torture is a natural consequence—ANY torture… let alone ETERNAL torture) could not possibly be defined as “loving” that being. And when you point this fact out to people who hold tightly to the doctrine of Hell, many times they will counter with talk of God’s “justice.” But again, if we can know anything at all of the concept of “justice,” we can know that an eternity of torment could NEVER be considered a just consequence for a temporal offense… Whether that offense was a wrong conclusion made in good faith, or even if that offense is 30 years of outright rebellion. Most of humanity has concluded that torture is beneath us as a species… And yet so many still cling to a picture and a theology that has the “higher” power—God—creating and utilizing a system whereby the vast majority of the human race receives a consequence of eternal torture.

This is the absolute and complete logical impossibility of an eternal, conscious torment that has come to be known as “Hell.”

No one knows what happens to us after we die. There are a lot of possibilities. It’s possible that there is some sort of refining process where we are relieved of all the things that make us broken—And maybe this process eventually happens to everyone (Universalism). It’s possible that when someone dies who isn’t invited into Heaven, that person simply ceases to exist… like a swatted fly or a trampled ant—Our souls and our consciousness are not necessarily eternal… And even if you read scripture that way, Matthew 10:28 speaks of God’s power to “destroy both soul and body” (Annihilationism). And it’s also possible that God made it so that only a relative few would make it to heaven… Through a process that has as many differing ideas as there are Christian denominations—just under 40,000—All while billions and billions of others would spend all eternity suffering in a fiery punishment (Traditional Doctrine of Hell). For a really clear picture of these different understandings of what happens to us when we die, the movie “Hellbound” does a really good job (It’s on Netflix). Also Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” is very accessible and well done. In any event, there is a plausible Biblical case that can be made for each one of these positions.

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Truth in comic form… From Saji George.

But only one of these positions is incompatible with the idea of a loving God. Either God loves us, or Hell is an eternity of conscious torment… But both cannot possibly be true at the same time. The traditional doctrine of Hell turns God into a monster… Like an abusive boyfriend who tells a woman, cowering and bruised, “You brought this on yourself.” And we, like that battered woman, say things like, “I had this coming to me… It’s my own fault… I deserve this.” NO!!! That isn’t love. “Love me, or I’ll beat the hell out of you” is NOT love. Just like “Love me, or I’ll have you tortured for all eternity” is not love. Or free will. Or justice. Or anything close to “Good News.” It is abuse. If the concept of “Goodness” means anything, we cannot possibly call this twisted version of an abusive God “Good.” Powerful? Certainly. Terrifying? For sure. But good? Never.

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“For myself, I am an optimist–It does not seem to be much use to be anything else.” ~ An awesome quote from Winston Churchill. Though this doesn’t look much like the face of optimism…

So here’s what I think: If a Biblical case can be made for each of these theological positions (Universalism, Annihilationism, and The Doctrine of Hell), why in the world would we choose the one that turns God into a monster? Tradition? A traditional understanding is what was used to justify slavery for 1900 years. A traditional understanding is what was used to justify beating your wife when she got out of line. Even if you give precedence to the times when Jesus describes God as the great Judger, you still don’t have to end up at a place of people being tortured forever. There is no good reason to hang onto this picture of God. It not only offends our conscience, but it offends our intellect and our reason as well (and for those of you who would warn of “leaning on our own understanding,” I would ask you to consider how your own sense of “understanding” brought you to that conclusion). But what’s more than that, this picture of God stands in stark contrast to the majority of Jesus’ characterizations of God as a “Good Father” who loves us way better than we could ever love our own kids… And I could never send my kids to get tortured—no matter how badly they messed up. Jesus speaks of a God who is merciful. And loving. And just. And who runs to meet us. And who doesn’t repay evil for evil.

“God does not love you because you are good; God loves you because God is good. And then you can be good because you draw upon such an Infinite Source… God is always and forever the initiator in my life, and I am, on occasion, the half-hearted respondent.” ~ Richard Rohr, from the meditation “Implanted Desire”

So I don’t know what happens to us when we die, but I can tell you what DOESN’T happen to us—Not if God is anything close to the “Good Father” Jesus describes. If God is the God of eternal damnation, we are all so very screwed. And if that’s what God is like, then how could we ever love that God? We could FEAR that God… But love? It sounds like the Old Testament understanding of Yahweh and an Old Testament understanding of humanity… An understanding that I believe Jesus came to correct, so that we could finally see God as the Great Lover… and finally see ourselves as the Beloved.

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Nope. Just… Nope.

Anyway, I guess I had heard that phrase one time too many—The one that sounds like so much blasphemy to me now—“Better than I deserve.” I told my kids to stay with the shopping cart. And I walked back over to the checkout. And I looked that woman in the eyes, and I said, “I’m sorry to interrupt… Please don’t ever say that. You do NOT deserve terrible things. We are all broken in some ways, but your brokenness does not define you, just like my brokenness does not define me. And even though it sometimes feels like it, your brokenness is not too much for God. You are not worthless! You are worthy of being loved, and you are worthy of every good thing that happens to you. Okay?” And the same goes for you… Whoever the “you” is reading this right now. There are plenty of people going through hell all around us, and where we can, we should alleviate that hell… but Hell certainly isn’t an eternity of torture. And if it was, you certainly don’t deserve to go there.

A few questions… 1) Why aren’t you following me on Twitter? 2) Are you on Facebook and do you also like things that are funny and/or interesting? Well alright then. 3) Do you think this blog is so freaking cool that you want to help support it by becoming a Patron or donating on PayPal? Someone named Tonia did. I know very little about Tonia… other than the fact that Tonia doesn’t deserve Hell either… And also, she helps support something that she believes in. And I think that is really cool.

Posted in 1) Jesus, 3) Bathroom Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Marsha Marsha Marsha, and the Oregon Militia

Our middle child is prone to high drama. Just the other day, he was feeling overwhelmed by his circumstances… I can’t remember the specifics, but he wanted to do something that no one else wanted to do. And feeling like everyone was out to get him (and in a very “Marsha, Marsha, MARSHA!” sort of way), he declared, “EVERYBODY HATES ME!” And off he went down the hallway, with exaggerated stomps. I kind of rolled my eyes, got a little frustrated, and called after him, “Nobody hates you… They just want to do something different than you.” And my wife put her hand up, and quietly said something that is true: “If it FEELS real to him, it IS real to him.”

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I swear–Every time I try to post an anti-federalist manifesto, some jackass gets in my shot and makes a “hang loose” sign in the background…

I thought about this today when I watched this video made by the remaining terrorists occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. It seems the government has grown tired of their false patriotism and obstinate desire to become martyrs for a make-believe cause, and eight people have been arrested (while away from their “compound,” possibly picking up some turkey jerky at the nearest Piggly Wiggly), while one person died in the process of being arrested. The couple of media trucks that were still near the refuge were told to leave, and the remaining few “Freedom Fighters” seemed to be coming unhinged as they prepared for the self-fulfilled prophecy of their imminent deaths. This video gives us a peek into the mentality of the highly-armed people remaining there… Though much of it is just video of a backhoe digging holes (for what, I don’t know. Possibly fighting positions… Possibly digging for snacks), so below the video I posted the times and quotes when people are actually saying something significant…

  • 0.16 “Media’s been ordered to leave… That means they’re coming to kill us, and they don’t want ’em to see that. They’re going to murder all of us. And the medias are cowards.”
  • 0.36 “Stay and show the truth! Show the TRUTH!!” (As an aside, this part reminded me SO MUCH of Eric Cartman saying, “It’s wrong… It’s WRONG!!”)
  • 1:24 “Media’s been waiting for a blood bath this whole time we’ve been here… Now there’s going to be one, and they’re running. They’re told to run, because the feds don’t want to know who’s murdering us. American people better wake up, get here, and fight for your country! Right now! It is ON!” Followed by someone else (singing something reminiscent of “Bad Boys, Bad Boys… What cha gonna do? What cha gonna do when they come for you?”): “… What cha gonna do? What cha gonna do when the… militia comes after YOU, FBI?”
  • 2:56 “All you military who’s been fighting for your country overseas? You can fight for your country right here, in America. Get here–GET SOME! This is history in the making. There are no laws in this United States now. This is a free for all Armageddon. And leo[?] or military or law enforcement or feds that fuck their oath–don’t abide by their oath–are the enemy! If they stop you from getting here, KILL THEM!!”
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The reason you shouldn’t have guns is the same reason Jan Brady shouldn’t have guns… She’s unstable, and people will end up getting killed.

