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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protesters on I-24 near LP Field

Protesters on I-24 near LP Field

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

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

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

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

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


Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

When Cynicism Makes Way Too Much Sense

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

Both things are very scary.

Both things are very scary.

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

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

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

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

The truth just sounds different.

The truth just sounds different.

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

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

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

I’m not out of this funk yet….

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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

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

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

What if both of these could happen….

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

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

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

This seems like a really good amendment....

This seems like a really good amendment….

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

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

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

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

That's none of my business.

That’s none of my business.

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


Posted in 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 107 Comments

A Christian Response To Cutting Off People’s Heads

This is probably not the picture you had in mind when you heard of another "Islamic" beheading.

Alton Nolan–The man accused of this crime. This is probably not the picture you had in mind when you heard of another “Islamic” beheading.

Over the next couple of days, you’re about to hear a whole lot of hatred spewed from people who feel like their hatred is justified. A man in Oklahoma has murdered a woman he worked with–reportedly by beheading. It is also reported that this man has recently tried to convert some of his coworkers to Islam. This comes right after American journalists have been killed by beheading recently. After hearing horrific stories like this, you, like many people, will be tempted to allow it to fan the flames of prejudice that burns in each of us to some degree. We can’t let this happen. We are better than our fears and our prejudices make us seem.

If you haven’t heard about this awful and most recent story yet, you will very soon. People will attempt to use this story as “proof” of what Muslims are REALLY like. People will use this story to make a case for everyone carrying a gun to work. People will use this story to spread FEAR. Already, there are thousand of comments on stories about this killing…. Comments like these:

“Remember our leader Obama has said these kind of people are not part of Islam because Islam is the religion of peace!!! I wonder how many times that has to be said before it sticks, or the fools saying it realize they are wrong?”

“Notice the uproar coming from the Muslim community?  Me neither. Thank God somebody had a gun and could stop the insanity.”

“Muslims seem to be coming out of the wood work and trying to convert us all.”

“Bring back the Templar Knights and wipe islam out.”

“You’ll see that no Muslim group in America will come out and say that anyone who beheads others is committing an evil act. This is because Muhammad practiced beheading his victims and in Islam his behavior can’t be wrong.”

“This is in our backyard now. If there is anyone out there who still believes Islam is a peaceful religion then they are in denial or stupid. Islam is a vicious and violent cult that worships a moon idol named ‘allah’ that commands them to kill all non-idol worshippers. This POS was radicalized right here in the heartland at a mosque near you. How long are the citizens of this country going to put up with the inept and inexcusable non leadership of this criminal administration? How many people will have to die here for everyone to wake up?”

And on and on and on….

If you think this guy is representative of Islam, you might also think that the Westboro Baptist folks are representative of Christianity.

If you think this guy is representative of Islam, you might also think that the Westboro Baptist folks are representative of Christianity.

It’s easy to give in to anger and fear…. The other night, I was driving with my kids after picking up some dinner to eat while we watched a movie (eating on the floor is way more likely when Mom is gone for the night), and I was in a hurry because is was getting late. On the way home, a Muslim man stepped out into the very busy road while walking next to his bike. He looked right at me and pointed–insisting that I stop. As I stopped, I was immediately pissed at this momentary inconvenience…. and his face seemed a little angry. I think I yelled something like, “What the hell are you doing?!?” through my open windows (no A/C in the van) He was close to the front of my van, and for a moment, I considered locking my doors (but there is power locks–classy). Then I saw what he was doing. He motioned to a young women who was standing on the side of the road, trying to cross. She was holding her daughter’s hand (who looked about three) on one side, and with her other hand she held a baby in a car seat.

I hate to break this to you, but Jesus probably looked a lot more like a Muslim than this guy.

I hate to break this to you, but Jesus probably looked a lot more like a Muslim than this guy.

The woman that this Middle Eastern man was helping across the road was African American. It shouldn’t matter, but for some reason it does to me…. That this man went out of his way and put himself in danger to help a woman from a completely different culture. He stopped traffic–one lane at a time, on a busy six lane road–and kept himself and his beat up bike between this small family and the oncoming traffic. When he got halfway across, he moved his bike to the other side…. Moving slowly, pointing at cars, insisting that they stop, speaking words I did not understand, ushering this woman and her kids along…. Loving a stranger. A stranger who was in the sort of situation where she felt like she had to walk her kids across Nolensville Road, AFTER THE SUN HAD GONE DOWN, to get to the freaking Walmart.

I don’t care which God this man prays to…. I felt like I was looking at Jesus.

I know how horrible and scary a story like this can seem, but please…. I’m begging you…. Take a deep breath. If you feel like a story like this needs a reaction, let your reaction be prayer. Pray for the family of the woman who was killed. Pray for the Muslim families all over this country, who already deal with prejudice on a daily basis, and who heard about this tragedy and were as horrified as anyone else. Pray for them as they read comments people have written on stories of this killing that are as hateful and evil as any man with a knife. Pray that hatred does not gain a foothold in our hearts. This fear that one deranged man was able to invoke, we must not allow it to cloud our sanity–A sanity that knows thoughts like “They’re all like that” come from the absolute worst part of us. Please, Church, if there was ever a time to look like Jesus, it’s now! God help us…

If you feel like it, I would love it if you wanted to leave this post on hateful comments that you encounter online.

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The Speech I Wish Obama WOULD Have Given….

