When Jesus Leaves Your Church, Follow Him

I believe that the colossal national failure that made the election of Donald Trump possible was a theological one. I mean, yeah, I realize that ignorance played a big role as well… And I understand that a lot of people were deceived–both by fear, and by propaganda posing as legitimate journalism, put out by media outlets that value ideology over the truth. But more than this problem of trying to figure out what we know and what we don’t know–more than the epistemological crisis that is caused when the people we are supposed to be able to trust LIE to us with such regularity, while simultaneously calling true things “fake news” when those facts don’t fit peoples’ power-hungry agenda–I believe that the real problem we are facing as a nation is due to the way we answer these questions: Who is God? And who are we? And who is our neighbor? 

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One of Jesus’ lesser-known miracles was a totally beefy physique. Also, if there’s not already a band named “Beefy Physique,” there should be.

Am I the only one whose theology has been affected by the election of Donald Trump? This past election has profoundly affected my faith in humanity. And even more than the election, what has REALLY darkened my view of people has been the continued support so many still give him, even in the face of such a clear and present douchebaggery. And when my faith in humanity falls… Well… It hurts me. It continues to hurt me. It hurts the deepest (and I think maybe the most important) part of me: My hope. My hope is not built on anything as solid as “certainty.” Some days it’s not even a word as strong as “belief.” A lot of the time, my hope is nothing more than a suspicion. It’s a suspicion that humanity’s goodness is stronger than our selfishness. It’s a suspicion that the light is stronger than the darkness. It’s a suspicion that the moral arc of history–though very long–is bending toward justice. And, if I’m being honest, my suspicion–my HOPE–has never been more under a daily attack than it has been since the people of this country elected one of its worst citizens as its leader.

And again–if I’m being honest–A lot of what I thought was disappointment in humanity was really just me grieving over the feeling of becoming a minority. “Wait… You mean most people DON’T believe the same things that I do about right and wrong?” But as hard as it is for a white, straight, Christian man to come to the fragile realization that he is no longer in the majority, Trump’s election continues to affect me. I’m not even close to over it. Because how we perceive humanity directly affects how we perceive God to be. And likewise, what we believe about God directly affects what we believe about humanity. This is one of the main reasons so many people give up on church. And religion. And God in general… Because in most churches in America, the god they believe in is nothing less than a monster. They might be able to ignore that fact for a while, but at some point, most thinking people realize that the “good news” sounds like a horror story. “Hey–GOOD NEWS! God hates everyone who doesn’t believe what we believe! Yup, he hates them enough to have them all tortured forever!” And we’re all, “Wait… You’re calling that god ‘GOOD?!?’ That god sounds like a total dick.”

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The fact that this Jesus is white makes him wearing the hat at least plausible.

Made In The Image Of A Monster

And so, the failure that allowed for a person like Donald Trump to be elected as our president is clearly a moral failure, but it is specifically a theological failure. It is what happens when the majority of the people calling themselves “the church” believe they are made in the image of a monster. And when you believe you’re made in the image of a monster, it’s not a very far leap to find yourself VOTING for a monster. It’s easy…

  • The god who is for “us” and against “them” is obviously the god who thinks we should be dropping bombs on those Muslims countries… And banning the ones who are running away from the wars from coming here for safety.
  • The god who is going to send everyone to Hell who doesn’t believe the things WE believe makes it easy to vote for a person who promises to do “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
  • The god who requires firm lines of orthodoxy would certainly endorse a candidate who promises to build a wall.
  • The god who is–very soon–going to end the world in a fiery ball of judgment is not a god who thinks that taking care of the environment is a very high priority.
  • The god who does miracles when people pray does NOT need a church community who is committed to working–right here and now–to build a more equitable society by changing laws and policies.
  • The god who is in control of every little thing obviously WANTED those poor people to go without healthcare… and conversely, that same god WANTED those rich folks to have more than they could ever need.

Who is God? Is God a monster who eternally punishes everyone who doesn’t believe the same things that we believe? Does God only love the people inside of our boundaries… Both national and theological?

And who are we? Are we so utterly and hopelessly depraved that there is no bit of good in us? And if that’s what you believe about humanity, how easy is it to treat other people like a piece of shit?

And who is my neighbor? Are we built to love even the people who are different than us? Maybe even ESPECIALLY the people who are different than us? And might “loving” those different people mean more than just trying to convince them that 1) they are garbage, and 2) a monstrous god killed his own son so that a few people can avoid the eternal torture that he set as their punishment?

I swear… When I hear that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, it fills me with so many emotions: Pity. And anger. And frustration. And confusion. And mostly sadness… It is such a bastardization of what the Church is supposed to be. When people lose their moral compass, the Church SHOULD be the voice of conscience. When people forget that we are better when we take care of each other, the Church SHOULD be there to remind them. And when nearly half the country votes for an openly bigoted, misogynistic, narcissistic shyster of a megalomaniac of a fool, the Church SHOULD be the first one to say, “WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS!” Instead, the church is leading the way. And now Trump is talking about “totally destroying” the Johnson Amendment–the 60 year old law restricting Churches from openly endorsing political candidates… GAH! Churches who are allowed to openly criticize and preach against a political candidate SHOULD be the scariest thing in the world for Donald Trump… But then, that only applies to the Churches who are more interested in the Truth than they are interested in political power and nationalism.

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If it wasn’t for the halo, they’d be hard to tell apart…

So if you find yourself at a church that preaches the kind of “good news” that even allows for a rational theological case for supporting and voting for a person like Donald Trump–A person who demonizes immigrants, who demeans women, who lies on a daily basis, who defends torture, and who is opposite in every way to the words, life, spirit, and person of Jesus Christ–know this: That church has no business calling itself “Christian.” Christians follow Jesus, and the policies and tactics of this administration are wholly incompatible with the Jesus of the Bible. I can’t say that strongly enough. The ideology of Trump and the ideology of Jesus are completely and totally opposite. Though if you’re having trouble telling them apart, maybe TAKE THIS AWESOME QUIZ.

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This one is one of the tougher questions…

When followers of Jesus love the people outside of our belief system as much as Jesus seems to think God loves those people, then we’ll stop worrying about the borders of orthodoxy AND the borders of nations. And the thing is, most of the time the chances are good that it will not be your church that changes… It will be your heart. One day, things that used to make sense to you just won’t make sense anymore. You will embrace the mystery of a benevolent universe. You will look around and notice people’s brokenness, but you will also see their divinity. You will experience God as the thing pulling us all toward GOODNESS and LIGHT and LOVE. And like Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” You probably won’t feel Jesus leave your church–You’ll just wake up one day and realize Jesus left a long time ago… I suggest you follow him. 

I have something to admit: I have been feeling hopeless. I have been feeling like the world’s problems are so huge that nothing I do or say or write matters. And that may be true–Maybe none of the stuff I write matters in the long run. But we don’t speak the truth because it’s going to change the world… We speak the truth because it’s true. I feel like this is true today, and even when the steady drumbeat of lunacy and depravity in the news breaks my heart and makes me feel like slipping into despair, I want you–the person who is reading this–to know that I love you. If you’re feeling any sense of the same despair that I have felt lately, I want you to know that you’re not alone. And there is hope. Also, if you are looking for a Church, here’s something I wrote. Anyway, thank you so much to my Patrons, who also give me hope. If you value this blog and want to support it, you can BECOME A PATRON or you can leave a TIP ON PAYPAL. Stay connected with me on Twitter and on Facebook.

 

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A Great Way To Spend Your “Day Without A Woman”

March 8 is International Women’s Day, and this year that day will be accompanied by the opportunity for women to take part in a nationwide protest called “A Day Without Women.” It is being organized by the people who put together the amazing “Women’s March” that inspired and encouraged so many of us. On the website, it says that…

“Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, in one or all of the following ways:

  1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
  2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
  3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman
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I love this. So much.

Here is a GOOD EXPLANATION of what is happening. I haven’t seen the same level of solidarity and enthusiasm that I saw in the lead up to the Women’s March. There are probably a lot of reasons for that… I think there is some confusion about what exactly is happening, and I think some people are concerned that it would only be “A Day Without Privileged Women,” but I think there is also a bit of fear involved as well. Many of us have never really even SEEN a real strike… One where people decide to not go into work… One where the people striking have DEMANDS. Showing up to march on a day off is simply not as big of a commitment as deciding to NOT SHOW UP TO WORK, and maybe even risk getting disciplined or fired.