I look at this husky patriot’s face, and all I can think of is my wife saying, “If it FEELS real to him, it IS real to him.” I am certain that this guy believes the things he is saying–It is so real to him that he is willing to die for it… Just like it was real to my son that everybody hated him… Just like it was real to Jan Brady that everything was about Marsha. I really hope that this whole saga can come to an end without any more bloodshed, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not. Regardless of how this ends, here are a few things I’ve been thinking about that I’d like you to consider:

  1. If there was ever a case for expanding the process of background checks for gun ownership, this video is it. This guy (as well as Mr. “Bad Boys” cameo) is not right in the head.
  2. Shooting law enforcement officers because you don’t want to pay for grazing fees does not a “Patriot” make… At least that’s what my grandma used to say.
  3. I have a sneaking suspicion about what happened to all their snacks…
  4. Nobody wants anyone there to die. The last thing anyone wants is to make this standoff something future wackos look at the same way you wackos look at Ruby Ridge of Waco. Stop trying to die.
  5. It’s illegal to try to incite violence. Just as it’s illegal to call for people to kill federal agents. Just because you say, “There are no laws in this United States now. This is a free for all Armageddon,” doesn’t make it so. We have laws. That is a good thing.
  6. Dear Crazy People: The fact that you don’t like the laws we have does not give you the right to take over a federal building. One of the cool things about the United States is that there are ways to change those things you don’t like… Your impatience with the speed at which things change–or your frustration with the ease at which they change–does not give you the right to threaten, harm, or kill people. XOXO, The Boeskool

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Posted in 2) Politics, 3) Bathroom Humor, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

If This Is Christianity, Count Me Out

I don’t want to be a Christian anymore. Not if people like Jerry Falwell, Jr. get to call themselves “Christian.” Not if Donald Trump gets to stand up in front of Liberty University– reading from “Two Corinthians” and feigning devotion–and call himself a Christian without the entire Church–in unison–calling “Bull. Shit.”

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Here we see Mr. Trump, right after he was asked the question, “Donald, is there anyone in this room who is as big a phony as you are?”

So you may have heard that Jerry Falwell, Jr. just endorsed Donald Trump for president. And if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you probably already know that stories like this are like catnip to me. This endorsement is right on the crosshairs of religion and politics… right at that intersection of interesting and infuriating. It’s my sweet spot. Now, some of you are hopefully thinking to yourself, “Who the crap is Jerry Falwell, Jr.?” Don’t feel bad… You are one of the lucky ones. But others may know him as the son of the anti-gay televangelist and co-founder of the “Moral Majority,” Jerry Falwell… or you know him as the President of Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world… or you know him as the guy who (while claiming to be a Christian) encouraged the students of Liberty University to buy guns and get their Concealed Carry Permit so that “we could end those Muslims before they, before they walk in and kill us” (An aberration which I wrote about in a post with the catchy title, “Jerry Falwell, Jr, and the Christian Jihad”). But If THIS is what passes for “Christianity,” then that term means absolutely nothing anymore. And we might as well throw the word away…

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Someday, we might look at signs that say “Christian Church” in the same way we look at this…

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talks about how the word “Gentleman” used to mean something recognizable–It meant that you had a coat of arms and owned property–But somewhere along the line, it deteriorated into something as meaningless as an opinion… “I think he’s a nice guy… He’s a gentleman.” Incidentally, now here we are–70 years after Mere Christianity was written–and you can’t take a long car ride without driving by places called “Gentlemen’s Clubs.” Lewis’ fear–and his reason for giving the radio talks that led to the book–was that the word “Christian” would take the same path… and devolve into a word that means nothing. And this is where we have landed… With one charlatan (who encourages kids to take up arms against Muslims) endorsing another charlatan (who flaunts his bigotry like a medal from a war his family’s privilege prevented him from having to fight in) for the office of the presidency… All under the guise of “Christianity.”

And now people are talking about Falwell’s endorsement being one of the keys to Trump (who Falwell called a “breath of fresh air”) winning the coveted “Evangelical” vote… There’s another word that has disintegrating into nothingness: “Evangelical.” Did you know that word actually means “Good News?” Now, it has been relegated to a largely unthinking group of voters who–if you want to be president–are essential to dupe into believing you are a “Christian.” Here is a video of Rob Bell speaking about the word “Evangelical.” And regardless of your preconceptions about Rob Bell, PLEASE take the time to watch it. It’s five minutes, and it’s so important to this conversation…

“And so they took this Roman military propaganda of ‘Caesar is Lord’ and they said among themselves, ‘JESUS is Lord.’ And they took this idea of ‘good news’ and said, Wait, it’s not good news when you destroy your enemy… It’s good news when you LOVE your enemy. And when you side with the widow, the poor, the immigrant, and the stranger among you.’ Their movement [Christianity] insisted that a whole new world was being made… NOT through condemning, and distancing, and ostracizing, and crushing your enemy. But through LOVING your enemy, and standing in solidarity with everybody who’s ever been kicked to the edge by the empire.” ~ Rob Bell

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“Senator Cruz! How much difference is there between you and Mr. Trump?”

So… Last night I spent some time with some folks who are currently being “kicked to the edge by the empire.” I spent the better part of the evening at a Mosque here in Nashville. Speaking at the Mosque was a fairly important Rabbi. At the table behind him were a few local leaders from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam… And as they spoke about the necessity for interfaith dialogue, each of them also mentioned how important is is to speak out against the kind of xenophobic rhetoric coming from people like Donald Trump (and please don’t let it seem like I think he’s the only one peddling this garbage… Ted Cruz–as well as others–is every bit as virulent and blasphemous as Trump).

At one point in the evening, the Rabbi asked us to talk with a person we didn’t know about why we came there… I spoke with a woman whose skin was brown and whose hair was short and grey. She said, “This stuff is nothing new to me. I’m 82 years old! Eighty-two and a half years I’ve been living in this town… I was one of the people who refused to drink out of the ‘Colored’ drinking fountains, because I was sure that the white folks had peed in it. I have a sign in my living room that says ‘Colored Waiting Area.’ What’s happening to these Muslim folks is just like the stuff that was happening to us… We have to help each other out.” Despite all she had seen and lived through, she seemed SO hopeful. She said, “It’s getting better… I really feel like the gravy is coming.” And after we talked for a little while longer, she reached into her purse, and she handed me a tissue to wipe away the tears in my eyes.

After the dialogue was over, the Imam from the Mosque made sure we all knew how happy they were to have us guests. That we were welcome. That all of the refreshments and food were free of charge. And even though we had differing beliefs, there were so many hugs and so much kindness and hospitality in that place… It felt like heaven. I thought about it, and I said to my friend, “I don’t care what religion you are… If your religion doesn’t have a deep sense of ‘All Are Welcome Here,’ your religion isn’t worth shit.” And that goes for Christianity just like it goes for any group–A political party, a state, or even a nation.

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Good stuff from Cuyler Black.