Yesterday the United States started bombing ISIS/ISIL/IS targets within Syria. Over the past few weeks, we have been bombing targets in Iraq as well. On September 10th, President Obama addressed the country and gave a speech detailing his plan for the (Don’t Call It A) War/Military Action against (for the purposes of this post, let’s call it) ISIL, which stands for the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.” His plan involves four points: A systemic campaign of air strikes on ISIL, Increased support for forces fighting ISIL, Counterterrorism measures, and humanitarian assistance for civilians who have been displaced by ISIL. HERE IS THE SPEECH I WISH HE WOULD HAVE GIVEN:

ISIL killing their prisoners is an act of barbarism....

ISIL killing their prisoners is an act of barbarism….

My fellow Americans–I know you’re all expecting me to stand up here tonight and make a case for why we’re going to launch another round of military strikes against the people who are calling themselves “The Islamic State.” Believe me when I say this: There are many, many good reasons to want to bomb the hell out of these people. They enslave, rape, and force women and girls into marriages. They kill kids. We have heard stories of them killing Christians living in Iraq, but any life–Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or Atheist–is precious. Also, it is worth remembering that they kill way more Muslims than anyone else. A different interpretation of their scripture is, for them, reason enough to commit the mass murdering of their Shia neighbors. In addition to this, they have savagely taken the lives of two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Well, that's a good point.

Well, that’s a good point.

I have watched these videos. I have talked to the families of these brave men. And I, like most of you, desperately long for justice in the face of such acts. But make no mistake–The people who committed these acts WANTED you to see them. As we have been reminded of recently in the NFL, hearing about acts of violence is completely different than actually seeing acts of violence. And as horrific as those images of those men being killed are, make no mistake–The images of those men having their heads savagely cut off are no more offensive to us than the images of the prisoners of Abu Ghraib being tortured, humiliated, and abused were to them…. And those who would call us their enemies have certainly seen those disturbing images as well. The reason ISIL broadcasts these unspeakable acts is because they want to so horrify the American people that it draws the United States into yet another military conflict. We are not going to give them what they want.

We know what doesn't work.

We know what doesn’t work.

Because of my Christian faith, I am called to love my enemies. Never before in my life have I felt such a pull in a different direction…. A direction other than love. The direction of revenge. As a Christian, I believe that I am called to have hope–Hope for an option other than dropping even more bombs on the people whose beliefs tell them that their killing is justified. But when we start to make a case for how OUR killing is justified, we join the majority of the planet in a process of arguing whose killings are actually justified. As a follower of Jesus, this process seems more and more foreign to me. As a Christian, I am much more inspired by mercy than I am by the idea of people getting what’s coming to them…. But as your President I have to do something that works. You don’t have to look at it as Mercy…. Just look at it as “Trying Something Else.” Because we know what DOESN’T work.

"Hey guys, check out this cool tank I just found!"

“Hey guys, check out this cool tank I just found!”

We have been trying to solve this problem with guns and bombs and violence and force now for over twice as long as World War II lasted, and that area of the world is undoubtedly more dangerous and unstable than it was when we began. History shows a pattern of the US arming one side to fight against another side, just to have the side that we armed later use those same weapons to fight us. Most of the military supplies and weaponry possessed by ISIL was either supplied by the US (when they were fighting against Assad in Syria) or taken from the Iraqi army when ISIL rolled through Iraq (again, stuff that was given to them by the U.S.). This strategy, while making the people with the companies that provide weapons of war VERY RICH, has done nothing to make the world better, safer, or more peaceful for anyone. It is a cycle that has to stop.

So I’m doing something different. I will not bring up the tragedy of 9/11, as so many have done before me, in an attempt to scare the American public into thinking that anything we might do militarily in that area of the world could make us any safer against another 9/11-style attack. There will always be people who hate us enough to kill themselves in an attempt to hurt us…. No amount of Hellfire missiles is going to change that. Nineteen men took down the twin towers and part of the Pentagon–We can’t kill everyone who hates us, and even if we tried, we would create even more people who hate us. As U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, “Truly there is no military solution to ISIL. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but there is no military solution.” We need to try something different. So here’s my plan:

Maybe it's time we spent some money on a plan we aren't sure WON'T work....

Maybe it’s time we spent some money on a plan we aren’t sure WON’T work….

Since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has spent over ONE AND A HALF TRILLION DOLLARS on those wars. For the price of those wars, we could have completely paid for the college tuitions for every college-aged kid in America for the next 60 years. We can safely estimate that a military campaign against ISIL over the next year or so, even without any “boots on the ground,” would cost in the area of $200 Billion (already our strikes against ISIL have cost almost a billion dollars). So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re only going to spend HALF of that amount–$100,000,000,000 (Already I have cut the amount of spending in half). Of that $100 Billion, half of that money–$50 Billion–will be used to fund the greatest PR campaign the world has ever seen. If you think the United States military is strong, you should see our marketing corporations. We are going to pay people to read and speak Arabic, and then we are going to fund Think Tanks that will strategically engage people with extremist ideologies.

We're not going to bomb our way out of this.

We’re not going to bomb our way out of this.