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A day without women is a day without getting shit done.

Now, I am a man… So this isn’t my thing. I can stand in solidarity with women as they stand up for their rights, and protest, and flex their economic muscles to remind the world how truly powerful they are–ESPECIALLY when they are standing together. As a man, I will definitely be wearing red on March 8th to show my support as well. And as a man, I certainly don’t want to tell women how to do their protests… I am reminded of the strength and self-sufficiency of women on a daily basis (you’d understand this if you know my wife). Still, I have an idea. And this is my blog, so I’m going to share it. I’m okay with that, and I hope you are too. I have been published in Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” and Huffington Post’s “Black Voices,” and I am neither of those things. I am lending my straight, white male voice to people who might not experience the same privilege that I do. Anyway, that being said…

On February 16th of this year, there was another nationwide “Day Without” protest that took place… It was “A Day Without Immigrants.” In Nolensville, TN (just outside of Nashville, where I live), there is a company called Bradley Coatings, Inc. that made national news when they fired EIGHTEEN OF THEIR EMPLOYEES after they took part in the “Day Without Immigrants” protest (This is not to be confused with Bradley Coatings Group in Gibsonia, PA, who received so many calls that they put a disclaimer on their website that said, “IMPORTANT NOTICE: WE HAVE NOT FIRED EIGHTEEN EMPLOYEES FOR PARTICIPATING IN A PROTEST! WE ARE BRADLEY COATINGS GROUP – LOCATED IN GIBSONIA, PENNSYLVANIA – AND ARE IN NO WAY AFFILIATED WITH BRADLEY COATINGS INC. OF NOLENSVILLE, TENNESSEE.”). It seems that nationwide, there were about 100 workers fired for taking part in the Day Without Immigrants… Eighteen of those workers were from Bradley Coatings. One of the fired employees gave this statement as a message to his former boss:

“I would tell him he was unfair, after working for them for so many years, giving him our best. They could not understand that it was just one day. We were going to make up that day on a Sunday, but they didn’t understand that, and it was not the best way. They didn’t give us an opportunity and just told us we were fired.”

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Just in case you’re wondering, BCI does NOT stand for “Better Careers for Immigrants.”

So think about this for a second… Bradley Coatings is not a giant business. They have somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 employees and an annual revenue of about $4.6 million. In a town of just over 9,000 people (where only about 2.7% of them are Hispanic), a small business relied so heavily on immigrant workers that–when there was a day to show people how important immigrants are to local businesses–this company ended up firing ALMOST HALF its workforce. And there might have been some Hispanic workers who DIDN’T take part in the strike. There are many painting businesses in the Nashville area, and almost all of them rely on immigrant workers to do the actual WORK of painting. They are the bodies who are laboring so that people pay them money, so that Brad Williams (President) can pay the salary of the standoffish lady who answered the phone when I called… And ended up hanging up on me when I asked to speak with someone who COULD answer any of my questions about whether they had rehired their workers.

Just to recap…

  • Only 2.7% of the people in Nolensville, TN are Hispanic
  • Nearly HALF of Bradley Coatings, Inc’s workforce are Hispanic
  • Eighteen of these employees took part in the “Day Without Immigrants” protest, to show how integral immigrants are to area businesses.
  • Bradley Coatings responded by firing all 18 workers.
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We are ALL immigrants…

So maybe you are a woman who is taking part in the Day Without Women strike and protests… Maybe you are a man who is supporting them… Maybe the thought of “striking” and not going into work makes you feel nervous because you really need to keep your job… Maybe you feel disconnected because the ones who can afford to take a day off probably are in a position where they can do so without a whole lot of risk, and more vulnerable women won’t be able to take part because of economic insecurity… Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom, and you taking a day off only “affects” your kids… Maybe you just have a weird feeling about the whole thing… But whatever your deal is, you CAN choose to lend YOUR voice to these 18 immigrant workers who were fired for taking part in a movement that asserted their own worth. 

There are a few ways which you can lend your voice to these workers. 

  1. You can call Bradley Coatings at 615-776-1910, and you can tell them to do the right thing: Hire these immigrant workers back, and compensate them for lost wages. Seriously… We can inundate their phone lines with demands for justice.
  2. If you are a business owner who needs a painter, you can let Bradley Coatings (as well as their president, Brad Williams) know that the reason you are not considering them for the job is because you are disgusted at the treatment of their immigrant workers, who are the lifeblood of their business.
  3. You can put pressure on the businesses who deal with Bradley Coatings, Inc. and let them know that they are dealing with a callous company who does not value their immigrant employees.
  4. You can organize a protest outside of their address at 7222 Haley Industrial Dr
    Nolensville, TN 37135 like these awesome people did.

These protests, the Women’s March, this Day Without Women… they are so important to this country. If you are a woman showing your strength during the Day Without Women (or if you are a man like me who is so inspired by that strength) and you are looking for a place to flex your collective muscles, maybe spend some time standing against this clear injustice, and stand along side these 18 immigrants who lost their jobs.

If you know of other companies who fired their immigrant workers who need to be reminded the difference between right and wrong, maybe put their info in the comments. ALSO, if you want to help support this blog, you can totally do that. You can BE A PATRON. You can leave a tip on PayPal. You can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter. You can just share this post with the people in your life. Or you can keep calling Bradley Coatings at 615-776-1910 until they decide that firing these workers isn’t worth the headache and the financial loss. We are NOT powerless. Together, we are strong.

 

 

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The Republican Party Is NOT Morally Bankrupt

A lot of people will tell you that republicans will abandon any of their moral principles for even the *chance* at just a little more power. This is simply not true. Take, for an example, the recent separation of republicans from Breitbart editor and professional Twitter Troll, Milo Yiannopoulos. Here is a person who has made a name for himself by leading targeted harassment campaigns. He was one of the key figures in “Gamergate,” where an “Alt-Right” coalition of racists and misogynists (who consider him a champion of sorts) rallied behind him to harass, intimidate, and threaten women and minorities in the video game industry. Along with women and minorities, Milo targets Muslims, foreign students, and people who are transgender–A group that is already nearly TEN TIMES more likely to attempt suicide–all while hiding behind the concept of “free speech.” He helped spearhead the racist campaign of hatred and harassment against Leslie Jones after she dared to take part in an all-female remake of Ghostbusters (which I wrote about HERE), and as a result of that (and other things), Twitter closed down his account. Think about that for a minute… TWITTER! Do you have any idea how many awful examples of humanity are posting things on Twitter? Imagine what kind of a special ass hole you have to be to get banned by Twitter. He is a genuinely despicable, objectively terrible human being who gets some sort of demented gratification out of attacking groups of people who are already at risk… And none of those things were enough to discourage the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) from inviting him to be a speaker for this year’s conference.

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A celebration of depravity and cruelty… A republican hero.

These facts might lead you to suspect that the republican party has no moral compass whatsoever… That they have no sense of common decency or concept of right and wrong. Well, I’ve got some good news for you! They WILL separate themselves and disavow some people, even if that separation might alienate some of that person’s adoring fans. There IS a line they won’t cross. Here’s all it took: It took him condoning PEDOPHILIA. It took an actual video of him defending grown men having sex with 13 year old boys.

That’s it. That’s the line. That’s what it takes for you to be “too awful” to be embraced by today’s republican party–DEFENDING SEXUAL ABUSE AGAINST 13 YEAR OLD BOYS.

Appearing at a college and targeting a transgender student BY NAME? No big deal. Verbally attacking rape survivors? Meh. Claiming all those “rape stories” from college campuses that involve sex are “all frauds and hoaxes?” We’ve got bigger fish to fry, people. And (as you can see in the video below) it seems that a person stating he believes that grabbing a woman’s breasts is NOT sexual assault, and that men groping women is “not that big a deal” is ALSO not particularly disqualifying…

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What are you gonna do about it?

I mean, I GET why some people night be tempted to think that republicans have no moral line they will not cross… That kind of thing is going to happen when CPAC has ALSO asked someone to speak who was caught on tape bragging about how being famous allows him to do whatever he wants to women… Including “grabbing them by the pussy.”

This might seem like a disaster to some–Especially for the party which so many Christians feel compelled to vote for–but I think it’s a good thing… You know? At least we have a line now. At least we know what is officially “out of bounds” for the party of “conservative values,” the “moral majority,” and evangelical voters:  It’s defending and condoning the rape of middle schoolers.