You know, one of the craziest things about this whole situation is that most of America doesn’t even WANT a Christian president… At least not one who acts like Jesus. Imagine the scandal if an American president used his Executive Orders to end the death penalty… Or if she declared some sort of “Year of Jubilee” and forgave everyone’s debts… Or if he said that no more federal money would be spent on weapons of war… Or if she stopped the practice of lending money at interest based on the Bible’s cover-to-cover prohibition of usury. Acting like Jesus is about as UnAmerican as things get. Any presidential attempts to deal with issues of social justice would be shouted down (most likely by “Evangelicals”) as “Socialism,” and people would be talking about impeachment. Ironically, the presidential contender who comes closest to Jesus’ social justice ethic is the one candidate who does not claim to be a Christian (Though I guess it’s not TOO ironic… They’re both Jews, and both didn’t have a very high opinion of money-changers taking advantage of people. #FeelTheBern).

So if Christianity becomes the religion of “Only people who think like we do are welcome,” then I want no part of it. If “Evangelicalism” can’t tell the difference between a charlatan and a follower of Jesus, then that word has become nothing more than a way of identifying ignorance. Either the word “Christian” reflects the radical hospitality of Jesus, or the word loses its meaning. And if a political party hitches its wagon to a counterfeit perversion of Christianity, that political party will lose its significance as well… Which would be a shame, because we NEED voices in our national conversation that are grounded in tradition and ask questions like, “How are we going to pay for this?” Though this is not a matter of republican vs. democrat… It’s an issue of our basic humanity. It is an issue of humanity vs. insanity.

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“You keep using that word…”

I believe that the Church–at its best–is a reminder to the world of the times when humanity has strayed too far from the image of God that courses through our veins. And this is one of those times. If people want to vote for a person who celebrates bigotry and division, they have that right. But don’t put that garbage on Christianity. And if a supposed “leader” within the Evangelical Church endorses someone who embodies everything that is antithetical to Jesus-followers, the Church should be the first ones to stand up and say, “Bullshit. I call bullshit.” Or if you’re not comfortable with saying those words, you could just stand up–stand with me–STAND TOGETHER, and say, “That’s not Jesus. Evangelical means ‘Good News,’ and that’s not good news… That’s gross.” Otherwise, the term “Christian” will go the way of the term “Gentleman’s Club.”

I’ll leave you with one more quote from the video above…

“So I say we take the word back. Evangelical means ‘Good News.’ And it’s good news for everybody who doesn’t fit in. It’s good news for everybody who’s hungry and needs food. Everybody who’s thirsty. Everybody who just needs a home. It’s everybody who needs a helping hand to get them up out of the dust, and to brush off that dirt so they can have some worth and dignity. How did the word evangelical get hijacked like this? I think we should take it back. We should take back this word as the joyous, buoyant, announcement of good news that death and oppression and violence don’t have the last word. IF IT ISN’T GOOD NEWS FOR EVERYBODY, IT ISN’T GOOD NEWS FOR ANYBODY.”~Rob Bell

AMEN!

Shout out to Jon Middleton. He believes in what I’m doing on this blog, and he helps support it by BEING A PATRON… Even though he’d still get it for free even if he didn’t. He is a class act, and someday soon, I hope to drink whisky with him. If you like my stuff, please share it. If you REALLY like my stuff, help support it. Thanks!

 

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Voting Down the Defense of Natural Marriage Act: My View From the Hallway

So I went to the state capitol to stand with folks in opposition to HB1412… Also known as the “Tennessee Defense of Natural Marriage Act.” It was my first time going to the capitol building, and the first thing I figured out is that I had no idea where I was going. Luckily, a sweet lady (who wasn’t able to get in because she didn’t have her I.D.) saw that I was wearing red (the folks who were against the bill and for equal rights for LGBT people were asked to wear red to show their support. I wrote about it HERE), and she waved me over. I emptied my pockets at the entrance. The officer at the door was having some trouble scanning my license, and I asked if the trouble might be caused by the fact that my picture was too handsome for the machine to handle. She acted like she didn’t think I was funny OR handsome, but something told me she was lying… Anyway, she sent me through the metal detector. Which made me think–You know what they DON’T allow in the state capitol? Turns out they don’t allow average citizens to carry their guns in there. Doesn’t matter if you took a safety course or not… No guns. So right off, I was feeling like my God-given right to “keep & bear arms” was being infringed. They probably had some ridiculous reason like “they didn’t want folks to be able to easily kill other people,” or something else we can thank Obama for.

I found my way to the room the hearing was in, but they weren’t allowing anyone else inside–And even in the hallway, watching the proceedings from the closed circuit TV, it was standing room only. Within moments, I was very thankful for the “No Guns In The Capitol” policy, because there were some seriously angry people in that hallway. People who–I’d be willing to bet just about everything I own–had more than one gun at home. Probably more than one gun IN THEIR CAR. I had planned on seeing a bunch of other folks wearing red to show their support for the LGBT community, but I had forgotten that people who actually supported the bill were free to show up as well. There were many women in simple dress, most of them with hair down to their asses… Their were glassy-eyed kids who got the afternoon off from homeschool to come down to the capitol… There were men with bald eagles on their tie… And there was this guy:

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I imagine this guy looking through his closet, like “What to wear… what to wear…” By the way, that thing in his hand that says “Fear God” is a Bible. I didn’t get a close look at it, but I’d be willing to bet you a fancy dinner at Sizzler that it’s a King James Version.

The matter being discussed was whether or not the Supreme Court has the right to make same-sex marriage legal. All of the people who had a chance to speak before the subcommittee were of the opinion that NO–They did not have that authority. There were a lot of references to “judicial overreach,” but there was NO MENTION WHATSOEVER of the 14th Amendment… You know, the one the five SCOTUS Justices referenced when voting that preventing same-sex couples from having the same right to marry that straight couples have is illegal under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. But the people trying to pass today’s bill were convinced that the Supreme Court had exceeded its authority with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and they were trying to pass a law to basically “nullify” that interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s reach. It would not only protect government officials from the consequences of not complying with federal law, but it would also make illegal any act of compliance by government officials with federal law (surrounding this issue, at least). It was basically like getting in a time machine and going back to watch arguments made for the state’s right to decide who gets to have slaves… or their right to decide if their schools get desegregated… or their right to decide if blacks and whites should be able to marry. It was, as attorneys call it, “completely bonkers.”

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Forced to desegregate schools… Thanks Obama.

If I wrote down ALL the crazy I came across this afternoon, this blog would be way too long. So I’ll just give you some highlights…

  • At one point, when someone in the General Assembly asked, “What do we do when the Supreme court exceeds its authority?” a man next to me said, “Shoot ’em.” This probably goes without saying, but the man who said this was NOT wearing red…
  • When a member of the subcommittee suggested that doing something like this would take a Constitutional Amendment, the bill’s sponsor Mark Pody seemed to think the odds of that were very long. He said, “It would take 38 states to ratify an amendment… What if there were only about fourteen states who wanted it?” I wondered to myself if 14 was the number of states in the Confederacy, so I decided to ask Siri (loud enough for people to hear), “Siri, how many states were there in the Confederacy?” Turns out I don’t get service in the bowels of the capitol building, but today, the role of Siri was played by a displeased woman standing near me, who immediately said, “Eleven!” She answered that question with the ease someone might answer the question, “What color is the sky?” Or, “What goes up, must come _____.”
  • David Fowler got up to speak (president of the “Family Action Council of Tennessee,” who I’ve written about before in a post called “Rejecting Jesus For All The Right Reasons” when F.A.C.T. supported a bill attempting to make it legal to bully gay kids). When he started talking, my friend pictured above–the one who purchased his outfit from Westboro Baptist Church’s Etsy store–said, “He doesn’t have a very strong voice, this guy… Sounds a little too effeminate.” #CredibilityLost
  • During the hearing, as a self-described constitutional scholar named Jeffrey Cobble scrambled to attempt to answer 1) How a law like this wasn’t an act of rebellion, and 2) How it wouldn’t set a precedent for EVERYONE being able to disregard the laws that they didn’t like, subcommittee member Mike Carter looked at him and said, “Are you just making this stuff up as you go along?” Followed by uproarious laughter from Team Red.
  • At one point, a lady next to me yelled out, “Go back to England if you don’t like it!” I mean… England? The look on her face told me she thought the people in the hallway were laughing WITH her.
  • And possibly my favorite moment, at a time when a committee member expressed concern for minorities if a precedent was set where 80% of the people could decide to take away the rights of the 20%, the guy with the “Shoot ’em” idea, burst out: “MINORITIES?!?” And “Go Back To England” seemed bewildered as she replied, “I know… They get EVERYTHING!” I swear this happened.