Many of you are already shaking your heads and thinking “That’ll never work.” Well, the reason we don’t want to try something like this is because we don’t believe in our enemy’s humanity. We don’t believe in their capacity to be reasoned with. We believe the lie that they–like some sort of animal we’re trying to train–will only respond to “strength” (as if it doesn’t take strength to love your enemies or have hope for their redemption). Well, I believe in the ideas of Liberty and Democracy and Freedom, and I believe a proper interpretation of the Quran will show that those principles are perfectly in line with the teachings of Muhammed, as many Muslims already believe. I believe Islam is a religion of Peace, and where these men come to a different conclusion, they are getting it very wrong. Just like many Christians get it very wrong when they use the Bible as a justification for killing.

So yeah…. A $50 Billion PR campaign. And some of you are probably asking, “What about the other $50 Billion?” We will be using those funds to help pay for higher education for our young people. Right now, there is over ONE TRILLION DOLLARS in student loan debt in America. Burdening our young people–who are simply attempting to educate themselves–with huge amounts of debt makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. So from now on, whatever moneys we deem worthwhile to spend on foreign affairs will be matched by moneys spent on creating a society which values education as a human right, and not as something that starts our young adults out in life in a situation that feels like indentured servitude.

I wish this weren't so very true....

I wish this weren’t so very true….

I’m aware that many of the people in power right now are probably crapping their pants in anger and fear over the plan I have just laid out, but I really don’t care what those people think. I am tired of making speeches that sound like echoes of George W. Bush speeches with phrases like “if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” Killing people for killing people just leads to more and more killing people. We’re trying something different. I’m going to start acting like the man I made you think I was when I asked for your vote. And if you don’t like it, tough. What are you going to do…. Not re-elect me?

In closing, God Bless The United States of America, and God Bless every other nation as well…. EVERY nation. Even the ones who hate us. OBAMA OUT!!!

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and The Spirit of God

It should be noted that the first response to this tweet was "Your pastor is a dickwad."

It should be noted that the first response to this tweet was “Your pastor is a dickwad.”

I come from “a broken home.” A broken home…. What does that even mean? Most people define a broken home as one where the parents got divorced, but my home was broken by domestic abuse long before it was ever “broken” by divorce. My dad would sometimes get violent when he drank, and my dad drank a lot. My mom agonized over the decision to leave her abusive husband–mostly because the Church told her that doing so would put her in danger of hell. But threatening someone who is stuck in an abusive relationship with “hell” is kind of like telling someone who’s neck-deep in a sewer that they better not try to get out, or else you’ll punish them making them sit in a port-o-potty. When they die. It’s so stupid…. All the shame we put around divorce is one of the engines that powers domestic abuse. All to try to prevent “a broken home.” Oddly enough, divorce is actually the thing that fixed my home.

If you need help because of abuse, you can call the Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

If you need help because of abuse, you can call the Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

Many people today look at abuse as a sort of unforgivable sin (Though it used to be way more socially acceptable). When people saw this video of Ray Rice punching his fiancee in the face, most people lost their minds. In the wake of the outrage over the released video, his team immediately released him, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely (instead of the 2-game suspension he had been given when he confessed to hitting Janay Palmer hard enough to knock her out…. the same exact crime, only without the public outcry). Something definitely changed when people SAW what domestic violence looked like. Instead of looking for scenarios that would justify a man pulling his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator (maybe he “just” hit her with an open hand and she fell and hit her head, maybe he just pushed her really hard into the wall, etc…), when people actually SAW it, they were forced into a reaction.

This photo is heartbreaking....

This photo is heartbreaking….

I can tell you from experience: Hearing about domestic violence is completely different than SEEING domestic violence. When my dad was still living at our house I was very young, so I don’t have a whole lot of memories of what the violence at our house looked like. I remember bits and pieces…. they’re hazy. But after my parents got a divorce, my dad started dating a woman who had kids near my age–middle schoolish. The woman was very nice…. I really liked her. One night she and my dad were arguing, and the yelling got louder. I watched from the stairwell–afraid to make a noise–as my dad swung this woman around the room by her hair, and slammed her into the wall. There was more…. I can’t remember everything from that night, and there’s some stuff I don’t really want to remember, but when the police came, she was bruised and bloodied. It was terrible.

We all learn lessons in different ways. In the absence of an example of how to act, an example of how NOT to act may suffice…. The lesson I learned that night was simple: What I had just witnessed was not okay. I remember saying to myself, “That will never be me.” I’ve learned more than a few lessons in life by learning what not to do.

When I was in high school, I started dating a girl. When things were first starting out, she was way more into me than I was into her. One night–early in our relationship–I cheated on her. I told myself that “nothing was official,” I blamed the girl I hooked up with for seducing me…. It barely happened, and it only happened once,  but really–I just cheated. After dating her for a while, I really started falling in love with her. The guilt of that one stupid night just ate away at me, and I decided I needed to tell her (I thought I was “doing the right thing,” but if I’m being honest, it might have had more to do with me relieving my guilty conscience at the expense of her feelings). Up until that point in my life, telling her about it was probably the hardest thing I had had to do. Anyway, she broke up with me–rightly. I learned some lessons from that experience as well….

There is no excuse for what Adrian Peterson did to his son, but he's not worthless. He needs help.

There is no excuse for what Adrian Peterson did to his son, but he’s not worthless. He needs help.

People rush to judgment with things like this. We see the news about Tiger Woods cheating on his wife, and people throw out phrases like “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” We see video of Ray Rice striking Janay Palmer, and people decide that it can’t be the first time, and they are certain that if she decides to stay, it won’t be the last. “Once an abuser, always an abuser!” And they shame her for staying. We see pictures of Adrian Peterson’s son with cuts and bruises on his butt and thighs from a “whoopin” with a switch, and we decide that child needs to be taken away from him forever. And please don’t take this as a defense of what these men have done–I don’t think there is any defense–but we are so quick to give up on people. And I think that’s so tragic. I suppose it’s much easier to decide that someone is a worthless piece of shit than it is to be hopeful that he or she can change.