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Would this proposal include a certain orange narcissist?

As republican leadership has taken this brave stand against condoning pedophilia, we are already seeing other republicans start to distance themselves a bit from the former golden boy, Yiannopoulos. In Tennessee (where I live) a representative named Martin Daniel (click on his name for his contact information, if you happen to feel like calling him and letting him know what you think of him) was trying to pass “The Milo Bill” (created after protests kept Milo from speaking at Berkley) that supposedly “protects free speech” on college campuses. But now (after finding out Milo is a defender of pederasty), he has decided to add a few more names to the bill…

Yes, you read that right… He’s taking down the “Milo,” and adding the names of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, and Martin Luther King, Jr. to the bill. I will now pause to give you time to deal with the vomit that is almost surely in your mouth…

But make no mistake: These people are are not interested in protecting ALL speech… They are interested in protecting speech that they agree with. If a Muslim with anti-American leanings wanted to speak at the University of Tennessee, and student protests made it clear that his voice was not welcome on campus, it would be a clear case of “The people have spoken.” But when a mouthpiece for Alt-Right hatred gets shouted down, all of a sudden it’s a “violation of that person’s right to free speech.” But listen–Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean that I have to lend you my megaphone. And Milo’s right to spout his hateful lies does not include the right to use any platform he desires.

For years, Steve Bannon’s “Breitbart” was celebrated as the number one platform for the Alt-Right. And–until this recent controversy forced him to resign and cost him a $250,000 book deal–Milo Yiannopoulos was a Breitbart Senior Editor and a pet project of Steve Bannon… A man who now sits as this current president’s Chief Strategist, as well as holding a seat on the National Security Council. Bannon’s white nationalist platform now has a front row seat at White House Press Conferences… A LITERAL front row seat, since Trump’s team only reserved one seat for a member of the press: Breitbart.

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Milo to Hairdresser: “I’m looking for something that says ‘Hitler Youth.'”

There is no question of “Is this the right thing to do?” The morality of an issue is not a concern… Only the questions of “Will this bring us more power than we currently have?” and “Can we get away with it?” The GOP will GLADLY embrace white nationalists and avowed racists if it will give them more power. They are not bothered by Trump’s continued lies, they are not bothered by his philandering or his three marriages, they are not bothered by his wife’s nude photos (neither am I, but these same people seemed very disturbed by Michelle Obama showing her shoulders in a photograph), they are not bothered by his inflammatory hatred against Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, and refugees, they are not bothered by his continued bullying, they are not bothered by his continued attacks on the American democratic process and the freedom of the press, and they are not bothered by his continued hypocrisy (as he attacked president Obama for playing too much golf, while going golfing SIX TIMES in his first month in office).

The closest thing today’s republican party has to a moral question is this: “How much will it cost?” The only criticism that seems to have any staying power with republicans right now is the criticism of how much all of his and his family’s travels are costing. In eight years, President Obama’s travel cost totaled $97 million… In one month, Donalds’s travel costs have already topped $10 million. In one month, Donald Trump has spent one tenth the cost of President Obama’s TOTAL travel costs for 96 months. At this rate, if Trump were in office for eight years (God forbid), the American people will have spent $960 MILLION on the Trump family’s excursions to Mar-a-Lago and his wife’s decision to stay in her gilded New York Tower. That’s over SIX TIMES the amount of the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts that republicans want to get rid of… But even now, it is grossing me out that I feel like this is the only criticism with any teeth. THERE IS MORE TO RIGHT AND WRONG THAN HOW MUCH THINGS COST!

So it turns out the republican party is NOT completely morally bankrupt. It might seem like none of their concern is with any issues of “right” or “wrong.” It might appear that they are concerned with one thing: More power. You might think they will abandon any moral compass they may have had for a chance at more power. I mean, sure… They don’t care about a lot: They don’t care about hypocrisy. They don’t care about attacking the character of rape survivors, or acting like all accusers of sexual assault are making it up. Here are just a few of Milo’s headlines from Brietbart:

  • “Male Students: Do Not Go To Consent Classes” 10/16/15
  • “Muslims Will Bring Lamb Chops, Yoghurt, and Gang Rape to America” 10/30/16
  • “‘Slut’s Remorse’ Is My Rape Suspects Should Be Anonymised” 6/23/14
  • “Islam Is The Real Rape Culture” 10/12/16
  • “Even If You’re Acquitted Of Rape, Feminists Can Still Ruin Your Life” 10/7/16

They also don’t care about baseless and unfounded attacks on the legitimacy of our electoral process.They don’t care about attacking the legitimacy of our courts. They don’t care about saying that “feminism is cancer.” They don’t care about bragging about sexual assault. They don’t care about mocking disabled reporters. They don’t care about a man who claims to be a Christian who hasn’t sought forgiveness. They don’t care about choosing white nationalists to be part of the president’s cabinet. They don’t care about attacks on our most vulnerable citizens, and they don’t care about demonizing refugees and prohibiting entry for women and children fleeing war zones. They don’t care about a president who brags about grabbing pussies, and they don’t care about “journalist” who brags about being able to give such good head today because of the priest who forced him to as a child.

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“Leaving it up to the states” to decide whether or not to protect trans kids is going to put lives in danger. It’s disgusting and shameful.

And as of yesterday, they don’t care about protecting the safety of transgender kids just trying to use the bathroom at school without getting harassed. They act like they care a *liiiiitle* bit about wasting money… Though they’ll waste ALL THE MONEY if it will keep them in power. But there’s one thing they WON’T stand for… There is a line they won’t cross… There is a character flaw in their leadership they won’t overlook… There is one thing that they will not sell out for… There is one value for which they will not abandon their moral center…. HERE IT IS: They won’t put up with people defending and condoning the rape of children. At least not on video. And at least not if people hear about it because that video gets shared a lot. Or unless that person says they are sorry for saying what they said… We’ll wait and see. AT LEAST THERE IS A LINE!

So that’s something… Right?

Right?

These are crazy times, my friends. We need to help keep each other sane and hopeful. If this blog is one of the things that accomplishes that for you, maybe consider supporting it. You can be a Patron… IT’S SUPER EASY. You can leave a tip on PayPal. Or you can just follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

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How To Tell If Black Lives Actually Matter To You

Last week in Nashville, a man named Jocques Scott Clemmons was shot and killed by a police officer after being pulled over for running a stop sign. When he was approached by the officer, he fled. As he ran away, he was shot twice in the back by officer Joshua Lippert–a man with a disturbing history of being suspended for excessive use of force. Jocques Scott Clemmons died in surgery, and his death left his two small boys without a father…

maxresdefault.jpgNow, before I go on, I’d like to say that–like many of you–I am friends with police officers. I know them to be good and honorable people. They are public servants who are doing what they do in an attempt to HELP people… And that fact makes any criticism of law enforcement very difficult for me. So–like many of you–when I hear about yet another black man being shot and killed as he was running AWAY, I want to believe that there was some sort of REASON this happened. My ASSUMPTION is that there was a reason he was killed… I feel I should admit that. Despite the many stories and examples to the contrary over the past few years–I am still part of a group of people who assumes that most police officers are acting appropriately. I grew up in a world where the cops were always the good guys. So when I hear that Jocques Scott Clemmons was a convicted felon (convicted of drug charges), and that he was carrying a gun, I have to admit–something in me is almost relieved. It comes as a relief to me (As if carrying a gun while being on probation is a good enough REASON to get killed as you’re running AWAY from someone who’s going to send you back to prison).

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Do they really?

There’s this thing that happens inside me when I hear of an injustice like this. It keeps happening, and it grosses me right out about myself. But I want to be honest about it, because I don’t think I’m the only person who experiences this. When Trayvon Martin was killed… there was this deep sense of SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” But if I’m being honest, I kept waiting–kept expecting that some detail would come out that would justify this. We want so badly to believe that we live in a just society… We look for things to justify the taking of these lives. We LONG for those things. And so, as soon as there is news of another life taken, there are forces at work who try to give us those things. For example, with Trayvon, we had…

  • He was actually a pretty big kid.
  • That picture they put out was a couple years old.
  • He had been suspended from school for marijuana possession.
  • There was a picture of him flipping off a camera.
  • The man who chased him down and killed him had a bloody nose.
  • Why did he run if he wasn’t doing anything wrong?