People vocally commented every now and then, but for the most part, people were respectful and quiet. Other than a few moments of laughter, I was mostly quiet. In a moment of misguided hope, I did attempt to explain to “Go Back To England” that the danger of this sort of action was that it could lead to any city or county or state OR EVEN INDIVIDUAL deciding which laws he or she wanted to follow. There was one moment–as the person speaking in the committee made an appeal to how “God’s law” should override our nation’s laws–where I said, loudly enough for everyone to hear, “And that is the ideology of ISIS.” Without any sense of irony, “Go Back To England” said, “No… Because they worship a different God than us.” I put my pointer finger up and opened my mouth to respond… But then I closed it. And I smiled at her.

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My view. FYI, “Go Back To England” is not pictured. Don’t know how happy of a person she is, but the lines on her face told me she hadn’t spent a whole lot of time smiling…

For most of the afternoon, I basically just stood there and smiled at people. And it wasn’t just an, “Awe… bless your poor, ignorant heart” sort of smile. I don’t know–I’m sure there were times when I was being patronizing… But they probably didn’t pick up on it. (<– I just made myself laugh there). Honestly though, I was genuinely filled with love for the people in that hallway. From the very beginning it was clear to me that the people who were there in support of that messed up bill had no other option available to them. I looked at those kids. Standing there in silence. With a parent’s hand on their shoulder… It wasn’t like those people had a couple of choices in front of them, and they decided to choose the really hateful one. Their level of consciousness at this particular time in their lives affords them one option. I remembered a time in my own life when I would have been right there with them–Certain that I was doing God’s work–and I offered them the same grace I offered myself. I know this probably sounds fairly hokey, but I wanted to “minister” to them with my smile. I smiled at those kids with everything I had. I smiled at the moms. I smiled at the dads. I just wanted to hug every one of them. It was love… It was a frustrating love, but it was definitely love.

And the good news is the bill was defeated. So that’s at least a small victory… For now. Afterwards, a new friend in red (who had read my previous blog post) interviewed me for a documentary she was making. Which was fun. THEN, I was able to talk to the guys who were making the case for this bill. Which was really fun. I challenged Rep. Pody on the precedent this action would set… Nice enough guy. I listened to some interesting theories from Mr. “Shoot ’em.” I spoke for a while with Jeffrey Cobble, and even got a peek into his theology. Which is totally bizarre. In short, he believes that each individual person is like a sovereign nation, and if there is a dispute between two neighbors, God basically decides who is right by whoever is stronger and comes out on top. It is Social Darwinism with a theological twist. When I asked how he possibly got that from the life and teachings of Jesus, he explained that Jesus was only concerned about the poor and vulnerable “for a time.” He basically extended an idea of dispensationalism to explain away Jesus’ apparent concern with social justice. Which–to me–is completely. Bonkers. But it was cool to at least see where these folks are coming from.

Long story short, I’m really happy I took part in this… And even though I felt like there was a really good chance I was going to get my ass kicked on the way back to my van, I can’t recommend it enough. When you have the opportunity to talk (and listen) to people who think completely differently than you do, you almost always come away from it better than you went in… Especially when you go into it looking for the humanity–and the divinity–in the ones you might otherwise call your enemies. What a completely awesome day.

So hey. I had two jobs for about nine years… but a few months ago, I left one of those jobs.  And I wanted to say a special THANK YOU to the folks who have decided to become Patrons and help support me and my writing. I was able to attend this event, and even able to pay a couple bills (that we might not have otherwise been able to pay) partially because of your generosity. One of those completely kick ass, generous people who just decided to be a Patron is named Kim McCallum. If you’re like Kim and you value this blog and want to help support it with a couple bucks a month or more, you can do that RIGHT HERE. Otherwise, if you want to leave a “Tip” on PayPal, you can do that as well. Either way, you should be following me on Twitter. I mean… Seriously. But mostly I’m just honored that took the time to read. Thank you!

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Tennessee Lawmakers Are Willing To Take Food From Poor Kids In Order To Keep LGBT People From Having Equal Rights

I know, I know… That title is too long. Listen–I live in Tennessee. And as much as I have grown to love my new home, there are some times that I feel like legislators in this state are competing with a few other southern states for the title of “Most Backwards-Thinking Embarrassment To The Union.” Like the time they tried to vote the Bible as the Official State Book. Or the time they tried to pass the “Don’t Say Gay” bill making it illegal for school personnel to discuss homosexuality in any way. Or the time that they tried to make it legal for kids in schools to bully, as long they were bullying kids for being gay (as an expression of their “faith”). Well, they are at it again… Lawmakers in the Volunteer State are attempting to pass a bill called the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act. And, as you might have assumed from the name, this is basically a big Rocky Top Middle Finger to the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

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“Be on the right side of history.” Seriously.

The summary  of the bill reads that “It requires the state of Tennessee to defend natural marriage as between one man and one woman as recognized by the people of Tennessee, regardless of any court decision to the contrary.” It also basically forces the Attorney General to defend all the government officials (Kim Davis types) who could (and definitely would) get sued as a result of this action, and it forbids local agencies and officials from arresting people who refuse to follow federal law regarding marriage equality. You can read the summary HERE, but along with the summary of what the bill would practically change, there is always a Financial Summary as well… And this is where things get interesting.

If this bill passes, Tennessee could stand to lose over $8.5 billion in funding. But don’t worry… That money won’t come from something important, like our roads. It will be taken from programs designed to help poor kids–Over $6.5 billion from TennCare, and over $2 billion from SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Yes. You read that correctly. Tennessee legislators are so interested in enforcing their own interpretation of Biblical morality on the people of this state, that they are willing to lose over $8,510,520,500 in federal funding–funding that is designated for kids who don’t have enough food. Or need help keeping the heat on. Or need medicines that help them to be able to breathe.

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Or anyone’s rights, really.

It’s like it’s not enough to let the LGBT community know we think they’re going to hell, and let them know they’re not welcome in our churches (not our Church), and make sure we can still fire them for being gay… We–as a state–must CODIFY THEIR DISCRIMINATION, all at the cost of $6.5 billion in healthcare for poor kids, and over $2 billion supplemental nutrition and temporary assistance for needy families. I honestly cannot wrap my head around this legislation. It’s just so shameful… Here we are, in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and people are (still) using their faith as a justification for discrimination. All at the expense of kids living in poverty who are sick and hungry. But these are the representatives the people of Tennessee have elected… The sort of people who would take food from kids living in poverty if it meant making sure the gays don’t have the same rights as the rest of us. <–This, by the way, is why it is SO IMPORTANT to educate yourself AND VOTE in local elections. These sorts of people can get elected with barely any votes… And their time spent in office has real world consequences.

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Beavers & Pody sounds like a mildly cool name for a 70’s folk duo, but what they are doing is far from cool. Please give these confused lawmakers a call and tell them what you think.

So if you’re like me, you’re probably hearing about this and wondering, “What can I do to help?” Well, there are a few things. You can call your local representative and let her or him know that you find this legislation repulsive in every way, and contrary to everything worthwhile that makes us human. You can call Mark Pody (615-741-7086) and Mae Beavers (615-741-2421) and tell them that this legislation is the exact OPPOSITE of following Jesus and loving our enemies, and it grosses you right out. And one other thing you could do is you could SHOW UP. The Tennessee Equality Project is having people show up at the Legislative Plaza WEARING RED to show your support for Marriage Equality. It’s from 3-5 on Wednesday, January 20. I don’t do this kind of stuff enough… We rarely ever show up. We rarely ever march. We rarely ever take any sort of direct action. We rarely ever come out from behind our computers and stand side-by-side with people to stand for something we believe in. Here’s a chance: HERE’S A LINK to the Facebook event page.