Maybe he learned something.

I completely understand Elin Nordegren deciding to leave Tiger Woods. I’d completely understand if Janay Palmer decided to leave Ray Rice. I understand the outrage over Adrian Peterson hitting a 4 year old kid that hard. But this “giving up on people” denies their humanity by denying the possibility that they can learn from their mistakes. When people do stupid or awful things, there are consequences…. But one of those consequences might be coming away from a terrible mistake as a better version of yourself. I can tell you with certainty that I would never be unfaithful to my wife, and part of the certainty I have in saying that came from the pain and shame of cheating way back in high school. A fleeting excitement is never worth hurting someone you care about. But that’s a lesson I learned by making a mistake…. By learning what NOT to do.

I have hope for this family.

I have hope for this family.

And I’m not talking about being blindly, ignorantly innocent to how messed up people can be. I’m talking about being HOPEFUL. I’m talking about seeing brokenness for what it is, instead of immediately abandoning a person as “pure evil.” I’m talking about an expectation that people can learn, and grow, and evolve. I’m talking about a desire to help that outweighs a desire to punish. William Gay, a player for the Pittsburg Steelers whose own mother was killed by domestic violence, said this about Ray Rice: “That was wrong of him, but at the end of the day, we don’t need to run away from Ray Rice. He needs help.” But calling out for help for someone who does something horrible requires hope that that person can change. And if we don’t have that hope for one person, how could we ever have that hope for the world? And without that hope, we end up with a philosophy that says, “Convert or be killed.” A philosophy that is, ironically, identical to that of our enemies.

Please read this quote by Howard Zinn at least twice:

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

The Spirit of God....

The Spirit of God….

It’s a lot easier to see everyone as complete crap. Man…. A lot of times it’s even easier to see YOURSELF as complete crap. I mean, if we’re all just a bunch of garbage that deserve to burn in hell, all this brokenness around us would make sense. And like Howard Zinn said, “If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.” But if there’s something in us that is worth something—Something Good—something worth remembering in the midst of all this garbage, then there’s reason to have hope. And what if that thing inside us is the Spirit of God? And not just inside us, but also inside our enemies–inside of the abuser, inside of the prisoner, inside of my father, inside of me…. Things start looking differently. Things aren’t as simple. Suddenly, the person who is hungry is not just dismissed as lazy. It changes the way you see prisons. It changes the way you see everything. Instead of a bunch of garbage, you see the world as something waiting to be restored.

"Hope is a good thing.... Maybe the best thing. And no good thing ever dies." ~ Andy Dufresne

“Hope is a good thing…. Maybe the best thing. And no good thing ever dies.” ~ Andy Dufresne

When we see a man hit a woman hard enough to knock her out…. When we see hurt and abuse and brokenness, we need to do something about it. We need to work to make it stop. But while we work, we need to remember that even the broken are made in the Image of God. Nonviolence is rooted in the audacious recognition of our enemy’s humanity. But a spirit that looks at another human being and says “Worthless piece of shit” is the same spirit that cuts off the heads of reporters, and it’s the same spirit that corrals people into gas chambers. That sentiment is the beating heart of all that’s wrong with the world, and it has no place in our own hearts. There are two main responses when we see people who are broken: We either want to punish brokenness, or we want to fix it. We want to heal it. We want to restore it. We want to save it. And these very different responses apply as much to the world as they apply to an individual. I believe that when God looks at this broken world, he doesn’t want to punish it–God sees a world that he called “good.” He wants to fix it. And heal it. And restore it. And save it.

At least I HOPE that’s how God is. If I’m wrong, and God is all about punishing the world, I’ve got some bad news for you: We’re screwed. And since we can’t know for sure, we might as well live like God loves “us” every bit as much as God loves “them.”

Posted in 1) Jesus, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Raising Daughters In A World Full Of Hardee’s Commercials

My wife has the exact same posture when she eats a hamburger....

My wife has the exact same posture when she eats a hamburger….

We almost never watch live TV anymore. When the TV is on, it’s mostly Netflix these days, but every once in a while, we watch live events. And it’s happened more than once now, where all of a sudden, my kids are staring at some sweaty, half-dressed young woman as she rides a mechanical bull, or grinds on the hood of a Camaro, or arches her back in ecstasy on the beach… all while messily eating a burger. A burger from Hardee’s to be exact (or Carls Jr. in some places). She seductively sucks down a drink with an extra wide straw, and takes a giant bite of a surprisingly sultry burger, whose juices always seem to end up spilling on her thigh or chest. Then she cleans it up—in slow motion—by wiping it up with her finger and licking her finger clean. And there I am, scrambling for the remote while trying to get my kids to look at some imaginary distraction….

"Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children!!"

“Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children!!”