There is an uncomfortableness that comes when we encounter injustice. And we don’t like that feeling, so we look for an explanation. We look for a justification. And when we find it, we let out a small, non-verbal, comforting, “Ah, there it is…” It can be frighteningly easy to go from “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” to “Ah, there it is…” And so people hear about a kid being shot while carrying nothing but Skittles and an iced tea, and their soul cries out, “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” But the uncomfortableness of that moment is quickly assuaged by stories of being suspended for marijuana use, or a picture of him sticking his middle finger up… And through the miracle of white supremacy, people let out a soft, “Ah, there it is…” It alleviates that uncomfortableness.

And those justifications–no matter how insignificant and unrelated–are RUSHED out to us. Think about it: Facts about cases like this come out slowly… Facts like “How many shots were fired,” and “The name of the officer who pulled the trigger,” and “Releasing any video evidence of the shooting.” But please consider this: There is one piece of information that NEVER takes long at all to come out–Please consider the BLINDING SPEED at which we are informed of any criminal record the person who was just killed may have had. The very first things released to the public are always designed to JUSTIFY the killing. Here is what Metro Police immediately tweets out…

 

He is not described as a man who was shot in the back as he was running away… He is simply “Gunman.” And so the information that is immediately available about Jocques Scott Clemmons is never “Beloved member of the community, and father of two.” The information we given are these things: “Convicted felon, and carrying a gun.” Not only that, but they released information that turned out to be false. Initial reports said that Clemmons “abruptly” charged at the officer and made “full contact” with his body… A claim that was proven false by the release of a NEW VIDEO of the interaction.

And yes–It appears Jocques Scott Clemmons had a gun on him (though it would not be unprecedented for a gun to be planted). And yes–It is illegal for a convicted felon to possess a firearm. But even if he hadn’t been previously convicted on drug charges, it would STILL have been illegal for him to have a gun. Did you know this? It turns out that it is illegal to carry a gun in federally subsidized housing projects. I didn’t know this fact until just last week. A lot of people are unaware of this… Which is surprising with all of the protests the NRA has made to this clear violation of the 2nd Amendment, right? What’s that? The NRA doesn’t really concern itself with the 2nd Amendment rights of People of Color? Weird… Here’s something true: In this country, if you are a white person, carrying a gun is your GOD-GIVEN RIGHT! If you are a black person, possession of a gun is all the justification that is needed for someone to shoot to kill.

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The James A. Cayce Housing Projects…

If you’re wondering why people keep saying BLACK LIVES MATTER… If you’re wondering why people keep insisting that BLACK LIVES MATTER… If you’re wondering why people keep DEMANDING that BLACK LIVES MATTER… This is it. Because even as a white person who considers myself an ally, I still look for the justification–I still assume there is a reason–for a black man to get shot in the back as he is running AWAY from police.

And what is frightening is how little it takes–even for me personally–to go from anger and outrage at the injustice of YET ANOTHER black life ended by law enforcement, to justifying the reason he was killed. It doesn’t take much. Because the amount it takes to go from “Outrage at injustice” to “Justifying inaction” is how much that life matters to you. I’m going to say that again… The amount it takes to go from “Outrage at injustice” to “Justifying inaction” is how much that life matters to you. So when you see people showing up by the tens of thousands to march for the Women’s March, but you only see a couple hundred protesters (almost all of them black) turn out to march for Jocques’ life–ended by two bullets in his back as he ran away–the reason for that is clear: His life didn’t matter. Not to the majority of the population, at least.

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An image from the Justice4Jocques march. Photo credit: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean

I worked in this area of Nashville for years. I saw the kids who lived in those projects every week at their failing school. I knew fourth graders reading at a kindergarten level. When I talked with teachers about the daunting task of educating those kids, I was told that roughly one in three had a parent in prison. I tried to talk about “goals” with kids who–at ten years old–already had an understanding that their future involved them “ending up in prison or dead” (and as it was nearly 10 years ago that I was there, I can safely assume that many of those teenagers and twenty-somethings are probably now in one of those two places).  I watched as real estate and home prices around those projects SKYROCKETED in value… As white people moved into those homes. I watch as people in positions of power–instead of resolving to FIX those schools that are failing these kids–attempt to make cases for taking funding from those schools in order to pay for vouchers for private schools that most of those families could never afford. I watch as this killing comes mere months after a report (called “Driving While Black”) is released (and largely ignored), even though it showed statistical evidence of racial profiling within Nashville law enforcement.

When Gideon’s Army (the people who put out the “Driving While Black” report) went back and checked officer Lippert’s 2016 statistics, they found a couple disturbing facts:

  •  For officer Lippert, “90% of the stops he made were of black drivers,” a rate that was “disproportionate to the black population of any of the census tracts he patrolled” and was “20% to 50% higher than other officers in the same areas.”
  • Also, officer Lippert “searched drivers at astronomical rates. His rate for conducting any search (30.6%) is five times greater than officers patrolling the same census tracts (5.1%).”

Here is what those two facts look like in graph form. Again, you should READ THIS

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Listen. There are a lot of horribly racist people out there. When a GoFundMe page was set up to help cover the Clemmons family’s funeral costs, FIVE of the fifteen comments on the page were justifications for his death (while another attempted to inform people of a GoFundMe set up for Joshua Lippert). But we cannot think that racism is limited to the sorts of people who make comments on a family’s funeral fundraiser like “he was a thug asking for it” and “he should of listened to the police” and “Got what he deserved” and “Don’t make it sound like he was the victim.” We look for scapegoats, like Dylann Roof, to sacrifice. But the darkness of racist is not a “THEM” problem… It is an “US” problem. And the best way to solve an “US” problem is to focus on where it is a “ME” problem. What is wrong with them?” is an easy question to ask. “What is wrong with us?” is a little bit harder. “What is wrong with me?” is where the real hard work takes place.

So I want to confess that I am disgusted with myself. I am disgusted by how little it takes to relieve that feeling of “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” I am grossed out by how small the fault in a person’s character can be in order to begin to justify the unjustifiable. I am deeply disappointed by how much injustice I am willing to endure in the world and in my own community. I am saddened by my inclination to assume that there must have been a “good” reason why yet another black person was killed. And I am ashamed that there have been many times in my life where Black Lives DON’T Matter to me… At least they don’t seem to matter enough to possibly risk offending the friends I have in law enforcement. Do black lives matter to me? Well… Am I showing up? How easy is it for me to justify yet another life ended by a police bullet? Am I looking for an “Ah, there it is…” to ease the uncomfortable feeling inside me? How easy is it for me to ignore the voice inside me insisting that “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!”

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Let’s hope so…

Over 10,000 people showed up to protest for the Women’s March in Nashville… And that’s a good thing. When a white officer right here in Nashville killed a black man by shooting him in the back as he ran away, only a couple hundred folks showed up to protest… We should probably ask ourselves why that is. Here is something true: White people need to show up in support of black lives. If the only voices saying “BLACK LIVES MATTER” are the voices of People of Color, then there are not enough voices saying those words. If you missed your chance to respond to the “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” welling up inside of you, the good news is you will have another chance tonight. There will be a Justice4Jocques event tonight at Legislative Plaza at the Capital. And if you can’t make it tonight, you will have another chance tomorrow to stand up. And the next day. And the next… A chance to RESPOND to (instead of silencing) that voice inside of you that cries out “THIS IS NOT OKAY!” We cannot allow small things to transform our OUTRAGE AT INJUSTICE into justifying inaction.

This blog means a lot to me. If it means a lot to you, and you’d like to help support it, you can BECOME A PATRON and give a little every month, or you can also GIVE ON PAYPAL (which allows you to “boost” a specific post if you want more people to see it on Facebook. Also, please share the stuff you care about. And if you want more Boeskool in your life, you can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter. Love you guys.

 

 

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Five Important Movies To Watch–Now More Than Ever

You ever watch a movie, and then–after some time passes–you watch it again, and suddenly it MEANS something different? The message… The meaning… The significance… The POWER of the story was not necessarily “wasted” on the younger version of you… But it was IMPLANTED in you–in your heart and your mind and your soul–waiting for your life and your experiences and your world to catch up with the wisdom that lies dormant inside of you. Like a seed. And then–through chance or self-realization–you revisit that movie, and something inside of you gets… Activated. Wakes up. Comes Alive.