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We don’t call people idiots for standing up and saying, “God Hates You.” We simply proclaim, with our lives and our words and our actions, that GOD LOVES YOU.

People in this state–religious leaders, ordinary citizens, and lawmakers alike–are standing up on a daily basis, and basically saying to the LGBT community: “You’re not welcome here.” This proposed bill is a disgusting piece of legislation–One that somehow manages to give these backward-thinking legislators a “two birds, one stone” of hurting the gays and the poor at the same time. Maybe consider living up to this state’s nickname in a different way, and “volunteer” a couple hours of your time, wear something red, and stand together with people in solidarity against this garbage. The people writing these bills (that continue to make our state a national punchline) might not get the message, but maybe our LGBT brothers and sisters might get the message that there are many of us here in Tennessee who want them to know: You ARE welcome here. We are with you in this fight for equal rights.

Please share this. And let people know about the event at Legislative Plaza. Let us honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. by doing something WHEREVER we see injustice.

 

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

You Have Every Right To Say Racist Things

“So you like Trump ’cause he’s honest, and you respect that… But he’s honest about being racist. That’s like saying you like rapists ’cause they’re real go-getters, and you respect tenacity.” ~ Keon Polee

There are a whole bunch of people around right now who are very against the concept of “Political Correctness.” These people count it as a great injustice when someone loses a job or is publicly shamed just because they may have expressed views that are offensive or repulsive to huge swaths of humanity. Likewise, they revel in the times when people say things that seem sexually or racially insensitive, while celebrating as Heroes of Free Speech those brave few who are willing to “tell it like it is.”

One of those “heroes” spoke up this week… The controversial Governor of Maine, Paul LePage, expressed some of his ideas about the folks who are trafficking heroin into Maine and are responsible for the state’s heroin epidemic. Here is the video of his remarks:

Just in case you don’t watch, here is the absolutely unbelievable quote:

“These are guys with the name “D-Money,” “Smoothie,” “Shifty” – these types of guys. They come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here to sell their heroin, they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave… which is a real sad thing, because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.” ~ Paul LePage, Governor of Maine

If you DIDN’T watch the video, chances are you just read that quote and thought, “Nah… That can’t be right,” and you just went back and clicked on the video to see if he actually said that. I did the same thing. In the comments section of the post in which I read about this story, a person wrote that he liked Governor LePage because he “tells it like it is.” But the more I think about the phrase “tells it like it is,” really it starts to sound like a whole different way of obscuring language with Political Correctness. If you think about it, in cases like this, saying someone is just “telling it like it is” has become PC code for “I agree with the racist thing this person has just said.”

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Another awesome cartoon but the amazing Tom Toles.

And this anti-political-correctness movement has its tentacles in EVERYTHING right now. It affects conversations about what’s happening in Oregon… It affects a perceived “War On Christmas” and results in people saying “Merry Christmas” like a middle finger… It affects how Christians speak about Muslims… It affects how people speak about refugees… I was writing about this stuff three years ago when I wrote about people letting go of using the word “Retarded.” It’s everywhere. People file all of their prejudices and bigotry under “Everyone Is Way Too Worried About Political Correctness These Days,” and that way it’s really easy to dismiss it when someone looks at them and says, “Hey. That’s not okay. You’re better than this… WE’RE better than this!”

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That, or it’s a term for using language that attempts to treat people with respect… Either one.

Listen–You might have a very real concern and fear that all our white daughters are getting knocked up by black men. You might see this as just ONE MORE THING that deteriorates racial purity in this country… But if you decide to voice that concern (or, as in the case of Gov. LePage, it accidentally slips out), don’t blame “Political Correctness” for people calling you a racist. People are calling you a racist because you just said something that is from page one of the White Supremacists Manual that they keep beneath the Confederate Flag in the same drawer as the “Skinheading Clippers” in the church lobby of the monthly KKK meeting.

Incidentally, three days ago the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency arrested three people and charged them with distributing heroin in three different Maine counties. Below are the mug shots of “D-Money,” “Smoothie,” and “Shifty” Governor LePage was referring to…

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There are literally hundreds of captions I could write here that are very funny, but not at all kind. You’ll just have to trust me on that. So… yeah. Here’s my caption.

I’m not completely sure which one is which, but I’m relatively sure that there is only one person in this line up who has any chance of “impregnating Maine’s young, white girls.” And that chance is… remote.

People who say offensive things about minorities and women and immigrants and LGBT folks and NOT some sort of champions of “Free Speech.” Yesterday, an officer who patrols in the area Tamir Rice lived in (before the 12 year old was gunned-down and killed by police officers for carrying a toy gun in a park… All before their squad car even stopped rolling) made this comment to Tamir’s grieving mother (after accusing her of “just want[ing] money”): “Raise your kids not to play with fake guns stupid bitch.” It’s just not okay. And the guy in the video below ended up losing his job because his un-PC statements were caught on tape. I won’t be captioning this one…

Guess what? You don’t get to say racist crap free of consequence. Stop trying to hide your hatred behind bogus claims of “people being way too politically correct.”  I mean, sure–You have every right to say racist things… And we have every right to call you a racist. You have a right to spew a bunch of bigoted garbage… And we have a right to call you out on the grossness of your bigotry. We have a right to get it on video. And we have every right to tell the people who sign your paycheck. And we have every right to expect the people around us to treat each other with respect. And we have every right to demand that people in positions of leadership are held to a higher standard on this… Whether those people are officers, Church leaders, governors, congressmen, or political candidates.

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Or we don’t say Hillary Clinton “got schlonged.”

And as a side note (on a side show), this is why Donald Trump is so concerning for the GOP… I’m aware that there is plenty of racism within both major political parties in America, but this issue has become a real problem for republicans. Trump may draw some large crowds right now, but embracing this “Anti-Political Correctness” movement is a huge mistake. You might still be able to win a lot of local elections by being the party of Anti-Gay, Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Refugee, Anti-Black Lives Matter, Anti-Muslim, Anti-Poor People, etc… But the country–as a whole (and the world as a whole)–is moving in a very different direction. It’s moving slowly, but it’s moving. Embracing that image with fear-mongering, politically incorrect candidates is a terrible decision. I suspect the leadership of the republican party is much more comfortable when their candidates keep their racism where it belongs… Off camera.

If you value this blog, maybe help support it. Become a Patron. Just like a really cool dude named Andrew Simons did. Just pretend you’re buying me a beer. Or a whisky. Or a bottle of wine. Or don’t… Either way, I’m going to keep on writing.  And either way, I love you guys.

Posted in 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Christian Perspective On The Shit Going Down In Oregon

I have tried for a few days now to write about what’s been happening in Oregon… About the double standard there is when white people with guns demand justice. But really, that can pretty much be summed up with one awesome tweet:

I imagined what would happen if Black Lives Matter protesters–fed up with the injustice of government officers being able to kill unarmed black people with impunity–decided to abandon their non-violent stance, get some guns, and “occupy” a federal building. I imagined what would happen if a group of Muslims–fed up with being racially profiled, while this country’s political leaders demonize them and threaten to ban Muslims from entering the country–decided to take up arms, marched through the streets, set up in a wildlife refuge’s gift shop while saying they are “willing to kill and be killed” if anyone attempts to remove them by force. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where both of those groups would already be dead by now.

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Interestingly enough, much of America’s reaction to Y’all Qaeda’s siege on federal property follows this exact same scale…

There’s just so much hypocrisy in this story. Like the irony of anti-federalists asking people to send them socks and snacks. And how are those supplies going to GET there… Through the MAIL? On ROADS?