I am so sick of these stupid commercials. I’m not trying to sound like a prude, here. Sex is great. It’s a really big part of being human (bigger for some than others), and I realize that “sex sells.” I’m not even saying this advertising campaign doesn’t work—I feel like eating a burger right now just writing about it–but my “beef” with these commercials is not just about sex. It’s about our kids (And yes, I’m aware that I sound a bit like Helen Lovejoy). Our kids are watching these commercials. If Hardee’s wants to be a sleazy company that  uses soft porn to try and sell their burgers, I say great. Strip clubs have the right to exist, but I also have the right to expect that the strip club commercials aren’t being run during programs that my kids might be watching. And here’s the thing: I’ve seen a lot of strip club commercials in my life, and NONE of them are as overtly sexual and explicit as these freaking Hardee’s commercials. They have a right to make sexy commercials of girls in bikinis eating burgers. And we have a right to let them know that we’re NOT BUYING IT, and as long as they continue to put these commercials on where our kids stumble across them, we will not be spending one dollar on their crappy, 1200 calorie burgers.

Above we see one of the less popular Hardee’s commercials….

It bothers me more for my daughters than for my son. The world tries to sexualize our kids before it’s time–our boys too, but ESPECIALLY our girls. Kids are going to encounter sexy images even without a TV. I can clearly remember lingering in the bra section of the J.C. Penny catalog as a boy, and then the jump in intensity that was the Victoria’s Secret catalog. You can’t even walk through a mall without being accosted by cleavage on all sides. There is an ocean of pornography—readily available at the touch of a phone—that all of our sons are going to need to learn to navigate. And our girls already face next-to-impossible odds of coming through adolescence with a healthy self-image…. I don’t want Hardee’s commercials subtly suggesting to my daughters their warped ideas of what it means for a girl to be “desirable.”

I almost never wear my leather swimsuit when I wash my car, but that's just me.... It's strictly a comfort thing.

I almost never wear my leather swimsuit when I wash my car, but that’s just me…. It’s strictly a comfort thing.

A while ago I wrote about considering not going to Chick-Fil-A because of their disgusting support of groups that work to take away the civil rights of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered. And as gross as that is, I think at least they are honestly confused about what the Bible says about homosexuality, and they’re trying to do the right thing…. Hardee’s is trying to do THE OPPOSITE of the right thing. I would rather shove Chick-Fil-A’s hormone-filled, MSG-soaked chicken into my gullet every Monday-Saturday from here on out than give $1 to Hardee’s while the people in charge continue to pump out these commercials.

"No sweetie.... One foot in front of the other, and suck it your tummy a bit."

“No sweetie…. One foot in front of the other, and suck in your tummy a bit.”

And it’s not just these commercials…. If you subscribe to a magazine that PhotoShops their images of girls into impossibly skinny, hyper-sexual Barbie forms, you should cancel your subscription. And you should encourage your friends to do the same. And you should let the company know why you did it. If you shop and give your money to a place like Abercrombie, that sells padded bikini tops for eight year old girls, you should rightly be ashamed of yourself—I don’t care how much your kids beg. We don’t teach our children conformity. If our young daughters come to us saying, “I wish I had bigger boobs,” we don’t respond by going out and buying them padded bras or plastic surgery. We teach them that their body is lovely and perfect just the way it is…. And this is a lesson we have to start teaching very early. I will not sit in silence while images from every angle tell my kids that they are not good enough. We need to not spend money at Hardee’s, and we need to let the people in charge know WHY. If you knowingly support something that contributes to the sexualization of our young girls, or the soul-crushing, dementedly impossible expectation of what is being sold as “perfection” that destroys our daughters’ body-images with unhealthy expectations, you are an awful person. Stop it. Right now, stop it.

Heidi Klum, posing next to her weekly calorie intake.

Heidi Klum, posing next to her weekly calorie intake.

Now, some people might say that those companies are just giving people what they want—that if there wasn’t a market for people who liked to be sold fast food by scantily-clad actresses having oral sex with a Thickburger, those commercials wouldn’t exist. And those people might be right. Maybe the decent people ARE outnumbered…. But I don’t think it’s about being either decent or depraved…. I think it’s about calling out to the decency in all of us. Sometimes we need a reminder of our own goodness. We need someone to look at us and say, “You’re better than that.” We are better than that! We are not powerless to do anything about the shitty stuff we see all around us. And this is one place to start. Call up Hardee’s customer complaint line. Let them know that their ads might be working for some people, but that you’re NOT BUYING IT…. And that you won’t be taking one bite of their SleazeBurger (Copyright, The Boeskool) until they put an end to this degrading ad campaign, and issue a public apology for making the world seem hopelessly disgusting.

Here are some ways for you to let Hardee’s know you won’t be going there until the commercials stop: Their comment line is (877) 799-STAR (7827). They have a designated line just for comments about the commercials, but they always give you bull about “higher than average call volume,” so all I’ve been able to do there is leave a message. I doubt they want you talking to a human being about how degrading the commercials are (what a horrible job THAT would be), though I bet that if I found Paris Hilton’s IUD in my sandwich, I would be able to speak with an actual person…. You can also write an email by clicking HERE, or you can write them an actually letter and send it to the address below:

Hardee’s Restaurants LLC
100 North Broadway, Suite 1200
St. Louis, MO 63102

The only thing that effects change in a company like this (they are the 5th biggest chain behind Subway, McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s) is to cost them money…. That or really annoy them with public shaming, which I whole-heartedly support.

Here we see a Hardee's Commercial staring Mr. Pudzer and Texas Governor Rick Perry.... Within moments, they will be almost naked and wrestling on a hay bale.

Here we see a Hardee’s Commercial staring Mr. Puzder and Texas Governor Rick Perry…. Within moments, they will be almost naked and wrestling on a hay bale.