Well, I have chosen FIVE of these kinds of movies–all of them available for streaming on Netflix–that have helped me come alive. And I wanted to share them with you. Maybe you have seen them before, maybe you have never seen them, maybe you have never even HEARD of one or two… But if you can do me a favor and trust me, I promise these movies have something special to say to us at this time in history. I am a firm believer that STORY has the power to change us… That our empathy is what makes us most human. And every time we step into someone else’s shoes–every time we step into someone else’s story–through that holy empathy, we are given a chance to become even more human. To come alive. To wake up a little bit more. Here they are, in no particular order:

Spotlight

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If I had seen this movie before going to college, I might have decided to be a journalism major. So. SO good…

If there is one thing I am certain of right now, it’s that we all need to recommit ourselves to being people who are dedicated to getting the facts right. This new administration is constantly antagonizing, attacking, and attempting to undermine the credibility of the Press… And as I wrote about last time, this is a commonly used tactic for regimes that are taking steps toward fascism. Consider for a minute (or longer) that we have a president who actually tweeted the words, “Any negative polls are fake news.” As if the protests and marches all over the country were fabrications created by the “liberal media.”

“Spotlight” is the story of the investigative journalism unit for the Boston Globe that uncovered the extent of the Catholic Church’s coverup of the sexual abuse being perpetrated by priests. If this sound too heavy for you, just know that the story is less about the abuse, and more about journalistic excellence, getting the story right, and speaking truth to power. It is about the drama of the newsroom, the importance of standing up to institutions, and the danger that comes when good people don’t speak up for what is right. Please believe me when I say, it is more important now than ever. And if my recommendation isn’t enough, it also has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Watch it. It won’t be on Netflix forever. And as this current administration continues its attack on journalism, remember these words from Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

13th

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Quite possibly the most important movie I’ve ever seen.

Even though I dedicated and ENTIRE BLOG POST to this documentary, it is worth asking again: Please. PLEASE watch the documentary “13th.” It is so important. This month we are having a viewing at our Church. I’m embarrassed of how ignorant I was (and I continue to be) about the history of racial oppression in this country. If you are a white person who even has begun to suspect that your own privilege has blinded you to the reality of white supremacy, as well as the continued injustice faced by so many People of Color in this nation, this movie will open your eyes… Or at least make you aware that your eyes have been closed. I cannot recommend it highly enough, but again–If that’s not enough, it is also nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Academy Awards. The day after Trump won the election, shares in For-Profit Prisons went through the roof. This did not happen by accident. It is time for us to WAKE UP.

To Kill A Mockingbird

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb up inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ~ Atticus Finch

As an English major, I’m ashamed to say that I had forgotten most of this amazing story. Adapted from Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, “To Kill A Mockingbird” is widely considered to be one of the greatest American films. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Gregory Peck won Best Actor for his role as Atticus Finch… The character the American Film Institute called the “greatest movie hero of the 20th century.” The story of Scout and Jem and Atticus and Tom and Boo Radley is one of the most important American stories we have. It was so important that Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for writing it. Lately it seems like many Americans have forgotten who we are. And if not “who we are,” at least WHO WE ASPIRE TO BE. We desperately need Atticus Finch to remind us… Moral and strong and willing to do what’s right, even when it’s very hard.  We need to be reminded of heroes like Atticus Finch–All of the time, but now more than ever. Watch it. And let yourself cry when you hear the words, “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.”

Superbad

Alright, so it doesn’t have to be “Superbad.” I actually wanted to put “Hot Rod” in this spot, but it turns out Netflix took it down (proving once again that Cinderella was right when they wrote that you “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”). It can be anything… “Tommy Boy.” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” “Amelie.” Whatever. INSERT YOUR OWN MOVIE HERE. Just make sure it’s something that makes you laugh… Something that takes your mind off the daily mind-numbing, soul-wearying barrage of bad news we have have to endure for the these past two weeks. This is going to be a long fight. We HAVE to be able to recharge our batteries. And for me, a big part of that is laughter. I am saying this as much to myself as to any of you: If you are feeling like your mind is constantly outraged at all the horrible things, STEP AWAY. Have some fun. Laugh. Watch something mindless and silly. Take a break… I promise there will still be plenty of the world’s problems left to solve when you come back.

And last, but certainly not least…

V For Vendetta

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This is the face of a person who is no longer afraid.

“Remember, remember…” I love this movie so much. And I don’t care one bit if that fact makes you think I’m some sort of caricature. I know it’s one of those movies that audiences like way more than critics, but I LOVE it. I could watch it once a month, and STILL come away inspired and moved. It is the story of a vigilante living in a fictional future England where fascists have taken power and rid the country of  political opponents, Muslims, immigrants, and gays (I know, right?). It is the story of a girl losing her fear. It is the story of remembering that “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” It is the story of revolution. And it is the story of a love letter, written to a stranger on piece of toilet paper, that said…

“It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses and apologized to no one. I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch, but one. An inch. It is small and it is fragile and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must NEVER let them take it from us. I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the worlds turns, and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that, even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you. Valerie.”

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One of my two favorite “arms raised in the rain” shots in a movie… I’ll bet you can guess the other one.

So there they are… Five(ish) movies for you to watch. You know what? I’ve got a bonus something for you to watch, and it’s only a few minutes long. Here it is:

These are strange times. We are living in strange times. I am part of a generation who has taken its democracy for granted. We are waking up to the fact that there is work to do. I am ashamed of my naivety and blindness to the oppression that is all around me… Oppression which my privilege–my white privilege, my male privilege, my straight privilege, my Christian privilege–allowed me to live so much of my life without noticing. And all of these things have lulled me into a dangerous and lazy optimism… As if it will all work itself out without having to work for it.

Humanity is beautiful, but to act like there aren’t still people actively trying to take power and rights from people is just like sticking our heads in the sand. We can be hopeful without being naive. There is a difference between believing that the light is stronger than the darkness and acting like the darkness isn’t there. We need to do more that just BELIEVE that the light is going to win in the end… We need to FIGHT. We need to “rage against the dying of the light.” We need to love like optimists, but fight like pessimists. We need to MARCH. We need to RESIST.  We are stronger than we think we are, and we are even stronger together. I hope these movies inspire you, and activate you, and wake you up, and make you come alive.

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“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask, there is an idea, Mr. Creedy… And ideas are bulletproof.”

I am so amazed and grateful for the people who support this blog, and–by doing so–help support me and my family. If you are a person who values the things I write on this blog, you can BECOME A PATRON and help support it. If you would like to leave a tip on PayPal (or boost a post so more people can read it), you can DO THAT RIGHT HERE. Otherwise, you can stay in touch and follow me on Twitter or on Facebook. And if you watch one of these movies and you feel activated, maybe consider sharing this post. “But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that, even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you.”

 

Posted in 2) Politics, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

When Fascism Comes To America…

“Fascism.” That word is being thrown around a lot lately… Many times by people who don’t fully understand what it is. I’m not going to give you a history of the word–It you’re interested, you can read a pretty good summary of fascism on Wikipedia. Basically, fascism found it’s first foothold in Italy with Benito Mussolini, and that turned into the model for Hitler’s Germany. There are a lot of definitions of Fascism, but as an overview, it is a far-right ideology that usually utilizes ultra-nationalismpopulism, and anti-immigrant sentiments to bring an authoritarian leader into power. It usually pops up where large portions of the population feel alienated by the government. It is opposed to liberal democracy, and it redirects the people’s dissatisfaction by attempting to focus the power in the hands of a few… Allowing for little or no dissent. It is the stuff of the bad guys in the Avenger movies, it is the stuff America fought to defeat in World War II, and it has become such a pejorative term that no one really admits to being fascists anymore… Even when those leaders embrace all of its defining elements. And whatever your political stance, you should realize that it is opposite everything America stands for. The fascist regimes in history have been marked by some of the greatest atrocities ever committed.

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If someone is going to take down America, PLEASE GOD, don’t let it be this dip shit.