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“Thoughts and Prayers” will keep these guys about as warm as they keep homeless people…

It’s just dripping with irony… Take for example how this whole protest is over land rights, but the land they are on right now was taken by force 137 years ago (almost to the day) by a different group of armed white men… Taken away from the Native American Paiute Tribe. Though at the time that those indigenous people were marched off the land in shackles, instead of being known as the “Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” it was just known as the “Malheur Reservation.” You can READ ABOUT IT HERE. Don’t worry, though, it all turned out okay for the Paiutes… 50 years later, they were given 10 acres of land that used to be a garbage dump.

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Enter a captionOne thing’s for sure: These guys don’t like groups with the acronym BLM… Be it “Black Lives Matter” or the “Bureau of Land Management.”

But if you’re not seeing all the glaring double standards, you’re either not looking, or you’re one of the millions of people who are–for some reason–incapable of seeing hypocrisy and injustice when it is applied to groups other than the one with which you identify. For example, when protesters (the UNARMED variety) showed up up in Ferguson to protest the killing of Michael Brown and the refusal to indict the officer who killed him, not only was the National Guard was called out, but the police showed up looking like extras for The Matrix Trilogy. In case you forgot, here are a couple of pictures that might help jog your memory…

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This was the turnout for UNARMED protesters who were gathering in a public space. The people who are “protesting” in Oregon right now are a group of heavily-armed, anti-federalist radicals who are talking about being prepared to kill people and making tear-filled, Al Qaeda-esqe martyr videos for their families to watch after they are dead (This particular one made by an unhinged, anti-Muslim white supremacist).

But again–just like with so many issues–either the double standard is so clear to you that it’s difficult to imagine how a person could NOT see it, or none of this stuff seems even remotely hypocritical or unreasonable. It doesn’t do any good for either side to sit and write about how stupid the other side is. There is more than enough “I’m right, and you’re stupid” in the world to go around without adding to it… So today I’m trying to write about the thing that’s BEHIND the thing that’s behind the thing that separates us so well. And here’s the best I can figure: It’s God.

And so, if you know anything about me, you already know that I don’t believe God is the cause of the problems in the world (though, with all of the crap in the world that is credited to belief in God, it’s easy to see how more and more people could come to the conclusion that the world would be better off if we were all atheists). The problem is a specific BRAND of God… It’s the god who hates. The god who hates his enemies. The god who hates everyone except for your group. The god who hates all the same people that you hate. The god who damns to burn in hell everyone who doesn’t believe the same things that you believe. This “god who hates” is the common denominator.

But it’s more than that… There is a rigid and frightening Certainty to their beliefs that seems like the foundation that this counterfeit god is built on. It’s a startling lack of humility that breeds Fundamentalism. And please don’t hear me saying “conservatism” or “republicanism.” This is no more “republicanism taken to its logical end” than the Westboro Baptist Church is “Christianity taken to its logical end.” It is an Extremist ideology of fundamentalism that is deeply rooted in an “Us-Versus-Them” Tribalism and an inability to see shades of grey in what appears to be a very Black & White world. It is characterized by a suspicious Anti-Intellectualism and a mistrust of any institutions (The guys leading this standoff happen to be Mormons… Not that it matters much–A paranoid fundamentalist extremism transcends religious boundaries). Many of these people are convinced that they Hear From God in very specific fashion, and they treat the word “belief” and the word “certainty” as synonyms. In these sorts of groups, people who are unsure must not be a “true believers,” and they are pushed away from the group.  And when Belief that something is “God’s will” transforms into Certainty that something is “God’s will,” things can get very Dangerous, very fast.

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Best Twitter Hashtags for these Bozos: #YallQaeda, #VanillaISIS, #YeeHawd, and #ShaniaLaw. Twitter is awesome.

It isn’t surprising that the fundamentalism that pervades so many folks’ religious ideologies would lend itself to a fundamentalism in a nationalistic ideology. The inability to allow for different interpretations in scripture is the same deficiency that is brought to the reading of the Constitution. Next thing you know, you’ve got these “Oath Keepers” and “3 Percenters” who look at a different interpretation of the constitution the same way that they look at a different interpretation of the Bible… Heresy. Maybe even acts of war. Next thing you know, we have people who are looking at Timothy McVeigh as a hero. We have people pledging to protect the Constitution, but not understanding that that same Constitution allows for changes to and interpretation of that document. It not only allows for it… It REQUIRES interpretation. And without that basic understanding, something like a change to our gun laws, or granting the right to marry to same-sex couples… These things can feel like more than just a different interpretation–They feel like an attack on the Constitution, an attack on God, and (maybe most frighteningly for some) an attack of the feeling of safety that comes with being certain of everything.

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Ahh, Ammon Bundy… Following in a long line of famous Bundy’s (Seen here with Al and Ted).

A lot of people seem to be taking an “Ignore-them-and-they’ll-go-away” stance for these people, but personally, I think it’s much more serious than that. Many of these people want another Ruby Ridge or another Waco. They WANT something to happen— Not only to validate their paranoia and prove the prophecy they are working so hard to fulfill, but to hopefully ignite a spark that will start a war. Incidentally, this was the same hope for the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and injured over 600–the biggest act of domestic terrorism our country has ever seen. Hopefully, it won’t come to people losing their lives over fundamentalism, misplaced certainty, and a belief in the god who hates… But all over the world we see evidence to the contrary. There are people in this country with stockpiles of guns and “Go-Bags” ready to start fighting. People want to believe we’re “smarter than that,” but here’s the reality: We are no more rational than the parts of the world that have managed to produced the kind of terrifying certainty of ISIS… We just speak a different language, salute a different flag, and call our god who hates by a different name.

So that’s a pretty big problem… But what’s the solution? I continue to believe that only way to counter the ideology of the god who hates is to proclaim to the world the reality of The God Who Loves. The God who loves “them” every bit as much as God loves “us.” The God who loves us all, regardless of national borders. The God who loves us all, despite how “right” or “wrong” our theology is. The God who loves his enemies, and calls us to do the same. The God who calls us to be hopeful, even when hope seems foolish. The God who loves the whole world… even these misguided jackasses in Oregon (and, as a side note, Oregon has an incredibly racist past that you can READ ABOUT HERE. The picture below was taken at a 2008 political rally. In Portland. FOR OBAMA! You can imagine the white out conditions in rural parts of the state).

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Like a blizzard… (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

The way out of this is to rid ourselves of the lines that divide us. Many of us are witnessing the dissolving of boundaries in our own lives, and where boundaries start to fade, things get less and less certain. But there remain many people in the world right now who crave that certainty, and every dissolving boundary is met with fear and anger. People feel like they NEED their religious boundaries, their geographical boundaries, their “Us-Versus-Them,” their tribes… So if our reaction to that fear and anger is to set up yet another boundary between “us” and “them,” it only works to reinforce an ideology of separation. That separation is a sickness, and the only remedy is to proclaim a different God… The God who binds us all together. The God who inspires us to love their kids every bit as much as our own kids. The God who dissolves boundaries. The God who stirs our hearts to declare to the world that we are all on the same team–That we are all one–That either we all win, or none of us win… Until “the god who hates” seems like a distant memory… and a logical impossibility.

Once again, my Patrons are the best. Today I’d like to say a special thank you to Beverly Cook. It’s no surprise to me that most of the people pledging at the “Get a picture of me mowing the lawn with my shirt off” level are women.

I’m so joking, obviously… My torso looks like a whistling gorilla. Thanks again for all of your support!

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Nativity Scenes, and How To Tell If You’re A Christian

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My house as a kid was about 2 miles away, but I can still remember lying in bed at night and hearing, clear as a bell, “I am the Grand Haven Musical Fountain.”