Hardee’s is owned by CKE Restaurants, and the CEO of CKE Restaurants is a man named Andrew Puzder. Andy Puzder is an outspoken critic of raising the minimum wage…. Which is understandable, because some of that wage increase would certainly come out of the $4.485 million per year he makes as CEO (at least that’s what he made in 2012). He was also an Economic Adviser and a spokesman for the Romney Campaign for President. He writes a blog that you can see HERE, but don’t expect much…. It’s not nearly as entertaining as mine. He says that Hardee’s target audience is “Young hungry guys and the women that love them.” Maybe leave him a comment or two or a hundred asking him why he feels the need to degrade women in order to sell his burgers. Ask him if it’s because of his low view of young men, or because of his low view of young women….

And last, but not least, you can take the fight to social media. If you are sick of these commercials too, share this post on Facebook. If you share it on Twitter, feel free to tag Mr. Puzder (his Twitter handle is @AndyPuzder) along with the hashtag #NotBuyingIt. Send him a message about how disappointed you are, and let him know that he’s better than that. This is not just for parents who are tired of having to quick scamper for the remote to change the channel when a Hardee’s commercial comes on…. This is for everyone. We’re better than this, people!

Posted in 2) Politics, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How To Find A Church When You’ve Given Up On Church

When watching The Daily Show makes you feel closer to God than going to Church, you might be getting ready to give up.

When watching The Daily Show makes you feel closer to God than going to Church, you might be getting ready to give up.

About three years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to go to Church anymore. Like many of you, I grew up going to church…. But like many of you, there came a time when it just didn’t work for me anymore. There were parts I still loved–the music, the fellowship, the friends–but I was just so sick of being disappointed every week. Things were getting more and more political (in the worst way), and it began to sound like folks believed that God rewarded “the faithful” by making them rich. There was a disturbing sense of certainty that is not uncommon in conservative Churches…. but it was more than just conservative vs. liberal, or any of those clumsy labels. Really, at the heart of it was a difference in our understanding of who God is, and it became harder and harder to reconcile a picture of a God that seemed so starkly different than “the Image of God” I understood Jesus to be. I was okay feeling like a missionary to conservative Christians at first, but after a while it just made me feel exhausted. And I gave up…. Not on God, but I sure gave up on Church.

This is not what it's about.

This is not what it’s about.

Just about everyone has been hurt by a church at one point or another–Many of us more than once. Maybe it wasn’t the actual Church leadership that hurt you. Maybe it was just a person who was trying to rationalize their hatred with some random Bible verse. Maybe it was a denomination that views change and reform as something to be feared and demonized, instead of something that has been part of our history all along. Maybe it was a tradition that reads the Bible like an accounting ledger instead of a book of poetry. Maybe you were like me, and you stayed in a faith community long past the point you knew it wasn’t where you belonged (but you lingered because of relationships or inertia or whatever), and it took something awful (like an Easter service where no mention of the resurrection is made, but 45 minutes is spent talking about stories of financial success that came about by faithful tithing) that leaves your eyes filled with tears and your mouth filled with promises never to return. We’ve all been hurt…. But that’s to be expected, because the Church isn’t a building–It’s people. And where there are people, people are going to end up getting hurt. It’s what we do.

Everyone knows the prophet Amos was a die-hard republican....

Everyone knows the prophet Amos was a die-hard republican….

Some Churches feel the need to draw firm lines of orthodoxy so that everyone knows who’s in and who’s out. And for some people, those Churches that preach certainty are exactly what they are looking for. If that’s what works for you right now, great! I know that God is capable of doing really amazing things in the lives of the people at all kinds of places of worship. And one cool thing is if you are looking for a church that is all about how wrong the other churches out there are getting it, I’ve got some good news for you: There are a whole lot of churches out there for you. But if you’re anything like me, and these fear-based places just don’t cut it anymore, I’ve also got some good news for you: There are Churches out there for you as well. I know–I have finally found one, and it is like a breath of fresh air. In finding a Church which I can not only put up with, but one I actually look forward to, I have learned a few helpful tips in the process that might help you in your search as well. I’d like to share them with you:

TALK TO PEOPLE–This may seem simple, but talk to people about your frustrations with Church. Don’t be ashamed, you are not alone. If the person you’re talking to tries to correct your errant ideas with “the clear teachings of scripture,” keep looking. If the person you’re talking to actually listens to you, it’s a step in the right direction. If you find that the person you are talking to had a lot of the same frustrations as you, and he or she found their Church to be a really welcoming place, there’s a chance you might find it to be a safe place as well.

Nothing will get my wife into a Church like Justin Timberlake.

Nothing will get my wife into a Church like Justin Timberlake.

CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE–It’s hard to get an idea of what a Church is like from a website, but you can get some clues. Many sites have videos…. Watch them. Look at the pictures…. Is there any diversity in color or age? Read the bios of the pastors. My wife decided she was willing to give our Church a try partially because the worship pastor listed “Justin Timberlake and Macklemore” under the question “What music are you listening to right now?” Look for clues. Again, labels can be very clumsy, but if you are a person who generally likes what I write, a “progressive” Church might be a better fit. If you find me infuriating and blasphemous, a progressive Church might not work. (As an aside, if you see the phrase “Bible-Believing,” be aware: This is Church code for “We’re right, and everyone else is going to Hell.”)

Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit....

Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit….

VISIT THE CHURCH–Duh, right? But you’ve got to go. Sometimes, you can tell right away that it’s not a good fit. Like if you drive up and see an American flag the size of a tennis court flying next to the Church, you should probably just skip and go straight to Chipotle for lunch (the lines get long on Sundays). Look for bumper stickers…. Do the ones that you see generally piss you off? That’s not a good sign. For me, there are some things that I just can’t deal with…. Like, if you even get a hint–A HINT!–that they are selling the story that God is going to somehow make you rich because of the money that you give to the church, RUN, do not walk, toward the exits, hustle to your car, let your car door swing open so wildly that it accidentally puts a ding in the Escalade parked next to you, and try another church next week. Treating the tithe like a hot stock tip is just a deal breaker.

MEET PEOPLE–Shake some hands, make eye contact…. Did people say hello? Were people friendly without being creepy? Was everyone wearing the same color Converse high tops? Did things feel inclusive or exclusive? Did conversations feel comfortable or pushy? Were the people in charge of taking care of your kids competent and kind? Did your kids enjoy their class? This one may take a few visits to get a handle on and navigate, but basically–Did you feel welcome and were people nice, or did you feel like an outsider?

LISTEN TO THE MUSIC–For many (myself included), music is a very important part of the service. Listen to what is being sung…. Does it sound true to you? Some people are like, “I could never go to a Church with drums and a guitar.” Others roll their eyes at the sight of an organ or choir robes. Here is my advice: Do not make a rash decision about the church based on how “contemporary” the worship is. Give it time…. Some Churches with old, conservative-sounding worship are as liberal as they come with their theology. And vice versa. Just listen and give it a chance. It is the heart of worship that matters.

Arm wrestling with God....

Arm wrestling with God…. It’s hard.

LISTEN TO THE SERMON–Did it speak to you? Did the pastor portray God as someone Jesus saves us FROM, or reconciles us TO? Do they tackle the hard questions? And probably more importantly: Do they do it with a sense of humility? When they get to the parts that are hard to make sense of (and believe me, there are a lot of them), do they acknowledge and even welcome that tension? Or do they handle that tension with a big fat “Because God says so when He wrote it in the Bible.” There are plenty of “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” sort-of-churches out there, but many of us are finding that model just doesn’t work anymore. The name “Israel” means “to wrestle with God.” We come from a very long tradition of things not being perfectly clear.

TALK TO PEOPLE IN LEADERSHIP–Talk to the pastor…. Is he or she accessible? Ask about other Churches in town…. Are they honoring of other faith traditions? Ask the pastor what he or she thinks of an author or a prominent church voice that you are familiar with or even agree with…. Do they even know who that person is? Sometimes ignorance can be just as telling as a difference of opinion. And if you’re really feeling brave, ask them how they feel about the LGBT community. I know that for most people, this one issue is not the most important consideration when finding a Church (unless you happen to be gay and looking for a Church, in which case it is VERY important), but it IS a sort of litmus test. If a Church is accepting and affirming gay folks, chances are pretty good that it is going to be the sort of community that welcomes questions. And even doubts…. Two things you might have plenty of if you are anything like me.

So if you are one of those people–people like me–who gave up on Church, but didn’t give up on God, I want to encourage you: You don’t HAVE to give up on Church! There are places for you out there, they’re just a little bit harder to find. We need Church. This journey toward God, this recognition of God’s journey toward us, this letting go of the lies we’ve believed, this learning to love and forgive–We were not meant to do this alone. The one thing that God looked at in the creation story and said, “This isn’t good” about is the man trying to do it on his own. We were meant for community. And as much as we need that Church community, the world need us to be a different picture of the love of God–A God that says, “Do not be afraid! I’ve got some good news of great joy that will be for ALL PEOPLE.” The voices telling of an exclusionary God are loud enough…. The world needs to hear our voices as well, proclaiming a gospel of inclusion that actually sounds like good news. And we’re way louder when we proclaim it together.

***As a Post Script, if you are in the Nashville/Franklin area and you’re looking for a really cool Church community, GracePointe Church is fantastic. In addition, if you are a reader from other areas, and this description sounds like your Church, feel free to leave the name & area of that Church, just in case other people in your area are looking for a safe place to land.

Posted in 1) Jesus | Tagged , , , , | 45 Comments

God Bless Our 2nd Amendment!!!

No means no.

No means no.

Things are getting more and more dangerous out there, people! Everywhere you look, there are people dying–firing range instructors getting shot by a nine year old girl with an uzi, unarmed teenagers in Missouri…. It’s EVERYWHERE! Now, there might be some people out there who are considering buying a BIG CAT (possibly a tiger) for protection, but anyone with any brains in their stupid head knows that the only thing that can make a person feel safer with all these people being killed by guns is…. you guessed it: MORE GUNS! Thank God above and his gun-loving son Jesus for the protections afforded us in our 2nd Amendment.

Unfortunately, it seems like everyone has a gun these days–even toddlers killing their 11 year old sisters–so it looks like we’re going to have to resort to different sorts of ARMS that God gave us “THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR” when He wrote the Constitution. Here are a few of my ideas:

You can take my Anthrax Needler® when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!

You can take my Anthrax Needler® when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!