There’s a quote that is often attributed to Sinclair Lewis that says, “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in a flag and waving a cross.” No one really knows who said it, but Sinclair Lewis had some similar thoughts. There’s also an uncredited New York Times article from 1938 that said, “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.’” Americanism. Wrapped in a flag. Waving a cross…

There has been much study done on this nearly 100 year old ideology. One of the people doing the studying is a political scientist named Dr. Lawrence Britt. He wrote an article for Free Inquiry in the Spring of 2003 called, “Fascism Anyone?” He studied the fascist regimes of Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet, and he came up with 14 defining characteristics of fascism. You may have seen a picture of those 14 characteristics (said to be hanging in the U.S. Holocaust Museum) which was shared quite a bit on social media with the heading “Early Warning Signs Of Fascism.” In case you missed it, here is a picture:

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Hanging in the Holocaust Museum…

There is more to the each of these bullet points, and you can read about each of them RIGHT HERE. But really, I want you to take some time and really THINK about this list. Make a check list in your head. Think about where the country is right now, and think about where it is headed. Just in case you can’t see the picture, here are the 14 points…

1) Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
“Everybody has to have a flag pin somewhere on their body, or they don’t really love America.” Did you know Trump officially declared his inauguration day a “National Day of Patriotic Devotion?”

2) Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
“Everyone be afraid! Also, in order to keep us safe, we’re going to need to torture people.

3) Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
Whose fault is it? The Immigrants. The Muslims. The “Illegals.” The Other.

4) Supremacy of the Military 
Even though our infrastructure is falling apart, and even though we spend more money on our military than the next eight nations combined, Trump is calling for increases to military spending.

5) Rampant Sexism
Do I really have to come up with something here? I mean, our country elected a man who was caught on tape bragging about being famous enough that he was able to “grab women by the pussy.” HERE ARE 11 of the worst things he has said about women.

6) Controlled Mass Media
He called CNN “fake news,” and then called on a reporter from Breitbart. The House Science Committee Chairman said we should get our news from Trump, and not the media.

7) Obsession with National Security 
Did I already remind you to be very afraid? We need a WALL! We need to ban travel from seven Muslim majority countries, even though there have been exactly ZERO Americans killed here in terrorist attacks by immigrants or refugees from those war-torn countries.

8) Religion and Government are Intertwined
Jesus. If you’re not already seeing this one, I don’t know what to tell you…

9) Corporate Power is Protected
In fascist states, business leaders and aristocracy are the ones who put the leaders in power. And then they all get even richer.

10) Labor Power is Suppressed
Labor has been under attack by the GOP for years. Which makes sense, because it is a direct threat to corporate control and the businesses that stand to profit from fascism. Expect more attacks on the rights of workers to unionize…

11) Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Anti-Intellectualism. Trump reportedly wants to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Apparently we have $20 Billion to build a wall that WON’T WORK, but we have to cut out the .02% of the budget that helps fund the arts.

12) Obsession with Crime and Punishment
“100%, we will cease to have a country. I am the law and order candidate.” ~ Donald Trump, while demonizing Black Lives Matter protesters as “inherently racist.”

13) Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
He promised to drain the swamp, but then he filled his cabinet with billionaires and multimillionaires, with a combined net worth of OVER $14 BILLION.

14) Fraudulent Elections
Have you wondered why Trump has spent so much time calling into question the legitimacy of an election THAT HE WON? It’s not just his ego being bruised about losing the popular vote… They are setting up distrust in our electoral system and OUR VERY DEMOCRACY in order to challenge the results and stay in power when America votes him out. In the meantime, they can make it harder for minorities to vote, and also wear away at the feeling that our vote makes any difference whatsoever. And people who believe their vote makes no difference DON’T take the time to go to the polls.

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How. THE HELL. Are so many people in America rooting for the bad guys in the FREAKING AVENGERS MOVIES!?! Where are you, Captain America? We need you to throw a damn motorcycle at some people…

I want to remind you of something: THIS LIST WAS MADE IN 2003! This is not a list someone drew up in order to describe what our Mentally Unstable president is doing–This list is 14 years old. And there are more lists of common characteristics of fascist leadership. THIS LIST is from 2002. Here are a few highlights:

  • Limited public debate about policies.
  • Control over media. Media only reports what government allows it to report.
  • Leader passes laws giving himself even more powers
  • Leader surrounded only by trusted friends and business people who profit handsomely.
  • Most actions favor insiders, friends and Corporate entities at the expense of the people. Laws that monitor and control business practices are removed.
  • Violates, disrespects or refuses to agree to World Conventions on Human Rights, international norms of conduct, and other laws. All manner of excuses offered.
  • Many civil liberties restricted or suspended.

Any of these sound familiar? WE HAVE GOT TO RESIST THIS MOVEMENT TOWARD FASCISM. It doesn’t happen all at once… They will move in small steps. But another characteristic of fascist regimes is this: Once they are in power, they don’t give it up. Not without bloodshed. The things we are seeing right now are NOT NORMAL. They are calculated steps toward taking away the heart of what America is all about… Namely, that the people have the power. We have to RESIST. We have to get involved, we have to protest, we have to call our representatives and GET ANGRY. While we still have some power. Before it’s too late. Because here’s something else that’s true…

THIS IS NOT NORMAL. RESIST.

If you value this blog, and you’d like to support it, I think that would be really cool. You can BECOME A PATRON and give a couple dollars a month. You can leave a tip or boost a post on Facebook (so more people can see it) by GIVING ON PayPal. Or you could just share it with the people in your life on Facebook or on Twitter. Either way, take care of each other. Don’t lose hope. RESIST.

Posted in 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Here’s Why Trump’s Hand Size Actually Matters

It’s a silly thing, right? Hand size? I mean, here’s the real question: What kind of person argues about the size of their hands? 

A couple of days ago, I posted a picture of Donald Trump on my Facebook page. He was standing between Melania and President Obama, and I noticed something. His hands looked small. Startlingly small. Like, “so small that I had to do some research to make sure it wasn’t photoshopped” small. So I did my research before posting it to insure that I was not adding to the sea of fake images out there, and–sure enough–it was real. His hands appeared to be dwarfed by ALL THREE of their hands… Barack’s, Michelle’s, and Melania’s. So I posted the image, and I captioned it “Look at those tiny little doll hands.” Here is an uncropped image of the four of them standing there… Hands exposed.

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Michelle is cracking up because she’s imagining giving him five…

Now, you can imagine what the comments might be like when someone posts something like this on Facebook. There were people poking fun, there were people wondering (like I did) if the image was photoshopped there were people pointing out the childishness and cruelty involved in making fun of something about a person’s body which he had no control over, there were the inevitable allusions to what small hands meant to the size of his penis… Which led to the best joke on the thread, “Besides, I’m sure his penis looks huge when held by those tiny hands.” And then there was me threatening to block anyone who made me think of Donald Trump’s penis ever again–You know… the usual.

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Which Bible do you want to be sworn in on, Mr. Trump? “Just bring me the smallest one you’ve got–I need my hands to look YUGE.”

But I spent some time thinking about the criticism leveled against us for discussing and making fun of this man’s body… A body that I whole-heartedly believe is made in the image of God, and is worthy of being loved. I was accused of bullying–which didn’t set well with me (It wasn’t bullying, by the way. I worked for close to 10 years teaching kids about bullying, and in order for someone to get bullied, there has to be an imbalance of power. Which is why Trump mocking Serge Kovaleski’s disabled arm WAS bullying, but since Trump holds arguably the most powerful position on the planet right now, me poking fun of his doll hands was NOT bullying). But it certainly wasn’t kind. And I freely admit–It was far from my best self. I tried to figure out why I cared one way or the other. Do I really care that it’s been proven that Trump’s hands smaller than 85% of male hands? I’m not usually the sort who shames a person because of a body difference… Although–like many of us–the chances of me saying something cruel usually go up when I don’t like someone… And I really, REALLY don’t like this guy. I was probably letting down Michelle, because she said, “When they go low, we go high,” and here I was… Going low by posting this picture of his obviously small hands. And who wants to let down Michelle? Nobody, that’s who… WHAT DIFFERENCE DID IT MAKE?!?

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I used this photo in my last blog, but it was too perfect to not use again. Feel free to make your own funny caption. This one writes itself…

And then, it came to me. I figured why it matters that Trump’s hands are small, and pointing that out is an important thing to do. Hear me out…

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I’d choose this SNL character for president before I’d vote for the one we have.

I’m bald. Not COMPLETELY bald… Like most men who have gone bald, I still have a little bit of hair around the sides. UN-like most men, I can grow a kick ass full beard in NO time, baby… But I digress. There is no denying it… I’m bald. So imagine that someone said about me, “Hey, that guy is bald!” I’d be like, “Yup, I don’t have very much hair left… You’re right.” Because that’s what normal people do. I might make a joke and say something about how “I think God took away my hair because He didn’t feel like it was fair to everyone else for me to be this smart, this funny, AND have a full head of hair.” But if someone called me bald, and then I went on and on with some deranged rant about how “I HAVE THE BEST HAIR!” when clearly my hair was mostly gone, I would be showing a serious mental deficiency. One that is so serious, it should probably keep me out of office. Hell, it should probably keep me out of MOST jobs.