I grew up in a little tourist town called Grand Haven. It was a great place to be a kid… Especially in the summers. It was (and still is) the sort of place where everyone within driving distance would come to escape the heat during the day. It has this amazing boardwalk, and a pier with a lighthouse, and literally one of the best beaches in the country. At night–especially on the weekends–our little downtown would transform into an adolescent dream. And those summer nights downtown were punctuated by the Grand Haven Musical Fountain. It was basically a giant fountain, with water that was lit with colored lights and swayed in time to music. For a time, we got to say “Home of the world’s largest musical fountain…” As if anyone was keeping track. Every night in the summer, you can still watch the fountain (from across the channel where the Grand River flows into Lake Michigan) at its home near the middle of an old dune named Dewey Hill. And for as long as I had ever known, perched atop that piece of public land we all knew as Dewey Hill was a giant white cross looking over everything–the town, the Musical Fountain, the locals… even the hot out-of-town girls who were hopefully still wearing their swimsuits.

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The cross had been there for a long time…

Outside of the summertime, things weren’t nearly as eventful in our sweet little tourist trap of a town. But whatever the season, that giant cross was still there. In the winter, Dewey Hill would get decorated with a giant nativity scene. All the major characters were there (in wooden cutout form)–Angels high on the hill, shepherds watching over their flock, wisemen on camels, and of course Mary, Joseph, & Jesus in the manger. In my youth, it never even occurred to me that there might be people in the world who didn’t appreciate their public lands being ornamented with Christian iconography. As far as I knew, EVERYONE was Christian… But I grew up pretty sheltered. I mean, I had heard rumors of “Catholics,” but never actually SEEN one. If I’m being honest, I was more than a little sheltered–There was only one “black” girl in our school that I knew of, and sometime around 6th grade, I figured out that she was actually Korean.

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So wait… It took the wise men about two years to get there, but Mary and Joseph hadn’t moved Jesus out of the manger yet?!? This timeline is off.

Anyway, earlier this year–after threats of a lawsuit–the city council voted to remove that giant cross (and the nativity scene as well) from the hill. And, as you might imagine, a lot of people were very upset about this. I’m part of a Facebook group of people from Grand Haven, and it seems like angry posts about the removal of the cross (and–especially this time of year–nostalgia for the old nativity scene) are an almost daily occurrence. And this sort of controversy is not at all limited to my little home town… Scenes like this are playing out all over the country. Here is what the brouhaha usually looks like:

  1. Small town has Christian decorations/nativity scene/iconography up on public land, in front of a courthouse, or in some sort of government building.
  2. Minority group threatens to sue.
  3. Majority of people find nothing offensive about the decorations, and want to keep the them up… based partly on “tradition.”
  4. City officials are aware that they have no legal leg to stand on.
  5. Given a choice between A) opening up the area to any number of non-Christian displays and B) taking down the religious decorations, the city usually decides to take the stuff down.
  6. A large group of Fox”News”-watching conservatives throw an absolute fit, and start using phrases like “Founding Fathers” and “Religious Liberty” and “Christian Nation” and “War on Christmas,” and even the word “Persecution.” And they take to social media to voice their displeasure, usually blaming the atheists… Ironically the same atheists their warped view of God helped to create.

So I wanted to write about this–Not only because this kind of thing is really interesting to me, but because I really do think that I might be able to help explain this situation to the folks who don’t get it yet. Listen…

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You’re probably not going to think this is as funny as I do…

First off–The majority of the people who are most upset about stuff like “nativity scenes being taken down from public property” are same people who claim to really love the Constitution. But this is weird, because the Constitution is the very thing that forces the nativity scenes to come down… The First Amendment of U.S. Constitution says two things about religion: 1) It wants to keep the government from doing things to establish one religion over another, and 2) it wants to insure that the government doesn’t impede the free exercise of religion. And in just about every case brought before U.S. courts, a city using a public space or a government building for one religion’s iconography (without giving equal space for other religions) has been interpreted as a clear violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

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If you allow Christian stuff to go up, you have to allow stuff like this as well.

You may be a Christian living in an area where 90% of the people are Christians, and the majority of the people may have no problem with a giant white cross or a nativity scene built on a hill that is publicly owned… But YOU’RE not really the ones the Constitution is designed to defend. If 90% of the people in a state are Christians, and they all want to insist that everyone has to “swear to Jesus” when testifying in court, the Constitution is there to protect the 10% who don’t. And do you know why this is important? Because someday YOU might be one of the people in the 10%. This is a fairly fundamental part of what America stands for, and it is one of the things that has made this country great. This SHOULD be something that is fairly common knowledge, but it turns out that there are a whole lot of people out there who don’t get it. It is a safeguard that SHOULD be embraced as something fundamentally American…

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You can’t fight a war without a gun…

What has happened instead is that any sort of push back against Christianity as the dominant religion is being framed as “persecution.” Or, if you will, the more seasonally appropriate phrase: “The War on Christmas.” Incidentally, it’s very much like the accusations of “class warfare” when people living in poverty start asking why 1% of the population has 50% of the wealth. It’s a common tactic used by the majority when the minority starts asking for fairness. Or even demanding it (yikes!). People are energized by the feeling of fighting against oppression, so if you can convince the ones in a position of power that they are actually the ones being oppressed, they will fight even harder against the ones with the boots on their necks–the folks who are working toward something closer to equality. Grosser still, they will even attempt to make terms like “fairness” and “equality” sound like something that is “unAmerican.”

There is an expression called “The Tyranny of the Majority.” Sometimes democracy can be used to take away the rights of the ones with less votes. But luckily, we have a document that is supposed to prevent that from happening. The Constitution is not there to protect the people in positions of power (the ones with all the power don’t really need that much “protecting”)… The Constitution is there to protect the ones actually being oppressed. It was there to protect the rights of women to be part of the political process. It was there to protect the little girl with brown skin who just wants to go to the “good” school that all the white kids go to. It’s there to protect the same-sex couple who lives in a state where the majority of the people use words like “abomination” because of a misguided religious belief. And it’s there to protect religious minorities when those same misguided religious beliefs lead them to believe that America is supposed to be a “Christian Nation.”

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I could literally cough up better art from a chest cold.

There is a guy here in Nashville who owns a strip of land next to the interstate. A while ago, he decided to build–on his own land–a statue of the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Flanked by a bunch of Confederate flags, it is a grotesque monument to hatred, discrimination, white supremacy, and murder. He’s allowed to do this because he is protected by the “free expression” part of the 1st Amendment… But if a majority of people living here in Tennessee wanted to use STATE LANDS to erect that same statue at the capitol building, this is when the rights of the minority must be considered. And unfortunately, we are living in a time where any attempt to consider the rights or feelings of the minority is demonized as “political correctness.” This same neo-conservative ideology that pits “political correctness” as the enemy not only revels in offending as many people as possible, but seems to use offensiveness as some sort of litmus test for truthfulness.

1869120efd58b307284e2951bfc8b864.jpgAnd it’s easy for people to get there, because a lot of these people who lament any attempt at treating minority populations with respect (and dismiss it as PC) are the same folks who believe that–as Christians–if people aren’t getting offended at the stuff they’re saying, they’re probably not doing it right. All because a verse in the Bible says, “You will be hated by everyone because of me.” But I’m pretty sure that Jesus would have clarified that statement a bit if he knew how many “Christians” would end up using it as a justification for being an ass. Anyway, the people who hated Jesus were the religious folks and the ones in power–If you’re making THEM mad, chances are good you’re doing things more like Jesus.

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Calling everything as “Political Correctness” is just a way to dismiss people for calling you a bigot when you say bigoted things.

But when you label “treating people with respect” as “Political Correctness,” and then frame “Political Correctness” as the enemy, you can get away with saying all kinds of hateful garbage… Just look at the frontrunners of the republican party. And then, if you call them on their hateful, offensive rhetoric, they call you a whiny baby who is too easily offended. But consider the following: So many people in this country bemoan the tragic state of how easily offended people are–they talk about “political correctness run amuck”–but when there is even THE SLIGHTEST movement away from total and complete Christian dominance in this country, these same folks throw their hands up and cry “PERSECUTION!”

It is a dictionary-level definition of hypocrisy. Imagine–JUST IMAGINE–how much conservative Christians would LOSE THEIR FREAKING MINDS if a local government put up decorations for a Muslim holiday on public lands. People would be wearing sackcloth and ashes, and marching in the streets at the clear injustice of the lack of separation between church and state.