I want a gun that fires needles that are filled with Anthrax! And I ain’t talking about the singin’ group…. We’re talking about those deadly spores. Sure, it won’t kill them right away, but stick ‘em with a few anthrax needles, and they’ll die sooner or later. Maybe the gun could shoot some powder into the air as well, just in case they are wearing a needle-proof vest. Wait, do they make armor-piercing needles? If they don’t, it’s probably Obama’s fault. It reminds me of that old cautionary tale: “First they took my armor-piercing Anthrax-filled needles….”

A squirt gun filled with acid is my God-given right as an American!!! Enough of this “lead bullet” BS…. If you try to short-change me on some Swisher Sweets, from now on I’m going to squirt your stupid face with some acid. Everyone keeps talking about “non-lethal weapons.” Well, this one probably won’t kill you…. but it’ll sure scar the crap out of your face, though. And probably blind you. And thugs can’t steal what thugs can’t see…. At least that’s what my mama always said. Introducing The Acid Soaker®

"Take one step closer and two weeks from now you will regret it!!!"

“Take one step closer and two weeks from now you will regret it!!!”

Balloons filled with Ebola-Infected blood!!!!! You think you only have to worry about Ebola in west Africa?!? Think again, criminal! You just got hit in the face with one of my Ebola Blood Balloons, sucka!! I was feeling threatened, and you kept coming toward me, and since we can now safely assume that every single person we meet has got a gun on their person, my force was justified. God himself has given me the right to STAND MY GROUND with my EBB® (And it was taut, too–It wasn’t one of those half-filled balloons that bounce when you drop them. Those limp balloons are like keeping an unloaded Anthrax Needler® next to your bed…. What’s the point of that?). Again, Ebola might not kill you–At least not right away…. They say the mortality rate is only about 60%–but it’ll sure make you WISH you were dead.

Gun control is using two hands, baby. Even with a Rocket launcher.... Even when they're kids' hands.

Gun control is using two hands, baby. Even with a Rocket launcher…. Even when they’re kids’ hands.

These are just a few ideas, but there are a lot of others. Like rocket-propelled grenades! I mean, why leave any evidence? It makes sense to kill people with arms that only leaves evidence that you can fit into a sandwich bag. Or a Moonraker Laser! Why aren’t these things being mass-produced? They had these things developed when freaking Roger Moore was playing James Bond…. WHERE’S MY FREAKING MOONRAKER LASER?!? Or at least one of those cool lasers from Real Genius that shot through the trees and the statue. I mean, IS THIS AMERICA, OR ISN’T IT???? And why is it that the “MILITARY” is the only one who gets to shoot Hellfire Missiles at people? What if I need to make a precision strike against a heavily armored target that is making me feel like my life is in danger!?! What am I going to do–Throw an Ebola Balloon at them!???!!!!!! Thanks a lot, Obama….

Posted in 2) Politics, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

5 Reminders That There Are A Lot of Good Cops Out There

The more things change, the more things stay the same....

The more things change, the more things stay the same….

There are plenty of things to be critical of about what is happening in Ferguson, MO right now…. Too many things to count. The thought of trying to to point out all of the messed up things about that situation makes me feel incredibly overwhelmed, but mostly just sad. I cannot tell you how tired I am of white America looking for the reason–even expecting the reason–for why YET ANOTHER young black man has been gunned down and killed (for a really insightful take on this issue, you should read my friend’s blog HERE). And then, when they find a reason (like finding out that Trayvon Martin had smoked pot before), there’s this disturbing sigh of relief…. Like, “THERE is is…. That’s why he got gunned down.” I don’t know if Michael Brown stole some Swisher Sweets from a convenience store or not, but even if he did, stealing cigarettes is not a reason to get killed. The militarization of our police force has got to stop. The filling of our prisons with young black men who are convicted of non-violent crimes has got to stop. The profiling of African Americans, and the “What did you say to me, boy?” way of dealing with black youth by some people in law enforcement has GOT TO STOP.

But here’s an important thing to remember: Most police officers are really good people who really are doing their jobs the right way. The police motto is “To Protect and Serve.” There are all kinds of police officers out there who are doing just that. They are building relationships with communities, and they are building trust with people…. Without tear gas or rubber bullets (which are at least better than real bullets) or riot gear. It is easy for us to focus our attention on images of brutality, but that is not the norm. Here are a few reminders that there are so many police officers out there who are making good decisions and preserving the peace…. All while sometimes putting themselves in harm’s way:




From a Facebook comment: “in a time when our hearts are in despair and we are bombarded with bad news, it is the human spirit and acts of kindness who really define who we are. God bless!”




Where institutionalized racism and prejudice and injustice are present in communities, we all need to come together and call it what it is. We need to stand together–whatever we look like, and wherever we come from–and loudly proclaim that it is not okay. I believe that the folks in Ferguson have every right to be angry. And a case could be made that they have every right to hit back. But just like Martin Luther King, Jr. said before a protest in Alabama, “Blood may flow in the streets of Montgomery before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood that flows, and not that of the white man. We must not harm a single hair on the head of our white brothers.” This is the path to peace. And, more importantly, it’s the path to reconciliation. God, where we see videos of angry black youth looting stores and lighting fires and we think, “They’re all like that”–FORGIVE US! And God, where we see videos of police officers using intimidation and excessive force and we think, “They’re all like that”–FORGIVE US! For every time we look at the actions of a few–whether the thing that makes them different is a color or a nationality of a religion–and we think to ourselves, “They’re all like that,” God, forgive us! And change our hearts…. Beloved, let us love one another!

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