And I get that he is sensitive about this. It started over 30 years ago, with a man named Graydon Carter (who is now the editor of Vanity Fair). In THIS FASCINATING ARTICLE, Carter recalls Trump sitting next to a model named Vendela. Here is an excerpt…

I sat Trump beside Vendela, thinking that she would get a kick out of him. This was not the case. After 45 minutes she came over to my table, almost in tears, and pleaded with me to move her. It seems that Trump had spent his entire time with her assaying the “tits” and legs of the other female guests and asking how they measured up to those of other women, including his wife. “He is,” she told me, in words that seemed familiar, “the most vulgar man I have ever met.”

In 1988, Carter wrote an article about Trump where he called him a “short-fingered vulgarian.” By all estimations, this really got under Trump’s thin skin. So much so that, every so often over the last few decades (and as recently as 2015), Trump has sent Carter pictures of himself, cut out of magazines, with his hands circled in gold Sharpie, with a note that says, See? Not so short. Again, I ask you: What kind of person does this?

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I can’t even SEE his stubby fingers because all I can look at is how his eyes and mouth are interchangeable…

So listen. Clearly. CLEARLY this dude has extra small hands. No big deal. But, CLEARLY. Except that he has spent a ridiculous amount of time defending his hands as not being small. He held them up to be examined during a presidential debate, desperate to refute the claims of their smallness. He defended their size when he alluded to the size of his penis during a nationally televised debate, drawing on a mythical correlation. And honestly, if this blog post went super viral, I would not be AT ALL surprised if he sent his Press Secretary out to defend the size of his hands to the American people.

How do you describe this as anything but CRAZY?

What healthy-minded, small-handed people do when someone points out how small their hands are, is they say, “Yeah, they are a bit small.” Maybe they make a joke… Maybe not. But what they DON’T do is they don’t start demanding that the facts are not the facts. And this is what Donald Trump does. About everything. He did it about his hands, he did it about the number of people at the inauguration, and he has done it multiple times now about the numbers of the popular vote. THIS IS WHY PICTURES OF HIS TINY HANDS BEING DWARFED BY MELANIA’S HANDS ARE IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT. Not because bigger hands mean more strength and virility. Not because we’re trying to be cruel (though I believe it’s important to keep forcing him to see that SO MANY in this country disapprove of him). But because FACTS MATTER. And this is just one more piece of evidence that the man we elected as president is unfit for the presidency. I genuinely believe that he is not right in the head. Dangerously so. And I don’t mean that in a way that diminishes the worth and value of people struggling with mental illness. I say it in the same way that I would not want a person who is blind flying a plane… Especially a plane that is carrying 350 million people.

This administration is trying to sell us “alternative facts.” But alternative facts have a name… They’re called “lies.” When Trump tries to pass along those miniature sausages as “normal-sized” fingers, he is functioning in the realm of alternative facts. And alternative facts are lies. Stop lying.

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Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics, 3) Bathroom Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Here’s What Dr. Seuss Thought About “America First”

Almost a year ago, Donald Trump started using the phrase “America First” during his campaign. When he started saying it, he received some pushback… Mostly because of the phrase’s long history as an anti-semitism dating back to the days of World War II, when pro-isolationists and Nazi sympathizers used it as their slogan. But Donald Trump was already well aware of this. In 2000, Pat Buchanan used the slogan “America First” in his run for the Reform Party’s nominee for president (a nomination that Donald Trump was also seeking). He called WWII an “unnecessary war,” and ran against free trade. Because of comments like these and slogans associated with German sympathizers, while Trump was campaigning against Buchanan, he called him a “Hitler lover.” And despite that slogan’s dubious past, Trump embraced it AGAIN in his inaugural speech (making it now associated with a RUSSIAN sympathizer).

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I have a theory that this annoying (tiny) hand gesture is actually Trump imagining himself squishing the heads of his enemies.

And though many people are aware of the anti-semitic past of “America First,” many people DON’T know that way back in 1941, America’s beloved Dr. Seuss made a bunch of cartoons criticizing the slogan and equating “America First” with fascism and naziism. Here are some examples of his work:

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In Hitler’s defense, they WERE sending their murderers and their rapists…

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That dude’s GOT to know he’s sitting on a nazi alligator.

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Just in case you can’t read it, the kangaroos inside of America First’s pouch are “Nazis,” “Fascists,” and “Communists.”

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Not completely sure what he is getting at in this one, but just like that old saying goes, “It’s never a good thing to share a beard with a nazi.”

Even though Trump claimed to write his own inauguration speech–even releasing a staged photo of himself working on his speech (“writing” with a Sharpie on a brand new pad of paper while sitting at a reception desk at his Mar-A-Lago hotel)–the Wall Street Journal reports that parts of the speech were written by two of his senior advisors, Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. Bannon–a self-professed white nationalist and former CEO of the Alt-Right platform Breitbart–said of the speech, “I don’t think we’ve had a speech like that since Andrew Jackson came to the White House… It’s got a deep root of patriotism.” But then, we can see from another of Dr. Seuss’s cartoons the effects that embracing a policy of “America First” has on those “roots.”

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But it’s not as simple as “America First” = Fascism. Seuss was working with the government to try to convince a still war-weary public that the U.S. had to get involved in World War II. A few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, support for the isolationist America First Committee basically fell apart. Still, there is reason to be concerned. A few days ago, Trump AGAIN suggested that the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil in a sort of “spoils of war” way… A suggestion that is as ridiculously impossible as it is unethical and illegal. This time, when he alluded to regretting stealing Iraq’s oil, it looked like this:

And just in case you felt like you didn’t have the 29 seconds it takes to watch the video, you should know that he ended his statement with the words, “Maybe we’ll have another chance.” To clarify, that is the president of the United States suggesting that perhaps we’ll have another chance to illegally steal Iraq’s oil after a military battle. I wonder what effect this sort of statement will have on the Iraqi people fighting beside U.S. military troops against ISIS… I doubt people will be as eager to work beside foreign forces to take back THEIR country when the leader of those foreign forces is alluding to pillaging your nation’s natural resources. I can imagine the Iraqi military forces we are helping to train are left wondering which direction they should be pointing their guns…

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Here we see our new president showing reporters the size that he considers to be “YUGE.”

Anyway, all of this “America First” is just more of the dangerous and fear-filled nationalism that helped propel Donald Trump into power. It’s a term that George H. W. Bush decried as being “selfish.” But honestly, it makes sense coming from a party that attempts to turn the selfish “objectivism” of Ayn Rand into some sort of virtue. And the fact that it is being supported by most of the people identifying themselves as “the church” breaks my heart more than just about anything in the world right now. Even the writers of the OLD TESTAMENT knew better than this. Leviticus 23:22 has God saying, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.” And they knew better than to treat aliens and immigrants poorly, because THEY knew how it felt to be strangers in a strange land… Exodus 22:21 says, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” And this heart of God for the ones outside the borders crescendoed until the life of Jesus. And if we are listening to the still-speaking voice of God all around us, we know that it still crescendoes today. Please hear this truth, and understand that it is not any sort of “alternative fact:” When a country’s slogan turns to “Me First,” that country ceases to have any claim to being a “Christian Nation.” 

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Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What The Women’s March Meant To A Man Who Stayed Home Watching The Kids

My wife marched in the Women’s March this weekend. She took our oldest daughter. I stayed home with our two younger kids, and I watched online as image after image after image came in from all over the country… And all over the world. Images of people gathering in solidarity. Images of giant crowds. Images of peaceful protest. Images of women displaying their strength, and demanding to be seen and heard and respected. Images of love and hope and light in the darkness. I spent a big part of the day with tears in my eyes. If you haven’t seen it yet, THIS RIGHT HERE is one of the coolest presentations of what happened all over the world on January 21. It was gorgeous. And it was healing. Here are a few images my wife came home with from the Women’s March in Nashville…

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I’m not going quietly either.

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Hell yeah, they are.