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People lost. Their. Minds.

But here’s the situation we have right now in America: Last week, a bunch of people threw a fit (even suggesting that an arrest should be made) because a judge in New York decided to be sworn in by placing her hand on a Qur’an instead of a Bible. We have a Presidential candidate (Ben Carson) who says that Islam is inconsistent with the constitution, and thinks that being a Muslim should disqualify someone from being president. We have another candidate (the one who’s leading in the polls. I’m thinking about Voldemorting his name, and just referring to him as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” just because now the word “Trump” sticks in my throat like some sort of acid reflux belch) who is advocating not only suspending immigration for Muslims, but also said he is open to the possibility of registering Muslims in some sort of database. It is within this climate that we have people upset about not being able to have explicitly Christian images and decorations in public spaces.

Everyone SHOULD be able to get this. You can do it… Just attempt to consider what it might be like if YOU were an atheist living in a town that had a giant crucifix or nativity scenes on state land. Or, if that’s too hard for you, imagine the imaginary feeling of persecution you got when Starbucks didn’t put enough Christmas decorations on their cups… And then multiply that times ACTUAL discrimination. People talk about “Freedom of Religion,”but what they really want is freedom for their religion to be dominant. If you are fighting against this, you are fighting against one of the main things that makes America great. People say things like, “If you don’t like it, you can move somewhere else…” but “If you don’t like it, you can move somewhere else” is not the way this country works. And just because the majority of the people in your town are Christians does not give you the right to decorate your courthouse with pictures of Jesus. When we stop looking out for the rights and the feelings of the oppressed, the vulnerable, and the minority, we have lost our way–This is true for us as a nation, but it is especially true for us as a Church.

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Thing is, they didn’t really even get rid of the cross… They just transformed it into an anchor.

One last thing: A bunch of people celebrated when someone recently put up another big white cross on top of Dewey Hill. A similar situation happened in a town in Minnesota called Wadena that was forced to take down a nativity scene from their town square–and as a result, thousands of their citizens put up big nativity scenes in their yards… To send a message to all the non-Christians, I guess. That message? Well… it sure wasn’t “We love you, and we are happy you’re here.” It was the same message that people were sending when they lined up around the block at Chick-Fil-A’s. It was a giant middle finger. But here’s something true: A nativity scene is not a middle finger. If you are putting up Christmas decorations to establish some sort of demented religious dominance, you are doing it wrong.

I’ll leave you with a multiple choice quiz that you SHOULD be able to ace:

They will know we are Christians by our…
A.  Life-sized nativity scenes.
B.  Town’s giant white cross.
C.  Eagerness to offend.
D.  Hypocrisy when it comes to supporting the First Amendment.
E.  Inhospitable attitude toward people who are not like us.
F.  Greeting of “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”
G.  Love.

If you answered anything other than “G,” again… You are doing it wrong. Here is a really good verse from the Bible: “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” ~ Romans 12:17-18

Happy Holidays… And Peace on Earth!

Once again, I want to express my gratefulness to everyone who reads my stuff and shares it. You can follow me on Twitter, like my Facebook page, or–if you really want to help–you can become a Patron. Patrons support this blog with a couple dollars a month, and they can get some cool stuff. Joshua Bochniak is one of those people. Fun fact: The Urban Dictionary defines “Bochniak” as “A person lacking effort.” Joshua defies this definition, because he took the effort to help support something he believes in. And that’s awesome. THANK YOU!

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6 Ways We Will All Murder You If You Ruin The New Star Wars Movie For Us

Listen–I love Jesus. I have written about nonviolence on this blog multiple times, and I feel very strongly that loving your enemies is one of the non-negotiable parts of what it means to be a Christian… But at the same time, “The Force Awakens” comes out this week, and I’ve loved Star wars for longer than I’ve loved Jesus. All of the great Christmas presents of my childhood involved Star Wars in one way or another. I was just out of college when the Phantom Menace came out, and–like most people–if left me feeling… underwhelmed.

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Nothing has ever made me feel less like an adult than the giddiness I feel in anticipation of this movie.

I saw “Return of the Jedi” when I was 8 years old, and I have been waiting over 30 years to find out what happens next. I’m aware that I have three kids, and it’s probably beneath me to be geeking out like this over this movie, but… Here we are. I’m also aware that there are hundreds of thousands of people who already have your tickets to see the new movie, but like a lot of people, I probably won’t be able to see it right away. There are lots of us who find ourselves in this situation. I want you to know that if you ruin any part of the plot for us–if you give away any plot twist, any spoiler, no matter how insignificant–we will find you. And we will kill you. It will be mob justice. And it will be swift.

Here are six different ways we will murder you if you spoil any part of the plot of Episode 7: The Force Awakens…

  1. “Death By Lego.” You will be put in a room with wooden floors–hands tied behind your back, and bare-footed–and you will be forced (get it? “Forced?”) to live out the rest of your miserable existence walking on a floor covered with Star Wars Lego pieces. Until you beg for mercy… But none will be given.
  2. “The Old School.” I will cut a bitch. Nothing fancy. Just me murdering you with some sort of makeshift prison shiv. Be it a filed-down toothbrush, a sharpened spoon, or just a paring knife that is usually used for cutting up apples for my kids’ lunches… Make no mistake: I will cut you.
  3. Getting “Trumped.” We will dress you up like a Black Lives Matter protester, and we will throw you into the modern-day KKK meeting that is a Donald Trump rally. Those people are angry, they are well-armed, and they they are not right in the head… As evidenced by their attendance at a Donald Trump rally.
  4. “Kissing the Wookiee.” In preparation for this occasion, some very smart people have genetically engineered the closest thing we can get to an actual Wookiee. It is basically the love child of J.J. Watt and a female Grizzly Bear… and it is every bit as disappointed in you as I am for spoiling “The Force Awakens.” This Wookiee hybrid will literally pull your arms off of your stupid body. And then it will beat the hell out of you with your own arms.
  5. “The Dumpster Fire.” You will sit in front of a TV that is playing the dumpster fire known as “The Phantom Menace.” On repeat. And you will sit there and morn the bastardization of a once proud franchise, until the tears that flow from your eyes finally leave you dangerously dehydrated. At which point you will be force-fed (Ha! I did it again…) stale popcorn, with nothing to wash it down. Your life will end with your spoiler-revealing mouth clogged by crappy popcorn.
  6. “The Light In Dark Places.” I have fashioned an actual, functioning light saber. It took a while to get the specs right, and the only optics I’ve been able to work out make things a little unpredictable. If you leave it on too long, the handle starts to get really hot… Which is frustrating. And I still can’t find a portable power source capable of sustaining the beam, so it’s got this annoying extension cord attached to it… Which makes some of the acrobatic moves a little more difficult. Still, it’s not as clumsy as a blaster, you know? Anyway–long story short–if you ruin this movie for us, we’re going to put a light saber in your butt, and then we’re going to flip the power switch on.
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This is what your stupid face is going to look like. KEEP. YOUR MOUTH. SHUT!!!

No matter which of these punishments you receive, your death will not be quick, like Obi Wan Kenobi being struck down by Darth Vader… And you will certainly not become more powerful that you could possible imagine. It will be slow and agonizing… Like being taken to the Dune Sea and being cast into the Pit of Carkoon, the nesting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc. In his belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering, as you are slowly digested over 1000 years. But I guess you should have considered that before you gave something away about the identity of Kylo Ren. You ass.

There are a small group of people who help support me and this blog by becoming Patrons. One of these people is named Gil Gonzalez. I have never met him, but he has been so encouraging to me over the past couple years. It is people like him who help give me the courage to believe that I can write for a living. If you like what I’m doing here, and you want to be a patron and throw a couple bucks a month my way, you can do that RIGHT HERE. Otherwise, feel free to follow me on Twitter, or you can like my Facebook page. May the force be with you.

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