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“Nope” is right… 

Something deep in me believes that humanity has the power to make things better. Something at my core agrees with Martin Luther King, Jr. when he says that “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” At the very heart of me, there is HOPE… But for the last couple months, that hope has been under attack. And it’s not–as some have suggested–because “my candidate” didn’t win… As if the collective sorrow so many feel at the election of such an obviously awful man is due to some sort of display of poor sportsmanship or being a “sore loser.” The reason it rocked me to my core that so many people were willing to vote for such a narcissistic misogynist is because it shook the hope that is at the heart of me. I started thinking, “Maybe we ARE all hopelessly broken. Maybe the darkness IS stronger than the light. Maybe we ARE outnumbered. Maybe things ARE all going to shit. Maybe white supremacy is going to win this war. Maybe I have created an optimistic echo chamber, and the reality of the situation is that the majority of the people around the world are in favor of demonizing immigrants, building walls, and attacking and idea of “The Truth” until that term has no meaning anymore.”

Many people have been asking what this march was for. Why did people march? What did it accomplish? Well… It wasn’t about something as simple as “republican versus democrat.” There were plenty of republicans out marching…

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NONE of us can even…

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This is how my soul has been feeling.

It wasn’t even about declaring “Donald Trump is a broken, women-hating man-child who is so dangerously disqualified and so woefully filled with character flaws that he should never be allowed to hold the most powerful office in the nation.” As true as this statement is, it is my sense that this march is so much bigger than that. This is about a core value that equality is better than oppression. It’s about a belief that equality is better than patriarchy. It’s about the belief that equality is better than white supremacy. It’s about the belief that equality is better than economic injustice. It’s about the belief that equality is better than denying civil rights to our neighbors who are LGBTQ. It’s about the fact that we still have to endure images like this snapshot of a CNN panel discussion on the Women’s March:

 

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How the hell does someone in charge okay this? Seriously…

And it’s about the fact the the guy next to the one woman on the panel MIGHT be looking at this woman’s cell phone, but it would not be surprising IN THE LEAST–even in a “professional setting”–if he was totally checking out her chest.

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She was probably playing Candy Crush, he he saw a move…

As to the issue of Why People Marched, here’s what my wife (who doesn’t like using capital letters) wrote: “please tell me why,” i have seen people ask… i have tried and tried and tried to think of words to explain why i marched today. and i have concluded that i could write an essay of 10,000 words, and not a one of them would matter to those of you don’t already get it. and that is the saddest thing i can think of.”

Here’s what a friend of mine on Facebook wrote:

As far as I can tell, this march has meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The only thing I can speak to with any authority is what this Women’s March meant to me as I stayed home with our two younger children. Here’s what it meant to me:

WE ARE NOT ALONE.

All over the world, there are people like my wife and my friends and myself who are disgusted at the grossness that has been okayed and overlooked and endorsed and encouraged by huge amounts of people over the course of this presidential campaign. And these marches–these people coming together to stand AGAINST that grossness–they fill me with hope. And that hope fills me with life and energy and love. And it fills me with hope for future generations… For people like these little peanuts:

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And for people like my own daughter… Strong and fierce and smart and funny and sweet and powerful and filled with righteous anger at the injustice she sees all around her:

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So thank you, women who marched! Thanks to the men also–both the ones who marched, and the ones who stayed home with the kids–but thank you most of all to the women. Thank you for your strength and for your compassion and for the way you make the world better. Thank you for the voices that won’t be silenced. Thank you to those of you who are willing to be unapologetically in-your-face about demanding and preserving your rights. Thank you for letting my daughter see how many of you there are out there. Thank you to my wife for showing our kids every day that women are strong and feminism is totally kick ass. Thank you for filling me with hope. And thank you for the reminder that WE ARE NOT ALONE. I’ll leave you with this…

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Posted in 2) Politics, 5) Not Quite Sure | Tagged , , , , , , | 32 Comments

How To Stay Out Of Disney World At All Costs: A Theological Allegory

“DISNEY WORLD IS THE GREATEST PLACE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!!!”

Christian told this to just about every person he met. He had never been there, but he had heard. He had seen all the movies, read all the books…

“I’m going there some day. It’s going to be amazing. It’s perfect. It’s PARADISE. Everyone is happy there… Everything is clean. Someday (by and by) I’m going to Orlando, and when I get there, I’m DEFINITELY getting into Disney World.  And once I’m there, I’m never leaving. I’m staying there. FOREVER.”

He was admittedly a “superfan.” Christian grew up with those movies. He grew up with parents that promised him he would see the streets of Disney World someday… If he just believed. It was just like Walt Disney himself once said: “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.” He even had that on a poster in his room…

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Editor’s note: Walt Disney might not have said this. Like Abraham Lincoln once said: “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

And now that he was older, he raised his kids to believe the same thing. Someday–if they BELIEVED enough–they would get to go to Disney World. Be good… Eat your vegetables… Mickey is watching… The whole deal. He had Disney stickers on his SUV. He had a bunch of Disney T-shirts. Once a week, he would gather with a bunch of other Disney fans, and they would sing songs like “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” and “A Whole New World,” and “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” If you asked, he’d tell you that THIS time–the time BEFORE Disney World–wasn’t nearly as important as THAT time–sometime in the future–when he would actually get to GO to Disney World. Disney World… THAT’S what is REALLY important. Because Disney World is forever. It’s bliss. It’s paradise. To hear Christian say it, he couldn’t WAIT to go to Disney World.

Which is what made it so weird when he bought that samurai sword. 

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The reason you keep your samurai sword polished is so that you can see if anyone behind you is sneaking up and trying to give you tickets to Orlando…

I mean, sure… Samurai swords where perfectly legal to carry where Christian lived. And you could buy one just about anywhere. Some people had swords for fun–they didn’t keep them very sharp. Some people used them to slice cucumbers and carrots and cabbage. But when Christian purchased that samurai sword, and kept it sharp, and carried it with him, he did it for a very specific reason: To keep people from sending him to Disney World. Because if you tried to give him tickets and force him on a plane to Orlando, shove him through an Epcot Center turnstile, or send him or any member of his family to Disney World, Christian was more than willing to slice your ass in half with his samurai sword.

It just seems so strange… Why in the world would someone be willing to KILL a person to prevent that person from sending him to paradise? Something didn’t make sense. I mean, samurai swords are dangerous. People can get hurt by mistake. Sometimes kids get their hands on those swords, and that is NEVER good. Even little kids. For each week of the past two years, there has been one person sliced or killed BY A TODDLER wielding a sword, for goodness sake. And if we’re being honest, there is not really that much of a threat of people walking up to you and trying to give you tickets to Disney World. It is incredibly rare. So to be willing to endure all of the other dangers and downsides that come with carrying around samurai swords, just on the off-chance that he might meet someone who tries to give him Disney tickets, one could probably assume that Christian either a) Wasn’t as certain as he professed to be about how awesome Disney World was, or b) Wasn’t exactly “certain” that he was going to get in after he made it to Orlando.

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No worries. You get used to living with cognitive dissonance… 

Apparently, Christian was so afraid of being sent to Disney World that he was willing to kill people to keep from going there. Which seems at least a little crazy, but Hakuna Matata–at least it wasn’t TOTAL hypocrisy. At least Walt Disney didn’t command his followers to love their enemies. You know… like Jesus.

Hi. Thanks for reading something I wrote. I hope it made you think. Just as a post script, I’d like to mention that I don’t know what I believe about what happens when we die. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all speculation. Some people claim to be really certain about it… I don’t know about heaven, but I’ve come to the conclusion that if there is actually a hellish place where the majority of people go to get tortured for all eternity, then the only thing we can be CERTAIN about is that God is an unimaginable monster. If that’s what “Love” or even “Justice” looks like to the higher power in the universe, then we are all incredibly screwed. That being said, there are a lot of people who profess to be very certain that Heaven and Hell (as an eternal consequence) are both very real. Many of these people call themselves “Christians,” and many of these people carry guns. And here is something I will never, ever understand: People, who call themselves followers of a man who commanded his us to love our enemies, who are willing to send someone else to Hell to keep that person from sending them to Heaven. It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. If you are one of these people, you should ask yourself how you make sense of this. And then let me know… Or you could read one of my favorites: Guns For Christians Are Like Condoms For Nuns

Lastly, I want to say thank you to one of my newer Patrons: Dale Peacock. Thank you so much. It makes me so proud that people I have never met care enough about this blog to help support it. If you’d like to be as completely kick ass as Dale, you can BE A PATRON. If you liked this story, you can LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL. Or you can just share this post or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

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